Rhubarb Cake, But Make It Upside Down
Plus: Chicken Parm Night, Cauliflower and Pea Masala, and Ranunculus.
Hope you all had restful weekends! I was coming off the first week of the rest of my life (five days at the gym, smoothies for lunch, sensible dinners) and so decided to reward myself this weekend with some decadent food. But first, I have to share with you the Deadline announcement about Craig’s latest movie, The Parenting. His cast includes Brian Cox! Edie Falco! Lisa Kudrow! Dean Norris! It’s so exciting and I’ve had to keep that secret for a long time, so I deserve some kind of medal. And so does Craig for directing such a cool movie. I’m very proud.
And he should be proud of me and my baking skills because this weekend I made Melissa Clark’s rhubarb upside-down cake (click those words for the recipe… I’d share it here, but at this point my newsletter is 90% Melissa Clark’s content). As Melissa says in her headnote: “Baked and unmolded, this cake resembles a pale pink mosaic atop velvet-crumbed and vanilla-infused cake.”
I mean, to me that’s gorgeous (though out of context it might look like an alien’s wound in a Ridley Scott movie?). And the taste! I love rhubarb so much. It showed up at Gelson’s the other day and to me that said, “Spring is in the air.” (The pollen is also saying that. Achoo.)
Rhubarb is nature’s version of sweet-and-sour candies: so if you like Sour Patch Kids and Sweetarts, your’e going to love rhubarb. And this cake is one of those recipes that seems like it’s not going to work — all of that diced rhubarb piled in there, how is that ever going to come together? — but it does and it’s really fun to unmold it (and highly dramatic).
The occasion for the cake was the return of our friend Ryan O’Connell, who's been in New Orleans filming the new iteration of Queer as Folk (he’s one of the main characters). I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he said, “Pesto!”
Luckily, I just watched Lidia Bastianich make cavatappi with pesto and peas on her show (she used pistachios and spinach); so I had the technique pretty much down. Into the food processor I plopped in cubes of Parmesan, which I ground up and set aside; same with Pecorino. Then, in that same processor, I added toasted almonds (toasted in the oven and then cooled; about 1/4 cup), 3 cloves of garlic, and pulsed. Then I added tons of basil leaves (about 4 cups), which I washed and spun dry, and then lots of olive oil through the tube (at least 1/2 a cup, but probably more). I poured it into a large bowl and folded in lots of Parmesan and Pecorino to taste. Then stirred that together with cavatappi cooked in well-salted water with frozen peas tossed in at the end and more cheese on top. It was delish.
On Friday night, I met my friends Fielder, Tony, and Anthony at Little Dom’s (where I haven’t been for dinner in over two years).
And we all hilariously ordered the chicken Parmesan… as they say, when in Rome.
It was the perfect reward after a week of vigorous exercise!
If you’re a Thursday subscriber, you’ll know that last week I instituted a meal plan (you can read it and find links to the recipes here) and I shared it up through Wednesday. And so it was on Thursday night that my friend Justin came over and I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cauliflower and Tomato Masala with Peas.
This is such a great weeknight dish: you basically make a tangy sauce with lots of garlic and ginger and cumin seeds (I use more of everything than the recipe tells you to; that’s just my style), then fold in cauliflower which cooks in the sauce, and at the very end, peas.
It’s flavorful, vegetable-forward, and easy enough to do after work (and very filling when served with rice). I give it four stars!
Finally, I saw these ranunculus outside Cookbook in Echo Park and had to buy them for my dining room table.
I have to say, these might be the prettiest flowers I’ve ever purchased? I love their colors and the misshapen arrangement and how they pop with the table runner. God, I sound so butch.
Here are some LINKS that caught my eye recently:
Kenji makes garlic noodles (NYT);
The ultimate guide to buying aperitifs (I’m on the cusp of buying the Faccia Brutto Centerbe) (Eater);
Olia Hercules, who’s from the Ukraine, highlights two recipes from her homeland as part of a fundraising effort (The Guardian);
Amazon Go, skewered by SNL:
That’s all for this week, folks!
If you’re not a paid subscriber, here’s what you missed last week: Ten Musical Theater Questions About Food with Ben Rimalower (including “What’s the best show tune about food and why is it ‘I Can Cook Too’ from On The Town”), a thread about the third episode of Top Chef (grilled potatoes!?); and links to last week’s meal plan recipes, including the spicy braised tofu.
If you’d like to become a subscriber, here’s a discount that gets you 20% forever! What are you waiting for? That’s a steal!
See you back here on Wednesday for some Lunch Therapy.