This past week involved a lot of time with file folders and receipts, readying and finishing tax documents. I’m a big fan of “clearing the decks” at home and at work: I try to get bills out right on time, generally hate clutter, love a Goodwill run to get rid of things we’re not using around the house — so a particular time of year that forces you to revisit all of the stressful financial and business questions that you thought you’d already put to bed? No thanks. At some point last year, my youngest sister got her first credit card and had some questions about how all of the interest, payments and rewards work. I spent some time trying to explain it to her and she ended the call by letting me know how truly overwhelming it is to be an adult. That’s generally how I feel about taxes.
So in between calls to my bookkeeper and filing receipts, I polished up on the fine skill of internet-puttering and cleaned up my Pinterest boards (both highly pressing tasks, obviously) and in doing so, realized I haven’t shared a list of inspiring links with you in awhile, so let’s do that today. And I thought it was high time I shared this special kale salad with you, too; I’ve been making a version of this salad for weeks now with whatever odds and ends we have in the fridge and it’s been the perfect refueling lunch. I actually start looking forward to eating it even as I’m drinking my morning coffee, despite knowing it will be many hours until I pull it all together. I think you’re going to like it.
I’m not sure about you, but the produce at our farmers market has been largely cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and a few root vegetables. Hello, February. That being said, there’s a lot of different ways to get in on the February action, and I think this salad has much of the best our season has to offer: hearty kale; sweet little bits of apple; bright, snappy fennel; vibrant cabbage and parsley. At times I’ll swap in radishes for the apple or a big handful of grated carrots. I’ve been pondering adding citrus next time around. In other words, the salad is forgiving: whatever you’re most excited about that gets you out of the occasional seasonal doldrums is a good inclusion. The whole thing is tossed with a lemony tahini dressing that I’ve come to really love — and this version is topped with a Sunflower Crumble I just read about over on My New Roots.
This Sunflower Crumble has Winter Salad Game Changer written all over it. It’s a quick mash-up of sunflower seeds, coconut oil, nutritional yeast and a few spices all pulsed together in the food processor. While it has a slightly sweet fragrance from the coconut oil, it’s still largely savory and crunchy and wakes up a February salad brilliantly. We’ve also learned it’s pretty wonderful on toast, soft scrambled eggs or sprinkled on top of a creamy soup. I have a hunch it’d be wonderful on roasted vegetables, too. Thankfully the recipe for the Sprinkle yields more than you need for this salad so you can go wild with the stuff.
Now for a few links. I’m not as organized as I’d like to be with these lists, and perhaps some day I can come up with a more diligent schedule to share them with you. For now, I let them add up on one of my desktop Sticky Notes until I have enough to pass along. I hope you have a wonderful week, friends.
Oliver Sachs on Learning He Has Cancer
On Being Podcast with Mary Oliver
This beautiful splurge
Invisibilia (Our Computers, Ourselves)
This Baking Book (I want to visit!)
Broad City (If you like Girls … )
Amy Chaplin’s Oat Walnut Marmalade Squares
Time for a Portland road trip
New Tech City’s Bored and Brilliant Challenge (I’m ashamed to say I failed on Day 3).
My next sewing project
This salad is best eaten the day it’s made. If you wanted to prepare it in advance the day before, just wait to dice the apples and dress /sprinkle the salad until you’re ready to serve. If you don’t have coconut oil on hand for the Crumble, I suspect it would be just as delicious with olive oil, so feel free to experiment.
For the Dressing:
For the Sunflower Crumble:
For the Salad:
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the shallot, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before stirring mustard and tahini and whisking in the olive oil. Taste and season with with a pinch of salt. If the dressing seems to thick for your liking, feel free to whisk in a little more olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time.
To make the crumble: In a large dry skillet, toast the sunflower seeds over medium heat, tossing often so they don’t burn, about 3-5 minutes. Remove fro heat and transfer the seeds to a large plate to cool completely. Place the seeds in a food processor with the remaining crumble ingredients and pulse several times to combine and chop up some of the seeds. Set aside.
Combine all of the salad ingredients into a very large salad bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle a large handful of Sunflower Crumble on top and serve. Sprinkle additional crumble on top as desired. When dressed, salad is really best served the day it is made.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.