Yossy Arefi's Simple Sesame Cake

Gluten-Free Simple Sesame Cake

I've been baking my way through Yossy Arefi's Snacking Cakes, a cookbook which came out last year. It's an excellent book, the kind that should just take up residence on your kitchen counter because it'll get used so much. The cakes are modest, one-bowl, one-pan affairs, but they're drop-dead delicious. Buckwheat Banana Cake. Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake. Buttermilk Spice Cake. Seeded Zucchini Cake. Minty Chocolate Malt Cake. You'll want to make every single one.

To qualify as a snacking cake, I believe it must be easy to make, with ingredients you mostly already have in your pantry, and requiring only one bowl. Maybe two. You want the making of the cake to soothe you as much as the eating of the cake. Nothing to mess up. No fussy preparation. Just the best kind of mindless baking where you're guaranteed something delicious in an hour or two.

I love this book's extremely narrow focus paired with its impressive breadth of offerings. There's a cake for every mood, every season, every occasion. (I was going to say short of a wedding, but the truth is I would happily eat one of these as a wedding cake, especially if it was a chic City Hall wedding or a crazy Vegas one. Case in point: Grapefruit White Chocolate Cake? Strawberry-Glazed Passion Fruit Cake? Sticky Whiskey Date Cake? I mean.)

Seeing as very few of us have "occasions" to bake for at the moment, I would like to underline the fact that I believe that it is very, very important to have cakes like this in your house at all times right now. They are for breakfast, they are for tea, they stand in for breakfast or as a special dessert—when dessert is usually fruit—they are good eaten standing up and they are good eaten sitting down. The Germans have a word for the food you eat when you're stressed and that word is Nervenfutter (nerve chow) (it's pronounced NAIR-fenn-foot-er). Snacking cakes are the quintessence of Nervenfutter.

Simple Sesame Cake

Now to this particular cake, the Simple Sesame Cake. It's made with tahini and two kinds of sesame seeds (which I had in my pantry anyway; if you only have regular sesame, not black, just do the cake with those). I substituted 1/4 cup oat flour and 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour (in fact, have done so in every recipe from this book that I've tried) and the results were velvety and perfect. Max can't stop marveling over the crumb. There's the faintest hint of bitterness from the tahini, and it's so lovely against the almost creamy crumb punctuated with all those tiny little sesame seeds.

If you're a cake pan butterer, then you can strew some of the sesame seeds onto the sides of the pan to truly encrust the entire cake in sesame, but I am an avowed non-butterer of pans, so I just scattered them thickly on top. I love the effect of the black and white sesame together and the gorgeous little crunch from the raw sugar on top. Up until now, the children have competed with us for pieces of each snacking cake I've made. For whatever reason, this one is a little too grown-up for them (it's like a grown-up peanut butter flavor), so we get to eat all of it ourselves.

All hail the snacking cake!

Gluten-Free Sesame Snacking Cake

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Yossy Arefi's Simple Sesame Cake
Adapted from Snacking Cakes
Makes
one 9-inch loaf cake
To make this cake gluten-free, replace the all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup oat flour and 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
Print this recipe!

6 tablespoons (50 grams) sesame seeds (white, black or mixed), divided
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon raw sugar, optional

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper, letting the sides hang over to create a sling.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and the egg until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the milk, tahini, oil, vanilla and salt. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour(s), 3 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, the baking powder and baking soda. Whisk until well combined.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds on top of the cake and, if using, the raw sugar.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden, and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the pan and let cool completely before slicing and serving.


Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Thank you all very much for the commiseration on the loss of my digital photos and manuscript. I have spent a week licking my wounds and I am starting to feel better. The truth is, I already feel deeply oppressed by the masses of photos that clog every device I own. The sudden loss of thousands when I have so many more to deal with might be kind of a blessing? That's how I've decided I'm going to look at it. As for the manuscript, I had a big realization this fall that I wasn't happy with the existing structure of the book. I decided to change it substantially, but the only way to do that was to start over. So the fact that I lost those few weeks of summer work is annoying (and stupid), but I probably was going to trash those pages anyway. (The fact that I still don't have the kind of childcare that allows me to get started on draft three IS kind of the end of the world, but let's not dwell on that or I'll pull my hair out.)

After two months of lockdown, Hugo returned to in-person instruction this week. It's a very limited kind of school, just 2 1/2 hours daily, fully masked with only half his class. But it is school and it is not in my house and I am exceedingly grateful even just for this. Bruno, however, isn't allowed to return to Kita yet, so I actually have less time than I did before, because as everyone with multiple children knows, the child who only knows life with a sibling, when suddenly left alone without the sibling, is a lot more work. I am doing my best to keep my exasperation at the entire situation at bay, but sometimes, yes, I want to scream into a pillow. Or from the balcony, like a diva being murdered at La Scala.

Lunchtime still rolls around every day like an unwelcome flea-bitten guest. Except now the lunch hour is interrupted by me having to get in the car and drive an hour round-trip to pick Hugo up from school. He doesn't get a school lunch, so he's grumpy as hell at pickup. At home, he either eats leftovers from our lunch or I scramble him some eggs and butter some toast. As much as the daily meal prep drives me up the wall, I feel lucky that the act of cooking still brings me satisfaction. And Bruno is very understanding about lunchtime. While I cook, he comes and keeps me company in the kitchen, drawing pictures or staring into my pots, and it is a fleeting moment of the kind of quiet beauty you used to believe motherhood was full of until you actually became a mother and realized it was mostly a whole lot of everything else.

Anyway.

My kingdom for comforting one-pot meals, like this absolutely delicious khichdi from Tejal Rao. It is a doddle to make—just bang rice and split yellow moong beans and spices into a pot together, then let time and steam do their work—but produces the most fragrant, wonderful and spicy one-pot meal. You complete it with some hot Indian pickle (we're obsessed with my friend Kavita's homemade garlic achar, but any Indian pickle will do) and an extremely necessary pool of cool yogurt. Sometimes, if I'm feeling fancy, I doctor that pool of yogurt with salt and ground cumin and a grated Persian cucumber. Sometimes, I just dollop a spoonful on each plate. Khichdi is the kind of food that bolsters you, makes you feel just a bit more settled than you were before you ate it. Just the thing for these unsettling days.

Tejal Rao's Khichdi
Serves 3 to 4
Note: If you are cooking for small children, leave the chile powder out of the khichdi and just add it to your plate, but be careful, it's easy to overdo.
Print this recipe!

cup long-grain white rice, such as jasmine
cup yellow split moong beans
2 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon red chile powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1.
Combine the rice and beans and rinse several times. Drain and place in a heavy-bottomed pot with 1 3/4 cups water, and set over medium-high heat.

2. In another small saucepan, heat the ghee and mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients, swirling them in the pan. Let the spices sizzle for under a minute, then carefully pour into the rice pot, along with the ghee. (Careful: The fat may splatter).

3. When the water comes up to a rolling boil, give it a good stir, scraping at the bottom of the pot, then cover tightly and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes before opening the lid. Fluff gently with a spatula. Taste, season with salt to taste and serve.


Samin Nosrat's Kimchi Pancake

Kimchi Pancake

Everything is terrible, but this kimchi pancake, this chewy, spicy, wonderful kimchi pancake was a bright light in this shit basket of a week. I made it on Shrove Tuesday, the same day that I attempted a software update on my laptop without backing it up first. Cardinal sin, I know, I am aware! I have wrapped myself up so tightly in the shroud of my mistake that I am completely numb!

The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's favorite Korean restaurant, a restaurant in Oakland called Pyeong Chang Tofu House and it is perfect perfect perfect. I followed the recipe almost exactly (substituting a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour), using a 12-inch non-stick skillet so that I could just make one enormous pancake instead of two slightly smaller ones. The kimchi I used comes from Korea and was a particularly pungent batch, almost too pungent for our straight-up consumption. But in this pancake, the other ingredients smoothed out some of the kimchi's aggressive bite and made it delectable.

I made a batch of English pancakes for the boys, whipped the kimchijeon up as they ate their pancakes with applesauce and cinnamon sugar, and then the two of us demolished the kimchi pancake all by ourselves. We loved the crisp edges, the funky flavor, and especially the gorgeous chew punctuated by the crackling sesame seeds in the dipping sauce.

To sum up my week, I have lost six years of photos and the revisions of my manuscript that I worked on this summer, as well as untold other things that I can't allow myself to list here, but I also learned how to make delicious kimchijeon at home, so really, what's there to complain about?

(Sob.)

Kimchi Pancake (Kimchijeon)
Makes one 12-inch pancake
Print this recipe!

For the dipping sauce:
¼ cup citrus ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the batter:
½ cup potato starch
½ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup kimchi (about 10 ounces), plus 1/4 cup kimchi juice
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine ponzu sauce, sesame seeds and scallion. Set aside.

2. Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together potato starch, flour, garlic powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Dice kimchi into 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, stir together kimchi and kimchi juice, scallions, gochujang, sugar, fish sauce and 1/2 cup water. Add kimchi mixture to flour mixture, and stir to combine.

4. Set a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add the batter and spread it from the center out to the edges of the pan. After a minute or two, when the pancake is setting, shake the pan a little to make sure the pancake isn't sticking. When the bottom of the pancake is brown and the top fades from glossy to matte, after another 30 to 60 seconds, carefully flip the pancake or slide the pancake onto a rimless plate and flip it back into the pan. Continue cooking for another 60 to 90 seconds on second side until set, then carefully slide pancake onto a plate.

5. Cut into wedges, and serve hot with dipping sauce.


Colu Henry's Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette

Roasted broccoli and scallions

Oof, friends. Just, oof. The pandemic wall has been hit again and again this past week. The despondency sits bone-deep. And it feels so terrible to even mention it, because we are so lucky, we are so fortunate, none of us are sick, we have a roof over our heads, the vaccine is starting to enter the bloodstreams of people we love, hey, the sun even came out today, and yet. And yet. And yet. I feel so tired and sad that I could cry. Oof.

Let me distract you with more frivolous things, yes?

On April 4th, 2019, I left you all hanging with a promise to be back soon with a broccoli recipe so delicious it caused my father, upon first ingestion of it, to say, and I quote, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT THIS IS THE BEST BROCCOLI I HAVE EVER EATEN. The fact that it took me nearly two years to then follow up with the recipe gives me no pleasure. In fact, I feel like one of those people who get up lazily one night from the dinner table and say, yawning languidly, listen, I'm just going to take one more walk around the block to stretch my legs and then they just never return and 20 years go by before one day they turn up at your wedding with a grizzled face, a stringy ponytail and a sheepish look, asking for your forgiveness.

Too harsh?

In preparation for this post, I made the magical broccoli again. What if it wasn't as good as I remembered? What if I built up your expectations so high that this broccoli couldn't possibly do them justice? I needn't have worried. It really is delicious (phew!). The preparation is nothing especially new: you simply roast broccoli until they're singed and tender, but you add scallions to the roasting pan, which add sweetness and flavor, and then, once the vegetables are finished roasting, you douse them in a sweet-salty, spicy vinaigrette that is redolent with the funk of fish sauce, and shower punchy herbs on top. It gives roasted broccoli a whole new spin and it is addictively good. I could have eaten the entire head of broccoli as my meal, but luckily, I had eaters at my table who saved me from an untimely death by cruciferous vegetable. I might not be so lucky next time.

Thai-style vinaigrette

I think it's important to increase the number of scallions from the original, because they're one of the best parts of this salad (can we call it a salad? I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with that). The original recipe also says to only serve this fresh from the oven, "otherwise, the vegetables get soggy." Turns out I quite like soggy vegetables? Or maybe I wouldn't call them that to begin with? Yes, this is delectable when the broccoli is still hot and crisp, but it's really still very wonderful after it has cooled to room temperature. So proceed as you like.

And if you have any leftover vinaigrette sloshing at the bottom of the bowl, save it and pour it over some plain rice for your supper. (You could, of course, do what my husband does and simply tip the bowl against your lips and drink the dressing straight, but I'm going to assume you are more refined than he is.)

So there you have it! The miraculous broccoli is yours. May it bring a little sparkle to your day.

Roasted broccoli and scallions with Thai-style vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a side dish
Print this recipe!

For the broccoli and scallions:
1 ½
pounds/680 grams broccoli (about 2 good-sized crowns and their stems), cut into florets
8 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
1 small fresh red chile, minced, or ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

1. Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the broccoli and scallions in a large roasting or sheet pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and toss. Roast until crisp and browned, about 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through to ensure even cooking.

2. While the vegetables roast, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients until the brown sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

3. Place the broccoli and scallions in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Erin Jeanne McDowell's Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

I know that there is nothing more tedious than reading about other people's special diets, but I'm going to be posting about gluten-free baking more frequently here and I would like to explain the shift. I'll try to keep things brief, but obviously, if you have questions about any of it, please feel free to ask away below.

I recently stopped eating gluten for good. It was a long time coming. Several years ago, after the fog of my second pregnancy lifted, I noticed lots of persistent and painful digestive symptoms. On my doctor's advice, I tried eliminating various foods out of my diet. The most noticeable difference happened when I stopped eating gluten, but, I mean, I love gluten. I LOVE IT. I love eating it and baking with it, bread and pies and pasta and toast and cakes and cookies and and and...I really just didn't want it to be true. Plus, some pesky and particularly worrying symptoms remained regardless of what I ate or didn't eat.

I ended up having a colonoscopy, during which a pretty large precancerous polyp was discovered and removed. It was a scary experience. The handsome gastroenterologist, who'd been a little scornful about why I was showing up for a colonoscopy at the age of 40, turned white as a sheet after the procedure and told me that my GP, who had insisted on the colonoscopy despite my young age, had saved my life. Uh, yay? Around the same time, I was diagnosed with stress-related gastritis. During the endoscopy for that, I was tested for celiac disease, which turned out to be negative, thankfully.

I took a course of antibiotics for the gastritis and tried to reduce my stress (ha ha haaaa) and things slowly calmed down. Still, even when all the scary stuff was out of the way, I still dealt regularly with pain and bloating and other unpleasant things. I tried the FODMAP diet for a while, which sort of helped. I tried replacing all regular bread with sourdough, which also sort of helped. But eventually, I cut gluten out entirely, and it has made a world of difference. In fact, it made me realize for just how long I'd been dealing with digestive pain, anxiety and distress. It long predates having children, that's for sure.

So that's that. I don't have celiac, but I do have gluten intolerance. I've stopped eating gluten, but luckily, I don't have to worry too much about cross-contamination. For example, when we have pasta for dinner, I make regular pasta for my family and gluten-free pasta for me, but when I have to test the pasta, I know that half a wheat noodle isn't going to hurt me. But I recently ate a piece of regular birthday cake at Bruno's birthday (how bad could it be to have just one piece?) and I was in so much pain and discomfort the next day that I really regretted it (damn, it was a good piece of cake, though).

Going gluten-free without celiac disease isn't a terrible hardship. Good-quality gluten-free pasta and bread isn't that hard to find anymore (and I'm lucky enough to live sort of close to the most amazing gluten-free sourdough bakery called Aera) and I have loved the challenge of discovering the huge variety of Asian noodles that are naturally gluten-free, as well as cooking more with rice and other gluten-free grains. But gluten-free baking really is a whole other ball of wax.

As I wrote on Instagram the other day, after a lifetime of home baking, it's been humbling, to say the least, to dip my toes into the waters of gluten-free baking. So much trial and error. So many failed experiments. What I have realized is that my only goal, really, is to learn to make gluten-free things that are delicious in their own right and that people will want to eat even if they aren't gluten-intolerant.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Sweet Bread

Which means that now I can finally get to the thing I really wanted to tell you about! This cake!

The recipe originally comes from the self-titled baking fairy godmother herself, Erin Jeanne McDowell, and isn't gluten-free to start with, but I fiddled with the ingredients a little bit (after an ill-fated experiment with a different applesauce cake that was so sandy as to be rather repulsive) and ended up with a cake so tender and lovely that we couldn't stop eating it. It was my tea break cake and Hugo's breakfast cake for nearly a week! It's the kind of cake that you want living on your counter permanently, with a velvety crumb, a wonderfully chewy-crunchy top and a whole lot of cozy flavor.

You'll need apple butter, which I make every fall after we go apple picking, using this brilliant recipe. This year I made the apple butter in the Instant Pot, which made things go so much quicker, so I very much recommend that little shortcut. You'll also need an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. I use one from Schär, because it's what I can get at my local grocery store here. Two things I've learned from kind commenters and some reading is that adding a little bit of oat flour to a gluten-free cake or cookie can help provide a better, less gritty crumb and that it's essential to let gluten-free cake batter (and other baking mixtures, I assume) sit a bit to hydrate the flours properly. I reduced the amount of sugar from the original and I think it's the perfect amount of sweet.

Below you'll find the recipe as I made it (the original is here). I hope you like it as much as we did. Next time, I'll try folding in a handful of walnuts and the time after that, a handful of fresh cranberries. (If you stick to the original recipe, I still think you can leave out the brown sugar entirely.)

And if you have any tips or tricks or favorite gluten-free recipes or sites or books to recommend, have at it in the comments! I'd be so grateful.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf cake
Print the recipe!

1 cup/130 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
½ cup/60 grams oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup/120 milliliters vegetable oil
½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup/180 milliliters apple butter
¼ cup/60 milliliters plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, or to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 Celsius) and line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt to combine. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well after each addition to incorporate. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

3. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the apple butter and yogurt and mix well to incorporate. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Set aside to rest for 8-10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the surface of the loaf generously with turbinado sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then, using the parchment paper as a sling, pull the cake out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The cake, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap, will last at room temperature for five days.


Lidia Bastianich's Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

I just have one question for you today. ARE YOU SAVING THE RINDS OF YOUR PARMESAN CHEESE?

Sorry if that's a little loud, but I just really need to make sure that all of you have gotten the Parmesan rind memo, okay?

I'll try and calm down now. Alright.

Now, have I told you about my freezer? (Okay, fine, two questions.) There are many, many things that I love about living in Europe. But I'll tell you one something: European freezers are not one of them. They are A LOT to get used to and by A LOT I mean not much at all. I have shoe boxes larger than my freezer. Not even kidding!

Anyway!

My freezer. It is the home of a few forlorn Chinese dumplings, some tortillas purchased in Boston in 2019 (sob), a couple of boxes of frozen veg, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (wheee! It was one of my birthday presents in December and it is brilliant) and about 15 foil-wrapped Parmesan rinds. We go through a lot of Parmesan cheese in this house, as it must top almost every plate of spaghetti (not Hugo's, though, who loathes melted cheese in all forms yes I'm talking grilled cheese and gratins and lasagne and nachos and PIZZA why God whyyyyyyyyyy) and because it is the only cheese that the boys will eat thin slivers of, after dinner, like sophisticated little creatures destined for a life of pleasure and harmony.

Every time we get to the end of a wedge of cheese (and I mean the very end, we're talking just a few millimeters), I wrap them up in a piece of aluminum foil and throw them into the freezer. This way, the next time I make soup, I know I have a little umami flavor bomb just waiting to be pulled into active duty. Straight from the freezer, I unwrap the rind, plop it into the pot of broth and let it do its magic.

As it simmers away in that pot of soup, the rind miraculously continues giving up huge amounts of flavor, enough to scent the house and make your soup taste very, very good. Then there is the added bonus that the rind is entirely edible. As it cooks, it softens and mellows. Upon serving the soup, you can fish out the rind and, depending on the size, either share it with your fellow diners or eat it all yourself, a very well-earned cook's snack.

My mother and I love the rind and always share it. My husband and children do not (it's a textural thing, as it's a little rubbery, which is pleasing to some and not to all), so I get to eat it all myself.

Now, on to this particular soup. It comes from the way back, dusty depths of this very blog, having first been published in November of 2005, when baby Wednesday Chef was just a few months old. A wee bairn! It comes from Lidia Bastianich, grande dame of New York Italian cooking, and it features the absolutely wonderful pairing of potatoes and rice, which will strike some of you as too much starch! and others as just enough. I am firmly in the there is no such thing as too much starch camp and so this soup is one of my very favorites.

It is nourishing and a balm, to make and to eat, and you can, as with Rachel's squash and rice soup, play with the amount of liquid you use to make a looser or stewier soup. If you err on the side of stewy, and there are leftovers, they will cool into risotto, which will please (no, let's be real, may please) the children in your home. The parsley, I feel, is essential because it brings a bit of brightness and the faintest touch of acidity to the soup, balancing out the flavors nicely. If your children are the kind to fall over in a dead faint at the sight of something green in their soup COUGH COUGH, leave it out of the pot and just sprinkle it on your own portion.

One of the oddities of a life in food blogging is the fact that you have the pleasure of eating so many delicious meals that rarely get made again, because there are so many other recipes to get to. This is hardly a hardship, though Max has been known to beg me to remember certain dishes while he's eating them. I'm happy to say that this recipe is one of those rare ones that comes around again and again, lamination-worthy, as I have been known to say. These beloved favorites now have their very own category over there in the sidebar on the right.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the categories in general have been cleaned up and clarified a bit, so that now you can quickly navigate your way to quick weeknight dinners, vegetarian main dishes or gluten-free recipes. I hope this helps you navigate all the good food available here. In fact, in the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other favorites that I first wrote about long ago, but that I feel deserve some fresh sunlight and a little love.

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan
Serves 6
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup long-grain or arborio rice
8 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if desired
2 2-inch-squares Parmesan rind
1 fresh or dried bay leaf 
A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well to coat the vegetables. 

2. Add the rice, broth, cheese rinds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 18-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. If you'd like a looser soup, add a little more broth. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Remove the rinds, cut into pieces and distribute among the serving plates. Ladle the soup on top and serve.


Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment

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I have disliked mayonnaise for as long as I can remember. It's even possible I was born hating it. My whole life I've recoiled from its wobbly texture, its eggy aroma, its mysterious ability to turn the simplest sandwich into a mess of goo. Oooh, just thinking about it is making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Yuck, people. Yuck. I literally just shivered.

As I grew older and got over a lot of the dislikes of my childhood (Brussels sprouts, mustard, parsley and oysters, all of which I adore fiercely now), mayonnaise remained the lone cowboy on the deserted plain of my food phobias. I even found a way to like cilantro, which for so long had reminded me of soap, at best, and rat poison, at worst. But mayonnaise would not budge.

The frustrating thing was that so many people whose taste in food I adore and revere seemed to love the stuff. Layered in tomato sandwiches, dolloped on top of a hard-boiled egg, set out for dragging a piece of cold cooked crab through; why, mayonnaise, when written about like that, did seem like it could be manna from heaven. Why, then, did it repulse me so?

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A few years ago, when I was still editing cookbooks at the publishing house I used to work at, we got a proposal in from a woman named Andrea Reusing, the chef and owner of a restaurant called Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The restaurant specialized in a fusion of Asian cooking with local ingredients and there was a substantial amount of buzz surrounding the project. We were very interested in buying the book, but ultimately lost out to a publisher who bid more money than we did. It's frustrating when it happens, but it's part of the publishing life. I put the book out of my mind and got back to work.

A few months ago, that publisher sent me a copy of the book. As I flipped through the pages, I felt a small stab of disappointment. Despite the stunning photography (by a master, John Kernick) and what looked like good food, the design felt a little soulless to me. All those lower-case chapter and recipe titles and color blocks. (This is the curse of the cookbook editor; it's like being a film editor, you can never again look at another movie without thinking of what's happening just outside the frame.) I thought of all the ways "our" designers would have made the book sing and then I put the book on my coffee table and forgot about it.

But last week, I picked it up again for bedtime reading. I live alone for five days a week now, and the only time someone's around to get me to turn the light off so he can go to bed already is on the weekend. I slid into bed with the book in my hands, turned to the first page and started to read. And before I knew it, an hour had passed.

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I read the book from cover to cover that night, falling in love with the world that Andrea writes about. She may be the chef of a high-end restaurant, but this book feels deeply, deeply personal. There are no complicated, cheffy dishes between the covers here. The recipes are easy and approachable, but the flavors that Andrea combines feel wonderfully fresh and new. I know you think you've heard this before, but, here, let me give you a few examples and you'll see what I mean.

She puts soy sauce on asparagus, cardamom on spinach and sorghum on sweet potatoes. She blends dried elderflowers into freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, coats fried chicken in rye breadcrumbs and banishes the tired old carrot-ginger soup once and for all with her carrot soup made with toasted curry and pistachios. There are pickled sour cherries and hot tomato relishes and salt-marinated cucumbers alongside pot roast and grilled mackerel and rice grits. I stopped marking which pages I wanted to cook from because, frankly, there were too many.

But aside from the recipes, the book is a beautifully written ode to the bounty, diversity and history of North Carolina small-scale farmers and Southern foodways. Essays about her favorite fish market in Carrboro, for example, or the man who supplies her restaurant with a wide array of mushrooms from his home garden or the couple who run the Chapel Hill Creamery, making a mozzarella so delicate it "barely holds together until dinner", enrich the book immeasurably and cast a spell on the reader, making you long for a life in a region that is rediscovering its agrarian roots so thoroughly that it's become second-nature for greenmarkets to offer not just heirloom tomatoes (Pruden's Purple, Hillbilly Flame, Arkansas Traveler!) and apples (Dula Beauty, Striped July, Bald Mountain!) but squash (Jumbo Pink Banana, Jarrahdale, Old Timey Pie Pumpkin!), melons (Emerald Gem, Pride of Wisconsin, Sugar Baby!) and sweet potates, too (O'Henry, Beauregard, Covington!).

Reading Cooking in the Moment made me want to start planting my own vegetables, made me mourn how far behind Germany is in all ways to the American local food movement and made me want to get into the kitchen all at once.

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And (did you wonder if I was ever going to get back to the mayo?) it made me fall hook, line and sinker for homemade garlic-anchovy mayonnaise, which I whipped up in two minutes and have proceeded to eat every day since.

Every.

Day.

Since.

Me.

Mayonnaise.

Case closed.

All you need, says Andrea, is a jar and an immersion blender. Which charms me, lazy bones that I am. You just buzz egg yolks with salt, an anchovy fillet, some minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice in the jar with the immersion blender before slowly drizzling in neutral-flavored oil and a bit of olive oil for flavor until you've got a few inches of creamy, palest yellow mayonnaise and your five-year-old self's mind is blown at the prospect that you are about to put this stuff in your mouth and eagerly at that.

Creamy, savory, garlic-anchovy mayonnaise, it turns out, tastes fabulous with cold roast chicken. So fabulous I ate it for lunch two days in a row. Then, when the chicken was gone, I made myself - finally! at 33! - the iconic tomato sandwich with white bread, sliced tomatoes, a healthy sprinkling of salt and more of that mayo. It was, indeed, as delicious as everyone says. The anchovy, in case you're wondering, disappears entirely into the mayo, leaving behind not a trace of fishiness. I promise. Cross my heart.

Now I'm almost down to the bottom of the bowl and I'm frantically trying to come up with reasons why I shouldn't make another batch. So far, they're all terrible.

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Cooking in the Moment is incredibly inspiring, not just in terms of cooking but also in terms of its spirit. Andrea's reverence for the people growing the food she serves to her customers and to her family is infectious. It will make you want to mail-order chickens from a Kansas chicken farmer, gather your children around to help churn fresh ice cream out of fresh strawberries, buttermilk and cream (and then watch them eat it directly out of the churn) and then book a flight to Chapel Hill so you, too, can be fed by the woman who makes Indian lime pickle with citrus from Plaquemines Parish and serves it with a chickpea purée.

Andrea is that rare breed of chef whose talent for lyrical writing is as developed as her pitch-perfect taste for food and her ability to seize everyday moments and find the divine within them. Her soulful, richly textured book is a gift, for readers, for cooks and for everyone in between.

Garlic-Anchovy Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
Salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 anchovy fillet
1/4 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup of neutral vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Put the yolk in a wide-mouth jar and pulse for about 30 seconds with an immersion blender. Add a good pinch of salt, as much minced garlic as you'd like (I used about half a clove, which made for a pretty mild mayo), the anchovy and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Pulse again. While pulsing, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is emulsified and creamy. Taste for salt and thin with a little water if necessary.


Karen DeMasco's Devil's Food Cupcakes

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I still remember the first time I ate a Karen DeMasco cupcake. It was back in the days when I worked in a lofty office on the 11th floor of a building near Union Square. I had a corner office with hardwood floors and beautiful views of all the water towers of the area (and a very sweet boss who for some reason worked in the smaller office). I'd ordered lunch that day from 'Wichcraft, a soup and a half sandwich, but when the bag arrived - to this day, I'm not sure why - they'd also included a little plastic container holding one almost-black cupcake, thinly glossed with chocolate icing.

I was and am not a cupcake person. I have never liked buttercream and the aching sweetness of most cupcakes just sent me soaring into shaky-hands territory every time I ate one at an office birthday or baby shower. Nah, I prefered the inside-out cookies from City Bakery (now sadly defunct, the cookies, not the Bakery) or a little pot of Kozy Shack rice pudding for an afternoon sweet snack. Then suddenly, unexpected and alluring, nothing other than a cupcake sat before me. But it wasn't covered in an inch of frosting and it didn't look saccharine at all. I put it aside and ate my lunch, glancing over at the cupcake every once in a while, as if making sure it was still there, hadn't evaporated like a tiny little leprechaun.

Eating it was sort of mind-altering. It was tender as can be, the softest, most delicate crumb I'd eaten in a cupcake, or cake, for that matter, but with the gutsiest, deepest, darkest chocolate flavor ever. I sort of couldn't square the two away in my head together for a while. The thin chocolate icing cap was a textural pleasure and then, poof, suddenly in the middle of the cupcake, I alighted upon a bubble of whipped cream that I wasn't expecting at all. It was, hands down, the best cupcake of my life. Nothing even came close. After that, nothing really deserved to be called cupcake either.

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It was for that recipe alone that I couldn't wait for Karen to publish her book. And a few years later, namely, a few weeks ago, I went into the kitchen to bake the first batch of "my" cupcakes.

(Now, let's just all take a moment here and acknowledge that this home baker would never be able to exactly replicate something that a trained pastry chef made on a daily basis. Plus, the exalted memory of a single cupcake eaten over four years ago was going to be tough to live up to. Lastly, I was an idiot and didn't buy a pastry bag with a metal piping tip like I should have. Don't be an idiot.)

The batter for the devil's food cake is relatively easy. You make a cocoa paste, a mixture of the dry ingredients and then a wet mix with creamed butter and sugar, buttermilk and eggs. All three are folded and blended and mixed together until you have a gorgeously creamy, shiny batter. I wanted to spackle my kitchen with this batter, wanted to use it as a face mask, wanted to sculpt a statue out of it. It was so tactile and whippy and glossy.

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The batter baked up nicely into dark, domed cakelets. A warning: Whatever you do, don't let these overbake, even for a minute. Err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking.  It'll make the difference between a moist, tender cupcake and a rather hohum-ish one. The tester shouldn't be entirely clean, but don't let it come out covered in raw batter either.

The rest of the preparation can be pretty fun, granted you have a proper pastry bag with a metal tip. Remember? I didn't, so the rest of my afternoon was spent with a Ziploc bag, a plastic spatula, a paring knife, a bowl of whipped cream, and lots of sweaty, angry cursing. I'll leave it at that. If properly armed, your metal pastry tip gets inserted into the bottom of the cupcake and you squirt cream filling into the cupcake until pressure on the top of the cupcake lets you know you've filled it to capacity. Easy!

The best part, as far as I'm concerned, is dipping the cupcakes into their shiny cap of chocolate ganache. If I was Queen of the World, I'd make a decree banning buttercream frosting for eternity and make the thin, elegant, shiny slip of icing (chocolate, lemon, what-have-you) de rigueur for cupcakes. The original recipe has you use corn syrup in the ganache for stability, but seeing as corn syrup costs something like 10 bucks a bottle here, I left it out with fine results.

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Oh, and how did they taste, you're wondering? It's pretty hard to go wrong with a dark chocolate cupcake, tender with buttermilk, fragrant with vanilla and chocolate, a creamy white filling, and that dark bitter top. They're wonderful as far as cupcakes go and were eaten with wide-eyes and professions of love and astonishment.

Did they measure up to that one cupcake consumed at my desk in New York all those years ago? They didn't, of course. But how could they, really? That cupcake was an unexpected gift, a memory frozen in time, a reminder of my old life that will always be suffused with golden light. I will never, ever forget it.

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling 
Makes 14-16 cupcakes
Note: The recipe makes for more filling than you'll need and more batter, too (hence the adjusted yield noted in the line above, as opposed to the original recipe). You can bake the cupcakes in batches if you have only one muffin tin, or use small ramekins lined with paper liners. As for the leftover whipped cream filling, eat it for dessert? The ganache topping is meant to be generous, so that you can easily drag your cupcakes through it once or twice for a good, shiny cap.

For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup cake flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners, if you have more than one 12-cup muffin tin. Otherwise line a standard 12-cup muffin with liners and then line small ramekins (if you have them) for the remaining batter.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water to form a paste; set aside.

3. In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar with the butter on medium speed until they are well combined with no pieces of butter visible. Add the cocoa paste, making sure to use a spatula to get all the cocoa paste into the mixer bowl. Once this is well combines, add the egg and egg yolk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. In three additions each, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, alternating with the flour mixture.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean, 20-25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.

For the cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the filling, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed to soft peaks, about 4 minutes. Put the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a small piping tip. Using a paring knife, make a small cut in the bottom of each cupcake, through the paper, to insert the tip of the pastry bag. Insert the tip of the pastry bag about 1 1/2 inches into a cupcake. Gently squeeze the bag while holding the fingers of your other hand over the top of the cupcake. When you feel a slight pressure on the top of the cupcake, stop filling. Repeat with each cupcake.

For the ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional; I didn't use this)

1. To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a small mixing bowl. Combine the cream and the corn syrup, if using, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chocolate right away, and stir slowly until all of the chocolate melts and the ganache is silky and shiny.

2. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache, tapping gently to remove the excess. Return the cupcakes to the wire rack to let the glaze set up, at least 30 minutes.

3. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Molly O'Neill's Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

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So here's a little story for you. On Saturday morning. I was strolling around my favorite green market, filling my bag with snappy asparagus, hyacinths and peonies, rosy little radishes and rondes de Nice, those round zucchini that you're meant to stuff with seasoned ground meat and bake in the oven. I didn't expect to find them at the market, and I couldn't help but buy four of them, round and glossy and firm. Inspired with memories of the petits farcis of Nice, I stopped at the organic butcher to look for ground meat. As I stood in line, though, I decided to use ground dark chicken meat instead, lightening the filling.

Suddenly it was my turn. I asked for chicken thighs, ground. The butcher stared at me, asked me to repeat my request. I pointed to the chicken thighs and asked if he could grind them. Realizing he'd understood me the first time, he shook his head, almost disappointed in me. Maybe even a little indignant? "We don't do that." Now it was my turn to stare. "If you order five kilos? In advance? Then we'll grind the thighs for you. Otherwise, sorry, it's just too exotic."

Exotic! Ground chicken meat! Folks, you can't make this stuff up.

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Back at home, hungry for lunch, I decided to put the zucchini away and turn to something else I'd been craving for a while, armed with an old recipe of Molly O'Neill's for red lentil ragout. Yes, I was craving legumes. I suppose that's pretty exotic(!), too.

The original recipe starts with a roasted panful of carrots and onions and ends with ancho chile and other exotic spices. It sounded absolutely wonderful. The only problem was that I didn't have ancho or chipotle chile powder. (Note to self: add to shopping list for May.) So I decided to improvise a little, which turned out to be just fine, because, man, that recipe was wonky. I almost charred my sweet little carrots to a blackened crisp, before realizing that roasting them at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes is definitely not the best path to delicious food. Untested recipes! They make you a better cook, I guess.

Instead of ancho and chipotle chile powder, I decided to use a mixture of cayenne, Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika. And let me tell you, folks, this turned out to be a serendipitous choice. Also, exotic! (I'm sorry.)

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So here's what happens. You roast a bunch of carrots in the oven with lots of salt and olive oil (and pepper) until they're soft and browned. It is almost impossible not to eat these carrots with your fingers the minute they come out of the oven. Resist! You must! (Onions are tossed in at the very end in rings and they go all fragrant and shriveled.)

Then you chop the carrots into bite-sized pieces and scrape the onions and carrots into a pot with some olive oil and the spices. These cook for a minute and start to release all their wonderful oils and flavors. That's when you add the red lentils and stock. You let the whole thing simmer away for about half an hour, stirring occasionally, while the lentils break down into agreeable sludginess.

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What you're left with, in the end, is an improbably sweet and spicy stew. The sugars concentrated in the carrots through the roasting infuse the soup with honeyed sweetness, and are a good balance to the heat of the spices that will warm your body as you spoon up lunch.

The amount of cayenne that I used resulted in a very spicy stew. Not mouth-numbing, but enough to make you stop and take a bite of bread every once in a while. This is what I was going for, maybe just a little bit out of flounciness towards that butcher. Exotic? I'll show you exotic. If you'd rather have a milder stew that's no less nuanced and delicious, just leave out the cayenne or use less of it.

I loved this soup. Loved it. Loved the nubby red lentils, the sweet, melting carrots, the blessed heat that made my nose run, the fragrant soupiness of each spoonful. I sat on my balcony in the sunshine and ate my spicy, stewy soup and thought about that butcher, so solid in his traditions and his convictions, so unbending in the face of a customer's request. Living in Germany is a pleasure and a trial, just like any place, I guess. Thank goodness I've got my kitchen to keep me anchored, no matter where I am.

Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Soup
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you want a milder stew)
1/8 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 cup red lentils
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the carrots in a roasting pan and toss with 3 tablespoons oil. Season with the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the carrots, add the onion and roast 15 minutes, until the carrots are brown and tender. When carrots are cool enough, cut them in bite-sized chunks.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan. Add the carrot-and-onion mixture and the peppers and paprika. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils. Add the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart. Check for seasoning and serve.


Karen DeMasco's Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

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Hoo-ee, folks. I've had a rough couple of days. The mean reds or the deep blues, or whatever you want to call them, got me in their bony little claws and shook me around for a few days, making me feel useless and despairing and generally not fit to get up out of bed. (I did get out of bed, though. I even managed to get dressed, a minor success.)

I hate it when that happens.

I had a girlfriend in town from New York this weekend and when I saw her walk out of the gate at the airport, I swear she had New York City pixie dust floating around her, glittering in the early morning Berlin light. That pixie dust reached my nostrils and suddenly my weird mood was a full-fledged case of heartaching homesickness. 

Story of my life. Literally.

When that happens, I try to keep putting one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that this too shall pass, that it'll just be a few days before the fog dissipates and I can see my life again, this one that I chose, and everything will make sense again. But it's always easier said than done. Maybe you know what that's like? When you try to talk some sense into your self and your self just buries her head into her arms and sobs?

Anyway.

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Let's talk about cupcakes. Cupcakes always make people smile. Babies always make people smile, too, or at least this person. So I went to a co-ed baby shower a few weeks ago and brought a whole army of cupcakes along, chocolate, cream-filled ones and these spicy, carrot-flecked ones. A lot of Germans don't really know how to deal with cupcakes, so my little guys just stood rather forlornly (beautiful! but forlorn) in the corner of the table for a while, while the guests dug into their slices of homey, familiar, German apple cake instead. I felt sort of sad for my little cupcakes, so misunderstood, so alone. Then Max decided to break the ice.

"These are really good", he said, or that's what I think he said, in any case. There might have been some mascarpone cream frosting obstructing the way. Yeah, yeah, I thought. You're just trying to make my ignored cakelets feel a little better about themselves. Sweet, but I see right through you. Then someone else came up to me, the grandmother-to-be, actually, with half a cream-filled cupcake in her hand and a wild look in her eyes. She seemed to agree with Max, but her mouth was full, too. After that, the cupcakes got a lot more popular.

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The recipe comes from Karen DeMasco's The Craft of Baking, which is also the home of my favorite cashew brittle of all time and other wonderful little things, like apple cider jellies, for example, or bittersweet chocolate meringues. The batter is easy thing to whip up, since it's oil-based with a touch of sour cream, no butter to cream in sight. Grating the carrots is a little bit harder. The batter, all folded together, looks almost pink in the right light. It's pretty.

The cupcakes bake up into light little things with a gorgeous texture and a nice balance of spices. But what makes these really special is the frosting. Eschewing a more classic cream cheese frosting, Karen has you whip together mascarpone and heavy cream and crème fraîche, flavoring this loose, floppy mixture with vanilla and fresh lemon peel. It's sort of like a lemon fool, but instead of eating it out of a bowl like a louche 17th century English countess, you pile the cream on top of the cupcakes, the higher the better.

Oh, who am I kidding, you will end up eating it out of the bowl like that countess. (Because no matter how high you pile, there will be leftovers, don't worry.)

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Mascarpone and whipped cream are a lot subtler than cream cheese and I wondered, as I licked the bowl, if the frosting would work with the cupcakes. But later on at the party, when I finally tried a cupcake myself, I realized how perfect the combination was. The lemon peel coaxes out the spices and the cloud of cool, slighly sour, sweet cream is the perfect foil to the tender little cakelet.

Happy Monday, everyone. One foot in front of the other, nice and easy. Here's to a good week.

Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Makes 14 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 pound carrots (about 5), peeled
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Demerara sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

Frosting:
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, and line 2 more cups in a second muffin tin.

2. Grate the carrots using a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, or the medium holes of a box grater. You will need a total of 2 1/2 cups.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the Demerara sugar, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Using a spatula, fold the carrots into the batter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full.

5. Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up and let them cool completely.

6. To make the frosting, combine the mascarpone, cream, crème fraîche, sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest and beat on medium speed with an electric whisk or mixer until the mixture becomes thick, about 5 minutes. (The frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a day. Let it come to room temperature and whisk together if necessary before using.) Using a metal spatula or a butter knife, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the frosting over the top of each cupcake.

7. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.