As we approach the Ides of March, I can finally look out the window to the skies that are still (still?) gray and say to myself, “Ah! February is over.”

This means that winter is shedding, and that my brain is waking up a little bit. This February I spent a great deal of time with lovely people whose company I enjoy and whose companionship is essential, but I overloaded my calendar and forgot how much time I need to myself. Last weekend I went to March Fourth’s bacchanalian anniversary show and danced until I dropped. The next morning I drove to Wheeler County, the least-populated county in Oregon, and left behind the urbanity and, uh, moisture of Portland. Dramatic, dry landscapes surrounded me and made me feel blessedly insignificant. I saw no one for miles.

Today is another day of catching up on self-connection. I slept for 11 hours, stayed in bed and read til noon, and then: I got up and scrubbed the bejeezus out of the stove. Months of cooking oil and blackened debris were no match for me and my steel wool. It didn’t clear my head as much as Wheeler County did, but it sure cleaned out a couple extra cobwebs. Elbow grease can be a powerful meditation, when the mood strikes.

Under my newly scrubbed cooktop I baked this quickbread. I’d been craving an olive oil cake for awhile and had everything I needed on hand. In my fridge-clearing theme of late I also found some ricotta cheese that hadn’t gone moldy – hooray! – and from it got a wonderfully tight texture that opened up with the flavors of olive oil, rose, and lemon. The walnuts on top toasted perfectly and gave a buttery richness in their crunch that complemented the silky crumb. Everything in here came straight out of my pantry. As long as you keep rose petals on hand, it can come out of yours too.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup ricotta
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
1/4 cup lightly crushed dried rose petals
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup untoasted walnuts

Preheat to 350F. Butter and flour a loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a medium mixing bowl combine eggs, ricotta, milk, oil, rosewater, rose petals, and lemon zest. Add wet mixture to dry and mix until barely combined. Add raisins and give it another few stirs. This batter will be thick. Spoon into loaf pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with walnuts. Bake 55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let rest 5 minutes on the counter, then turn out onto a cooling rack.