Pulling off the farmers market this past weekend was a bit of a challenge. I had flown back from Seattle Friday afternoon, knowing full-well that the evening would consist of harried hours of crimping and baking, filling and frosting. And I was okay with that. I wanted as much time there as possible.
Time to explore pie shops and see what other bakers are up to. Time to share french fries with Rachael in the afternoon or a pre-museum hot dog with Sam at Dot’s. Time to take evening walks around the lake or back from Delancey. Walks to the grocery store or the movie theater. Back home from playing darts or out to meet Tara for dinner or Jess for a good chat. Or a rather brisk walk to catch Dana at Booklarder (and we did!)
So you’d think with all of that walking, talking about feeling settled might seem odd. They’re opposites, really. It’s funny: so often that word has negative connotations. In regards to a bad relationship, it could be “she’s just settling.” Or in speaking about someone who has become much less adventurous or interesting, you might say they’ve already “settled.” As for Sam and Seattle, settled is just what comes to mind, what feels right. It feels like we’ve been in each others’ company for a very long time. But then Sam will say something or do something unexpected that leaves me dying with laughter or challenged or thoughtful. So it’s all perfectly comfortable and, at the same time, perfectly new.
When I returned home, with Marge, I just felt less frazzled, less worried, knowing full well that somehow all the baking would get done. It had to. And it did. On Saturday, I had two small leftover pies and I traded them for some beautiful tomatoes. I didn’t really set out to get tomatoes, actually. I wanted a few bunches of greens and some french radishes. But the girl at the farmstand insisted. She said they were almost the last of the season and that I didn’t want to wait. They wouldn’t be around forever.
You could make a soup, she said.
I looked at the large bag of tomatoes she was handing over. That’d be a lot of soup, I said.
Well, yes, but I’m sure you’ve got someone to make soup for?
I continued staring at the big bag of tomatoes, strangely hesitant to reach out for them.
Or, you know, just freeze any extra. That’s what I do. She seemed to be hedging, nervous she’s said or offered too much.
But I decided quickly that I liked her. She was resourceful. She was a woman that appreciated a big pot of soup — for someone else or just for yourself. She was also a woman that was practically giving away tomatoes on a blustery afternoon in early October and, for that, I handed over two small pear pies and walked away with my bag of round, slightly bruised beauties.
And truth be told, I do have someone to make soup for. He’s not in the next room, mind you, but we’re going to see a lot of each other this fall. And continue taking rainy evening walks. And eating lots of soup. Settling, in the best sense of the word. Not like these tomatoes, in which you’re advised by the rosy-cheeked woman selling boxes of them not to wait because they won’t be around forever. No, not like that at all.
This is an incredibly simple soup that consists of roasting a pan of tomatoes, garlic and onion and pureeing them with a bit of broth. Because of its simplicity, do be sure to use the very best, seasonal tomatoes you can find. You’ll taste the difference. Because I leave the skin of the tomatoes on, this soup is going to have a bit of texture at the end. I like this; if you don’t, run it through a mesh sieve after pureeing. The amount of broth can vary, too, depending on how thick you like your soup. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your tastes. If you like a creamier soup, add up to 1/4 cup heavy cream of half & half at the very end.
Preheat the oven to 375′. Spread the quartered onions and cloves of garlic out onto a cookie sheet. You want to get rid of some of the seedy part of the inside of the tomatoes — don’t go overboard here and aim for perfection but your tomatoes will be a bit too juicy if you roast them exactly as is. Use your finger to get some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes out of there. Then place tomatoes on baking sheet along with garlic and onion. Dash the olive oil over everything and sprinkle with salt and parsley
Roast for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and slumped and reduced to almost half their size. Remove from the oven and scoop all of the ingredients from the pan into a medium saucepan.
Add the broth into the saucepan and allow to simmer on the low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the saucepan itself or feel free to cool slightly and use a blender instead.
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?)