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.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
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).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little.