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.
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.