I was talking to Sam the other night about summer, about how everyone seems to look forward to it all year long – almost a remnant of childhood when you lived for the seemingly eternal vacation from school. But as an adult – and this is an unpopular opinion, I realize – I’m not sold. I’m just sweatier in my office everyday (we live in an old Victorian and don’t have AC) and there’s sort of this pervasive frenetic energy to do all the things before – gasp – the season ends. So we don’t have any bucket lists this summer other than trying not to feel frenetic. We’ve been sampling our fair share of ice cream cones, explored some new hiking trails, and dabbled in our garden – the kale and romaine have come and gone but the cherry tomatoes are on the horizon and the pride I feel when looking them up and down is … not insignificant.
There’s lots of weeding in the yard and garden – it feels like it could legitimately be a full time job right now, which of course I don’t have as I already have a full time job, so I try to get out there during Frankie’s naps on weekends or for a quick break in the middle of the workday. Current status: the weeds are winning. Another thing I don’t have a ton of time for during these supposed dog days of summer is baking, so I was particularly proud of this quick “no bake” peach tart I threw together last weekend with some extra peaches we inherited. I was on the fence between a crisp or a tart, and felt just a tiny bit fancy so went with the latter.
It’s pretty tough to mess up a no bake filling, but I will say that there are two things to pay attention to here: try to let your cream cheese come to room temperature to ensure maximum smoothness and don’t cut corners in the chill time. In my photos, I only let the tart chill for a bit over an hour as I was in a hurry and you can tell – if you want your filling to be nice and firm, you’ve got to let this lady sit in the fridge for at least four hours. No easy feat, I realize. But I suppose, a good window of time in which to weed. Or play with your kids. Or marvel at your tomatoes and the natural world.
Calling this a no-bake dessert feels a little misleading as you’re baking the crust, but beyond that the oven’s off and your filling comes together quickly. While the sweet peaches and buckwheat are great together, you could top this tart with fresh berries instead.
A quick note about buckwheat flour before you get going: it’s naturally gluten-free. But what I love about it is its earthy, almost minerally flavor, making it a great whole grain flour to pair with super sweet peaches. I was inspired by my friend Sara Forte’s buckwheat dough for this sweet number, and her recipe didn’t disappoint.
Make the crust: In a food processor, add the buckwheat and all purpose flours, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until pea-sized bits form. Continue pulsing slowly as you add the ice water, continuing until the dough just starts to come together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 13-inch circle about ¼ inch thickness. Carefully lift it into an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
Press the dough into the edges and up the sides of the pan, working quickly to avoid the dough getting too warm. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork, cover the bottom with aluminum foil or parchment and pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the weights and foil/parchment and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the top no longer looks wet (should look on the drier side like a cracker). Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with 3 tablespoons water. Slice the peaches into ½-inch wedges and add to the bowl. Gently swirl the sugar mixture around the peaches so they all get coated. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using hand beaters or a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and honey together until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more honey if you prefer a sweeter filling.
Assemble the tart: Spoon the cream cheese filling into the tart and spread into an even layer. Lay the peaches on top and chill for 4 hours and up to overnight 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?)