Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Pleasures: Good Food and Good Books

On Saturday, I got up early and got started on the baking.  Interesting that even in this age of air conditioning, I still have that poor grad student habit of doing any activity that generates heat (baking, washing and drying clothes) early in the morning in the summer.

I got out my battered copy of Moosewood Cookbook.  It wasn't my first vegetarian cookbook.  It's not even the one I use the most often.  Well, I don't use many cookbooks these days.  I've been cooking so long that I've internalized my favorite recipes.

In fact, these days, when I cook, I often start by looking at what's on hand and thinking about how they'd best go together.  I think about what I want to eat and how to approximate that by using what I have.  Many days, I'll do a lot of improvising to avoid having to go to the grocery store.

On Saturday, I pulled out the cookbook because I don't often make pound cake.  A dessert that takes 4 sticks of butter?  It's just not wise to make that kind of dessert regularly.

I think of one of my South Carolina friends who had an elderly aunt who made pound cakes on a regular basis.  My friend kept her freezer stocked, and when I'd go to visit, she'd often give me a pound cake as I left.  They weighed more than a pound, and oh how tasty they were!

On Saturday, I made the pound cake and then went to spin class.  I came home and had cantaloupe and honeydew chunks for breakfast.  I thought of another hot morning, when a friend and I had run the Charleston bridge run, a 10K race.  We ate at a French restaurant in downtown Charleston, where I had a bowl of mixed fruit, mostly melon, topped with trail mix.

I didn't have any trail mix in the house on Saturday, so I topped my melon with raw oatmeal and pecans.  It was tasty!

Of course, I was eating by the pool while I finished reading Penelope Lively's How it All Began.  What a delightful book--set in modern London, with a variety of believable characters.  Lots of twists and turns, with a gentle satirization of some of the more pompous characters, a bit of zinging critique about both academia and television cultures.  And it's fairly short (just over 200 pages) so manageable for most of us.

I've now moved on to Steven King's time travel novel, 11/22/63.  I'm not very far in, but it's an interesting set up, already with a plot I can't quite imagine how King will work out.  But that's what I love about a Steven King novel--I can relax, knowing I'm in the hands of a master narrator.  I don't read every one of King's novels.  These days, I can't always take the darkness.  But this one sounded too intriguing to pass up, and it got great reviews.

Saturday night we had pound cake topped with real whipped cream and mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries).  It was as fabulous as I remember. 

Most of us still have a few weeks of summer weather left.  Why not make a pound cake before summer slips away.  It's been a long time since I posted a recipe here.  So, for your cooking pleasure, I present the recipe as found in Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.

Pound Cake

1 pound butter

3 C. sugar

6 eggs

1 C. milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 T. baking powder

4 C. flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a flour a bundt pan, a tube pan, or a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Mix the butter and sugar together and then beat in the eggs.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk and vanilla together, and in a different bowl, mix the baking powder and flour together.  Alternately add the milk/vanilla and the flour/baking powder to the butter/sugar/egg batter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Put the batter into the buttered and floured pan and put it into the oven.  Cook for an hour or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean (it usually takes me 70 minutes).  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and cool completely.

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