I had two things I wanted to accomplish during maternity leave: sew Frances new curtains and organize our family photos. When I set these goals for myself both seemed so doable and, of course, without kids I could tackle them in a long weekend. But before getting too bummed about the fact that the curtains just aren’t happening, I hear my friend Kelsey’s voice in the back of my head: don’t should all over yourself. There’s so many things we should do in our own minds but really there’s other priorities, too: planting flowers with Oliver in the backyard, walking for vegan ice cream cones after dinner, and getting to bed early. Because how good does it feel to SLEEP?! I’m willing to bet it feels way better than new curtains.
I’d wanted to get this recipe out to you before Memorial Day weekend so you could all tote a simple potluck winner with you to your barbecues but that didn’t quite happen. This month our house has been hit with the flu and pink eye and just about everything in between, so the recipe had to wait a few weeks. The good part about that is I had more time to test and tweak it, and man it’s good. While most broccoli salads are drenched in mayonnaise, this is a dairy-free version and I added chickpeas for protein, toasted pine nuts for crunch and sweet little currents to round out the flavors. The honey mustard dressing is simple and subtle and would be great on other green salads or veggies this time of year, too.
It’s one of those recipes that’s even better the second day, and once he picked out the parsley (heaven forbid anything resembling lettuce land on his plate), Oliver enjoyed it, too. That’s a real ringing endorsement these days, let me tell you. I hope you all have a restful long weekend and are easy on yourselves, leaving all those “shoulds” behind.
This crunchy broccoli salad is packed with flavor but without the heavy mayonnaise-laden dressings that typically accompany similar recipes. The trick is not to overcook the broccoli: you’re really just giving it a quick blanch to soften it slightly – it should still have some snap! If you’d rather not use pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds would all be great here as well.
For the Salad:
For the Dressing :
Toast the pine nuts: In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts until fragrant and just golden, about 4 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.
Quickly blanch broccoli: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook broccoli until slightly tender but still quite firm, 3-4 minutes. Toss broccoli into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
Mix up the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assemble the salad: In a large salad bowl, toss together the drained broccoli, chickpeas, onion, currents, parsley, and toasted pine nuts. Fold in the dressing and stir well to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
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?)