Last weekend my dad and I flew up to Seattle to visit my sister Rachael. I love Seattle for many reasons-one of which is the food. There were a few spots I’d been wanting to try, so we made the most of our time and hit up Serious Pie, the Chai House, Lark, Macrina Bakery, The Harbour Public House on Bainbridge Island and a few other spots for treats and coffee. I wish I could show you some pictures, but I stupidly forgot my camera. Suffice it to say, it was brisk and rainy (Seattle never disappoints when I visit) but utterly beautiful in a stark, fall kind of way.
Rachael lives in Ballard in a sweet little green house on a wide, leafy street. Oh, and she has a fig tree. Her house is right across the street from this little blue craftsman bungalow that I fell in love with last time I saw it. A few days before my visit last week, Rachael called to tell me if was for sale and that we should check it out the second I landed.
It was my Dad’s first time visiting , so as we cruised him around Ballard and noticed the “For Sale” sign had been taken down. My little blue house sold so quickly! Now it’s not that I was really looking to move this second, but every time I come to Seattle I marvel at how great it is. Yes, we have quaint, distinct neighborhoods in San Francisco and we also have fantastic food. But I love the way the weather and the outdoors is interwoven into the fabric and culture of the city, how casual it is, and how much more you get for your money in Seattle. There’s a quality of life that you can obtain with much, much less. But for now-the flights are cheap, so I’ll settle on visiting.
Our most memorable meal was at Lark. I’ll be honest. I eat out a lot. Often, with time, the memories of a meal or a dish begin to fade. I’m pretty confident this won’t be the case with Lark. They serve small plates, so you order many things to try and share amongst the table. We sampled the roasted sunchokes with rosemary and lavender, Oxbow baby lettuces with beets, Pork rilletes with ficelle toast, crispy pork belly, Meyer Ranch Coulotte steak, and the sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic and sea salt. Everything was absolute perfection: seasonal, thoughtful, and prepared and plated beautifully. But, oh heavens: those mushrooms. They were delicate and flavorful. The table grew quiet.
On the flight home, I bought December’s Bon Appetit magazine and saw a recipe for Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto. It called for many of the beautiful wild mushrooms that we’d had the previous night–and farro is one of my favorite grains, with its hearty, nutty texture. It’s an Italian grain and you’ll start to see it more and more in the stores as it’s slowly gaining popularity here. When I saw the recipe, I knew it was a priority the second I unpacked and settled back in to California warmth (or warmer, at least) and the reality of sending out more resumes (never-ending). So here it is.
Although my blue house sold, I have a little part of Seattle right here at home with this recipe. It’s the perfect warm, creamy, hearty fall side dish. Or, with a big salad or some sauteed chard, it would be a nice, light meal in and of itself. So wherever you decide to call home, this recipe will help you settle right in.
I used a dried mushroom blend, which is a great option instead of buying each variety separately. Otherwise, you can find the dried mushrooms at specialty grocery stores in the produce section. And for fresh mushrooms, I used cremini and shiitakes.
From: Bon Appetit (12/09)
Bring 3 cups broth and all dried mushroom to oil in a large heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to work surface. Cut large mushrooms in half. Reserve broth and mushrooms separately.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown, 7-8 minutes. Add reserved soaked mushrooms and saute 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; saute until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Add farro; stir 1 minute. Pour in reserved mushroom soaking broth, leaving any sediment behind. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups chicken broth. Boil uncovered until farro is tender, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls if dry and stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes longer. Stir in cheese, cream, and herbs. Stir in half of mushroom mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl; scatter remaining mushrooms over top.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)