We all blasted through the front door a few hours ago, feet dirty and a bit exhausted from a full day of blueberry picking — something that’s become a bit of a family tradition in late July ever since Oliver was born. We have photos out in the field with O in the baby carrier, chubby legs swaying in the breeze while I obsessively applied sunscreen every ten minutes. Last year found Oliver and his friend Lewis traipsing through the rows of berries together in the late morning hours, eating more than we ended up taking home. This year’s photos tell a different story: Oliver and I in a big open field used for overflow parking, he sitting on his little potty, me singing songs and chatting away, the sun beating down on the two of us. We’re deep in the thick of potty training, so as it turned out, Sam and Oliver’s Aunt Christa did the brunt of the picking today. But Oliver and I had some good talks while staying hydrated, people watching, and eating Sour Cream and Onion Kettle chips. Not a bad way to spend a morning. And really, it’s never about how many berries we bring home because neither of these years have proven to be particularly bountiful, but it just never feels like high summer until we get out there and start filling our buckets, however slowly.
I’d promised you a savory baking recipe today but I’m still testing it, so instead I bring you mixed berry scones! And no, I didn’t just whip these up using the berries we picked this afternoon because, well, I’m just not that much of a sorceress. But I love this scone recipe for a few reasons, most importantly: their simplicity. I flirted with the idea of calling them Vacation Scones — you know those recipes you kind of keep memorized or you kind of roughly pull together when you’re traveling and they manage to somehow always taste great? For me, I can make an impromptu fruit crisp wherever I may be without a recipe and can make pretty respectable pancakes. These scones are simple enough to start to add to that list: they don’t have any fussy ingredients (I’m looking at you, lemon zest), they don’t require any rolling or turning or cutting butter into the dough (I use a food processor for ease and speed), and they’re easily adaptable. I dig them.
And I did promise I’d share a few other things I’ve been into lately as the summer ticks on. I have a pretty decent commute now with my new job, so I’ve been listening to more podcasts, have been forcing myself to read more in the evenings, and have bookmarked some new recipes. So here’s a quick and loose list of a few of those things:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: I’m ashamed to say I have a few pages left of this novel and there’s no good reason (other than I can’t keep my eyes open at night) because it’s such a rich, beautifully-written story and I can’t recommend it enough. On the surface it’s about a marriage, but it speaks so much to the different kinds of love, how time changes people, and the different versions of ourselves that we discover along the way.
Like a Mother by Angela Garbes: I haven’t read this book! So why recommend it? I have MANY friends who have and it’s on my ‘next to read’ list. I love the recent handful of books coming out that speak to a bit of a different experience of pregnancy, labor and motherhood than is portrayed in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. From the description, “With the curiosity of a journalist, the perspective of a feminist, and the intimacy and urgency of a mother, she explores the emerging science behind the pressing questions women have about everything from miscarriage to complicated labors to postpartum changes.” Let’s read this, shall we?!
Momrage Podcast: My online homie Amelia Morris has come out with a really interesting podcast along with her friend Edan Lepucki. They delve into questions about motherhood that are often unpopular or skirted around. And I love that they’re doing it; it’s about time.
Tully: Ok, so at first I didn’t like this movie. I even texted my friend Julie and commiserated with her about our mutual dislike for it. The day after though, after thinking about it in the shower for quite some time, I decided it actually resonated more than I gave it credit for. I love Charlize Theron and, without giving too much away, this film offers a unique and important glimpse into postpartum mental health.
Girls Night In: While I think I’m not necessarily the target age here (I’m guessing it’s more like early 30’s), I’ve been surprised with how much I enjoy this newsletter. It’s really well done, smartly written and always has a few links that interest me.
Green Chile Chicken Verde (in the Instant Pot!): As I mentioned, I (very) reluctantly gave into the craze: I’m the (reluctant) owner of a new Instant Pot and this recipe is calling my name. What else should I make?!
Instant Pot Tomato White Beans: It’s been really too hot to do major cooking this week, so when I stumbled across this recipe, it was immediately bookmarked. I’ve heard that making beans in the Instant Pot is a real game changer, and I’m looking forward to keying up this recipe to find out what all the hype’s about.
Our Favorite Vegan Ice Cream: More often than not we have a pint of Frankie and Jo’s in the freezer. It’s not cheap, but it’s hands down the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had and just so happens to be a few blocks from our house (but they also ship!). I love the Berries and Cultured Cream flavor this month. So good.
These whole grain scones aren’t too sweet and are a great way to use up a glut of summer berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries all work great here (I used a mixture of raspberries and blackberries). As you’re making the dough, remember that flour is your friend: if your dough feels too wet or you’re sticking to your work surface, just add a bit more! These are best the day you bake them, but are still great the second day if stored in an airtight container. Beyond that, freeze them for future weekday breakfasts.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the butter and pulse until it’s incorporated into tiny pebble-size pieces. Slowly add the buttermilk through the feed tube, stopping right when the dough starts to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Place your berries on top and fold the dough over a few times until the berries have been incorporated (they’ll likely be kind of hiding in the center layer there, which is great; you can’t mess this step up … just get those berries in there as messy as it may seem). Add a little more flour to the dough if it’s sticking to the surface.
Form the dough into a rectangle shape (do the best you can here; it’s totally acceptable to have different shaped scones, so it really doesn’t matter). Slice into 9 large scones or 16 small scones.
Quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Best if enjoyed within two days of baking.
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.