This is not a recipe. I’m sorry. I’m finding it difficult to cook lately, but hopefully that energy will return soon. But I wanted to write about something else. Or rather, someone else. This has been on my mind for the past few days and I think writing it out will help me… move on? Heal? I don’t even know. But I know I need to write it.
The first time I ever had charred shishito peppers was at Umi Sake House in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, and it blew my mind. A friend had ordered it to share, and when it arrived, I definitely looked at the small pile of peppers with a great deal of skepticism.
Peppers? As an appetizer? Wouldn’t that, you know, hurt to eat? But you guys, it… well, it does hurt. Sometimes. I wouldn’t lie to you. This is a place of honesty and trust, after all. But mostly, the peppers are an insanely addictive combination of sweet and bitter, with just a small dose of heat. Except for sometimes, like I mentioned, when it is a large dose of heat. But they always seem to be the minority, and in any case I think it just heightens the experience when you have no idea if you’ll come across a “surprise pepper” that lays on the napalm inside your mouth. Does that not sound great to you?
No? Just me?
Birthday cake, round two: weekend edition. To drag my birthday week out and end it on a high note, my friends and I had a great meal at Oddfellows on Saturday night. I highly recommend that place for any gathering — the service was great and the food and drinks were delicious!
Hello, party people!
I used to go there just for casual lunches and snacks when I still lived in that neighborhood, and it doesn’t hurt that Oddfellows is next to my favorite bookstore in the city, either. Work up an appetite browsing and purchasing new lovely things to read, then pop over next door for a meal — that’s the ideal weekend activity, if you ask me.
But I’m still of the mindset that anything calling itself a birthday celebration is incomplete without cake, so I made something I’ve been meaning to make for a long time: an intensely chocolate cake.
My birthday is today and true to form, I’ve made my own birthday cake. Or rather, I made one to “celebrate all the April birthdays in my office” but who are we kidding, I made this cake for me.
My birthday cake for the last few years has been varying iterations of a fruit and custard cake because it is the best kind of cake in existence and if you disagree you are wrong, but that’s a post for another time. This post is about a different kind of cake, because this is a different kind of birthday. This year, I’m turning 30.
Annnnd we’re back to cakes. Did you really think I’d stay away for very long? Of course you didn’t, because you know how I am by now.
A friend was celebrating her birthday, and all celebrations of surviving another year /slash/ shaking your fist at mortality should involve a cake of some sort. So I set out to make one for her, and remembered that a few months ago, she had told me in passing that she loved chocolate cake with vanilla icing.
…or was it vanilla cake with chocolate icing?
This is hardly a recipe, but I do love a good sardine sandwich. Sardines?!, you say, barely able to disguise the look of utter revulsion on your face. The oily fish that comes in a tin, complete with spines???
Yes, sardines! I respond. And don’t you dare say a single thing against tinned fish, you mook! Then we breakdance battle, and after I completely wreck you with my triple-headspin-windmill combo and you weep a little, I’ll invite you over for a sardine sandwich so that you will truly understand just how wrong you were to ever doubt the majesty of the humble tinned fish.
Wait, what’s all this then?? Didn’t I just say one post ago that one of my resolutions was to be healthier? And now there is a goddamn cake recipe here?!
You caught me. I did say that. But then I also decided that healthier doesn’t have to necessarily mean “devoid of cake” because quite simply, a good cake makes me happy. And what’s the point of being “healthy” if I’m just bummed out all the time from the distinct lack of cake in my life? I don’t want to get hit by a bus and have my dying thought be “goddamnit I should’ve eaten that cake, why did I endure six weeks of endless grain bowls.”
So to kick off a year of being healthier and happier, here is a cake. It is not a healthy cake because there is no such thing. A good cake will contain butter and sugar and flour (or some kind of flour alternative at the very least), so might as well just let it be what it is. But if you’re going to treat yourself, why not go big, like with a fun cake studded with Fruity Pebbles “funfetti.” This thing can be part of your very unbalanced complete breakfast once in a while.
An old coworker gave me Tessa Huff’s beautiful book Layered for Christmas, and so this is a riff on the strawberry confetti cake inside. Something I didn’t do for this particular cake (but that I included in my recipe below) is steeping some Fruity Pebbles in the milk before baking with it. I imagine that’d only bump up the cereal flavor by a delicious percent (whatever percentage that might be).
Happy 2017, everyone! Welcome to a new year, a symbolic time that promises many things but that in reality probably won’t differ much from December 31st of this past weekend, aside from the fact that we’ll all be scratching out the inevitable “2016”s on our rent checks to hastily scrawl in “2017” instead. Turning an accidental 6 into a deliberate 7 will be messy, but by god we’ll do it.
But despite the unceasing and apathetic forward march of time, let’s all embrace the wise words of Bill and Ted and be excellent to ourselves and to each other. Imagine me embracing you in a hug right now— and imagine it being very awkward for added realism, if you will.
No, I don’t mean baking hobbits. I mean a bake inspired by the merry little Halflings. If you know me at all (or in the very least, follow my silly little posts on Instagram), you know that I read Lord of the Rings every year. And every time I read it, I’m tickled anew by Samwise Gamgee’s fixation on procuring a good ale and some hearty fare. I mean, he even whips up some lean rabbit stew out in the middle of a field after growing weary of their monotonous diet of lembas bread. A hobbit after my own heart, that Sam.
So I got to thinking, what would Sam make if he did have the provisions? Probably something a lot like this dish: assorted vegetables and sausage tossed with fresh and dried herbs, a bit of butter, and all roasted until golden brown and fragrant. And seeing as how Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday is later this week (September 22nd!), it seemed as good a time as any to make it.
I don’t fry things very often because for whatever reason I am completely inept at it. But once in a while, I’ll come across a recipe for something fried that sounds so appealing that I’ll shove aside my fry-aversion and just go for it. These zucchini patties — zucchini fritters, really — called for me to do just that.
These are like potato latkes, but made with zucchini and onion instead. How could I resist? Potato latkes? Delicious. Zucchini? Also delicious. This is an obvious win.