I’m a chronic mover. I hate that about myself, actually. I can’t wait for the day to come when I stay in one apartment longer than a year. The reasons vary, from moving to attend graduate school to always seeking a bigger pad in a better neighborhood. So I’m moving again on Friday. This time, interestingly enough, it’s not really by choice. I love living in San Francisco. I love my apartment. Heck, I just bought a new rug, a funky retro lamp and some odd little wired birds that sit happily on my window sill. I’ve got my matchbook collection and the Russian dolls my grandma gave me. And of course, rain boots. My across-the-way neighbor Brian carries my groceries up three flights of stairs for me often, and I’ve figured out a way to ride the bus to yoga for free. I’ve even learned to kind of love living by myself over these past few months.
But San Francisco’s not cheap, and I never intended on paying for this lovely apartment all by myself. So I decided to break my lease (have you ever done this?! So. not. easy). My mom lives right over the bridge and she leaves for the summers. She was starting to think about looking for house-sitters, and I was starting to think about how nice it’d be to walk around the yard barefoot and eat lots of tomatoes from her garden. So it’s temporary. But it’s a win-win for both of us. I’ve forced all of my city friends and acquaintances to promise they’ll make the trek often to barbecue and drink strong cocktails. You all know who you are. I mean it.
Now let’s move on to talk about how much packing sucks. O.k. covered that. God, it sucks. And then let’s talk about how if you’re thrifty like I am and hate throwing things out, you feel inclined to use up everything in your refrigerator before moving day even if it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. It leads to odd combinations of things like sweet potato fries and raisin bran for dinner. Or my personal favorite: frozen broccoli and ground turkey hash. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. But there’s a really nice dish I made a few nights ago in an effort to use up some of my canned beans and tomatoes. It’s a great recipe to make when you’ve packed up and find yourself sitting on top of cardboard boxes reflecting on the wackiness of life and obsessing about your next steps. It’s easy, it doesn’t require many dishes or pots and pans, it’s hearty, and it’s comforting. My mom makes a similar white bean dish that I love, so for me, this reminds me of home. Ironic as I sit here eating leftovers staring at a bare kitchen and a cold, empty living room. But I’m soaking in the last few days here, knowing I’m not going far and can drive on over to run in the Panhandle, have coffee at Matching Half, and dig into some Green Chile Kitchen any old time I want.
Roasting radicchio takes the slightly bitter edge off that tends to turn some people away. This is very much a ‘dash of this and a dash of that’ recipe. If you need a little more oil to coat your radicchio, great. If you’d rather use a different kind of oil, great. If you want to throw in some fresh sage or top with breadcrumbs, that’d be good, too. I don’t use the entire 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes because I find it a bit too saucy for my liking. With warm crusty bread and good butter, a lovely meal is made.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Discard outer leaves from radicchio and cut the head into 4 wedges. Put radicchio wedges on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Before placing in the oven, turn each wedge so a cut side faces downward on the sheet. Roast, turning halfway through cooking, until leaves are wilted, about 12 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir again for 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange radicchio in a serving dish and spoon warm beans over the top.
Early Fall Baking
Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.
I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one: