TND – I Carried A Watermelon

July 20, 2011

Summer is my favorite time of year, and now that it’s finally summer in Boston (it took a while) I’m fully enjoying it while it lasts.  Upsides include:

It’s finally hot – I get that not everyone sees this as a serious upside, but I’m cold blooded and this is the only 8 weeks of the year that I don’t have cold hands and feet. Well, so long as I’m not at work, where the first thing I do every morning is turn on my space heater and put on a sweater.

A corollary to the above – I finally have a tan, which means I can wear white and not look jaundiced. Vanity thy name is woman.

There’s nobody in Boston except the occasional roaming pack of tourists, but they’re reasonably easy to spot at a distance and avoid.

But, the very best part about the middle of summer is the produce – those first ears of sweet corn, the flats and flats of heirloom tomatoes, my favorite lemon cucumbers, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, and apparently also gooseberries which before yesterday were a fruit I’d only ever read about in English novels.

Somehow from what I’d read I assumed they’d be in need of a shave before you could eat them, and so tart they’d turn your mouth inside out. Maybe these are a different variety, but the ones I bought look like those tiny spherical jellyfish you get in tidal pools. And, they taste . . . . tartly globular. They’re not sweet like a blueberry, but they’re not as tart as I’d been expecting either (I was anticipating something in the range of rhubarb). They kind of burst in your mouth like biting into a wee fruity water balloon. Mostly I bought them because I think they’re neat looking, but I am enjoying eating them.

The only real downside to summer is the logistical problem of getting all the delectable produce from the farmer’s market home to my table. Monday night I lugged home about 12 lb of tomatoes (+ 3 pints of apricots and plums), and on Tuesday I hauled home 10 ears of corn. The corn was slightly lighter than the tomatoes, but not by much. I’m going to end the summer with a permanent groove in my shoulder and a pronounced list to one side from carrying all the bounty home.

I’ve been absent since New Orleans, so to recap.

Two Weeks Ago
No Dinner, because I spent the day negotiating a truce with my stomach – eggs and toast soldiers were finally deemed acceptable around 6pm that evening, but Dinner was definitely off the cards. Fortunately, however, most of Dinner was easily freezable and 90% of it got stashed away and this week we had what we were supposed to have had two weeks ago.

One Week Ago
A Dinner alum who decamped to the wilds of Milwaukee for graduate school was back in town for the Harry Potter premiere and (obviously) came to Dinner. Out of town guests, people I want to bribe into attendance, and birthday celebrators get to make Dinner requests*. Hers was a very emphatic request was for Lemon Chess Pie – my roommate was detailed to make sure that the pie was secured no matter what. I was tempted to discover what no matter what might entail, but in the end just made the pie as directed. When looking up the recipe I was amused to discover that the last time I made Lemon Chess Pie was also the last time she was in town and asked for it.

* Also, really anyone who feels like making a suggestion, because I like not having to think.

Indonesian Chicken
Couscous with Dried Fruit & Pistachios
Crunchy Peanut Slaw
Green Beans

Lemon Chess Pie

Indonesian Chicken
I’m still slightly bemused by the Ina Garten recipe that involves not an ounce of butter, a dram of heavy cream, or a spoonful of olive oil. Still as spectacularly good (and easy – let’s not forget the easy) as last time.

Recipe previously given: This is what happens when . . .

Crunchy Peanut Slaw

Recipe initially given: Dinner with a Side of Schadenfreude

And the amended later: Of Shoes & Ships & Ceiling Wax

Lemon Chess Pie
No, I didn’t make the pie crust. Pie crust is one of the few things I’m perfectly happy to buy – and honestly, everyone else is also happy that I buy my pie crust because trust me, Pillsbury does it better than I do.

Recipe previously given: The “they’re breaking down the hegemonic structure of the heteronormative language system*” edition

This Week
This is a highly belated birthday Dinner, as in the birthday in question was in late May and we’re only just getting around to having cake to celebrate. In my defense she didn’t tell me it was her birthday until the week after (and even then technically her fiancé spilled the beans), and then she got married, went on a honeymoon, I went to New Orleans, and then we had guests. At this point it’s a combination birthday Dinner, and seven week wedding anniversary Dinner (if the 1st Anniversary is the paper anniversary, at seven weeks do you just get wood pulp?)

This is what we were going to have two weeks ago, marginally edited to account for the fact that we are now in corn and tomato season and I believe that they should therefore be eaten at every single meal.

(Baked) Chicken Parmesan
Corn on the Cob
Broccoli Slaw

Strawberry Summer Cake (with Rhubarb-Strawberry Sauce & Berries)

(Baked) Chicken Parmesan

Recipe previously given: The Merits of Gloating

Broccoli Slaw

Recipe previously given: Each Peach Pear Raspberry?

I have had the epiphany that if I buy a whole watermelon I don’t have to try and find room for it in the fridge in between my trip to the grocery store on the weekend and Dinner. And, in the unlikely event that Dinner is unequal to the task of polishing off most, if not all, of a watermelon, I am perfectly happy to snack in it as the week progresses.

Strawberry Summer Cake (with Rhubarb-Strawberry Sauce & Berries)
Two comments. One, we’re well out of strawberry season at this point, but it was strawberry season when I promised this cake for a birthday Dinner, and it seemed mean to retract that just because it took me two months to get around to baking said birthday Dinner.

Two, normally I’d skip the fussy two flours – all purpose and barley – component of this recipe, but I was convinced to try it by the rhapsodic description of the nutty rounded flavor the barley flour gave what is essentially a very simple cake. Also, I was in Whole Foods and they happened to have it. I think this cake would be really good no matter what combination of flours you used, but I agree with Smitten Kitchen that the barley flour gives it a really nice depth and was absolutely worth the $4.50 I spent on it. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the pound of barley flour I have left over.

Strawberry Summer Cake
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (94 grams) all purpose flour
¾ cup (75 grams) barley flour
(or 1 ½ cups (188 grams) all purpose flour)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar (2 Tbsp reserved)
1 large egg
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved (this works out to something under 1 quart of strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a deep 10-inch pie pan or 9” square baking dish.

Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat butter and 7/8 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared dish. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (be as fussy as you like about arranging them – I wasn’t very). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake at 350 for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack.

Do ahead: Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, although it will look prettiest the day you bake it. As it sits overnight the cake sinks a little and gets a little gooier. Still tastes excellent.

Note: I think this cake would also work with peaches or nectarines, or any juicy fruit to make the gooey layer on top.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup
This is what happens when you roast down 4 lb of rhubarb and a 1 lb bag of frozen strawberries and can’t bear to throw away the liquid that cooks out of them.

Let me back up. Several months ago it was the height of rhubarb season and I bought 4lb of it one weekend because in my opinion there can never be too much rhubarb. Anyway, I chopped it up and threw it in a large roasting pan with 1 lb of frozen strawberries (and about ¼ cup sugar + 1 Tbsp honey per pound of rhubarb + vanilla and cinnamon) and roasted it in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes (stirring halfway through). Then I drained off the accumulated liquid and returned the rhubarb/strawberries to the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the edges started to caramelize. I couldn’t bear the throw the liquid away so I reduced it in a saucepan until it was the consistency of molasses and froze it against a day when I’d have something to do with it. This is that day.

Assuming that this is not a process you’ve been through, a little whipped cream and some berries are all that this cake really needs. If you wanted to replicate the idea of the syrup without roasting the rhubarb and strawberries you could probably use a pomegranate molasses, or a tart strawberry jam. Just heat it up enough so that it’s drizzling consistency.


One comment

  1. I do what I can to bring chess pie into the lives of my friends. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: