This cake ended up being a science experiment.
I wanted to make a red velvet cake without any red food coloring. Though I can handle a little food coloring here and there, the idea of putting in such large amounts into a homemade cake . . . well, I just couldn’t do it. I mean, why would I want to eat a cake that is red for no reason, other than the fact that someone calls it red?
In my research, and the research of my sister (who actually inspired my making this cake after she had made an attempt at something similar), we discovered a number of people in the blogosphere that get quite uppity about what a red velvet cake is and isn’t. I won’t get into that. But I will say that many of these red velvet soap boxers were suggesting the color should come from beets.
So I started there.
My first attempt was brownish purplish. My daughter called it the Purple Satin Cake. It tasted good, so good in fact, that when I stood there, holding the last piece, thinking that I should snap a picture for the blog to show what it looked like, my will power buckled, and into my mouth it went. But it was still brownish purplish.
I have seen dozens of recipes for niçoise salad over the years. But to tell you the truth, they’ve never looked that appetizing to me. Maybe it’s my childhood aversion to green beans coming out, or maybe it’s that I expect the potatoes to be too bland and starchy. Even the niçoise salads with fresh ahi tuna never sparked much of my interest.
But I recently bought a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, and she features two niçoise salads: one cool, and one warm. The photographs of both make the salad look so rustic and inviting, that I began to reconsider my prejudice against the salad from Nice.
As for the potatoes, my mom and I have been replacing regular starchy potatoes with sweet potatoes lately—they’re higher in nutrients and flavor, so I thought I’d add those to the salad instead.
Not to mention, I have been getting these gorgeous eggs from my neighbor lately, so I knew the bright yolks would make the salad stunning to look at.
I figured it was time to finally try my own version.
I’m still finding chocolate fingerprints around the house. My three lovelies (what I affectionately call my kids on the best of days) came into my room—not too early—on Mother’s Day morning with this for breakfast: a grapefruit, warm water with honey and lemon, and strawberries with chocolate ganache. We added the bananas later when the strawberries started to run out. How’s that for kids that know their mommy? They’ve learned that my favorite breakfasts are ones that are less like breakfast and more like dessert.
I was then flooded with a series of drawings, pop-up cards, and poems, along with these potted gerbera daisies, which were provided by my mother-in-law. I don’t like saying “ex-mother-in-law”—it sounds too harsh. For two years now, she had taken the kids for an evening, the week before Mother’s Day, to give me the night off, and lead my kids in creating some sort of extravaganza for me.
And this is really made with key limes. Or at least, I thought they were key limes. That’s what the store said they were. It turns out, they were just mini regular—or Persian—limes with seeds in them. Apparently, key limes are yellow and round—not tiny and green. But I don’t want to talk about that right now. It’s embarrassing.
This is what happened when I thought I was being the ultimate foodie. I found the “key limes” on sale a few weeks ago: ten for a dollar. I had never seen such a good price before, so I grabbed a bag and filled it with thirty lovely limes. I was so proud of myself for owning them, that first I had to photograph them.
And then they sat around for awhile.
They sat around until I had nothing better to do than to juice thirty teeny tiny seeded citrus fruits. While I waited for the royal wedding to start, I buckled down and did it. I would juice about ten at a time, and then the acid would begin to burn so badly I would have to run to the kitchen, wash my hands, lotion them, and watch about a half an hour more of the wedding coverage. When my skin would calm down, I’d go back and juice a few more. I was being a true foodie martyr.
I guess I was expecting some magical Floridian taste to come through as payoff for my self torture, but in the end, I discovered my “key limes” tasted exactly like regular limes. And now I know that’s because they weren’t.
Anyway, you’ll know better. If something claims to be key limes, make sure they’re round and yellow. If you can’t find those, then by all means, buy yourself some regular, large, green limes, and make this. You’ll love it no matter what.
I did two things while staying up all night for William and Kate’s wedding: I juiced what looked like a harmless pile of key limes—and managed to cut my finger in the process—and I made these steamed artichokes. I don’t know what it is about steamed artichokes, but to me, they are the epitome of party food. I love to take a plump leaf from the thistly globe and scrape my teeth across it to extract the flesh. Paired with the right flavors, it is complete heaven to me.
Oddly enough, I had only eaten artichokes like this once before the other night. My friend had made them for a Christmas party, and ever since I had wanted to try making them myself, but was always too intimidated. After juicing my thirtieth key lime, and while I was listening to about the fifty second interview of spectators standing outside in London, I decided it was time to get over it. What funny things we do when we get the idea that staying up all night is perfectly reasonable. Turns out, they weren’t so hard to make after all.
I tried making roasted artichokes in the past. That was a pain in the you-know-what. It’s like battling a rose bush. Even though I remember loving steamed artichokes when I was a kid, my first experience cooking them turned me off to a second attempt for years.
Then I went to Costco. That place can convince you that you need just about anything. New windshield wipers. A bullet blender. Six pounds of granola.
Well, a few weeks ago, four spiny orbs smiled up at me and begged me to buy them. Since they were in the refrigerator room, I had to decide fast. That’s on purpose, you know. Not many stores put a whole section of products in a room that registers below 40 degrees. You go in thinking, Okay, I will only buy a flat of strawberries. And if blueberries are a good price, I’ll buy them, too. Oh good there they are. Wait, quick, I better get some snap peas while I’m here. I’m freezing. Oh, and I wanted to buy some mini cucumbers! Only five dollars!
By the time you exit, you have rounded up twenty-five dollars in impulse buys in less than forty seven seconds. Forget buyer’s remorse—you’re mostly just happy to be warm again. Buyer’s remorse would mean going back in there.
Then your three-year-old tells you she has to go to the bathroom. The one strategically placed on the exact opposite end of the store. Once you’ve woven through the families waiting in line to get the dinosaur chicken samples (hasn’t everyone already tasted them? I mean, come on, people!) with a cart that has the maneuverability of a dumpster, you’ve walked practically a quarter of a mile to that potty. By then there’s no chance in _____ you’re going to put that produce back.
Pure marketing genius.
My mom and I spent the morning daydreaming about the pumpkin patch I plan on having someday. Up until few months ago, my dream included a modest farm in New England. The kids and I would grow the pumpkins, sell them, and maybe make pies to sell in our small country store. Oh, and in that dream is a Golden Retriever. My five-year-old won’t let me budge from that part of the dream.
But recently, this little vision of a pumpkin patch is starting to spill in every direction, and i must say one of the catalysts is the group of fresh eggs the neighbor children sell me every week. Certainly, a few chickens near my pumpkin patch would be a welcome addition—I’ll certainly need the eggs if I’m to be baking all that pumpkin pie.
Mostly, though, I just find eggs utterly fascinating. Though more fragile than the most delicate china, when turned on end, an egg’s two natural arches can support surprising amounts of force.
I love them, of course, for their endless kitchen uses, not to mention their rumored beauty uses I’m still afraid to try. But I also love them for how they played a key role in the invention of duplicatable photographs.
As this is Friday, and we try to talk about power foods, let me enlighten you on some of the other reasons to love eggs. They are an excellent—not to mention inexpensive—source of protein, and they’re rich in B vitamins, selenium, and iodine.
Whenever the neighbor kids bring me blue eggs, I start plotting immediately what I can make with them, and how I should photograph them. I had been ogling for some time over a photograph of eggs and toast in a donna hay magazine(issue 51, page 126), and couldn’t make anything with those blue eggs until I had tried something like hers. I recreated my eggs dish with big slices of rustic toast spread with goat cheese, drizzled in olive oil, and topped with bright centered soft boiled eggs, flowing onto the plate.
What do you love about eggs? What is your favorite thing to make with them?