Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake, Tomato Soup and Staying Connected


My lovely friend, Christine, celebrated her birthday last month. She and I met in high school and have not lived in the same city since then, but all these years have maintained a special friendship that I cherish. As a birthday gift I gave her Molly Wizenberg’s delicious memoir, A Homemade Life. I have been a fan of Molly’s food blog, Orangette, for quite some time and when her book appeared a couple of years ago I naturally devoured it (in more ways than one!). Thinking of Christine and her love of good food and essays, my thoughts turned to A Homemade Life so I pulled my copy off the shelf to read again. Lounging with the book, I felt like I was spending the afternoon visiting with a friend hearing heartfelt stories from her life and sharing recipes.

The connection between food, friends and family is just beautiful, isn’t it? Food (the cooking, eating and discussing of it) is one of many ways Christine and I stay connected. We are on opposite sides of the country, but sharing about what we feed our families gives us another opportunity to feel like we are just down the road from each other.

Christine loved A Homemade Life, as I knew she would. We started cooking, baking and comparing notes on the recipes, she in Boston and me in Seattle. Two recipes that stand out are the Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake and Tomato Soup with Two Fennels. It’s berry season now, so pick up a luscious flat at your farmer’s market and don’t delay in baking this moist, rich cake. Perfect to enjoy in the shade of a tree! And for those of you experiencing a heat wave at the moment (not the case in Seattle...please send some warm sunshine our way!) the tomato soup is quick to make and marvelous to slurp chilled. The licorice undertone is pleasing and refreshing.

Cooking my way through A Homemade Life is a delightful way to celebrate friendship!


Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake
Serves 10-12
From A Homemade Life
By Molly Wizenberg

2 cups plus 8 tablespoons cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
2 tablespoons kirsch (I didn’t have kirsch and used Chambord)
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a standard –sized 9-cup Bundt pan and dust it with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour, the baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the butter and kirsch and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, don’t worry. Add the dry ingredients and process to just combine. Do not overmix. The batter should be thick and very smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Pour the batter over the berries, and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, taking care that all the flour is absorbed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. (My cake was finished at about 1 hour.)

Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully invert the cake out of the pan onto the rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels
Serves 6-8
From A Homemade Life
By Molly Wizenberg

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2-28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
Water
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Sugar, to taste
Red wine vinegar, to taste

In a large (5 quart) pot or Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently-garlic has a tendency to burn-until the onion is translucent and very soft, 5 to 8 minutes more. Add the thyme and fennel seeds and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Using your hand to hold back the tomatoes, pour the liquid from the tomato cans into the pot. Stir well. Crush the tomatoes in their cans, using your hands or a potato masher to tear and mash them into small chunks. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Then fill 1 empty tomato can with cold water and pour it in, too. Bring to a boil. Then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

The soup is ready when the fennel is very tender and a spoonful of the tomatoey broth tastes like a good, full-bodied soup. (If it hasn’t cooked long enough, it will taste watery and raw, like tomatoes straight from the can.) Add the salt. Taste and adjust as needed. If the tomatoes need a little sweetness, add a pinch or two of sugar. If the soup tastes a little bland, add a small splash of vinegar. Serve hot (or as I mentioned, chilled is quite good, too).

2 comments:

  1. I'm looking at the pound cake and thinking, "I need a piece of that!"

    I love that you talked about the importance of food creating a powerful connection between people. I always worry that's something we're losing as a culture. I know I definitely don't eat with friends as often as I'd like. It's nice to know someone else is thinking about these things, as well!

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  2. @Lauren Hairston
    You are so right...eating on the run and in our cars has taken away from us coming together around the table. Let's share some virtual pound cake together!

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