Things I knew I would be celebrating tonight: Matt's return from the great work trip, the early bounty of our region
Things I didn't know I would be celebrating tonight: A personal essay of mine being accepted into a literary journal as my first real, official publication!
Needless to say, it was a serendipitous day for treats and toasts.
There is something leveling about relegating all vendors underneath tents, allowing the products to sing for themselves. With the same storefront, everyone has the same chance to shine. It's not like Whole Foods against Joe selling tomatoes out of his truckbed. And even though living in Hubbard means I'm surrounded by many of the hazelnuts and hops and chickens that have all made the pilgrimage to market, there's nothing like seeing it all congregated together in the setting of pulsating Portland as a meeting of rural bounty and urban culture. Basically, it makes me feel alive.
So alive, in fact, that my $40 cash withdrawal was gone before I'd even made it around to see all the booths. I was so market-starved and excited, and there was the Tails & Trotters tent, and that great goat cheese with the inspired flavor, and artisan bacon that transcends all other artisan bacons I've ever tried--divine swine!! And... strawberries! Real, Oregon-grown, fragrant strawberries. One taste of the small, slightly strange-shaped berries and you instantly remember why you've (hopefully) been avoiding the doppelgangers being shipped up from Venezuela.
I knew I was going to make homemade lasagna and fresh-baked Italian bread for dinner, Matt's favorite and all, but the delightful glass jar of cream, speckled brown-and-green eggs and 2011's first strawberries dictated dessert. Simple and classic: pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream.
I found a recipe for a citrus-spiked pound cake from Gourmet magazine on Epicurious, and used Penzey's orange and lemon extracts versus the fresh fruit juices and rinds (I did have some lemon zest to use, but no juice). As I whipped up the butter and sugar, then added the eggs one at a time, the batter became a blinding yellow-orange hue. I've said it before, and yes, I'll say it again: it's unbelievable how big a difference a happy egg makes.
Oh, and when I was at the organic free-range, small-flock egg stand, the woman who worked at the farm said, upon my request for a dozen, "Okay, we have our normal organic and free-range eggs, and we also have eggs from our newly Organic Oregon Tilth-certified flock, if you'd rather have those."
Portland, sometimes I absolutely, head-over-heels love you.
Not disappointing, the cake baked up into a sunny loaf that had a orangey aroma. With strawberries (simply sliced, no sugar added) and whipped-up cream, it cemented Matt's thankfulness to be home.
I might mention that every time I bake a loaf of something (whether it be meat, bread or cake), I am so happy to have silicone baking pans. You don't even need to grease them with butter (although they probably recommend it, but I've never had an issue). Just pull the sides apart, and the contents pop right out. No more chiseling quickbreads!
Here's one final happy toast to the night: to a divine season of fresh inspiration, no matter where you find it.
Best-Day-Ever Citrus Pound Cake
2 cups cake flour (I didn't have any, but I'll get some for the next time around to lighten things up)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes (OREGON TILTH ORGANIC CERTIFIED!!!)
1 teaspoon Penzey's orange extract
1.2 teaspoon Penzey's lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon Penzey's vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix together sugar and zests with an electric mixer at low speed until sugar is evenly colored, then add butter and beat at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in eggs 1 at a time at medium speed, scraping down side of bowl frequently, then beat in juices and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
Spread batter in loaf pan and rap pan several times on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. Cool completely, top side up.
Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.