Savory cake with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Have you ever discovered a wonderful new way to start a story? Cause I have, and I’ll tell you about it. Did you see? Did you see what I did there? I asked a question and then I told you that I’m going to answer it for you! Where did I discover this ingenious new rhetorical method? Why, in the piles and piles of paper Malcolm brought home on the last day of school, of course. I love going through all the boys’ papers. It’s so funny to see their odd ideas and their mad doodles. Sometimes I think all of the little notes and drawings, which are probably dire signs that they aren’t focussing, are my favorite part of their work. And I love to learn what they’ve been thinking about–that Isaac’s major interests this year were bats and his big brother, and that his heart murmur makes his heart have an echo, and that makes him feel special. Malcolm’s writing journal is a treat. It’s a chaotic pile of ripped pages and tiny pictures of his favorite recurring character, a fez-wearing fellow named madman. But it gets neater as it goes along. The writing is more even, the stories are longer and more carefully formed, but the spelling is as erratic as ever, which is definitely a sign of genius, right? Towards the end of the journal, all of the stories start with the “Have you ever…? I have, and I’ll tell you about it” pattern, which I actually love. I’m never going to sit around worrying about how to start a story again! This technique, so confiding and conversational, pulls you right into the story. My favorite of his essays begins like this. (Spelling and grammar have been cleaned up to ease comprehension.) “Have you ever had a favorite window? Cause I have and I’ll tell you about it. It is a green window that has a radiator next to it so when I look out I am warm. Speaking of looking out, I always see a white parking lot or [unintelligible] normal [trails off here]. I feel happy Jumpy when I look out that window…” And that’s pretty much it. It’s an unfinished work. I love it though, and I’m going to tell you why. First of all, I love windows in literature, and in photographs and films, and I’m proud to think of Malcolm joining this fine tradition. Furthermore, I know which window he’s talking about, and I like it too. I like to think of Malcolm, warm in his room, looking through the cool green window with his big green eyes, watching the world go by. I like that he feels happy-jumpy, whatever that means. Malcolm is a boy who will go anywhere with you. He never needs persuading, he’s ready and out the door in a flash, and I like to think about him sitting there thinking of all the places he’ll go. And funnily enough, I’d made a little film of this very window as part of my series of small videos that I’ve told you about in the past. They’re like Ozu’s pillow shots without the film all around them. “I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) There was nothing brilliant about the videos, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be.” One night about a month ago, when we were putting the boys to bed, I was very taken with Malcolm’s green window. It was a cooly glowing spring dusk, and the light in the room was warm and creamy, and the light outside the window so cool and evening-blue green.

Because my birthday is in June, it has become a tradition to make a dinner of bread, tomatoes, mozzarella and olives. Just to sit and snack and have a slightly nicer bottle of wine than usual. This year, because it’s a sweltering and humid 95 degrees every day, I thought it would be a good idea to bake something. But I wanted to retain the basic idea of tomatoes, olives and cheese. I’m savory-cake mad at the moment, so I made a yeasted, herbed chickpea flour batter, and then I piled fresh tomatoes, herbs, mozzarella and castelvetrano olives in the middle, and then I baked it all. Delicious! We had it with tiny boiled potatoes from our CSA and some bright sauteed pattypan squash and asparagus. The boys liked it, too, because it resembles pizza. I actually left the batter in the fridge over night, but you could just do an ordinary afternoon-rise, if you like.

Here’s Brianstorm, by the Arctic Monkeys, which is Malcolm’s favorite song.

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water

3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup wheat flour (++)
small handful fresh herbs–thyme, rosemary, sage, chives…
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
freshly ground pepper
2 eggs

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Leave in a warm place for 15 or 20 minutes to get foamy.

Whisk the milk and olive oil into the yeast mixture till smooth and creamy. Add the flours, herbs, salt, pepper and baking powder into the batter. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and continue beating until the batter is smooth and frothy.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour or two. Beat it once more, cover and leave in a warm place for another hour or two. (Or store in the fridge over night.)

TO ASSEMBLE

2 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup mozzarella, cut into small cubes
small handful of fresh basil or 2 t dried
2 t rosemary chopped
1/4 cup pinenuts
1 t balsamic
lots of pepper

Generously coat a large cake pan with olive oil. Pour the batter in and let it sit for about 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Cut the tops of the plum tomatoes and squeeze out the juice and seeds. Chop the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well.

Pile this into the center of the batter, leaving about 1 inch all the way around. Sprinkle a few extra pine nuts on top.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve.

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6 thoughts on “Savory cake with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives

  1. This looks nice, but what temperature should the oven be? 450 what?
    Centigrade? Fahrenheit?
    Over here in Europe we need to know …

  2. Thanks for clarifying this. In England fahrenheit is almost obsolete, and no-one, not even TV weather forecasters uses it any more. Mind you when I was a kid, my Mum’s baking was all done on Gas Mark 4 or 5 or whatever. I still see that in old recipe books sometimes.

    • I’ve encountered the gas mark in my old Mrs Beeton’s book of everyday Cookery. And I have an old French cookbook that uses warm, cool, hot…and these seem to correspond to actual temperatures.

      It all seems fairly arbitrary and changeable, though, because everybody’s oven is different! It’s hard to pin down temperature and cook time.

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