Brian and I have spent a total of maybe thirty nights apart since we were married six and a half years ago. We’ve racked up seventeen of those nights in the last seven months, since the beginning of 2012, and have another ten on the calendar for August and September. We’re each traveling for work more than ever before, being pulled to New York, Connecticut, Chicago, Florida, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and New Hampshire this year alone.
An essential part of travel, for each of us, is the exploration of local food. Before we embark on a journey we ask friends, Facebook, and Twitter for restaurant recommendations. I look through the archives of Bon Appetit, Saveur, Gourmet, and The New York Times to see what I can find about the culinary scene. While visiting, Instagram is aflutter with food and drinks consumed. If we’re apart, iPhone photos are swapped between Brian and I; visual descriptions of whatever treats have been found both away and at home. We stay connected through the food we eat, never liking to spend a meal separately.
The best part, though, is the gifts given upon return. That little piece of an experience apart that lets the other know they weren’t really that far away at all. From New Orleans there was duck jerky from Butcher and, that one time, two pounds of sliced ham from Mother’s. From Florida, a special spice rub from 4Rivers BBQ. The exchange goes the other way, too, with the homemade pot roast awaiting my return from New York in February, or the whisper of a ‘fruit surprise’ in the kitchen just two weeks ago.
I’d returned early-ish on Sunday morning. Having photographed a wedding in northern Virginia with Sarah the night before, we’d each been anxious to get home to our husbands. An early departure with a quick stop at Starbucks had us back in Charlottesville by 10am, just in time for me to crawl in bed for the last 30 minutes of weekend snuggling with Brian and the pups. As we recapped our two nights apart, Brian rattled off the list of goodies he’d picked up at the farmers’ market the morning before. Excited to see my surprise, I padded out to the kitchen to investigate. And there sat the prettiest, rosiest apricots in my very favorite bowl.
Just the thought of Brian coming across those apricots at the market makes me smile, because I know that he would never have picked them up just for himself. No, he saw the pretty fruits and thought ‘Andrea would like to bake something with these.’ and whisked them away to our house where, two days later, they were the stars of this cake.
We adored this cake. Not too sweet (Brian's favorite kind) but bursting with the flavor of fresh apricots. The base has an almost poundcake-like consistency...dense and a bit spongey. The earthiness of the rosemary was the perfect compliment to the brightness of the fruit. Be sure to pick good apricots; they'll make all the difference.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Apricots and Rosemary
adapted from Gourmet, April 2006
- 3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
- 1 large lemon
- 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
- 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 10 fresh apricots, halved and pitted
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with some oil, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil the parchment.
- Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1-1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Add the chopped rosemary and whisk. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
- Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.
- Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.
- Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Place apricot halves in a decorative pattern across the top of the cake, cut-side up. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1-1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.