Make a Cake This Weekend

Good morning. It’s still Melissa here, taking over for Sam while he’s on vacation. I

Good morning. It’s still Melissa here, taking over for Sam while he’s on vacation.

I hope you were able to go on some kind of vacation this summer, too. Or maybe you’re there now, reading this on a breezy beach or under a green tree canopy with the sun dappled through the leaves. That’s where I am as I write — working in the garden of a rented country house with my laptop perched on my knees. Early this morning, I saw a small gray bunny hop across the grass, which for this born-and-bred city kid is an absolute thrill.

I just finished breakfast — yogurt and olive oil granola topped with red plums — and naturally, I’m already thinking about what I can make for lunch. Rental house cooking is always a fun puzzle for me. I never plan ahead, I just buy what looks good at a farm stand on the way and then wing it. Putting together the pieces is the joy of it.

In the kitchen, there’s a can of chickpeas, loads of tomatoes, leftover corn from dinner last night and peppery arugula. With a few tweaks, I could turn it all into Genevieve Ko’s lovely turmeric-laced couscous salad with chickpeas and tomatoes. There are also two fat zucchinis in the vegetable drawer, a gift from the previous renters. I could throw together Lidey Heuck’s one-pot orzo with tomatoes, corn and zucchini.

What about you, what are you thinking of making? Are you a planner or a spur-of-the-moment cook?

As I mentioned, I’m not a planner. But if I were, there are spectacular new recipes at New York Times Cooking that I’d absolutely plan my weekend around. One is Jocelyn Ramirez’s chile-lime hearts of palm, a vegan take on an aguachile that cleverly includes nori snacks for an ocean brininess. Another is Eric Kim’s fresh corn pudding, which looks both summery and comforting, and would make a fine dessert after my buttery scallops with lemon and herbs. And for lunch, this extra-crispy BLT is calling to me because crunchy, unbendable bacon is the BEST bacon.

Maybe you don’t feel like turning on the stove to cook anything this weekend. I understand, some steamy, late-summer weekends are like that. But Ali Slagle’s got you covered. In her latest, she gives strategies for how not to cook, but still eat well. There’s a juicy chicken salad with nectarines and goat cheese, these ricotta toasts with melon, corn and salami, and an everything bagel smoked salmon dip that I’d happily polish off for brunch even if it doesn’t call for any actual bagels (you could serve it with some, they wouldn’t hurt).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could crank up your oven and bake something. What about this adorably polka-dotted blueberry poppy seed cake by Yossy Arefi, or her vegan zucchini bread (another possible destination for my gifted squash)? For a cake that keeps the kitchen cool, there’s Laurie Ellen Pellicano’s classic icebox cake (above) with one smart twist: whipping dulce de leche into some of the cream.

If you’d rather read about cakes than bake them, have a look at Ligaya Mishan’s brilliant analysis of the obsession with trompe l’oeil cakes, an age-old sleight of hand that’s been revived by a cake-filled Croc sandal.

As for the requisite chicken, how about grilling some this weekend? Kay Chun’s got a terrific-sounding recipe for grilled chicken and corn with tartar butter that’s a riff on the flavors of the sauce, with pickles and capers. And there’s Lidey Heuck’s yogurt-marinated chicken thighs, spiked with lemon and herbs.

There are plenty more recipes for chicken and cake and all kinds of weekend-appropriate meals available at New York Times Cooking. You do need to subscribe to have access to them all. But you won’t regret it; the database runs deep and is getting deeper all the time as we add new recipes every week. You can also find plenty of free stuff on our Twitter, YouTube channel, and Instagram (where I’m @clarkbar). And if you want to email us directly, we’re at [email protected] for all your tech and account support needs.

See you on Sunday, and goodbye from under the trees.