Lately I’ve been waking up like clockwork at 7:30, rolling out of bed and getting right to work. I’m up a good hour before Sam on most days, so I start the coffee and sit down at our breakfast nook and begin prioritizing emails. Some days I don’t get up again until it’s time for lunch (it’s been a big month: more on that very soon), and work can really cloak the whole day in a way that can make it tough to differentiate a Tuesday from a Saturday. And then a book and a conversation can change that quite suddenly, too, and introduce a new morning routine. Even if just for a day or two. Such was the case with these whole-grain pancakes.
In the newish memoir, Blue Plate Special, Kate Christensen details family life and relationships through the lens of food. While there’s a great bit to say about the book, there was one line that grabbed me in particular. To set the scene, Kate decides to set off on a 13-mile round trip hike up the Continental Divide alone (her husband John pulled his ankle muscle on a hike the previous day). As the weather turns and she finishes her water and starts to grow more and more tired, she begins to hurry just to get home before exhaustion sets in. A hike becomes more of a frantic, harried run. Finally back at the motel room after a hearty dinner and a few glasses of wine she thinks to herself, “I looked out at the lake and surrounding mountains, replaying in my memory all the views I’d missed that day.” While I can assure you I haven’t been doing many 13-mile runs lately, I have had that same feeling doing short errands around our neighborhood: when did the leaves become this vibrant? How did I miss this? No, really: there’s so much to see here, and clearly I haven’t been paying attention.
My friend Keena lives less than a mile from us but is currently doing some work for her company in India. The other day we were texting and she asked how the leaves were at Greenlake, one of our favorite walking spots. She insisted that they must be wonderful and lamented the fact that she couldn’t see them in person. I felt pretty sheepish that I hadn’t yet seen them in person myself despite the fact that, unlike Keena, I can walk right on down anytime.
This recipe is fitting because while it’s simple at heart, it is one step beyond oatmeal in terms of time and preparation. So it forces you to slow down for just a moment. And because pears are in season and pancakes are good fuel for leafy walks, I thought it was a good time to share it with you today. It’s in a series I’ve been doing for Attune Foods, and this recipe in particular uses their delicious Uncle Sam Rye and Hemp Cereal. I often fold rolled oats into my pancake batter to add a little more heft and personality, but lately I’ve been grabbing the Rye Hemp Cereal instead. It’s crunchy (and maintains that crunch even once baked) and has a really subtle earthiness that works so well with these simple whole-grain pancakes. I hope you enjoy them, slowly, with a good view of the trees.
For the Pancakes:
For the Cinnamony Pears:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, buttermilk and butter.
In another small bowl, whisk together the flours, cereal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes to allow the whole-grain flours to soak up some of the liquid.
Prepare the pears: In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the pear slices and cook until lightly browned in spots, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and cinnamon, stir well, and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until pears are completely soft and fragrant.
Cook the pancakes: Melt a bit of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼-cup of batter into the pan. Repeat, cooking each pancake until the tops begin to bubble and the bottoms are golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side an additional 1-2 minutes.
Serve warm with cinnamon pears spooned on top. Maple syrup is nice, too.
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.