Chocolate gateau basque with apricots, cherries & cassis

Chocolate gateau basque

I made a cake on my birthday, and it provoked a minor existential crisis. Making a cake for somebody else on their birthday is easy. You just arbitrarily decide that they like something (based, say, on a piece of cake they ordered at a restaurant a decade ago, which they might not have particularly enjoyed) and you make them the same kind of cake for every single special occasion ever for the rest of time. Easy! But to make a cake I like, on my own birthday, well…that raised all sorts of questions. I like chocolate, sure, but do I like chocolate cake? Not really. But I like brownies. What’s that all about? I love fruit, but what kind of fruit, and should it be fresh? Do summery fruits taste good when they’re baked in a cake? I like apple cake, but this isn’t October, for heaven’s sake. Good lord…DO I EVEN LIKE CAKE?!?!?!?!

I decided to make a cake with chocolate in it, but melted chocolate, not cocoa. And fruit, but with apricots and cherries baked in, and fresh fruit and ice cream coming in over the top of it, at the moment of ingestion. I decided to make it like the gateau basque I’d made a while back, because I loved that. I’d put apricots in, because I really like them, and I know Malcolm isn’t crazy about them, but that would be the selfish It’s-my-birthday-and-I’ll-bake-with-apricots-if-I-want-to part. I love cassis, so we’d be having some of that. And, of course…chocolate chips, because everything in life is better with chocolate chips. The boys helped me make the cake, and it was a lot of fun. Malcolm decorated it with my initial and my age, which looked much nicer than the pattern I would have made with the tines of the fork. We ate it with vanilla ice cream, and lovely fresh strawberries, blueberries and, as a special treat, rainier cherries. It’s a nice cake, because it keeps for days, so you can look forward to some with your coffee in the morning as a reason to get out of bed.

Chocolate basque cake

Here’s Black Sheep with The Choice is Yours. Sometimes it’s hard to be the decider! I love this song!
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Arugula salad with apricots, pecans and french feta

As you are no doubt aware, I am the esteemed authoress of a wildly popular series of books about the marked similarities to be found in the writings of Tolstoy and the rappings of many rappers. Weighty volumes. I am, of course, also the producer of the soon-to-be-a-smash hip hopera version of War and Peace (would you look at the date on that? I’m making very…slow…progress on this novel!) Okay, I’m prepared to admit that none of that is true. However, ever since I spoke of Dostoyevsky and Talib Kweli yesterday, I’ve had a yen to chat about these same similarities. Which I will do after the jump. You’ve been warned!
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Broccoli rabe with ginger, apricots & cashews

Broccoli rabe & apricots

My poor boys. They have an inexplicable 6-day weekend, and the weather is ridiculous. Round-the-clock thunderstorms. When it’s not actually storming, it’s gloomy and threatening, with thick damp air that sticks to your skin, and heavy glowering clouds that seem to crawl inside your head. There’s a perpetual twilight glow. And they don’t care! They’re in their pjs! They had flat pancakes for breakfast! They have a giant pile of legos dumped on the living room floor, they have Star Wars guys, they have each other. This morning they’ve been dividing the universe alphabetically. Malcolm gets Mondays, magic, and medusa, and Isaac gets iron and imagination.

We seem to be heading into too-hot-to-cook weather. I’m not ready! Luckily, this is our first week of CSA season (oh boy oh boy oh boy!). And we got a box full of greens! Kale, spinach, chard!! I LOVE GREEEEEEEEENS!! And the nice thing about them is that you can cook them quickly, and eat them when they’re not piping hot. As it happens, I’d bought lots of greens last week, from the grocery store. (I didn’t buy lettuce, I was expecting a box full of lots and lots of lettuce. Guess what? No lettuce! Lettuces don’t like hail storms, apparently!) So I have a whole lot of greens to cook my way through. It’s a pleasant sort of anxiety.

I’m on record as saying that my favorite way to eat greens is with garlic, raisins and pine nuts. I’ve made it into pies and tarts, and pesto, using a variety of (cheaper) nuts. Here’s another variation. The apricots provide the tart-sweet fruitiness – they’re more assertive than raisins, and broccoli rabe is more assertive than chard or spinach, so it all works out nicely. Red pepper flakes and ginger add a little heat, and fresh basil adds – well nothing’s better than fresh basil! This is a quick and tasty dish, and it would make a meal, tossed with pasta, or on top of basmati rice.

Here’s Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with Bittersweet Samba, accompanied by the oddest little film, which, according to the youTube poster, was filmed by Robert Altman!
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Kale, carrots, couscous…

Braised carrots and kale

My nine-year-old son talks in his sleep. (Sometimes he even walks in his sleep, which scares the heck out of me.) He always says the sleepiest, sweetest, most nonsensical things. The other night, he called me, I went into his room, he said, “mommy, how do you cook dinner so fast?” and then he lay back down, asleep. He had no memory of it the next day.

By the harsh light of day, the truth is that I don’t always cook dinner so fast. Sometimes I make dinners that take all day, on and off. But, as it happens, some of the best dinners are dinners that take no time at all. This doesn’t mean they’re dull, it just means that we’re vegetarians, and the best vegetables are frequently lightly cooked vegetables. So, here’s a good meal for a night that you want something quick and tasty. Kale and carrots braised in white wine with thyme and caraway seeds, served with israeli couscous made into a sort of pilaf with apricots and pistachios and goat cheese. Simple.

Israeli couscous with apricots and pistachios

Here’s the Budos Band’s version of Sing a Simple Song, to listen to while you make this simple dinner.
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