We’re back! After a restful few days in Lake George, I ended up flying home while Sam spent a little time with his family in New Jersey and a few days in New York City by himself before taking the train all the way back to Seattle (a solid four day journey). If you know Sam, this isn’t surprising; he loves trains. When he’s gone, I quickly revert back to my single gal days of eating veggie quesadillas for dinner (over and over) and staying up working later than I’d like. We would talk on the phone often as Sam would narrate his very full days in New York City and the stops and layovers he had while on the train. After a few days of me lamenting the fact that I wasn’t there to experience it all with him, he encouraged me to ditch the quesadillas and do something special for dinner. See a movie. Go to the museum for just an hour. In short: I needed to get better at dating myself.
I love seeing new things, trying new restaurants and traveling just as much as Sam. But I’m not as good at going it alone; I like to experience things with other people. I always romanticize traveling alone and then when I’m in the thick of it, I realize I’m not the biggest fan. Sam’s the complete opposite, and I both envy and adore the way he approaches solo days alone. As an example, his first day in the city looked like this: a visit to the Brooklyn Farmacy for egg creams (it was terribly hot in New York that week), checking out Book Court for a few new books, and visiting both the City Reliquary Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design. He had a veal meatball pizza at Co. for dinner, a nice long walk through Chelsea, and got some reading done back at the hotel. During a layover in Chicago a few days later, Sam told me all about his pork belly and kimchi biscuit breakfast at The Little Goat and, later, his stopover at the Palmer House Hilton for coffee, a Manhattan and postcard-writing. The man is good at dating himself. I have a lot to learn.
I’m not going to lie and tell you I began cooking more elaborate meals after his nudge — that simply didn’t happen. I also didn’t get to the museum. Or take myself to a movie. But the weather in Seattle has been absolutely summer-perfect (sunny mornings and long, long days) that a milkshake seemed in order. It needed to be a really special milkshake with farmers market berries and an afternoon catching up with the paper. I picked up some vanilla bean ice cream and we had already had a bit of leftover buttermilk, so late in the afternoon last Sunday, the time had come: it was time for a solo date.
I turned on the oven to roast the berries (while it may seem initially fussy, this is the only way I do strawberry milkshakes these days — it draws out their natural sweetness and elevates an everyday milkshake to something quite special), fetched last week’s newspaper and the pile of mail I was still sorting through and sat down at our kitchen nook. There was a postcard from Sam that he’d written while sitting at the counter at the Brooklyn Farmacy. There was an interesting piece on mermaids and a 36 Hours in Munich that made me itch for travel. And that milkshake: sweet roasted strawberries, speckled vanilla ice cream, and slightly tart buttermilk all coming together in one thick, delicious summer milkshake. For that one afternoon at the very least, I feel like I started getting the hang of this dating yourself thing.
I first started roasting strawberries with a little balsamic vinegar after reading about the method from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, and I haven’t done it any other way since. The vinegar draws out the dark sweetness of the berries and the honey balances it beautifully. It’s a good idea to select strawberries that are roughly the same size — this way they will roast evenly. If your berries are quite large, feel free to quarter them.
For the Roasted Berries:
For the Milkshakes:
Roast the berries: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment (you don’t want the juices to run off and muck up your oven).
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and vinegar. Add the halved strawberries and toss to combine.
Turn the berries out onto the baking sheet and roast until they’re soft with the juices just beginning to thicken –but not burn—about 25-40 minutes (really depends on the size of your berry halves). Scoop the roasted strawberries and juices onto a large plate to cool.
Prepare the milkshakes: Using a milkshake maker or a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until combined. If you like a thicker shake, this is a good time to add an additional scoop of ice cream. Serve in your favorite glasses. Enjoy immediately.
(Note: Remember this breakfast recipe using roasted strawberries? I think you’d like that, too)
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
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).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little.