There are walnuts ripe, and near. A few miles away a murder of crows were feasting on them, dropping them on the hard road in the early morning fog. The trees all yellow-green and tan leaves, falling and twisting, with a mist in-between; and hopping delighted black feathered diners all below.
Like the crows on their highway-side, let us sing the praises of the walnut, in a honeyed cake from Greece: Karidopitta.
The walnut is both bitter and sweet, it has a wide range of flavor within even one handful. A friend of mine used to buy her shelled walnuts from a man who grew them, shelled them, and then packaged them according to the hue of their skins. His dark-skinned walnuts were sweeter than the light-skinned. If you remove some of the walnut skins, by gently roasting them, and then rolling them in a kitchen towel, you will have a more delicate walnut taste, and very little of the earthy, sometimes bitter flavor of the skins.
This recipe, adapted from Paula Wolfert's fine book Mediterranean Cooking (Quadrangle, The New York Times Book Co., 1977), lets walnuts lead- will you follow?
Karidopitta (honey walnut cake from Greece)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 3/4 cups chopped walnuts
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup softened butter
4 eggs, separated
Begin by making a syrup, to be poured over the cake when it comes out of the oven: Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, and 3/4 cup of water in a saucepan. Stir it over medium heat until it boils- simmer for five minutes. Add the honey, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and the lemon juice. Let cool completely.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 1/4 cups of nuts, remaining cinnamon, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the remaining sugar with the butter until light; add the egg yolks one at a time. Beat in the walnut/flour mixture. In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff- then gently fold them into the batter. Spread the batter in a buttered 8 x 8 inch square pan, and sprinkle the remaining walnuts on the top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven, cut into diamond shapes, and while still in the pan- pour the syrup over the hot cake and allow it to rest, covered, until the next day.
If you don't know Paula Wolfert, she is an elegant and beautifully traveled cook:- see her here, and learn about her here. Another little internet item you might like is this website: www.eatyourbooks.com For myself, I enjoy the journey of flipping through physical volumes, torn magazine pages, and spattered index cards.
I remain, disorganizedly and analogically,
PS To tell the difference between the crow and its larger cousin, the raven, pay attention to what the raven quoth: