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.
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.
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.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.