Thursday, May 30, 2013


I wish I was a little bit taller.

I do not wish I was a baller*.

[No one under thirty is going to find this cultural reference funny, are they? Dag y'all, summer makes me nostalgic.]

I wish I had a tall jar of something frozen in front of me right now.The very last of the chilly weather officially faded away this week, and it feels like Summer Is Coming (dun dun DUNNN).

Today is the first ninety-degree day, and while there's still only a whiff of pleasant humidity in the air (the kind that says 'beginning of summer vacation, let's go to the beach!' rather than 'OH GOD KILL ME NOW IT'S SO HUMID I COULD SWIM TO WORK'), I can feel the first beads of sweat beginning to trickle down the backs of my knees, whether it's real or imagined. Beads of sweat I would much rather see trickling down the frosted outside of my tall glass jar of something cold and delicious. How far into summer I will hold out before dragging the old eyesore a/c box out of the closet and re-installing it in the window is anyone's guess, but I'm guessing it's directly proportionate to the amount of time I spend drinking frosty beverages.

When I was little, we drank out of jars daily (loooooong before there was a Pinterest to make them trendy), and nothing says comfort to me quite like a wide glass mouth, a threaded lip & the little embossed 'Ball' insignia. From here on out, I wish I could lounge in a hammock around all lazy summer long, doing not a whole lot more than sipping enormous cold beverages out of good old mason jars with mountains of crushed ice and a straw.

[ Is there anything lamer than using a watermarked stock photo? Sorry for being lame, but this is just a reminder to me that I need to get busy making sweet, luscious icy summertime drinks of my own!]

Giant frosty jars of freshly squeezed slushy limeade, sweet super-strength Vietnamese coffee, cool watermelon agua fresca, homemade ginger syrup over soda, cold-brewed coffee concentrate, spiced Thai iced tea, sweet & tart peach iced tea, blackberry shrubs & classic pina coladas.........I wish, I wish.

And I wish I had some reusable straws with which to sip daintily (I like the stainless steel ones, might just have to violate this week's strict, poverty-imposed 'no shopping but grocery shopping' policy and buy a few of these.....FOR THE SIPPING!!).

Because, you know.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Little Apricot Cakes (loosely adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2013)

Guys, I can't tell you what a relief it has finally been to see spring, er, springing into action. After a long (not so much frigid as....sodden? drippy?) winter and an early spring full of 'just kidding' meteorological moments, the last few weeks have finally seen the trees put out first waves of blossoms then full-on explosions of green. Breezes are warm. Coats are being put away, at last. Everyone's spirits seem lighter, mine included. There's just one thing I can't quite figure out.

What is it about spring that makes me want to go shopping?

A brightly colored new set of dishes, maybe? A flirty little spring dress, a freshly published & still crackling new read in hardcover, a cute new pair of earrings or some other little indulgence....yes, it's corny and yes, it's admittedly girly and a bit embarrassing, but there's something seemingly almost genetically encoded in wanting to emerge from one's winter cave and buy something pretty. Something soft. Something luxurious. Something so brightly colored and soul-cheering that it seems to scream SPRING!!! even as it whispers silkenly in your ear induuuuuuuuulge. Oh dear. This really is a hell of a time, and a hell of a city, in which to be financially limited by a freelancer's income. So rather than go out and indulge in a new pair of shoes or a twirly skirt, I've been fighting the battle to keep my wits about me and stay frugal. And I must admit, I've been doing a great job.

But I couldn't fight the spring urge forever. 

The other day, I bought myself a brightly colored little bit of luxury. Just look at them, aren't they beautiful? Don't they whisper something to you about warm weather, looking like little twin suns glowing at the heart of that white bowl? Okay, maybe I'm being more than a little bit precious about the whole thing, but they looked delicious, and they cheered my spring-starved soul immensely........and there was a recipe in the new issue of Bon Appétit that I really, really wanted to try. So, Mini Apricot Cakes it was!

Sweet, tart slices of apricot awaiting baking.

I promise I will not lick the bowl. I promise. No, totally.

A cramped workspace is the hallmark of a true New York kitchen. Counter space? I remember counter space. But now, I can balance a bowl on each arm and keep a wooden spoon tucked between my chin & shoulder, peering down at a recipe only mostly obscured by the cutting board, muffin pan and various sugars that dominate the counter. Please, if necessary, I could do this in my sleep*.

(in fact, I'm pretty sure that I once did. Gentle readers, remind me to tell you some day the thrilling saga of Muffin Pan & the Midnight Bread.)

As you may notice from reading the original BA recipe, I have made a few deviations in my own version, most notably that I made it gluten-free (swapping in a mix of tapioca, soy and brown rice flour for regular). Also, I substituted a sprinkling of brown sugar for the called-for raw sugar, for the usual reason, which is that I had one and not the other. Whaddayagonnadoboutit?

The little cakes turned out to be wonderful little two or three bite treats. Densely crumbed, golden and just lightly sweet, with those wonderfully crunchy buttery edges and hints of lemon zest and vanilla hidden in the interior. Sticky slices of tart-fleshed apricot melting into the sweet cake below. I'm not sure what else to call them besides 'little cakes', really. They're not exactly in muffin territory, and they're more serious and less fluffy than a cupcake, and they're smaller than either of those things, anyway. They're economical 'mini' cakes even in the original recipe and designed, I think, to be held in the hand and eaten in a few happy bites. 

And then maybe another one, why not? With a little swipe of freshly whipped cream on the side. Because it's sunny and it's that sweet spot right between late spring and early summer and, new flirty sundress or no, you're just so happy to be going outside once again after a long, long winter.