There always seems to be a bit of rush when the first stalks of rhubarb hit the market, and this year we were gifted a big bunch from my sister Zoe’s garden up the road and ended up freezing it as we couldn’t get to it soon enough (kids, man). So today I had a blissful day off from work to do a little planting in the backyard, much-needed errands around town, and baked this humble skillet cake using up that vibrant harbinger of spring.
Zoe’s about to go into labor at any moment, so I’m going to deliver a few slices for them this evening, trying to create even more superstitions around food and labor out of thin air (eat this rhubarb cake and it’ll for sure do the trick! So far we’ve tried this with lemon bars, McDonald’s french fries and brownies and nothing has yet been THE ONE. But never say never).
As for availability, don’t fret: rhubarb should be in season for 1-2 more weeks – depending on where you live – and while it may or may not be known to induce labor, the cake does come together in a pinch and is just as wonderful on its own as it is with a dollop of whipped cream or sprinkle of turbinado sugar.
Beyond surface chatter about the seasons, it’s been a busy few months for us here as we continue to settle into our new life in Maine. We got home yesterday from a few days away in Boothbay Harbor, where we stayed at a little cabin, took out a rowboat, ate lots of french fries and ice cream cones, visited an epic lighthouse and went swimming in the saltwater pool close by. I think it’s our one time away as a family of four this summer, and judging by Frankie’s lamentations about how much she misses the cabin this morning at breakfast, I think we did it right. To be fair, she does say she misses most things as soon as they’re over, but that aside – we all were really present and happy and that’s a pretty big deal these days.
And OH HOW GOOD does it feel to get out in the world! Have you been out in the world again yet? Just a simple pizza dinner on a patio by the water feels like a pretty epic moment to remember. We were taking family selfies like international tourists: look at us! We’re eating arugula salad outside! At a restaurant! While I can’t wait to get out and explore our new city more, I also hope we continue to allow ourselves to be struck by this feeling of newness and awe: dinner with a view, a perfectly-made Aperol spritz, kids who genuinely delight you.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for about 10 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 1 cup of butter on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides, as needed. Gradually add the sugar, until the mixture is light in color and fully incorporated.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition followed by the buttermilk, ricotta, vanilla and lemon zest. Fold in the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.
5. Carefully remove your hot skillet from the oven, and add remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Swirl until butter is melted and covers the whole surface. Carefully pour in cake batter, smoothing the top, and arranging the rhubarb in an even layer.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the edges are dark golden brown and the center is set. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before slicing. Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)