Last weekend was fantastic because not only did I get to have a pre-Mother’s Day celebration with my own Mom, I also got to spend Mother’s Day itself with my two kids. Neither of those things would have happened if our friends Rick and Thomas hadn’t decided to get married.
The weekend was a whirlwind of logistics, and I felt like the commanding officer, which is a good thing because as anyone who knows me knows I like to be in charge of things. Something about being a Capricorn and a first child I guess, though my younger brother would chalk it up to my being a “bossy boots”. To get us all to the wedding I first had to pick up Russell at Simon’s Rock after his last class on Friday (do not ask me why a lab gets out at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon). Since I would be that far west in Massachusetts it didn’t really seem much further to hop over the New York border and see my folks who were working that weekend at our family’s art gallery in Hudson, New York. I arranged a pre-Mother’s Day lunch with Mom and Dad prior to scooping up my
boy young man.
I packed a pretty basic lunch – carrot soup, a few oatmeal banana cookies, and the ingredients for some cheesy baking powder biscuits. All in all a safe, easy lunch. Except for the part where I misread the recipe as I was throwing the biscuit ingredients together at 6 am before jumping in the car. What has my friend Rick told me for years?
Read the recipe!
Turns out I spooned in a few too many teaspoons of baking powder. The biscuits looked delicious as they came out of my parent’s apartment oven, nicely browned, with a sharp cheddar cheese melted on top and oozing out on the sides, but one bite and your eyes started to water as your tongue curled up from the bitter, salty taste of excess baking powder. So much for my “simple” pre-Mother’s day lunch. The good part was that since it was family we just peeled off the cheesy tops and dipped those into our soup. I was a bit embarrassed but the good news is my family loves me despite the occasional mess up in the kitchen.
On a trip out to feed more quarters into the parking meter I popped into Talbott & Arding to see if they had some decent bread my parents could eat with their leftover soup (the biscuits were definitely off the menu). T & A had some delicious looking focaccia. I also spied a just-out-of-the-oven Lemon Olive Oil Cake amongst their baked goods, as well as little glass jars of Lemon Curd stacked in the refrigerator. I knew Mom loved lemon curd and I’d been wanting to try an olive oil cake for a while now so I added a slice of cake and a bitsy jar of lemon curd to my order and trotted back upstairs.
The double whammy of the cold, creamy, super-tart lemon curd with the subtle lemony moistness of the cake was divine. A match made in culinary heaven. So one bust (the awful biscuits) and one boom (the lemon/lemon dessert), and if you’re paying attention I’ll say it right here – we had two desserts that day (remember those banana oatmeal cookies I mentioned above). Life is short and I love dessert.
After catching up with my folks I drove to Great Barrington with Olive Oil Lemon cake on my mind, picked up Russ, and headed home. We packed up the tuxes and fancy duds, searched for cufflinks and studs, and made sure the dog sitter had the keys so that bright and early Saturday morning we could zoom down to UNH and get Isabelle. As per usual with our family we were off like a herd of turtles on Saturday morning, but we made it down there. With everybody squeezed into the car we headed over to the train station and caught a train into the city just six minutes after parking the car.
It’s been twenty-five years since I lived in the NYC, but find that I slip back into the grove of city life instantly. After a moment to orient myself to the North-West-South-East of Manhattan we were off weaving our way past pretzel vendors and tourists pointing their cell phones at everything, behemoth skyscrapers and little tiny shops barely wider than a doorway. While I didn’t love many of the midtown odors wafting our way, I did enjoy walking through the various businesses districts as we went from Grand Central to Penn Station. Being back in New York really is like riding the proverbial bicycle – you don’t forget how.
The wedding itself was fabulous, a true celebration of two people I hold dear. It was a chance to catch up with old friends and folks I hadn’t seen in ages, as well as finally meet some I’d only previously heard about. We were well-fed, the champagne and conversation flowed, and I even got to bust out some of my old dance moves. In a toast to the newlyweds Tom’s cousin said, “One of the great things about Tom and Rick is that they show up. In a world where people seem to be busier than ever, sometimes the simple act of showing up is the greatest thing you can do.” He’s right, and it was such a pleasure to be able to show up for their special day.
While Saturday was all about Rick & Thomas, the boys (as I fondly think of them) had conveniently chosen Mother’s Day weekend to tie the knot, which meant that I was able to be with my own two munchkins. Had it not been for the wedding Isabelle and Russell would have been at their respective colleges getting ready to present final projects, as well as studying for finals and exams. So a big thanks guys for my (inadvertent) Mother’s Day present!
I didn’t ask for the Lemon Olive Oil cake recipe when I was at T & A so after I got back from the wedding I played around with testing different Olive Oil cakes. Some have yogurt in them and some don’t. I think the one we ate didn’t have any dairy, but who knows, I guess I’ll have to go back and try another slice. Of the ones I baked here is my favorite*, along with the recipe for Rose Levy Bernanbaum‘s lemon curd, a true classic.
Mother’s Day Olive Oil Lemon Cake
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil (fruity is good, but not too zippy)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2-3 lemons
Juice of 2-3 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
Powdered sugar for sprinkling, optional
Preheat the oven to 350ºF then lightly grease and flour a 9″ cake pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper. You may think it isn’t necessary to line the bottom, but trust me that you will come to regret it if you skip this step.
Beat the eggs and sugar on high with a heavy duty stand mixer for about 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. If you are doing this by hand you’ll be able to skip the gym for the day because it will take you soooo much longer. With the beaters on low drizzle in the olive oil, zest**, and lemon juice. At this point you may need to switch to incorporating things by hand, because you don’t want to deflate the eggs/sugar too much. Sift the dry ingredients over the mixture and gently fold until all the flour is incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake 42-47 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10-20 minutes then carefully make sure the edge is free by running a knife around the edge. Pop out the cake and finish cooling on a rack, then store in an air tight container.
**When you zest a lemon the oils want to sprintz all over which, while it will make your kitchen smell great, means those oils do not end up in your cake. The solution (thanks to Food52) is to grate the lemon over the olive oil or even the oil/sugar mix. That way those yummy oils sprintz into the cake batter adding to the overall lemony-ness of things.
Very Tart Lemon Curd
6 egg yolks
1 light cup sugar (measure out a cup then remove a Tablespoon or so)
zest from 3-4 lemons (depending on size)
5 ounces fresh lemon juice (which should be the juice from 3-4 lemons)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium size stainless steel pan whisk together the yolks and sugar together. Once they’re well blended stir in the zest, juice, salt and butter. The butter won’t completely mix in, so don’t worry it will melt as you put it on the heat.
Why does it have to be stainless steel? Well it doesn’t, it could be glass if you have a glass pan that works on your stove top. It’s more important that you don’t put the acidic lemon juice into a pan that it could react to such as cast iron or aluminum. Now you know.
Keep whisking the whole lemon-sugar-egg-butter mixture over medium low heat and it will start to thicken up and turn glossy as the ingredients emulsify. If you don’t keep whisking you’ll end up with a pan of sweet/tart scrambled egg yolks. The goal for lemon curd is thick enough to coat a spoon, while still being loose enough to pour. Remember this mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
When you’ve gotten to the point of thick but not too thick, pour through a very fine mesh strainer. This will separate out the lemon zest bits as well as any stray blobs of cooked yolk. Cover the curd with a piece of plastic wrap so a skin does not form on the top and let cool. Once cool you can store it in the fridge for a week or so.
Here’s to happy marriages, all things lemon, Mother’s Day, and showing up!