We started house-hunting about ten days ago, and at the time I had no idea how all-encompassing it would feel. The market is such in Seattle right now that you don’t really get to think about this very large, immensely important decision for a few days (or even overnight, in some cases); you have to either make an offer right away or move on. And I’m not one to make very big decisions quickly. So there’s been a lot of pacing, and trips to the grocery store for bad (but so good) Easter candy consumed late at night while scanning through new listings online. I’ve had my head down for awhile now and I think somehow during this time, spring has moved right on in. Sure, we had blossoming trees even last month and noticeably more light, but lately the rain is even different: softer and sweeter. And there’s possibility and change in the air.
The photos featured in this post are from my new column over on The Kitchn called But First, Breakfast. I was inspired to write this column largely from some of the feedback from my book, Whole Grain Mornings. So many of you have said you love the book and use it often — but many of the days you crack it open happen to be weekend days. In my cooking classes, the recipes that students seem to respond to most are the accessible recipes that they can easily recreate at home the next day should they choose to. So I got to thinking about how nice it’d be to have a breakfast column that was geared towards doable, inspired morning fare that could either be tackled on an average weekday … or I’d give lots of make-ahead tips and time-saving tricks so it could be prepared over the weekend for the busy days ahead. It will be posted bi-weekly on the weekends with just this in mind.
I think you’re going to like this first recipe for Baklava Breakfast Parfaits. I’ve long felt like baklava is perfectly acceptable morning fare, but I realize not everyone would agree so I set out to create a breakfast parfait that featured many of the flavors of the popular sweet without feeling so desserty. And I have to say, it was a success. One of the components of the recipe is this buttery phyllo topping (below) that we’ve started to call “pie brittle” in our house. You will have a bit leftover which is really good news as I’ve discovered a wide range of delightful culinary uses for it (may I suggest starting by sprinkling it on top of your vanilla ice cream?). I hope you enjoy the column, and look forward to hearing about any recipe successes you have or things you’d love to see featured.
Get the Recipe: Baklava Breakfast Parfait
Beyond this parfait, there so many spring finds around the internet to get excited about:
Coconut Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream – Minimalist Baker
Breakfast Porridge with Soft Eggs and Pea Shoots – Bon Appetit
Honey Rhubarb Quinoa Cornbread – Edible Perspective
Warm Cauliflower ‘Couscous’ with Green Peas and Herbs – Green Kitchen Stories
Cornmeal Crusted Fish Tacos with Lime Crema – Brooklyn Supper
Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt – Melissa Clark
And as if that weren’t enough, there are a few cookbooks coming out so very soon that I can’t wait to cook from:
My New Roots by Sarah Britton
The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon by Sara and Hugh Forte
Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck
Hope you’re seeing all the blossoms and light from your windows, too. See you back here soon, friends.
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.