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).
A few weeks back we went blueberry picking with our friends John and Emily and their son, Lewis (Oliver’s best friend). While we love Bow Hill Blueberries, it was a bit of a trek this year with the little guys, so we checked out Bybee Farms instead, right at the base of Mount Si. We loaded up the car early, got a strong latte on the way out of town and pulled up just as the hot (hot, hot) sun was starting to peek out from behind the mountain.
The boys spent much of their time picking and almost immediately eating their blueberries, so we didn’t win any awards for Most Blueberries Picked, 2017. No medals, no crowns, but we did leave with almost 3 pounds and spent the weekend snacking on handfuls and sprinkling them on morning cereal. I ended up freezing a few cups, thinking I’d make a crisp or cobbler. Maybe some muffins.
But then, the ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling moved into the house and I was lying in bed drinking coconut Le Croix and reading A Year Between Friends by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, and stumbled across their Raspberry Ripple pops. It was a sign: 10:30 pm popsicles were in order.
If you’re not familiar with A Year Between Friends, it’s by the women who started 3191 Miles Apart, a website devoted to chronicling a friendship, mostly in photographs, from two homes across the country (Portland, OR and Portland, ME). A few times a week they each post a photo and a few words, encapsulating their day. It’s often something domestic and, perhaps, some would say insignificant but the simple moments all add up to tell the story of their lives, family, and their own friendship with one another. I’ve kept the book on my nightstand for a few months now, and dip into it as an escape and for a little inspiration surge: there are craft projects (naturally dyed baby clothes!), recipes, letters and stories — tales of family passing away, sugar cookies baked, babies born. Lives getting lived.
Maria and Stephanie wrote this recipe for raspberry pops, but I was specifically looking for something to do with our blueberries – so there you have it. But feel free to use any summer berry you like. I ended up straying from instructions a bit and cooking down the berries with sugar and lemon juice to make the mixture a bit jammier before throwing it into the food processor; this is nice, too, because it allows you to use frozen berries instead (or along with) fresh, so these can be a season-less affair.
Adapted from: A Year Between Friends
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook down the blueberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until berries soften and become a little jammy bit and sugar is dissolved (if using frozen berries, this will take longer). Let cool, off the heat, for 10 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the berry mixture until liquified.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar, and vanilla extract.
Dividing evenly, layer the blueberry puree and vanilla yogurt in the pop molds until they’re nearly filled (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top for expansion). To create the swirls, gently poke each pop with the end of a chopstick before placing the lid on the mold and adding the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. To remove the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds and slide them out. Store in the freezer in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.
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.