The bounty of summer is so spectacular that it often renders cooking entirely beside the point. There’s not much you can do to improve a perfectly ripe tomato. But sometimes, the judicious application of heat or spice can be wonderfully transformative. And it’s always good to have a delicious dessert in your repertoire to serve guests—without having to break a sweat, of course.


BLACKBERRY SKILLET CAKE                Serves 8

Nothing is more delicious than fresh blackberries (I love the ones from Trapani Farms), except perhaps those that have been cooked to coax out their floral sweetness. Here, they release their dark juices into the buttery crumb of a rustic cornmeal cake. It bakes in a cast-iron skillet, which you can transport to the table for a stylish country presentation.


1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free mix is fine)

½ cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

18 ounces blackberries, divided

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Chilled heavy cream, optional for serving

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and melted butter. Stir this into the flour mixture, blending well.

Place remaining tablespoon butter in a 10″ cast-iron skillet and heat in the oven until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven (with a potholder!) and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Scrape batter into the skillet and evenly scatter 12 ounces of the blackberries on top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup turbinado sugar.

Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips and the skillet on the rack above. Bake until top is evenly browned, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

While cake is baking, toss remaining blackberries with lemon juice and set aside. Serve cake warm or at room temperature with fresh blackberries and a generous pour of heavy cream over the top, if you like.