Dimply Apple Cake

September 29, 2008

Happily, some recipes trade glamour and offer instead reliability. It’s kind of like the little black dress hanging at the edge of your closet. (Men, take heart: there’s cake in this post for you, even if you can’t relate  to the metaphor with which I’m about to hit you over the head.) You know the dress, ladies: you rarely pull it out, usually buying a new dress for a special occasion—one you might only wear once. But when the moment is right, you know it’s there for you. You can pull it out with only a moment’s notice. You can dress it up or down and you can make it work in any season, with the addition or subtraction of nylons or a scarf (or, in the case of the recipe, a variety of fruits and spices).

This recipe is much like that black dress. It’s unassuming and simple but, when the occasion is right, it’s the perfect choice. The adaptations are endless and the recipe can serve as a culinary merry-go-round for the various fruits as they come into and whirl out of season. The recipe, well known to many of you in the food blogosphere, is Dorie Greenspan’s and in its original carnation it’s called Dimply Plum Cake—in the running for most charming recipe name ever, I’m sure.

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I can think of a long list of lovely things one could do with herself on a fall weekend, such as the one that’s about to begin. Wander around your farmers’ market, which—if you live near me—is about to end for the year (sob!). Head to the nearest pumpkin patch and pick out a couple gourds for your front stoop. Have a picnic, letting rust-colored leaves shower down around you. Watch a football game or seventeen, preferably with a piping hot dish of artichoke dip in front of you and a slowly bubbling pot of chili on the stove. Get up early and take a walk for coffee, bundled in the sweater you haven’t donned since the final bitter days of last winter. Meander through an apple orchard, lazily plucking the fruits from the laden tree limbs.

And all these things are great and all, but have I got an even better weekend plan for you! It involves lasagna, which is just the kind of food—hearty and familiar and flavorful—that these early fall days demand, and this friendly piece of kitchen equipment:

That’s right! The pasta maker is back out. It takes a reverse hibernation, stashed away in the cool cupboards throughout the sweltering summer, while the rest of us are out and about and too busy and too hot to even think of eating, let alone making, homemade pasta. But, once September’s chill arrives, the pasta maker wakes from its summer slumber.

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Outrageously Purple

September 24, 2008

Last week (ante-job; note I said ante, not anti), I met Kevin for lunch downtown. After enjoying a cup of soup and a bretzel sandwich at one of our favorite spots (and a chocolate chip cookie in the plaza outside, ahem), I bid him adieu and innocently headed for the subway. I ambled along, basking in the September sunshine and began to notice that nearly everyone walking toward me was toting a bundle of broad, bright sunflowers—a harbinger of fall if ever there was one. The Daley Center Farmers’ Market! How could I forget?


And thus I diverged from my path, pulled like a moth to a flame down State Street and west on Washington until I arrived at the market, which was teeming with office dwellers fleeing their cubicles and stale office air conditioning to roam through the stalls, if only for a few minutes. I realized that I would soon be one of them, became momentarily depressed, but then quickly rebounded when I saw the stand hawking the aforementioned sunflowers. For a dollar (100 pennies!) a bunch. I promptly scooped up a bunch and continued on to the Nichols Farm stand to check out its wares.

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It’s my first day at my new job today. That’s right, after a three-year, law-school-induced hiatus, I have rejoined the full-time work force. And it feels suprisingly un-momentous. I’ve known that I will be working at this law firm for two full years now, so I think it’s about time we got this show on the road.

Shifting from the student lifestyle (and the third year law student lifestyle, in particular, which is, shall we say, not exactly demanding) to the working lady lifestyle will usher in a host of changes, I know—not the least of which will be in my kitchen. Gone are the days when I can languidly pore over recipes by morning, grocery shop around noon, spend the afternoon snapping photos in the kitchen and cobbling together blog posts by night (oh, and eating somewhere along the way too!). I will have to be more deliberate, efficient and edited with my cooking. But I’m not sure that those are bad things.

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Fall, Through and Through

September 19, 2008

When I first discovered food blogs last fall (Where had I been! Oh, the years and years I lost), I felt like I’d found an entire long-lost limb of my family tree. My people. And they were out there in the Internets, just waiting for me. I promptly started devouring a few favorites, voraciously working my way through archives and eagerly awaiting the arrival of new posts in my Google Reader. Best of all, I felt inspired to cook and bake the recipes I was reading about—even more inspired than I am by magazine articles, cookbooks and TV shows (which is really saying something). One of the first blog recipes I made was this one: a Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Galette, created by Smitten Kitchen‘s Deb (who happened to be on Martha Stewart this week!).


I made the galette last fall when my parents were in Chicago to visit my sister, Kevin and me. It was a perfect fall weekend—brilliant blue skies, a warm breeze, sunlight twinkling off the trees’ golden, orange-y fronds. Best of all my family was all together and they were indulging me by letting me cook for them one of the nights. I made this tart as our appetizer. The recipe was so easy to follow, so fun to make, so gorgeous to gaze at, and so completely delicious to eat, I immediately declared it a keeper and myself an official Smitten Kitchen fan. And it’s around that time that I started toying around with the idea of creating a food blog myself.

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I Wanted to Love It

September 18, 2008

Are you a bread pudding person?  I finally have to admit that I think that I am not.  Sadly.  Because it seems that anything involving such a decadent combination of eggy bread, thick heavy cream, a couple nests’ worth of eggs and a small mountain of sugar should be a hold-the-presses sort of affair.  But instead, I’m just left thinking, “meh.”  I want to like it.  Really I do.   But, instead, I end up thinking how I could’ve traded in the same list of ingredients for a couple delicious bowls of ice cream and a stack of French toast (byo maple syrup, though with this particular bread pudding ingredient list, you could always just douse the French toast with Frangelico; just an idea!).


Bread pudding just seems like it should be such a good idea.  So comforting and rich.  So beautiful, especially just out of the oven when it’s swollen and golden and fragrant.  But I think it’s the culinary equivalent of skinny jeans or mini-skirts or knee-high gladiator sandals: just not for me.  Luckily this particular bread pudding was the end to a nice, lazy dinner with two of our friends who we haven’t seen in too long.  So there was much catching up, slide-showing, Cubs game watching and, yes, wine drinking to make up for the non-show-stopping (at least for me; everything else seemed to think it was fine) dessert.

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Midway through making this soup, I thought about giving up: throwing in the towel and tipping the entire pot into the trash.  Let me explain.  First, I’m not crazy about black bean soup to begin with.  I always get the feeling I’m spooning something that is meant to be scooped up with a salty tortilla chip.  Something made for dunking, not slurping.  But I found a recipe that looked hopeful (because (a) it included chipotle chili powder, which I happen to adore, and (b) it included canned tomatoes, which promised to remove the soup from the chips-n-dip category, and (c) called for bacon, which is all I will say about that) and took a chance.

And, then, halfway through, the pot looked like chili.  Identical, in fact, to the chili I made while we were in Canada.  And while that chili was very good, if I’d wanted chili, I would’ve made chili.  And I got to thinking that a ruined dinner, or even just a so-so dinner, was no way to start a week—which is always how I feel about Sunday night: on the verge of a brand new week, with no idea how exactly it will unfold.

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