Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

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One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is strolling the streets, iced tea in hand, scanning new restaurant menus, popping into little stores, and debating if I should actually buy something this time around. I especially love little delis and specialty grocery stores that cater to another country’s staples. Every time I’m around St. Marks Place in Alphabet City, I have to pick up a bag of my beloved Bamba (peanut butter cheetoh-like snacks!) at the Israeli store Holyland Market (and then force whoever I’m with to share). And when on 1st Ave, I without-fail pick up a bag of the deep-fried curly-q cumin seed crackers I fell in love with in Delhi at the little store underneath the two competing Christmas light Indian restaurants (y’all New Yorkers know what I’m talking about, right?).

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Another favorite is a stroll thru Sunrise Mart, although I don’t yet have a go-to snack in this Japanese wonderland. Usually I get cheap noodles, a rice ball, or something mochi-related. This time around, I was curious about the instant dashi soup mixes. Dashi is soup base, made from simmering kombu (a thick kind of seaweed) with bonito fish flakes. I’ve never made my own, but I’ve long thought it a great option for my pescatarian lifestyle.

So I bought this!

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A google search once I was home told me I got the no MSG brand (sweet!) and that everyone disagreed about how much soup powder you’re supposed to use per cup of boiling water. I ended up using almost one of the pouches, which was about a  teaspoon and a half, with my two cups of boiling water. The powder, or really it was more like tiny pellets, dissolved immediately. A little fishy but fairly subtle. I deem this a nice (and cheap!) flavorful base for soups or simmered veggies like this.

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Also, I am obviously no expert on Japanese food — my recipe was based on reading about 12 similar ones online. My squash definitely fell apart more than I had hoped for but we loved the flavor and scarfed it down regardless. It can be served warm or cold, but I greatly prefer the warmed up version. (And I’ll update you all in a couple months about what this dish is really like in Japan after my trip in November!)

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one year ago (okay fine, last August): maple blueberry beets with balsamic and mint
two years ago: 
roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

Adapted primarily from pickled plum 

½ a kabocha squash (abt 1.25 lbs)
2 c dashi (2 cups water plus 1 packet seasoning) (or sub veg broth)
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (though I believe you can substitute sake)

First, prep your squash. Peel some of the skin off (with a paring knife or powerful peeler). It’s fine to eat it, but peeling just some gives a nice texture change. Cut squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (more or less bite-sized).

Next, get out a heavy saucepan you have a lid for. If making dashi, bring water to a boil; add seasoning packet and stir to dissolve. Add squash pieces and return to a boil. If not making dashi, bring veg broth and squash to a boil.  Turn temperature to a slow simmer and cover pan halfway. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, soy sauce, and mirin and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, uncovered. At this point, squash should be very tender, but hopefully not falling apart. If you’d like a more syrupy sauce, remove squash pieces and continue simmering dashi mixture until it thickens, 3-5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or as a side to any Japanese-style dish. (We ate it with an udon-miso-tofu-mushroom soupy situation. Yum!)

soup

Charred Chipotle Broccoli Tacos

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The Swanky household unfortunately has two extremes for weeknight dinner options. 1) Scour the internet for a perfect recipe, buy every ingredient from the market down the street, and make a big mess in the kitchen. This almost always ends in delicious meals, but isn’t the most practical for everyday eating. The 2) option is, without fail, take-out Thai food.

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I’m very aware I need to incorporate more 1.5s into my life. You know, meals from neither extreme. Dinner you can throw together from whatever is in the fridge, without spending time searching for a recipe or doing a million dishes — ideally, food good enough to encourage others to make too. (And when we get down to it, I have other 1.5s I should incorporate into my life more: just doing yoga on my own without needing to go to a class or following a podcast, or being content to mosey on down the street behind a hand-in-hand couple without internally blasting them for taking up SO MUCH SIDEWALK.)

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I mean, that’s basically why I started this blog in the first place. I needed a space to consolidate recipes, experiments, and ideas from bookmarks on multiple devices, forever-opened tabs on my computer, and recipes torn from magazines. (And, uh, not to rant about slow moving pedestrians.) This is my little online corner of 1.5s and memory joggers and inspiration, regardless of what foodgawker thinks.

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Tacos fill that “1.5” category pretty darn well, and as Daniel craves gringo tacos like his mom made in the ‘80s at least once a month, they make a frequent appearance. He refuses to stray from his beloved ground beef and taco seasoning packet (although the meat this time was locally raised and purchased at the farmers market – small win?). I’ve become pretty good at the art of the non-meat taco. This chipotle broccoli is one of my favorite fillings, with a smoky spicy kicky punch. Also it’s dummy-proof easy: a cutting board, one roasting pan, and 20 minutes later, you’ve got yourself seriously delicious homemade dinner (and don’t have to bat an eyelash over the embarrassing amount of plastic take-out dishes in your recycling this week).

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other swanky veggie tacos: roasted sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and grilled pineapple and baked bean tacos

Charred Chipotle Broccoli Tacos

a swanky original
Serves two (or one dinner and adequate leftovers*)

For the filling:
1 head broccoli
2 small sweet yellow or red peppers, sliced into rings (or 1/2 a red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into bite sized pieces)
1 scallion, finely sliced
2 chiles in adobo (from a can*)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice from half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
s&p

Non-negotiables:
Tortillas (I prefer flour but your call)
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes

Optional Toppings:
Cilantro
Lime
Sliced black olives
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sour cream
Salsa or hot sauce
Avocado (if that’s your kinda thang)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prep broccoli: Cut florets into bite-sized pieces. Peel the stalk to remove toughest part. Cut stalk into thin slices.

Make filling: Combine all ingredients on roasting tray and mix well. Roast for 18 minutes, stirring once, until florets are charred and stalks are tender. Let cool a bit.

Prepare tortillas by placing them directly on the open flame of a gas burner, about 5 seconds per side. (Or char in a hot dry pan.) Pile on broccoli, cheese, tomatoes, and whatever else your heart desires. Serve with rice and beans.

*two notes:

  • If you want to mix it up the next day, the filling was pretty dreamy stir-fried with leftover quinoa and spicy BBQ sauce, with a fried egg on top.
  • I love chiles in adobo sauce. They’re smoky and spicy and add a burst of flavor to just about anything. Once you open a jar, you can keep the rest in a sealed container in the fridge for a very long time and use one pepper at a time as necessary.
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Daniel’s Plate Number 1 (of, uh, 3?). Boy likes his tacos. 

Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

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My love affair with all food Asian goes far and deep. The night I graduated from high school we went to Minado, an enormous and yet high-quality all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood buffet that’s always packed to the gills (ha). I have brought three boyfriends there, who have all had to gain the stamp of Minado Success before being fully accepted into the family.  My parents bonded over late-night dinners in college at Moon Villa in Boston’s Chinatown. We ate it MINIMUM once a week growing up, and had a lovely relationship with Vanilla, the hostess at our favorite local joint. We are part of the ranks of Jews who consume their beloved sesame chicken and wonton soup on Christmas, albeit in a tiny town in the White Mountains, apres-ski. Heck, my Dad even had Chinese food at his Bar Mitzvah. It runs deep in the veins.

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What I’ve discovered about New York Chinese food is that when it’s good, it’s very good. And when it’s bad, it’s AWFUL. In the suburbs, all Chinese food is fine. It’s not authentic, but you don’t expect it to be. It’s tasty and reliable versions of the same sort of food, usually for cheap, and always plentiful. Here, it’s a different story. You can either go to Chinatown and go to a specific regional restaurant and get fantastic food, or you can go to the take-out joint on the corner and have belly aches all night. Where is the suburban happy medium?! Why do literally all Brooklyn Chinese restaurants suffer from the everything-tastes-like-oil-and-uses-the-same-gloopy-sauce syndrome? It’s so disappointing, time after time. Thank goodness we have Thai, Japanese, Korean (and Turkish, Italian, Israeli, etc) aplenty to fill the void, and Chinatown is just one quick train stop away. On all other nights, there’s bastardized homemade “Chinese-ish” food.

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This pepper and eggplant dish is a freaking delicious version of above mentioned bastardized Chinese. It’s probably not something you’d ever get served in Chinatown but if I ate it at your house I’d be ecstatic. It’s salty and sweet and spicy and oily (but not too much) and crunchy and easy, too! Don’t you dare skimp on the fried garlic&peanut topping, or you’ll have serious regrets. Serve with brown rice and never suffer through gloopy mushrooms over overcooked and oil-shimmering lo mein again. Amen.

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one year ago: spicy micheladas for drowning your autumn-relates woes and kabocha toasts with caramelized onion-maple jam to celebrate them

Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

adapted from taste with the eyes 

2-4 T canola oil
1 small eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 cubanelle peppers (I had them around from the CSA but feel free to use a handful of shishitos or plain old green bell pepper), cut into thin strips
salt
1.5 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 heaping t toasted sesame oil
1 scant T sugar
1 t cornstarch
1 t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as possible
¼ c peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat two medium-sized pans. Add a tablespoon of oil to each. Add pepper strips to one and eggplant cubes to the other. Cook peppers on medium-high heat for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until blistered and softened. Sprinkle with salt when done and set aside. Cook eggplant on medium heat for 9-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Add more oil to eggplants if necessary, as they like to suck it all in immediately.

Meanwhile, make your sauce by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and mixing. Set aside.

When eggplant is done, pour in the sauce. Cook for two minutes on medium high heat until it smells amazing. Add peppers and cook for about five minutes on lowish heat to let all flavors come together.

While that cooks, heat a small pan to medium high heat. Add 2 t canola oil. Add garlic slices and saute, stirring frequently, until garlic is nutty and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and coat with salt.

Top individual portions of eggplant and peppers with fried garlic and chopped peanuts. Serve with brown rice. Repeat until you wonder where the food has gone…

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Tomatillo and Peach Salsa (& a wedding cake!)

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The past two weeks have been filled with a whole lotta love. I had the joyous fortune to witness the marriages of two sets of friends over the past two weeks, and am full to the brim with good feelings and joie de vivre. Not only am I overjoyed at the unions of all these lovely people who I am lucky to have in my life, I am refreshed and renewed by people of all kinds. So often, I go through my day with a stern countenance, wary of strangers, stingy with my smiles. In the past two weeks, I have had my mind expanded and my life momentarily affected by new no-longer strangers from around the world. My friends have the best friends.

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I love that I was able to rehearse and perform a Bollywood dance at Nandita and Alex’s wedding with 20 other recruited newbie dancers. (Also, turns out Daniel has some mad Bollywood skillz…) I can say pretty confidently we Rocked that dance, and the brides beamed and I felt instantaneous camaraderie with my “Zor Ka Jhatka” team. And then, when the reception was over, we held a little after party at our apartment with the 85 beers gifted to us by the caterers and three cabs-full of new friends.

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And then this weekend, after months of planning and taste tests and one bad dream involving emergency outsourced avocado curd (ew), my friend Leah and I made a wedding cake!!!! It was a giant labor of love, and by giant I mean pretty freaking giant — I think the whole thing used at least 40 sticks of butter, multiple bags of sugar, 75 eggs, and two big bags of lemons. The final monster was a vanilla cake from Rose’s The Cake Bible, with Ina’s lemon curd, Martha’s raspberry curd, Sweetapolita’s vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, and hand-holding from Deb. (It takes a village…) The thing itself was transported in many boxes with the help of a kind boyfriend and amused cab driver, and then hastily stacked and decorated amidst ladders and lanterns being hung up, and caterers running around, and someone forgetting their pants and needing to run home half an hour before the wedding started. And yet, it came together beautifully and tastily too. So many strangers wanted to talk about the cake — to say how lovely it was (oh shucks), or about their own baking experiences, or to chat about my (nonexistent) professional baking career.

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Weddings are fun. I love being surrounded by people who have traveled far and wide to share in love. To celebrate togetherness. I like that these weddings happened with the change of the season — a gentle farewell to what was and an excited eye cast towards the future.

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In that light, perhaps you want to make salsa? With roasted tomatillos and the last of summer peaches? This salsa is a great picnic accompaniment and really, much easier than a wedding cake. But it’ll go fast and make people in awe of you anyway because most people just don’t understand how easy it is to make your own dang salsa.

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Daniel’s spicy spicy red pepper salsa recipe to come some day… we’ll wait for me to build my heat tolerance just a bit more.

one year ago: roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Tomatillo and Peach Salsa

This is a more straightforward vessel for chips than my previously-posted mango black bean “salad-alsa”. Might be harder to eat this with a spoon, but don’t let me stop you from trying. Adapted from macheesmo.com. 

1 lb tomatillos
2  big peaches
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
1 big clove garlic, minced
½ c cilantro, chopped
1-2 T onion, finely chopped
1 lime
s&p

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove husks from tomatillos and cut in half. Place on a baking tray, cut-side up. Roast for 20 minutes.

Set a small pan on medium-high heat. Add serrano pepper, turning every minute or so until lightly charred on all sides. Set aside.

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. With a small sharp knife, score the bottom of each peach with a small “x”. Boil peaches for one minute. Drain and let cool. Peel peaches with your fingers, starting from the “x”. You will get juicy and messy! Lick your fingers (and then wash your hands). Cut peaches into small bite-sized pieces and place into a medium-sized bowl. Discard (or eat) skins.

In a food processor, combine tomatillos and the serrano pepper. Pulse until there are no pieces remaining, and mixture is homogeneous and slightly syrupy. Add tomatillos to peach bowl, along with the garlic, cilantro, onion, and juice of a lime. Season to taste with s&p.

So Proud!!

So Proud!!

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

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You know that video that went viral a couple months back, “Too many cooks”?

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If you haven’t watched it yet, today’s the day! Come on, you know you want to. You’re welcome. Also, you’re welcome for having it stuck in your head for the rest of your life. And butting its repetitive head in where it isn’t welcome ALL THE TIME. Such as:

Going to pick up CSA veggies. For the nth week in a row, we leave with a giganto bag of collards, kale, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, you name it. (Sometimes a couple beets or beans but pretty much only greens.) All I can think (and hum and sing) as we walk home, “Too many greens, too many greens.

Or when on the train and no one is aware of how much space they take up and people want to come ON before you have a chance to get off: “too many dummies, too many dummies

Or (the generic version) when you’re at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order: “too many things, too many things”!

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Did you watch it yet?? Good. It really works for a plethora of occasions. Give it a try! You’ll soon be singing it everywhere and will become immediately annoyed with yourself!

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But really, so many greens. We’ve made soups, 1/2 kale 1/2 sausage lasagna, pasta dishes, stir fries aplenty, and an amazing number of dinners (and breakfasts) of salads or cooked greens plus rice. Brooklyn Beet CSA, come through! I’m ready for a pepper or cuke!

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Until then I will continue to attempt innovation. Earlier this week innovation came in the form of pasta sauce, with a whole tangle of collard greens braised into it. This sauce was delicious — eaten on spaghetti, mixed with leftover brown rice the next day, or just slurped with a spoon. I’m going to recommend the spaghetti route, covered with parmesan and backyard basil. Perhaps served with a side salad? “So many greens, so many greens!

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As I said earlier, you’re welcome. 😉

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one year ago: sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and cilantro quinoa soup with spicy shrimp and corn

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

by moi and Daniel too

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 t dried oregano
2 t tomato paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
small handful fresh basil, divided
1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and chiffonaded
s&p
parmesan, freshly grated (optional, I guess)
spaghetti (or rice for a gluten-free option)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep saucepan. Add onions and a big pinch of salt and cook until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Next, add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and all their juices, sugar, and vinegar. Add tap water to the empty tomato can until it’s ¼ full. Add water to pan. Tear up half the basil leaves and add. Cook for 10 minutes on a slow simmer.

Add your collards. Stir well to totally immerse them.  Cover pan and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until greens are soft and have lost their plasticky appearance. Add s&p as necessary.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Once drained, add a bit of sauce (whatever stage it’s in) to keep pasta from sticking together. When ready to eat, top pasta with lots of sauce, torn fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan for the best experience.

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Kale Caesar Salad

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I’m going to admit some things:

  1. Basically 7% of my sock drawer contains actual pairs of socks that were sold as a unit. It is a jumble of colors and styles that are “good enough” to be thrown together. Socks are usually in shoes anyway, and if the shoes come off, you have to assume you’re in good enough company to not have others giving too much a shit about the matchingness of your socks. Also, it’s sandal season.
  2. I went on a mile-long run (1.2 miles actually) like 3 days ago and my legs still hurt. Not totally proud of that one…
  3. I don’t really like kale.

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Okay, it’s not that I don’t like ANY kale. It’s pretty delicious sauteed halfway to another planet with lots of balsamic vinegar and oil (a la my college roommate). Also pretty good in a white bean soup with lots of parmesan (coming soon!). It’s just that I’ve never gotten my mind around enjoying raw kale. (Oh, I did blog about it once before here, but shh, this one is better…)

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…UNTIL TODAY!!

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…you knew that was coming.

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THIS salad NEEDS kale! The dressing is thick, the accoutrements small but mighty and oh-so-garlicky. They are desperately in need of a substantial green that won’t back down! Here, kale and my mysterious CSA “red garner” were the only of the batch up to the Greek-yogurt-laden-Caesar-dressing-challenge. This salad is so simple and so tasty. I wished we made a double batch. Recipe came from Erin Gleeson’s gorgeous Forest Feast cookbook (gifted to me by my beautiful cousin! shoutout!). I substituted her pan-fried polenta squares (which sound delicious and I can’t wait to try someday…) for my 2-day-old Bakeri focaccia fried to oblivion with olive oil and tons of garlic. Needless to say, it was just the salty and crunchy bite the salad needed.

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new! happy anniversary, me!
one year ago: Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt sauce

Kale Caesar Salad

adapted from the Forest Feast cookbook

½ bunch kale, chifonnaded (or another substantial green) (see here for chiffonade how-to pictures)
small handful pine nuts
¼ c shredded parmesan
2-day old focaccia, cut into small squares
1-3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
about ½ t fresh thyme, chopped
salt to taste
about ½ batch dressing (recipe below)

Dressing:
⅓-½ c olive oil
2 T Greek yogurt
juice of half a lemon
1 big clove garlic, quartered
1 t dijon mustard
s&p

For dressing: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. I used an Immersion blender and it took less than a minute.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring fairly constantly to ensure they don’t burn. Set aside.

Warm up 1-2 T olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until pungent, about 30 seconds. Add focaccia squares and another drizzle of olive oil. Add thyme and a big pinch of salt. Toss constantly until squares are crunchy and browned on all sides, adding additional olive oil they seem dry. Lower heat if croutons begin to burn. Take off heat when done and set aside.

Mix kale, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese with dressing. I started with about ½ the batch of dressing and added a bit more. Toss with tongs until evenly coated. Top with croutons and enjoy garlicky kale caesar nirvana (without the obnoxious yet ubiquitous $18 pricetag).

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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!