Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cruel Summer

As most of you know, summer is my favorite time of year. I especially love the month of July and weekends full of summer food and fun. This is the story of what I consider to be a pleasant summer weekend--with the exception of the occurrence of a few of the cruel realities of summer...

I was rudely awakened by my across the street neighbor, Paul Bunyan, who was cutting down trees and cutting them into pieces with his extremely noisy electric saw at the ungodly hour of 8:00 on a Saturday morning. This guy possesses many motorized vehicles and tools, all of which he insists upon regularly showing off as loudly as possible usually early in the morning. Ugh.

However, I love July weekends too much to let this ruin my day, so I got up and made the best of being awake by making myself a big "farmer girl" breakfast. I call it a "farmer girl" breakfast because that's what my grandmother used to make me on the farm when we had a big day ahead of us. Usually this consisted of as much food as I could possibly eat along with my very own orange juice and milk in special small glass pitchers that I was allowed to pour into my glass by myself. Very exciting when you are seven. Now I'm 27 and I think I would still be excited by that.

Anyway, I went shopping the day before and had some fabulous summer produce, so I decided to make Ina Garten's Blueberry Crumb Cake (from my new cookbook--thanks Tricia!). Naturally, I planned to make some bacon to eat with my crumb cake.

With my cookbook firmly ensconced in the cookbook stand (thanks mom and dad!) and a clean counter, I was ready to begin.

These are the ingredients for the crumb topping: cinnamon, nutmeg, white sugar, brown sugar, and butter. You also add flour, which isn't in the picture.

Finished crumb topping:

Next I began the cake by creaming the butter and sugar together for about five minutes in my red Kitchen Aid mixer:

While that was happening, I got the rest of the wet ingredients together: lemon zest, vanilla, eggs, and cream with a little lemon juice added to it.

I added the eggs one at a time:

Then I added the vanilla, lemon zest, and cream mixture:

While that was mixing, I put all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a bowl and mixed them together before adding them to the mixing bowl:

I mixed this just until the flour was mixed in and then stopped the mixer, scraped the bowl with a spatula to make sure that all of the flour was mixed in, and then I added the blueberries:

After folding the blueberries in, I put the mixture into a 9 inch round baking pan:

I smoothed the top:

Then I put the crumble topping over the batter:

I put the bacon in the oven with the cake--so much easier than making it on the stove. I used a baking sheet covered in foil with a baking rack on top.

Put the bacon in a single layer on the baking rack:

I baked everything while I took a shower and this is was the result just out of the oven:

Add some orange juice and my special Saturday morning coffee and here is my complete farmer girl breakfast:

Final Verdict: The texture of the cake was good (as you can see, it was so crumbly that it fell apart), but I think it needed more blueberries, sugar, salt, and lemon to make the flavor better. I will do that next time. Also, and I can't believe I am saying this, the crumble to cake ratio was off--less crumble next time. Maybe I'll eat what's left while the cake bakes...

After eating my awesome breakfast, I resigned myself to complete one of the summer tasks that I dislike the most--another of the cruel realities of summer. Cleaning the refrigerator. Here it is before I started:

I took everything out of the refrigerator and mixed my cleaning solution of water, white vinegar, and lemon juice. I cleaned everything with my Magic Eraser and wiped it down with a microfiber cloth.
Clean refrigerator:

Then, I put the food back in after carefully reorganizing everything and putting all of the vegetables in Debbie Meyer Green Bags (thanks Grambi!).

I cleaned the freezer in the same way, although I was on my second Magic Eraser by then:

Thank goodness that is done for a while. Now it is time for lunch, again featuring seasonal produce. Here I have the mise en place for my spiked fruit salad. Clockwise from the top: vodka, bowl, superfine sugar, cutting board, strawberries, and blueberries.

I add the blueberries to the sliced strawberries:

Add some superfine sugar (the amount depends on how sweet the berries are):

Then add some vodka (the amount depends on how bad your day has been--I added a lot after cleaning the refrigerator):

Mix everything and put aside to macerate:

The next part of my lunch was French bread with herb butter using herbs from my own garden. Here's the mise en place with a little bit of butter at the top and flat leaf parsley and garlic chives on the cutting board:

I used a fork to mash the butter, herbs, salt, and pepper together:

Then I spread a thin layer on slices of French bread. This is my complete lunch with the herb buttered bread at the top, some pieces of champagne cheddar cheese and a nicely aged Pecorino-Romano, farm fresh radishes, and grape tomatoes. Oh, and the spiked fruit salad on the right.

Lunch was yummy. FYI, you can make the spiked fruit salad out of whatever fruit you have. The vodka brings out the flavors of the fruit and I also like to add a little lemon juice at the end.

After I ate, I headed out to the yard to do some work and spent some time on my Tony Little Gazelle Edge glider before taking a shower and making a light supper.

Here you see my BLT on white whole wheat bread along with lightly salted chips and sliced nectarines over cottage cheese (weird, I know, but my Grama L used to make this for us in the summer and it has become one of my favorite summer comfort foods).

After eating, I headed out for a belated birthday dessert party downtown with some friends. I had one sixth of a coconut chocolate banana cream pie and a Shirley Temple. It was delicious.

Today, after I got back from church, I made a variation on yesterday's breakfast. Attempting to improve the flavor of the blueberry crumb cake, I took the leftover spiked fruit salad out of the refrigerator:

Then, I put it in a saucepan with a little more sugar and lemon juice, brought it to a simmer, and let it reduce for about ten minutes.

I poured the reduced sauce over a slice of the cake and added some bacon (can you tell I love bacon?):

This did the trick--it was even better today than it was yesterday because of the sauce. Dang I'm good.

So that's it, gentle readers--a lovely summer weekend marred only by the cruelty of Paul Bunyan, who woke me up again Sunday morning with his tree cutting high jinks, and the dreaded duty of cleaning the refrigerator.


Leah said...

Bacon makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round...

Ken said...

Then I am single handedly responsible for the rotation of the Earth today with the amount of bacon that I have eaten this weekend.