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.
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 always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
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.