It is a well known fact (in the Pacific Northwest, at least) that summer officially begins on July 5th. Fourth of July could very well be dicey, but generally the week after is smooth, sunny sailing. This year seems a bit different — it’s been mild and even overcast in the mornings, although my evening walks with Oliver are certainly warm enough to go sleeveless. We’re drinking rosé. We splurged for some landscaping help and have a little plot of grass in our tiny backyard that’s just calling for picnics and barefoot romps. We found an outdoor table and are in the market for some string lights. In short: sunny or not, we’re doing this thing. And I have a most simple and summery recipe to share with you today … but first, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the new A Sweet Spoonful. This redesign has been months and months in the making and has a number of new features that I’m really excited about. Even more than tiny plots of grass and string lights (much more, in fact). I’d love to show you around.
The blog has felt dated to me for quite some time and as many of you know, my husband Sam is a designer. We always laugh about the saying the cobblers kids are the last to have shoes: It’s true. There have been many other things to tend to. But when I began to feel like the site wasn’t actually that useful, it was time for a change. Selfishly, there are so many recipes on the blog that I love but that I forget about because it’s been years since I’ve made them and they lurk quietly in the archives, infinitely unsearchable. Now with the new Recipes page, there’s functionality that allows you to search by type of meal, season, ingredient and dietary preference. Yes!
In addition, I created a “Megan’s Favorites” page (click on the link there or head over to the green tab on the right sidebar under “Browse”) where I’ve gathered together all of my very favorite recipes to revisit often. You’ll also notice in that little cluster on the right sidebar a “Motherhood” and “Whole Grain Baking” tab as well. When I started the blog in 2009, I hadn’t given much thought as to what I wanted to focus on. Ahhh, the dark, fresh days of blogging — most of us just dove right in. But now, I want to feature my interests and strengths more prominently: whole grain baking recipes, simple seasonal cooking, and writing about motherhood and building a home life in Seattle.
A few other features I’m excited about: the site is mobile responsive now (hallelujah!), so you can pull it up on your favorite mobile device or tablet and read (or cook) away. I added a page on Working with Me as I’m looking forward to partnering more with brands I love and selectively introducing you to products we use in the kitchen. And I’ve finally got a Contact Page so you can reach me easily with questions, ideas, proposals and the like.
But all of that aside, I’m really looking forward to the ability to interact more with you all. I can now directly respond to each of you in the comments and it’ll nest our conversation. I’m guessing that as you’re reading this post now, you likely already subscribe via email to receive new posts. If you don’t and you’d like to stay in the loop, please Subscribe (see box on right sidebar or footer). For those of you that already subscribe, you’ll notice a new option where you can Subscribe to my Newsletter. This is different than the weekly (ish) blog posts: it’ll be more of a seasonal newsletter with new content and round-ups, and I hope you’ll consider entering your email to join me there.
A big thank you to the team that made the site possible: Sam Schick and Eli Van Zoeren of Neversink. They’re incredible and design and develop blogs and websites big and small (and many other design-related things, too) — I feel really lucky to have had their talent (and patience) on this project. And thank you all for your continued readership and support; you’re the reason I am still here cooking and photographing and writing, and I’m so looking forward to this next chapter with you.
I love the bright green color of this finishing oil and have big plans to spoon it onto every single summer tomato I can get my hands on this season. If you grow chives, this is a great recipe to double. You can freeze some in ice cube trays so you’ll have vibrant pops of summer to spoon over your vegetables, salads, and soups all year round.
Reprinted, with permission, from: Brooklyn Rustic
In a small pot, heat the olive oil, chives, and salt over high heat until the oil starts to bubble a little, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour into a small glass bowl and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day (if chilling for more than an hour, cover it with plastic wrap after it cools). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Refrigerate the oil for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.
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.