Muffy Vhay: Spring shows its face

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Spring is beginning to show its face here in Washoe Valley. Way too many fruit blossoms are ready to burst forth. It has been such an unseasonably warm season that everything is early, and we know we are undoubtedly going to have another hard freeze that’s going wipe everything out. Daffodils are blooming, tulips (the ones the deer didn’t eat) and hyacinth are all up and some have buds already. In the vegetable garden, rhubarb, chives and parsley are up but still small.

The animal population is responding to spring’s arrival also. Our resident great horned owls have been nesting for about a month now, and Mama Owl should be showing off her progeny pretty soon. We are hoping for the return of some nesting barn owls, as we have seen few the last two or three years. Apparently, they are struggling to survive — here and in other parts of the world — due to death from the ingestion of rodenticides (such as DeCon and others) which go up the food chain — from mice, rats, field voles and gophers — to the owls. Nancy Laird, at the Wildlife Infirmary here in Washoe Valley, recently said she had hardly seen any barn owls the last few years. There used to be lots of them.

We’ve also been seeing the small local herd of wild horses — here on the ranch, and in the surrounding hills and around what’s left of Washoe Lake. They are awesome animals and they seem to like the new grass showing up in the fields and under the sagebrush.

Since gardening season is coming soon, with its attendant canning and freezing, it’s time to make space in canning cupboards and freezer for the new season’s produce. Since raspberries are a dependable fruit crop here because they bloom so late, we have lots of packages of frozen ones, so I’m always looking for new ways to use them. I subscribe to way too many cooking magazines, and every once in a while a recipe just pops out at me. That’s the case with this week’s recipe which came from a recent issue of Bon Appetit. I have changed it a bit, for altitude and flavor. The recipe was originally designed for frozen raspberries, but fresh would be wonderful. I suspect blueberries would be just as good also.


This is a moist and delicious cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. It’s quite fragile, so let it cool completely before removing from pan. This is a rich cake, and serves 8 – 10 in small slices.

Grease and flour a 9-inch cake or springform pan. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, measure and mix the dry ingredients:

1 1/2 plus 1 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt and cool slightly

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

In a smaller bowl, beat together until smooth:

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or lemon oil

zest of 1 lemon (optional)

Fold wet ingredients except butter into dry until just blended, then add butter.

Now carefully fold in (don’t mix or you will have pink batter)

2 cups raspberries (save a few to sprinkle on top if desired)

Bake at 350 until golden brown. It will take about an hour. Check for doneness with a skewer or thin bladed knife. Cool completely before removing from pan. Dust with powdered sugar. Serves 8-10

David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.


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