Yesterday I looked up and realized we’re into the last half of July. Already. And I had one of those inevitable panics where I feel like we haven’t been hiking enough, we haven’t done any camping or road-tripping or picnicking. Sam and I used to devote Sunday mornings to visiting one of our favorite bakeries and reading the paper — and then moseying into Ballard to shop at the farmers market. But now that I bake all day on Sundays for Marge, that tradition has slipped by the wayside. And I feel the same thing happening with the season this year. While I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than Seattle, our summer can feel pretty short (it really doesn’t get going until the beginning of July). And on those gray, dark February days, I want to make sure I’ve gotten in some good hiking, camping and picnicking. This whole grain skillet crisp is a good place to start: while we didn’t take it out picnicking, I did take it out into the backyard and had a very generous slice right out of the skillet. Slowly. At 9:30 p.m. when it was still light out. So really, when you consider those moments, July could be worse.
I’m not sure if I’ve formally shared with you all yet, but I’ll be working with Attune Foods for a handful of months developing original recipes using their incredible line of whole grain cereals and graham crackers. I feel very lucky as they’re all products that I truly believe in and use often in the house. This recipe is made with their classic Uncle Sam cereal which I love because it’s not at all too sweet (less than 1g of sugar!) but packs a whallop of protein and fiber. The ingredient list contains a total of four ingredients — you don’t see that much these days. When we’re not sprinkling Marge Granola on yogurt, Uncle Sam has become a staple around here.
As for the crisp: it’s a quick, juicy mess of summer all nestled in a cast-iron skillet. If you’ve tried some of the whole grain, seasonal recipes on this site you’re going to like it. It relies solely on whole wheat flour and almond meal — with a splash of buttermilk and a handful of sliced almonds. The topping straddles the line between a crisp and a cobbler (it’s a touch biscuity) and I’ve used it atop a layer of blueberries and blackberries, too. The result? It was a close competitor to the version below. In that way, I say use any berries you like if you can’t get your hands on summer cherries, and let me know if you try other fruits as well — I’d love to hear about it. Until then, a recipe and a promise to be back here soon — with a summer picnic under my belt. I wish all the same for you. Late July: let’s do this.
For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or other oven-safe pan.
Make the crisp topping
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, almond meal, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter. Pulse 20-30 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Slowly add the buttermilk and continue pulsing until the liquid is incorporated. At this point, the dough should come in clumps.
Turn the topping out into a medium bowl and fold in the Uncle Sam cereal and almonds; mix with a wooden spoon (or your hands) until both are incorporated.
Prepare the filling
Toss together the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Transfer to the prepared cast iron skillet or other baking-safe pan.
Spoon the topping over the cherries by the heaping tablespoon, so they’re almost fully covered (it’s okay if some around the edges are peeking through). Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. The top should be golden brown and the cherry juices bubbling through.
Remove from the oven, and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the crisp will keep at room temperature for 1 additional day.
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?)