I grew up in a household of girls, and I went to a girls’ school. How much food growing boys can eat was not really part of my consciousness for the first part of my life. Then I met my husband, twenty two years ago on Memorial Day Weekend, at an eating party. My husband is a big eater. He is a tall and slim fellow, and it seems like there is not much room for quantities of food in his architecture, but the man can eat.
After he has eaten his fill, this notion is never far from my mind:
Every year on his birthday, I cook up a storm, trying to hit all the high notes he appreciates. He likes a volume of food, to be sure, but he has a palate. And though he is perfectly willing to eat a lot of one thing, a whole range of options (and plenty of sauce) is the right way to celebrate as far as he is concerned.
Often his parents join us for this meal. After the first such occasion my father-in-law, who is a man of science and of formal speech, remarked, “that was a broad display of nutrients.” Thereafter, the birthday feast has been referred to thusly.
This year the BDN was not especially broad, though certainly more than the average weeknight’s calories were represented. I made the cake twice, learning that results can vary dramatically depending on whether or not you put your glasses on while reading the recipe. The birthday sweet is often a carrot cake, and our son has a love affair going with the new Deborah Madison cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, so we took her very French carrot-almond cake with ricotta cream for a test-drive; once with a misread number of eggs, which required some MacGyvering to make it work, and then again with the correct number, while apologizing telepathically for all the mean things I had said about Ms. Madison’s breeding and intelligence when I was cooking with no glasses.
While we were laying in supplies for the meal, my son and I found that Red Velvet apricots are back in season somewhere, and though it clearly isn’t here (it was sweater weather again at the time that we purchased them), we indulged. He ate two of them straight out of the bag, while I had dreamy thoughts about basil. I don’t know why apricots make me think of basil, but they never fail to.
We admired our burgundy-colored bounty, and then got to work. I sliced them open and pitted them, and my son doinked the honey and butter into their centers. He tucked some basil leaves underneath, and I ground a few twists of pepper over the top. Over the top. “It’s almost too tart! And almost too sweet!” said the little boy happily, when they were roasted and done, and then we ate them all up, and made them again (no glasses required). The combination is delicious over yogurt or ice cream and heaven in combination with a good fresh ricotta (and one or two versions of a buttery cake).
roasted apricots with honey & basil
Heat the oven to 425. Halve and pit as many apricots as you can get your hands on, and arrange them in an ovenproof dish. Plop a hazelnut-sized knob of good raw honey and another of unsalted butter into the center of each. Tuck a few leaves of basil under the fruit, and twist the peppermill (here is what lives in mine) briefly over the whole arrangement. Roast about 20 minutes, until the fruit has cooked through and the juices in the pan have thickened a little.