Spiced Lemon Walnut Rosemary Cake

Jump straight to the Spiced Lemon Walnut Rosemary Cake recipe or tips.

lemon walnut rosemary cake

I’ve never understood why the phrase is “easy as pie” as opposed to “easy as cake.” Pie, in my mind, equals not so easy. Getting a crust right is a tricky thing; at least, it can be for me, though at this point I sort of get how to do it. Mind you, I worked in a pastry shop for a summer and took a Zingerman’s pie making class; a magazine I was working for paid for it, which helped. Then there’s the filling, involving cutting fruit up, no big deal with bananas, a 2nd circle of hell thing with cherries.

Cake, on the other hand, is easy peasy lemon squeezy—in this case, literally, because of, well, the lemon. True, a sponge cake can be a little gnarly, given the whole separated egg thing, but we’ll save that for another day. This Spiced Lemon Walnut Rosemary Cake, on the other hand, couldn’t be simpler. It’s really lovely for springtime. I split this recent one between two good friends, Steve, and my son, and they all made kind of a big deal about it. The kid had to pick out the walnuts, but liked the rest so much he didn’t mind.

Baking Tips

Note that exact ingredients are below, as is required for baking. Baking is not an improv thing unless you’re some sort of baking genius. Which I am certainly not.

  • You can make this in a Bundt pan, which I like because 1) they’re pretty in a frumpy way, and 2) I also like the way they portion out. But you can also use a flat glass pan, like a casserole dish. Should you use the Bundt pan, you MUST apply first a generous layer of fat—coconut oil, butter, or non-stick spray—followed by a good dusting of flour, which you then tamp out so there’s no excess. I skipped the flour and you can see the result below. The top of the cake decided to stay in the pan. As long as the cake is still hot, this isn’t a complete disaster; you can just scoop it out and press it back in place. Still, if you’re trying to impress someone, and just to circumvent a case of severe kitchen frustration, do the flour.
lemon walnut rosemary cake with mangled top
  • Use a whisk to combine dry ingredients. A great trick I learned during that summer in the pastry shop.
  • If you have leftover buttermilk, freeze it in little muffin cups. It’s super handy, I always have to buy more than I can use, and voila, no waste. You can always sub it for milk in any baking recipe; it has more body and flavor.
buttermilk for the freezer
  • This is an oil-based cake rather than a buttery one. Use what’s known as “tasteless” oil. This doesn’t mean oil used by fans of Baywatch. Snort! This means oil without a taste, so olive is out. But sunflower, grapeseed, canola, even avocado work fine.
lemon walnut rosemary cake
  • For this type of cake, add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in layers. Start by putting a third of the dry ingredients into the oil/sugar mix, then add half the buttermilk. Etc, until both are used up. You want to start and end with dry ingredients, so that’s why they’re in thirds and the buttermilk in halves. Why? I don’t know!
  • Fold in the walnuts at the very end. The walnuts are finely chopped, so distribute fine. If you have a walnut hater, wait til the cake is in the pan. Gently add the walnuts to the pan, leaving them out of however much of it the walnut hater will eat.
lemon walnut rosemary cake folding in walnuts
  • Make the syrup ahead—even a day or three if you’re serving the cake as part of big do and you want to advance prep. You want to pour/brush cold syrup on the hot cake, the better to infuse the cake with the flavor. Do this with the cake on a rack over a plate after you’ve poked a bunch of wholes in the cake with a skewer; I reuse my cake tester to dandy effect. You’ll end up with syrup on the plate, which you then add to the cake, getting as much of the syrup in there as you can.
  • Serve with lemon sorbet for a little lemon madness or really good vanilla ice cream to counter the lemon. Or raspberry or strawberry sorbet for crazy color contrasts. And of course, since it’s a coffee cake, coffee.

Spiced Lemon Walnut Rosemary Cake: The Recipe

sesame zoodles

Sesame Zoodles with Chicken Meatballs

Jump right to the sesame zoodles recipe—it looks more complicated than it is because of the ingredients, relax—or the sesame zoodles steps, or just keep reading to find out how I got there.

sesame zoodles

A bizarre thing has happened to me. Me, carb lover extraordinaire, now sees a big bowl of noodles and thinks….shrug.

Maybe it’s aging. Maybe it’s not having my own kitchen for 2 months and eating out every damn day, and going at one point almost an entire week without, as Queen Victoria would say, A Successful Movement. Well, the movie version of her said that.

sesame zoodles help successful movements
I feel ya, Vic

Now meanwhile, what I missed the most in 8 weeks of traveling was having my own kitchen. We did not have an AirBnB this time, but stayed with a family to up the immersion level (we’ve just returned from 8 weeks studying Spanish in South America). But I don’t like cooking in someone else’s kitchen, using their invariably crappy knives and cutting boards, and sharing the not-so-spotless fridge and stovetop. So what I looked forward to more than anything was cooking.

Then again, I didn’t want to think very much. If you follow my instagram (and if you don’t, I’d be deeply grateful if you would: @nanlechou), you have seen me downright rhapsodic lately about Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan is a wonderful cook and photographer, and she prints her weekly menus in a really delightful post called “Nine Favorite Things,” which is more like 50. So I’ve been making her stuff, mostly verbatim, except for this dish, because…well, it’s mostly noodles. I also wasn’t crazy about ground chicken, because I prefer meatballs to little floaty ground chicken crumbles.

But please, if you like, cook Tieghan’s version. Here’s the link to her recipe for Better than Take-out Szechuan Noodles.

Sesame Zoodles: The Adaptation

This was a super easy adapation. I kept Tieghan’s sesame oil, which is kind of genius; I also had plenty left over to roast some veggies the next day. You can see the sauce in the main pic above; I didn’t think to get a solo shot of it.

I made the zoodles and threw in a carrot.

You can buy these already spiraled, but wow, they’re kind of pricey. The spiralizer was a gift from my late and deeply missed brother-in-law, Larry Cobler, so when I cook with it I think of him and that is delightful.

I have been planning to do a meatball post forever, and finally, whoomp, here it is. For these, I used (of course) ground chicken, a mix of panko and uncooked oats for the bread, soaking those in a mix of about 1/1 ratio of soy sauce and sake. I also added a bunch of parsley and dill. Cilantro would have been awesome, but I didn’t have any, and lately I’m truly digging the subtlety of dill in combo with Asian flavors. There’s also a chopped up kale leaf and some cabbage in the veggie mix.

sesame zoodles

Finally I added an egg and some salt and mixed it all up.

sesame zoodles meatball mix

For the sauce, I liked Tieghan’s idea of saucing the noodles with a mix of honey, soy sauce, and vinegar. But for me, sesame noodles have to have some kind of nut butter, because that’s how the take-out versions are in New York, where I learned to love them. So, as you’ll see in the recipe below, I just sort of screwed around and did my own thing.

The result was super yummy, filling without feeling heavy, and—gasp—actually completely paleo other than the grains (which a die hard paleo could leave out or replace with cooked quinoa).

So here they are: Sesame Zoodles fit for any hungry, hungry hippo on your list. Enjoy with a little green tea or a light rosé. Spring DOES eventually show up. This may help you remember that.

sesame zoodles with chicken meatballs

Sesame Zoodles with Chicken Meatballs: The Recipe


Autumn Greens Salad

Jump to the Autumn Greens Salad Recipe

Jump to the Autumn Greens Salad Step by Step

autumn-greens-salad

I’ve found that there are times when I just kind of go off salad. I think that’s an easy thing to do, because….well, it’s salad. It’s raw greens, some raw veggies—usually a cucumber that you’re not really that interested in eating but that you have in the fridge for some reason—and there’s dressing. Meh.

This type of thinking makes me die inside just the teeniest bit. I mean, I’m all about that health. I need zero convincing that a salad a day is key to all manner of wonderful processes getting fired up in the body: hearty elimination, antioxidants and enzymes from raw food doing all that scrubby work they do, detoxification on a manageable scale.

But I have to admit to succumbing more and more often to salad ennui. It’s cold out; I don’t want raw, crunchy stuff. It’s a pain in the ass to clean all those greens, even though some of them are already clean in the big ass clamshell that they came in because I bought them that way. I mean the laziness appalls me, particularly with my industrious northern European “me? have feelings instead of produce stuff?” upbringing.

I’m convinced one of the absolute best use of recipes is for salads, because I for one desperately need that little joggle to get me out of my rut. This little gem of an Autumn Greens Salad was adopted from this original version in the November 2018 issue of Cooking Light (different name there. I’m not being coy. My primary changes are in technique, but I pretty much thugged the ingredient list, though I played fairly dramatically with amounts. And it IS autumn, and these readily available ingredients in Michigan in November; at least, this year).

autumn-greens-salad-ingredients

Autumn Greens Salad: The Dressing

My primary change from the original is in constructing the dressing and the salad itself. I wanted to keep the olive oil separate here, so I measured off the amount into one good-sized bowl. Then I mixed everything in the main salad bowl, the one in which I’d toss the final assemblage of ingredients.

I chopped some garlic first, then salted it (you don’t need much). Initially,  I grated on just a smidge of orange zest (for photos I forgot that step). Then a little mustard and honey, and finally my acids: in this case, a tad bit of lemon juice and cider vinegar. I chose cider over rice vinegar as in the original because these greens are so sturdy and I like the complexity of the subtle apple flavor. Rice vinegar flavor is so subtle, I prefer it for more delicate greens. This is, alas, my native Californian palate talking, and may be a little over the top in the “Pretentiously Discerning Tastes” category. In other words, use the vinegar you have on hand. But if that’s balsamic, I’d skip the lemon juice.

autumn-greens-salad-dressing

Finally, I added the slivered raw onion and some chopped sour cherries. (The original recipe calls for Zante currants, but…like…what even are those?)

autumn-greens-salad-dressing

Let all of that sit while you go on to the next step.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Greens

I’ve said it approximately 8,000 times, which may surprise you given the low content on the blog: Massage raw kale. This step, mystifyingly, was left out of the original, like you’re just going to eat a bunch of torn kale, happily chomping away like some sort of hominid. I repeat: after destemming your kale, cut it in ribbons, then massage it by dropping it in that bowl where you put the olive oil. Rub the kale through your hands for about 2 minutes.

You’ll be adding this to the salad bowl on top of the dressing ingredients in a minute.

For your other greens: We had some really nice curly endive on hand from the farm. It’s unlikely you’ll find this is a box; rather, it’s going to come in a big old-fashioned head, probably a little (or a lot) dirty around the roots. Separate the leaves, wash it well—3 times is a good rule of thumb, but just keep dipping it in water until the water is completely clean. Spin it dry, wrap it in paper or cloth dish towels, put it in a big plastic bag, and you’ve got a pleasantly bitter green for a month.

I cut the endive in small pieces because, while not as sturdy as kale, it’s still pretty toothy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Bling

I followed the original recipe by using both a blood orange and a navel orange. Grapefruit in combo or on its own would also work nicely. (Citrus with dark greens falls on the “food magic” continuum for me, something I just made up but that I think we need.)

Cut away the peel, rather than simply peeling it; this gives you something to hold onto when you cut out the sections. Put the round side in your hand, then very carefully, with a curved blade knife, remove the sections from the membranes. (Here’s my full tutorial on how to do this.) Cut the orange over the bowl with the dressing to capture that wee bit of juice that results. Add the oranges to the bowl.

Now, scrape the kale into the dressing bowl, using a spatula to make sure you get all the oil. Chopped endive goes on top. Then I throw on a handful of a baby green or two; we always have a big old clamshell of something. Arugula is my favorite, though I didn’t have any the day I made this.

Finally, I put fresh parsley leaves on top. Basil leaves are superb here, but I had fresh parsley and it worked nicely. Fresh herb leaves really make excellent salad greens, something I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi, who I think should be canonized or something. 

Finally, I tossed the whole thing. You may initially feel like you need more oil, but just toss for a good minute; there’s enough oil on the kale leaves that will eventually coat the other greens. Of course, I’m fond of a fairly light touch with oil, so do add more if you need it.

autumn-greens-salad

Shave some Manchego on top. You know what would also be good? Those Mercona almonds you get from Trader Joe’s. Yep, those are going on for Thanksgiving. But I didn’t have any. And it was still super yummy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Recipe