Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Plum, Rosemary, and Brandy Cakes

Autumn denial again. Knowing plums would very soon disappear from the markets, I of course woke up on Sunday morning with a mad craving for plums... and plum cake. So I managed to scavenge a few good specimens from the couple of vendors at the market still left who were selling plums (most of the market has now moved onto grapes!), and set about to make a good, simple plum cake for Sunday/Monday morning breakfasts. ..."simple" with rosemary and brandy, of course! :) (because since you're eating cake on a Monday morning, might as well have it with plums soaked in brandy, amiright?!)

Lately I've been craving simple butter cakes like these, laden with fruit (exhibit A: last week's cake). I think it's just because everything else in life is so insane and potentially stress-inducing that I need my desserts at the very least to be comfortable, easy to understand, straightforwardly good. The rosemary in here (homegrown! My brown thumb has successfully kept rosemary alive for at least one summer so far!) adds just enough complexity and surprise to make it intriguing at the same time. It's the best kind of comfort food.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and productive week, filled with enough relaxing moments to breathe here and there to keep us all sane. :)

Read on for recipe....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Backyard Apple and Walnut Cake, with Rose Geranium Ice Cream

I have been trying with all my might to resist the fast-approaching onset of fall. I'm pretty much in denial about it all: the shortening days, the colder weather, the disappearance of summer produce from the markets, the upswing in activity with everyone returning from their summer vacations. On Monday when I met up with a few food-blogging friends in San Francisco for dinner, I refused to bring a thicker, non-summery coat and froze my ass off walking to the car, even though I knew full well beforehand that it was getting colder. Usually this is one of my favorite times of the year, and I relish the change in the seasons and everything that goes along with it, but for some reason, this year, I just don't feel ready yet! I haven't accomplished even a quarter of what I set out to do over the summer, and fall also means that 2012 is drawing to a quick close, and I haven't accomplished even 10% of what I set out to do at the beginning of the year...! I needs more time!

But alas, you can only resist change for so long before your mom starts showing up at your door bearing bags and bags of fall fruits in the form of adorable little apples and elegantly-shaped pears from the neighbors' yards back home!

These apples were too cute and sweet and juicy for me to turn them down, so before I knew it, I ended up with a bags! of them scattered about my kitchen. ... So of course the most efficient way to use them would be a cake! (or pie, really. But there's pie down the road for this blog, I promise.) A cake stuffed so chock-full of apple-y goodness that it turns into a super-robust and moist pound cake--none of that light and fluffy summery stuff. This backyard apple + walnut cake means Fall Business.

I've also been craving a walnut cake for the longest time and so am finally happy to have delivered on that front. Apples and walnuts are such the classic combination, and the bites of buttery nuttiness are perfect amidst the richness of this cake. A thank you is due to the wonderful folks at California Walnuts for sending me these fabulous specimens for the cake!

Oh, and so we can all feel good about being "healthy" and all, there's some whole wheat flour thrown in there for good, rustic measure. :)

You *could* serve this cake with whipped cream, or, you could make good on another summer goal of mine: make rose geranium ice cream. (check!) I've been on the search for rose geranium since I first read about it in the Chez Panisse desserts book years back, and finally, when my friend Toni took me out to the amazing Flora Grubb Nursery in the summer, I found a beauty of a rose geranium plant to bring home! Surprisingly despite my notorious brown thumb, the plant's been thriving ever since, exploding out of its new pot every which way with large, spindly leaves. The rose geranium ice cream is wonderfully flavored from the leaves, with tints of the haunting floral and slightly spicy-sweet smell of the plant.

...happy September! (though I am still going to refuse for a teensy while longer to admit that fall is pretty much here. <-- stubborn :))

Read on for recipe....

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breakfast with Alice at Plow, San Francisco

This supposed recipe blog has been quite thin on recipes lately, a fact of which I'm well aware. It distresses me not to have a new recipe to share each week (it's that same sinking, smelly, guilty feeling I get when procrastinating dissertation work...), but August has been a month spent mostly not in the kitchen but on the road. In the latter half of August, one of my good friends moved to Pittsburgh, and while I'm super sad to see her and her husband go (they were the unofficial desserts for breakfast taste-testers and dessert consumers, so applications are now being accepted for that position! -- please inquire within ;P), I helped drive their car across country on one last road trip romp. ...more on that in the future. Then, this past weekend was spent at a college friend's wedding in San Diego and eating my way with friends through Los Angeles's Koreatown (mmmmmm...late night tofu and delicious kimchee). Time not on the road these past few weeks have been spent with friends--new and old--visiting from out of town, which offers me an opportunity to see and explore my own city with fresh eyes!

^ Alice, clicking away

Before I left for SoCal, the amazingly talented Alice Gao popped into town and miraculously had room in her schedule to squeeze in a breakfast in San Francisco with me. :D I lobbied especially for breakfast because I wanted to see Alice in action making those amazing instagram photos of morning foods that always have me drooling and green with envy. To kill two birds with one stone, I suggested Plow, which I've been hankering to go to ever since blog reader Alanna suggested it a few weeks back when I posted about trying to find good brunch places in SF proper. You guys never lead me wrong! Plow was delicious--especially the savory dish we ordered, with perfectly seasoned scramble, buttery toast to heap the eggs on, and these crispy, savory, herby potatoes that can really define a good brunch experience. (The French toast, on the other hand, left a bit to be desired.) Oh, and the space itself was gorgeous, of course, with bright diffuse light (courtesy of foggy San Francisco summers) glowing through the windows lining one wall of the restaurant.

Hopefully with the onset of September, things will get back to normal again--or, as close to normal as this life ever is! In case you missed it, I did do a new post for sated magazine's blog about in-season melons and chocolate with an extraordinarily simple recipe from the first issue of the magazine: check it out here!

(iPhone point of view after the break || Alice's instagram photo here)