I’m a chronic mover. I hate that about myself, actually. I can’t wait for the day to come when I stay in one apartment longer than a year. The reasons vary, from moving to attend graduate school to always seeking a bigger pad in a better neighborhood. So I’m moving again on Friday. This time, interestingly enough, it’s not really by choice. I love living in San Francisco. I love my apartment. Heck, I just bought a new rug, a funky retro lamp and some odd little wired birds that sit happily on my window sill. I’ve got my matchbook collection and the Russian dolls my grandma gave me. And of course, rain boots. My across-the-way neighbor Brian carries my groceries up three flights of stairs for me often, and I’ve figured out a way to ride the bus to yoga for free. I’ve even learned to kind of love living by myself over these past few months.
But San Francisco’s not cheap, and I never intended on paying for this lovely apartment all by myself. So I decided to break my lease (have you ever done this?! So. not. easy). My mom lives right over the bridge and she leaves for the summers. She was starting to think about looking for house-sitters, and I was starting to think about how nice it’d be to walk around the yard barefoot and eat lots of tomatoes from her garden. So it’s temporary. But it’s a win-win for both of us. I’ve forced all of my city friends and acquaintances to promise they’ll make the trek often to barbecue and drink strong cocktails. You all know who you are. I mean it.
Now let’s move on to talk about how much packing sucks. O.k. covered that. God, it sucks. And then let’s talk about how if you’re thrifty like I am and hate throwing things out, you feel inclined to use up everything in your refrigerator before moving day even if it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. It leads to odd combinations of things like sweet potato fries and raisin bran for dinner. Or my personal favorite: frozen broccoli and ground turkey hash. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. But there’s a really nice dish I made a few nights ago in an effort to use up some of my canned beans and tomatoes. It’s a great recipe to make when you’ve packed up and find yourself sitting on top of cardboard boxes reflecting on the wackiness of life and obsessing about your next steps. It’s easy, it doesn’t require many dishes or pots and pans, it’s hearty, and it’s comforting. My mom makes a similar white bean dish that I love, so for me, this reminds me of home. Ironic as I sit here eating leftovers staring at a bare kitchen and a cold, empty living room. But I’m soaking in the last few days here, knowing I’m not going far and can drive on over to run in the Panhandle, have coffee at Matching Half, and dig into some Green Chile Kitchen any old time I want.
Roasting radicchio takes the slightly bitter edge off that tends to turn some people away. This is very much a ‘dash of this and a dash of that’ recipe. If you need a little more oil to coat your radicchio, great. If you’d rather use a different kind of oil, great. If you want to throw in some fresh sage or top with breadcrumbs, that’d be good, too. I don’t use the entire 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes because I find it a bit too saucy for my liking. With warm crusty bread and good butter, a lovely meal is made.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Discard outer leaves from radicchio and cut the head into 4 wedges. Put radicchio wedges on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Before placing in the oven, turn each wedge so a cut side faces downward on the sheet. Roast, turning halfway through cooking, until leaves are wilted, about 12 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir again for 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange radicchio in a serving dish and spoon warm beans over the 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?)