Today I had one of the summer’s most marvelous delicate treats: the cucumber sandwich. When I was little Mama and I grew cucumbers and tomatoes in half barrels down the length of our driveway. I loved the curlicue tendrils that got so grabby and brushing off the little white thorns that grew from the bumps when they were ready to pick. Mama would have a tomato sandwich and me– always the cucumber. Nothing has changed.
I go white bread, crust on, no toast, Duke’s mayonnaise on both sides (sometimes I have to bring this special from Virginia, other times they randomly/awesomely have it at Fairway), salt, pepper, and chips. This is probably the only sandwich in the world (outside of PB&J) that doesn’t agree with a pickle. After all, a pickle is just a cucumber that sold its soul to the Devil. And the Devil was Dill.
Today is Andrew’s birthday. So I made him these cupcakes. He makes me all kinds of things: dinners and breakfasts and stories and crossword puzzles and laughs and books and adventures and makes sure I’m safe and happy and surrounded by music. He’s my guy and I think he’s pretty much the best.
THE VEGETABLE SOUP MATRIX: You choose the green bean and the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. Take the red lentil, you stay in Wonderland, and get shown what the rabbit’s eating down deep in its hole. This divine little article explores the recipe-less free-wheeling cousins of bisque. Just like I like alphabetizing my condiments and labeling my leotards, the idea of pushing a vast category of wild foodstuffs into Four Simple designations (CREAMY, EARTHY, HEARTY, BROTHY) is like a Punnet Square of sustainable eating on the cheap. We’d better get (pepper) cracking if we’re going to make any of these delicious bottom-of-the-barrell greenmarket scrapers before we’re back to rhubarb and tomatoes. I will gladly celebrate the end of butternut squash, kill the kale, and im-peach the beet, all with toasted baguettes and crème fraîche.
Ahh, it’s been one of those weekends. This week justified doing absolutely nothing* all day Saturday and then deciding, oh hell, let’s do absolutely nothing again today. Well… no matter how busy my week was, if I’m not going to go see (what looks like the most amazing) Norman Rockwell photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum or Snape/Shine at BAM or all the myriad things one should do on a rainy day off in Brooklyn. I always feel at least the need to fluff around my apartment and feather it a little bit. Enter: my favorite recipe- which I have never named and is simply: Almond Cake. It is SO ridiculously easy, but ends up quite special and sophisticated.
I like this recipe so much (and make it so frequently) that instead of living with the rest of the recipes, I transcribed it onto the back of the awesome Alpine Accordion Band postcard I got in the Hague and it lives on the fridge, edges curling with repeated Kirschings, in easy in-case-of-reference reach:
Almond Cake (for company or solitude celebrations)**
1 cup almonds, raw
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 stick butter (softened, cut up)
1 tsp. Kirsch (if you have)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
powdered sugar (in truth, optional… but just you wait!)
– Oven to 350 degrees please.
– Place almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in food processor, pulverize.
– Add eggs, butter, kirsch and blend thoroughly.
– Add flour and baking powder, mix until just blended.
– butter/oil/pam/crisco/lard/whatever and flour pan (standard cake pan, torte pan, whatever)
– Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth.
(at this point Sweetheart comes in dripping wet in the middle of it– heading from teaching a children’s music class in Chelsea on his way to Bed-Stuy to lead a rock band of eight year olds– bearing champagne and bacon. le swoon.)
– enlist sweetheart’s help to lick spatula and everything with even a smidge of almond mixture on it clean (optional, encouraged…if you are afraid of raw eggs, then… I am very sorry for you. Egg nog, Southsides, Hollandaise, all other -aises, and sweet batters are some of the best treats around).
– Put un-cake in oven for 30-45 minutes until it turns golden brown and becomes cake.
– Let cool completely, then run a fine knife around the edge and invert on a plate. There is a surprisingly good little drawing of how to do this on my recipe card:
NOW- you are effectively done. BUT- if you’d like to take it a step further, then the easiest and most lovely thing to do next is to decorate it with a powdered sugar relief. Again, if you like making cheap things look expensive (like I do) and easy things look impressive (me too) then this is the kind of next level thing you’ll love.
Cut whatever you’d like out of plain paper– if you are artistically inclined you can get totally crazy, but simple shapes work just as well***– I chose a rainstorm-brings-spring-blooms thing because it’s so wet and nasty out today, but it must be paving the way for crocuses and daffodils like.any.second. Place your cutouts on your lovely almond cake:
Then dust a light sprinkling of powdered sugar over the cutouts using a fine sieve or flour sifter if you’re super fancy:
Then carefully take off the paper cutouts (I used tweezers for this one because the flower stems were as bendy as real flower stems and I didn’t want to color inside the lines by accident).
This is the perfect way to make “a rainy day where you could have gone to see Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts but decided to nap” into “a triumph of home and sweetness, and now let’s have people over to eat it for dessert”.
* Saturday I actually spent in the thrall of a Colum McCann book… I loved his newest and “supported my local bookstore” by buying this one and recommend devoting a Saturday to it wholeheartedly. Lovely and bittersweet and occasionally staggeringly beautiful. Slivovitz and words that taste like wheat and sky.
**The recipe calls for a large food processor, but until Sweetheart’s mama gave us a “Robot Culinaire” for Christmas/Hannukah/New Years, I made it just fine on multiple occasions without (chop the almonds fine fine fine and melt and stir the butter, instead of cubing it- no prob).
*** Other cakes we’ve made in the past month include:
If you make one Please send in a picture (we’ll keep adding on!).