Home Fries

28 Jul

My friend and her family generously gave me some of their surplus potatoes and home-grown herbs and onions a few days ago. When I got home, I set to work steeping an ample bunch of lemon balm leaves with lemon verbena tea bags to make a pitcher of iced tea. Then, I graced my kitchen with cilantro-studded home fries.

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When I lived in the Bay Area, I used to be okay with battling the crowds and going out for a big weekend brunch complete with eggs, home fries, maybe a muffin, and always coffee.

Oh, New York. Why does it seem like every brunch place here serves french fries with eggs? There is the occasional potato pancake or limp hash-brown, but rarely, if ever, a home fry. Maybe I just live in the wrong part of town for home fries? If anyone out there has a good spot for New York City breakfast potatoes, let me know. Until then, you can find me in my kitchen on weekend mornings, creating what I feel is a proper weekend breakfast.

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The trick to making these home fries at home is to use the microwave (if you do not have a microwave, you can boil your potatoes first). Wash the potatoes, chop the potatoes, and place the potatoes covered in the microwave. This gets them par-cooked before they hit the pan to get crispy outside and remain soft inside.

The second trick is to cook the onion separately from the potatoes and to add the onion back in at the end. Since the potatoes cook much longer than the onion, taking the onion out and then adding the onion back at the end prevents the pieces from charring.

Naturally, home fries are excellent with eggs. If the season is right, I recommend slicing some baby tomatoes in half, salting them, and mixing them in with the eggs. I scrambled my eggs, but a poached or a flipped egg  with the runny yolk seeping into the potatoes is another option. If you are not into eggs, home fries + beans or home fries + fish or home fries + sausage or home fries + salad are a few of many ideas.

Sprinkle with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Hot sauce optional.

Home Fries

recipe from the always reliable and lovely Smitten Kitchen

makes about 4 servings

You can use all butter, or you can use a mix of canola oil and butter. I dialed down the butter slightly compared to the original recipe. Like me, start with less, and add more if you like. 

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter, divided (or a mix of butter and canola oil)

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: fresh cilantro

Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl or large plate, top with 1/2 tablespoon butter, and cover with another plate. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking (without removing the cover plate) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in large skillet (I used non-stick) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter (or do half butter half canola oil) in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes (at this point, if you are making eggs to go with your potatoes, start them now). Stir in onion and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using.

Bon Appetit’s Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

17 Jul

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My pantry is filled with grains. Grains in various packages–bags, quart containers, boxes, tupperware, and random bulk-bin bags. Grains in various amounts–a nearly full container, half empty, one or two servings left, and a serving that requires more math to calculate liquid-to-grain ratios than I would like to think about.

In my pantry I have: amaranth (I’ve been checking this post out for how to use my amaranth. I want to try popping it), bulgur (that one is in the fridge for some reason), three different kinds of oats, about two servings-worth of farina, polenta, grits, barley, a cupful of arborio rice, couscous, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, farro, roasted buckwheat grouts (aka kasha), a handful of egg noodles, angel hair, and spaghetti. I recently polished off the quinoa and the millet, and I am exercising serious restraint not to buy more before I finish off some of my other grain odds and ends. Those darn odds and ends. At least grains have a long shelf life.

Looks like Amanda Hesser and I are on the same wavelength, though. She recently prepared lunch for her kids by using up the “various inconvenient amounts” of grains lying around. She boiled them one at a time in the same pot and, like magic, lunch was packed and pantry space was created and only one pot was dirty.

The upshot of all of this pantry overload is that overtime I built myself a arsenal of healthy, quick (and not-so-quick) pantry grains for that perfect throw-together meal. I just need a better system for storing, organizing, and keeping track of all the grains.

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One of the many grains in my pantry is barley. I bought the barley in the winter when I made this creamy chicken soup, and it’s about time that I use it again. Let’s take barley’s “heft and chew” from winter stew to summer salad.

I enjoyed a big bowl of Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad for dinner with a little sautéed pesto zucchini and a cold cherry balsamic shrub with a squeeze of lemon juice. Hit. The. Spot.

Leftover grain salads make a great lunch the next day, too.

Barley tip: I soaked the pearled barley in water overnight to speed up the cooking time. Soaking is also thought to enhance the nutrient absorption of the grain by decreasing phytic acid. Nutrition Stripped has a handy guide on soaking and sprouting as a quick reference.

Soaking changes the color of the barley to a slightly gray-color vs. a toasty beige, but the taste is essentially the same. Check out this Serious Eats post about soaking. Up to you if you want to soak, but I recommend it, if anything to save you some time.

Don’t have barely on hand? Feel free to use brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheatberries, pasta, or really any other grain you have in your pantry!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes about 4 servings

NOTE: I didn’t use all of the barley that I cooked. That was my personal preference. Using all of the barley for this recipe seemed like A LOT of barley, and I liked having more even amounts of grains, beans, and veggies in my salad. I saved some of my leftover barley in the fridge and ate it later in the week with different accoutrement. You can also eat leftover barley as a sweet or savory breakfast. 

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise

1 cup pearled barley, soaked overnight and drained

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

handful of fresh spinach, leaves torn

juice of half a lemon

optional: fresh ground pepper, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano…), a pinch of your favorite spices 

  • Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  • Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing, mine only took about 10 minutes since I soaked it overnight); drain. Let cool slightly.
  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook pumpkin seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool.
  • Toss green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, feta, spinach, lemon juice, and optional herbs and spices in a large bowl. Enjoy!

Cherry Balsamic Shrub

14 Jul

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Have you ever tried a shrub? Not the woody plant shrub, but the “drinking vinegar” shrub?

A shrub is a drink made of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Some shrubs also contain alcohol. The sugar, acid, and optional alcohol preserve the fruit, which was one of the original purposes of a shrub. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, a shrub syrup was a means of preserving fruit long past its picking. Shrubs were popular in Colonial America, mixed with cool water to provide a pick-me-up on hot summer days (source: Serious Eats).

I first saw shrub on the menu at Astoria’s The Queens Kickshaw about a year ago, and I finally went back to taste one.

After an exciting bike ride from West Harlem through Randall’s Island and finally into Astoria, I took a pit stop at The Queens Kickshaw to scarf down a grilled cheese and a strawberry shrub (they also have golden raisin shrub available now). The shrub gets served with seltzer, and tastes like a homemade vinegary soda.

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To make a shrub, you need a hefty amount of sugar, but you also need a hefty amount of vinegar. The sugar is really there to preserve the fruit and mute the vinegar sting. If you are worried about the high sugar content, a small amount of shrub goes a long way in a drink, so you only need a little bit of concentrate to reap a lot of flavor.

To make a shrub at home: Combine fruit with sugar, let it sit, macerate, let it sit. Two days later, add some vinegar. Store at room temperature for about a week, shaking or stirring at least once a day. After a week, strain it, refrigerate it, drink it.

I now have Cherry Balsamic Shrub at the ready in my fridge for a sweltering summer day refreshment. This shrub has a strong balsamic flavor, so if you are not a big balsamic fan, use more cider vinegar in your ratio.

To drink a shrub, you can:

-Mix it with seltzer and ice. About 1 part shrub to 4-6 parts seltzer, depending how strong you want it.

-Make a shrub cocktail. I did cherry balsamic shrub + gin + seltzer. Bourbon and cherry would work, too.

-Cook with it. I added a tablespoon of cherry balsamic shrub to my clafoutis batter. Would go nice in a roast chicken, too. Or drizzled over ice cream or in oatmeal. 

 -Drink it straight up (super concentrated and strong that way). 

I am still new to the slightly fermented vinegar drink thing, but I am happy with my first batch. Of course, you can experiment with different fruits and different vinegars.  I recently tasted a cucumber serrano chile shrub at a bar that was both crisp and fiery.

Don’t forget your re-usable stainless steel straw!

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Cherry Balsamic Shrub

recipe from Carey at Reclaiming Provincial 

makes about 1- 1 1/2 cups

1 cup cherries, halved and pitted

3/4 cup granulated sugar

5-10 black peppercorns

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for about 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up (I used my cocktail muddler). Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)

After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, crushing the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (Carey recommends giving it the additional 24 hours, as she think this extra fermentation time does nice things for the final flavor. I agree!)

When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir (or light shake if using a jar) each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a fine sieve (you can use cheesecloth but I didn’t have any so I just used the sieve) then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.

To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 4-6 parts seltzer. 1 part gin or bourbon optional.

Drink Up! Green Smoothie

2 Jul

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Well I finally gave green smoothies a whirl at home, and…they’re great!

I first started adding just a small handful of baby spinach into a smoothie, but now I’ve expanded to kale and purslane.

A few weeks ago, I got a deal at the farmer’s market: two huge bundles of greens for $5. I bought collards and kale. I cooked the collards, and used some of the kale for salads.  I washed, de-stemmed and tore the remaining kale leaves into pieces and stuck them in a ziplock bag in my freezer (my friend Brianna gave me that genius tip!). Now I have a cold green leafy veggie in my freezer for when the smoothie pangs hit (I would imagine that frozen kale is easy to toss into a soup or pasta recipe, too).

Having frozen smoothie ingredients on hand  (i.e. chopped kale, chopped banana, frozen fruit) is key to keeping things cold. Sometimes I add ice at the very end to get the smoothie extra cold, but it is not always necessary.

If you are wary of the greens, don’t worry because you can’t taste them, especially if you use strong fruits like banana or mango and a nut butter like peanut or almond. The greens just make the smoothie turn, well, green.

Tip: blend the greens with the liquid first. Get it really nice and blended before adding in the remaining fruits and accouterment. This helps decrease the leafiness of the greens. I just use a regular blender.

A half portion of this smoothie fills me up in the morning when I drink it with coffee. I also make the full serving for a light lunch before a workout. Experiment with different greens and fruits and add-ins like chia seeds. Have fun, stay cool, and drink up!

Drink Up! Green Smoothie

Makes 1 large portion, or 2 small snack-size portions

1 cup of greens (I used 3/4 cup frozen kale and 1/4 cup fresh purslane)

1 cup liquid (I used 3/4 cup low-fat milk and 1/4 cup Greek yogurt)

1 heaping cup of fruit (I used about 1 cup frozen banana pieces and 1 poached fig)

1 heaping tablespoon nut/seed butter (I used peanut butter, but almond butter is great in smoothies, too)

optional: Ice

optional: a sprinkle of chia seeds (I didn’t use any in this smoothie because purslane is high in omega-3 fatty acids)

Blend the greens and the liquid in the blender. Get it nice and blended, may take 1-2 minutes. Next, add in the fruit and the nut/seed butter and the chia seeds (if using). Blend again to incorporate. If you want the smoothie extra cold, add in a few ice cubes and blend again. You can top the smoothie with extra chia seeds if you like.

 NOTE: The full recipe, if you use nut butter, could add up to 350-400 calories, making this smoothie more of a mini meal than a snack. 

Mustard Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Fingerlings

29 Jun

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It’s hot here in New York, but I am still turning on the oven…for now. The temperature has not yet escalated to the point where I refuse to be in the kitchen under heat. So, a simple, roasted dinner I made.

As per my last post, I am trying to incorporate more fish into my diet. Salmon is in season in the summertime, and the pink, fatty fish looks so nice next to green and gold asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

I was in the Upper West Side area on a Friday afternoon, and after seeing every other person on the street with a shopping bag from New York City’s famous Zabar’s, I just had to go in and pick up some fish for dinner.

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The vegetables were from the Columbia greenmarket. Fingerlings are one of my favorite potato varieties. They really do look like little fingers! I had some leftover kale ribbons, so I spread my roasted vegetables on a small bed of raw kale.

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A no-fuss oven to plate dinner.

 

Mustard Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Fingerlings

The salmon served 2, the vegetables served 4 (I saved for leftovers the next day)…you can always adjust the amounts if you want 

For the vegetables:

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed at the ends

10 fingerling potatoes, sliced in half the long way and sliced again if you want the smaller

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

For the fish:

1 large fillet of salmon (about 1/4 pound)

1/2 tablespoon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

a pinch of each salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the potatoes on one half of the baking sheet, and the asparagus on the other half of the baking sheet in a single layer (if you can’t make a single layer, use 2 baking sheets). Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper (you can always use more later).

Roast the vegetables, checking after 10 minutes. The asparagus will be done before the potatoes. After 10-15 minutes, the asparagus will probably be done. Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate, re-distribute and spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet, and return the potatoes to the oven. They will cook for about 20 to 30 minutes more or until slightly golden and soft.

———-

Meanwhile, pat the salmon dry. Line your baking sheet (or pie pan!) with a rectangle of parchment paper. Place the salmon onto the parchment, skin side down.

Whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Spoon it over the salmon (you may not need all of it, save the rest for a vinaigrette…just don’t double dip your spoon). Roast the fish in the oven for about 10-20 minutes, checking oven so as not to overcook the salmon.

Sardine Pastas!

21 Jun

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 Brother/Sister Pasta with Sardines

I’m new to the whole “fish in tins” thing. Fresh fish is great, but I am picky about where it comes from, etc., etc., so I don’t buy it often. And even though I love my vegetarian-friendly chia seeds and ground flaxseeds, I always feel like I should be eating more fish.

(Re: the recent news about the updated recommendations for pregnant women and children to eat more fish…not that I am pregnant, or a child, but nonetheless, a little fish in the diet is good for the brain, the heart, the body)

I took a big step (for me) last year and started to eat canned tuna fish. Not bad. Not great. But I do it for my health, right? It’s good to change up the diet, add some variety to the mix. And you can keep it in the pantry to have on-hand.

This year, I am taking the “fish in tins” challenge. Bring it on sardines and anchovies. These smaller fish are supposed to be more sustainable, plus, anchovies can add a nice salty flavor to dishes and sauces, and sardines are a hot “super food” bursting with healthy omega-3 fat. A few months ago, I tried sardines from the tin for my first time. Last month, I bought anchovy paste and made my own version of fish sauce to go into a curry. I was definitely scared, but I persisted and came out strong in the end.

I can now say that I enjoy a nice pasta with sardines sprinkled throughout. I buy the boneless skinless sardines packed in olive oil. (I know, I’m not a true sardine fan until I can enjoy them skin, bones, and all, but this is a process…I’ll get there soon).

This was my first run at sardine pasta, adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders cookbook:

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Whole wheat fusilli pasta with broccoli rabe, pine nuts, golden raisins, and sardines. I added Parmesan on top. And it was SO good!

The sardines got added at the last minute before serving. The worst part about fish is the fishy smell, so I was pleased that the sardines had a very mild fishy smell only if they got too hot, but a smell so delicate that I was not offended.

I recently made a version of Ellie’s Pasta with Sardines with my brother. The pasta was a combination of Ellie’s recipe and my Throw Together Late Spring/Early Summer Pasta.

Instead of broccoli rabe, my brother and I used asparagus ribbons, fresh spring garlic, swiss chard, and cremini mushroom slices. We used toasted pine nuts, but no raisins this time.

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Brother/Sister Pasta with Sardines

Once you have the basic method down, you can always substitute your favorite vegetables and nuts/seeds. You can omit the raisins or keep them. Parmesan is optional, but I love the salty tufts on top of my pasta.

Don’t forget to always save your pasta water!

Pasta with Sardines and Vegetables

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Makes about 4 servings

3 small tablespoons pine nuts (or whatever nut you like)

1 small bunch (3/4 lb. or so) of broccoli rabe (or a combination of whatever seasonal vegetables you have)

4 cloves garlic (in the spring, look for fresh garlic!)

1 can olive-oil packed sardines (Ellie uses 2, I just used 1…up to you; I like the boneless/skinless kind)

12 ounces whole-wheat or regular fusilli or spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste

grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, toast the pine nuts in dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Trim the tough ends from the broccoli rabe, then chop the rest, including the leaves, into 1/2-inch pieces (or, prepare/chop your other vegetables how you like). Roughly chop the garlic and drain the sardines.

Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than it says on the package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water *If using asparagus or zucchini ribbons, drop them into the pasta water 1-2 minutes before you drain the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet (you can use the same one you toasted the pine nuts in) over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli rabe, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until it is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the drained pasta to the vegetable skillet. Add the sardines, the raisins, the pasta cooking water, toasted pine nuts, and the salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. Turn the heat to medium-high and toss to warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. The sardines will break up as you toss. Serve each bowl with a little grated Parmesan on top.

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Pasta with Sardines Broccoli Rabe 

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

12 Jun

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I moved from Northern California to New York City three years ago. Determined to find a full-time job in a restaurant kitchen, I spent my first few weeks “trailing” (a fancy term for trying out) at a handful of restaurants, mostly in pastry.

Typically at a trail, I got a quick tour of the restaurant, I was assigned some kitchen prep tasks, and eventually if all went well, I was allowed on the line during service to observe and help out with some small finishing touches on the dishes.

At one of the restaurants, my task was to peel rhubarb stalks. The peels were eventually going to get candied.

Rhubarb tends to have this “skin” that can be delicately peeled off into hot pink (and sometimes light green) strands. This is not an easy task when you have an entire box of rhubarb to peel and you haven’t eaten or peed for six hours and your hands are trembling with nerves (trembling because earlier that day I incorrectly measured out the dry ingredients for a giant batch of cookies). Nonetheless, I put on a smile, bit my lip, and persevered. Trying out for a new job, after all, is not an easy task.

*Side note, I met my friend Elizabeth at that trail. She was working the line and I was allowed to observe her. I was fresh in New York, and she was the coolest, funniest, nicest person I had met since moving (and still is!), and I knew I had to keep her close. Plus, she had experience in the kitchen and could offer me advice. I never ended up working at that restaurant and she left shortly thereafter, but Elizabeth and I became fast friends.  

My back-of-the-house restaurant life has been on hiatus for the last two years as I finish up graduate school and try to become a registered dietitian.

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While I feel somewhat nostalgic for candied rhubarb tendrils, in the comfort of my own home (if you call comfort a shared apartment with three dudes), I tend to crave a more rustic dessert.

Rhubarb pudding cake fits the bill. It’s a rhubarb compote plopped on top of cake batter and baked. The rhubarb gets chopped and simmered into a compote until just soft. Fast, easy, and absolutely delicious. I did pull out my KitchenAid mixer for the cake batter, but at least I didn’t have to deal with cleaning a giant hobart mixer.

The “pudding” in the cake is created by pouring a hot, vanilla-infused rhubarb compote over a thick sour-cream (or yogurt) batter.

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To memorable restaurant experiences, to good friends, and to pink vegetables that taste like fruit. Bon Appétit!

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

adapted from Vintage Cakes

makes 8-10 servings

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed of leaves and ends, diced (~4 cups)

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise)

1/2 cup water

1 2/3 cup (8 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine Kosher salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (9 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt, room temperature [I used a 6-oz container of low-fat Greek yogurt mixed with some milk to equal a cup]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 or 9-inch round or square cake pan or a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with butter. (I lined mine with parchment paper, too).

Make a compote by tossing together the rhubarb and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan with a lid. Add the vanilla and water, cover, and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but has not completely broken down, stirring occasionally. Take the compote off the heat but keep it covered so it says warm while you make the cake.

To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then whisk the ingredients by hand to ensure they are well mixed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the second egg as soon as the first one has disappeared into the batter, followed by the vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream in two parts, so that you begin and end with the flour mixture.

Spread the batter into the prepared dish or pan and distribute the compote over the top. The compote will be quite runny, but don’t fear: all will be well once the cake has baked. Place the cake in the center of the oven and bake until the edges are firm and the center no longer jiggles, 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 30 minutes, then invert it onto a serving plate and cut into slices, or spoon it right out of the pan.

This cake is best the day it is made, but well-wrapped it can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. 

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