Valentines

apricot-almond_cake.jpgUsually, pound cake is a Spring thing for me. I make it each year around Easter and maybe again a little later when fresh, locally-grown strawberries are ready to pick. The sweet berries with their bright juice are a perfect companion for pound cake. But in the midst of my almond paste frenzy, my apricot brandy pound cake seemed like a logical place to try to add almond paste. So, I did. And I was right. Brandied Apricot-Almond Pound Cake is the result of a match made in heaven.

Remember the brandied apricot topping on those almond bars I posted last week? Well, here it is again, swirled like birthday ribbons through apricot brandy-spiked pound cake laced with almond paste. I made some adjustments to my original pound cake recipe. The resulting texture is not exactly that of my original pound cake, but it comes pretty close.

It's best to make the cake a day or two before serving. Seal it up tight and store it in a cool place. The flavors develop with such depth and the fragrance that wafts up through your nostrils when you open the cake is intoxicating.

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tiffanyblueboxClassics become classic because they don’t succumb to time or trend but grow true to themselves. Such is the case with the makers of the beloved blue box with the white ribbon. As Valentine’s Day rolls around, naturally my mind, as well as my hopes, go straight to that classic blue box.

Growing up, my mother and her sisters were my style mentors. It was my younger aunts in particular with their gold bracelets and brooches, that cued me into the finer things in life. Their heavy gold link bracelets, laden with charms that made music as they walked, and the jeweled pins that adorned their dresses and sweaters were all, as I learned early, from Tiffany’s. That blue box tied neatly with the white ribbon became a familiar site under our Christmas tree, on my mother’s birthday and my parents’ wedding anniversary. It became for me, a style-precocious child, something to aspire to.

My first blue box came at 18 from my first serious boyfriend. He would later become my first fiancé, gifting me yet again with a coveted blue box containing The ring. But the first box which was indeed ring-size and had my fingers trembling as I opened it, held two enamel and gold bands. Pre-engagement rings was how I viewed my Valentine’s Day gift of the blue and gold, and green and gold Schlumberger bands that stacked beautifully on my finger.

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blogchocmoltencakes04.jpgI have started internet dating the last few months so occasionally I ask someone over for dinner. Should I query them about their food likes and dislikes? What I really want to ask is how do they feel about eating herring, do they like Champagne and is eating lamb in your comfort zone?

Usually asking this at first is a real dealbreaker, never mind mentioning that Classical music will probable be playing in the background. Should I keep it “safe” and make a simple braised chicken dish or should I go out on a culinary limb and make braised lamb shanks that perfume the house with the ethic smell of a casbar in some far away place. Should I ask or just take a gamble? 

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left.jpgI never had a vision for my wedding.

When my fiancée and I started talking about getting married, the first question was “What kind of wedding should we have?” As most women do, I bought a few wedding magazines to help conceptualize just what the options were for a New York wedding. I am a fairly recent transplant to the city so for me the wedding magazines were research material for venues where such an event could be held. First and foremost, these wedding guides were my tools to uncovering the answer to my most pressing question all. How much does a New York wedding cost?

Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate nice things. I love designer shoes but I won’t pay full price for them. They must be on sale. In fact, I rarely pay full price for anything that is not a necessity. My fiancée says it is the Scot in me. Whatever the reason is, I was on a mission to disprove the notion that a wedding had to be expensive and equivalent to a down payment on a house.

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heart_tree1327423453.pngIt is, perhaps, telling that my two favorite holidays are a) non-religious and b) associated with the acquisition of large amounts of candy. I love the autumnal, supernatural-tinged crispness of Halloween, and I adore Valentine’s Day’s pink, and red, and sparkles, and lace, and…hearts. I could live forever without the mushy sentiments. When I was single the romantic aspects of the holiday left me anguished, desperate and anxious for the relief that came on the 15th of February. Now that I am old and married, I am largely of the opinion that if you express your love only (or even mainly) because of Hallmark, you have some work to do on the home front. It is not the sentiment, but the trappings that “send” me.

Although real, anatomical hearts are not particularly prepossessing as objects, they are beautiful in their own way. It would be hard to live without one. What I love, though, is the shape as old as the ice age, a shape that probably came from the combining of an ancient symbol for fire and that of the astrological sign Aries. It is, to my eyes, a perfect shape. It combines gentle curves for those who like curves, and they suggest other things that are rounded, erotic, comforting and otherwise love-worthy. For those who prefer straight lines and pointy things, there is everything below the curves, all straight lines and an exquisite point. Pentagrams are nifty, but they have nary a curve if the scribe is sober. The infinity symbol has two lovely, looping curves but what if one needs the crunchy edginess of a line or an acute angle?

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