July 31, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In the middle of July, the air turns frigid and the clouds open up their pearly gates and outside the living room window, the sky darkens and I no longer feel the urge to crawl up onto the roof. The rain followed us through Paris and Ghent, to Amsterdam, and after a brief let-up, came down with us to Prague. So instead of casually wandering the canals of Amsterdam, I sprinted from store to store, doing shopping that I really didn’t need to do. We managed a brief, but rewarding picnic of baguette, goat cheese and rosé (plus Nutella, were you really expecting otherwise?) on the Seine, but otherwise sought shelter in the corner cafés. Being in Paris was disconcerting, my fingers remembered the code to the courtyard outside of my old flat and we ran in one day and peered at my old front door.
Something about seeing Paris made the homesick bug set in a bit. I have one and a half weeks left in Prague (crazy right) and then it’s off to Italy. Despite the quickly closing time period in this city, I am not consumed with the desperate realization that I have seen nothing of it, as I felt as I was about to leave Paris. When people ask me if Prague is like how I imagined it would be before coming here, I really struggle to come up with a reply; no one seems to believe me when I say I arrived here with zero expectations, but I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting anything specific. When people ask how I came to Prague of all places, the honest response is that it was random. I wanted to be abroad and I ended up in the most beautiful city I have ever been to in Europe.
But after a week of traveling and a week of entertaining, the exhaustion has set in. Our sleeping schedule has basically become 6 a.m. to noon, with a tired zone out around 5 p.m. It’s time to sit still, lie in bed, stare out the window, and process, process, process. As this whole year is coming to an end, it’s strange to think about going back to the U.S. for good, going back to school and leaving this part of me behind. But it’s also been good for me to accept that parts of your life come to an end, people come and go and a lack of expectations is actually a good thing to carry with you.
So here’s to a million loads of laundry and packing up my Eurotrip backpack!
July 3, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The other day I was sitting on our rooftop balcony, overlooking the grassy area between the houses on our block, wearing Ray-Bans, book in hand, wanting for a friend to arrive. This cake was sitting on a heavy wood cutting board on the table and places were set for two people. The plates may have been a bit chipped, but this cake came out of the pan perfectly intact; so perfectly in fact, that I still like looking at the pictures of it in awe at how pretty it was.
Upside-down cakes make me really nervous. Actually, cakes made me nervous in general. I always, always manage to skip a step in the recipe and never wait long enough for them to cool and end up with a cake that needs significant patching up. Add to that the stress of having to flip something upside down, and I’m left with that brief but sickening moment wondering if I’m going to end up with a picture perfect slab of cake or a gooey, broken lump of cake and cooked fruit. But that queasiness was gone in a flash when this cake overturned beautifully.
We ate some for lunch that day, some for breakfast the next day, some with a glass of Slivovitz the next night. Basically everyone I know if this city ate some of this cake, which is a very good thing because there was quite a bit of it. The other point of triumph is that I finally found some produce that was more than just edible here. In the states, I would never pick up a basket of cherries at a corner store, from a table right next to the liquor shelves. But I will say that the apricots I purchased here were the first fresh apricots I have ever enjoyed eating in my entire life.
How’s that for eating in the Czech Republic?
Apricot-Cherry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes one 13 x 10 inch slab cake
For the fruit layer:
6 tablespoons butter (90g)
1 1/2 cups packed (270g) brown sugar
About 20 apricots, quartered
2 cups of cherries, halved and pitted
For the cake layer:
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) plain yogurt
In a saucepan, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter. Add the brown sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and pour into the baking dish. When the caramel mixture is cooled, top with rows of cut fruit. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F (190C).
Cream the 8 tablespoons of butter and sugar until fluffly. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, and beat until smooth.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, then the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until the flour is just incorporated.
Spread the batter over the fruit layer and bake for about 40 minutes. The center of the cake will be set and the fruit may bubble around the edges when it is done. Remove the cake from the oven, let cool for about 20 minutes and flip the cake out onto the plate.