Over the moon

Towards the beginning of June, I gave birth to a son. We’ll call him “Half-moon.” That is what I not-so-secretly wanted to name him. It came to me in the middle of a sleepless night- in addition to becoming my favorite yoga pose during pregnancy, I thought it would set him up for a career as a left-handed pitcher.

Meet Half-moon:

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Parenthood is a trip; my kid’s faces and noises are pretty much the most damn charming thing on earth. The cats couldn’t be more excited.

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I’ve gotten pretty good at doing things one-handed. Motherhood has also drastically altered my definition of a “productive” day. Now I get excited if I make a smoothie! Before noon! But today I really have something to brag about- as I type over the head of Half-moon, there is a raspberry crisp bubbling away in the oven. I was inspired by a recipe for a peach crisp in the July issue of Bon Appetit and the fact that there was a bowl of raspberries- picked over the weekend by Dan- sitting on the counter. I also added strawberries and cherries for good measure.

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I love crisps because there is a decent chance you have all of the ingredients if you decide to make one on a whim, and they are so impossibly easy- you could probably even do it one-handed.

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Iron-Skillet Raspberry Crisp

Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2015

Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Filling
1½ cups walnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2¼ pounds fruit (I used raspberries, cherries and strawberries)
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:
Whisk flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub in butter with your fingers until clumps form and no dry spots remain.
Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
Smear bottom and sides of a 10″ cast-iron skillet with butter. Toss walnuts, berries, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Transfer to skillet and crumble topping, breaking up into large pieces, over filling.
Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling around the edges, 25–35 minutes.

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Eat with vanilla ice cream. Because it’s summer. And you deserve it.

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Welcome to the world, Half-moon. May it be always be filled with fresh-picked raspberries and kitties. Cheers.

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Under the Iowa sun

In my pretend life, the one where I write for a living, plan dinner parties with hand-written menus and cloth napkins, eat peaches by the bushel and have never heard of the common core standards, I found myself in Tuscany this past weekend. While suspended in real life in my new striped hammock, I spent hours imagining myself in a terraced farmhouse with white-washed walls and windows wide open to the wasps, butterflies and wafts of lemon trees. I was so moved by the descriptions of the long lunches followed by siestas, that I declared to Dan that next summer will be a summer of Tuscany (which Dan quickly deemed ‘Under the Madi-sun’) as I reclined awkwardly in my hammock trying to eat/drink my inspired lunch: hunk of blue cheese, end of bread, garden tomato drizzled with olive oil and poor-woman’s sangria (red wine, flat Pelligrino, squeeze of lemon, ice).

It may not be Tuscany, but I did get to go with my family to our cottage in Iowa in late August. And while it wasn’t perfect- there was my mom’s cracked wrist and the loud air conditioner on the ugly house next door where there used to be wild flowers (picked for bouquets placed in tin can vases)- it was just quite. There is simply something about the corner of Iowa where we spent our summers growing up. The air is softer and the light glows more golden than anywhere else I’ve been before dusk. A light gust will make you hold your breath and remember an evening squeezed between your grandparents on a bench swing at a nearby county park.

Nostalgia surrounds you.

The wooden roller coaster, the nutty bar stand, crickets, the sheep. An empty lot where the Fun House used to be. A stone bench that bakes all day in the sun. The roll-up cupboard hiding the green glass jar used for Country Time lemonade.

We cooked in the yellow kitchen, a meal my mom remembered from The New England Butt’ry Shelf Almanac. It’s the perfect meal for a late summer harvest. I’m almost sure they would serve it in Tuscany, but I bet it tastes even better in Iowa.

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Casserole of Summer Squash

From The New England Butt’ry Shelf Almanac

About 2 lbs. of summer squash, washed and cut into cubes or small slices

1 white onion, peeled and chopped

3 large (or 5 or 6 medium) tomatoes, quartered

2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper

1 Tbs. salt

2 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 Tbs. dried oregano*

1 cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs

1 cup grated Vermont cheese

4 Tbs. butter

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Parboil squash for 5 minutes, then drain. Put olive oil in 3-quart baking dish or casserole. Put in squash, onions and tomatoes. Mix together the salt, pepper, sugar, mustard, herbs, breadcrumbs, and one-half the grated cheese. Spread mixture over top of the vegetables. Dot with the butter. Cover the casserole and bake for 50 minutes. Remove cover, scatter the other half of the grated cheese over the top, and return uncovered to the oven until cheese is melted and browned. Serves 12.

*At this point I should tell you that we revised the recipe- we added cubed eggplant and used an old baguette for the bread (ripped into bite-sized pieces). We used fresh herbs and a variety of cheeses, none of them from Vermont. It was delicious.

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Two nights ago my mom gave me an extra copy of The New England Butt’ry Shelf Almanac. When she opened it she found a poem copied by my grandma on the inside cover with the note, “I love this poem!”

Portrait by a Neighbor by Edna St Vincent Millay

Before she has her floor swept, or her dishes done,

Any day you’ll find her

A sunning in the sun!

It’s long after midnight

Her keys in the lock

And you never see her chimney smoke till past 10 o’clock

She digs in her garden

with a shovel and a spoon.

She weeds her lazy lettuce

By the light of the moon

She walks up the walk like a woman in a dream,

She forgets she borrowed butter and pays you back in cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow and if she mows the place

She leaves the clover standing and the Queen Annes lace!

 

It’s no wonder I daydream of words all day.

 

 

You are my sunshine

The cats are panting, the tea is sunning itself in a tall green jar, and all I want to be doing is jumping into this Iowa lake over and over and over.

It’s officially summer. And it’s officially too hot to cook. Thanks to an inspired vegetarian dinner party that my sister put together for friends a couple of summers ago I now have the solution for hot summer nights. And it is as fun to say as it is to make: Gazpacho.

I have to admit, the first time I remember trying gazpacho I was less than smitten. A bunch of us were celebrating my sister’s upcoming wedding at her friend’s family’s lake house on Pine Lake (one of the thousand Pine Lakes in Wisconsin) and while I have many wonderful memories from that excursion, trying the gazpacho was not one of them. Everything else was magical: A swimming adventure across the lake to jump on someone else’s water trampoline, sitting on the dock at night with my mom and sister and talking about their year spent in Moscow, a sailboat ride with a nalgene full of gin and tonic, singing ‘You are my Sunshine’ around the large wooden dinner table while the setting sun glowed through the tall windows that were cranked open to allow a breeze. And a dessert- so simple, so summer perfection in a bowl- blueberries, sour cream, brown sugar.

But I didn’t give up on gazpacho entirely, and when my sister suggested making it again, I was ready and willing. This time it was love. Here is my sister’s recipe for gazpacho.

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Sena’s Gazpacho

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

1 bottle of Knutson’s Very Veggie Juice
1 T olive oil
1 (or 2- depending on how spicy you like it) jalapenos, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 clove garlic
1/2 white onion, chopped
Cilantro
Parsley
Salt
Optional: tomatoes, carrots

Directions:

Blend all ingredients, but leave a little chunky (I used my birthday gift- a hand-held blender- and did it right in the pot). Chill for at least an hour. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and a sprig of cilantro, if you like. Enjoy on a hot summer day.

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For our dinner party two summers ago we served it with beergaritas and a black bean taco bar (And dark chocolate and coconut sorbet for dessert? Or I am daydreaming that?) Last night I added a side salad of raw kale with salsa verde. Happy summer.

Wyoming or bust

Greetings from the equality state, where Dan and I have been visiting our dear friends in Cheyenne and letting them spoil us with meals like salmon burgers and spinach naan pizzas (recipes and photos to follow). We celebrated the fourth of July with a traditional meal of paella, lobster tails and sangria (isn’t that what everyone has on America’s birthday?) When we haven’t been watching this fascinating program that Derek introduced us to about looking for sasquatch (‘squatch’ as it’s called in the industry), we have been enjoying our meals and evenings in their lovely backyard.

Backyard Cheyenne

If you are looking for a special way to celebrate something this weekend whip up a batch of Sangria and play the Wisconsin game, which Dan and I invented on I-80 (minus the drinking part) and played last night with our Wisconsin ex-pat hosts: Sit in a circle and name off as many cities/ towns in Wisconsin until you can’t think of anymore, take a drink if you repeat one that has been said. Cheers the person who comes up with Trego, Chicag or Rio. Wisconsin fun this exit.

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Fourth of July Sangria

This recipe comes from the PBS site for Everyday Food

Ingredients:

2 juiced oranges

2 oranges sliced

2 lemons thinly sliced

2 limes thinly sliced

1/3 cup super fine sugar

1/4 cup brandy

1 bottle red wine (we used a Yellow Tail shiraz/ grenache blend)

2 cups club soda

Directions:

In a large pitcher stir together orange juice, sugar and brandy. Stir well. Add wine, fruit slices and club soda. Stir. Fill glasses with ice. Pour, serve, yum.

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Our Wyoming adventures continue to Casper and then my old stomping grounds, Jackson, where I can’t wait to sit outside at Teton Thai and order the chocolate bread pudding at Rendezvous Bistro… Stay tuned.

Tips for winning the summer

When Mr. Obama gave his state of the union speech last winter he discussed winning the future. I love this. I mean, who doesn’t want to win the future? It reminds me of the time that I was an archery instructor (?!) at a summer camp and a young man named LaTroy declared in a boastful voice: “I won archery.” You know what LaTroy? You did. So let’s win obscure things today, shall we? Here are a few tips for winning the summer.

Tip #1: Enjoy a delicious lunch. One with cheese, sauteed kale and a sliced tomato with sea salt. Yumtown. Population: you.

Tip #2: Avoid swimmer’s itch… I lost at this one.

Tip #3: When the temperature hits the 90s, chop four inches off of your hair.

Tip #3 part 2: Go to Thorps on Atwood for said haircut. They give you a can of pbr upon your arrival.

Tip #4: Sit close to the fridge.

Tip #5: Meet up with some friends and enjoy a tall glass of iced tea from Mermaid Cafe.

Tip#6: Take a road trip. And if you find yourself on Highway 20 in eastern Iowa on a Sunday morning, take the exit near Dyersville and visit the field of dreams before anyone else arrives. Run the bases. Yell, “Go the distance” at a father and son playing catch as you flee the parking lot.

Tip #7: Make beergaritas. My sister and I made them for the first time last summer after our cousin told us about them. Delicious.

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Beergaritas

Ingredients:

1 can frozen limeade

1 1/2 cans pbr

1 limeade can full of tequila

2 limeade cans full of club soda (or Squirt)

Directions:

Mix ingredients in a pitcher. Serve over ice. Cheers to winning stuff.

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Bonus points if you see fireflies tonight… Happy July.