We had a bit of a heat wave in the Bay Area this past weekend. Saturday, in particular. There’s nothing like coming off of a long flight from China and having your typically foggy city greet you with blazes. I mean really, there was no easing into summer. But it’s no problem. I’ve gotten my cotton skirts out of storage and plan on wearing them all summer long. That and flip-flops and high ponytails. There will be iced coffee in the mornings and lots of leg-dangling in my mom’s pool.
What is a problem, however, is even thinking about turning on the oven to bake during the summer. But I’ve found a solution. Its name is slump. Do you know slumps? If not, you should. I’ll introduce you.
A slump (also referred to as a grunt) is an old-fashioned dessert made with whatever fruit you have on hand. On the spectrum of old-school fruit desserts, a slump is somewhere between a cobbler and a steamed pudding. This is not necessarily the most beautiful, visually stunning dessert you’ve ever seen. I probably wouldn’t make it for royalty or even for, say, a bachelorette lunch. Stick with petite fours for that one. Or maybe a pavlova. But I love slumps for their simplicity: you slice up a bowl of fruit, heat the fruit in a pan on the stove top, cover it with a simple dumpling dough, put the lid on, and steam away for about 20 minutes. Done. Now you’re acquainted.
The best part about slumps and summer? Because you cook them on the stove top, you never need to actually preheat the oven. It’s not a baking-while-sweating endeavor. Now that you’ve met slump and perhaps started to really let him grow on you, I have to tell you about slump’s bad side: he doesn’t keep well. In fact, you really have to take down the whole pan the same day (although I think having it for breakfast the next morning would be perfectly acceptable) because it will get quite soggy. For me and the company I keep, that doesn’t ever seem to be an issue. But you may want to plan accordingly.
O.k, my work here is done for now.
You + Slump = fast new friends.
Me= Going for a pool-side leg dangle.
To peel peaches quickly, dunk them in boiling water for thirty seconds or so and the skin should peel off quite easily. For this recipe, it is important that you use a pan with a tight-fitting lid so the slump steams adequately. And while I don’t always love using cornstarch in fruit recipes, stone fruit does have a high water content, so it’s necessary here. Don’t leave it out.
Adapted from: Rustic Fruit Desserts
Slice fruit into thin wedges over a bowl, collecting all of the juice. Drop slices in bowl. Separately, stir the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small bowl, then add to the fruit and quickly toss to coat. Gently stir in the lemon juice, then slide the fruit and juices into a 10-12 inch non-reactive, deep skillet or a wide 5-quart saucepan or Dutch Oven. Let stand for 15 minutes as the fruit releases its juices and the sugar dissolves. Bring the fruit mixture to a low simmer over medium-low heat and stir occasionally to prevent juice from sticking to the bottom. Simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
To make the dumpling dough, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a bowl. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it’s the size of peas. Add the cold buttermilk and stir until just combined. Don’t worry: the dough will be pretty wet.
Scoop 8 dollops of dough atop the fruit, distributing each dumpling evenly over the surface. Return to the stove top and bring to a gently simmer over low heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue simmering for 18-22 minutes, or until dumplings are puffy and cooked through. Remove the cover and let cool 15 minutes before serving.
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?)