Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake: A Sweet Bitter Cake for a Sweet Bitter Feeling.

Some days are just bad. You wake up feeling blue and it continues until you finally stop moping and DO SOMETHING about it. I feel that way a lot recently – looking for work is a challenging and depressing venture with a lot of grasping straws and missed opportunities, or worse just not being good enough. That’s how I feel most of the time, not good enough. I keep hoping that something will change with every job application I submit but with every rejection (and there are a lot) I just feel overwhelmed. I feel like finding full time work that I find meaningful isn’t going to happen. So I retire to my kitchen and I bake. I listen to music and empty my mind a bit. The repetition of measuring, mixing, kneading, frosting – whatever is soothing and comforting. Like cuddling up to a good book, I know that kitchen time can make me feel better. So I try to force myself into the kitchen to bake, or cook, or just… be.


This cake is one of those I need to bake cakes. It got me into the kitchen and out of my head – singing along to some good music and methodically measuring out ingredients. I was soothed by the repetition – also the leftover grapefruit syrup, which made a delicious cocktail. I was calmed by the familiarity. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of grad school, but, honestly, I was not such a great student in college – my grades will hinder my grad school chances. How do I resolve that? I’ve been thinking going back to school for another BA, this was met by vehement and loud nos from all my grad school graduate friends. But I’m at a loss. I just feel not good enough for anything. Maybe I’ve lost perspective. Or maybe I should just eat more cake.


I should eat more of this cake. It’s not too sweet so you can eat a lot of it without falling into a sugar coma and with the grapefruit comes a subtle tang of bitterness that makes it a standout in really decadent ways. But – there’s no butter, it’s an olive oil cake and the citrus in it is only enhanced by the fruity oil. It fits exactly what I’m looking for in a cake right now – it’s unassuming and it delivers a lovely punch. It is a cake for tea time or dessert or breakfast or elevensies (the dictionary for WordPress tells me this is not a word. WordPress you are WRONG). Make it. Eat it. Indulge in it. But make extra of the grapefruit syrup and make a gin cocktail with it. I’ll come help you drink it.


I actually didn’t change a thing from Joanne’s recipe over on her blog, Eats Well With Others (she waited for her cake to cool completely before glazing, I didn’t – my time was tight). So just follow that. Then send me some of the cake. I could use a touch of sweet in my life.

Celebration Cakes


My birthday lands right at the beginning of April – it’s a time when the temperatures can jump from 75 to 45 in a single afternoon and there’s more likely than not going to be a blizzard. Every year I keep my fingers crossed for a nice warm birthday – where I can wear a sleeveless dress and flip flops. I wish for a birthday that will see me sipping a cocktail on some patio in the warm rays of an afternoon. This is all entirely unrealistic. So, instead I settle for giving myself a day of baking – the kitchen is always warm with the oven on and it is quite sunny.


Each year I see my birthday as a baking challenge – a chance to try something I haven’t tried before that I’m daunted by. My birthday is an opportunity to try those recipes that could be potential flops – that way if I mess up someone’s birthday cake it’s MY birthday cake. No harm no foul, right? This year was no different. EXCEPT instead of going out for dinner with BF and my sister I chose to conquer Momofuku Milk Bar.


I threw a dinner party. I made a ton of pasta and asiago cheese riddled focaccia. I invited BF’s and my favorite people over, we drank wine and ate good food. Dan and Mandi made a great sauce that went perfect with the I-drank-too-much-wine-last-night day that followed. Megan made a lovely spinach salad and there was liberal pouring of wine and beer. It was, truly, the best birthday I could ask for. But, in my brilliance, I decided that making two cakes that both required at least three separate pre-made ingredients and a whole bunch of love was the best way to top off this grand evening of debauchery.


I made both of these cakes pretty much exactly according to the recipes – my variation was that I used liquid cheesecake in the chocolate chip cake instead of passion fruit curd. The cheesecake was WAY more accessible. I’m not sharing these recipes today – they are too complex and my pictures are MIA as my hands were typically too much of a mess to photo-document this process. SO all we have left of this cake is a remnant and these pictures. There were twelve of us at the party. We ate most of both of these cakes. I loved them.

And I will assuredly be baking from Momofuku Milk Bar again soon.


This morning as I write this blog post there are still remnants of police tape scattered around my neighborhood and I’m jumping at small noises. After college when BF and I moved to Watertown we did it for two reasons, 1: my sister lived here and we liked the neighborhood, and 2: we felt SAFE here. We were kids from rural towns moving to Boston to live away from college life and rules and wanted to live somewhere residential. BF and I have lived in the same building for almost five years. This is our home.


Two nights ago, we felt differently. We woke up in the middle of the night to a muffled boom, and a staccato noise that made no sense. I, in my half-asleep state, told BF “It’s just thunder, listen for a sec, there’ll be more. Go back to bed.” A few minutes later we heard another boom, and we saw a flash of bright light – then a rapid strobe. I, thinking it was a thunderstorm, went back to sleep. BF tried. but then he heard helicopters flying back and forth over our house, and, out of curiosity went to the source of all things knowledge. The internet. He learned there’d been some sort of bomb or grenade thrown and gunfire. At the end of our block. He woke me up and we went and sat in the living room with the TV on. Waiting for news.


Sometime around 5 am (or so, judging by the time stamp on my FB post) I heard someone on the back stairs. I called to BF and started to cry. He took control, told me to go in the bedroom and hold kittenish. So I did. It was a SWAT team. I could have hugged them from the relief of it being them.

We spent the rest of the day in a tense loop of waiting. Calling family and friends. live tweeting and fb posting the whole experience. At one point our entire house started to shake from helicopter winds, and later another SWAT check of our house. Seeing our normally quiet street crawling with police men and SWAT may have been one of the most scary things I’ve ever gone through. I felt safe, but everything was just too close for comfort.


Throughout our day we followed the news on Reddit, twitter, and occasionally the news. We tracked the police scanner locations like our lives depended on it (they may have) when things were less than a quarter mile from home we “sheltered” in an inner hallway our apartment has, when they were farther out we were planted on our couch avoiding windows.

Then it was 6pm and Gov. Patrick was lifting the shelter in place for Watertown, he told everyone they could go outside and take advantage of the warm evening for a bit. BF and I went for a nap, we were exhausted. We’d been out of bed and wide awake since 2:30am. We said goodbye to BF’s parents, who had been on Skype with us all day, and tried to take a nap. After a bit I could hear kids playing outside and the sound of the helicopters above lessened. I started to doze. Then it started again. Just as we were falling asleep there was a staccato sound, gunfire, only this time we knew what it was.

We heard the location – about 3/4 of a mile from home and retreated back to the hallway. Where we waited. My family called. BF’s family called. And we all played the waiting game. BF could see the helicopters above the arrest scene through the kitchen windows. It was too close. By the time we felt safe enough to go to bed, when the police ban scanner was broadcasting each agency congratulating each other, we had been awake for 20 hours. All BF and I could do at that point was say thank you to the officers that were here – to those men and women who put in extremely long days even under normal circumstances. To every law enforcement agency and first responder that made our town feel like home again. Thank you.


Our town, our community, had made it through something truly trying and shown an amazing amount of resilience. On Sunday BF and I took a walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery with its’ gorgeous spring blooms and stopped of at Arax for a dinner stuff. I’ve never seen it so busy. The owners said it had been that way Saturday as well, a steady stream of people that wanted to support their local stores.

I also want to make sure to thank my AMAZING network. Everyone who emailed, facebooked, tweeted, and in general just sent virtual hugs to my scared, anxious self. I appreciated it so much. It helped add a bit of levity to an otherwise overwhelming day.

BiBimBap with Ssamjang Braised Lamb

Lambbibimbap1This past winter I had a love affair with short grain brown rice (preferably mixed with soy sauce and sriracha, topped with an over easy egg and drizzled with sesame oil) – in my look for work, home for breakfast state, I was always looking for something quick and easy to make for breakfast.  Inevitably I ended up with over easy eggs on toast or whip it up quick oatmeal, but one day I decided to make myself some rice – it was less work to put rice in the rice cooker than it was to make oatmeal, and I would love the results.


This is where my love of Bibimbap sort of originated, this constant rice mixed with soy sauce and sriracha for breakfast topped with a gently fried egg. To make this into bibimbap I would have to change some ingredients and bulk it up, but essentially it was the same thing. GENIUS. So when the American Lamb Board and Boston Chefs emailed me and asked me to make a lamb dish for the Boston Lamb Pro-Am my mind immediately went to Bibimbap, and some delicious slow braised lamb I made this past fall.

lambbibimbap3 lambbibimbap4 Bibimbap literally means mixed rice.  It’s a Korean dish that is rice, meat, spinach, sprouts (I didn’t have those here), carrots, gochujang, and a gently fried egg. I love it. This is one of those dishes that’s going to enter our weekly rotation of meals – it cooks up fast and can easily be tailored to fit one person’s tastes.
lambbibimbap5 If you want to guarantee you can come to see the bloggers (and me, with any luck) and chefs at Lamb Pro-Am grab your tickets today here!

The Condiments

The Condiments

BiBimBap with Ssamjang Braised Lamb
Note: This is all my recipe in the sense that I didn’t need to follow a recipe for this dish, but Bibimbap is a family meal for most, so trying to follow a recipe for it is like trying to follow a recipe for pasta sauce – you make it to your taste. I used this recipe, sort of, to understand better what I needed to put in it. Also, my big sister was a huge help.

Serves 4, each bowl of Bibimbap is a single serving

For the lamb:

  • 2 lbs Lamb, cut into 4 fist sized pieces
  • 3-4 Tbs Fermented Soybean Paste, Ssamjang*
  • 2-3 Tbs toasted sesame oil*
  • Preheat your oven to 300.
  • Rub the ssamjang evenly over the lamb pieces, make sure to get all the nooks and crannies in the meat. It should look almost orange from the ssamjang. Place it in a dutch oven. drizzle the lamb with the sesame oil.
  • Cook the lamb for about 2 hours, turning occasionally so that it can sit in the juices as it cooks. Feel free to reapply ssamjang as needed. Your kitchen should smell awesome at this point.
  • Remove the lamb from the oven when it’s done, it should be light brown throughout and fork tender. Allow the meat to cool for ten minutes. WHen you remove the lamb form the dutch oven reserve the liquid in the dutch oven.
  • Shred the lamb into bite size pieces – I accomplished this by cutting against the grain to make this slices then chopped them coarsely, and I used a fork. These two methods together gave a me a wonderfully tender pulled lamb.
  • Skim some of the fat off the top of the juice in the pan – we’ll use this for sauteing later.
  • Bring the juices in the pan up to a simmer over medium high heat, whisking constantly. After the pan juice simmers add the lamb and gently stir to coat. Set it aside.

FOr the Bibimbap:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked short grain brown rice, or whatever you have – I like the brown
  • 4-6 oz spinach, just barely steamed
  • 1 tbs soy sauce*
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2-3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly (optional)
  • 4 eggs (worried about eating over easy eggs? Grab some pasteurized ones, I like SafeEggs)
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • scallions, thinly sliced
  • toasted sesame oil
  • Gochujang*, Red Pepper Paste
  • In a medium bowl combine the spinach, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Toss so that the spinach is evenly coated.
  • Saute the carrot sticks over medium high heat in some of the fat you reserved from the lamb, if you don’t have that sesame oil works just fine here. You want the carrots to be soft but still a little crunchy – no more than a minute of sauteing.
  • Crisp the garlic in some oil – you want it to be crunchy and a bit fried. It’s delicious this way and really does make the bibimbap better.
  • Fry your eggs. To fry eggs for bibimbap the eggs need to be over easy and not brown on the bottoms, it’s much easier to break the egg up when the bottoms aren’t browned. To get this gently cooked egg cook the egg on a pan that is no higher than medium. Once the egg has set put a cover over it – this will help finish the egg without having to overcook it.
  • Assemble your bibimbap in a large bowl.
  • Start by making a mound of rice in the bowl – it doesn’t have to be huge, 1/2 cup is PLENTY of rice here.
  • Beginning at 12 o’clock add the marinated spinach, shredded lamb, and carrots to the bowl – it should look similar to the photo above.
  • Place your gently fried egg on top of the who shebang.
  • Sprinkle the fried garlic slices, sesame seeds, and scallions over the whole thing. Add one tsp of gochujang in a dallop (more if you like things spicy). Gently drizzle sesame oil over the whole thing.
  • Mix it all together, making sure to break up the egg well.
  • Deee-licious.

*You can find gochujang and ssamjang in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets, they are becoming increasingly common.
*Most supermarkets have soy sauce, go for a good brand here though, you don’t want your bibimbap to suffer because you went for the lame soy sauce, I really like Kikkoman.
*Sesame oil is probably the most hard to find item here; I tend to only go with brands I trust, this one is Kadoya. You should probably hunt it down at an Asian market if possible. Don’t get the supermarket stuff – it’s awful and you will never want to try Korean food again, and that will be so sad for your tastebuds.

I was given the lamb in this post by the American Lamb Board and Boston Chefs News to create a recipe with.  All opinions posted here are truly my own, I was honored to be asked and delighted to create this dish. It’s so good.

On My Shelf: The Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook


Sometimes you need something to aspire to. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and just have a book that you can look at and know, with certainty, that it’s a hair out of your range.  That is why I own the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.  I find this book incredibly daunting – like a giant sundae when I’ve already had too much to eat. But I can’t stop myself from picking it up every few months and thinking I should give it a try.


For the record – I’m usually a show no fear kind of cook.  I’ll try anything at least once – I’ve made my own bacon and babysat my own sourdough starter so I always think I can handle this cookbook. Which means I pull it out and look up a cake – now a cake in this book has at least four separate ingredients that must be cooked/mixed/pureed/blended before I even consider the possibility of putting it together. I did mention I found the book daunting, ya?


Most people look at this book for the pictures I think – okay the crack pie is fantastic and the compost cookies are extraordinary but the rest of the book is meticulous. Everything is weighed and soothed into the rest of the ingredients. But maybe that’s why I love it, it’s a book of challenges and dares me to break my boundaries a little bit.


I do plan on actually tackling a few of these recipes in the next couple weeks – I’ll share my results. Don’t you worry. Though I’m still a tad intimidated, at least I’m building my own birthday cake so I won’t wreck someone else’s birthday, right?