I love May. The magnolia trees are blossoming, summer is on its way and my birthday is in a couple of weeks.
When I woke up Sunday morning I looked outside, saw the sunshine and decided that I wanted to make dinner for some friends whom I hadn’t seen awhile. They said yes. I love improptu, Sunday night dinner parties. A couple of weeks ago when I was in Seattle (it feels like a lifetime ago already) I got to meet one of my writing idols, Ms Molly Wizenberg. I will save the details for a future post, but it was a magical moment that left me buzzing for awhile. In honor of this encounter, I decided to make a meal from her book, A Homeade Life.
There is this French yogurt cake that I had been wanting to make (and when I re-read the description on Sunday afternoon Molly wrote that it is the sort of cake that French grandmothers make on Sunday afternoons. Well, perfect…) and I flipped through the index for a main entree. A spring salad caught my eye. Radishes, check. Cilantro, check. Feta cheese, check. Molly mentioned that she likes to serve this as a light dinner along with a hunk of bread or roasted potatoes. Done.
May Day Dinner Party
First course: White wine, beer, green olives, crackers
Main course: Sliced spring salad with avocado and feta (pages 246-247), Bellingham roasted potatoes (look for this recipe tomorrow), wholewheat sourdough bread, beer
Dessert: French-style yogurt cake with lemon (pages 204-205)
French-style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
From A Homeade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola
For the syrup:
1/4 cup powered sugar, sifted
1/4 lemon juice
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan (after buttering, I sometimes line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper, and then I butter that too).
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.
Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan. Combine the syrup ingedients in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the warm cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup. Cool completely.
Combine the icing ingredients. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.
Serve immediately- the icing will be soft and a bit juicy- or wait until the icing has firmed up, about 1 hour. Whichever way you like.
I’m not Irish, but I am a Kashub. And I am also about a week behind with this post. Time to get caught up and stay up. But back to St. Patrick’s Day…
The weekend before St. Patrick’s Day I listened to a voicemail from Jimmy, a dear (Irish) family friend. Jimmy said that my (Scandinavian) mother had called him up to tell him that I would be all alone on the holiday and would they invite me if they were going to do anything to celebrate? To tell you the truth, I had not yet pondered my alone-ness on St. Patrick’s Day (Dan was on the road with Clovis Mann), but when faced with this apparently sad reality, at least according to my mother, I realized that, indeed, I would be alone on this day of all days. And so this is how I found myself trotting down the bike path on a warm, muggy almost-Spring evening last Thursday wearing my cowboy boots and favorite green top and swinging a brown paper bag containing a block of Kerrygold Irish cheddar cheese from the Willy Street Co-op.
Upon arriving at the party, I was delighted to find a warm group of family friends and a selection of delicious appetizers, including olives, grapes, crackers and cheese, and, of course, beer. The soda bread was out of the oven and the cabbage sat waiting on the counter for its’ turn.
The dinner menu included corned beef for the meat-eaters and vegetarian-cooked potatoes, carrots and cabbage (with a side of horseradish) for those of us who avoid the meat. The soda bread, with butter, was hearty and delicious. Dessert included lime popsicles, various flavors of green-shaded gelato and sherbet and cookies. We talked about politics (how could we not?) and St. Patrick Days past (I couldn’t make some of these stories up if I tried…). It was a lovely evening. Thanks to my hosts- and my mother- for inviting me.