OK, so because I am madly trying to put everything in order, I have found the recipe for sour cream orange cake a lot sooner than I expected, so I am going to give it to you today. This is the original from my Grandma, who is 94 and lives exclusively now on jalapeno cheeze-its with extra salt and dessert. I like simple and straight forward cakes, but she really likes to push the envelope.
Beat 1 1/4 cups of sugar together with 1 1/2 sticks of butter until light, and you can no longer feel the granules of sugar. Add 3 large eggs one at a time. Beat in 1 teaspoon of orange peel, and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Sift together three times, 2 1/4 cups of flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the dry ingredients alternately with 3/4 cup of sour cream to the butter and egg mix. Bake at 350 degrees in two 9 inch pans. When still warm, brush layers with a syrup made with 6 tablespoons of oj, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup of gran manier, 1/4 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Reduce to 2/3 of a cup. When cool, slice each layer in half and fill with 3 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of coco lopez.
Now that’s a cake.
We are all moving around in a fog of no sleep and not quite knowing what time it is. It is no time to cook. Jonathan brought home the first corn on the cob of the season, and I gathered my superhuman powers together to boil the water and throw in the salt. Ferdinand said it was lovely, and when I had laid my head down next to my dish to see if I couldn’t sneak in a nap before bed, he asked if he could finish mine. If you are awake, have it with thick sliced, country ham, some hard boiled eggs, a sweet and spicy red pepper relish and zucchini cut super thin and cooked in olive oil, garlic and finely chopped onion. (Get that onion over a slow heat until it is completely cooked through before the zucchini goes in.) For dessert how about an orange sour cream cake soaked with an orange sugar syrup and fresh cherries on the side? I will find the recipe.
We were sound asleep under a mosquito net canopy in Caroline’s hut, with the windows wide open, and the summer air floating through, but at quarter to six, we were up to throw ourselves back into the world and travel home. By six thirty that same morning I had already had a silent fight with a man at the bar in Terontola over who was first in the coffee line, and I don’t know why I was even drinking coffee that early in the morning, except to to distract myself from the plain truth that I was leaving.
I was starving by the time I got to the airport, but eating at Ciampino is like eating food resurected from an American school cafeteria and squeezed into a pizza. Maybe one of the old cooks from when I was a kid at Hartford High, retired and fell in love with the guy who got the contract for the fast food at cheap airports, and so he gave her the job.
For lunch we had as much toast as we could eat, with mugs of milky tea at my mother in law’s in England.
By this evening we will be back in New York. I am always afraid of starting my life again each time I do, but here we go.
In the midst of travelling I lose all account of what I have eaten and all sense of when I should be eating and what to eat. When I first got back to Mercatale from Rignano, I ate everything that had been in the car for Lord knows how long, as soon as I got into the house. Less to put away. Unfortunately, it was a really hot day, and more than one type of bacteria had been growing itself into a small but significant colony that my stomach couldn’t cope with. Today I am back on toast, sugar and cheap potato chips, which Ferdinand is all over like a cheap raincoat. He has been saying things like, “I really love these chips, Mom.”
I am staying at my friend Caroline’s house for a few days before going back. My friend Caroline has been away herself for a while, and she is madly cleaning her house to get things back to the order she knows. When I get home to New York, I will do the same with my food. A little chaos is always good though. You really have to look at things in order to put them back and decide if you really still want them, and if you do want them, you have to ask yourself were they in the right place to begin with.
There has not been a whole lot of eating going on the past few days. My courses are over for the Spring, and I am in mourning. I drink a little coffee, and go back to bed, then drink some orange soda for lunch, and back to bed. I am tired, but so full of wonderful memories. I am going home to buy lipstick, and I am making dessert every night.
An apricot fell at my feet this morning on the stones that pave the way to the kitchen. There is an apricot tree outside the kitchen window and I don’t think the season starts for another month or so, but the tree decided to gift me the only one that was ready. It was delicious. I didn’t share it with anyone, but I told them about it. Sometimes you just have to be selfish.
Along the way to Greve is one of the most nose in the air, I am so all of that, speak to the hand, butchers, I have ever met. He could use some lessons at the school of how to be nice to people even though they aren’t a big butcher in a Faye suit. I don’t like people who think they are better than anybody else. The meat was good. The meat was very good. I could have put a down payment on a house for what I paid for it, but it was good. There was music playing, there were platters of deliciousness and wine to taste, but there should have been for the humiliation we had to suffer. He could have offered us a meal dining with his mother, and I don’t think it would have made up for it. Maybe. I’ll bet his mother is very nice.
Still no computer, but I will keep hunting. xoFaye
Please forgive me for not writing. I have no computer connection where I am for the next two weeks. I begged my neighbor to use his for a moment, so I can’t stay long. My ladies will be home soon from a tour of the Chianti and we have been having an dreamy few days so far at the lovely Villa Giaggioli. The oven only cooked the top half of my pear cake this morning, but other than that we have been fine.
I love you and I miss you.
The nicest thing about going to a new place are the clean sheets. We take the laundry to Perugia, since we have no washing machine in Mercatale, and after forty five minutes in the car, Ferd has no patience for a day at the laundromat, so it is whatever you can fit into one load. We are wearing a lot of pink, and sleeping in potato chips.
I made leftovers from the leftovers last night. A little pasta with sauce heated up just til it was warm in the frying pan. Then over the top, some beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and some grated parmesan to make a frittata. For a salad, there were marinated string beans in the fridge that you can add black olives and a little chopped baby red onion to at the last minute. Cantelope with a little Proseco, mint, and lemon poured over the top for dessert.
As soon as the family wakes up we are off to Rigano to find the butcher and baker, and the way to the new house.
When you are about to move, you could just open your refrigerator and throw it all away–and listen, there are times when a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do–but you could cook it all instead. Now that I am forty two, what used to be really important to me, like making sure that a husband is happy at all costs, is starting to slide down the scale closer to happy yes, but at all costs, no, and things like throwing food away and recycling and taking time out to go a hot water spring with my girlfriends is surging ahead. So when I got home from floating around for the afternoon in a sulfur spa, sipping blood reviving drinks concocted from pulverized raw carrots, fennel, pineapple and blood orange, I cleaned out the fridge, and made dinner.
I am leaving for Villa Giaggioli just south of Florence near a town called Rignano sul’arno to teach for two more weeks. I have no patience for taking old groceries with me, but people are hungry in the world, and it is a blessing to be surrounded by food. As a cook, I have a responsibility. I have no oven in my little rental, so I cut up the potatoes into small chunks and boiled them in salted water with a splash of olive oil. (Never add oil to pasta water; it will make the pasta slick, and the sauce won’t adhere to it.) Then I heated up a pan with more olive oil and whole garlic cloves, and added the potatoes to brown them. I served them with whole string beans, marinated in more of my beautiful oil and a little salt, and piled the two next to each other with a row of caramelized red onion right down the middle. I marinated the cannellini, and mixed in sauted swiss chard. Be sure to drain the swiss chard after you saute to get rid of the extra water.
I served it all with a big piece of gorgeous parmigiano reggiano and some sausages, with fresh cherries and chocolate for dessert.
It’s not a bad idea at all to make yourself happy.