Apple Gingerbread Cake

Upside Down Apple Gingerbread

This year the apple tree didn't deliver. A mixed blessing; we don't have apples, but we don't have squirrels pelting the cats, either. And that vague smell of vinegar and decay if we aren't vigilant about collecting the fallen.

I typically make my mother-in-law's apple cake for Rosh Hoshanah or thereabouts, so on one of my few excursions out recently, bought a bag of organic Jonathans from this vendor at the Farmer's Market--a very generous bag of damaged bakers for $5 that taste like cider and perfume. I couldn't immediately locate the apple cake recipe (it has since surfaced), but was of a mind to combine the tart taste of apples with a dark gingerbread. And found this.

I doubled the recipe to get two cakes and used about 4 tbs less butter than called for. We loved it. Great with tea, but promises to be even better with whipped cream!

Spaghetti yoga

Last night after processing the above mountain of tomatoes with a proportional ratio of raw garlic, I went to yoga.

I shook hands with the yoga teacher, whom I had never met, and spotted the woman next to me through various poses as she did me. It wasn't until about mid-way through the practice as I began to glow from exertion that I realized my hands smelled pungently and distinctively of raw garlic. Like I had been ingesting the stuff whole for weeks.

As the teacher twisted me into a broken facsimile of full pigeon, I kept thinking, he's going to forever think of me as Stinking Rose.

The Great Harvest

I spent a good part of July cussing out the tomatoes, convinced I was going to have to pay people to take my jars of green tomato pickle relish (like I know from green tomato pickle relish).

Happily, our reticent fruit decided to ripen up and today we are burdened with so many plump, red tomatoes that it's a tad overwhelming.

"It's too bad it all comes at once," Mitch said.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Too bad Mother Nature doesn't check our calendars."

Monday we had gazpacho (sans the weird egg business described in this recipe). Yesterday, apple/rhubarb cobbler from produce Mitch scored in Westcliffe. Today, Pappa al Pomodoro Soup (has the added benefit of using up some of our fresh basil and sage). Tomorrow, more spaghetti sauce and another rhubarb thing (open to any and all suggestions). Friday, maybe a nice caprese salad?

We're scrambling to keep up with our slow food!

Tomato gore

They are a perverse lot, tomatoes. One minute you're shouting at them to ripen up, the next you're begging people to take them before they decompose into pools of red gore.

This week faced with a basket of soggy beauties, I decided to make spaghetti sauce. But being mid-week and and lacking the fortitude to blanche, peel and seed tomotoes, here's what I did:

Recipe--Peels-and-all Spaghetti Sauce

1 dozen fresh tomatoes, cored and halved

5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

Red pepper flakes, a healthy pinch

1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil

3-4 Tbs of tomato paste

Salt to taste

Directions: Sautee garlic and onion in olive oil until translucent. Add red pepper flakes. Turn heat down to low and add tomatoes. Stew for about an hour, leaving the pot uncovered to allow sauce to reduce. Stir in basil and tomato paste. Grind to bloody pulp with an immersion blender.

Bon appetit!

Alice Waters meets Zebulon Pike

Given that Mitch and I still entertain like graduate students, guests sitting on the floor cross-legged, plates perched on laps, Saturday's meal was a revelation:

We were invited to a wine dinner billed as Southern Colorado and Southern France. To get to the house, we drove nine miles on rutted dirt roads, through rabbit brush gilded with new flowers, spiney sage and bunch grasses trending amber. Cows roam freely in this part of the county--or as freely as landowners allow--so every mile or so, I had to hop out of the truck, my silver sandals raising billows of dust, and swing open heavy pipe gates while Mitch drove through.

We could see the house from miles away, sitting atop a bald ridge. We arrived late and apologizing with a bag of heirloom tomatoes for the hostess and drank in the valley views from the tall, wide windows.

The table was set, placecards slotted into winecorks, with forks for each course, two wine glasses each, for red and white, gleaming table linens. A menu lay at every place, describing each course and the wine pairing.

Permit me to cut to the chase:

Hors D'oeuvres: Tapenade, Tomato Tarte Tain and Radishes with Anchovy Butter

L'Entree: Olate Corn Soup with Garlic Butter

Poisson Cours: Apalachiola Shrimp Provencal

Le Plat Principal: Grilled Veal Chops (Colorado pasture raised) and Eggplant Tomato Gratin

Salade: Local greens in vinaigrette

Le Fromage: Haystack Boulder Goat, Bucheron, Camembert and Roquefort

Le Dessert: Ambrosia Honey Mouse, Pain d'amande, Palisade Peaches and Pears

Each dish was carefully paired with an appropriate Colorado or French wine. The 2001 Dom. Les Aphillantes, Cotes du Rhone-Cuvee du Cros was smashing.

Trust me, we can't stop talking about this meal.

Describe a tomato: A challenge

Sometimes when we hike, I try to think of new ways to describe what we're seeing. For example, how do you paint a picture in words of quaking aspen leaves that fits but isn't cliche?

Aspen leaves are like the coins on a belly dancer's belt? Uh, no.

The vellum sound of aspen leaves, trembling? Better.

Shimmy shimmy shake shake? You see where I'm going.

But how would you describe the taste of a tomato? A good one?

OK? Ready, set, go!

Heirloom tomatoes: At last!

Diener heirloom tomato

At last!

Local tomato

Look at that fat, bulbous globe, ruddy as a drunk. And grown at 8,000 feet. By rights at this elevation it should be a stunted yellow ball.

The tomato comes from Meredith, who's been haying at the ranch. Meredith is the mother of 29 alpacas, seven goats, five chickens and four dogs. She has animals, we have grass, so this week she's been busy raking and hauling hay back to her growing herd. (A couple of the girls got themselves in the family way when "Mother" wasn't looking.)

Enroute to the ranch she stops at a neighbor's organic garden, who opens it to friends to have their pick. She's loaded us up with tender red-leaf lettuce, peppery arugala, miniature cucumbers and porky tomatoes--all tasting like earth, water and sun.

Now if we could only get our recalcitrant green fruits to ripen at home.