Rocco officially outgrew some of his newborn clothes last week, an event we marked with photos and exclamations and the reorganization of his top dresser drawer. I am ever comparing the Rocco Today with the Rocco [Insert Age Here], something that’s pretty easy to do when you have an ongoing chronology building in your phone’s photo album, but what can I say? I’m nostalgic. It’s not that I long for those first few emotional, sleep-deprived days; it’s just that I like to remember them. They are part of Rocco’s story; they are part of ours; and, because those first early weeks were so hazy and slow, there’s a lot about them that would be easy to forget or neglect—namely, other things happening in the world outside this one. One that’s especially worth noting, for example: the release of Honey & Jam, a beautiful, seasonal baking book by Hannah Queen.
In the same way I rehearse details of Rocco’s beginning, sometimes I think about the first days of this place. In August 2008, when I first bought the domain name and set up a WordPress site and began regularly coming here to publish and post, I found one blogger after another who was also out there, sharing his or her recipes and stories, interacting in comments on other sites. I read their stories, they read mine, we remembered each other and cared about each other and, sometimes, extended our friendships offline. I met Jacqui for Thai food in Naperville and now, seven years later, here we are with baby boys playing together in her living room. I hung out with Tim on a weekend in Nashville and now, who would believe it, I’m at home with him in Tennessee. Also, when I first moved down here in early 2011, a little lonely and trying to adjust, I met up with Hannah at a sort of halfway point between us, in Chattanooga, where she taught me about the tilt-shift feature in Instagram and we walked together through a giant antique market near Whole Foods.
I am as enamored with Hannah’s new cookbook as I was then with her site, which any of her readers will tell you is almost magical with its moody photos and Appalachian charm. The book is broken up by seasons, with recipes and dreamy full-page photographs of things like spring honeysuckle breeze cake, summer lavender-blueberry cupcakes, autumn apple rosemary skillet cake and winter pear and almond chocolate cake with cider glaze. It’s worth having both for the foolproof recipes (which I’ve been swapping einkorn flour and coconut sugar in and still finding stellar results) and for the drop-dead gorgeous images that make you want to pack up everything and move to the mountains.
The spinach cake pictured here in this post is one of the book’s most unusual recipes in that it’s a savory option and, although I’ve already made a couple of the sweet recipes with happy outcomes, I had to try this one, if only because it sounded like nothing I’ve ever made before.
So here’s what you need to know about Hannah’s spinach cake: it is like nothing I’ve ever made before: a creation with a savory flavor that makes you think cornbread or biscuit, but yet with the texture of an afternoon cake. Dried fruit mixed throughout the batter provides pops of sweetness alongside the creamy feta cheese and ribbons of spinach, and the whole thing works wonderfully alongside a salad (like this one!). I also have to tell you as an added bonus, whether or not you’re baking around the schedule of a newborn: every recipe I’ve made so far, including this cake, has come together quickly, easily, like it’s almost too good to be true.
Speaking of too good to be true:
I’m giving away a copy of Honey & Jam! I accidentally ended up with two copies*, which is your gain because all you have to do now is leave a comment on this post to enter to win my extra. So tell me your favorite kind of cake! Tell me your favorite way to use spinach! Tell me that you stare at your child and take hundreds of photos of him like I do! Really, tell me whatever you like. Winner will be chosen Friday and must be located within the United States. UPDATE: Congratulations, Elizabeth!
Savory Spinach Cake with Raisins, Walnuts and Feta
Adapted from Honey & Jam
Hannah’s original recipes calls for dried cherries instead of raisins and she uses Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. I didn’t have any creme fraiche on hand to drizzle on top, but she recommends serving it with that and/or honey alongside a salad.
Butter, for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used einkorn)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup feta cheese
Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and grease a nine-inch-round baking dish or cake pan with butter.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt and olive oil.
Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of flour; stir to combine. Next, stir in the spinach, walnuts, raisins and feta.
Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.
*disclaimer: we were sent a review copy of this book! all opinions expressed are our own.