I’m writing this post while sitting about three feet away from the fan in our master bedroom upstairs — trying not to think about how our old brick Tudor house stubbornly holds onto the heat of the day and just plain refuses to let it go. It’s tough to complain when we look forward to this season all year — the months filled with farmers market berries, juicy stone fruit and bushy sunflowers. The months when it doesn’t actually get dark until almost 10 p.m. and we eat dinner out on the picnic table or spread across the itchy grass, the neighbor’s bamboo tree quietly brushing up against the fence. This year, I planted a blueberry bush out back and Oliver dutifully waters it and checks for berries each day. He runs through the back door to report the count (which, for the past six weeks, has been “no berries, mama. Maaaaaaayyyyybe someday.”) Yesterday while doing his check he spotted THREE berries with his Aunt Christa and promptly snatched them up, refusing to share. It was a good day.
I realize it’s been a bit quiet around here, and I want to thank you for your patience. While we’ve been soaking in all the good summer things, the days have also become much more constrained due to my new job (yay!). It’s been a pretty big transition for our little family — I knew that there were things I took for granted with my freelance schedule: the ability to turn recipe testing for work into dinner for the evening, do midday errands, schedule a dentist appointment whenever I pleased. These things are different now.
We learned quickly that if we don’t meal plan and shop ahead, we just stare at each other at 6 p.m. and end up making quesadillas for dinner (which, let’s be real, isn’t always a bad thing). It took me a few weeks to figure out how to somehow work in exercise or watering the lawn or calling back the insurance company. We’re all getting used to it, and finding new footing.
I usually wake before Oliver and sneak out of the house, getting to the office early to avoid the heinous commute. Sam has been meal planning and preparing a handful of dinners each week which is such an immense treat and lifesaver and relief and … did I say treat? He made homemade broccoli rabe and sausage pizza this week and chicken tinga tacos. It’s tough to complain. Given all of the disheartening and difficult-to-digest news lately, we all just feel so lucky.
Today I’m leaving you with a recipe I wrote for the last issue of Edible Seattle. When I put a photo on Instagram awhile back, many of you messaged me asking for the recipe and I recently included it in a cooking class I taught at The Pantry and was reminded how ridiculously delicious it is. It’s a perfectly balanced whole grain bowl that’s hearty enough to act as a meal on its own. I love the combination of crunchy radishes and cucumbers with the toothsome rye berries, creamy dressing, and salty capers and salmon. Make this one ahead and it’ll be great for a few days in the refrigerator (yes, even with the dressing), and if you don’t have rye berries on hand, use any hearty grain you like (farro, wheat berries, kamut).
I’ll see you back here soon with a summery savory baking recipe I’ve been working on (Oliver has been the lucky taste tester). And a few things that have been making me happy this season (books, podcasts, television and more!).
A vibrant, healthy grain bowl that leaves you satisfied and energized, this recipe comes together quickly if you cook the rye berries and prepare the pickled onions in advance — then you’re just chopping veggies and dressing the salad, and dinner is on the table. You’ll end up having some leftover pickled onions, which is great for all the future salads and grain bowls in your life.
For the Quick-Pickled Onions:
For the Creamy Caper Sauce:
For the Salad:
For this recipe you want to look for hot-smoked salmon that will be nice and flaky vs more of the cold-smoked salmon or lox.
Make the Quick-Pickled Onions:
Place sliced onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure they’re mixed well. Pour over onion slices and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain onions before using. Note: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Keep leftover onions covered and refrigerated along with the vinegar mixture.
Start the Salad:
Place the rye berries in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of salted water. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and chewy, 50–60 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain away any excess water, and set aside.
Make the Creamy Caper Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, yogurt, olive oil, horseradish, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Stir in the capers and set aside.
Finish the Salad:
In a large salad bowl, fold together the rye berries, cucumber, radishes, fennel, parsley, chives, and salt. Chop 1/4 cup of the quick-pickled onions, and fold them in. Dress salad with the creamy caper sauce. Carefully fold in the smoked salmon. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with additional chopped chives and dill. Leftovers can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 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?)