I know people are prone to wild disagreements over Food Network personality Paula Deen. Sure, some gush that she is a “hot-damn pistol” and exactly like their “favorite aunt, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her” even at the expense of their readership and others think she’s just hated on because she’s a successful woman, most people cast a far less sympathetic glance in her direction, if not for her Big Pork connections, then for her Fried Butter Balls, seen as her obvious attempt to “kill us all.”
I hate clutter. You might think that this means that I live a Type A sort of white glove test-passing existence, but anyone who knows me can vouch wholeheartedly that I do not. Because I’m lazy. But every so often (er, 28 days or so) I go on a cleaning bender and purge and sweep to my heart’s content. My inboxes get Bit Literate, absurdly insignificant things get vacuumed (dusty ledge around the walls of the apartment, your days are numbered) and things cluttered in this ever-expanding document called “to blog” get purged, well, onto your screens.
I’ve gotten especially behind this month, so I hope you don’t mind that I dump five ideas onto you and then move onto what I really want to talk about, this new awesome thing that rhymes with nacro and nens. Sad but true, this entry is the equivalent of bartering two more bites of broccoli at the dinner table to ensure that you can get a scoop of Breyers Neapolitan for dessert, but like the brown, white and pink-striped stuff always was, I’ll try to make it completely worth it in the end.
Oh my god, people. Just OMG. Let’s just make this one succinct, for once? Surely, I am capable of concise thought, right? These muffins are the shockingly good. Make them.
That’s not enough? Fine. Two lemons worth of grated peel are muddled into a paste with sugar, and that sugar is used to bake a simple buttermilk and vanilla muffin that is topped with a whole fresh raspberry. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is, but the flavor is anything but. The lemon peel gives what should be a sweet, harmless muffin a bitter, intense edge, and the raspberry, an almost sour contrast whose impact rivals the best blueberry muffin you’ve ever had. What I once thought was my favorite approach to lemon cake is no longer. There’s a new muffin in town.
I have this theory, or shall we call it a personality disposition, that nothing is ever really perfect. While I would argue this pickiness is unfortunate outside the kitchen — “This date would have been even more perfect if I’d ordered the eggplant and not the chicken.” “I love my haircut except this completely unnoticeable thing going on in the back.” — within the confines of the galley walls, I think nit-picking, when done quietly, helps us become better cooks.
Though a big fan of the small nuances that remind you that home cooked food is precisely that — tart crusts with the inevitable corner pieced together from a scrap, a dark spot on loaf of bread that wasn’t rotated in the oven in time — I find it nearly impossible to eat something I’ve made without making a mental note of how I’d do it differently next time. More hot pepper. Less baking time. Ease up on the olive oil. Blanche the peppers for thirty seconds less.
Which kind of brings us to the lemon pound cake (made here in bundt form) from Ina Garten, a name I’m almost embarrassed to mention I am using as a source once again, as I know I said just a couple weeks ago that we should spend some time apart. I can’t resist this cake though, I think it’s one of the ten great cakes every cook should have tucked into their repertoire. It’s buttery yet bright, and nearly every granule of sugar has been countered by fresh lemon in some form so it never lands cloying or saccharine on your tongue. It keeps well, travels wells and if you make it in pound cake form, you even have an extra that you should feel in no way obliged to share.
I’ve heard so many people say that they don’t understand the purpose of wedding registries. “Can’t we just have the cha-ching?” they ask, “Who needs all that crap?”
And I’m here to say, “I do.” Yes, to the Kitchen Aid. Yes to the carved oak salad bowl set. Yes to the entire Cuisinart family from the Griddler and Food Processor to the Ice Cream Maker and Hand Blender. Yes, I find satisfaction in a well-outfitted kitchen and I am not ashamed to admit it.
I don’t blame these registry nay-sayers, we’re just different sorts of people. They don’t harbor secret fantasies about Williams-Sonoma stores and an unmonitored personal slush fund; they probably don’t get intoxicated with 6″ cake pans and ceramic pie weights at the Bowery Kitchen Supply; the prospect of a 9-color sugar sanding kit has probably not once ever made their entire week; and I’m sure their higher income bracket daydreams don’t include an entire web page of Kitchen Aid accessories.