Ann Arbor, for me, is best described by its neighborhoods: a tapestry of people woven together in brick and wooden homes, safe-guarded through the winter as wrapped and valuable gifts. As spring meanders into summer, as each present is carefully unwrapped, colorful jewels emerge, scattered about our town.
Tucked between Packard Road and South Industrial, you will find one gem such as this; an eclectic neighborhood with chicken coops, a few dirt roads and lovely flower and vegetable gardens, some strung together and tended to by exceptional cooks.
“We inherited this rhubarb patch,” said Annamarie, as I gazed at an army of large leaved plants with thick, red and green stalks. “The people who sold us the house did so on the stipulation that we promised to give our neighbor, Mrs. Larsen, some of the rhubarb every year which, we gladly did, until she passed away.”
Do your lips pucker when you say “rhubarb”? Indeed, if you are brave enough to nibble at a stalk (the leaves should not be eaten), you’d find it tart and spine-tingling. But there is nothing like fresh rhubarb to balance the sweetness of desserts, sauces, jams and jellies.
Rhubarb thrives in chilly locales, such as Michigan, and is one of the first garden edibles to appear after long winter months.
In September of 2009, Annamarie Asher shared with Ann Arbor.com readers her recipe for a Luciously Lemony Wedding Cake with Blackberry Sauce. She’s the personification of her cakes; sweet, but not overwhelmingly so; whimsical, but with down-to-earth goodness.
The recipe below, bursting with the zing of rhubarb, the sweetness of strawberries and sugar, and the earthiness of freshly ground nutmeg, mirrors her sensibilities. Nutmeg is a seed from the fruit of a tree grown in the Spice Islands, and this cake is a recipe for nutmeg lovers, to be sure. Annamarie’s family and I love the pervasiveness of the freshly grated nut, but feel free to eliminate it from one or more layers if you’re not taken by its sultry appeal.
The Strawberry-Rhubarb cake is far simpler to execute than the aforementioned wedding cake. The cake and compote be completed well in advance, and the recipe has been well-tested through the years.
“I’ve been making this cake a couple times each year since my daughter, Alison’s, first birthday in 1993. It’s remains her favorite!”
Annamarie, like other local gardeners, also grows heirloom tomatoes, chard, arrugula, mixed greens, cayenne peppers, green beans, nasturtiums and fresh herbs. The modest, charming garden blushes crimson under the setting sun, and my admiring gaze.
From Bon Appetit: “This cake was first made in the north of England by young women for their fiances. It’s usually just layered with whipped cream and strawberries, but we spread the cake with a berry and rhubarb compote for extra moistness. If your guests don’t eat all of this, serve it with tea the next day.”
Memorial Day picnics, graduation parties, weddings, showers and anniversaries. In the coming weeks you may be called upon to create a celebratory dish or two. Pound cakes are wonderful spring and summer desserts as the center hole of a bundt or fluted cake pan creates an ideal “vase” to insert fresh seasonal flowers or herbs. This cake (which … Full recipe post »
So you want to write a book? Maybe you’ve already written one. If so, I’d love to trade notes! If you are toying with the idea of writing your first book––be it a novel, cookbook, memoir, book of poetry or dummy guide–be prepared to have your cage rattled and buckshots pummelled across your backside; in short, be prepared to bleed. At … Full recipe post »
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