Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Lonely Shoe Lying on the Road

One sad shoe that someone has probably flung
out of a car or truck. Why only one?

This happens on an average one year
in four. But always throughout my
life, my travels, I see it like
a memorandum. Something I have
forgotten to remember,

that there are always
mysteries in life. That shoes
do not always go in pairs, any more
than we do. That one fits;
the other, not. That children can
thoughtlessly and in a merry fashion
chuck out someone's shoe, split up
someone's life.

But usually that shoe that I
see is a man's, old, worn, the sole
parted from the upper.
Then why did the owner keep the other,
keep it to himself? Was he
afraid (as I so often am with
inanimate objects) to hurt it's feelings?
That one shoe in the road invokes
my awe and my sad pity.

by Muriel Spark, from All The Poems of Muriel Spark

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fresh Fig and Thyme Cake

I like to use a mix of the more common Black Mission and green Kadota figs. It is best to use regular olive oil rather than extra virgin olive oil in the cake.
Serves 8

1 pound fresh figs (quarter larger figs and halve smaller figs)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FIG TOPPING: Butter bottom and sides of 10-inch spring form nonstick pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients for fig topping in a bowl. Gently toss and transfer about a quarter of the figs, cut side down, to prepared pan. Figs will not cover entire pan! Refrigerate remaining figs while preparing cake.

3. FOR THE CAKE: Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. In electric mixer, mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and olive oil together on medium speed until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. On low speed, whisk in butter, sour cream, thyme and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over figs. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 44 minutes.
4. Cool pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Release the sides of the pan. Place serving plate over cake pan. Holding dish tightly, invert cake pan and serving dish together; carefully lift off top of spring form cake pan. If any fruit sticks to pan bottom, remove and position it on top of cake. Let cake cool 20 minutes (or longer to cool completely), cut into pieces, top with the remaining figs and serve.

**And you thought figs were fruits… although they look like fruits and are quite tasty they’re actually the flowers of the tree. Like pineapples, they are inflorescences (arrangements of multiple flowers), false fruits or multiple fruits, in which the flowers and seeds grow together to form a single mass.
*Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. Plus, if you’re just not that keen on prunes, figs have a laxative effect.

Recipe by Cristina Paul