Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled…
I snowshoed the Sourdough Trail on Saturday. Prior to this, I had donned snowshoes exactly once and only briefly. The Sourdough Trail is a long, rolling 14-mile carving through tall trees. I pulled into a sparsely inhabited trailhead parking lot on Saturday morning and sat in my car, munching a granola bar and sipping coffee, considering the wind that was rocking my vehicle. I finally coaxed myself outside and began to strap on my giant shoes, barely staying on my feet for wind. Luckily, the trailhead is immediately off of the parking lot, so after a few steps, I was quickly cradled among trees. I said a silent “hello, beauties” and “thank you” to the rising green giants for their haven from the wind, and I bounded off down the path. It’s this exact moment in these little adventures that I love and savor – that feeling of not knowing what I’m venturing in to…a sense of exploration and excitement fills me right there. I spent the next five hours or so happily trudging down a neat aisle, thinking of all things and nothing, becoming saturated with outdoor smells of wind and clean sweat and evergreen. I sat at one point and ate couscous salad (whole wheat couscous, shaved red onion, scallions, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt and cracked black pepper). I tipped back ice cold water, which had been perfectly chilled by air streaming among trees. I can’t exactly communicate what a day like this means to me other than to say it is spiritual in the most concrete way, brings me back to the ground, and makes me feel small and cradled in this big, stunning, indifferent playground on which we all live. I’m lucky to spend a Saturday smiling behind a neck gaiter at trees and the crunchy, dragging sounds of plastic feet…
Happy New Year. It’s been a while since I visited this little place, and much has changed. I live in Boulder now, surrounded by snowy mountain peaks and kind, active people. I’m lucky and never want to take it for granted that I get to live on such a pristine little speck of this planet.
As far as resolutions go, I’m committed to be glad and happy, and welcome possibility. To smell Aspen trees and fresh snow and tomato fennel soup bubbling, and kiss the moon with thanks for all that’s before me. For reveling in. Like perfect homemade bread…that perfumes my home with yeast and earth and crisp, crackled goodness. Throw in some fresh herbs, dried fruit and nuts, or fresh grated Parmigiano and citrus zest…dip it in golden, grassy olive oil and use the humble scraps for croutons. It’s a little miracle in an iron pot.
The NY Times No Knead Bread
Makes one loaf
3 cups all purpose, unbleached flour or bread flour (can also try different mixes, using some whole-wheat flour as well)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 cups water (warm or cold is fine)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Give it a quick stir to incorporate.
Pour in the water, and with a spoon, stir until blended and all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be rough and shaggy, and fairly sticky. This step should only take about one minute.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter for at least 12 hours and up to 24. No need for a warm spot, room temperature is fine. The warmer your kitchen though, the quicker the rise. The dough will be ready when the surface is level and bubbly.
Preheat the oven to 450˚, with a deep enamel pot or oven-proof pot inside, and with the lid on.
While the oven is heating, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. The dough will be VERY sticky and stringy. With a well-floured hand, fold the dough a few times over onto itself, and then shape it into a ball. Other shapes work well too, such as a longer loaf. The shaping of the dough should only take a minute or two. No need to knead.
If you’re using parchment paper, dust the paper and lay the dough on top. Otherwise, let the dough rest on a well-floured surface for an additional 30 minutes. Cover with the plastic wrap during resting.
Note: the oven will come to temperature well before the dough has risen, but you really want the enamel pot to be super hot, so that extra heating time is perfect.
About 20 minutes after you have shaped the dough, using a sharp or serrated knife, make two cuts about 3/4-inch deep into the top of the bread. Then let rest the final 10 minutes.
When ready, open the oven and remove the lid of the pot with a cloth or potholder. Either lift the parchment paper, or with well-floured hands, carefully lift the dough and lay it into the pot. There is no need to grease the pan. It won’t stick.
Using the potholder, replace the pan lid and slide the pot back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes until the bread is browned and beautiful.
When ready, grab the bread out of the pot with a mitted hand and place it on a wire rack to cool. Carefully remove the pot from the oven and allow it to cool.
Give this beautiful creation several minutes to cool before cutting. Enjoy the crackly sounds of your homemade bread as it settles…
One day I will find the right words — and they will be simple…
Favorite things right now:
-running outside in heavy June air
-calls home, dad trying to talk to me as my mom yells for him to kill a wasp in the background
-pictures of my nieces playing in the sprinkler
-putting my face in lilacs at the farmers’ market
-neighborly chats in the elevator
-podcasts (shut up)
-grill smells while walking home from work
-fresh apricots, soft and sweet
-planning trips home, meals we’ll make, cocktails for the dock
-train rides set to this
-waking up to rolling thunder
-simple food…artichokes and pesto on golden discs
Pesto, Artichoke & Arugula Pizzettes
Makes 2 small pizzettes
1 small ball of fresh whole wheat pizza dough, divided in half (or use two small pre-baked flatbreads)
Fresh basil pesto
Artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 – 3/4 of a ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly or torn into pieces
Salt & cracked pepper
2 handfuls of fresh baby arugula
Preheat oven according to pizza dough (425F or so) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out each ball of pizza dough with a floured rolling pin (as thin as you can get it). Transfer dough to parchment-lined baking sheet.
Spread a heaping spoonful of pesto on each pizzette. Top with artichokes and a good sprinkle of grated parmigiano. Dot with mozzarella pieces. Arrange a few fresh basil leaves over top. Season with salt & cracked pepper.
Bake until crust is golden, cheese is bubbly and basil leaves are blackened slightly. Remove from oven and scatter with fresh arugula.
When I like-like you, I make you brownies. Homemade. With the best ingredients. Speckled fresh eggs, butter, artisan chocolate, vanilla, snowflakes of sea salt.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with these.
Perfect Fleur de Sel Brownies
Makes 1 (8×8-inch) pan
4 ounces good unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Good sprinkle of flaky sea salt or fleur de sel for top
Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, extending it up two sides (like flaps). Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Fold in flour with a spoon or spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with flaky sea salt or fleur de sel. Let cool and remove from pan by lifting up on parchment/foil flaps. Once cooled, cut to desired size.
It was one of those days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Some humble observations this weekend:
-New York pizza is the best pizza
-A bourbon distillery half a mile from your home is pure luck and danger
-The smell of homemade brownies, real brownies – made with butter, sugar, raw chocolate, vanilla, eggs, sea salt – is panacea for it all
-Running uphill with 40 pounds of cookbooks on your back is just terrible
-There should be a celebration of some sort when you reach the end of a 200-count package of coffee filters. Two hundred mornings. I hope I’m living life right.
-Smorgasburg (and Mount Rainier) will be the reason I shall continue running uphill with cookbooks on my back
-Brunch is my favorite meal to make, specifically with strawberry pancakes, maple thyme syrup, soft baked eggs and minted fruit salad
-Having rocks and water nearby is important for my peace and sanity
-Bright radishes on top of pillowy, lemony ricotta + fruity olive oil + scattered basil = a brilliant introduction to Spring
Radish & Lemon Ricotta Crostini with Basil
A perfect appetizer for several good folks
French baguette, sliced diagonally
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt + cracked pepper
Light ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Radishes, thinly sliced
Basil, thinly sliced into ribbons
Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet, brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt + cracked pepper and toast in oven for about 6-8 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile mix ricotta, lemon zest, pinch of salt + cracked pepper.
Spread a spoonful of ricotta mixture on each slice of toasted baguette. Arrange a few thinly-sliced radishes over ricotta. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt + cracked pepper. Scatter basil over top.