Eating, sleeping, breathing
Last week my friend Doron e-mailed to tell me about a dream he’d had in which he’d gone into a store and picked up “any and every kitchen tool in existence.” From microplane zesters to rubber spatulas, food processors, and stockpots, “it was heaven,” he said. I could almost hear him sigh wistfully on the other side of the computer screen.
Doron isn’t the only one who’s been eating, sleeping, and breathing all things kitchen. I’ve been known to have dreams involving roasted-onion tarts, platefuls of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, and butter-rich cakes stacked like gold bullion. I wake up breathless, touching my belly like a private eye looking for evidence, whispering, “Thank GOD I didn’t actually eat all that. Phew!” And coincidentally, the very same night that Doron unleashed his subconscious upon a kitchen supply store, I was dreaming of a fried chicken sandwich. In my dream, I was somewhere trying on a pair of pants, when I found myself suddenly before a deli counter of sorts. Facing me was a round, genial man in overalls. I somehow knew that the place was known for its fried chicken sandwiches, but I hesitated, unsure. The man smiled at me, gestured over his shoulder with a ruddy thumb, and drawled, “I got a whole messa chickens fried up in back. You gotta have a sanwich.” So I ordered one, and then I went back to incongruously trying on my pants, wondering whether my sandwich would come with coleslaw. Unfortunately—and as is always the case—I woke up before I could find out.
Then there are the times when all this eating, sleeping, and breathing paradoxically causes loss of sleep. Take, for example, the Sunday before last, when Kate sacrificed sleep and sanity to rise at six in the morning and bake sourdough boules before sunrise with a wifebeater and a copy of The Stranger—and this only a few days after she, in a fit of insomnia, read an entire hors d’oeuvres cookbook in the middle of night.
And of course there’s my strawberry problem, a late-night leitmotif since last June, when I giddily crammed 10+ pounds of freshly picked and washed strawberries into my freezer, blissfully unaware of the slumber they’d steal. Yes, dear reader, I’m still working my way through the berries, and I’m still lying awake at night, wondering what to do with them next. After all, before we know it, summer will be upon us again, with more fields of berries to be picked! As I said, this is serious. So thank goodness for old standbys, pinch hitters when the (alarm) clock is ticking.
Gâteau au Yaourt à la Fraise, or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Strawberries
Adapted from Gâteaux de Mamie
This cake is another slight variation on the yogurt cake I wrote about last August, a fantastically easy one-bowl French invention. Strawberries will be woefully out of season for another few months, but take heart: this recipe works beautifully with frozen fruit. The cake rises tall in the pan, and the strawberries collapse onto themselves, leaving moist, jammy pockets. The result has a light, moist, not-too-sweet crumb—perfect with coffee in late afternoon or with a melty scoop of ice cream after dinner. It tastes like June, like things to come.
Note: If you don't have a little individual-size yogurt jar from France—and we can't all have them—know that 1 jar equals 125 ml, or a touch over 1/2 cup.
1 jar plain yogurt (I like Brown Cow brand, either Cream Top or nonfat)
2 jars sugar (I like to use raw cane sugar, or a mixture of white and brown sugars)
2 jars unbleached all-purpose flour
1 jar finely ground blanched almonds (a Cuisinart does a fine job, but be careful not to turn your almonds into almond butter; you're aiming for a powdery texture)
2 tsp baking powder
1 jar canola oil
Frozen (quartered or halved, depending on their size) strawberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, ground almonds, and baking powder, mixing just to combine. Add the oil, stirring to incorporate. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, and distribute frozen strawberries—about two handfuls—evenly over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the berries, trying to cover them as well as possible.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. [Because you’ve put frozen fruit into the cake, it may take a bit longer, depending on your oven. If, after thirty or so minutes, the cake is browning too quickly, you may need to tent it with foil.]
Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan to cool completely. Cut into wedges and eat with satisfaction, watching your freezer slowly empty.