Pulling off the farmers market this past weekend was a bit of a challenge. I had flown back from Seattle Friday afternoon, knowing full-well that the evening would consist of harried hours of crimping and baking, filling and frosting. And I was okay with that. I wanted as much time there as possible.
Time to explore pie shops and see what other bakers are up to. Time to share french fries with Rachael in the afternoon or a pre-museum hot dog with Sam at Dot’s. Time to take evening walks around the lake or back from Delancey. Walks to the grocery store or the movie theater. Back home from playing darts or out to meet Tara for dinner or Jess for a good chat. Or a rather brisk walk to catch Dana at Booklarder (and we did!)
So you’d think with all of that walking, talking about feeling settled might seem odd. They’re opposites, really. It’s funny: so often that word has negative connotations. In regards to a bad relationship, it could be “she’s just settling.” Or in speaking about someone who has become much less adventurous or interesting, you might say they’ve already “settled.” As for Sam and Seattle, settled is just what comes to mind, what feels right. It feels like we’ve been in each others’ company for a very long time. But then Sam will say something or do something unexpected that leaves me dying with laughter or challenged or thoughtful. So it’s all perfectly comfortable and, at the same time, perfectly new.
When I returned home, with Marge, I just felt less frazzled, less worried, knowing full well that somehow all the baking would get done. It had to. And it did. On Saturday, I had two small leftover pies and I traded them for some beautiful tomatoes. I didn’t really set out to get tomatoes, actually. I wanted a few bunches of greens and some french radishes. But the girl at the farmstand insisted. She said they were almost the last of the season and that I didn’t want to wait. They wouldn’t be around forever.
You could make a soup, she said.
I looked at the large bag of tomatoes she was handing over. That’d be a lot of soup, I said.
Well, yes, but I’m sure you’ve got someone to make soup for?
I continued staring at the big bag of tomatoes, strangely hesitant to reach out for them.
Or, you know, just freeze any extra. That’s what I do. She seemed to be hedging, nervous she’s said or offered too much.
But I decided quickly that I liked her. She was resourceful. She was a woman that appreciated a big pot of soup — for someone else or just for yourself. She was also a woman that was practically giving away tomatoes on a blustery afternoon in early October and, for that, I handed over two small pear pies and walked away with my bag of round, slightly bruised beauties.
And truth be told, I do have someone to make soup for. He’s not in the next room, mind you, but we’re going to see a lot of each other this fall. And continue taking rainy evening walks. And eating lots of soup. Settling, in the best sense of the word. Not like these tomatoes, in which you’re advised by the rosy-cheeked woman selling boxes of them not to wait because they won’t be around forever. No, not like that at all.
This is an incredibly simple soup that consists of roasting a pan of tomatoes, garlic and onion and pureeing them with a bit of broth. Because of its simplicity, do be sure to use the very best, seasonal tomatoes you can find. You’ll taste the difference. Because I leave the skin of the tomatoes on, this soup is going to have a bit of texture at the end. I like this; if you don’t, run it through a mesh sieve after pureeing. The amount of broth can vary, too, depending on how thick you like your soup. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your tastes. If you like a creamier soup, add up to 1/4 cup heavy cream of half & half at the very end.
Preheat the oven to 375′. Spread the quartered onions and cloves of garlic out onto a cookie sheet. You want to get rid of some of the seedy part of the inside of the tomatoes — don’t go overboard here and aim for perfection but your tomatoes will be a bit too juicy if you roast them exactly as is. Use your finger to get some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes out of there. Then place tomatoes on baking sheet along with garlic and onion. Dash the olive oil over everything and sprinkle with salt and parsley
Roast for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and slumped and reduced to almost half their size. Remove from the oven and scoop all of the ingredients from the pan into a medium saucepan.
Add the broth into the saucepan and allow to simmer on the low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the saucepan itself or feel free to cool slightly and use a blender instead.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.