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Love Will Win | Marinated Feta & Olives

Love Will Win | Marinated Feta & Olives

Marinated Olives & Feta | Delightful CrumbWe’re living in strange times here in America, surprising ones that demand thoughtfulness and action. It’s hard to start a first conversation after the election—even one on the internet—without mentioning this.

I’ve had the full range of emotions, which shows my cards as they pertain to our president elect. Yet regardless of position, I think we all can acknowledge that we’ve learned a tragic truth this election season: we’re even more divided than we thought.

But I have hope.

Because there is a fire in our bellies. All of us who have been made to feel small, who know what it’s like to be mistreated without recourse, who have been told that things would be different if we weren’t women gay black brown immigrant Mexican Jewish Muslim poor homeless

—different.

We, and our allies, we will not sit still. This world is still in the process of becoming, and it is up to us to help make it—we are the makers, bakers, singers, writers, teachers, lovers, builders, dreamers of dreams. We do not sit idly by. We do not sit in ivory towers, thinking without doing. We are noisy. We are big when they say we should be small. We get our hands dirty.

So today, we get to work.

Because I still believe that love will win.

And thankfully, we’re entering into the season of celebration and joy for the sake of it, and that’s something we can all be glad about—we need it more than ever this year. This is the time of gathering, singing, feasting, lighting all the twinkle lights, moving our bodies through traditions that remind us of all of the people who came before us—people who, as I frequently remind myself, made it. People who lived in this complicated, messy, confusing world, just like us, and (for some amount of time or another) survived! As will we.

Last week, I was in London for work. Unlike Northern California, London—like so many places outside of America—is full of reminders of the past. This never fails to capture my imagination. I paid a quick visit to the British Library, which houses an amazing collection of old literary artifacts of many kinds, from a copy of the Magna Carta to original Beatles lyrics to Jane Austen’s writing desk. They also have beautiful religious texts from every major religion, Scriptures carefully recorded and rerecorded, the pages of many hand decorated with colorful illustrations. I could have stared at them for hours. It was a powerful reminder that I’m not the first one here. My questions have been asked before. My pain has been felt, and my joy, too. My laughter is just an echo—a lovely and singular echo. I’m just one small figure moving through a very long story.

Which is to say, take heart. We will remember. We will look ahead. We will work.

And we will celebrate! Here’s a quick recipe for the season ahead; it was one of my small contributions to the very excellent Thanksgiving spread at our friends Joe and Celia’s house earlier this week. It’s a lovely appetizer, a simple embellishment to any dinner and quite a nice gift, too.

Marinated Olives & Feta | Delightful CrumbMarinated Feta & Olives

Inspired by this recipe on Food52

Feel free to follow this recipe loosely. If you don’t have these herbs, use others! If you have no herbs at all, that’s fine. Swap in another citrus for the orange, use crushed red pepper flakes or Aleppo if this is what you have, make this with only feta or olives if you prefer just one of the two. You could also include peppercorns, bay leaves or capers. The possibilities are endless! You can easily scale this up or down, too.

Also note that the olive oil you’re left with will be wonderful in any dressing you might want to make, delicious drizzled atop roasted or steamed vegetables, and an excellent thing in which to dip hearty slices of bread.

8 ounce-block of feta cheese (preferably sheep or sheep and goat milk), cut into cubes

6 ounces Castelvetrano olives

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 whole dried chili peppers

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Strips of orange peel sliced from 1/2 an orange (about 12 strips)

About 1 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil

In a 1-quart jar, layer the ingredients: cubes of feta, olives, herbs, chilis, garlic and strips of orange peel. Pour over enough olive oil to cover, about 1 3/4 cups.

Store the marinated feta and olives in the refrigerator. Take the jar out of the fridge a few hours before serving so that everything can come to room temperature (especially important if your fridge is set cold—the olive oil might solidify).

Spoon the feta and olives into a bowl with a bit of the olive oil and any other ingredients that come along—a few sprigs of herbs will look pretty. Serve with crackers or toasts.

London | Delightful Crumb

German Breakfast Rolls

German Breakfast Rolls

German Breakfast Rolls | Delightful CrumbI hope you’ve already heard of Luisa Weiss, author of the blog The Wednesday Chef and the lovely memoir My Berlin Kitchen—and now the new, crucial text on German baking, aptly titled Classic German Baking. In fact, her recipe for an apple galette is what I most recently posted here, not realizing that her new book was on its way into the world! And now it’s here, and I simply must tell you about it, so let this be the autumn of Luisa.

I am a full 50% German, if my last name hasn’t given that away, and yet there aren’t many German recipes in my repertoire. So I was thrilled when I heard that Luisa was writing this book—if there is any way I would like to enter into a cultural exploration, it is by way of baked goods. And Luisa is the perfect guide. She has an American father and an Italian mother but grew up in Germany and the US, then eventually married a German and settled in Berlin—you can read the story of how that came to be in her memoir. With her new book, she gives us an incredibly thorough picture of German baking, sourcing recipes from friends, neighbors, strangers, the backs of packages and more. She really did the digging for us.

I had the happy opportunity to test recipes for the book. At that time, and then again when I received a finished copy, I learned that there’s a lot I don’t know about my people’s baking traditions, including the fact that my love of simple cakes is apparently in my blood. Classic German Baking has a chapter on cakes and a second chapter on yeasted cakes. There are a full four apple cake recipes between them, so you best pick this book up right away and get started on those (I’ve made two of four so far). There’s a yeasted squash bread on my counter right now that is, as Luisa promised, the color of saffron, and last weekend, I made a potato and cheese flatbread that hails from Swabia and is ridiculously good. Plus, the German have the Christmas spirit down pat, another enthusiasm I have inherited, and this book offers a whole host of holiday treats that soften even the blow of a bitterly cold German winter.

Today, I want to share something very simple and entirely perfect. It’s a pretty reliable rule, if you ask me, that the perfection of the basics will be replicated in more complex projects. Here, the classic breakfast roll. Apparently, this is a German bakery staple, playing a crucial role in weekend breakfasts alongside cheese and sliced meats or jam and honey. I can attest that they make a very pleasant centerpiece for an easy breakfast feast. Plus, you can prepare them the night before and pop them in the oven in the morning, with freshly baked rolls ready by the time everyone has been roused from bed and the coffee has finished brewing, which is a pretty lovely way to start a day, indeed.

Cheers to you, Luisa! This book is such a gem.

German Breakfast Rolls | Delightful Crumb

Brötchen (Classic Breakfast Rolls)

From Luisa Weiss’ Classic German Baking

Makes 8 rolls

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150ml) whole milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150ml) warm tap water

1/3 ounce (10g) fresh yeast, or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 handfuls of ice cubes, for baking

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the milk (reserving 1 tablespoon for brushing) with the water.

If using fresh yeast, crumble the yeast into a large mixing bowl and stir in the milk mixture. Continue stirring until the yeast has fully dissolved. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and stir until a shaggy ball just comes together.

If using instant yeast, mix the milk and water mixture with the yeast, flour, and salt at once, and stir until a shaggy ball forms.

Dump the mixture onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough is very smooth and no longer sticky. It will be quite firm.

Place the ball back in the bowl, cover with a warm kitchen towel, and let rise for 1 hour in a very warm, draft-free spot. Then, gently punch down the dough. Divide it into 8 equal pieces (if you have a kitchen scale, use it to weigh them out). Roll the pieces of dough into ovals that are about 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches (8 cm) between them. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator. Place a metal cake or roasting pan on the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

When the rolls have sat at room temperature for 20 minutes, brush them evenly with the reserved 1 tablespoon of milk and slash them lengthwise with a sharp knife, making a cut about 3/4 inch (2 cm) deep. Then, working quickly, dump the ice cubes into the pan at the bottom of the oven and slide the baking sheet with the rolls on it into the oven.

Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are crusty and golden and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack before serving.

The rolls are best eaten on the day they are made but can be crisped up in a 350 degree oven a day after baking. They also freeze well, again warming nicely in the oven.

As I Am | Apple Galette

As I Am | Apple Galette

Apple Galette | Delightful Crumb
It’s safe to say that every time I have a dinner party, I want to write about it here. And it makes sense, right? I love cooking for myself, and for me and Ben, but there’s something special, something entirely distinct, that happens when you sit down at home with a bunch of people you love over a generous meal and the conversation and wine flow in equal measure and you rise from the table feeling a little more hopeful than before, a little more prepared to face the day ahead. So I’m going to talk about this latest dinner party. If I keep this up, I can give it a name: dinner party dispatches, perhaps…? I’ll try to think of something clever.

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, these ladies-only dinner parties when Ben is out of town. This time, even though it was blazing hot, I stuck with the early autumn dinner I’d planned, starting with baked feta and figs, roasted Italian peppers, and the tiniest, most beautiful multicolored cauliflowers boiled simply. We drank fresh pink bubbles from the Loire, then moved to a Falanghina from Campania that my friend Erin brought (label owned by another cool lady I know, a perfect fit!).

Over kabocha squash risotto and a big salad, the conversation moved from one topic to the next. We talked about the presidential debates and falling in love and siblings and divorce and paths not taken and work and everything in between. At one point, my friend Annie told a story about a complicated situation she’s navigating that elicited an oh my gosh me too response from someone else at the table. It was so good to be there, in that space where no one was alone.

We finished the night with big slices of apple galette topped with cinnamon whipped cream and splashes of Amaro alongside. Even with all the fans running, wearing summer dress and no shoes, it felt like a most fitting welcome to fall.

Later, when everyone was gone and the dishes were done, I dropped the jar of arborio rice that I was carrying to the pantry, and it shattered all over the floor, grains of rice mixed with shards of glass. On a bad day, this might drive me to tears. But not that night. I turned on the lights and swept up the mess as Joni Mitchell’s Blue turned on the record player for the second (third?) time that night, then I poured myself a glass of wine and sat on the couch, feeling that elusive sense of peace.

Do you know Joni Mitchell’s song “California”? It’s on the aforementioned album. (And yes, this is the album that the inimitable Emma Thompson’s character receives from her husband in the movie Love Actually, the gift that tips her off to the fact that her husband is cheating on her with a younger woman, and she plays the CD in her bedroom, crying, as her children get ready for their Christmas pageant, and she wipes her tears and marches on in a blue dress and red lipstick, and I bawl every time.)

There’s a line in there where Joni sings, “California I’m come home / Oh will you take me as I am.” California isn’t my home home, and though beautiful and nuanced and compelling, the truth is that the Bay Area is as rough around the edges as anywhere I’ve lived. My friends keep moving and the cost of living is out of control and literally every normal life thing feels hard and it all feels a little ridiculous. Yet it is home, for now. And sometimes, when I’m surrounded by friends I met through a combination of jobs and surprising connections and sorrow and serendipity, I think that it really did take me as I am, and it’s given me so much to learn from and so many interesting people to love. At the end of the day, that’s about all a girl can ask for.

Especially when there’s whipped cream, too.

Apple Galette | Delightful Crumb

Apple Galette

Barely adapted from Luisa Weiss’ My Berlin Kitchen

Luisa explains that this galette is the one Alice Waters has kept on the Chez Panisse menu for years, introduced to her by Jacques Pépin before that. It’s incredibly simple, in the best of ways. I recommend serving it with whipped cream, perhaps spiked with a bit of cinnamon. Ice cream or crème frâiche would do nicely as well.

FOR THE DOUGH

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

About 3 1/2 tablespoons cold water

FOR THE FILLING

2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced (reserve the peels and cores)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

FOR THE GLAZE

1/2 cup sugar

TO SERVE

Whipped cream, lightly sweetened and spiked with a tiny dash of ground cinnamon

To make the dough, put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse just a few times, until the pieces of butter are the size of lima beans. (If you don’t have a food processor, do this in a large bowl with two butter knives.)

Drizzle in up to 3 1/2 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing or stirring after each addition, until the dough just holds together. You might need a little more or less water, depending on your location, the weather, etc.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Gather it together and form it into a 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin, turning it over frequently so that it doesn’t stick and dusting with more flour as needed. Continue until the dough is about 14 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick.

Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Arrange the apple slices in very tight overlapping circles on the dough (they will cook down and sink apart while cooking, so fill the space generously), leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples to create a rustic crust.

Brush the melted butter over the apples and crust, then sprinkle the sugar generously over the entire tart.

Bake for about 45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is a deep golden brown and apples are soft and very dark on their edges.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Put the reserved apple peels and cores in a saucepan with the sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover, then bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, discarding the peels and cores, and then return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a low boil and cook until thickened, syrupy and reduced, about 15 minutes.

When the tart is finished, pull the parchment and the tart from the sheet onto a cooling rack. After 15 minutes, brush the apple glaze over the apples (it might take a few rounds of brushing to use up the glaze, and you might have a bit leftover, which is fine because it is divine drizzled over yogurt). Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with some cinnamon-spiked, lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Apple Galette | Delightful Crumb

So Much More | Melon, Cucumber & Fig Salad

So Much More | Melon, Cucumber & Fig Salad

Melon, Cucumber & Fig Salad | Delightful Crumb

Summer is for salads, as you know, and blue skies and bare feet and rosé and all the rest. And every year I say that summer isn’t over until it’s over, which might have something to do with being married to a teacher who is back in the thick of things even though it’s still August and there are still so many tomatoes to be eaten. But I’m actually feeling ready for fall this year, thanks to cooler temperatures and the very autumnal-tasting early season apple I bought at the farmers market this weekend and a general readiness for the sort of depth of spirit that comes with less-sunny seasons. Yet I know I’ll miss the warmth soon enough, and I definitely have a few more desserts to make before the berries and peaches and nectarines leave the market, so I’m soaking it in.

Seasons are just science: an outcome of the tilt of the rotational axis of this strange spinning globe we call home and its relation to the burning ball of fire way out there in space that keeps us warm. But that’s not what we think about when summer turns to fall. We think instead of changing temperatures and precipitation and the color of the leaves and the sun or lack thereof. And those are just the obvious things—the seasons are also about much more, their other effects far less tangible or scientific. They’re intricately connected to our rhythms and routines and traditions, and my emotions get muddled into them, too.

I realized this summer that I’ve had a run of weird Augusts, not the least of which was last year’s, and this one has been notably not weird, void of the sort of transitions I’ve come to expect at this time of year. But I have that familiar feeling in my bones anyway—that anything could happen next, that the leaves are going to turn so very soon and life will keep changing and changing and changing as it always does. The other day, as I walked down to the coffee shop for a mid-day break, the air felt sparkling and electric, reverberating with anticipation and hope, reminding me of Augusts past. Because as much as those times were full of strangeness and confusion and even pain, they were also brimming with a sense of newness and hope and possibility.

I guess I’m always looking for connection, which is what I love about food blogs, when it comes right down to it, and why I write the way I do. I remember exactly what I thought when I first discovered people writing about food on the internet way back in 2008: These people are writing about food—I love food! But it’s not just food… They’re writing about food to talk about life. That’s exactly how I see the world, where my big thoughts come from: through the lens of all the seemingly boring, everyday stuff.

This is also why I love podcasts, especially the ones that are “about” science, the internet, mysteries, life in America but are actually about so much more—about everything, really. I am currently obsessed with Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show, in which Starlee solves mysteries…and also asks everyday people interesting questions that reflect an actual interest in their lives and lead to fascinating and thought-provoking and sweet conversations, the kind that make me cry while stretching after a run or walking back from the market or hand washing my most annoyingly delicate clothes in the sink—you know, living my super normal life.

Which brings us back to food. In my super normal life, I do a lot of eating, and it’s the best simple joy I know. Because it really doesn’t have to be complicated to be good, especially in the summertime, when so much beautiful produce is at hand. Take melons. I spent my entire childhood entirely unimpressed with all melons except the watermelon, but I’ve since learned that they’re really quite delicious, especially the more interesting varieties that are increasingly easy to find, like Piel de Sapo (my very favorite) and Charentais (in the photo above). I’m most impressed when I take them in a savory direction, and composed salads are as easy and good as it gets.

This is my favorite. It’s just a salad.

But if you like, it can be an awful lot more.

That part is up to you.

Melon, Cucumber & Fig Salad

Serves 2 to 4

1 small melon (I like Charentais and Piel de Sapo), peeled, halved, seeds scooped and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges

1 small or 1/2 large cucumber, or 2 – 3 Lemon cucumbers, halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly into half moons

3 – 5 fresh figs, quartered

Good olive oil

Fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

Several leaves of basil, cut in a chiffonade (i.e., ribbons)

Aleppo, Marash or Urfa pepper (optional)

Freshly cracked black pepper

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

On a large plate or platter, assemble the melon, cucumber and figs in layers. Drizzle generously with olive oil and lemon juice or red wine vinegar. Finish with as much thinly shaved Parmesan and basil as you like, Aleppo (or other) pepper if using, cracked black pepper and flaky salt.

Peach Cobbler and Other Summer Things

Peach Cobbler and Other Summer Things

Peach Scone Cobbler | Delightful CrumbFlipping through Nigel Slater’s Ripe is a regular pastime of mine when any new fruit hits the market—especially during summertime, when the varieties seem infinite. It’s not that I’m at a loss of what to do. On the contrary, I’m very happy eating peaches out of hand over the sink, believe a fig is best alongside some crumbled goat cheese drizzled with honey and nothing more, prefer melons as salad and never, ever tire of adorning bowls of yogurt with whatever pretty fruit I just carried carefully home from the market. There are endless things to do with summer fruit, not the least of which is just eating it, day after day, moving from one variety to another and back again. I’ve never understood those recipes that begin with a proclamation that the author has arrived, a long-awaited savior, to help me figure out what on earth to do with that huge haul of cherries or blueberries I just brought home. Who do they think I am? What’s the average income of Bon Appétit readers, anyway? I certainly wish this sort of thing was a huge problem for me, but I can assure you it is not, and I highly doubt I’m alone.

So no, I’m not bored or confused by perfect summer fruit. Rather, it’s that as much as I enjoy it as is, I also adore how it can be transformed into crisps and crumbles and cobblers and cakes and pies and so much more. Nigel Slater is about the best inspiration one can get on this front, offering plenty of charming little observations about his garden alongside recipes that are perfect in their simplicity and always highlight the fruit itself—exactly what’s required on a beautiful summer day when the park beckons as fervently as the fresh peaches on your counter.

And so there I was, paging through the peach chapter while eating my breakfast one mid-July morning, when I saw the words “scone crust” and came to a full stop. I’m in. I love a good scone, and the idea of putting several atop a slumping mass of baked fruit sounded like the sort of thing that would be right up my alley. In case this is your thing, too, and you’re willing to spare a few pieces of fruit in the interest of dessert, I offer it here.

I should note that this cobbler is just barely sweet, which I like very much, and which makes it an ideal and even virtuous breakfast when adorned with a dollop of yogurt. However, if you’re looking for something more indulgent, add a scoop of ice cream, or an extra tablespoon or two of sugar along the way. Or, frankly, feel free to move along, as there are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and summer’s fruit is fleeting!

Peach Scone Cobbler | Delightful CrumbPeach Cobbler with Scone Crust

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe

This recipe is really more of a loose formula—keep that in mind as you go. Swap in other fruit, or play around with the flours. Add more sugar if you like. Serve with vanilla ice cream, plain yogurt or mascarpone.

Enough for about 6

FOR THE CRUST

1 1/4 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour, or 100 g all-purpose flour + 50 g rye flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon cane sugar

5 tablespoons (80 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Salt

2/3 cup sour cream

FOR THE FILLING

4 medium or 5 small peaches

A handful of blueberries

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon cane sugar, plus additional

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the flour(s), baking powder, sugar, butter and a big pinch of salt. Blitz briefly, until the mixture resembles soft breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl.

Slice the peaches, removing the pits and dropping the fruit (and any juices) into an ovenproof dish (a 9-inch pie plate will work well). Add the blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and flour. Toss to combine.

Mix the sour cream into the crumb mixture to make a soft dough. Break off walnut-sized pieces, flatten them slightly and set them on top of the fruit. Dust the rounds generously with sugar. Bake the cobbler for 25 minutes, until the scone topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling.