This small, fearless wildling we literally just brought home from the hospital turned three a couple weeks ago, but despite my certainty that we just got her, I won’t lie, this feels like a gazillion years ago because when did she not have hair. Strangers on the street often ask us about her hair, and I get it, I do. She’s small, it is big, and also red and with spiral curls going in every direction and there are three other members of our family and none of us have spiral curls or red hair. This isn’t the only way she’s already her own fierce little person. I was definitely not into dolls or dresses growing up, so I watch with awe as she plays for hours with her very pink baby doll, the doll’s stroller, the doll’s purse, the doll’s crib and high chair; when she comes home after being out all day, she likes to sit quietly with her baby on her lap on the sofa for a while to catch up and it is, objectively (I am known for my objectivity when talking about my kids), one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
So when asked what kind of birthday cake she wanted, she said “PINK!” And I said, “But what flavor?” “Pink.” And also, “Not brown, Yacob likes brown.” (This is true.) And I thought about making the pink lady cake but we ended up not having a big party that required so much cake, just bringing cupcakes to camp* and then going out to dinner with family. Instead, I went in a simpler direction, loosely inspired by a marbled pink and white cake we saw in the pastry case at Starbucks (but didn’t try so no idea how the taste lines up), a few weeks before. Adding a spoonful of raspberry puree into the glaze turning it ferociously pink, much to her glee, and stretching it into this doughnut-shaped pan I bought earlier this summer on a whim made it look like a giant pink emoji of a doughnut, an unequivocal hit with three year-olds, eight year-olds, and everyone who saw the cake go by at the restaurant. [I resisted the urge to say “And the color is all natural! And that’s not plasticky fondant!” — for once — but it was hard.]
I saw a table at the market the other night groaning under the weight of a mountain of summer squash. Squash that looked like it wanted to avalanche its way into my basket. I took pity, grabbed a bunch, and made my way home. I ended up using a couple in a favorite nothing-to-it sautéed zucchini recipe. It’s pictured here served over a simple plate of spaghetti.
The sautéed zucchini? It’s a single-skillet kind of thing. Coins of zucchini are browned in a pan, but the thing that makes it special is the toasted golden slivers of garlic combined with lots of fresh dill. Throw in a sprinkling of almonds for crunch, and you’re all good. Prep takes five minutes, if that, and you can treat this as a side dish, or use it as a component of something else…
I often cook up a pan of the zucchini like this, and then use it to top off a frittata. Or toss it with a platter of pasta. Over farro with some harissa-spiked vinagirette? Not bad. Baked as a hand-pie in a simple pastry with a smudge of goat cheese? Even better. Anyhow, it’s really adaptable. And for those of you who don’t use much dill in your cooking…let me just say, dill is under-rated and under-utilized. The more I cook with it, the more I love it – fingers crossed you like this spin as much as I do.
Different Types of Zucchini
You can sauté just about any kind of zucchini! Or a blend of zucchini / summer squash, as pictured here. A pro tip – attempt to slice it all the same 1/4-inch thickness. As far as shape goes – you can slice full coins, or half coins. You can slice zucchini straight across, or angle it, and slice on a bias. Feel free to experiment!
When I wrote the first edition of The Perfect Scoop. I only allowed myself to use the word “refreshing “ once, which I’m pretty sure I did. When you write a book, there’s a tendency to include everything that you possibly can, but a number of things can nudge them out, such as having photos, which everyone loves. So although I included Plum-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream, Plum Granita, Plum Ice Cream, Plum-Raspberry Sorbet, Plum-Rasberry Swirl Ice Cream, and a Plum-Berry Compote (whew!), I didn’t include a Plum Sorbet recipe.
It probably didn’t include it because I would have had to use the word “refreshing” to describe this distinctly tart-tangy Plum Sorbet, which tastes like the best of summer is one remarkably colorful scoop. Since this recipe is on the blog, I’m gonna invoke the “Do whatever you want, it’s your blog” rule and go ahead and say that this is, indeed, very refreshing.
Continue Reading Plum Sorbet…
What you see here is the Violet Bakery Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake. The chocolate factor is deep and strong. The cake itself is rich, moist, and tender. It’s exactly what you want when you’re craving a homemade chocolate cake – an ace in that regard.
I love a beautiful, frosted, homemade cake like no one else, but only bake them now-and-then. Because, cake. If it’s there, I want to eat it. All of it. More often than not, I throw together quick and easy loaf cakes (like this, this, and this) and call it a day. But a devil’s food cake like this one, is special. And worth the extra effort!
But, because I brought back a beautiful brass cake server from Simon Marks in Jaipur, and because my birthday was just around the corner, and because Claire Ptak’s Violet Bakery Cookbook was winking at me, I pulled my favorite mixing bowl from the shelf, and checked to see if I had enough buttermilk. The devil’s food cake was meant to be, I had all the ingredients on hand, and shy of the buttermilk, you probably do too.
The frosting is Claire’s Marshmallow Icing, it’s also in the same beautiful book. It’s billowy, sweet, vanilla-flecked, and a compelling alternative to buttercream. You’ll want to put it on the cake, and everything else edible in your life. It’s a frosting that pairs beautifully with devil’s food cake. I also found myself dipping berries into it, and orange segments, and my fingers.
Simon, this marshmallow icing reminded me a bit of your incredible cannoli filling at Caffé Palladio. So so so so good!
On the short list of life skills I’m willing to boast about are these: my ability to watch any and every Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington movie (see: Taken 2 and Man on Fire), my willingness to fight for what is right in airplane armrest territory, and my eagerness to say, “Hey, let’s fry that!”.
This recipe falls under the ‘hey let’s fry that’ category though, for what it’s worth, I’m also typing this post with my arm firmly but politely planted on an airplane armrest that is under siege by a man who frankly, seems to know no better.