I’m writing this post while sitting about three feet away from the fan in our master bedroom upstairs — trying not to think about how our old brick Tudor house stubbornly holds onto the heat of the day and just plain refuses to let it go. It’s tough to complain when we look forward to this season all year — the months filled with farmers market berries, juicy stone fruit and bushy sunflowers. The months when it doesn’t actually get dark until almost 10 p.m. and we eat dinner out on the picnic table or spread across the itchy grass, the neighbor’s bamboo tree quietly brushing up against the fence. This year, I planted a blueberry bush out back and Oliver dutifully waters it and checks for berries each day. He runs through the back door to report the count (which, for the past six weeks, has been “no berries, mama. Maaaaaaayyyyybe someday.”) Yesterday while doing his check he spotted THREE berries with his Aunt Christa and promptly snatched them up, refusing to share. It was a good day.
I realize it’s been a bit quiet around here, and I want to thank you for your patience. While we’ve been soaking in all the good summer things, the days have also become much more constrained due to my new job (yay!). It’s been a pretty big transition for our little family — I knew that there were things I took for granted with my freelance schedule: the ability to turn recipe testing for work into dinner for the evening, do midday errands, schedule a dentist appointment whenever I pleased. These things are different now.
We learned quickly that if we don’t meal plan and shop ahead, we just stare at each other at 6 p.m. and end up making quesadillas for dinner (which, let’s be real, isn’t always a bad thing). It took me a few weeks to figure out how to somehow work in exercise or watering the lawn or calling back the insurance company. We’re all getting used to it, and finding new footing.
I usually wake before Oliver and sneak out of the house, getting to the office early to avoid the heinous commute. Sam has been meal planning and preparing a handful of dinners each week which is such an immense treat and lifesaver and relief and … did I say treat? He made homemade broccoli rabe and sausage pizza this week and chicken tinga tacos. It’s tough to complain. Given all of the disheartening and difficult-to-digest news lately, we all just feel so lucky.
Today I’m leaving you with a recipe I wrote for the last issue of Edible Seattle. When I put a photo on Instagram awhile back, many of you messaged me asking for the recipe and I recently included it in a cooking class I taught at The Pantry and was reminded how ridiculously delicious it is. It’s a perfectly balanced whole grain bowl that’s hearty enough to act as a meal on its own. I love the combination of crunchy radishes and cucumbers with the toothsome rye berries, creamy dressing, and salty capers and salmon. Make this one ahead and it’ll be great for a few days in the refrigerator (yes, even with the dressing), and if you don’t have rye berries on hand, use any hearty grain you like (farro, wheat berries, kamut).
I’ll see you back here soon with a summery savory baking recipe I’ve been working on (Oliver has been the lucky taste tester). And a few things that have been making me happy this season (books, podcasts, television and more!).
A vibrant, healthy grain bowl that leaves you satisfied and energized, this recipe comes together quickly if you cook the rye berries and prepare the pickled onions in advance — then you’re just chopping veggies and dressing the salad, and dinner is on the table. You’ll end up having some leftover pickled onions, which is great for all the future salads and grain bowls in your life.
For the Quick-Pickled Onions:
For the Creamy Caper Sauce:
For the Salad:
For this recipe you want to look for hot-smoked salmon that will be nice and flaky vs more of the cold-smoked salmon or lox.
Make the Quick-Pickled Onions:
Place sliced onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure they’re mixed well. Pour over onion slices and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain onions before using. Note: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Keep leftover onions covered and refrigerated along with the vinegar mixture.
Start the Salad:
Place the rye berries in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of salted water. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and chewy, 50–60 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain away any excess water, and set aside.
Make the Creamy Caper Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, yogurt, olive oil, horseradish, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Stir in the capers and set aside.
Finish the Salad:
In a large salad bowl, fold together the rye berries, cucumber, radishes, fennel, parsley, chives, and salt. Chop 1/4 cup of the quick-pickled onions, and fold them in. Dress salad with the creamy caper sauce. Carefully fold in the smoked salmon. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with additional chopped chives and dill. Leftovers can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.
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.