There are very few supermarket desserts from my childhood that I still fantasize about eating, but those little cream topped puddings in plastic cups somehow continue to hold tremendous appeal. I don’t buy them because doing so would no doubt lead me down a slippery slope of dessert for breakfast, mid-morning naps, afternoon cocktails and other potential death traps of a freelancer’s life. Making said puddings at home on the the other hand, seems domestically goddess-like, and while incredibly simple, the recipe requires just enough effort to precipitate overconsumption.
Photo: Summer Fog in Prospect Park ©Anja Riebensahm, 2016
It’s a hot one out there in NYC today! What are you doing to stay cool? We’re going to the movies (Tarzan or Ghostbusters), then meeting friends for dinner. Here’s a little reading material for you, in case you’re inside…
What’s the first thing you do when you come back from a week of scuba diving, with a bag full of salty, sandy clothes, an almost empty fridge, and several illustration projects that need to get done? Ever the brilliant strategist, I started baking. The first cake of the day came out funny (due to the arguably adventurous but ultimately ill-advised addition of juniper berry dust), so then I baked some more. In consequence, instead of dinner there’s cake and a pile of shirts to be folded. We’re taking this whole re-entry into real life nice and slowly.
Happily, now that I’ve gotten the weird experiments out of the way for you, this cake is the easiest thing you could possibly make. One bowl. 5 minutes. Wait for it to bake. Summer dessert is done. If you’re feeling ambitious you could top it with ice cream or yoghurt, but it doesn’t need it.
July 4th weekend is my favorite time to be in New York City. It’s hot, it feels like at least 50% of the city’s population has left, you can get in to any restaurant (any!), and the fireworks are spectacular. A laziness settles over everything, that is simply unachievable any other day of the year. Plus, eating patriotic desserts is a great way to do the day justice.
If you want the weekend to be truly lazy, I highly recommend making these ahead of time, freezing them, then throwing them in the oven right before they’re supposed to get eaten. They take a little bit of effort, but they add a celebratory quality to barbecues and potlucks that you can’t quite get from chopped watermelon, beer and grilled meats.
Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I look up things on Wikipedia. It’s always distracting, and quite often soothing, and I always learn something new, which, at the very least, gives me great conversation starters for parties (yes, parties where people talk about Wikipedia trivia are awesome. Especially when there are also negronis).
This is how I fell down the cardamom rabbit hole this week. Grab yourself a cocktail, I’ll wait.
Did you know that Saudi Arabia is the biggest importer of cardamom in the world? This is because they grind it into their coffee (sometimes up to 40%). I lived in Saudi Arabia for a whole year when I was eleven, and my parents never let me taste even one sip of this gloriously delicious sounding beverage!
Did you also know, that sometime shortly before World War I, some German farmer went to India (where cardamom is native) and brought back some cardamom plants, which he then planted in Guatemala (presumably because he knew a war was coming and running far, far away seemed like a great idea)? Today Guatemala is the biggest exporter of cardamom in the world. Who knew, right? Small actions can have major consequences.
Thank you for reading. Now how about some ice cream to go with your newly found fun facts? We’ve been scooping this batch on summer pies, but it’s equally delicious by itself.
This is the what we have for dinner when I have no idea what to cook, which is more often than I’m happy to admit. It’s essentially a vegetable omelette in a buttery crust, which is a colossal upgrade, as with all things buttery, and absolutely worth the extra five minutes of work. It’s delicious with just one filling, such as sauteed mushrooms, or with the pickings of a whole vegetable garden. Serve with a green salad, or by itself, warm or at room temperature.
What summer weekend fun are you up to? Mom is flying in from Germany and we are going to spend a whole week being tourists in New York. The new Whitney and my favorite green space are definitely on the list. And of course breakfast in my place of work. Do you have any other suggestions for us? Here are my internet finds from the week:
You know how sometimes somebody tells you about something, and then suddenly you hear about it everywhere? Lebanon has been that thing for me lately. My father has been visiting Beirut for years and just got back from his latest trip, full of stories. They New York Times had a great article about it a few weeks ago (find it here) and I’ve been re-reading my mother’s old Time-Life Cookbook of Middle Eastern recipe, which is full of delicious sounding dishes. Finally, I stumbled across a Lebanese turmeric cake recipe online, that I absolutely needed to try. Middle Eastern food; I dream about it, and when I finally do get to visit Lebanon, I plan on wearing only baggy clothes so that I can eat all the baba ghanouj, labneh, maamoul and baklava! In the meantime, I will be content with being a spice rack traveller, and adding a little Middle Eastern seasoning to my baking. Turmeric may be the miracle health food of the moment, but since we’re talking dessert here, let’s focus on its magical ability to turn things the most beautiful shade of golden-yellow (it would have been nice to show you the inside of this cake so that you could see for yourselves, but unfortunately the memory card from my camera met a premature death when I accidentally sucked it up with the vaccuum cleaner, so you have to take my word for it).
Traditional turmeric cake does not contain fruit, but it turns out to be a lovely variation. You could use almost any fruit, but it’s important to be generous with it, so that the caramelized sugar can mix with the juices and really soak into through the cake.
Photo: Cat crossing. ©Anja Riebensahm, 2015
How are you this weekend, friends? Wish you were here to sit and have coffee with us on this rainy Brooklyn day. We might talk about these things:
Trifle may not seem like picnic food (creamy things just generally aren’t), but with a couple of ice packs and a large canning jar, it turns out to be the perfect dessert for a day in the grass, or on the beach. It also combines all the greatest elements of a much more difficult to transport summer cake: fruit, cream, custard, and in this case rum, and holds them together in a decadent and beautiful way. It’s a clear example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, because you could bring a pound cake, some fresh berries and whipped cream, and conveniently carry them in much lighter plastic take-out containers, but you would be robbing yourself and all of your co-picnicers of all the layers, and the blending of flavors and textures.
Why vegan? Well, because this is Brooklyn, because dairy allergies and dietary preferences abound, and because I’m always up for the challenge of proving that it can be done to the satisfaction of everyone.