Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Simplified Summer Notations


When life gets busy this blog gets quiet, and while that's exactly the opposite of how I like things to go, it happens.

Somehow my camera activity quieted down this summer, too. It was a fun whirlwind, though, so I just spent some time going through my humble selection of shots from the summer to share with you.

I hope you enjoy the still images captured in often activity-filled moments. That's what I just love about photography. I can be blinking my eyes awake as I walk through the living room in the morning and see the light fall just right across a chair. It will cause me to stop and admire and crop in close before rushing into a day. It's the same thing with a dinner eaten alone on a wide white table. The prettiness of simple, seemingly mundane things.

I don't know how I'd make it through life's busyness without these mentally recorded or shutter-captured notations, and my soul gets extra hungry when I go too long without stopping for them.


In May my sister and I traveled down to Oregon to spend time with good friends, and spent time in the gorgeous wine country.


I finally made it to Honore in Ballard one Sunday morning in June. The next day I was ready to go back.


Friends and I began a book club with the book The Help, so I made my first caramel cake based on this recipe I've been wanting to try for years.


A trip to Texas happily coincided with getting to celebrate a dear friend's birthday there together. We took a well air-conditioned drive from Dallas to San Antonio and stopped at FoodHeads in Austin for a perfect birthday lunch.


July in San Antonio, Texas, was oh so hot but oh so worth it, with the priceless celebration of the marriage of two college friends.


I ended my season of working at our local artisan cheese shop, and this was the last bunch of flowers I got from the shop's neighbor and friend...a surplus bouquet from a Steven Moore wedding. I remember the secretly enjoyed pleasure of quietly walking through Fairhaven that Sunday evening with my treasures: a baguette under one arm and these with a bunch of pink peonies cradled in another.


A favorite recipe from the summer, but one that I'm not sure how to replicate: cornmeal, coconut milk, plum cake. I'll give it another shot and share the recipe if I'm happy with it.


These little legs belong to a nephew of mine. He and his not-much-bigger brother and parents visited Washington and brightened our days throughout their time here.


My little sister (and one of my best friends) turned another year older, so I made her a gluten-free crepe cake.


September brought the annual Greek festival hosted practically in our front yard, which meant four days of white tent peaks filling the view out our windows and music, gyros, and friends flowing in and out of our house.

[The photo at the top is of the front of our house with our rhododendrons in vibrant bloom.]

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Croissant and a Tourteau


It started with thumbing through a cookbook at my favorite local shop. Unable to resist reaching for a binding printed with the block-letter words "New French Recipes" a luxurious but simple lunch idea was born.

Since I left Europe in December of 2005, I have been nurturing a love of its various regions. My ventures into cheesemongering and macaron-making have inevitably grown a particularly French intrigue, and so it is impossible for titles concerning this culture and its cuisine not to thoroughly entice me.

And yet, constantly aware of the ability a cookbook collection has to boom out of control, I try to be extra selective about what I purchase versus what I browse for on food blogs versus what I check out from the library. In this case, selecting and mentally tucking away one recipe within the pages of Éric Kayser's New French Recipes allowed me to peaceably put the book back on its shelf.

Not feeling rushed, I figured I would eventually get around to the recipe (if it can even be named so formally), but the next day it was convenient to stop by the local cheese shop and my grocery list started to form. I was hoping to find Comté, but the next closest option was a cave-aged Gruyère, which would do just fine. Continuing to piece together ingredients, I picked up a croissant at the bakery as well.



This is where my sights were set: a pan-grilled sandwich of melty Alpine-style cheese, crunchy bites of sweet hazelnuts, and savory nibbles of green garlic, simply seasoned with cracked pepper and assembled within a flaky butter croissant. To make it a meal, baby heirloom tomatoes waited at home to nestle along the side of the plate.

A little more grand but similar, this sandwich reminds me of the nut, cheese, and bread combination I latched onto while living in Oxford. Planning a coach trip into London or a study session at the park, I would slice cheese and lay it flat across the face of whole wheat sandwich bread. Gently pressing halved walnuts into the cheese, I would complete the sandwich with another slice of bread spread with blackcurrant jam. Sometimes I would use marmalade or a different flavor of jam, and sometimes the cheese would be Brie, sometimes Port Salut, or sometimes sharp English cheddar; it was simple and on a college student's budget, but I loved it. These sandwiches, Digestives, and ten cups of black British tea a day (plus chicken breasts from the farmer's market) were my staples that semester.


Before ending this blog post, let me revert briefly back to France. The very same day I made that grilled croissant sandwich, I received a cookbook from my brother and his wife, a cookbook I have no qualms adding to my collection.

I love curling up and reading Dorie Greenspan's voice, whether it is out of my copy of Baking, her blog, or many of her publication appearances. Now, I get to listen to her from Around My French Table, a cookbook that thoroughly won me over several months ago when first seeing it at a bookshop and flipping to this page:


This tourteau sounded so enjoyable, I am hoping to make it my first completed recipe out of the cookbook...if the strawberry, tomato, mozzarella salad or olive sables do not push their way to the top first. I will be sure to keep you posted.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Palettes

The sky above finally clears and assures us below that blue can indeed stretch from horizon to horizon over Western Washington. Looking at the ground when my eyes are not turned up toward this hopeful summer expanse, a gathered coat of white reminds me of another summer-time scene from the near-underside of the globe.

to look down
In New Zealand, the Pohutukawa trees inevitably shed their soft pink bristles and coat the ground around them. A year and a half ago, I paused on a well-tread sidewalk and, stepping down next to the curb, bent low to capture an essential part of the land's summer palette, seen in the photograph above.

Here is my driveway today, and the concentration of nature's shedding and settling in this particular land.


And I just have to share photographed evidence that the skies surely cleared. The sun shone fearlessly. The temperatures climbed brazenly (that's all subjective of course, considering the high was around seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit).

Eating dinner inside would have been an injustice to this gift of a day, so I tossed together a panzanella inspired by a leftover portion of Breadfarm's Black Olive Baguette and settled into the mossy grass outside my front door (picking white fluff out of my bread salad along the way).


Thursday, June 16, 2011


An idea, a concept, an intrigue has been floating - sometimes swirling - around in my head and pinging my heart recently. I catch it in song lyrics, conversations, and turning pages.

Home has been a fluid experience in my life, while also steady and stable enough in certain senses to keep me grounded in shifts of geographical location, school environments, and community circles. I am not trying to nail down a definition of it for myself right now, but I am wanting to churn through it intentionally in my art, my interactions, and my writing.


I know right now that "inner settledness" makes a lot of sense in relation to home, and in seeking this, the ability to name a place home for as long or as short as may be the case comes more easily. And love. Love is essential here; being in a place of receiving and getting to offer overflow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chronicling Days Off III

Days off come around every two weeks or so. I am not complaining (a couple work days are only three to five hours, anyway). When I woke up this morning confused briefly as to what day it was, it was delightful to realize my neglected alarm wasn't making me late for work or a running date.

Going into the day, it was a toe-curling pleasure to see sunshine and need car windows rolled down, riding with James Vincent McMorrow and Oh Land in my speakers; to match Pickwick with screen doors and open kitchen windows; to pair Lisa Hannigan with measuring flour under evening light; and to wear whatever colors and uncomfortable shoes I wanted because there was no decor to match or good soles needed for long periods of standing...


[Days off are for] strolling through Fairhaven in good company. Stopping for poppies along the sidewalk; sipping margaritas; acquiring a madeleine pan.


[Days off are for] finding a used copy of a cookbook I've craved for its smooth aesthetic and clean typography, the charming British voice of Nigel Slater, and recipes like pistachio cake.




[Days off are for] taking the time to walk over to the neighbor's fence and see their rose blooms through a viewfinder.


[Days off are for] spontaneously gathering together the ingredients for an old familiar from my mother's kitchen and making it my own: Sally Lunn Bread.



Friday, June 10, 2011

Travels to Seattle: A New Favorite Cookbook


It has been more than a month since I went to Seattle for Heidi Swanson's book signing. The albums of photos on my computer have grown and stories and thoughts along with them. There will never be time to always share all the moments while they are fresh, and I suppose this is why we have memories to store up more than we have time to express at once. I love recalling something forgotten for a good ten years.

Before moving into the present, I want to note my appreciation of Heidi's new cookbook Super Natural Every Day. It has already received much due praise from bloggers much more reputable than me. Check out the words of Matt Bites, Smitten Kitchen, Steamy Kitchen, Lottie + Doof, and La Tartine Gourmande.

101 Cookbooks was one of the first food blogs I ever encountered. I have been returning to it for four years, drawn to the author Heidi Swanson's photography, voice, and clean organization and thoughtful arrangement of typography and details. Heidi's graphic design skills shine through here, and the same fine aesthetic has transferred into both her cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Every Day.

I have recognized a natural affinity for the recipes within these pages, embracing new ingredients and combinations and drawing to old familiars like Japanese flavors, Indian spices, and grains like quinoa (a friend commented the other day about how my mother was serving quinoa at the family table long before half the Northwest knew what it was!).

The first recipe out of the new cookbook that I mentally earmarked was the Tutti-Frutti Crumble. If I do not start reading a cookbook from the dessert collection, then I struggle to put it down before flipping beyond the savory pages. I have an undeniable sweet tooth but not the frosting-laden sort, which is why I mesh so well with Heidi's palate. I grew up on half-whole-wheat claufoutis and fruit-rich crumbles for dessert, so the thought of enhancing such a simply perfect dessert as a crumble or crisp with poppy seeds, currants, and Beaujolais wine delightfully challenges the definition of perfection.



Between my fantasies of that crumble and the present, I was drawn back into the lunch and dinner pages, and I know this is a cookbook I will continue to flip through from cover to cover. (Breakfast deserves due attention, as well.) I acquired tarragon and remembered that I had seen it mentioned in the subtitle of a Wild Rice Casserole. Cremini mushrooms, mustard, and Gruyère were also components, and considering that Western Washington has kept us bundled in sweatshirts and slippers through May, it sounded like a lovely warming dish. (Oh, it was.)


And then there is the kale salad that I ate for a week straight, and even still, this pattern could have pleasantly lasted longer. Salty tamari and toasted sesame oil infuse crunchy roasted kale leaves and thick coconut flakes. Then these are tossed with whatever grain is at hand, like the big batch of cooked brown basmati rice in my fridge. It is such an easy recipe, I have enthusiastically relayed it in conversation, and I have already played around with it based on our vegetable supply. Kale is not the only hearty green that works, and a successful adaption involved thick coins of white leeks in the roasting pan along with the kale and coconut. A poached egg on top, and I could live on this meal.


On a side note, I rolled out of a friend's bed at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday to get home to Bellingham that weekend. Swinging by Cloud City Coffee on my way out of Seattle, I stocked up with an Americano and treat for the drive. That treat was a slice of Coconut Bread, and - oh wow - it was sublime. I would love to find a good recipe for such a loaf. Do you have any recipes to share?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Staying Awake: Blogger Links


Some nights I can't seem to go to bed late enough. Against my better judgment, I start a movie at ten o'clock, or I get home from work around eleven and distract my sister from homework by asking her about her day or venting about my own.

On Friday night, I finished closing the shop and arrived home at 11:15 to find myself wide awake and wanting to savor the quiet darkness of our home. I wanted to sip bitter hot chocolate, let my new love of James Vincent McMorrow's music grow, and browse through some of my favorite food blogs unhurried, reading posts word-for-word.


Reading blogs always turns me back to my own because I admire the giftings of so many food (and otherwise) bloggers out there. They add beauty and richness to this world, and inspire me to humbly attempt to do the same.

In this brief time of meandering here's what I found that may be enjoyable to you as well:

Almond extract and almond paste. My attention always hones in on recipes involving these components, and Molly recently posted a promising looking cake including both. Oh, and do try to sit still and absorb the words of her narrative preceding the recipe. Her voice is just lovely, always.

India and summertime. Heidi has adapted a wonderfully fresh, light yet full-flavored salad from Sanjeev Kapoor's How to Cook Indian, and it looks like something I could happily live on through the course of the coming summer. Speaking of summer, the first sunny days of May are very appropriate times to pull out the Pimms, don't you think? I must seek some out.

Further link love. Luisa, The Wednesday Chef, shares some favorite links each Friday, and I am especially grateful she shared a link to Kumquat Earl Grey Marmalade. I have not canned before, and I have only ever had kumquats picked off the trees on my college campus several years ago, but I adore both marmalade and earl grey. (Perhaps I'll modify with the overflowing bowl of blood oranges in my kitchen.)

Design delicious.
It's not just the recipes, the writer's voice, or their photographs that draw me to food blogs. These components all need attention, but clean white space and good typography make the experience of visiting the blog (almost) as good as venturing into the kitchen with a recipe itself. Lottie + Doof does this for me as does Sprouted Kitchen. Heaps of white space and the approachable use of "+" are so very attractive.

As soon as I get photos transferred from my camera to computer, I'll share the events of the previous weekend, which involved ooohing and aaawing at Lara Ferroni's gorgeous studio space and getting a personal note from the talented Heidi Swanson herself in my new cookbook.


Meanwhile, I will leave you with a crumpet that I made last week. It was my first attempt, and while it took going through a whole batch to feel like I hit on success in this last one, the effort was worthwhile. Because of it, a family awoke at 3:30 in the morning to watch the royal wedding, sharing in their twelve-year-old daughter's enthusiasm, and toasting up fresh crumpets that dripped with honey and smeared butter. Even though I don't have a personal affection for William and Kate, I still find this form of family-bonding to be a lovely idea.

Whether or not a prince is getting married, I think we should all make crumpets more often. Here's a worthwhile recipe, though I would recommend flipping the crumpets for a final light browning on their tops.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nourishment All Along

Life begins to whir like the paddle in the giant mixer that folds and whips cake batter before me week to week. At work I can flick off the switch and silence comes just as I command it. In the day-to-day, sometimes I have to adjust my steps to a point well beyond a mixture of flour, eggs, sugar, buttermilk, cocoa, etc. would survive and remind myself that deep slow breaths counteracting quick feet actually builds endurance.


Then it amazes me how many different ways I attempt to fill my lungs until I finally settle in on what always works: sleep, sweat, nature's air, true words. But I try some Netflix pick again; I stay up late scanning Facebook; I cook or bake and create more dirty dishes instead of reading and responding to stilling words...and my stomach wasn't even hungry. It has been my disquiet heart that's been asking for nourishment all along.

When windows of time are few and my will is weak, reaching for my camera and focusing on little frames in life helps me get to that soul-satisfaction that is so far beyond the tangible. I get just a little closer to the source. My heart recognizes beauty and knows gratitude.


So I do not have a recipe for you today because life hasn't allowed for that organization recently, unfortunately. I can point you in this direction for a new and memorable chocolate chip cookie recipe, and in that direction for warming braised cabbage that pairs perfectly with a slice of bread smeared with chevre and hosting a gently poached egg. But this post is not ultimately about gastronomy.

It is about a cup that overflows. It is about being forced to stop and just receive for an entire day because I have a boss who believes birthdays should be celebrated and birthday girls should not have to whir up another batch of cake or steam milk for another latte when "Happy Birthday!" declarations are called for. There's something to this, even though I consider such pure reception a true exercise. It doesn't come naturally. I feel like it's greedy and childish to ask for the attention. I fear that some degree is out of obligation and not desire.


Birthday breakfast.

This is what I anticipate and build-up within as the marked day approaches, but my eyes always widen in wonder even in the first few moments of the day. My spirit feels like it could burst by the time my body slips back beneath sheets. Thank you to all who made my birthday feel so rich. Thank you so much to those who have built into these years to make it impossible to begrudge living to a twenty-fifth year. In all humility, I love my life story.


Snow on birthday morning!

As you can see, I have some extra flowers in my house this week and I do consider freshly cut flowers and words of affection to be the most wonderful gifts. Simplicity frequently encapsulates the most.


A birthday "cake" from mom.

These glimpses are what I want to take the time to share today. In the coming days, it is definitely reasonable to expect some great recipes out of cookbooks newly in my possession.