It's been a long, exhausting week of moving large heavy things in boxes, or on pallets, or by the truckload. The new building is filling up quickly. You'd think that we could plan better so that we are not moving large heavy things in the heat of July, but you'd think wrong, because here we are. Next time around, say, in another lifetime, I am going to focus on tiny fossil pollen grains rather than large fossil bones. I'm not giving up the book collecting, however. Some things are worth their weight in, well, weight.
Field season has started and people are coming into the Badlands and Black Hills from all corners--friends from Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado have come through in the last week alone--surveying, working in caves, and collecting yet more large heavy things for the new building. All too soon, it will be time for the 70th Harley-Davidson rally in Sturgis. Hundreds of thousands of bikers--literally--will be roaring through the area for a couple of weeks. The tourists are driving through in high numbers; a large number of them are heading toward Mt. Rushmore and environs. Mt. Rushmore, or MORU in govspeak, is one of the most frequently visited units in the National Park Service. Summer is frenetically busy like this up here every year.
Add to that a stray kitten who is showing no signs of leaving our deck...note to self: schedule that brisk talk with St. Francis soon. We need a kitten like we need a Harley, which is to say not.at.all. She purrs loudly enough to have her own slot in the rally, that's for sure. Stray animals find us at the oddest and most inconvenient times. We still have not found a home for the last kitten we took in temporarily....nine years ago. (Okay, so we never even tried...)
Our last stray: Mel Blanc in Delaware, age six months. Check those feet. He is twice this size now in all dimensions.
But the farmers' market is booming and the produce is wonderful. Last night was a locavores' feast: roast Hutterite chicken, roasted new potatoes with rosemary, and the first young corn of the season, followed by a raspberry cobbler, all locally grown or raised, nothing except the chicken ever refrigerated. The cats are apparently Hutterites themselves, because they thoroughly approved of the chicken. So did the kitten. Maybe I'm using the wrong methods to get her to leave? ...naaahhh...
Summer baking tends to focus on light dishes, desserts that can be served cool, and lots of fruit. Citrus-based treats are particularly appealing right now. Here are a few citrus-based desserts from the Simple Gifts files.The first two are variations on the same theme: orange cake with dried fruit (dates or raisins) included. The first is a sheet cake, the second a tube-pan cake. Notice that both use either juice or peel from citrus fruit, not extract-based flavorings. It's summer. Use the real thing.
Coy’s orange cakeCream 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg. Add 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 cup raisins, ½ grated lemon rind, 1 grated orange rind, 1 cup buttermilk. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and nuts as desired. Pour into 9”x13” cake pan. Bake in moderate oven until done. For topping, pour ¼ cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup orange juice over 1 cup sugar. Let stand while cake is baking. Blend and pour over cake as soon as removed from oven. Let stand several hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream.
—Coy McLean Brooks
Orange cakeCream together 2 cups sugar and 1 cup shortening. Then add 4 eggs, one at a time. Then add 3 T grated orange peel and 1 tsp grated lemon peel. Sift together 4 cups flour, and 1 tsp baking soda. Add this to the mix alternately with 1 ½ cups buttermilk. Then add 1 cup dates, 1 cup nuts (chopped) and 1 cup coconut (a heaping T of flour sprinkled on these will keep them from settling). Bake in tube pan for about 1 hour at 325* to 375* F. Cake should be well browned.
For a change of pace, try these light cookies, which will keep for a week or two. These make thin, crisp cookies (as the name suggests). If you are not a margarine fan, you can experiment with butter to get the texture right. Remember that this recipe was being typed up by my mother in the 1940s, from older recipes, and rationing was on. Margarine was the main option then.
Orange crispies1 cup margarine
2/3 cup sugar
3 to 4 tsp. orange rind
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Grease pan for first cooking. Pinch off tiny bits and mash with fork crosswise. Bake in slow to moderate oven.
--Vada Brooks Johnson
Happy Monday. Need a kitten?