Hello there, August. You have brought with you wonderful tomatoes which I’ve been eating almost daily, outdoor weddings, a new camera to play with, and sunny clear mornings. You’ve brought iced coffee with a touch of simple syrup, dinner with friends outside, and nights spent sharing a beer while watching the Olympics (those runners!).
You’ve brought picnics and big fava beans and juicy peaches. And so far, lots of time in the kitchen testing recipes and writing recipes, but little actually preparing real meals (thank goodness for Delancey pizza and late night burritos from El Chupacabra). You know that summer slump feeling when, although you’re surrounded by beautiful produce, you can’t quite think of what to cook? That’s where I’ve been lately. We’ve been eating lots of egg salad and tuna salad for lunch and simple grain salad concoctions for dinner. Little to no baking. Until just the other day when inspiration struck in the form of a cookbook.
In case you don’t already know, Sara and Hugh Forte, creators of the blog Sprouted Kitchen, have a cookbook coming out in a few weeks. It’s a true feast, visually and otherwise. I wrote to Sara the day after I received it in the mail to tell her I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it and awoke thinking of all the recipes I was excited to make. Right up at the top are the buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon, creamy millet with roasted portobellos, and that coconut lime tart. And these cookies, of course, which I promptly made and we promptly ate most of the same afternoon.
On the blog and in the cookbook, Sara is the force behind the very do-able and delicious recipes (her salad recipes alone are worth a visit to the blog) and husband Hugh takes the photos. He approaches each dish with a unique angle and eye, resulting in some of the more innovative food photos I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks to both of them, you want to make dinner again. And breakfast. And lunch, too.
Which brings us to these cookies. They are the perfect little tea cookie — an afternoon treat or late night nibble much in the same vein as the sesame cookies we talked about a while back. Strewn with coconut, toasty cacao nibs, and little bits of fragrant almonds, they’re wonderfully nutty and naturally soft from the combination of coconut oil and almond meal. In the cookie world, these are keepers. You’ll get the sense before you even get them into the oven.
I should mention a few tweaks I made before getting to the recipe: I used a touch more salt than Sara does and ended up using demerara sugar instead of the muscovado she recommends. I’d recommend using any natural cane sugar you have on hand. If you don’t have any, it’s easy to find in the bulk aisle of a well-stocked grocery store and will make a difference flavor-wise here (you’ll notice a special chewiness from darker, natural sugars). I also decided to toss in some chopped toasted almonds at the last minute for a little extra crunch.
This afternoon, I’m hoping to break our usual Sunday farmers market routine and check out the Wednesday market instead. To stock up on a few things to cook for dinner tonight, thanks to Sara and Hugh.
Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toast the sliced almonds until fragrant and golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Let cool, and then chop well.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almond meal, cacao nibs, chopped almonds, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In another bowl, beat the egg very well until it’s a uniform color and doubles in volume. Whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate bowl for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls using your hands. Place on baking sheet with 1 1/2-inches space between them, and give them a gentle press with the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
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.