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.
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 had every intention of starting a new tradition this year and hosting a cookie swap with some of our local friends, but somehow the season really got the best of me and it just hasn't happened. But! That hasn't stopped me from getting a head start on holiday baking; I posted a photo on Instagram the other day of some of my very favorite holiday cookbooks, and asked if there was a way we could all just take the whole week off to bake instead of work. Judging from the responses, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks this would be a really great idea. But back here in reality, cookie baking is relegated to later evenings or, I hope, this weekend we'll find some time to eek in a few batches (the recipe for Sam's mom's Nutmeg Logs is up next, and I'm set on making gingerbread men to take with us down to the Bay Area). Right now on our countertop, we've got a batch of these crumbly, chocolatey, whole grain shortbread that have proven to be a big hit. The ingredient list is small and simple, the technique foolproof, and I think they're a real standout in a sea of holiday cookies.
Hello from the other side! I realize we haven't been back here for a few weeks, and I'm sorry for dropping into a little black hole. My cookbook deadline was Monday, so I've been a writing and editing machine, stepping away from the computer to occasionally clean the house like a crazy person or throw together a most random lunch or dinner. But somehow it all came together although there was something strangely anti-climactic about sending it off: In the days when you'd print out your manuscript and have to walk to the post office and seal it up carefully to send to the publisher, I imagine it would feel much more ceremonial and important --you could stroll out of the building and do a cartwheel. Or high-five a fellow customer on your way out. Instead, I was sitting in our dining room on an incredibly rainy, dark Monday afternoon unable to hit "send." My sister Zoe told me to just close my eyes and do it. Sam gave me the thumbs up. So around 3 p.m. that's what I did. With the click of a button, just like that: it was finished.
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.
We've been waking up early these days with baby Oliver. I've always been a morning person, so this isn't particularly challenging for me -- although the middle of the night feedings have proven to be really tough. There has been a lot of finessing of sleep schedules and figuring out how Sam and I can both get enough to function well the following day. And just when we think we have it down ("gosh, aren't we lucky we have a baby that sleeps?"), everything changes. When I was in the final weeks of pregnancy and would talk about how I couldn't wait for the baby to be here, all of my friends with kids would advise me to sleep as much as possible -- and now I get it. I should've napped more. I should've listened. In getting up at odd times throughout the night with Oliver, I've had the chance to occasionally see some really brilliant sunrises (although not this past week which has been a particularly dark one in Seattle); I've made up some wacky baby tunes that I'm happy no one else can hear; and I generally have a good hour in which I can put him in the sling and walk briskly around the house trying to soothe him back to sleep while also putting away a dish or two or making a quick cup of coffee. In that hour, I can usually get something productive done and this past weekend that something was pear gingerbread.