I was in Waitsfield, Vermont last weekend. Nowhere is vacation mode more apparent than a town that seems to propel itself on beer, bikes, and National Geographic hair. The town is perpetually breezy. I get the feeling July is alive and well there all year round.
I visited a vineyard and sat in the grass with friends, and a baby, and listened to a local band named the Grift, and drank wine in jam jars. We ate Israeli couscous salad and shards of sharp cheese and rolled up cured meats surrounded by grape vines.
In the morning, we went to the farmers’ market where we had blackberry Danish and looked at sheepskin rugs touting local origins and tasted beer jelly made from Vermont brew. We bought red-skinned potatoes and haricot vert and dill, all of which found entry into a potato salad drenched with local crème fraîche later that evening.
We sampled smoked chèvre and an aged ash cheese called Black Madonna from the Sage Farm Goat Dairy lady, and I felt closer to France than I have in a long time. Then we went on a search for Heady Topper, for which there was none in the entire state. Apparently, we were too laidback in our acquisition efforts—even compared to native Vermonters, who all seem to know that the beer delivery happens on Monday and must set their watches accordingly.
So we hiked. Then went on a bar crawl for three. Chatted with the owner of Localfolk Smokehouse about his recent perfection of a spicy barbeque sauce recipe. And finally found some loosies of Heady Topper at the bar of Hostel Tevere, run brilliantly by a husband and wife team. All the while in the company of a three-month-old possessing a very chill Vermont-y attitude, until the witching hour of 7 pm.
That evening I saw fireflies after dinner, and felt closer to childhood than I have in a long time. And in the morning we had parsley cake for breakfast.
Which I will file away as the unofficial dessert of the Green Mountain State. It is fern-colored and pleasantly grassy, if you will permit me to use such a ridiculous phrase as a selling point. It carries laidback sweetness, which allows the herbs to become softened by dairy.
For this role, I recommend crème fraîche spiked with honey. Old-fashioned vanilla ice cream would work equally as well, though less traditional as a breakfast option. As one friend put it, the sweetened fraîche tasted of “warm ice cream.” So there’s that, too.
I interpreted this positively, since he had multiple servings throughout the weekend. No judgment on either account. It’s Vermont, after all.
The recipe is from a restaurant in Brooklyn called Roberta’s with a cult following. In full disclosure: I haven’t been, though it wields an inspirational vibe and appears to be the kind of joint that can make pizza and parsley infinitely interesting, and unexpected.
Kind of like beer in jelly. Babies in bars. And parsley in cake.
Parsley Cake with Crème Fraîche and Honey
Adapted from Food52 and Roberta’s Cookbook
130 grams (about 3½ tightly-packed cups) parsley leaves (stems removed)
50 grams (about 1½ tightly-packed cups) mint leaves (stems removed)
165 grams (¾ cup) extra virgin olive oil
290 grams (2 cups plus 1 tbsp) flour
15 grams (1 tbsp plus 2 tsp) cornstarch
7 grams (2¼ tsp) kosher salt
8 grams (1½ tsp) baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
330 grams (1 2/3 cups) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 lemon
crème fraîche (sweeten with vanilla bean and honey or maple syrup, if desired)
honey (to drizzle on top)
In a food processor or blender, place 1/3 of the herbs and process until well crushed and broken down. Add the remaining herbs in one or two more additions, depending on the size of your machine, and puree, stopping occasionally to stir the herbs and scrape them off the sides and toward the blade.
When the herbs are fairly well pulverized, stream in half the olive oil and pulse until combined. Add remaining oil and blend for 10 seconds longer. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the eggs for 30 seconds; add the sugar and mix on high speed until light yellow and fluffy (about 3 minutes). On low, slowly stream in the herb mixture and mix until combined.
With the machine on low, add the flour mixture a third at a time (do this quickly and don’t allow the flour to incorporate in before adding the next bit—this shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 seconds). Stop the mixer and add the vanilla and zest and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (the flour should be fully incorporated but take care not to overmix). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to bake, set the oven to 340 degrees. Butter a loaf pan (I used two narrow ones—10 x 3½ and 7 x 3½), line with parchment paper (with the paper hanging over the sides), and then butter the parchment. Pour in the batter and smooth with a spatula.
Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. (The reference recipe has the cake bake for only 15 to 20 minutes, but they use a sheet pan which makes for a shallower cake and a faster cooking time; watch closely depending on your baking receptacle.)
Let cool in the pan. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a drizzle of honey.
Serves about 12
-Any leftovers can be stored in the freezer.
-Note the batter hangs in the fridge for a least 6 hours before baking.