Saturday 19 January
This evening we were going to our friend Julie's house for what was supposed to be a homey, relaxed dinner for just us three. To provide dessert, Holt baked a cake from this brilliant recipe invented by our friend David Warda.
Persian Pistachio Cake
1 cup Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon ground Cardamom
½ teaspoon Salt
½ cup Buttermilk
½ teaspoon Rosewater
2/3 cup (1½ sticks) room temperature Unsalted Butter
¾ cup Sugar
3 Eggs, separated
1 cup finely chopped or ground unsalted Pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan (though we did fine with a bundt cake pan).
Combine flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.
Combine buttermilk and rosewater.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar then slowly add the egg yolks.
Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture.
Mix in the pistachios.
Whisk in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake on a rack.
Gaze at its beauty.
We drove over to Julie's, and had just cracked a bottle of wine and eaten a bunch of cornmeal-crusted olives (we have to get the recipe for those as well) when we heard a siren and noticed lights flashing. We looked out, and the house that was one over from hers across the street was on fire. The firemen had already arrived; at first it looked like some smoke billowing out of a second floor window, but then we saw red inside, and a flame licked out from under the roof eaves.
By this time, the whole neighborhood was out, and we went out on the porch and stared in that combination of fascination and horror you get on such occasions. Julie ran around the corner, avoiding the firetrucks and hoses, and found out that there was no one in the house; the parents were away, and the kids and the dog had been there, but had smelled smoke and gotten out to a neighbor, who had called 911.
By this time Julie's sister, who also lives in the neighborhood, had come over with her daughter to see how Julie was, and we were all chatting with neighbors and watching the firemen trying to keep the upper floor from exploding in flame. They'd shower water into the windows, and then the fire would burst out from the rafters under the roof. Smoke was rolling out, but luckily the wind was taking it away from us (and from our car, which was parked on the street in front of her house).
After a while we were cold and hungry, and there was nothing we could do to help, so we settled down in the dining room, ate Julie's delicious tomato-sauced and slow-cooked pot roast with green salad, and gave Julie's sister and her daughter and son (who also turned up) a slice of the cake.
After dessert of pistachio cake and a bottle of prosecco, which we very much needed, we hugged Julie goodnight, thanked the firemen who were still wrapping up around the smoking wreck of a house, and drove home.
Those tongues of fire still linger in our minds; may all of us be safe from such misfortunes.