Mostly-Rhubarb, Really Easy, Cake

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When your college best friend moves to Chicago and becomes part of a traveling puppet company, the least you can do is make the whole lot of them dinner when they and their giant van come rolling through Brooklyn. The play, which was a beautiful, shadow-puppet-filled ode to eccentric friendships, impossible ambitions, and unexpected loneliness, filled me with admiration for this roving band of puppeteers and their realized vision. They had ravenous appetites, but I guess hours in a van with bell pepper and beef jerky sandwiches *ew* can do that you. We had a delicious and quickly cobbled together meal of pasta, homemade sauce, CSA salad, focaccia, and beer.

This recipe is not at all related to that meal.

pretty strawberry

Except for, too-long after the fact, I discovered a forgotten bowl of strawberries in the nether region of the fridge that had been intended for dessert that night. It was discovered when I had already embarked upon a late-night rhubarb cake endeavor, to find I was half-a-cup short on fruit. And then, lo and behold, somehow Fridge God came through with these miraculously still-intact berries, who were begging me to hang out with their edgier counterparts. And obviously I acquiesced, since the smell of buttery rhubarb and strawberries having a juice cleanse in a sauna at midnight thirty is the stuff of which dreams are made.

…as are, apparently, giant spiders in a forgotten mansion haunting the prince of England, who is courting my sister…

….or, if you’re Daniel, an amputated hand of a salsa dancing acquaintance…

Dreams. Weird.

rhubarbcake ingredients

Mostly Rhubarb Cake
barely adapted from The Seaside Baker

1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp for top of rhubarb
3 eggs
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp buttermilk, but I used Mexican sour cream because that’s what was in the fridge, and it totally worked!
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb and strawberries, mostly rhubarb
zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together diced rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon zest. Let sit.

Mix eggs and 2/3 cup of sugar with a fork until frothy. Add melted butter, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.

Cut out a parchment paper circle to fit either a 8 or 9 inch cake pan (use whatever you have!). Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle fruit over the top. Then sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar evenly atop the fruit. Don’t scrimp on or skip this step! The sugar helps the fruit becomes all jammy and delicious during baking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Eat warm and swoon.

cooked rhubarb cake

I baked this cake on a Monday night. Came back Wednesday morning and found an empty pan in the drain board and this in the fridge:

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Awww how sweet, the roommates saved me the last piece!

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce

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Life is a like a bowl of expensive, organic potato chips at a rooftop party in Williamsburg. You never know if you’ll end up with sriracha, honey mustard, or plain (ew). Or like a cooler of beer in the dark–will it be Narraganset (cheapasses), Tecate (sufficiently low brow), or Weihenstephaner (overachievers)? In either case, you don’t have much say in the matter so just eat or drink it you asshole and take in that insane city view.

BUT you do have a say in brunch.

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It’s so tempting to wake up late, put on my baggy (trendy?) jeans, and sample one of the plethora of (definitely trendy) brunch places around. I live a 15 minute walk from probably forty brunch options, offering anything from traditional Brazilian to high-brow Balinese to funky Colombian to outdoor, farm-to-table Brooklyn meets Australia. With new places popping up every weekend, it’s easy to feel like you’re “falling behind” on brunch. Which is dumb. Sampling more restaurants does not give you status.

But today it was BEET DAY. And so we set the beets a roasting and strolled to the farmers’ market for dill and eggs and the local Polish deli for rye toast and yogurt.

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This was a very very good decision.

Our humble salad is unexpectedly tastier and more filling than the sum of its parts: sweet roasted beets, a tangy onion vinaigrette tangled into quick-boiled beet greens, and a spiced minty yogurt sauce. The onions mellow in the vinegar til they’re drunk and swooning. The yogurt tries to overwhelm our earthy beets with its tang, but, “Hell no,” the beets say, as they retain their characteristic sweetness and decide to co-exist platonically and peacefully. The beet greens seem massive and overwhelming and then a quick dunk in boiling water reduces their volume by approximately a zillion percent and they say “oh fine, we’ll share the spotlight. And then all this dill gets dropped on top and says I GO WITH EVERYTHING and all the veggies concede.

So for a perfect weekend: honey mustard chips, Tecate cans, and beets. Followed by watching El Mundial at a language meet-up group gathering, fixing up my bike, and discussing plans for a juggling workshop (truth).

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from the New York Times

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Ingredients:
3 beets and their greens, chiffonaded (see below for how-to!)
3 T fresh dill, snipped

Vinaigrette:
3 T red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil

Yogurt:
1 small container full-fat Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
2 T mint, chopped
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
1/2 T olive oil

Cook the beets:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets well. Trim off beet leaves and stringy pointy bit at other end. If beets are different sizes, cut some in half so they’re roughly the same size. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of water, enough to mostly submerge. Cover with foil and cook for an hour to an hour and a half, or until fork tender. Once done, carefully drain the water and let cool. When cool, peel beets and watch fingers turn bright pink. Cut into small wedges.wpid46-BeetSalad-4.jpg

Chiffonade, Clean, and Cook the greens:
Separate leaves from the pink stems, which you can discard, and cut leaves into thin ribbons. (I like the “roll and slice” method: pile about 5 leaves, roll them into a cigarette shape, and then slice rounds.) Dunk all these leaves into a big bowl of cold water, smoosh around for a minute, scoop out greens, and pour out water. Repeat until water in bowl is clean (2-4 times). Boil cleaned greens in a big pot of salted water for about 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Drain, rinse with cool water, and then squeeze to get rid of extra water.
BeetGreenSteps

Make the vinaigrette:
Combine red wine vinegar, onion, and garlic in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and mix with a fork.wpid66-BeetSalad-14.jpg

Make the yogurt:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.wpid68-BeetSalad-15.jpg

To finish, dress the beet greens with 1/3 of the vinaigrette. Put another 1/3 of the vinaigrette on the beets. Plate those two, spoon yogurt mixture on top, and sprinkle dill over everything.

insta beet&greens

Leftover vinaigrette is great with scrambled eggs or for spinach salad!

DISCLAIMER: All photos but the last one taken by Daniel and his fancy camera. My apologies to anyone who can’t bare to see posts go back and forth between lovely, edited photography and the iPhone version.

 

Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce

all done best

  1. Rhubarb can indeed be used in something other than pies. Savory things! Although pie is also a good idea. So is crumb cake.
  2. I have been finding myself, for the first time in my life, saying “I’m watching the game,” in response to people asking me about my plans. I’M WATCHING SPORTS. WORLD CUP SOCCER SPORTS. And it’s FUN and I GET SPORTS. It’s fun watching sports with other people who like watching sports! Ah, wisdom.
  3. Running into someone you haven’t talked to since their Bat Mitzvah at a trendy bowling place in Brooklyn while waiting for a world music concert to start is, believe or not, QUITE awkward. If you’ve had nothing to say to each other in roughly 10 years, don’t be the one to suggest meeting up for coffee first. Also, are you supposed to introduce your significant other, who has been quietly sitting beside you nursing his IPA and trying desperately to seem suddenly fascinated by the surroundings, to this forgotten middle school acquaintance? I’m going to hope “no” is the answer to this question. Sorry, Amanda, I now remember your name but still don’t really want to talk to you.
  4. If you are currently tired of googling “job nyc ngo theater” and “grad school necessary? non-profit”  and “how to curly hair humidity” and “tickets costa rica asap”, it is never NOT a bad idea to make curry. Especially if it has aforementioned savory rhubarb, spinach (thankyouCSA for my overflowing spinach fridge situation), and chickpeas (FAVORITE). And then you can feel creative for inventing a yogurt-cilantro-lemon-honey sauce and feel validated in your quests to become a creative and cultured professional human. (Although I’m also not saying it’s a GOOD idea either.)

Rhubarb, Chickpea, Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce
slightly modified from Joanne Eats Well with Others

Curry Ingredients:
1 sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
2 stalks rhubarb cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1/2 tsp honey

Prepped Ingredients

Rachael Ray is just so darn excited about those spinach leaves. Let’s ignore her, shall we… Next time, homemade! (yeah, okay)

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potato in tin foil and put in oven on the top shelf. Keep it there until pierce-able with a fork. Test for pierce-ability at half an hour. Should be done by the time recipe is done! And yeah, okay fine, this step isn’t TOTALLY necessary but, really, who doesn’t appreciate some tasty roasted sweet potato goddness for almost no additional work?

2. Make the sauce: combine chopped cilantro, greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, juice from half a lemon, and honey. Mix to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Make the spice mix: Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mustard seeds start popping. Cook 1-2 minutes after that, or until they stop popping, shaking the skillet frequently so that they don’t burn. It smells like popcorn! Turn heat to low, and stir in the ground cumin, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking on low heat until you can smell the ginger/garlic. Pour into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

4. Curry time!

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Spinach is amazing. Always looks so overwhelming and then you blink and it’s gone.

pre-spinach

 

  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in that same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.
  • Add the rinsed chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.
  • Stir in the rhubarb and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cook for 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes more. Stir frequently to make sure everything gets all mixed together. Stir in the spice mixture and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute or two while stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Want to serve it with couscous? Cool, so did I!
Heat 1/2 T olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 c Israeli couscous and 1/2 t lemon zest. Toast couscous until it smells nutty and grains have turned a uniform light brown. Cover with vegetable broth/water and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and serve!

6. Plate it! Start with a big spoonful of couscous. Then, either next to or atop, add curry. Elegantly add cubed roasted (peeled) sweet potato chunks and then cover all that deliciousness with cilantro yogurt sauce. EAT!

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Please note a) the swanky sweet potatoes and b) the red pepper in the corner. It was not a helpful addition so it isn’t in the ingredient list or recipe! Feel free to add, however, if you need to use up a pepper, like me.

…and then if you’re lucky, you eat PIECES OF VELVET cake on a glorious Thursday summer evening outside at public picnic tables with a cute sassy lady. Lucky you!

we ate cake