Friday, August 5, 2011

small moments of joy

There are a few items that show up during the summer months that send me into a possibility frenzy, which subsequently translates into an eating fit. Up there on that list are any tomatoes picked from the vine and brought directly to me. Green gage plums are just ridiculously fabulous and hark back to those Victorian botanical illustrations I love to collect. Of course, the succulent, stupidly saccharine cherry needs to do nothing but show up. There are blushes of aromatics that send my olfactory system to places that is usually relegated to the conjuring of a romance novelist. These months of luscious, redolent marvels charges my creative juices and even though the temperature on the sidewalk is hot enough to fry an egg on certain days, I am psyched to get down and sweaty. Ok, in the spirit of full disclosure I will turn the air conditioner on.
One of nature’s true edible astonishments is the husk tomato also referred to as the ground cherry or cape berry. I don’t care what name it goes by as long as it finds itself in my mouth. Covered in a papery skin, similar to its cousin the tomatillo they also share meaty, dense interior but that is where any familial resemblance ends. The husk tomato is large pea sized fruit that when ripe is hued a sun baked golden-orange, and its mouth…there is a reminiscent sweet pineapple up front flavor with a young goat cheese back. Its culinary versatility has taken it from a corn and chili salad to a blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding to a rose kissed compote. I have even laid them out on a screen and allowed them to raisin for a winter hit.

Last week I bit to a long desired summer seductress, the fig.
When living in the northeast I just flat out refused to eat any fig in the tri-state area. The climate in the New York area cannot support a fig crop, and any of the warmer states that delivered to Gotham did not need to stop at my place. They are so fragile that carrying from the tree is precarious. In order to get these magical fruits across the country they must be harvested unripe, which just won’t do for they fail to continue ripening after they have been plucked from there limbs. Visit a fig tree and you will quickly become aware you are not they only visitor – swarms of bees, yellow jackets and wasps are already keen to potion contained within that wisp thin, leathery skin. I have not been in California, during the summer, for a few years now and it has been too long since I have gotten that buzz from biting into the ancient summer siren. A couple months ago when I was in South Carolina at a friend’s house, and I spied a healthy, lofty familiar tree I was ecstatic learning they survive the gentle frosts of the zone 7 I am living in. And, so the wait began. Well, the wait is over, and pinked, fleshy fruits joyfully have come home with me.

As a kid I marked summer’s days listening to the beatings of the cicadas intrigued by the mysterious sound. Now, that summer soundtrack is the hum of desire and creative passion.

Husk Tomato and Fig Cake – 9-inch cake
2-cups flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/2-teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1-cup whole husk tomatoes
1-1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
12 figs – cut in half

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

In a large work bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. The mix in the husk tomatoes making sure they are distributed and coasted in the flour.

With a whisk beat the sugar, eggs, and yogurt together until very smooth.

Then mix in the flour mixture, and macadamia nuts.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and float the figs along the outer parameter the pan, and then a smaller circle in the middle of the cake.

Place in the oven and bake for about an hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool completely before un-molding.

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