Late the other night we arrived home from a week-long stay on the big island of Hawaii. Oliver promptly fell asleep in the car ride home (of course, after not sleeping through the duration of our 12 hour travel day), and Sam and I were starving so we stopped at the store for a frozen pizza, got O into bed and brought the luggage upstairs, and sat quietly at the dining room table listening to the spring rain sharing a few slices. It wasn’t great pizza, and it followed not great airport sandwiches, and all I could think about was how excited I was to get in the kitchen and make something great. Something with protein that felt nourishing and tasty — that all of us would eat and love. So instead of tackling the piles of vacation laundry today (so. much. ketchup), I headed to the store to pick up a few things to make a springtime chickpea salad — great as a sandwich filling or dip, and the perfect antidote to too much starchy food on the road.
While spending time in Hawaii, sandwiches were our lunchtime savior: we were on the East side for the first half of our trip, staying at a farmhouse situated near the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. There’s a great natural grocery store in nearby Honokaa where we often stocked up for dinner provisions, and a good spot for acai bowls in the morning, but lunch often found us out and about so we relied on peanut butter and jelly or turkey and cream cheese sandwiches. Both felt bland and dull but simple to execute, and on long sightseeing days, that’s really the best you can hope for.
Back home, it was time to add some color, crunch and a little acid to the mix. Our sandwich game needed some help. This morning Oliver went to his Aunt Christa’s for the day so we could catch up on work and settle back in, and I mashed up a can of chickpeas, cut up some herbs, grated carrots, chopped celery and pickles, and squeezed a fresh lemon into a bowl. Good things were happening.
Because I’m hanging onto vacation mode just a bit longer, I decided to put a few Tim’s potato chips in my sandwich for extra crunch. Sam thought I’d lost my mind until he tried it: elevated sandwich game accomplished. Now, onto the next great thing. See you back here soon.
While this isn’t the sandwich I’d choose to pack for a long trip (it’s a little messy — in the best possible way), it’s a great vegetarian go-to and is sure to elevate your sandwich game at home. I love serving these with a few potato chips inside the sandwich for extra crunch, but if you’re not much of a sandwich person, you could always forego the bread and fold in some leftover cooked grains or even pasta to make this a filling salad on its own.
In a medium bowl use a fork or potato masher to mash the chickpeas. You’re looking for a chunky texture – it’s ok if you have some whole chickpeas remaining but you want to avoid an extremely overmashed texture (like hummus).
Add the celery, pickles, carrot, shallot, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, chives, parsley, dill, salt, turmeric and pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired, adding additional salt or pepper as needed.
Lay two slices of bread on a flat surface and arrange a flat layer of spinach on one slice. Spread chickpea mixture on top of spinach. Pile a handful of potato chips on top, and place remaining slice of bread on top of chips. Press firmly to marry all the sandwich fillings.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
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).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.