I’m not a big cake baker and certainly not much of a cake eater, but lately I find myself working on cakes. There are probably a few reasons but one is the number of impressive cakes posted on Dorie Greenspan’s engaging and active facebook group, BAKE AND TELL. Some of these folks bake their kids’ favorite chocolate birthday cake (more my speed) and others create pastry visions (think marzipan) unseen at many professional bakeries. Yikes. But it’s all fun and there’s lots of learning and togetherness– the internet at its best. Another thing going through my mind has been finding a cake my good friend Tony can eat and still stay on his healthy regime, which means no white flour, no dairy, and not much sugar. (I’m nearly there on that one; a pan of cake with his name on it is in the freezer for the next time we play Pinochle. We’ll see what he thinks.) This last Sunday, I woke early to drink coffee and exercise (I know–me?!) and saw a few cartons of sorta sad-lookin’ berries (Poor babies.) in the fridge when I got the milk. There was also a container of ricotta — couldn’t even remember what I’d needed that for, but it passed the sniff test. What could I make with berries and ricotta? Well, folks, that’s what Google’s for, isn’t it? Up came Ina Garten’s“Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake.” Luckily I have the book it’s in (Go-To Dinners) and read it through twice thinking about how Alyce would make and bake this cake. And here’s what happened; I changed it as I went along…
During the pandemic lockdown, my husband Dave (aka best sous) took to making my homemade pizza recipe every other week. We only ate half and so froze the second half in order to enjoy a fake take-out meal or no cooking night the following week. Pizza, wondrous on the streets of Naples, delivered from our local spot, or made right in my own kitchen’s oven, is probably my favorite food. In other words, doesn’t take much to convince me to bake it in some new guise or getup. As I planned this year’s Friday Fish meals, I thought about pizza but also had crab on my mind. It was either crab pasta or crab pizza and, well, you see what won! The question was, “How did I want to do it?” A really fast version featuring purchased mini-naan flatbread sounded fun and doable for all of you, too. Homemade pizza dough isn’t everyone’s thing, though it’s easier than it looks. Takes time is all. The naan— which is also available in a larger size should you want it, usually has its own display at the grocer somewhere around the bakery area but is widely available. Instead of waiting an hour or two for dough to rise and then trying to shape it into a manageable round (square? rectangle?), these little flatbreads come ready to grill and bake. They fit in the toaster, too. Add a few toppings, some cheese, stick it in the oven, and you have pizza. Even if you chop toppings and grate cheese, dinner’s on the table in under 30 minutes as the pizzas bake only 6-8 minutes. Have kids? They can make their own pizza. Do make your salad first!
Bruschetta (broo-SKET-ta), the incomparably attractive Italian appetizer, is simply too big of a starter come the dog days of summer. I mean, it’s like eating pizza for hors d’oeuvres before Thanksgiving dinner when the temps are 95 F in the shade–like today. Typically grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped silky ruby-ripe tomatoes and a scatter of fresh basil slivers, I like to instead offer it up with a variety of toppings for an al fresco dinner and let everyone make themselves happy. And while I thought I was being somewhat imaginative this July, when I dug out some of my Italian cookbooks to get a little background, I of course discovered that while not everyone, certainly certain someones have been there before me. (Curses, foiled again.) Folks like one of my favorite food writers, Lynne Rosetto Kasper.
“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked. “I never met an egg I didn’t like,” said my very dear friend Chris Kliesen Wehrman with a gleam in her eye one morning after she had spent the night at our house.