Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we’re all really good at making excuses to leave the office early — or, simply, to “work from home.” I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I’d been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour — sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat.
The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver’s cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I’d say. Coming home I realized we didn’t have much in the fridge for lunch — but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It’s the kind of salad that’s meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn’t yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there’s always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open — a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
I originally developed this recipe for my whole grain column in Edible Seattle, and at the time was longing to work in as much color as possible to kick the mid-winter blues. Lemons help. Preserved Meyer lemons really help. We always make a few jars of preserved lemons sometime in January or February and love using them in salads, hummus, dips — so many things, really. If you’ve never made them, they’re so, so simple and after awhile you don’t need a recipe; it’s more of a method and a feel than anything. But this is a good place to start.
For this salad, I used Hayden Flour Mills’s farro which is so wonderfully nutty and chewy. If you’re not familiar with the company, they are led by a father / daughter team based in Arizona and they’re doing really amazing things with whole grains. I love their pancake mixes, purple barley and whole grain crackers — and it just so happens that Sam’s graphic design firm, Neversink, revamped their new packaging. It’s always nice when good people get to work together to make something great truly shine, and I think that’s exactly what happened with Hayden Flour Mills’ products.
I hope you had a wonderful week, and I want to thank all of you for your sweet, encouraging comments on motherhood, balancing work, and life in general. I know I’ve said it before, but I realize there are hundreds (thousands?) of online forces vying for your attention and energies, and I so appreciate you all stopping by this pocket of mine. And taking the time to leave a comment every now and again. It really means so much.
Hearty grain salads are a staple in our house, and this one hits all the right notes with slightly bitter arugula, bright lemon, creamy feta and crunchy pistachios. Like most hearty whole grain salads, this one is quite versatile, so you could certainly use a different grain if you’d like. Barley, wheat berries or even freekeh would be great. And a different hearty green or nut will also work just fine. With savory recipes, I love cooking my grains with a bit of broth in addition to water for an extra boost of flavor. And if you’re not a big feta fan, feel free to swap in goat cheese, shaved Parmesan or ricotta salata.
Add the farro, broth and water to a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until farro is tender and most of the liquid evaporates, about 25-30 minutes. If there is excess liquid after the farro is done cooking, simply strain it away. Let farro cool, then discard bay leaves.
In a small bowl or mason jar, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, shallot and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the cooked farro, arugula, 1/4 cup pistachios, preserved lemon and chives to a large salad bowl. Toss with the dressing. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Fold in the feta and top with remaining 1/4 cup pistachios. Serve room temperature or refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days (bring to room temperature 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?)