Last year, I bought quite a few bags of fresh cranberries over the course of the season. Some became cranberry sauce, but I also hoped to find some interesting, new-to-me takes on the seasonal berry. I experimented with candying and a maple-sweetened pie. They weren’t bad, but I when I picked up my first bag of the year a few weeks ago, I was still looking for something different.
Cranberries had been on my mind since I found an opened nine-month-old bag of berries in my freezer last month. Oops. I heard something on NPR last year about a cranberry shortage and decided to stock up. Or at least that’s my excuse.
Luckily, this cake is among the best and easiest uses of cranberries I’ve tried, so I shouldn’t have a problem using up the rest of them. This isn’t a super decadent chocolate cake, but that’s part of the charm. It’s a simple, two-bowl cake batter with a healthy dose of cocoa powder. It’s light but still chocolaty, perfect for a snack or everyday dessert, though it could be dressed up with some freshly whipped cream. The cranberries are a tart counterpoint to the soft chocolate cake, almost like chocolate dipped strawberries or raspberries. Cinnamon adds a warm note, which makes it more perfect for fall and provides a further check on the sourness of the berries. A final sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top gives the cake a crackly crust.
Every three weeks or so, a group of my friends get together for a themed potluck dinner. Our first dinner was over a year ago and mainly engineered to take advantage of a friend’s spacious and well-appointed backyard. By number three, we were in a rhythm and just kept scheduling through the winter, despite moving the festivities inside. We usually pick a theme in the weeks leading up to the dinner and then email a few days out about what we’re each making. Even though our potlucks are more about spending time together over a meal, we’ve eaten extremely well. Most themes seem to inspire us all to get out of our culinary comfort zone in the best way.
Recently, we decided to take advantage of the still-warm-enough weather and grill on a friend’s deck. We met some logistical difficulties while trading shifts on the grill to finish each of our dishes, but no one minded having a more leisurely meal. While waiting for the next few dishes to make it to the table, I found myself picking at an addictive pomegranate-scallion relish that accompanied grilled sweet potatoes. The bright flavors were accentuated with lime juice and a touch of heat from fresh ginger. I couldn’t stop eating it and finished off most of the bowl by the end of the night.
This sweet-and-spicy glazed salmon is delicious on its own, but the freshness of the pomegranate-scallion relish makes this dish for me. The apricot glaze has a touch of Dijon to offset the sweetness and cayenne for heat. The glaze and relish are easy to throw together and the salmon is cooked perfectly after a very short trip under the broiler. If I brought this to a potluck, I’d make sure to get a piece with plenty of caramelized glaze. But as it turned out — when no scheduled or impromptu potlucks turned up on my calendar — I had no problem finishing all the salmon off myself over the course of a few days.