dinner on the deck: apple pie, fig salad + chicken cutlets

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While I’ve always loved food, I didn’t start cooking until I was in my mid-twenties. As a child in 1980s Brooklyn, I ate what was available, what my family could afford. We were inventive with $1 bodega chicken legs, bags of sprouting potatoes and cans of Chef Boyardee. And although there was a summer where we subsisted on bags of potatoes and food that was best suited for hot pot cooking, limitations gave way to creativity. I’ve always harbored a deep respect and appreciation for good food because for so long I wasn’t privileged to have it. I didn’t have a real salad until I was in college–back then salad felt frivolous because who would spend $10 for a plate of leaves when you could get a whole meal for that money? And I didn’t get serious about cooking and baking until recovering from a drug problem forced me to do something else to occupy my hands.

Back then I cycled through a handful of recipes I’d learned from my best friend’s mother (fettuccine alfredo, lasagne, Thanksgiving herbed stuffing), but it wasn’t until 2002 that I purchased my first cookbook, Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Nights that were usually reserved from blackout drinking and drug use were now spent indoors, catatonic, watching The Food Network. Nigella made cooking accessible, fun, and my first experiment was a cheesecake where I used confectioner’s sugar instead of regular sugar (I rationed: was there really a difference. Answer: Indeed there is) and no one had a second bite. I purchased springform pans and sheet pans. I stocked a small cupboard in an apartment I shared with a friend with spices and flours. I baked chocolate cakes that splattered my walls. I made scones that resembled hockey pucks, and I managed to somehow screw up pasta.

For two years I failed miserably, but I kept on because there was something comforting about the alchemy of ingredients. And even though I made cakes that no one would dare eat or dinners that sometime resembled science experiments, the idea that I could possibly create something from nothing, that I could create instead of ruin, kept me going. I made a simple pound cake again and again until I got it right. All the money I’d spent on drugs and nights out were funnelled into shopping bags of food. Back then no one really photographed what they made, and I’m grateful since I made the kind of food that was hardly photogenic.

Over the years I always returned to the kitchen when I was lost, confused, heartbroken, and stressed. When I lost a great love and we divided one home into two, I stayed up late drinking vodka out of the bottle and making muffins. When I lived in an apartment building where an unhinged man played jazz until dawn, I made stuffed shells and coconut macaroons. When my then best friend came over my Brooklyn apartment (the one with the Pepto-pink bathroom), I made her pancakes and maple bacon, and when I lost her I kept thinking about her, and how she loved those cakes. I invited scores of people into my home for a clothing swap, which was really a vehicle to road-test these red velvet cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The year I resigned from my job and lost Sophie, I’d spend days bound to an oven.

However, it wasn’t until last year that my relationship to food dramatically changed. In a course of four years I’d gained nearly 40 pounds and lost my taste for good food. I shoveled lunch at my desk while answering emails. I came home and collapsed onto my couch and then ordered pizza, thai food or pasta smothered in oil and cheese. I stopped reviewing my credit card bills because I was embarrassed by how much I ordered from Seamless Web.

And then I started to get sick. Really sick. Like stomach pain so bad it felt like my appendix would burst. I would lose my train of thought so often that it became noticeable. I was forever tired, sluggish, and sick. A visit with my doctor (who’s also a gut specialist) and a nutritionist revealed that not only was I on my way to diabetes, I had a leaky gut and I was literally beating up my insides because of my diet.

Because kale smoothies don’t count when you spend the rest of your day binging on paninis, bagels and pasta.

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and I can barely recognize it. There were months when my fridge was anemic and now, as an adult, it’s abundant. I’m humbled by my privilege and the fact that I can afford to shop at farmer’s markets and buy organic. What bookends these two versions of myself were constraints. Back then I was limited by income, now by what I couldn’t consume. For a year, I couldn’t eat gluten, dairy, and yeast. For 6-7 months the list of foods I couldn’t eat was so unbearable that I spent the holidays alone.

At first I was apoplectic, but then I got wise and creative. I forced myself to eat vegetables I’d never previously considered (cauliflower, brussels sprouts). I purchased vegan, paleo, Middle Eastern and Asian cookbooks, and over the course of a year my palate changed and my repertoire expanded. As a result, I’ve noticed that I now cleave toward salty/savory vs. sweet. I eat pasta and bread a couple of times a month instead of multiple times a DAY. And I focus more on the quality of the food I consume rather than its caloric content.

What once had been a hobby that busied my hands became the core of how I would cultivate relationships with people. When I stopped drinking, I’d have friends over for dinner instead of playing the role of detective with my receipts after a night out. Now we connect over our most primal of needs–food, instead of a bottle of wine that merely serves to rob us of memory. We are our most vulnerable selves when we eat, and my friendships are richer, deeper because of it.

When I moved to California I chose my apartment specifically because it’s an open space and I have a deck for outdoor entertaining. From where I’m writing this I face my kitchen and it feels normal to live in a space that combines art, words, work, food, and friendship.

Last night I had my friend Jamie over for dinner, and we spent hours on my deck, talking, eating, marveling over how almond meal renders chicken juicier. While we were talking, I thought about alcohol and other anaesthetic agents. People sometimes ask: do you miss it? Drinking. And I think about how much anesthesia rubs away–you always end up with less than what you started. And then I think about food, which, in my strange math, is always about addition and multiplication. Friendships are fertile. Love festers and grows.

APPLE PIE INGREDIENTS
For the filling
4 pounds apples, peeled, quartered, and cored (I do a mix of tart + sweet–whatever’s in season)
1 lemon, zested
Juice of the lemon you just zested
1/4 cup cane sugar, plus 1 tsp to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice

For the pie crust
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) very cold salted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening (I use a non-hydrogenated kind I get from Whole Foods)
6 to 8 tbsp (about 1/2 cup) ice water

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DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375.

Chop each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zest, juice, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside. Don’t worry about the apples browning — the acid from the fruit will halt the oxidation process.

Now you’re ready for the pie crust. I can’t stress enough how COLD the ingredients need to be. Dice the butter in tablespoons, and store it in the fridge while you prepare the flour mixture. Add the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Introduce the cider vinegar, butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You can also make this by hand with a pastry blender or the two fork method. However, after the nonsense with the apples I sometimes want to take the path of least resistance.

Once the dough is cold, cut it in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9-inch pie dish to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1-inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the 2 together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (start checking after 45 minutes, and make sure you rotate your dish half-way through the cooking process so the pie will brown evenly), or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.
Apple pie
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FIG SALAD + CHICKEN CUTLET INGREDIENTS
For the salad
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups baby kale
8-10 figs, halved and quartered
olive oil/sea salt

For the chicken cutlets
2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup almond meal
1 tbsp fresh minced thyme
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 lb chicken cutlets, pounded thin (this serves 4, but I cook the whole lot and store the leftovers for salads

DIRECTIONS

Making the salad is as simple as it looks. One important note, though. I’d wait to dress/toss it in olive oil just when you’re about to serve the salad as you don’t want the leaves getting limp.

The chicken cutlets work like an old-school assembly line. Heat the butter/oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the salt. In another bowl, mix the almond meal, thyme and pepper. Dunk the cutlets in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture. Fry on both sides (4-5 minutes each) until slightly charred. I kept the cutlets warm in a 175F oven.

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glitzy chocolate pudding (gluten/dairy-free)

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At the height of my hoarding, I owned 300 cookbooks. I stacked them wherever there was room, wherever I could find space, until last year when I started letting them go, one by one, and I now I’m down to 50. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to no longer be consumed by the things you own, to not be tethered to clutter. Now when think about acquiring something new, I ask myself: Do I need this? Do I love this? Can I live without this? Would I be willing to pay to move this? Life suddenly holds a considerable amount of clarity and my home a lot more space.

Over the past year, I’ve been cooking from a fixed amount of books because I’ve had to relearn how to eat without gluten or dairy. I couldn’t be tempted by the pages of pasta recipes or dishes smothered in cheese, rather I had to force myself to explore new flavors and foods. As a result, I’ve realized that abundance exists when you live within constraints. I’ve lived seven months without gluten and dairy, and with the exception of an occasional pizza and bread basket craving, I’ve managed to do the unthinkable–live without pasta.

Yet, I miss some of my old mainstays. While going through another book edit, I found myself poring over the tomes I used to cook from and love, and I discovered this incredible chocolate pudding recipe from Nigella Lawson. With a few simple adjustments, I managed to make this work for my diet, and I cannot tell you how much you won’t even miss the butter and white flour. I made this dessert for a dear friend last night and it was a success! She didn’t even notice I used vegan butter!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Nigella Express, modified.
For the pudding:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup soft vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup gluten-free flour
¼ tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

For the glaze:
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 tbsp vegan butter
2 2.1-oz Butterfinger bars, broken shards (I nixed this)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Break up the chocolate and melt it with the butter in a bowl in the microwave or over a double boiler. Once it’s melted, sit the bowl on a cold surface so that the chocolate cools.

Preferably in a freestanding mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale and moussey, then gently fold in the flour, baking soda, and pinch of salt.

Fold in the slightly cooled chocolate and butter mixture and then divide among 8 ramekins or custard cups. Put in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, get on with the glaze by melting the chocolate and butter in a microwave (or double boiler), then whisk to form a smooth glossy mixture and spoon this over the cooked puddings.

Decorate with Butterfinger rubble: you can just put the bars in a freezer bag, set to with a rolling pin, and strew over the top. I nixed this as I don’t eat processed candy bars, but rock it out if this is your bag. However, you can top this with candied ginger or honeycomb–that would be divine juxtaposed with the bitter chocolate.

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foodie finds: covet-worthy cookbooks

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Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Nigella Bites, where she opened the doors of her expansive larder to reveal rows of spices, chocolate, tins and exotic foodstuffs from faraway countries — artificats from her life-long affection for food. After I wept over the fact that her larder was the size of most New York apartments, her collection of food souvenirs remained with me. When traveling, I’ve never been the sort who cares for trinkets and knick-knacks. During my visit to South East Asia, my guides were befuddled over the fact that I didn’t want to shop. What kind of American doesn’t crave silk scarves and hand-carved totems? Rather, I asked after the food markets.

Take me to the food, is my constant refrain.

Over the past few years, I’ve curated {oh dear, what an overused word} a collection of spices, biscuits and books that can only be found in the country of origin. While it’s true that you can get everything here, never will I procure six ounces of saffron for $2, or a cookbook from a revered Irish author for $13, on sale. While in Ireland last week, I managed to score three exceptional tomes, of which I found myself obsessively poring over. From cakes to cookies to soothing soups and crisp greens, I can’t wait to cook my way through the books penned by authors from another country. In the midst of the sweet, you’ll also spy a farm-to-table cookbook, Nourished Kitchen, which I received prior to my leaving for Dublin. It’s a fantastic journey back to the roots of our land as well as an impeccable display of delicious, mindful dishes. No doubt you’ll see some recipes from that book on this space in the coming weeks.

Jennifer McGruther’s The Nourished Kitchen | Rachel Allen’s Cake | Rosanne Hewitt-Cromwell’s Like Mam Used to Bake | Clodagh McKenna’s Homemade: Irresistible Homemade Recipes for Every Occasion

comfort food of the gods: cacio e pepe

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I’m bogged down by the remnants of jet lag, a cold and horrendous allergies amidst an avalanche of deliverables. Right now, all I crave is a cashmere blanket, a bowl of pasta, a good book + my kitty.

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery. Until then, savor another indulgence of the carb kind {reconsidering renaming this space love. life. carbs.}

INGREDIENTS
3/4 pound of orecchiette
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tsp freshly ground pepper (adjust to your taste)
a bit of the pasta cooking liquid (about 1/4 to 1/2 of a ladel-full)
1/2 cup of freshly ground pecorino romano

DIRECTIONS
Bring salted water to a boil. Nigella Lawson once said that your pasta water should resemble the Mediterranean, and I’ve always kept this axiom in mind when making pasta. I typically add in a few tablespoons to a medium-bowling pot.

Cook the penne until al dente (or two minutes less than the package instructions). In a separate pan, cook the butter in the olive oil. Add pasta to the skillet. Toss in cheese, some of the pasta water, and cracked pepper.

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sunday breakfast pancakes + the definition of success

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The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it. — Julia Child

Years ago, someone told me that this space, this blog you’re reading right this moment, will never be big. Scores of people have told me that my books will never be big because I’m difficult; I don’t color in the lines, rather I invent a whole new book in which to draw and write. I’m not easy, I erect walls the size of skyscrapers. The ambiguity in my writing tends to keep others at a remove, and I don’t tend to look at my work as something that could be viral, easily pinnable, endlessly commented on.

I’m never going to be big because, by definition, I’m not mass market.

For a time these statements confused me, and it’s not until this year that I understood why. Why are we defining success by a metric, a site visit, a number of comments? Why is mass suddenly the marker of achievement? A blog with a book deal and a stylish home living show and a line at a tasteful department store — are these the new markers of success? Have we updated the old playbook where we were told as children that a good life meant having a career, getting married, having kids, buying a house, having a summer house, and retiring blissfully?

Shouldn’t success and happiness be the achievement of what we love to its own end, knowing that end might be private and personal? That we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search? Being “social” because that’s the sort of thing we ought to do?

Someone once we told me that we have to think about content in the context of its distribution. For nearly four years I clung to this fiction, repeated it to a litany of clients, left an indelible mark on those whom I mentored, and it occurred to me that this statement was wrong. Yes, of course, of course, we don’t create something to simply leave it there to gather dust, wither and curl inward. But, if I start to fixate on the end game, the thing I’m creating suddenly loses something. It becomes airless, soulless, a pretty picture worth pinning.

I’ll be brutally honest. This blog will never be a platform, a means to make money, or a mechanism for achieving some sort of microfame. For me, this space has always been about exploration, an online space where I can collect and share what I’m thinking, reading, baking, eating, doing. I don’t have an endgame. What I have is a need to create something beautiful each day. So if that means that I post less content, or the pictures (like these delicious pancakes) are not a towering heap of global perfection basking in white light — so perfect for re-pinnning! — so be it.

We are not meant to be just one thing. There is not one endgame or goal. Rather, we should keep exploring and building all the things that make us want to bolt out of bed. For me, it’s writing, it’s baking, it’s sharing food with friends in my home, and it’s sometimes marketing. These worlds have to be symbiotic in some way, that the threads of creativity and passion and devotion find its way from one to another, like points on a map. My job is the driving, the journey.

By the way, who cares about being big? Why not be bold, bombastic and remarkable instead?

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
butter for frying

DIRECTIONS
The method to make these deluxe, spongy pancakes is incredibly simple — Nigella is queen of convenience that way. Essentially, make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed, and then mix in, with a fork, all of the wet ingredients. Although Nigella recommends that you allow the batter to stand for twenty minutes (to activate the leavening agent, garnering towering fluffs of pancakes), I waited five and my pancakes were delicious and thick.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. You can get over a dozen silver dollar cakes with this recipe.

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espresso banana bread

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Sometimes, when your ferocious feline wakes you at four in the morning, and keeps you up for hours, one needs a slice of banana bread slathered with almond butter to make it through the day alive. After having been up half the night with my kitty, I’m a zombie who took some caffeinated shortcuts and loaded my banana bread with espresso. Like all of Nigella’s recipes, this banana bread is a cinch to make, and you don’t need to get fussy with stand mixers and all the accoutrements.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima
2/3 cup grapeseed, canola or safflower oil, plus some for greasing
3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup superfine sugar {I used cane and it was fine}
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp instant espresso powder
1 x 450g/1lb deep loaf tin

DIRECTIONS
Slip a baking sheet into the oven, and preheat the to 325F. Get out a loaf tin, and line it with baking parchment or a loaf liner, or lightly oil it.

Mash the bananas with the vanilla extract and salt and then beat in the oil. Now, beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the sugar. Mix the flour with the bicarb and espresso powder, and beat these dry ingredients into the runny batter.

Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin, and pop it into the oven, on the baking sheet, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until slightly coming away at the sides and bulgingly risen.

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file under wow the crowd: one tray italian bake

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Today I woke to a signed consulting contract and a slew of wonderful emails from old friends and new. I celebrated by toasting a crumb cake and coffee with my business partner as we made our plans for the week. Already the week is off to a magical start, and I plan to design each day and live through it, ferociously.

Speaking of ferocity, this one-pan wonder was a ceremonious HIT at last night’s dinner soiree. I had the boys over, and not only did they love the simplicity of the dish (juicy chicken and tender sausage — hello!), I fixed some millet with sundried tomatoes, olive oil and a touch of cheese, and started off our dinner with a fresh berry salad spritzed with lemon.

Naturally, we closed our meals with chocolate and conversation. If you’re looking for a simple dish that will elicit awe, trust me on this. TRUST.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima, with modifications.
3 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb of chicken*
1 lb of sweet Italian sausages
6-7 sprigs rosemary
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Notes in the margins: You can use a mix of thigh, legs + breast, however, ensure that the meat is on the bone. Do not use skinless, boneless chicken breasts unless you want a dry piece of chicken. For my guests, I opted for three breasts on the bone and they cooked wonderfully. Also, don’t use a deep, high rise shallow pan. Initially, I was going to use my turkey roasting pan, however, the chicken wouldn’t crisp up, and the texture will end up rubbery and soggy. Instead, I used a baking dish lined with tin foil and it did the job beautifully.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425F. Place the diced potatoes into a sheet pan or large, shallow roasting pan and add the chicken and sausages.

Arrange 4 sprigs of rosemary among the chicken and sausages, then finely chop the needles of another two sprigs to give you 2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary, and sprinkle those on as well.

Zest the lemon over everything, and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken skin and sausages are golden and potatoes pieces are cooked through. Let stand at least 5 minutes after cooking, and you can let it stand for up to 30 minutes before serving.

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cinnamon almond cake {gluten-free}

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Every morning I wake, determined to create something new. Even in my darkest moments, even when I’ve collapsed into tears while holding my frail cat in my hands or when I feel smothered by so much uncertainty, I know there is no nobility in sitting alone in the great, big dark. There’s no beauty in martyrdom, in a body that lay supine, idle. A great mind whose sole purpose is pushing the tears out. From handwritten notes and long emails to creating short stories and decadent pastries, I seek to create a bit of extraordinary in an ordinary life. This is sometimes a personal pursuit, a salve for a mind that would otherwise atrophy, but it’s often a gift for someone else. If I’ve learned anything in the past few months it’s this: I have to open my heart. There’s no other way.

Yesterday, I made a cake for someone who doesn’t know she’s getting it yet. This is a friend who brought me groceries when I was content to sit in my apartment and watch movies, letting the dust moats settle over my face. This is a friend who convinced me — simply by existing, simply by glowing — that yoga is the thing I need. Yoga constantly reminds me that I need to come back to the breath, return to myself, and create space for all the new.

And today I’m creating the note that will tell her just how much I needed her at that moment. How much I always need people. How very happy I am to finally have allowed all the beautiful ones in.

Create something new. Do it.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima
8 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 orange {or ruby grapefruit}
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing tin
1 ½ cups almond meal/flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar, to decorate (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9” springform cake tin with olive oil.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are opaque and start to hold their shape, then slowly add the sugar in three batches of a 1/4 cup each, whisking until incorporated and the mixture is thick and shiny. If you’ve made meringue, this technique will be all too familiar. Ultimately, you want to move past the foamy and frothy stage (when you’re first adding the sugar) to a point where the you have nearly stiff peaks. Add the almond extract and the orange zest. Then, alternately whisk in the oil and the ground almonds (mixed with the baking powder) in thirds until smoothly incorporated into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then mix together the sliced almonds and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the top of the cake. Place the tin on a baking sheet (to prevent burning) and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the top has risen and set, the almonds become golden, and a cake tester comes out clean. I started checking my cake after 30 minutes. Cakes made with whites are tricky because they can sometimes come out slightly foamy in the center. {If this happens, don’t freak out, just put the cake back into the oven and cook until the cake is slightly more firm.}

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in its tin on a wire rack. Once cooled, spring open the sides of the tin, but don’t try to remove the cake from the base until properly cool. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the powdered sugar over the cake to create a snowy effect, then slice and serve.

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savor this: saturday morning vanilla pancakes!

another yummy show Lately I’ve found myself waxing nostalgic. Although I spent years working on a book that would have you believe that my childhood was altogether horrific — and it was, at turns — there were those shimmering, superfine moments that I still cleave to, am frightened of losing because they’re constantly overshadowed by all that was dark. There was a silver fork plunged into a stack of pancakes, licked lips and sticky grins. Ours was an Aunt Jemima and Bisquick home, and back then, I’d have it no other way.

Sometimes when I think about those weekend, when the world was reduced to me, my mother, and a bowl of batter, I wince, feel my heart put on pause. Because sometimes I would give anything to journey back to that place. Before the rage, before cocaine, before I regarded the woman who hovered over me with fear and disdain.

Below me there is a family and sometimes the smell of smoky bacon and warm waffles wafts up through the floorboards and I miss a home with a table, a family and a Saturday morning breakfast. But I make my adjustments, calibrate the maths, and create my own special kind of bliss, which includes an avalanche of easy pancakes, sweet syrup and tart blackberries. The recipe comes courtesy of Nigella Lawson, but the minor touches and the love are wholly mine.

American Breakfast Pancakes
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup of blackberries
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
butter for frying

DIRECTIONS
The method to make these deluxe, spongy pancakes is incredibly simple — Nigella is queen of convenience that way. Essentially, make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed, and then mix in, with a fork, all of the wet ingredients. Although Nigella recommends that you allow the batter to stand for twenty minutes (to activate the leavening agent, garnering towering fluffs of pancakes), I waited five and my pancakes were delicious and thick.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. You can get over a dozen silver dollar cakes with this recipe.

mixing the ingredients
batter
saturday morning vanilla pancakes with blackberries
saturday morning vanilla pancakes with blackberries