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Healdsburg Getaway

Healdsburg Getaway

The view from Scribe | Delightful CrumbGetting out of town is something not to be taken lightly, or for granted, I’m reminded once again. A couple weeks ago, Ben and I escaped to Healdsburg, a favorite destination of ours, for just one night, but it was enough to reinvigorate me entirely. It was such bliss to be outside in the sun, far from any piles of papers I ought to attend to or dusty corners to sweep or emails that beg response. We stayed in a darling Airbnb tucked into a wooded Healdsburg neighborhood, up in the hills, so close to the center of town but feeling a million miles away from civilization. It boasted a sweet little fireplace and the requisite quirky decorations as well as a delicious breakfast delivered to our tiny patio, tiled with brilliant mosaics made by our hostess. We walked up the dirt road that morning, the cold air welcome on our faces. With the dreamy spirits so characteristic of vacation, we decided that maybe we should live up in these hills ourselves someday, once we’ve gotten our fill of city living and crave something quiet and wild.

Healdsburg patio | Delightful Crumb Brunch spread | Delightful CrumbWe went to SHED, where we ate housemade pickles (beets! eggs! beech mushrooms!) and crackers with a myriad of dips and drank fermented probiotic beverages, and where I couldn’t stop smiling, as is the case whenever I’m there. All of the items they make and carry are beautiful and thoughtful and drenched in sunlight, it seems, and I swoon each time over everything from napkins to spice blends to chocolates.

SHED pickles | Delightful Crumb SHED mezze plate | Delightful CrumbSHED deli case | Delightful Crumb

We drove to several wineries, admiring the mustard plants that painted the landscape with their wild yellow blooms, and feasted on baguettes and cheese. Also, pie.

Noble Folk pie | Delightful CrumbWe finished the trip with an afternoon at Scribe, which was dreamy indeed. I can think of few things better than sitting with a glass of wine and a beautiful view next to my favorite person, wrapped up in a blanket to stay warm while daylight fades.

Good eats at Scribe | Delightful Crumb Blue hour at Scribe | Delightful CrumbHere’s wishing you your own getaway, to somewhere either near or far, very soon.

Edge of the world | Delightful Crumb Mosaics | Delightful Crumb

A Mighty Fine Time for Solace | Rustic Bean Gratin

A Mighty Fine Time for Solace | Rustic Bean Gratin

Snowcap beans | Delightful CrumbAfter a rather exhausting week of work, I came home last Friday and started working on the simplest of dinners, a bean gratin from Twelve Recipes that I’d been trying to make all week, halted by weariness and longer-than-anticipated days in each of my previous attempts. I planned to pair it with soft boiled eggs, sautéed greens and a pan of whatever veggies were lounging in the crisper, roasted until crispy and caramelized on the edges. There was a partial bottle of white wine in the refrigerator, a bonus payment left over from a natural wine event I’d helped out with that Wednesday, and there was another bottle of something red and French and light standing by. Home, finally.

So, naturally, while running a knife through a crusty, days-old loaf of Tartine bread, breaking it down on the way to breadcrumbs, simultaneously trying to listen well as Ben talked about his day, I sliced straight through my finger, too. And so it was that we ended up in the ER instead of cozy on the couch, where they sanitized and butterfly-bandaged me up, poked my arm with a tetanus shot for good measure and sent us home even more tired than before.

Truth be told, I’m fine—no stitches, even! But life, I tell you. It’s rough.

And this, of course, is why we gather at the table. It’s why we’re deeply comforted by simple things, like beans and breadcrumbs, so much less complicated than everything else we face from day to day. It’s the beauty of glasses of wine and slices of cake and everyday celebration and friends who laugh with you whether you’re winning or losing or just hanging on.

We made the dinner anyway. We were starving, after all. I tried to let Ben do everything knife or heat related, with marginal success, and the gratin was warming and comforting as all get out when we sat down with it at 10:30pm. I was pretty cranky and still rather shaken up, and Ben had passed the Point of No Return in the hunger department, so we certainly weren’t at our best. But as we filled our bellies with buttery beans mixed with earthy rosemary and crowned with crisp, savory crumbs, we were nourished and soothed—even more, I’m sure, than if the evening had gone as I’d planned.

On Monday morning, I volunteered with my team at Glide, serving breakfast to several hundred people over the course of two hours. They, too, were eager to be nourished, though most were hungry in a way I can’t possibly imagine. But watching these folks slide into seats next to both friends and strangers, it was clearer to me than ever that at our core, we’re all the same. We make do, feasting by whatever means we have. I was impressed with the dedication to flavor of the gentleman who brought his own salt and pepper shakers, the ingenuity of the diner who pulled a bottle of mustard out of his bag, the myriad of ways people paired together the simple items on the menu that day: grits, a hard boiled egg, sausage, a piece of bread, fruit, milk.

We are human, all of us, and we are hungry—for food and so much more. At the end of the day, a cut on the finger is a very small thing indeed, but everyone has some sort of pain that needs soothing. And, if you ask me, dinner is a mighty fine time for solace.

The recipes in Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes bring just the sort of consolation I find so essential. My friend Annaliese gifted me this book for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I have been devouring it ever since. It is full of wonderful cooking advice, simple recipes and abundant charm. Cal Peternell is the head chef at Chez Panisse, where he’s been cooking for nearly twenty years. The book was inspired by his desire to teach his sons to cook before leaving home, and it reads with the familial kindness and warmth you might expect of something with that origin, pushing readers toward confidence and creativity. The photos of the author, his wife and their three sons in their cheery Berkeley home, complete with long wooden table and mismatched napkins, and the illustrations etched by each member of the family certainly don’t hurt, either.

It’s fitting that the inimitable Samin Nosrat, also of the Chez Panisse ilk, dubbed January #beanmonth and has been singing the praises of beans all month long on her blog. I could not agree more with her sentiments about this incredible food, and I swear it’s not because I’m a vegetarian and don’t know where else to get protein (I do!). I love making a pot of beans over the weekend, then employing it to make soup, toast, salad, hummus-style dip, gratin and more throughout the week. This, of course, is what Peternell is encouraging, too, which brings us to this simple and oh-so-very-comforting dish.

Snowcap beans | Delightful Crumb

Rustic Bean Gratin with Rosemary, or Bread on Beans

Adapted from Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes

Cannellini and Snowcap beans work nicely here, but most anything would be delicious. Substitute another herb for the rosemary if you like: sage, marjoram and thyme are similarly excellent choices. I like to pair this gratin with eggs (soft boiled, poached or fried) and sautéed greens. In the summer, Peternell suggests serving it with slices of tomato alongside, and I think that sounds divine. If you have extra crumbs, you won’t be sorry; sprinkle them over pasta and other dishes.

Stale loaf/slices of a good rustic bread

Olive oil

Sea salt

Cooked beans with their cooking liquid (about 3/4 cup per person)

Rosemary, finely chopped (optional)

Freshly cracked pepper

For the crumbs

Carve the crust off of the bread VERY CAREFULLY with a serrated knife and tear into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Grind coarsely in a food processor or blender, then toss in a bowl with plenty of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The crumbs should be tasty and pretty oily, though not totally soaked. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. With a spatula, scoop the crumbs into a pile, stir them around, then spread them back out. Put the pan back into the oven for 5 minutes and repeat with the spatula. Keep baking and stirring until the crumbs are crisp and golden.

For the gratin

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the beans in a casserole dish with just enough of the cooking liquid that the beans on top are on dry land while those below are awash. If it seems to watery, mash some of the beans to thicken the mixture. Season with freshly cracked pepper and salt, if necessary, then stir in the rosemary.

If the beans are cold, bake them for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the crumbs on top and bake for another couple of minutes. If the beans are already hot, put the crumbs on from the start and bake away.

Like Forgiveness From the Sky | Sparkling Cranberries

Like Forgiveness From the Sky | Sparkling Cranberries

Sparkling Cranberries | Delightful CrumbLast weekend was a magical flurry of holiday parties, and I closed it off at 9pm on Sunday with the realization that I was coming down with a cold. And so it was that just a few days later, I was curled up on the couch in the glow of the Christmas tree’s colored lights, cuddling into a blanket and downing tea. I’m feeling better now, but Ben’s battling a different rendition of winter sickness. We had our own little Christmas celebration a few nights ago nonetheless, complete with pink sparkling wine and our favorite cheese and Dungeness crab that we cracked open with our hands and that I somehow managed to not get all over my new dress. We listened to Christmas music, talked about the coming year, exchanged gifts. It was glorious, despite the fact that Ben had to lie down on the couch as soon as we finished dinner.

These juxtapositions are what it’s about, aren’t they? Parties and champagne and abundance alongside sick days and loss and sadness. Christmas, for me, is the joyful culmination of the year behind us, challenges, struggles and tears all included. I’ve felt this way as far back as I can recall: that I desperately need this moment, just exactly now—when the snow is falling in Michigan, when I was writing term papers and taking exams, when I felt utterly lonely in my single lady apartment, when I am weary—for my hope to be renewed. We need something joyful, something to save us from drudgery, pain and our broken selves. We’d be lost without it, without the twinkling and the music and the coming together and the reason behind our revelry.

I’m just so grateful that this story is about much, much more than me.

I haven’t figured out exactly how to say this as clearly as I wish, as clearly as I can feel it in my bones, so I’ll leave you with lyrics from one of my favorite Christmas songs. May your holiday be merry and bright, with forgiveness falling on you and yours the whole season long, and right on into the new year.

by Over the Rhine

So it’s been a long year
Every new day brings one more tear
Till there’s nothing left to cry

My, my how time flies
Like little children hiding their eyes
We’ll make it disappear
Let’s start a brand new year

Darlin’ Christmas is coming
Salvation Army bells are ringing
Darlin’ Christmas is coming
Do you believe in angels singing?
Darlin’ the snow is falling
Falling like forgiveness from the sky

Sparkling Cranberries | Delightful Crumb

Sparkling Cranberries

Adapted from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks

Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries

2 cups fresh cranberries, picked over

2 cups water

2 cups natural cane sugar

Natural cane sugar (or other larger grained sugar), for coating

Granulated white sugar (or other fine grained sugar), for coating

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

Make a simple syrup. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes, then pour it over the cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries. In small batches, toss them with the cane sugar until well coated, using just a scoop of sugar at a time. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.

When the cranberries are dry, do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar. Let dry another hour before serving

Christmastime is here | Delightful Crumb

Pistachio Tangerine Cookies & Giveaway!

Pistachio Tangerine Cookies & Giveaway!

Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies | Delightful CrumbIt’s the season of warmth, this one, and I hope you’re feeling that fully. There’s been more rain this week than I’ve ever experienced in the Bay Area, and it has left me wanting to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of something hot and steaming to drink. But it’s not just the rain that leaves me longing for coziness and cheer. We’re in the thick of the holidays, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Just before bed, whilst brushing my teeth, you very well might find me standing in the dark living room, staring at the twinkling, friendly lights of the Christmas tree, my eyes glazed over but my heart a little lighter, feeling just a bit better about the world than before.

I’m enamored with this season, it’s true. I get really nostalgic around mid-November, and it carries through all the way until New Year’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that holidays have always held a lot of meaning for me, and also that my family is big on traditions—decorations, cookie making, advent candles, Secret Santas, special meals and the like. I hold off on Christmas music and wild festivity until Thanksgiving, but from then on, I am all in. I’m eager to get a tree and decorate it with little colored lights and ornaments whose origins I know well. Most of them I purchased when I first bought my own Christmas tree, bringing it home from the last and snowy farmers market of the season back in Michigan, and they’re now joined by a few gems from Ben’s childhood. Christmas movies are all I want to watch, including such classics as While You Were Sleeping, which, as you may know, takes place mainly between Christmas and New Year’s, thereby falling firmly into the category of holiday film. I love the parties, too—even the marginally awkward ones, where I don’t know many people and/or drink just a little too much champagne while making interesting-as-possible, not-politically-divisive (it’s just not that time of year) small talk.

Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies | Delightful CrumbI hope you’re feeling similarly inclined toward festivity, and that your days are filled with light. If you’re in need of something sweet for the next party, to have on hand in case friends stop by, to whip up as a gift for your coworkers or to munch on during your holiday movie nights, I’ve got just the treat for you. These pistachio-and-tangerine-flecked morsels come from Erin Scott‘s cookbook, Yummy Supper. I brought them to my friend Kimberley‘s (non-awkward) holiday/birthday bash last weekend, and they were quite a hit. They’re nutty and sweet, with a hint of citrus and just the right amount of salt. They also happen to be super cute, which is a bonus on the party front.

As it happens, I was introduced to Erin through Kimberley. We started commenting on one another’s blogs, and I was taken aback by how thoughtful and kind Erin’s words were, time after time. I know few people who communicate so gracefully online. We met in person only recently, at her book launch party on a hot summer day in Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard garden. There were popsicles and kids running everywhere and lots of laughter. She wrapped me up in a hug as soon as I told her who I was—I can tell you now that she’s as lovely and genuine as she seems online and in the pages of her book. Reading her cookbook, it’s clear that you’d be welcome at her table, and that you yourself are capable of making these many delicious meals and treats in your own kitchen. Erin’s cooking happens to be gluten free, but you’ll enjoy these recipes whether this aligns with your own dietary needs or not. I’ve not missed the gluten in anything I’ve cooked from this book—roasted chicories with dates, an almond torte, french lentils with preserved lemon and tarragon. Everything is delicious and wholesome and thoroughly satisfying.

If this sounds like it’s up your alley, you’re in luck! Erin’s publisher, Rodale, has been kind enough to offer me an extra copy to give away. Whether you’d like this cookbook for yourself or as a last-minute gift*, you can enter by leaving a comment telling me how you’re reveling in this season—what’s your favorite festive activity or seasonal treat? How do you celebrate at this time of year? This contest is open to US readers only, and entries will be accepted until Wednesday, December 17, at midnight.

P.S. If you’re looking for more gift ideas, I recommend the lists out there on the internet by Tim, Kelsey and Kasey. As I think most folks know by now, lovely kitchen gifts can be found on Food 52’s Provisions, Quitokeeto and Brooklyn Slate.

And if you’re in the Bay Area, stop by Ordinaire or Bay Grape for a great bottle of wine to gift, or head to Alchemy for booze. Or, for something experiential, consider The Cheese School of San Francisco. A class there was my birthday gift to Ben this year, and it was a delight. Also, ridiculously delicious.

On the homemade front, a few favorites from my archives include Olive Oil & Rosemary Shortbread (my main edible gift last year), Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts (distributed widely the year before) and Honey Cranberry Cornmeal Bread.

*I’m hoping this will arrive to you by Christmas, but I can’t make any promises!

Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies | Delightful Crumb

Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies

Very slightly adapted from Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper

I’ve written the recipe as Erin intended it below. When I made these, however, I inadvertently bought unsalted roasted pistachios instead of salted, so I added a heaped 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt in place of the pinch of Maldon called for in the recipe. The cookies turned out perfectly salty, so feel free to take that route if you have unsalted pistachios on hand!

Makes about 40 small cookies

1 cup shelled roasted salted pistachios (10 – 12 ounces in the shell)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup quinoa flour (or use all-purpose flour)

1/2 teaspoon tangerine, mandarin or orange zest

1/2 teaspoon orange flower water

Maldon or other flaky sea salt

Grind the pistachios in a blender or food processor until they are the consistency of cornmeal.

In a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer and large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk. Continue mixing, then add the ground pistachios, flour, zest, orange flower water and a generous pinch of Maldon. Mix until well blended.

Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap and form the cookie dough into two logs, each about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap the logs tightly in plastic and chill in the freezer for at least half an hour. Store the dough in a freezer bag if you’d like to save them for another day.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the cookie logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and place them onto the baking sheets, leaving space as they’ll spread slightly while baking. If the logs or cookies break apart while you’re slicing, just squeeze the dough back together.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Let them cool completely on a rack before eating.

These cookies will stay fresh and crisp in a sealed container for a few days.

Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies | Delightful Crumb

simplest sweet potato soup

simplest sweet potato soup

Simplest Sweet Potato Soup | Delightful CrumbI hope this finds you on the way out of a restful, joyous and delicious Thanksgiving weekend! Though I wasn’t able to go home and be with family to celebrate, mine was, nonetheless, delightful. Here in finally-a-little-bit-chilly Oakland, there was plenty of great food, an incredible Thanksgiving dinner at the home of dear friends, a beautiful hike on Thanksgiving day, lots of rest, many glasses of wine, some early-holiday-season festivity, quiet mornings, a Christmas tree. Bliss.

I appreciated the weekend’s calm perhaps more wholeheartedly than ever before, having come off of a wonderfully chaotic month of work as Good Eggs geared up for the most food-centric holiday of this country. Along with my increased gratitude for sleep and the absence of turkey-themed dreams, I have a newfound understanding of how very hard folks in the food industry work during the holiday season. I was busy, but plenty of others are busier. It’s a weighty thing that this one particular day—and, zooming out just slightly, this time of the year—is so crucial to the success of a small food business. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our hard work, but I was reminded in these last few days that as good as work can be, we just can’t survive without leisure alongside it. Rest is essential, a gift when we get it handed to us, a thing we’d be better for prioritizing.

And in the midst of chaos, simple meals reign supreme. This is among my key strategies for finding calm on busy days. As we head into the thick of the holiday season, where parties and festivity abound, it is necessary to have simplicity interspersed betwixt the parties and cookies and glasses of champagne.

I reread Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal recently, taking away a different handful of ideas and inspiration than before. After the first time I read it, I had, on a few occasions, taken the author up on her suggestion to clean and cook all vegetables straight from the farmers market. But I’ve got to say that this doesn’t entirely work for me. First of all, we eat roast vegetables like champs. In this household, they do not last as long as Tamar suggests they might. I’m also not convinced of the time savings of this strategy. Since I like things warm, I end up dirtying dishes twice in pursuit of one dish. Plus, doing it all at once has the adverse effect of stressing me out, what with all the produce scraps that end up on the floor and the delayed gratification inherent in the task.

But the woman is most certainly right when it comes to roasting sweet potatoes whole. This is an amazing move. Time saving, delicious, almost-a-meal, etc. They’re delicious sliced cold and topped with olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped almonds and quick-pickled red onion, or cut into cubes and tossed into a salad for extra heft or, obviously, made into soup. I’d outlined a simple sweet potato soup in my most recent Edible San Francisco column, but I now have something even easier up my sleeve. This is simplicity at its finest. I hope it will fuel you through the coming busy days, and even slow you down a bit—warm soup has that effect, I find.

Here’s to peacefulness and good eats this holiday season!

Simplest Sweet Potato Soup | Delightful Crumb

Simplest Sweet Potato Soup

Inspired by Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal

Serves about 4 hungry people

4 large sweet potatoes

Pepper flakes, smoked paprika, cumin, curry powder or other warm spices (optional)

Vegetable broth

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 lemon (or, try another acidic element: lime, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.)

Olive oil, for serving

For serving (optional): Plain yogurt or coconut milk, soft herbs like parsley or chives, pesto, harissa

To roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the sweet potatoes well and poke them with a knife in a couple places so that they don’t burst as they cook. (I recommend cooking a few extra so that you have them around for last-minute meals all week!) Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil and roast until the skins pull away and the potatoes are very soft, about 1 hour. Allow to cool. The potatoes can be cooked several days in advance. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

When you’re ready for soup, put the sweet potatoes and any spices you’d like in a food processor. (You can leave the skins on if you like the added texture, want to get as much fiber as possible and/or are lazy. Personally, I leave them on. Peeling them will give you a smoother and more delicate texture, however, which is delightful.) Purée until very smooth.

Scoop the sweet potato purée into a heavy-bottomed pot and warm over low heat. As it warms, add vegetable broth one ladle full at a time until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the juice of 1/2 lemon, taste again and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve topped with a long drizzle of olive oil and more cracked pepper. Other delicious toppings include yogurt or coconut milk, soft herbs like parsley or chives, pesto and harissa.

Simplest Sweet Potato Soup | Delightful Crumb