Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lemonade (Silver Palate)

I don’t think I even need to repeat the adage about what to do if life gives you lemons, because in this case it was my boss who gave them to me! He actually has a very productive tree right here in San Francisco, and I am overjoyed when he brings me bags of lemons, especially today because I had a bake sale / fundraiser for my daughter’s school (Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in the Castro) and so I volunteered to bring lemonade. Good thing, too, because it was a rare hot day in the city and we drank that up like there was no tomorrow!
Here we are in San Francisco's lovely Dolores Park where we raised nearly $200 to send the 4th graders to camp, yay!

This lemonade is the best you will ever taste, hands down. Don’t even bother with any other recipes. Just don’t. My mom taught me this one, from her (and now my) favorite cookbook of all time, The Silver Palate Cookbook - the 1982 masterwork from Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso, and I guarantee you will have people exclaiming in the street that it is the best thing they have ever tasted. 

The only thing I ever adjust is the tartness. I love it very very tart, but when I make it for kids I do add more sugar. And you want to use super-fine (Baker’s Sugar) because it dissolves so easily. Get some lemons and get happy!
 My daughter ladling out cups for thirsty park goers. Isn't she proud!
I always add some cut up lemons for looks, especially when using an (otherwise un-chic) industrial vat.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quick Chocolate Cake

I love cake. OHMYGOD do I love cake. And I'll be honest, this is not the best cake ever, but when you just WANT CAKE (and come on, we all know there are times when nothing will do but cake!), this is FAST and YUMMY. Why buy a mix when you can literally throw things into the baking dish itself, bake for 20 minutes, and then happily scald your tongue on home-made cake? I couldn’t say.

Susan Katz’s brilliant 1978 “Just Desserts – Fast but Fancy” is one of my favorites. She has so many ideas that I would like to quit my day job to cook each and every one of them… well, I can dream, right? She even has a chapter entitled Desserts for Dinner. (She has also written a book called “100 ways to use yogurt besides eating it out of a container” – LOVE her to death!). When the sudden NEED FOR CAKE struck me, I turned to her and she did not disappoint.

This recipe – better than cake mix, I swear – is fun in that you mix it right in the baking dish. Seriously people, you are going to have cake SOON, and barely any dishes to wash! GET ON THIS! Even kids can do it, in fact it is perfect for them. Don’t have a mixer? Or are you just lazy? Who cares. YOU can make cake.

The only trick is that she’s not kidding when she says “There must be no delay in baking after adding vinegar” because that will activate the baking soda, and if not baked right away, the cake won’t rise. So be sure to have all your ingredients out in advance. This is as good a way to reinforce the practice of mise-en-place if I ever knew one! There: justification for baking cake: to teach yourself the importance of proper kitchen prep. (Not that you needed any justification.... )
 Dump in the ingredients!
 Mix well - and get into the oven IMMEDIATELY once the vinegar is stirred in!

You can frost this cake with just about anything, or heat up a nice glaze of chocolate, butter and a little grand marnier, or perhaps whisey and black cherries…. Possibilities are endless. You’re welcome.