We left for vacation on the day after I went grocery shopping in a wool sweater. June was definitively not summer here. According to everyone I talk to, it never is. And truthfully we were both just trucking along throughout the whole month, we had little time to complain or wish for something more. We had planned a mini camping trip all the way into … our backyard, but had to cancel due to chilly rain. But the second we returned to Seattle, you could sense something changed. People in the airport were tee-shirted, Brandon drove us home with the windows slightly cracked, and the next morning big, bright sun shone through the curtains in our bedroom. Summer in Seattle has arrived–and we have fruit pies, galettes, a booming garden, iced tea, and salads for dinner to show for it.
I told myself this year that I wouldn’t let myself return from vacation and just dive right back into the normal routine. I wanted to let vacation linger just a little. You know how you establish new routines on vacation sometimes? Like sitting down together and eating a real meal for breakfast, having an afternoon espresso on the porch, taking a pre-dinner walk, and playing board games late into the evening? I wanted some of that to stay.
But I think that’s why vacation is magical — because all of those new routines and special glimpses at really long, full days just isn’t a reality for most of us. Add to that trying to catch up after being gone almost two weeks (!) and you’ve got a whole lot of no breakfasts together, no afternoon espressos, no long walks, and no board games. But for now, we’re replacing those with other good things: Sam’s mom flew back with us and is staying for a week. She’s hunkered down in the upstairs guest room (that we have dubbed the best napping spot in the house), and we’ve been slowly showing her around town. We introduced her to eating yogurt and granola together for breakfast and she, in turn, made a pretty incredible taco salad for dinner last night. We all get our coffee together in the morning, and she’s helped me cut things back in the garden and troubleshoot what the heck might be wrong with my basil plants.
It’s true that the drawn-out pace of vacation can’t really be introduced back into “the real world.” That’s just the meaning of it: vacation is a physical and mental break from everything familiar back home. These photos were taken on our last day at my mom’s cabin, the one day we’d really reserved to hop on the computers and get a little work done and the one day where we both felt so deliciously relaxed and peaceful that instead we lounged on the porch, read big chunks of our books, and ended up going swimming in a downpour after dinner. We were the only ones in the lake. I wish I had a photo of it, but I guess I do in my mind. That night, there was nothing about the granola business, freelance writing, cookbook headnotes, or quarterly taxes at the forefront of my mind. There was only a wide gray sky, an expansive lake, and the sound of raindrops and Sam’s gentle paddling right beside me. I’ve taken that home with me.
After leaving Lake George, we rented a car and drove to New Jersey to visit Sam’s family. I’d met his oldest sister, Christa, but had yet to meet his mother, Nancy, or his youngest sister, Sara. Along the way, we stopped and Sam showed me four of the houses he grew up in as a kid. In the coming days, we played a lot of Farkle, drove to Philly where it was around 103 and humid — the perfect weather for cheesesteaks at Pat’s and Geeno’s (My vote goes to Pat’s), visited with nieces and nephews, jogged a little, and saw Moonrise Kingdom (very sweet if you haven’t yet seen it). But most of all, we just hung out with Sam’s family, shared meals together, played a few games.
I heard some small Sam stories and watched a sweet home video. I saw Sam interact with his nephew Alex who just adores him. He calls him Uncle Sammy and calls me “Penguin,” which I love: it sort of rhymes with “Megan”, I suppose. I’d smile when we’d pull up to the house and his little voice would shine through the screen door: “Uncle Sammy, I missed you! Penguin, I missed you!” I saw the way Sam cares for his mom. I saw where he came from–the people and places that were influential in some regard. I’ve taken that home with me, too.
And because we returned to a Seattle that’s barely recognizable to me (constant sun!), it was time to start baking a few pies. We picked up strawberries, blackberries, and nectarines at the market one evening while stocking up on a few things to have for breakfasts. The next morning I made a strawberry galette and a blackberry nectarine pie. Then I found these beautiful plums and decided to play around with my usual dough and turn them into a not-too-sweet, bright and gingery galette. One that sings summer, work or no work. Vacation or no vacation.
Speaking of which, in case you missed it a few weeks ago, The New York Times posted a smart, relevant piece on the state of being busy. Reading it at Sam’s sisters house in New Jersey a wave of guilt passed over me. I have become that person. I never wanted to be the person who didn’t have time to meet a friend for tea or call their mom back. In it Tim Kreider says of folks who are always talking about how busy they are: “They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence…I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” Read it if you haven’t. I feel like what I do does matter in a small way, but I also feel like it’s so easy to get caught up in a frenzied cycle of busyness that you lose the big-picture. That’s it important to call people back on the phone and stop for tea. Or fruit galettes, as it is today.
This recipe has less sugar than many galette recipes, so while juicy and naturally sweet it does come off as just a touch tart. I love this and think the natural flavor of the plums really shine, but if you think you may like your galette a bit sweeter, try 1/4 cup sugar for the filling instead. If you haven’t used rye flour, it’s lovely in pie doughs and quite easy to work with. The directions below use the food-processor method to make the dough. If you’d prefer using a pastry cutter or your hands, that works, too. I prefer not to in the summer just because it’s not and I can never seem to work quite quickly enough. But, as always, do what makes you happy.
For the dough:
For the filling:
In a food processor, add the flours, salt and sugar and pulse once to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse meal with some small butter pieces intact the size of small peas. Slowly sprinkle in the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just barely comes together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Gather it together into a flat disk, wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round and transfer it to the baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 tablespoon water together to create egg wash. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the plums, sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and ginger bits. Toss well. Arrange the fruit in the very center of the dough circle, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches all around the border. Fold the exterior edges towards the center of the galette. Don’t worry about it looking perfect or neat–it shouldn’t. Chill galette in freezer (or refrigerator if your baking sheet won’t fit in the freezer) for 20 minutes.
Retrieve from freezer, brush edges with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until crust has turned golden brown and juices are bubbling and thickening. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before serving (the fruit juices will firm up as it cools so you won’t have a runny galette). Store covered at room temperature for 2-3 days.
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?)