Fruit Archive

Monday, September 22, 2014

sunken apple and honey cake

sunken apple and honey cake

There are recipes on my Cook This list that I’ve been plotting for years but take forever to jump from that place where they’re a rough idea of how I think something might taste good and how I’ll make that happen. There are items on the list which are just the names of dishes I haven’t tried yet and want to learn more about. And there are recipes that make me kick myself every time I see them because how have we not made a good hearty tortilla soup here yet? And where is that Russian napoleon I’ve been promising you? But this here is none of the above. Exactly one month ago, someone emailed me (hi Angela!) and asked if I had ever made a German Sunken Apple Cake [which sounds even cooler in its native language: Versunkener Apfelkuchen] and I had barely finished reading the email before I had a new tab open because I had to immediately know what it was.

four deceptively tiny apples
peeled, halved, cored

What it was is adorable. Seriously, it’s relentlessly cute. Small apples are peeled, halved, cored and then scored and arranged rump-up on a buttery cake base and in the oven, the cake begins to creep up around them and the apples fan out like accordions and the whole thing is so golden, dimpled and lovely that I abandoned all hopes, plans to do anything else until I could make this happen. (Perhaps predictably, this still took three weeks.)

many slices, but don't cut through

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

cucumber lemonade

cucumber lemonade on the deck!

I began this summer by expressing, in no uncertain terms, just how terrible New York City summers really are — sticky airlessness occasionally broken up by eerily refreshing droplets of cool water on your head that turn out to be filthy window a/c run-off, and you know, given that NYC lets people with absolutely no relevant skills install their own window a/c units, you might not want to walk underneath them at all, is all I’m saying. Right, I’ve digressed again. I think I hoped that if I aired my grievances about summer early and unflinchingly, I could get through the season without my least favorite of my writing tics, whining about the weather.

english cucumber from the grocery peeled the second batch
cucumber juice with skin cucumber juice without skin
fine mesh strainer for the cucumber puree another way to strain the cucumber juice

And I did, just not because of that. Despite dire warnings from the Farmer’s Almanac that we were going to have one of the more “humid and thundery” summers on record, to my delight, we experienced the opposite. Before Labor Day, there wasn’t a single day where temperatures crept above 91 degrees. In 2013, a year when I broke my don’t-complain-about-the-weather rule basically every time I opened my mouth, there were 16. [I promise, I'm getting somewhere with this.] Of course, NYC still has to have the last word and in the first week of September was back to its muggy air/scorched sidewalk ways. And it was in that week that when getting my weekly fix at this new dumpling place my neighborhood was graced with over the summer, I picked up some of their housemade cucumber lemonade and have not been able to talk about anything else since.

many lemons

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.

1.5 pounds of tiny tomatoes
baked with weights

And then, thank goodness, I realized how ridiculous that was. What could be more delicious for lunch than a salad, a tart, lemonade and chocolate pudding that I’d made enough of to ensure the kid wouldn’t be left out? What, you say? It might be a flop? My friend might push his food around his plate, hoping I wouldn’t notice or, worse, eat something he hated so not to hurt my feelings? Guys, I am 38 years old, by any standards (unfortunately, most days) a grown-up, and I decided that it was time, once and for all, to boldly embrace Julia Child’s best cooking rule: never apologize.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes. (My Life in France)

roasted garlic + parmesan

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Friday, August 22, 2014

strawberries and cream with graham crumbles

strawberries and cream with graham crumbles

To unforgivably botch something great, if all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone, I’m starting to believe that all of Smitten Kitchen’s problems stem from my inability to leave exquisitely simple things like berries and cream alone. Or maybe it’s about me being unable to sit in a room alone with strawberries and cream and not eat them? One thing is clear; I think we know better than to entrust me with the work of great philosophers ever again. I’m sorry, Pascal.

ingredients trying to catch the new light
what you'll need

Let me rewind. Because my son has been going to a day camp across town this summer, I’ve had a lot more excuses to swing by the big Union Square Greenmarket on my way back to poke around for inspiration, which is about as close as I’m probably going to get in Manhattan to a summer on the farm. I’ve learned a lot. As I gasped a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even realize the New York grew such great apricots, or that their season is so long. I’d always associated prune plums with late August and early September, but they’ve been out for weeks now. And, most excitingly for me, I always thought of strawberries as a June thing — they come early, leave quickly, and are often good but rarely transcendent. So, it’s been a treat to learn that the best strawberries, the tiny wild ones, show up later in the summer and are, as far as I’m concerned, the platonic ideal of what a strawberry should be — sweet, delicate and fragrant, with no two exactly alike.

tiny wild strawberries

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

raspberry swirl cheesecake

raspberry swirl cheesecake

It’s been a little quiet around here this week and I bet you already know why: moving out is the easy part! Moving in, hoo boy. You walk into an empty new home with freshly painted walls and there’s nothing but possibility. You run from room to room, whee! Then your stuff arrives and the pristine landscape is forever compromised. The first boxes aren’t so bad: you prioritize bedding, toilet paper, toothbrushes and whiskey (um, just play along here.) The next few boxes are pretty doable too: glasses go where they always have, books go in bookcases and lamps go on tables. But then, eventually, you get down to the last six boxes and you look around and you realize that the closets, cabinets, dressers and shelves are all full so where does this go? Then, if you’re us, the great unraveling begins: how did we get to a place where we had so much stuff? I thought we were going to resist the siren call of consumption (says she who just purchased what can only be considered a luxury ice cube tray). How did I get to a place in my life where I had 125 cookie cutters, 9 shades of sanding sugar and cupcake wrappers in at least 7 patterns that I can neither bring myself to throw away or justify the space they will take up? The last 6 boxes take forever to unpack; you’ll be glad you prioritized the whiskey.

trying a new chocolate wafer
chocolate crumbs

So, right on top of all of this, something else happened: my husband — who has the audacity to look younger and more handsome every year — turned 40. If you heard me freaking out (just a little) over our move being delayed a week, it was because the one thing we were trying to avoid was having people over for drinks and then going out to engage in vodka encased in ice blocks and tableside-prepped chopped liver but 24 hours after moving, which is exactly what happened, and of course, it was no big deal and, if anything, forced us to make quick work of the first half of the boxes. Happy birthday, baby: don’t you feel young after a few days of moving furniture around and schlepping boxes?

new york state raspberries

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