Summer peaches are still available, and before the season ends make a few jars of peach jam for the winter and the holidays.

Summer peaches are still available, and before the season ends make a few jars of peach jam for the winter and the holidays. If you have extra peaches, make them into a peach pie, follow your favorite peach pie recipe. Layer the peaches in a pie plate without the crust, freeze, remove from dish and wrap with plastic wrap, then place in a zipper freezer bag and freeze. When you are ready to make a pie, get 2-piecrusts, in a pie plate line with one pie crust and place frozen peach pie pieces in the crust, top with second crust, cut slits in top, flute and bake. You cant get any easier than that.

North Carolina shrimp is still in season. Make sure to freeze a few pounds for the rest of the year. Put about a pound of peeled tails left on shrimp in a sandwich plastic zipper bag, press down to lay flat and freeze. When ready to use place plastic bag in a warm bowl of water to thaw and use as needed. I always have fresh shrimp for the holidays for shrimp cocktails. The taste reminds me of summer.



Peach Jam

Makes 4 cups. For a zippier jam add 1-tablespoon fresh ginger, minced, omitting the cinnamon.

6 large peaches ( 8-9 medium peaches), peeled and sliced into wedges about 6 cups

3 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur (Optional)

Pinch of salt

Cut a small X in the bottom of each peach with a sharp paring knife. In a large pot of boiling water add peaches and cook for just 1-minute; quickly rinse in a large bowl of ice water, to stop cooking. Remove peaches and peel from the X down. Remove pits and cut into wedges, about 6 cups of fruit.

Either in a blender or a food processor pulse peaches until coarsely chopped.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, stir together peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30-35 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and Grand Marnier. The longer you cook the mixture the thicker it will become. Ladle into clean Mason jars, place caps on, and cool. Store in refrigerator for up to three months.


Eggplant Panzanella

Serves 4.

1 8-ounce French-style baguette, cut in half lengthwise

1 pound eggplant about medium size, sliced inch thick slices

cup EVOO, olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, halved

2 cups baby arugula

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

cup fresh sweet basil

Brush cut sides of bread and eggplant with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle eggplant with teaspoon salt and teaspoon black pepper.

On a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven roast eggplant slices for 7-8 minutes or until tender, turning once. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside.

Under the broiler, broil bread cut side up until toasted. Cool slightly. Rub bread with cut sides of garlic. Cut eggplant and bread into bite size pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Add arugula, sweet basil, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, remaining olive oil, and vinegar to bowl, mix to coat. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Romaine and Spinach Salad with Chicken

Serves 4.

4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked, then sliced into strips

cup seedless raspberry jam

cup balsamic vinegar

Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

4 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces

4 cups fresh baby leaf spinach

English cucumber, halved then sliced

1 medium, ripe but firm pear, thinly sliced

cup feta cheese

Cook chicken breasts according to your favorite recipe; cut into strips.

In a small bowl whisk together raspberry jam, vinegar, and black pepper. Set aside.

In a large salad bowl toss together spinach and romaine. Drizzle with raspberry dressing, toss to coat. Transfer to four large plates, top with chicken slices, cucumber slices, and pear slices. Sprinkle feta cheese over top and serve immediately.


Shrimp and Pasta Salad

1 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined, and flash cooked

2 cups uncooked pasta shells or bow ties

cup sour cream

cup good mayonnaise

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish sauce, if desired

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

cup grated sweet onion

red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite size pieces

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 English cucumber, cut into bite size pieces

2 stalks celery thinly sliced

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish sauce, onion, sugar, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Fold in shrimp, cucumber, celery, red pepper, and cooked pasta. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. If desired serve on lettuce leaves.


Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

Makes 40 ravioli.

1 cup ricotta cheese

cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and finely chopped

cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large egg, room temperature, beaten

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

40 square wonton wrappers

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

2 tablespoons dried sweet basil, chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese

In a bowl stir together ricotta cheese, spinach, onion, egg, 1-tablespoon parsley, and 1-tablespoon basil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Arrange 10-wonton wrappers on a clean work surface. Top each with a rounded teaspoon of spinach/cheese filling.

Moisten the edges of wonton with water, and working with one at a time, fold in half to form triangles; press down around the filling to seal. Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, drop in ravioli in 2-batches, letting the water return to a boil between batches. Cook until ravioli bob to the surface, about 3-minutes per batch; strain.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat, swirling, until it browns, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat immediately, stir in lemon juice, and 1-tablespoon parsley, and 1-tablespoon basil.

Divide the ravioli among 4-plates, drizzle with the butter sauce and top with Parmesan cheese.


Chocolate Icebox Dessert

This dessert can be made up to two days before.

1 cups milk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 3.9 ounce package instant chocolate pudding

cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted then cooled

2 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur (Optional)

cup Health bar chips

1 cup whipped topping, thawed

1 9-ounce package chocolate wafer cookies

In a large bowl add milk gradually to cream cheese, and with an electric mixer beat until well blended. Add dry pudding mix, Kahlua, Heath bar chips, and melted chocolate, beat for another minute.

Stir in thawed whipped topping.

Line an 8 x 4-inch pan with parchment paper, with ends of paper extending over the sides.

Arrange of the cookies on the bottom of prepared pan, overlapping as necessary to make an even layer, cover with 1/3 of the pudding mixture. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining cookies. Refrigerate overnight.

Use parchment handles to remove dessert from pan before slicing to serve.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.