Eating well and beautifully

I haven't the slightest idea what season it is or what season the season gods think it to be. Burning, cold, drenched, parched, hide the jackets, find them, confident blooms, meek ones. I desperately want to be able to count on temperatures north of 65. Want to be able to plant basil and tomatoes with assurances of growth. And yet.

There is, as a dear friend told me today, always room for practice. 

She told me that after I called her in tears, a tough morning having primed my ducts before she left a loving message that pulled the boy's thumb from the Netherlandish dike, and after I forced myself to pilates which was great minus the overly chatty women in the rear corner and the individual who farted stink bombs continuously throughout. 

Indeed. There is always room for practice.

For me at least, one balm for such trying times is a mealtime well spent. With friends or alone, cooking or dining out. I have told you many times that I hate wasting the opportunity granted in all of the three daily meals but especially lunch and dinner. Snacks are lovely, and I am a snacker, but a proper midday sup or after-a-long-day dine is sublime. It heals, sates, restores, and offers a new focus, even if for only a brief time.

Do you know of Molly Yeh? She writes My Name is Yeh and also has a recently-released cookbook, Molly On the Range. She has a megawatt smile, an affinity for backyard chickens, a loved one known as Egg Boy, and a real gift with marzipan. It is rare that I make her recipes and wish I hadn't doubled them. (Well, the funfetti cake was a bit much, but otherwise...).

Hers is one of the few blogs I subscribe to, and I recently received a missive about a carrot salad with feta, pistachios, and an orange blossom toss. OMG. That is so up my alley. Simultaneously, I rediscovered the recent New York Times Dining section in which David Tanis -with whom I have a real love-disappointment relationship- shared a gorgeous charred asparagus salad with chimichurri

In my opinion, both of those dishes plus some steamed new potatoes to dress in any leftover chimichurri seemed like a dreamy dinner. And so it was. 

Ribbons of freshly shaved, freshly plucked carrots. Just torn mint. Season's best asparagus. Chimichurri. Pistachios. Cardamom. I gasp at the memories (although I like my regular chimichurri recipe better). 

a beauty from my yard

a beauty from my yard

A jolly birthday cake

As we always do during this annual beach vacation, we will today celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. The real thing isn't until Monday, but here she is surrounded by her sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, a rare event. 

Each year, I make her cake. Three years ago, it was strawberry; the next chocolate; and last June, an old-fashioned yellow cake with an amazing chocolate caramel ganache frosting.

In an attempt to keep mixing things up, I this year chose to make a homemade funfetti cake. I'd seen the recipe for and photograph of Molly Yeh's version on Food52 and was drawn to its whimsical nature. Yeh, who writes the blog My Name is Yeh, is an incredible baker whose desserts are always beautiful.

My mother-in-law likes festive things, and this cake is like a party of primary colors blitzed with butter, sugar and eggs. As it calls for imitation vanilla and the fakest sprinkles ever, it's quite possibly the most artificial thing I've ever made. But it is from scratch, so there's that. And I hope my MIL loves it.

funfetti cake

funfetti cake

funfetti cake, almost completely frosted; this image put through a filter for effect

funfetti cake, almost completely frosted; this image put through a filter for effect

Betty Crocker, eat your heart out.