Matt Molina's Linguine with Clams and Chiles
Mark Bittman's Tomato Paella

Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake


I wanted to do my best not to sigh all over this post, but I'm afraid I can't help myself. Summer is over and I'm just not ready. We went upstate for the long weekend, to Beacon, where we lounged and lazed and marveled at the weather and wondered where the time went. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were in Italy with my family? Wasn't it just yesterday that we celebrated Independence Day on my back patio? We lost a few weeks there to the apartment hunt and to the packing and the move and then the unpacking. But still, did it all have to end so quickly?

There was a chill in the air upstate, a little frisson of fall that raised the hairs on my arms at moments and made the sheets cold at night. One farmer at the greenmarket was selling the very last of her blueberries, while another had the first cold-weather squashes on display. We could see tinges of red in the tips of leaves around us, just a pale wash, mind you, but it was there nonetheless.  And when I stood in a friend's wild garden on Sunday, with the still-hot sun shining down on us and the crickets singing and little frogs rubbing themselves up against the rocks, I found myself overcome with melancholy, feeling almost robbed.

Give me a few days and I'll come around, I always do. I'll revel in the crisp air, make plans for apple-picking, watch old Woody Allen movies in the afternoon, take a walk through Central Park with a hot cup of tea and my sweetheart, bake bread and feel reborn. I'll forget about humidity and sticky skin, I won't hear the crickets anymore, there'll be Thanksgiving to look forward to, and then suddenly Christmas (it seems impossible), too.

But until I come around, give me a few more days of summer, please. Just a few more hot afternoons, a few more incandescent sunsets, a few more drippy peaches and sun-warmed tomatoes. It's all I ask for to smooth the transition, to leave this season behind without looking back.


On Friday, just before leaving, I made Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake, a charming recipe name if I ever heard one. A simply spiced, hardy batter bakes up around halved Italian prune plums, turning golden while the plums fill with a nice, sour juice. Cooled, we set it in the backseat of the car as we navigated the roads around New York City by night. The next morning, when we awoke in that quiet, verdant getaway of ours, we ate fat wedges of it on the porch, squinting into the sunshine, swirls of steam coming off our coffee mugs.

I know, I know, I still have to retry The Plum Torte, but Dorie's version was a hit - not too sweet, not too heavy, the agreeably tart plums perfectly silky against the sturdy crumb. This is, in my book, a breakfast cake or a snacking one, meant for starting the day or punctuating it gently in the afternoon. Plums are the last fruits of summer here that neatly straddle the fall, which is perhaps why I felt so fondly towards this cake. Be that as it may, it's going into my permanent repertoire, paving the way for juicy apple cakes and fragrant quince pies.

Not yet, not yet, but soon.

Dimply Plum Cake
Serves 8

1 1/2 cups all purpose four
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
Grated zest of one lemon (I left this out, by accident, mostly)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8x8 baking dish or a glass pie plate and set aside.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and ground cardamom.

3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Reduce the speed and add the flour mixture. Pour the batter in the prepared dish, smooth the top and arrange the plums on top, cut side up.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.