In my desire to make a dent in the ever increasing pile of recipes that I wanted to try, I ended up with a lovely roast, and a wonderful cake.
The roast was courtesy of Marcella Hazan, whose Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is the gold standard in many kitchens. It sounded like an intriguing recipe – a pork roast slowly braised in milk, seasoned with nothing more than salt and perhaps garlic. The milk is supposed to cook down to deeply brown curds and the tenderness is supposed to be unparalleled. And then I screwed it up, as only I can do. See I had some leeks and fennel that were languishing in the fridge, and in interests of good fridge management (and haunted by ghosts of slimy veggies past), I chopped’em up and added them to the roast with the milk. It just sounded good together, y’know?
And the fennels and leekses gave off so much juice, that the cooking of the milk was pretty much not happening. A loooong braise later, I had to admit that my milk was never going to develop the dark brownness that is called for, and settled for the color along the lines of baby diarrhea. Now I should mention that I grew up in a country where the visual aspect and appeal of food ranks dead last, so this was not going to stop me in any way from trying it. And the taste delivered. It was not fantabulous by my standards, but it was rich, tender, and made for a unique meal. I rated it a 4/5 and gave the leftovers to my brother.
The second recipe – a gorgeous Mediterranean Lemon Cake was much more successful, only because I don’t know enough to mess around with baking. The only change I made is cut down on the sugar – I used about 3/4 of a cup, and next time would be tempted to bring it down to 2/3 of a cup. I should mention, that I don’t know what it is about US recipes, but man, you guys like sugar in insane proportions! I like a decent amount of sugar, enough to support other flavors, but every time I make a recipe that originates down south, I know to cut out a third to half of sugar to make it palatable. I’ve seen carrot cake recipes with 2 cups of sugar. Eeeek.
Moving on, I found the recipe on the fabulous blog of Leslie Land, had all the ingredients, and found her description of it somehow irresistible. It comes together super quickly and it gets better on days 2 and 3. In fact, when you eat it on day 1 you may wonder what the big deal is. It’s a fine simple cake, but nothing to write home about. Yet on subsequent days some magic happens, and the faint grassiness of the olive oil comes through. This may not sound like a good thing, but it is, and it sings lovely duets with the lemon zest. A keeper of a recipe 4.5/5.
After zesting three lemons for the cake, I had three skinned lemons to put to use, so I decided to make something I’ve never had, only read about – lemon curd. I got the recipe from a book which I plan to put to heavy use this summer – Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda Amendt. The book is a joy to read, all the recipes sound phenomenal, and lemon curd sounded easy. For the recipe you needed a double boiler, which I didn’t have, and the bowl kept hitting the water, so I had to improvise with balancing a bowl on two butter knives in a pot of water. MacGyver ain’t got nothing on me.
Again, I cut down the sugar to something like less than half of what the recipe calls for. Next time I’d use less lemon juice too. In fact, I’ll just gently flavor the butter and yolks until they taste like heaven, and call it a day. But the curd was great – like a lemony pudding, rich and creamy and great with the cake.
And that, folks, was my lovely Sunday during our last rainy weekend. Mucking around the kitchen, baking bread, trying out recipes. Pretty much my idea of a perfect weekend.