We left for vacation on the day after I went grocery shopping in a wool sweater. June was definitively not summer here. According to everyone I talk to, it never is. And truthfully we were both just trucking along throughout the whole month, we had little time to complain or wish for something more. We had planned a mini camping trip all the way into … our backyard, but had to cancel due to chilly rain. But the second we returned to Seattle, you could sense something changed. People in the airport were tee-shirted, Brandon drove us home with the windows slightly cracked, and the next morning big, bright sun shone through the curtains in our bedroom. Summer in Seattle has arrived–and we have fruit pies, galettes, a booming garden, iced tea, and salads for dinner to show for it.
I told myself this year that I wouldn’t let myself return from vacation and just dive right back into the normal routine. I wanted to let vacation linger just a little. You know how you establish new routines on vacation sometimes? Like sitting down together and eating a real meal for breakfast, having an afternoon espresso on the porch, taking a pre-dinner walk, and playing board games late into the evening? I wanted some of that to stay.
But I think that’s why vacation is magical — because all of those new routines and special glimpses at really long, full days just isn’t a reality for most of us. Add to that trying to catch up after being gone almost two weeks (!) and you’ve got a whole lot of no breakfasts together, no afternoon espressos, no long walks, and no board games. But for now, we’re replacing those with other good things: Sam’s mom flew back with us and is staying for a week. She’s hunkered down in the upstairs guest room (that we have dubbed the best napping spot in the house), and we’ve been slowly showing her around town. We introduced her to eating yogurt and granola together for breakfast and she, in turn, made a pretty incredible taco salad for dinner last night. We all get our coffee together in the morning, and she’s helped me cut things back in the garden and troubleshoot what the heck might be wrong with my basil plants.
It’s true that the drawn-out pace of vacation can’t really be introduced back into “the real world.” That’s just the meaning of it: vacation is a physical and mental break from everything familiar back home. These photos were taken on our last day at my mom’s cabin, the one day we’d really reserved to hop on the computers and get a little work done and the one day where we both felt so deliciously relaxed and peaceful that instead we lounged on the porch, read big chunks of our books, and ended up going swimming in a downpour after dinner. We were the only ones in the lake. I wish I had a photo of it, but I guess I do in my mind. That night, there was nothing about the granola business, freelance writing, cookbook headnotes, or quarterly taxes at the forefront of my mind. There was only a wide gray sky, an expansive lake, and the sound of raindrops and Sam’s gentle paddling right beside me. I’ve taken that home with me.
After leaving Lake George, we rented a car and drove to New Jersey to visit Sam’s family. I’d met his oldest sister, Christa, but had yet to meet his mother, Nancy, or his youngest sister, Sara. Along the way, we stopped and Sam showed me four of the houses he grew up in as a kid. In the coming days, we played a lot of Farkle, drove to Philly where it was around 103 and humid — the perfect weather for cheesesteaks at Pat’s and Geeno’s (My vote goes to Pat’s), visited with nieces and nephews, jogged a little, and saw Moonrise Kingdom (very sweet if you haven’t yet seen it). But most of all, we just hung out with Sam’s family, shared meals together, played a few games.
I heard some small Sam stories and watched a sweet home video. I saw Sam interact with his nephew Alex who just adores him. He calls him Uncle Sammy and calls me “Penguin,” which I love: it sort of rhymes with “Megan”, I suppose. I’d smile when we’d pull up to the house and his little voice would shine through the screen door: “Uncle Sammy, I missed you! Penguin, I missed you!” I saw the way Sam cares for his mom. I saw where he came from–the people and places that were influential in some regard. I’ve taken that home with me, too.
And because we returned to a Seattle that’s barely recognizable to me (constant sun!), it was time to start baking a few pies. We picked up strawberries, blackberries, and nectarines at the market one evening while stocking up on a few things to have for breakfasts. The next morning I made a strawberry galette and a blackberry nectarine pie. Then I found these beautiful plums and decided to play around with my usual dough and turn them into a not-too-sweet, bright and gingery galette. One that sings summer, work or no work. Vacation or no vacation.
Speaking of which, in case you missed it a few weeks ago, The New York Times posted a smart, relevant piece on the state of being busy. Reading it at Sam’s sisters house in New Jersey a wave of guilt passed over me. I have become that person. I never wanted to be the person who didn’t have time to meet a friend for tea or call their mom back. In it Tim Kreider says of folks who are always talking about how busy they are: “They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence…I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” Read it if you haven’t. I feel like what I do does matter in a small way, but I also feel like it’s so easy to get caught up in a frenzied cycle of busyness that you lose the big-picture. That’s it important to call people back on the phone and stop for tea. Or fruit galettes, as it is today.
This recipe has less sugar than many galette recipes, so while juicy and naturally sweet it does come off as just a touch tart. I love this and think the natural flavor of the plums really shine, but if you think you may like your galette a bit sweeter, try 1/4 cup sugar for the filling instead. If you haven’t used rye flour, it’s lovely in pie doughs and quite easy to work with. The directions below use the food-processor method to make the dough. If you’d prefer using a pastry cutter or your hands, that works, too. I prefer not to in the summer just because it’s not and I can never seem to work quite quickly enough. But, as always, do what makes you happy.
For the dough:
For the filling:
In a food processor, add the flours, salt and sugar and pulse once to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse meal with some small butter pieces intact the size of small peas. Slowly sprinkle in the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just barely comes together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Gather it together into a flat disk, wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round and transfer it to the baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 tablespoon water together to create egg wash. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the plums, sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and ginger bits. Toss well. Arrange the fruit in the very center of the dough circle, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches all around the border. Fold the exterior edges towards the center of the galette. Don’t worry about it looking perfect or neat–it shouldn’t. Chill galette in freezer (or refrigerator if your baking sheet won’t fit in the freezer) for 20 minutes.
Retrieve from freezer, brush edges with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until crust has turned golden brown and juices are bubbling and thickening. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before serving (the fruit juices will firm up as it cools so you won’t have a runny galette). Store covered at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Winter Soups and Stews
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Last weekend it was so windy – apocalyptically stormy, you could say – that our tent at the farmers market was uprooted by gusts of wind that were not messing around. I wasn't there, but apparently despite being heavily weighted down and with four customers holding onto each corner, it quite literally blew down the block. Sam, from across town, was reporting trees falling on every block and traffic lights out across the city. The next morning on a walk with Oliver around Green Lake, we were met with that same biting wind and ended up retreating for a hot chocolate instead. 'Tis the season in Seattle: we all get a little giddy and ahead of ourselves when we spot the cherry blossoms and daffodils, and I always trick myself into thinking that with the start of daylight savings time, summer must be right around the corner. In truth, before we had Oliver, we'd often travel somewhere sunny for a little mood boost around this time of year. When I moved from California, many friends – other (empathetic) 'expats' now living in the Pacific Northwest – recommended this: if you know what's good for you, they'd all say, go find the sun in February or March, and we would follow that advice faaaaaithfully. But with a baby, this just isn't where our priorities are this year, and I've found myself relying on other antics like buying out of season strawberries, drinking white wine with dinner, buying a new pair of sandals that likely will not see the light of day for the next two months, and making big, colorful pots of feel good, springy soup. Let's not kid ourselves: Cherry blossoms or not, Seattle's no Palm Springs when it gets down to bathing in the sunlight. But if you step outside onto your little porch, smell the honeysuckle blooming, take notice of the longer, lighter days and think about how you simply can't wait to see your baby crawling around on the sand when it's warm enough to stroll down to the beach, it starts looking better in its own light.
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).
One of the things I wanted to accomplish before really returning to work in earnest was to print some of our honeymoon photos and get them into an album. This project has taken far longer than expected as I find myself daydreaming about the craggy streets of Naples and meeting up with our friends Mataio and Jessica for a late night slice of pizza which we ate sitting on the sidewalk before embarking on an aimless but wonderful stroll of the city. There are photos of our balcony by the sea, most with tanned limbs, sandy sandals and a Campari and soda gracing the periphery of the frame. There was the little grocery store up the hill from our apartment on the Amalfi Coast that had the sweetest, tiniest strawberries and the best yogurt in little glass jars. Tomatoes drying in the sun, Aperol spritzes and salty peanuts before dinner at the bar across from the church square where all the neighborhood kids played kickball. As I sit here typing this now, photos remain scattered on my desk and it's likely they may not make it into the proper slots in the album anytime soon. Of course, they have me dreaming of sunshine and long days with little agenda, but they also have me thinking about the simplicity of our meals in Italy and how truly easy it was to eat well. Coincidentally, a few days ago Rachel Roddy's lusty new cookbook (can we call it lusty?!), My Kitchen in Rome, arrived at our doorstep. Clearly it was time to set the photos aside and get into the kitchen.
And suddenly, it's fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I've ever lived. In fact, I'm surprised that I hadn't yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today.