For such a light, bright, colorful few months — summer is the season that makes the biggest statement, but also the season that blasts on through the quickest. But with the blasting comes the overgrown lawns, neighborhood walks at 9:45 p.m. when it’s still light out (!) and dinners consisting of heaping servings of strawberry crisp. Or how about the impromptu sidewalk picnics at lunchtime or the beautiful, blooming Dogwood trees lining the block? Seattle, maybe a little more than some sunnier cities, waits hard for this time of year. I’d like for you all to know that I’ve locked the winter coat away for good, and while the raincoat is definitely making an appearance of late, I hope not to look at a stitch of fleece for a good few months. And to eat more berry crisp for dinner — which brings us all here right now.
I received Kimberly’s new cookbook, Vibrant Food, in the mail a few weeks ago and one of the recipes that immediately jumped out at me was the Summer Berry and Peach Crisp. I met Kimberly through her blog The Year in Food; we both had friends and cities in common and she’s so genuine that we hit it off right away. In addition to recipe development, Kimberly is a super talented photographer, so it’s no surprise this book is a beauty, and there are so many recipes I can’t wait to make (Sweet Corn and Squash Fritters, Summer Squash Pasta with Green Goddess Dressing, Almond Honey Cake with Poached Quince). It’s organized seasonally and further categorized by produce or ingredient, so it’s not only beautiful but also useful — the best kind of books.
When I sat down to glance at the crisp recipe, I knew peaches would be a stretch, but I’ve been trading Marge Granola for flats of strawberries at the end of each farmers market lately, so I knew we could easily be in business. With the back door wide open and a nice evening breeze accompanying me in the kitchen, I was off — mixing berries with a little lemon juice, working butter into a simple mixture of oats and nuts and greasing our cast-iron skillet (I decided to bake our crisp in a skillet instead of a more traditional casserole dish). It came out of the oven bubbling hot and fragrant at about 7 p.m. and the sun was shining and our picnic table beckoned, and there’s a chance it became dinner. And that it was enjoyed right out of the pan.
It’s my sincere hope there will be much more of that this summer. I’ve been making a list of books and podcasts and all kinds of travel and summer-related links to share with you, so more of that soon. But for now, let’s eat skillet berry crisp. Right out of the pan.
A few quick recipe notes: Kimberly’s recipe calls for a variety of fruits but you could certainly make this with any fruit you like, or more of one than another. Essentially if you have about 5 – 5 1/2 cups of fruit you’re good to go here. Because I’ve been a little crazy about sugar lately I used a little less sugar than the recipe called for and I ended up using 1 cup of quinoa flakes in the topping. If you can’t find these, certainly use oats instead. But I love their little hit of protein and they work into the cold butter so beautifully. Last, because I was too lazy to go out and buy almonds (what Kimberly suggests), I used hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds here for the nuts. Use any nuts you’d like — just keep the proportions about the same. Pecans would be great as would walnuts.
Adapted from: Vibrant Food
For the Filling:
For the Topping
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the berries with the sugar, lemon juice, flour and ginger. Pour the fruit filling into a shallow 2 to 2 1/2-quart baking dish (or large oven-proof skillet!)
Make the topping: In another large bowl, combine the oats, nuts and seeds, hazelnut meal, brown sugar, salt and spices. Add the butter and use your fingers to work the dry ingredients and butter together to form a loose mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crisp is golden brown and bubbling at the edges. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Right out of the pan, or in small bowls topped with ice cream if you’d like.
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?)