Sometimes when you’re writing your food article, you know in advance what you want to write about and everything seems to just have a flow about it. And then there is today. Even though I knew what I wanted to express in my column, it’s hard to get the words in my head to match the feelings in my heart.
My friend Shirlee Veverka passed away last week. I’m sure she will be joining her husband Charlie along with her numerous pampered dogs, Sammy, Ripley and Louie.
She and I were unlikely friends, but it was our love of food and desserts that started our 34-year friendship. She was Carson City royalty, a doctor’s wife, president of the Carson Tahoe Auxiliary and running their business Carson Tahoe Radiology, all the while raising four children. They were some of our best customers at Marrone’s. When Shirlee called to make a reservation for dinner, it was always, “What’s for dessert?” That’s what she cared about and they were always reserved in her name. She loved Ralph’s crab cakes, and whenever we had them on the special, she was always at the top of the list to call and ask how many orders to save.
I did a lot of catering and cooking for her throughout the years and she taught me a lot about entertaining with a flair. She liked to throw a party with a theme and food to go along with it. She was fun-loving, caring and overly generous. She told me that I was the only person that she let boss her around, but we all knew she was the one really in charge. They had two houses in Carson before they moved down to Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indio because Charlie could breathe better at sea level. We stayed in touch through all those moves still cooking for them and helping when they wanted to entertain friends from Carson.
When she moved back to Carson, I was thrilled to have her live close again. She just lived up the street and that made it very easy for me to cook for her and drop off her favorite cookies and desserts. She courageously battled Parkinson’s disease for 20 years, and when living on her own proved too much for her, she moved into Sierra Place. She was always proactive. Her daughter Sarah shared this with me from there. They were asking you to share something about yourself.
“I have been known to stop at garage sales on Saturday mornings. Cooking has always been fun. A great experience could be Linda Marrone, a wellknown Carson City cook, teaching a cooking class on several items like Burocks a great picnic dish for 8-10 people and strawberry jam. Don’t get me started on the jams.” SBV Shirlee wrote a cookbook in 2000 called “My Best Friends – A collection of Recipes.” She created it by selecting all of her favorite recipes that she begged, borrowed and stole (her words) from friends and family. She said it was like looking at a book of old photographs as I go through my recipe file of wonderful memories.
The recipe I’m going to share with you today is one that was in Shirlee’s book. It was one of her favorites and she got it from me. It was also one of the first recipes I put in the Appeal back in 2002. It’s been 18 years, so I think it’s worth looking at it again, especially with apricots being one of the first fruits available in the spring.
Every spring when fresh apricots were in season Linda would serve this dessert at their restaurant, Marrone’s. It was always my favorite and after much coaxing, she finally gave me the recipe. By then, there were no fresh apricots to be had, so I made it with baby food apricots. Boy, did I catch it from Linda! So, if you can’t find any fresh apricots and use baby food, don’t tell Linda ... also, the cake isn’t as good.
FRESH APRICOT SPICE CRUMBLE CAKE
Apricots baked to perfection. This easy cake disappears fast.
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cups chopped fresh ripe apricots
2 eggs beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
For topping, combine 1 cup flour with brown sugar, cut in butter with pastry blender or fingertips until mixture is moist and crumbly. For cake, combine 1½ cups flour with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in large bowl. Add apricots, eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix together to form a batter. Pour into greased and floured 9x13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle top evenly with topping. Bake in 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out dry. Serve warm, topped with ice cream if desired. Makes 12 servings.
Recipe courtesy of the California Apricot Advisory Board. Now I bake the cake in a 9X9 inch pan because I like the thickness.