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.
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.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.