My Summer Staple: Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Summer's ending and I am currently in Vegas for my company's annual meeting. Hot, tacky, loud; I pretend I am Maria in Play It As It Lays. I wanted to smoke a cigarette because I am here. I wanted to play Black Jack and win big. I wanted to lay out by the pool and sleep the day away. Instead, I got Chinese food brought to my room and was in bed by 9:30.

The days here will drag. My annual meeting always signals that summer is over. I come face-to-face with my coworkers and make small talk. I work remote, so I am used to the conversations I have with the dogs--a series of "No's", "Good girl", and "Want some of this cake?". It's their peaceful, calm silent reply, their gentle taking of the food from my palm, the body language that passes between us for the 8 hours I am home alone with them that is a more meaningful dialogue than those I work alongside.

I'm a bit of a crazy dog lady, in truth.

But with this signal of the end of summer, I look back on all that I did not accomplish. I have not written my Vermont post; nor have I made the friends we made there their gifts. I did not clean out the garage like I wanted to, but we did catch the mouse that lived there for the last 2 months--so small and silent and so frustratingly uncatchable for so long. I did not listen to my mother all the times she told me her advice. I did not go to the gym like I had promised myself I would  (again). 

But I did make the best potato salad for a party we threw a few weeks ago. And when my sister asked me for the recipe, I would say this was probably the best thing I did this season. And I'm okay with that, because, finally, I am realizing the arbitrary timelines I put on myself are just that - arbitrary. And I'm learning to take it a little slower now.

Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs red potatoes, roughly cubed
  • 1-2 TB olive oil to coat potatoes
  • 3 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 TB dill, finely chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare a sheet pan and preheat oven to 425*F
  2. Cover potatoes in olive oil and a little salt and pepper
  3. Roast for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crisp
  4. Allow to cool in a bowl slightly
  5. Mix in remaining ingredients, add extra seasoning to taste
  6. Chill for about an hour before serving
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter: A recipe from Vegetarian Heartland

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter

The past three weeks have been a hazy blur. A rotation of sleeping and bathing and working and driving. Laundry and dishes and chickens and dogs. We hit the ground running after Vermont. We had a housewarming party that I hope to write about later this week.

It's a stressful time, a time when I want nothing more than for it to be the grey period of unplanned weekends that comes more so in the winter than in the late summer for us. The Sunday we got back from Vermont, a few of my relatives from Indiana visited. They wanted to see our house, having done a long and winding coastal tour of my siblings and their children, we were the final stop.

I do not have a relationship with my extended family. Or, I should say, it is always in the fractious stop-and-go phase. A mass of aborted potential stands between us when we are all in the same room together. I see them so rarely, I forget they exist sometimes. Both sides of my family are from the same small town in Indiana, a county that rests on the border of Ohio. I am the outsider, having grown up in Pennsylvania and not the true Midwest. 

And because of this, I cannot remember the last time my grandfather called me. I do not think my aunt ever knew I lived in California for those five years. I was forgotten about; and it was mutual in many ways. Though not bitter. A difference, so out of each others' control it has always been better to leave it as is.

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter

I had these thoughts circling my head all of Sunday. I told Nolan I was nervous to spend so much time with them with no distraction. I hoped they would have canceled at the last minute. I thought of every excuse I used up in high school to play hooky. To be faced with silence is a nauseous feeling for me.

But instead, they did come. They met the dogs and hugged Nolan. They saw the barn. They got the tour. They commented on the bones of the house, the structure. They asked what we paid and forgot what we did for work. They laughed at our jokes and my father held out his arm when my grandfather needed help down our staircase. My aunt hugged me tight and she smelled sweet, like a citronella candle. I loosened up enough by dinner time.

And it was then I remembered how deep my roots go. To sit across from my family was to look in a broken mirror, a thousand small and shattered version of myself in their mannerisms and expressions. My uncle holds his fork like my mother. My grandfather stays quiet during meals. I share my nose with his side and I saw a withered, but vital, older version of myself--a version of myself who hobbles from age and beer and who has worn the same suspenders for the last 30 years. My uncle, who spoke a little loudly at the table, commented on the menus and everyone's dinner choice. In the awkward down-tic of conversation, I find myself doing this too.

And even though I am not from that town anymore, there are bits of it still left in me. I am my family's as much as I am my own self. It is the Midwest that stays deep in the crags of my personality. It comes out most when I'm around them. And maybe I need to stop running away from that side of myself. Maybe it's time I embraced those who didn't call for so long and understand that there is an unspoken resolve to being from the same small town as the rest of them was never a bad thing to begin with.

I thought about all of this as  I read through Vegetarian Heartland, by Shelly Westerhausen and made her dish below. I found that I could be so connected to where I am from, but adapt to who I am now and that isn't a bad thing. That fearing it can only make it that much harder to resolve yourself to it, whenever that may be. Whenever I am ready to do so.

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter

The recipe, which can be found by picking up a copy of Shelly's book, is so simple and truly delicious. I ended up doubling it to my pie pan, which worked well. This is a recipe that can stand up to variation and adaptation and I can't wait to see how it will bring me into the winter months, when I'll be dreaming of these gorgeous heirloom cherry tomatoes!

Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter
Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter
Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter
Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter
Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter
Baked Ricotta and Tomatoes with Thyme Butter

Crumble Redux: White Peach White Wine Minis!

Just shy of a week ago, we were in Vermont holding hands on Church Street and bracing ourselves against a downpour. Today, Nolan and I helped his dad finish a more secure pen for the chickens. It's been a week of catch-up: making sure there is enough time for the dogs, answering emails, scheduling magazine shoots, making frozen pizzas for dinner because we ran out of anything else in the fridge.

It's one of those slow-quick weeks, where the rug is pulled out from under my numb feet. Where I didn't realize I hit the snooze on my alarm until it was already 9 in the morning. The only thing I've wanted to do this week is sit and sleep and play with the puppies. Instead, it was 4 loads of laundry and making lists of things I wish I could do more of.

I called my mother and we talked for half an hour. It wasn't on the list, but it was time well spent.

I'm hoping for change, growth, understanding. I'd pray for it, if i were the praying type. Instead, I drink a cup of coffee and remind myself to breathe. That it's okay to have a week ebb and that if I stretch out my hands and arms and fingers enough, maybe I'll float along the current a little more peacefully than I am used to. Let's hope so. 

But one cool night, I had the windows open and the dishes done and peaches going to mush, so I recreated my other crumble to serve us for what we wanted: something spiked and small and comforting. Something to get us through this week and looking forward to the weekends ahead where we have a little more energy and a little more time and a little more to do with our day than sit and worry around the house.

White Peach and White Wine Mini Crumbles

With the high level of brown sugar and the butter added into the fruit portion, the fruit gets covered in a bubbling caramel that is too delicious to not want seconds.

White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler

Ingredients for filling:

  • 5 white peaches, chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TB butter, melted
  • 2 TB white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 TB cornstarch

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, slightly softened

Recipe:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients for the filing
  2. Allow to sit and macerate for 30 minutes
  3. After 30 minutes has elapsed, grease 6 ramekins and preheat oven to 375*F
  4. Spoon mixture into each prepared ramekin
  5. Now, dump all topping ingredients into another bowl and, using clean hands, mix together
  6. Continue mixing until all ingredients are fully incorporated and a crumbly dough forms
  7. Pour directly on top of fruit and pat with down
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is browned and golden
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler

Summer's Cobbler for those Most Nights

Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler

Tomorrow, we're off to Vermont; so that means that I have been cleaning out the fridge this week. We've eaten a sandwich for at least one meal a day for the last 10 days, and we're getting pretty creative now. Nolan's favorite is still straight-up MEAT with some balsamic.

The fun part of times like this are that you can be creative with desserts. Necessity is really the mother of invention when you have fruit that needs used up and want something homemade and sweet in the morning. For me, it's all about the ease of baking. I've gotten away from the complications of design and pomp--"fiddly" as they say on The Great British Bake-Off. Most nights, I wait until Nolan comes home at 9:00 from a 14 hour day at work and we sit at the kitchen counter and eat from the pan. Most nights, this is exactly the kind of dinner I want. Most nights, we're tired and we joke and take a shower and on those nights, maybe 4 times a week, we'll eat a bit of dessert before bed and fall asleep with the windows open and the lights off and the dogs snoring.

The crumble is a "most nights" kind of dessert. One that is comforting after a long day, when it's warm and hot from the oven; but also great to nibble at with coffee before work. It's the last of the small and bloody strawberries that we picked a couple weeks ago, and a couple old peaches milling about in a drawer. It's a tactile dessert and, to me, that makes me appreciate it more. I'm not so disconnected from it had I used a stand mixer and threw it all together. 

I can't give Nolan the world, even though I would like to, but I can make him food and most nights, I hope that's enough.

Summer Peach and Strawberry Crumble

Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler

You can really substitute any fruit here, but please adjust the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon to taste accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup strawberry, hulled and sliced
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1 TB cornstarch (or a little more if fruit is very juicy)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 TB Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 lemon juice (or a little more if fruit is very sweet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, slightly softened

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together strawberries, peaches, cornstarch, white sugar, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, and salt
  2. Allow to sit and macerate for 30 minutes 
  3. Prepare a baking dish (either a pie pan or a small casserole) with butter or oil. Preheat oven to 375*F
  4. Pour fruit mixture into your dish and distribute fruit evenly
  5. Now, dump all remaining ingredients into another bowl and, using clean hands, mix together
  6. Continue mixing until all ingredients are fully incorporated and a crumbly dough forms
  7. Pour directly on top of fruit and pat with down
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is browned and golden
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler
Peach and Strawberry Summer Cobbler

More gardening! More picking! And radish scones!

It used to be too hard for me to look back on a year and see how it changed me. It was weird, to think that the pebble that skipped between one spot and another could create either too many ripples or not enough. In California, between ages 20 and 24, I grew up; but it was in a fractious way that I still have a limp from nowadays. I'm learning from that, though.

Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

But now I look back at a year and see where I am and it is both humbling and terrifying and satisfying all in one. A year ago, I was living at home and Nolan was living at his parents', too, and we would see each other once in a while and drink and fall asleep. A year ago, I was sequestered to my old childhood bedroom while I saved up and figured out what I wanted out of life and a relationship and if we were buying a house or moving somewhere new again. A year ago, there was a lot more silence in my life and a lot less to do during the day. A year ago, everything was different and uncomfortable and I wasn't ready to move forward.

Now--now we have a house and the dogs and the chickens and the land. I have room to stretch in bed and still be cuddled by the person I am going to marry. My hair is grown out and curled and I tend to wear old flannel shirts and there's usually dirt under my nails. We garden now, picking from our little bed the lettuce and radishes and onions we'll have for dinner. Nolan's dad planted them when we first moved in. We throw our scraps to the chickens and eat the rest. Just another thing we take care of, just another responsibility we have for our land.

Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

We have only the smallest recollection of How It Used to Be. And we savor the mornings with cups of coffee and the nights with a beer and everything in between is working towards a goal now--whether that goal is painting or fencing or just pulling out the sofa bed and watching movies for three days. It's all there to make us happy; to make others happy, too. The only part of us that still exists from a year ago is that Nolan still smokes the same brand of cigarettes and I still have a flair for dramatics. Everything else is different.

A year can really change a person or two. 

And each year it seems like we take a small vacation in the summer for something with food. Last year, we spent a couple days in Charleston, WV to tour the JQ Dickinson Salt Works. This year, we are heading to Vermont on Friday to go see Vermont Creamery, so i thought what better way to begin celebrating than with a goat cheese scone. And to commemorate our growth in a year, to look at how a year can change two people, I added radishes from our garden. Spicy and plump and terribly beautiful, they added an element to the scones that naturally flavored them beyond the usual salt and pepper of my upbringing.

Enjoy. 

Dill, Goat Cheese, and Radish Scones

Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

This recipe is a riff on last week's post for my shortcake scone. This is a savory version, so either you can really use as a base and just swap out the flavorings with whatever your heart desires.

Ingredients:

  • 2  cup AP flour
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk (for egg wash)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese 
  • 1/2 TB dill, chopped
  • 3 large radishes, rough and finely chopped + 1 or 2 sliced for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F and prepare a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
  3. With clean hands, roll the butter into the flour with your fingers, creating flakes. Continue to crumble butter until fat is the size of peas
  4. In a measuring cup, whisk together your egg, cream, and cheese
  5. Create a well in your dry ingredients and with a wooden spoon slowly mix while you pour your wet ingredients in
  6. Continue to mix until fully incorporated and a dough comes together
  7. Add dill and chopped radishes and fold to incorporate into dough
  8. Pat out onto a floured work surface and shape into a rectangle
  9. Cut into 9 pieces and transfer onto your prepared sheet
  10. Make an egg wash (1 yolk + 1 TB water) and brush onto your scones
  11. Top each with a radish slice
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones