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it feels daunting | Apple Sage Walnut Bread

it feels daunting | Apple Sage Walnut Bread

Apple Sage Walnut Bread | Delightful CrumbApple Sage Walnut Bread | Delightful CrumbIt feels daunting, to put it mildly, to sit down and write a post about Kimberley Hasselbrink and her beautiful book, Vibrant Food. But I’ve got to say something, though I’m unlikely to be as eloquent as I hope, and now is the perfect time for this Apple Sage Cake. And so, here we are.

As I’ve mentioned before, I assisted Kimberley for several months of her book-making process. When I started, we were still in the realm of trusted acquaintances, but through those months, she became one of my dearest friends.

Yet I could go back even further. Kimberley’s was one of the first blogs I loved. In my post-college years in Grand Rapids, many moons ago now, I would pore over my favorite bloggers’ words and drink in their beautiful photos, then get to work on recipes in my tiny orange kitchen. I was a baby blogger myself back then, but through comments on one another’s blogs, Kimberley and I forged a connection. I remember the first time she responded to one of my comments via email. It was a post about eggplant, and I’d commented about the lead photo, an absolutely striking image of charred eggplant. When her email of simple thanks popped into my inbox late one night, my new friend suddenly seemed not-so-very-far away. We kept up our popcorn correspondence on blogs and inboxes, and so I of course reached out when I moved to the Bay Area.

I asked if she’d be up for a cup of coffee; she invited me over for lunch. I was new to actually meeting my blog friends in person, and still starry-eyed about someone I’d admired from afar. I went over for lunch one late autumn day, and she cooked something she was working on for the book—acorn squash, I think, which morphed into a fantastic delicata squash recipe you can find in the finished book.

I was looking for work, and Kimberley needed an assistant for a big project she was about to start. I helped her out with that, and she connected me with all kinds of people as I built new networks from scratch, sending me to her lovely dad for ideas and also introducing me to someone who became, months down the road, my first manager at Good Eggs. A full year before I walked through the foodhub doors, before I was even assisting Kimberley officially, she handed me a relationship that led to my current job. Serendipity and kindness at their finest, I tell you.

After we finished that first project, Kimberley asked me to help with the cookbook. It was an easy yes.

And so it happened that several days a week from early spring through late summer last year, I’d take the train into the city, walk to her house and roll up my sleeves to help in the kitchen. Through recipe after recipe, piles of dirty dishes and countless delicious lunches and snacks and drinks, I watched her craft this amazing cookbook. She was patient when I overfilled the food processor with soup and it trickled out and everywhere, when I dropped that jar of salt-packed capers on the floor and the glass shattered, when I let the almond cake get a shade too brown in the oven. I watched Kimberley tweak recipes until they were perfect and bubble up with enthusiasm as she photographed the results, in her element as she perched on a stool, moving the dish around to catch the best light. I can’t express what a gift it was to be this close to someone’s book-making process. It’s intimate, challenging work, and I feel honored to have been present as Vibrant Food came to life.

This cookbook is an amazing one, full of things I (still) want to make and to cook. It’s all about bright, beautiful, fresh food, the kind that is healthful and satisfying by its nature. And Kimberley’s expression of her love for color is genuine, I can tell you that—I’ve watched her shop, and the woman has no patience for dull or boring shades when there are striking ones in the next produce bin. It’s a simple but greatly rewarding disposition.

As for this simple cake, it’s an excellent representation of what I recall from the cookbook process. First and foremost, it’s delicious. Also, we tested it about a dozen times, past the point when I had the recipe memorized. I ate a lot of apple cake in late summer last year, and I never tired of it. This started as a loaf cake with a ribbon of apple and sage through the middle, took on varying amounts of sage, migrated into a square pan, always had a crumble atop. We were determined to bring to life Kimberley’s vision of Pink Pearl apple and grassy-green sage poking through the cake, to perfect the texture for both the gluten-free and gluten-eaters among us, to make both savory and sweet notes clear but not overpowering. And here you have the result.

Kimberley, my friend, here’s to you! I’m grateful for each bite of apple cake, late afternoon lunch, dirty dish, hour of NPR, quince cocktail on the rooftop. Thanks for letting me hitchhike on your journey. Despite any doubt or challenge you faced, there is no doubt that you’ve created something truly beautiful and wildly inspiring. I hope you’re very, very proud.

As for the rest of you, get out there and buy this book!

Apple Sage Walnut Bread | Delightful Crumb Apple Sage Walnut Bread | Delightful Crumb

Apple Sage Walnut Bread

Very slightly adapted from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food

Pink Pearl apples keep their rosy hue when baked, and it’s really quite enchanting. Since their season has passed, however, any small, tart apple will work nicely. This bread is great for breakfast, a mid-morning snack or dessert, and it pairs famously with coffee. Tightly wrapped, it will last for several days.

Serves 8 to 10

1 cup brown rice flour (or use all-purpose flour)

1 cup oat flour

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup applesauce

2 small red apples, cored and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

FOR THE TOPPING

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons oat flour (or use all-purpose)

1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown rice (or all-purpose) and oat flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until blended.

In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, olive oil, yogurt and applesauce. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Gently mix in the diced apples. The batter will be quite thick.

To make the topping, in a bowl, mix together the oats, walnuts, flour, brown sugar, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture is well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the batter.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

that glorious moment | butternut & tahini spread

that glorious moment | butternut & tahini spread

Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread | Delightful Crumb

We’ve arrived once more at that glorious moment of transition, where summer turns into fall. My Midwestern heart still dreams of the way the season sweeps in back home, like an eccentric aunt bursting through the door to descend on the family with noise and color. Summer was lovely, of course, with its picnics and sunshine and glasses of rosé, but autumn is rustic and moody, a different sort of stunning, and when it arrives, I am perhaps not quite ready but always thoroughly charmed.

When I was small, I loved jumping in piles of leaves, pulling on the big sweaters I’d been waiting to wear since school shopping back in August, going to football games with my family—where, though I cared only little about the game, I happily drank hot chocolate and huddled close to my parents to stay warm. We went on “color tours” each year, driving north with the sole purpose of admiring the brilliantly colored trees. My mom made a pumpkin muffin with chocolate chips that I started dreaming of as soon as the weather turned, and apple cider was a treat saved only for the darkening days of September. And even though I know it sounds premature, this all starts me thinking about the holidays. I can’t help myself; I adore festivity. My heart beats faster just thinking about decorations and parties and holiday treats…yet another reason to appreciate the season.

The whole thing is less dramatic here, it’s true, and I of course miss the autumnal splendor I left behind. But what I appreciate about seasons in the Bay Area is that they make you pay attention. I’m prompted to take notice of little things, like the wind blowing with just a bit more force, the handfuls of fallen leaves skipping across the sidewalk, the slightly cooler mornings, the crunchy apples I eat by the dozens, the fantastic array of winter squash suddenly filling the market. On top of that, I never before had access to so many varieties of squash or peppers or apples; local persimmons, pomegranates, figs, grapes and quince still make me swoon.

Squash is, perhaps, the most exciting appearance at the market for me, a sign that the season is truly here, whether or not I’ve noticed in the wind or weather. I am indiscriminate: I adore every kind, from pumpkins to spaghetti squash to the fat little ones known as sweet dumplings. Delicata and kabocha take the cake, I must admit, and I still remember what a revelation they were when I discovered them only a couple years ago. I’m already roasting those weekly, topping the burnished slices with a tahini sauce or a dollop of yogurt or a generous sprinkling of herbs.

But today what I have for you is the savior of butternut squash, the thing to change your mind if you’ve resigned your consumption of this oh-so-typical variety to something that is endured rather than enjoyed. This is the third autumn that this spread has been in regular rotation in my kitchen. Yet somehow I forget every time how fantastically good it is.

The recipe, yes. But glorious, too, the season that comes with it.

Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread

Adapted only slightly from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

1 large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and chopped (about 7 cups total)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons tahini

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses or maple syrup

1 teaspoon black and/or white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Crackers or pita bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the squash in a medium roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Pour over the olive oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt. Mix well, then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for about 70 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Transfer the cooled squash to a food processor. Add the tahini, yogurt and garlic. Roughly pulse so that everything combines into a coarse paste, without the spread becoming smooth.

Spread the squash in a wavy pattern over a plate, then drizzle the syrup over top. Finish with the sesame seeds and cilantro.

Serve with crackers or pita bread.

the gust of wind | baked feta with fresh figs

the gust of wind | baked feta with fresh figs

Baked Feta & Figs | Delightful CrumbA couple of weeks ago, Ben and I spent a day adventuring around San Francisco. This city is so full of things to do and see and experience; we have been here for two years and still find plenty of sights and eats and neighborhoods we’ve yet to explore. We ended at Twin Peaks, where neither of us had been. It was beautiful and the wind whipped wildly around us, with enough force that I considered the probability of blowing away. We stood there, other languages bouncing through the air around us, thinking about how this place had been here all along, in the corner of our backyard, visited by people from across the globe while we never even thought to stop by.

Ben stepped away for a moment just before we left, and I stood alone with the wind rushing around me. I looked out over the city, trying to identify neighborhoods and admiring the miniature colored houses and the bridges stretching across the bay. As I stood, a tiny hummingbird fluttered up to the evergreen tree beside me. I should say now that I’m still a bit in awe of the reality of hummingbirds as a regular occurrence. Back home, my mom has flowers the little birds love planted alongside the backyard deck, luring them closer in hopes of admiring their shining bodies and fast-moving wings. I’m still stunned to see them flying around as I leave for my morning run, as exotic and surprising as palm trees and figs to my Midwestern mind.

This little bird was close to the tree, flapping fast as if his life depended on it. He stayed near the branches, landed for just a moment, then fluttered out into the empty expanse of sky resting above the houses. He pushed forward, then got caught in a gust of wind and careened through the air, back to the tree. He fluttered, rested, tried again. Out and back, out and back. And then, just when I’d determined that the dance would never stray from that rhythm, he got caught in just the right current and flew high into the air, arriving at a tree high above where I stood.

Was it just me, or was he proud? As much a trope as it is to anthropomorphize, I’m going to do it anyway. Because this really is just like us. We try to get where we want to go, over and over with all our might, and it doesn’t work; we end up where we started, bruised but with wisdom to match our scars. Yet at the moment when we least expect it, a gust of wind comes and throws us upward, right to the place we were supposed to end up all along.

Baked Feta & Figs | Delightful Crumb

Baked Feta with Fresh Figs

This is, perhaps, my favorite way to eat figs. It’s simple and perfect. Goat cheese works just as well as feta. The season is on its way out, so be sure to scoop up any figs you can find and make this before it’s too late!

Feta cheese (or substitute goat cheese)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & freshly cracked pepper

A few sprigs of thyme

Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)

FOR SERVING

Fresh figs, halved

Crostini (or substitute sliced bread or crackers)

Honey

Fresh herbs (optional)

Place the cheese in a small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and tuck the thyme alongside. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper flakes if you want a bit more depth of flavor.

Baked at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.

Serve alongside fresh figs, honey and crostini. If you like, top with a pile of fresh herbs, such as mint and/or parsley.

SEATTLE

SEATTLE

Megan & Sam's table | Delightful Crumb

I wanted to share a few images and thoughts from our recent trip to Seattle, where we had an utterly lovely time. We were charmed by the neighborhoods and the little houses and everyone’s kindness and the near-constant view of the mountains. It was the perfect balance of city exploration and quiet days on Whidbey Island, time alone for the two of us and time with friends, simple eats and fancy lunches, planned excursions and surprising finds.

Our train trip to Seattle was an excellent little adventure of its own. Once in Seattle, we had lazy mornings, dipped our toes in the ocean, visited the Ballard Locks and Gas Works Park and the Golden Gardens, wandered through new-to-us neighborhoods and sweated through hot summer days. We saw dear friends from Grand Rapids who now call Seattle home, as well as my soul sister Megan and her almost-husband (!!) Sam. The trip serendipitously overlapped with Kimberley‘s book tour through the Pacific Northwest, so Megan and Sam hosted us all for a backyard dinner party, complete with Sam’s amazing cocktails, a salad of perfect tomatoes and Megan’s delectable quiche.

We ate supremely well the whole time, which is obviously a priority for me. Our schedule was such that the most grand meals of the trip were lunches. I became, albeit briefly, a lady who lunches, sometimes with wine, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

My favorite meals were lunch at Sitka & Spruce (first two images below—there is a beet and walnut purée between those thin slices of raw beet. genius!) and dinner at Delancey with Megan and Sam, where the pizza was nearly as good as the company.

Sitka & Spruce | Delightful CrumbSitka & Spruce | Delightful CrumbDelancey | Delightful Crumb

Another culinary high point was the dreamy biscuit with butter and jam at The Wandering Goose, with second prize going to the chocolate chip cookie. Thank goodness Megan told me what to order in advance, because I don’t know how else we would have chosen from the abundant selection of rustic, Southern-inspired treats.

Other notable eats included our fancy-pants lunch at The Whale Wins (pickle plate! carrots with yogurt and harissa! blueberry cobbler with whipped cream!), a simple afternoon lunch at Boat Street Cafe, breakfast at Cafe Besalu and lunch with our pal Sarah at the apparently famous food truck Paseo.

The Wandering Goose | Delightful Crumb The Whale Wins | Delightful Crumb Boat Street Cafe | Delightful Crumb Cafe Besalu | Delightful Crumb Paseo | Delightful CrumbWhidbey Island was a dream. If you go, I highly recommend mussels, fries and beer at Toby’s in Coupeville. (Megan suggested this, too! She never steers me wrong.) I also loved Greenbank Farm, which we visited with Ben’s aunt and uncle. Perhaps best of all were our morning breakfasts overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We just sat, which I don’t usually do, and it was divine.

Whidbey Island | Delightful Crumb Toby's | Delightful Crumb Island ice cream | Delightful Crumb Deception Pass | Delightful CrumbAs noted: vacation is not overrated. I had nearly forgotten.

IMG_5052Gas Works Park | Delightful Crumb

out and about

out and about

We’re in deep, are we not? Right in the heart of summertime. In my little corner of the world, we’ve settled back in from a trip to Seattle and the subsequent whirlwind that was last week at work, but I am still reveling in the goodness of that trip. Summer vacation is not overrated, and the hot days of this one reminded me of the sort of summertime I grew up with in the Midwest (which obviously was a good thing in my book).

But more on that later! I wanted to pop over only briefly to share some of my work that is out and about in the world right now.

EDIBLE SAN FRANCISCO, SUMMER 2014

Peach Galette | Edible San FranciscoIllustration by Heather Hardison

I love my quarterly assignment from Edible San Franciscowherein I come up with simple seasonal recipes that are then illustrated by the talented Heather Hardison. Bay Area friends, you can find a copy for free all over the city. Flip to the back spread for the recipes! You can also find them online right here.

REMEDY QUARTERLY, ISSUE 15: TRIUMPH

Remedy Quarterly Issue 15 | Kelly CarambulaPhoto by Kelly Carámbula

I also wrote an article for the latest installment of Kelly Carámbula’s charming Remedy Quarterly. She asked me to write something about Marie Catrib’s, a restaurant in Grand Rapids that I adore. It was easy to say yes. I’ve had countless wonderful meals and memorable conversations in that space, along with plenty of deli containers and desserts to go. I was determined to have our wedding feature something of Marie’s—and to have her food in my belly on that monumental day—and we ended up with the most beautiful and delicious spread of cakes, crumbles and brownies (if you click on that link, just keep scrolling until you get to the food…).

The issue was about triumph, and Kelly asked if I thought that the two might fit together in some way, which, as it happens, they absolutely do. Marie Catrib overcame so much in her own life, moving to America from Lebanon, building a cooking career, creating this gem of a restaurant and then gracefully facing cancer, which eventually took her away from the multitudes who loved her. The neighborhood itself overcame many hurdles before becoming the bustling place it is today, and I think many of us triumphed over the small trials of life during meals eaten here, where we were cared for and life was celebrated. Read more in Issue15: Triumph—you can buy it right here! The issue also includes the recipe for Hummingbird Cake, enjoyed by all (but especially me) at our wedding.

I’ve got to say, Kelly’s lovely little creation feels pretty dang personal at this point. Way back in spring of 2012, I wrote about the adventure of living alone in my darling Grand Rapids apartment for Issue 8. Then, I wrote about our leap across the country in the issue about risk. After that, Kelly made her own move to the Bay Area, and I finally met her in person. I also recently realized that I must credit this publication with introducing me to Megan’s blog, which led me to Megan herself, and I’m now lucky to call her a friend. Perhaps it will introduce you to something special, too.