"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you're 65, or 75,
and you never got your memoir or novel written;
or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years
because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy;
or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing
that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness
and staring off into space like when you were a kid?
It's going to break your heart. Don't let this happen." ~ Anne Lamott
And just like that, we've shimmied into summer. My God, I love it. All of it. Tank tops and late night thunderstorms. Warm pools and lakeside picnics. Fireworks and flip flops. Peaches and more peaches. Road trips and just-picked raspberries. Cold beer and warm hearts. Toes in sand. Tomatoes on the vine. The evening breeze through wide open windows. Ice cream, always. A bonfire's crackle and pop. The smell of a forest. The sound of early morning, when it's just you and the birds. Tall glasses of iced sweet tea. A good book and some shade. The laughter of old friends. The glide of a canoe. The call of the wild. The sun's rays on damp skin. Floating on water. Staring up at the sky. What are you waiting for? Dive in.
I'm hoping that most of my list comes true. Like everyone else, I have to balance the summer fun times with worky work times. Happily, my work most often feels like play, I've just got my fair share of it happening this summer. Still, having my hands in varied enterprises makes for a rich, interesting life. If you're old like me, maybe you'll remember the REM album from 1986 - Lifes Rich Pageant. (Those rebels weren't fond of apostrophes so they left it off the title.) I've always loved that album and that sentiment. Life is a rich pageant, especially in summer. Everything alive with possibility and purpose. We seize those moments, hoping to hang on to them forever.
Padding around my yard, barefoot and happy (except for that time I stepped on a caterpillar) I picked rhubarb at the back of my garden. It's ruby red stalks (so pretty!) matched my freshly painted toes. Just look at those giant, poisonous leaves.
The first pickings of the pie plant were chopped and stirred into cake. Yes, lets talk about this cake. You need to have this skillet cake recipe in your back pocket. It comes together in under 10 minutes and bakes up like a dream in a cast iron skillet. I know some of us are reluctant to turn the oven on when it's a real scorcher, but this cake is worth it. Light and spicy, tender and tart. And guess what? I stirred in some cooked lentil purée and you can't even tell. No one will be able to tell. I promise. The lentil purée adds extra protein and fibre, so really, this cake is practically health food. Go ahead and have two pieces. Enjoy it for breakfast. Pack it along on picnics. Swap in other seasonal fruit as you like. Peaches and apricots would be lovely. Plums and nectarines, too. And to think, summer is just beginning. Hold on tight.
Spiced Rhubarb Skillet Cake with Streusel Topping
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temp, plus more for greasing pan
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp flaky or coarse salt
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup lentil purée***
***To make lentil purée - combine 1 cup cooked green lentils and 1/4 cup water in a blender. Purée until smooth and the texture of canned pumpkin. If too dry, add 1 tbsp more water.
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
To make cake: preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch cast iron skillet or baking dish with about 2 tbsp butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter on high for 2 minutes, scraping down sides. Beat in eggs and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes, scraping down sides. In a separate medium sized bowl, stir together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture and beat on low just until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to gently mix in rhubarb and lentil purée. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the streusel topping evenly over batter. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Serves 6.
To make streusel: in a medium bowl, add the butter, brown sugar and flour. Use your fingers to mix it all together, until all ingredients are incorporated and clumpy.