June rings in summer with the end of school for some, and celebrations of dads and grads. As a tribute to those dads and grads I attached a recipe for a wonderful olive oil cake flavored with almond and lemon. This is the kind of moist cake my dad loves served with fresh-picked fruit and tangy cream. Dad being a farm boy, he knows his fresh fruits and vegetables. He taught me how to pick the best ones when I was quite young. We foraged for berries in Maine and New Hampshire in the summers when we weren't digging up clams for our lunch. Sweet, hot summer memories....
Everywhere I look in Napa it is beautiful and green with punches of color everywhere. California poppies are blooming and the fruit trees are in blossom. Walking through the Napa Valley vineyards in the spring is invigorating and the visual contrast of the dark gnarly vines against bright emerald grass and yellow mustard flowers. Some mornings are still quite cold and I awake to the sounds of the fans blowing in the vineyards to keep the frost at bay. The fans sound like a 747 is landing in my garden. Hopefully it will warm up soon and the fans can sleep for the summer.
My nephew was the first to challenge me with this bizarre-looking fruit. We were at Berkeley Bowl, and to keep him and his brother occupied while my sister and I shopped, I presented them with a challenge―go to the produce department and choose something for us to cook that they had never eaten before. Interestingly enough, both came back with fruit from the citrus family. Tommy, the youngest and least adventurous (foodwise only!) in the family chose grapefruit. Really? Could this be true? Well of course it was―I doubt he’d even eaten an orange at that point!
Summertime Dessert in Baltimore is Peach Cake Time.
Years ago I developed a Baltimore peach cake recipe for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. I was excited to consult with family and friends for the right texture and correct ratio of peaches to cake for the perfect recipe. Unfortunately, I never saw it in print as I was living near Washington, D.C., and there was nowhere to buy the Sun. I lost the recipe sometime during my many moves—from the U.S. to Asia, to Africa and back.
Hunting for herbs and spices in my "spice drawer" was no picnic. You may have the same fun looking for spices too. It was easy to manage years ago when there was less of a selection, now we have so much more available from ajwain to za'atar you need a system. I had an array of bottles and lots of little plastic bags; it was obvious I was a spice junkie. No matter how hard I tried it was a mess and difficult to find what I wanted. I think this is how I ended up with enough coriander to last me a life time.
With Father's day is a few days away I look back fondly at the lessons I learned from my father in the kitchen. He always started in the garden and worked his way back to the kitchen to pull together the fixings for dinner. As the oldest it was I who usually had to figure out what to do with the sometimes bizarre array food. I learned early to be creative in the kitchen and the results were generally pretty good.
Spring is finally here and it is green every where with bits of yellow mustard between the vines. This is the time the valley starts to wake-up after a quiet winter. If you've not been here in the winter it is beautiful and serene. Although I'm still not quite used to having the landscape green in the winter and brown in the summer, except for the vines that is.