Make a cake this weekend

Hello. It’s still Melissa here, replacing Sam while he’s on vacation.

I hope you were also able to go on vacation this summer. Or maybe you are here now, reading this on a windy beach or under a canopy of green trees with the sun speckled through the leaves. This is where I am as I write – working in the garden of a rented country house with my laptop perched in my lap. Early this morning I saw a little gray rabbit jump across the grass, which is an absolute thrill for this born and raised city child.

I’ve just finished breakfast – yogurt and olive oil granola topped with red plums – and naturally I’m already thinking about what I can make for lunch. Renting the kitchen is always a fun puzzle for me. I never plan ahead, I just buy what looks good on a farm stand along the way and then steal it. Putting the pieces together is the joy of it.

In the kitchen, there’s a can of chickpeas, tons of tomatoes, leftover corn from last night’s dinner, and peppery arugula. With a few tweaks, I could turn it all into Genevieve Ko’s pretty turmeric couscous salad with chickpeas and tomatoes. There are also two fatty zucchini in the vegetable drawer, a gift from the previous tenants. I could make orzo in one pot of Lidey Heuck with tomatoes, corn and zucchini.

And you, what do you think you are doing? Are you a planner or an improvised cook?

As I mentioned, I am not a planner. But if I were, there are some spectacular new recipes at New York Times Cooking that I would absolutely plan my weekend around. One is Jocelyn Ramirez’s chili-lime heart of palm, a vegan version of an aguachile that cleverly includes nori snacks for a brackish ocean. Another is Eric Kim’s fresh corn pudding, which looks both summery and heartwarming, and would make a great dessert after my buttery scallops with lemon and herbs. And for lunch, this extra crispy BLT calls me because crisp, inflexible bacon is the BEST bacon.

Maybe you don’t feel like turning on the stove to cook anything this weekend. I get it, some scorching late summer weekends are like this. But Ali Slagle is there for you. In her last article, she gives strategies for not cooking, but always eating well. There’s a juicy chicken salad with nectarines and goat cheese, those ricotta toast with melon, corn and salami, and an all-bagel smoked salmon dip that I would happily finish for brunch though. it doesn’t call for real bagels (you could serve it with some, they wouldn’t hurt).

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can turn up your oven and bake something. What about this adorably polka-dot blueberry poppy seed cake from Yossy Arefi, or her vegan zucchini bread (another possible destination for my gifted squash)? For a cake that keeps the kitchen cool, there’s Laurie Ellen Pellicano’s classic ice cream cake (above) with a smart twist: whip some dulce de leche into a portion of the cream.

If you’d rather read about cakes than bake them, take a look at Ligaya Mishan’s brilliant analysis of the obsession with trompe-l’oeil cakes, a sleight of hand that was reignited by a lined crocodile sandal.

As for the chicken de rigueur, how about grilling it this weekend? Kay Chun has a great grilled chicken and corn with butter tartar recipe that is a riff on the flavors of the sauce, with pickles and capers. And there’s Lidey Heuck’s Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs, garnished with lemon and herbs.

There are many other chicken and cake recipes and all kinds of weekend-friendly meals available at New York Times Cooking. You must subscribe to have access to all. But you won’t regret it; the database is deep and getting deeper all the time as we add new recipes every week. You can also find a lot of free stuff on our Twitter, YouTube and Instagram channel (where I am @clarkbar). And if you’d like to email us directly, we’re at [email protected] for all of your technical support and account needs.

See you Sunday, and goodbye under the trees.

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