Here’s the thing: working the farmers markets in the summer isn’t all that bad. There are sun-kissed peaches, warm breezes and happy customers. There are sunflower-toting toddlers, sweet tomatoes and wily dogs. But let’s say September hits and it starts raining in Seattle. Really raining. When this happens, there is a noticeable lack of peaches, warm breezes and happy customers — all replaced, instead, with soaking wet tents, soggy bags of granola, and zero shoppers It’s been that kind of a week. But thankfully, I’ve long had a big crush on fall and this year is proving to be no different. Despite the time I’ve had to work at the markets, the rain has actually been really nice. We bought some new bedroom furniture, I’ve been baking muffins and cooking fall soups, and FIGS. Hello, roasted figs. And hello, simple whole-grain breakfast parfaits. When I was a teacher, fall was all about fresh starts. There was a noticeable mark on the calendar for when school was back in session and I’d get a few new notebooks and a new sweater or two to mark the season. Today, the days aren’t as structured — August bleeds into September more fluidly and less noticeably without the new notebooks or sweaters. I miss the fresh crop of eager faces and the anticipation that comes from writing a new syllabus. I miss the wonderful health benefits and shorter work days. But there are things I don’t at all miss either: the hectic mornings with only time for a quick granola bar on the way out the door. These days, mornings can be a little slower. I can answer emails while making a real breakfast and sitting down to enjoy it instead of tackling it during the morning commute.
I worked on these fall parfaits for this month’s recipe over on Attune Foods, and I’m excited about it for a few reasons. First, if you haven’t yet tried their Rye and Hemp Cereal, you’re missing out: it combines rye, hemp and barley for a not-too-sweet and wonderfully toasty breakfast cereal (with 11 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein!) Second, if you haven’t tried your hand at roasting figs, now is the perfect time. Roasting draws out the fig’s natural sweetness, making them even jammier (plus, it’s a great way to save any that are starting to soften / turn). You can roast the figs and toast the coconut the day before so when busy mornings strike, you’re simply layering yogurt, cereal, and figs and sitting down to breakfast — no more time than it would take to pour a bowl of cold cereal, really. So whatever mornings look like for you these days, I have a feeling these will gladly saddle right up to the table.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Slice figs in half and arrange cut side up on a medium rimmed baking sheet.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and olive oil. Drizzle over the tops of the figs, and roast for about 12 minutes, or until the figs are soft and the honey mixture is bubbling. Scoop figs onto a plate to cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350F and toast the almonds and coconut until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes (feel free to use the same baking sheet although watch the coconut carefully to avoid burning).
To assemble: Select four of your favorite 8-ounce glasses or cups and scoop ¼ cup plain yogurt into the bottom. Layer on 2 fig halves and top with 1 tablespoon of toasted coconut, sliced almonds and Rye and Hemp Cereal. Repeat to create an additional parfait layer and add an additional drizzle of honey, if desired. Serve immediately.
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.