Waffles. I don’t make them often enough and I’m not sure why. Oh, wait: I am sure why. Because they always seem like kind of a slow, slumbery, Sunday thing to make and I rarely have those kind of mornings–even on Sundays. But I found a recipe I’ve fallen pretty hard for. It’s an old-fashioned waffle recipe and you make the yeasted batter in advance, put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours, and it’s ready to go in the morning. I’ve actually kept the batter in my fridge for a few days and just pull it out, put a scoop on the waffle iron, and have a warm waffle to take in the car on the way to work. Beats a granola bar or banana any day.
Or, I actually sit down and have a waffle. With warm, homemade pomegranate syrup. I’ve been trying to actually pull up a chair and have a seat at the table more often rather than just eating at my desk or standing up while chatting on the phone. This is something that, for some reason, I find hard to do by myself. It’s kind of weird sitting at the table alone–kind of quiet and ho-hum. I find myself eating quicker than I’d like to so I can get back to whatever I was previously doing. But I just finished this really beautiful memoir entitled Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee. It’s a book that deals with the importance of place and home and the search for both. Kim was adopted from Korea and spends her young adult life cooking and enjoying the finer side of life with Olivier, a lovely French man. She eventually realizes that in becoming immersed in the wealthy countryside that’s so pleasant yet so staid, she’s completely lost her sense of self. She doesn’t know where home is. She doesn’t know where she belongs. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you because I’d love for you to read it, but here’s a quote that resonated with me:
“All the times I’ve changed cities and countries, I’ve left a trail of things behind—clothes and worn shoes, crumbled maps with highlighted borders to tell me concretely where I am. I keep books and music, postcards. Over the years, I’ve also kept tasting notes, menus, jotted-down recipes, clues as as to what I crave that may help me know who I am, better understand how food has the power to ground and comfort in times of disarray” (61).
While Kim was talking about how food comforts in times of confusion and uncertainty, it also grounds us in times of relative stability–it lends us that. Routine, order, ritual. Even meditation perhaps. And that, my friends, is reason enough to pull up a seat at the table and take a moment to eat in peace and quiet and to give thanks. Give thanks for all of the above and give thanks for easy warm waffles with tart berries and sweet, fragrant syrup. Oh, and hot coffee helps. Pretty plates are nice, too. And I’ve been loving the Wailin Jennies in the mornings. Have you heard them? They’re good morning waffle music. And finally, the darn recipe.
If you’ve never had yeasted waffles, they’re lighter and fluffier than any waffles you’ve ever tasted. And not nearly as sweet. I’m not a scientist so I can’t tell you why, but they hold syrup better than other waffles and don’t get nearly as soggy. They make your kitchen smell like warm baking bread. They’ll make you happy. The lovely folks at POM Wonderful sent me some samples of their pomegranate juice a few weeks ago. I drank most of them straight (o.k., I mixed a few with vodka, too), but I thought I’d try cooking with them as well. So I made a simple syrup by adding sugar to the juice and cooking it down on the stove. It’s awesome. I have a little jar of it in the fridge and continually find good excuses to use it on other things (it’s great on ice cream). So there you have it. Enjoy. Many happy mornings to you (and check out that book!)
Please note that the waffle batter chills in the refrigerator overnight (not accounted for in the timing above), so plan accordingly. I used orange zest in this recipe, but lemon zest would be great, too. I think it’d also be interesting to experiment with the vanilla extract and use almond instead. You could also omit the extract altogether if you’d prefer.
Slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
For the pomegranate syrup:
For the waffles:
Make the pomegranate syrup: Combine juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until mixture is reduce to one cup. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and cool. Store in a tightly closed car. This will last in your refrigerator for up to two months!
Make the waffles: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla and salt. Add in the milk, eggs, and oil and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Cover the batter loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
Stir the batter before using. Preheat and lightly grease your waffle maker. Pour about 3/4 cup batter onto waffle iron and close lid quickly; do not open until done. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular waffle iron. When done, use a fork to lift waffle off the grid. Repeat with remaining batter.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.