We are in the midst of a thoroughly January state of affairs: We got home on New Year’s Eve from our trip to see B2’s parents in Honolulu, where I was lazier, more relaxed, and more rested than a parent with a toddler has any right to be (God bless grandmas), and in the midst of our post-Hawaii gloom, were all promptly felled by the Great California Flu of 2018. Well, more accurately, I was felled by the Great California Flu of 2018, B2 was mildly sick, and B3 was sick for exactly one night before bouncing back to his same exuberant self, charging around the house while casting me mystified looks and wondering why his mom was being such a baby.
With work picking up again after a slow start coming back from maternity leave, this project, and our ever-growing obsession, I haven’t had nearly as much time as I would like to make or share recipes from the wealth of stellar cookbooks that have come out this spring. There are so many! But I’ll get there. For now, I’m starting with an impossibly clever recipe I made awhile back from Alexandra Stafford’s Bread Toast Crumbs. At the heart of the book is a recipe for peasant bread you might know of already (it has over 3,000 comments on her original post!) but its genius is even greater because from there she has about a million (more precisely 135) more creative things to do with the bread or ways to tweak the recipe.
I have a confession — I was not a fan of watermelon & feta salad for the longest time. I wasn’t even really a fan of watermelon with anything other than itself. Why, I thought, would you ever eat watermelon in any kind of way other than straight out of that striped rind with a spoon, ice cold and crisp and sugary sweet? (B2 says, “Really, with a spoon?” OK, or in slices, if you’re not weird like me.)
We’re back! How was the rest of your February? I won’t bore you with most of the details of mine, which was mostly a mish-mash of work and other not-super-fun things, but B2 and I did top off our month with a couple of bright and beautiful days (or, more accurately, just a smidge over 24 hours) in sunny LA this past weekend, which I think is much more worth talking about! I had my first In-N-Out ever (followed by an intense text exchange with my West Coast college brother where I realized all the other things I could have ordered), I ate my weight in Korean BBQ with a couple of our good friends and remembered what really good boba is like, we drove down shiny Abbot Kinney and peeped into Gjusta, and for B2, we meandered into Torrance to find Sunnydale High.
A few months ago, a super exciting thing happened and I leveled up into my own office at work (we share for the first few years). OK, so it’s true, it has no windows. That comes after three years. But for the first time I have a little cave all to myself! I went a tad crazy decorating my haven with gratuitously shiny file racks and cups shaped like fishes and a couple of the dreamy cookbooks I’ve been coveting, like Karen Mordechai’s Sunday Suppers and Kristen Miglore’s Food52 Genius Recipes. It’s pretty much all the things I do not need to practice law. But it makes my new nook so homey! (And it gives me a neat little escape from work whenever I feel like daydreaming about food.)
After vacation last month and a slow start getting back into the swing of things, these last couple of weeks feel like we’re settling back into old routines. Slow mornings aided by snooze buttons (why is it so much harder to get up when it gets chilly out?) later evenings in the office with a salad and extra coffee with PSL syrup. On my commutes I tap out ideas for these posts on my phone, or play with Steller. Other times I doze off on the person next to me and things get awkward.
Lately, in an effort to keep my forehead from landing on my neighbors’ shoulders, I’ve been reading a lot — the ubiquitous Fault in Our Stars; The French Lieutenant’s Woman; South of the Border, West of the Sun; on Molly’s rec, Jeffrey Steingarten’s awesome and hilarious essay compilations. Reading food writing (well, the non-blog kind) is new for me, but awesome — I’ve been nose-deep in One Souffle at a Time by Anne Willan, and I’m super loving it so far.
To be totally honest, I’m a spring and summer girl all the way. But I kind of savor the evenings after busy fall days in a certain way that I don’t summer nights. Bowl #2 puts on some TV series or another (right now, a rewatch of How I Met Your Mother — yess) while he keeps working and I pretend to work but actually just lie prostrate under the favorite extra-nubbly throw blanket I’ve been longing for since May, nursing a cup of hot tea. We stay up too late, then spend too long talking in bed, leading to … another slow, snoozed-alarm morning, when it starts all over again.
Awhile back, when we were still in the midst of summer and spontaneity, B2 and I trekked up to New Haven for the day and visited an old haunt of his, Bar, to do a little recon on a recipe I’ve been wanting to recreate. We went for the pizza, but as it turns out, they also serve up a pretty mean salad — the one that gave rise to this version. The combination here is nothing new, so I won’t say too much more, but I thought it was a perfect fall segue salad, with the sweet spiced decadence of autumnal comfort foods, but the freshness of crunchy fruit and leafy greens for balance. It isn’t the kind of salad you order for dinner at work when you’re trying to be good, the kind where you’re thinking about protein and good fats and staying power. It’s just the fun kind, the kind on the side that’s kind of dessert hiding out in a camouflage of greens. But it’s cool, because we have like five years before it’s beach season again, right? 🙂
The first time I had burrata was just a few months ago, at this little shindig. It was served over stone fruit in a salad that inspired this one, and it blew my mind. Burrata is like a present but the present is wrapped in a present — it’s more like two cheeses in one, a thin, supple pouch of fresh mozzarella that holds soft, creamy ricotta-like curds in its hollow belly. The contrast in textures fascinated me, and since then, it’s been on my list of foods to experiment with at home.
So a week or so ago I picked up two snowy-white specimens from Murray’s Cheese to take home with me. One I cut up and tossed with penne, tomatoes, & basil for a simple but so satisfying dinner (the creamy insides melt into the best sauce!), and the other I used in this grilled peach salad, a humble take on what we had at Sensi in May. I feel like this salad embodies everything a summer salad should be — fresh and sweet, a little bit decadent, and full of vibrant yet uncomplicated flavors. Grilling the peaches lends an extra smoky sweetness to them, perfect for those few that are a little less ripe than their friends, and the bite from the arugula and the pungent balsamic glaze help balance out the richness of the peaches and
cream burrata. To top it all off I added a little bit of caramelized onions, just because caramelized onions make everything better.
After such a long and lingering winter this year, it feels like this late, coy spring is hurtling into summer faster than I can keep up with. One moment it was snowing in April, a perpetual winter, a movie on pause, and the next it was everything at once — an 80-degree Memorial Day, violently green foliage everywhere we look, another year’s worth of friends getting illustrious degrees, my brother finishing his freshman year and coming to visit New York for the first time. A wedding venue booked (!), a date set, a trip to Vegas to celebrate some amazing friends. Our first New York lease on the cusp of expiring, an apartment move next weekend.
With the whirlwind of things that have been happening lately, this past long weekend could not have been more welcome. There were things to do, but spread out over three days instead of two, it gave us the chance to take a couple much-needed deep breaths, pump the brakes a little, and relax. We took a break from packing to watch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which appealed to every sentimental whim of my English major heart; we enjoyed our favorite things about this creaky “has character” apartment in our last weekend before the move, like the green-tinged, dappled sunlight that filters lazily through our vine-covered balcony in the early afternoons. (And the in-apartment washer-dryer. We’ll miss you, world’s oldest and smallest washer and dryer. You may have been highly inefficient, you may have threatened to explode, but you were in our apartment.)
So I have this problem. Namely, it’s a shocking inability to put a salad in my mouth that is not, at the very least, just as unhealthy than a burger or a pizza or any other non-salad-y unhealthy thing that I would otherwise be eating if I weren’t eating a “healthy” salad. And then I also have this other problem — namely, a shocking inability to leave bacon out of anything and everything. (Creamed corn. Pancakes. … Chocolate chip cookies.) Put those two together and … well, you get this salad. Ta-da! Two wrongs do make a right! (Or two rights make a righter right.)