Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Weekend

Dear Margaret,

Do you remember who said that the two most perfect words in the English language are summer afternoon? I would add summer weekend as the second two most perfect words.

We spent the last one with Bob and Erin and Erin's parents at their place in the San Juans. It was the most perfect of summer weekends - work (we helped them paint), exercise (hike, bike and kayak), good food, several naps, some reading, and lots of sitting on the deck watching the ocean. I even went swimming in the 54 degree water in your honor.

It's salmon season here and the purse seiners were out fishing. Every evening they came into the bay in front of the house, lights on and the sounds of men's voices ringing through the dusk. The salmon buyer was there, recognizable by the bright red buoys on the side of his boat that allow the fishing boats to tie up to it. It was fun to think of the salmon making their way from right in front of the house to markets and restaurants all over the world.

The sounds are so interesting there. So different. The squawk of the great blue heron and the snorting FWOOF! of the seals are punctuated by an oyster catcher's ululating and an eagle's high pitched cry. It was fascinating to sit on the deck in the morning with the fog so thick you couldn't see a creature and just listen to them.

The cake is David Leibovitz' Raspberry Nectarine Upside Down Gingerbread Cake. The recipe really hit a chord for me. Since Amos' birthday is in June and gingerbread is his favorite cake we always have a bit of stand off. Here's how it goes.

Me: what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?
A: gingerbread
Me: long silence...
A: ... but whatever  you want to make will be fine...
Me: no, it's okay. I can make it. It's just so... unseasonal, that's all.
A: how about something else then? maybe with berries?
Me: no, it's fine. Long sigh.

I was intrigued that DL who I trust implicitly with all things dessert would pair summer fruit with a fall cake. I had to try it. And you know what? There will be a different conversation next June. The recipe is at the end of the post. Past all the photos.

 Nectarine-Raspberry Upside Down Gingerbread Cake
from Ready for Dessert, David Lebovitz‘s latest book

For the fruit topping:
4 tablespoons salted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup fresh, ripe raspberries (I used less because that's what I had)
3-4 medium-ripe nectarines, pitted and sliced

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup of mild molasses (I used Grandma's Old Fashioned)
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1/4 cup milk (also room temp)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the butter in a 9 inch round cake pan and melt over low heat, then stir in the brown sugar. Remove from the burner and let cool while you prep the fruit.
3. Evenly distribute the raspberries over the brown sugar/butter mixture. Then, scatter the nectarine slices on top of the raspberries. DL suggests overlapping circles but that was too fussy for me. Set aside while you make the cake.
4. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
5. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes (until it is light and fluffy).
6. Beat in the molasses.
7. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
8. Mix in half of the dry ingredients, stir in the milk, then mix in the rest of the dry until just incorporated.
9. Pour the batter over the fruit, and even it out.
10. Bake the cake for about 50-55 minutes according to DL. When I tested it for doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center it was still soupy inside. It ended up taking just over an hour for me.
11. If you make the cake ahead of time so you can take it with you to an island, carry it in the pan and then heat it up at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes or so. Invert onto a plate and photograph while your waiting friends curse you and your camera.

It is excellent with port.

Love, Elise

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Luang Prabang Fusion Salad

Dear Marg,

It's hot here. Very hot. By any standards, but by Seattle standards it's a melter. 94 degrees and not an air conditioner in sight. I made this salad a few months ago and loved it so this seemed like the perfect time to try it again.

I basically followed the recipe except for leaving out the chili pepper, and substituting Italian parsley for cilantro. You know how I feel about cilantro. Next time I am going to make it with turkey and add some mint leaves to the greens.

Luang Prabang Salad recipe

Give it a try next time the temperatures rise in your 'hood. I'm going to crawl into the refridgerator now for a nap.

Love, Elise