January 10, 2013 by Meg G.
My first year out of college, I volunteered with a national organization called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I learned a LOT that year in New Orleans – about poverty, discrimination, violence, justice, the power of the human spirit, jazz music, southern hospitality, and so much more. I lived in intentional community with six other Jesuit Volunteers and for that entire year, we broke bread together four nights a week. Hence, this was also the introduction to my culinary education.
My dad loves to tell the story about how one night, when it was my turn to cook dinner, I called him to ask how to julienne a carrot. I don’t think YouTube existed yet and since we were living simply, we didn’t have internet at our house or smartphones. So yes, I called my dad to ask him this piece of cooking wisdom and he laughed and explained that julienned carrots looks like matchsticks. ; )
I loved so much about these moments in the kitchen and around the dinner table. We were each other’s guinea pigs and best, most supportive critics. We laughed and learned and laughed some more, especially when Anne made about 3 times as much rice as we needed; when Katy forgot to add water to her brownies; and when Emily and I tried to cook our first turkey (that might have driven me to vegetarianism a few months later). We drooled over culinary successes, like Matt’s homemade gnocchi, Matt’s risotto with spring vegetables, and Matt’s eggplant parmesan. Oh, and some meals made by other housemates, too. ; )
Out last month in New Orleans, I collected all of our favorite recipes and made a community cookbook for each housemate. I’ve been cooking out of that collection for the last seven years!
We inherited a JVC cookbook when we moved into our home in New Orleans and that’s where this apple cake recipe came from, contributed by two friends of the JVC community in Yakima, Washington. The introduction to the cookbook connects the four values of JVC (simplicity, spirituality, community, and social justice) to the practice of sharing a meal. I continue to be shaped by these values and often ask myself how I might participate in our food economy in a way that is simple, just, communal, and reflects my own spirituality. These are life-long questions that continue to hum along in my mind as I prepare meals in my kitchen today.
Alright – on to the recipe already!
It’s a super easy dish that quickly became my favorite potluck contribution. Bring it uncooked and pop it in the oven during dinner. It smells amazing while it’s baking and by the time it’s ready, folks will be salivating. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream for a perfect dessert. Or breakfast. I mean, it’s practically coffee cake!
Raw Apple Cake adapted from Cy and Rosemary Rief’s recipe, via The Comfort Zone
- 4 cups raw apples, diced (I used honey crisp; peel if you wish)
- good squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour (I used whole wheat; you can also use all-purpose)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cloves; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if baking immediately). Grease a 9 x 9 inch pan.
- Combine apples and lemon juice in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add to apples.
- In another large bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Mix together well and then add to apple mixture.
- Now comes the fun part. This batter is extremely thick and sticky. The only way to assure a completely combined batter is to mix it with your hands. I find it’s easiest to mix with one hand, so that you have a clean hand to tilt the bowl and/or stir with a wooden spoon as you go. Feel free to enlist the help of a young baker-in-training who likes getting their hands dirty! Mix until combined – checking the bottom for unincorporated dry ingredients.
- Spread in the pan in an even layer and cook for 45 – 60 minutes, depending on your oven. Use the toothpick test to check the middle for doneness. I set the timer for 45 minutes, but inevitably have to leave it in and continue checking every 5 – 7 minutes.
- Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or your morning cup of coffee!