Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The poetry I promised...

Don't laugh.

This first poem is based on the poetry of Walt Whitman, my favorite dead man in the entire world.

If You Want Me

I, Sarah Kaplan, the daughter of the city,
a cosmos of messy ponytails and library books and skinned knees,
bequeath myself to the sunburnt pavement
and dirty linoleum, and dandelions that grow between cracks in the sidewalk,
to the chipped and rust-stained tiles that line the walls of the 7th avenue subway station,
to the parched and yellowed outfield grass in Prospect Park, witness
to dropped pop flies and late-inning comebacks, secret kisses stolen after dark,
sorrows and picnics and bare feet attached to long freckled bodies,
arms outstretched and grasping on to a kite string as if for dear life.
I am that grass, roots dug deep in six feet of Brooklyn dirt,
trodden by the feet of eight million New Yorkers. I bury my heart
beneath their pounding heels, but quivering at the ends of kite strings
I gain the sky.
If you want me, look for me in subways and cramped kitchens;
look at cracked sidewalks and weed choked lawns, and the grass
in Prospect Park where red infield dirt meets everything that lies beyond.
If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles—
you will hardly know the dreams you’ll find there.

And these are the first three stanzas of a sestina. A sestina is one of the coolest and hardest forms of poetry out there. If you want to know more about them go to

Kentile Floors

Wake up to the sound of running water,
and cat feet scurrying in the morning half light,
and cries for kibble—a voice like slivers of glass
in your ears, breaking the world into pieces
you must find a way to put together;
give order to the chaos, make it habitable.

Shake sleep from your eyes, learn to reinhabit
this noisy world. Give the cat her water
and food. You string motions together:
take the twelve frozen steps to the bathroom, switch on the light,
shake off your pajamas till your dreams lie in pieces
on the tile floor, splintered like glass—

careful not to step in it. Look hard in the glass,
accept the constellations of acne that inhabit
the skin of your forehead, the unfinished piece
of abstract art that is your teenage face. Turn on the water
and scrub at your flaws, hold them up to the light,
wring them out and resolve to be better.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake


Okay, so for my next post I had been planning to wax poetic about how wonderful Brooklyn is, and how sad I am to be leaving this beautiful borough in the fall for the hot, humid, charmless city of Washington D.C. (Not that Brooklyn isn’t hot and humid, or occasionally disagreeable. Especially on a day like today, when my hair starts to frizz before I’ve even stepped out of the shower.)

But then this cake happened. Gloriously dense and moist and chocolate-y and delicious. Here it is in cupcake form:

And here in bundt cake form, unglazed:

Not much of a looker, is it? But watch when you smother it in melted chocolate glaze…

Now that is worth slaving over a hot stove in an already 95 degree kitchen for. (No air-conditioning in Brooklyn. Definitely something I won't miss in the fall!)

This cake tastes ridiculously moist and indulgent, especially when you load it up with twice as many chocolate chips as the original recipe calls for. But it actually isn’t nearly as bad for you as it seems at first bite. The secret lies in the two cups of grated zucchini that get mixed into the batter. By far the best two cups of vegetable I’ve ever eaten. The other secret is the spices—cinnamon and nutmeg. Also a teaspoon of coffee grinds. Also chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Here is the recipe, slightly adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee grinds
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini (keep the remaining 1/2 zucchini for optional garnish)
1 (or 2, if you’re crazy as I am) cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a bundt pan with butter.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar till smooth, then add the vanilla, coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

3. Reserve a cup of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.

4. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture and toss to coat. Fold into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon—don't overmix. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level the surface with a spatula.

5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen the cake, and invert over a large plate.

6. For glaze, gently melt chocolate chips and cream over low heat, stirring briskly till smooth. Allow glaze to cool, then drizzle over cake. This cake is best eaten the day it’s made.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Middle Eastern Not-So-Flat Breads


Lets talk about what I’ve been doing for the past, lets see, month and a half. Or more specifically, lets talk about why I haven’t been posting anything to this blog. It’s not that I haven’t been baking; my extremely bikini unfriendly body can attest to that. It’s not that I haven’t been writing either. It’s just that somehow I’ve been too overwhelmed by everything to 1) take pictures of what I bake and 2) sit down and write about it.

Here is what I have been doing since I’ve been gone:

1. Finished my senior portrait for English and my portfolio for Poetry. They’re not exactly what I wanted them to be, and nowhere near perfect, but I feel about them the way a mother must feel about her newborn child. Even now, nearly a month after I handed them in and received a grade, I will take them from my bookshelf and proudly examine their every detail. I hand-bound them, because I’m the kind of girl who refuses to use an electric mixer even for egg whites and I won’t hand over any task to Kinkos that I can do myself, and buy massive amounts of paper and ribbon to boot. If I am ever courageous and unselfish enough I may post a bit of my writing from them here. But for now I enjoy them in privacy, like a small child with a stolen piece of pie.

2. Attended prom. I knew this day would come, but that didn’t make me any more enthusiastic for it. I am not a dance person. I don’t like the music (when did it become unnecessary for a song to have a melody and intelligible lyrics and anything other than a head-ache inducing, heart-rate changing, painfully rhythmic beat?) that gets played at dances. I don’t like the hassle of buying the perfect dress. I hate high heels. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the night. The prom was held at a fancy hotel where the man at the coat-check was dressed in a vest and a bowtie and each place setting included two glasses and three forks. Afterwards my friend and I dropped our things off at my house, changed out of our dresses and cumbersome shoes, and walked through the semidarkness to the Brooklyn Bridge, where we watched the sky change from gray to green to palest blue and the sun repainted the Manhattan skyline in shades of pink and gold.

3. Graduated from high school. Unimaginable, inconceivable, and utterly mind-blowing, but there it is.

4. Thoroughly enjoyed my freedom. I have never, ever, had a summer so empty and yet so busy at the same time. Most mornings I wake up not knowing what I’ll do to fill up my day, and yet every night I drop into bed exhausted and exhilarated. It’s wonderful.

5. Reading, a lot. I was never one of those people who stopped reading during high school because she didn’t have time. But my pace definitely slowed. Fortunately, in the past few weeks I’ve taken to reading again at a breakneck speed. As in, four books over the course of one long weekend. I don’t have time or the brainpower (it’s over 90 degrees in the city and I don’t have the blessing of air conditioning) to list them. But if you haven’t read The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro, you should immediately make a trip to your local library and change that fact. It’s amazing.

Now (and you’re probably thinking “finally!”) onto the main topic of conversation: food. On the last day of school (which is either three weeks ago or an entire lifetime, depending on how you look at it) my friend and I had to bake something for a Comparative Government project. We had studied Saudi Arabia for the project, so we decided to make a Saudi flatbread called khobz. For some reason we decided it would be a good idea to make the bread the day after prom, after staying out all night and having walked a three miles to the bridge and back. Predictably, my measurements were off and I fell asleep while the bread was rising, so these aren’t flatbreads so much as they are rolls. Nevertheless, they were delicious, especially dipped in hummus brought by the group that studied Israel. I’m including recipe with my unintentional modifications.

2 cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup sesame seeds (We didn’t have sesame seeds so we replaced this with ½ cup of whole wheat flour)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp dry active yeast
1 and ½ cups warm water
½ palm-full coarse sea salt
1 palm-full chopped rosemary

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast with your fingers. Form a depression in the middle of the mixture and slowly add the warm water and olive oil, kneading gently for 15 minutes until the dough becomes soft and smooth. Divide the dough into three parts. Stretch and flatten each ball of dough and keep in a warm place covered with a towel for three hours. When the dough has risen, sprinkle flour over a baking sheet and place each roll on the sheet. Sprinkle the breads with seasalt and rosemary. Arrange the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake the bread for about thirty minutes, or until the edges of the breads become brown and crisp.