Last summer we chatted about Pimm’s Cups and a list of things I wanted to do, feel, eat, and read during those few short months. But by its very nature, summer shouldn’t warrant a list: it’s a time when lists should ideally be thrown out the window and a little bit of whimsy should take the reigns. But I know so many of you can relate to the way in which weeks and months can whoosh on by and before you know it, peaches are out of season and the days are getting shorter. And for that reason, I tend to make summer lists. So here we have this year’s version. I so encourage you to make your own and share one or two or all of them here. I’d love to hear yours. Truly.
Make: homemade popsicles. Lots of them (how about a Boozy Banana?)
Get: a few herbs for the window sill and not kill them.
Cook: from Alice Hart’s Vegetarian. Bake from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery.
Learn: more about using shrubs (tart, fruity syrups) in cocktails.
Watch: the sunset from Tilden Park.
Bake: Tres Leches Cake, one of my favorite cakes and something I have yet to make in my own kitchen.
Drive: up to Tahoe for a girls weekend. Much-needed. Much-anticipated.
Beat: Sam at Tennis. Also much-anticipated.
Visit: Della Fattoria (finally!) I can’t believe I haven’t yet been up to this sweet family-run Petaluma bakery.
So I’m heading out of town in a few days for Seattle and then to continue on to visit my family for the July 4th holiday at my mom’s cabin on Lake George. Here there will be little internet, no cell service, lots of dock lounging, reading books, eating real breakfasts, drinking wine on the porch with my grandma and running the country roads with my sister Zoe.
And speaking of drinking with my grandma on the porch, here’s a cocktail she introduced me to probably about four years ago at a chain restaurant in Naples, Florida. A bunch of family were gathered and we were going out for a big seafood dinner after a hot day at the beach; there was a bit of a wait, so we squeezed into the bar where most of our clan ordered a glass of wine or a vodka/tonic. My grandma broke the trend and ordered a Negroni, insisting that I try it. Now this is a major drink. It is a drink for people who like to taste their booze, who often order doubles when they go out, people like my Grandma Marge — and me.
But it’s not my intention to scare you away from the Negroni. It’s quite wonderful, especially in the summer. A little bitter from the Campari, balanced nicely by the sweet Vermouth and cut with a spalsh of gin (I love Hendrick’s lately. Love.) If you like Americanos, the Negroni is its stronger, burlier cousin — essentially replacing the soda water with gin. The Negroni was designed for summer porches, stoops, or comfy chairs. And so, I’m ushering in this Summer’s List with one and with a lot to look forward to. Momentum and excitement. Longer days and good news. So it’ll be quiet around here for just a bit but I’ll miss you and — who knows– maybe I’ll have a chance to post some photos in between now and then. While away, I will be participating in Pie Day on July 5th. Have you heard of it? Join us! Make a pie! And we’ll chat about it back here in a few weeks. At that time, I’ll have some new Marge developments to share with you, too (Hint: granola).
Fill your favorite cup with chunky ice cubes. Old-fashioned glasses are traditional here, but any short, squatty cup will do. Combine equal parts of the above ingredients over the ice, and garnish with orange peel. Stir vigorously and enjoy.
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: