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The Season of Traditions | Savory Granola

The Season of Traditions | Savory Granola
Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

It’s Christmastime, the season of traditions! Like all other aspects of the holiday, traditions bring with them all kinds of baggage, the good kind and the bad. But in this dichotomy, I think what’s often missed about tradition is the fact that we create it—actively, in the present tense, in small, everyday ways. We think most of the traditions that were created by others, or by our past selves, but the truth is that we’re making our own traditions all the time.

When Ben and I moved to the Bay Area over six years ago, we weren’t running away from anything—not the Midwest or even its snowy winters, and certainly not our families or friends. Rather, we were running to something—possibility, a future we could build ourselves, something fresh and bright and new. That’s honestly what I wanted most: a glimpse of what else might be possible. I understand now that other exciting things would have happened if I’d stayed where I was, but back then it didn’t feel possible to passively wait. I needed to leap, to respond to what I felt deep in my bones. And we needed it—to do this thing, together.

What we got out of this move was what we hoped for and far more—good and bad, easy and hard. But one unexpected gift we’ve ended up with is our own set of fairly robust traditions. We go back every year for Christmas with our families, criss-crossing the state to see everyone, but we don’t leave for Michigan until close to the holiday and often return on New Year’s Eve. We’ve never made it back for Thanksgiving or Easter or any other holiday on the calendar. We also don’t have kids, which I know can be a prompt to make traditions—particularly when children proclaim that something, done once or perhaps twice, is now what we do.

However, what Ben and I do have is me, and I have a profound belief in tradition and celebration. And so, forced by distance and said belief, we have built our own traditions. We’ve carried on traditions we inherited, too, but mixed in are some of our own: the late-December purchase of a big wedge of Brillat Savarin, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Concert, trying some new cookie recipe I’ve found. We always go out for a nice dinner, a quiet, festive moment before we jump on a plane. We’ve found holiday albums and movies that weren’t in either of our childhood repertoires but hold an important place in ours. Several times now, we’ve come home on New Year’s Eve in the interest of cheap flights, arriving within an hour of midnight. We’ve taken to putting a bottle of Champagne and cheese that won’t expire in the fridge before we go and arrive with just enough time to shower and pop some popcorn before landing on the couch to watch the ball drop and quietly ring in the new year, hours after it started back in Michigan, our other home. I’ve found such contentment in that moment—realizing, with some surprise, that we have a home and a life and traditions, built over time with a great deal of thought and also, somehow, none at all.

Traditions mean so many different things. They are a rhythm, a drumbeat to the year. They are a reminder of who we are or where we come from, and sometimes both. They tie us to what matters—faith, family, friends. And they cut through the noise. Because there is so much noise these days, is there not? Stillness and quiet feel elusive, and at times so do joy and gratitude. When I sit by the Christmas tree to wrap presents for people I love or put away my work so that I can have a special dinner with my husband or come up with a recipe to make with my nieces and nephews once we’re back in Michigan (we did it once, and now this is what we do—and let’s be real, I couldn’t be more delighted), some of that noise fades away.

This season, I have on repeat a song by Over the Rhine, from their Christmas album “Blood Oranges in the Snow.” Ben and I went to see them earlier this month. We’d each seen them perform in the past, separately, and it felt significant to see them together. It was festive and beautiful, and when they started singing this song, it hit me in a new way and has stayed with me all season.

Have you been trying too hard
Have you been holding too tight
Have you been worrying too much lately
All night
Whatever we’ve lost
I think we’re gonna let it go
Let it fall
Like snow

‘Cause rain and leaves
And snow and tears and stars
And that’s not all, my friend
They all fall with confidence and grace
So let it fall, let it fall

May we let what needs to fall go ahead and fall this season, my friends, and may we find grace in the space that remains.

And if among your traditions is making a homemade gift or two, I have a recipe here from Alison Roman that you could mix up in these next couple of days for whomever is lingering on your list, or for the host of the next party on the calendar. Alternately, serve this as a unique breakfast for family or friends, or throw it on salad or soup for a surprising crunch. More serving ideas are included with the recipe.

Wishing a joyful season to you and yours.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

Savory Granola

Lightly adapted from Alison Roman’s Dining In

This savory granola is delicious on yogurt for breakfast (serving ideas below) and on top of salads and soups for an alternative to croutons or plain old seeds. It’s great for gifting and a nice savory snack to have on hand if you’re feeling overwhelmed by Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.

Makes about 5 cups of granola

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw buckwheat groats (if unavailable, swap in more sunflower or pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup flaxseeds

1/2 cup black or white sesame seeds

1/4 cup nigella seed (if unavailable, use more black or white sesame seeds)

3 large egg whites

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup caraway or fennel seed

2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Line a 9×13 rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Give the egg whites a quick whisk to loosen them. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, nigella seed, egg whites, oil, maple syrup, caraway or fennel seed, Aleppo pepper (if using), soy sauce and salt. Toss until the mixture is well combined. Season generously with black pepper.

Spread the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until everything is golden brown and well toasted, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool completely and break up any large clumps into smaller pieces. Store in glass jars or ziplock bags.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

With Citrus

Slice or supreme or otherwise separate a variety of citrus—oranges, blood oranges, mandarins, pomelo, etc.

Arrange in a bowl with Greek (or other) plan yogurt. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a big handful of savory granola and flaky sea salt.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

With Cucumbers

Also adapted from Alison Roman’s Dining In

Grate fresh garlic into plain Greek yogurt. Squeeze in some lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

In a ziplock bag, smash (using a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan) thick slices of cucumbers and thinly sliced scallions, seasoned with more lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serve the yogurt, cucumbers and savory granola with more sliced scallions, a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt.

Six Things To Do with a Tray of Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Six Things To Do with a Tray of Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Soup | Delightful Crumb Roasted Sweet Potatoes | Delightful CrumbIt’s snowing in the Midwest and raining (finally, blessed be!) in California. Thanksgiving is behind us and December just around the corner. It’s old hat to say that the year has flown, but—it really did this time! Finding such truisms flying out of my mouth is a real sign of adulthood, I think. But I’ll work on finding more interesting pieces of small talk for this year’s Christmas parties.

I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and that city already has its holiday lights twinkling, frankly far outpacing San Francisco or Oakland’s attempts at festivity. And I was ready for them: what with the recent wildfires and weeks of bad air in the Bay, the state of American politics and our collective anxiety about it, smartphones and technology and our anxiety about them, poverty, gentrification, the cost of rent, sickness, sorrow and, of course, the complexities of everyday life—well, I am in need of some cheer!

It is always this way, is it not? I’m grateful for the moment in the year in which we pause for thanksgiving and giving and gathering and hope, which I firmly believe we all need. Yet everyone is busier and more anxious than ever. And so, it is time to crank on the oven and eat warming foods and reach for a bit of ease.

The sweet potato is a fall and winter staple in my kitchen. It’s hearty and delicious and, while hard as a rock when pulled from the ground, just a good scrub and a few steps from being transformed into the centerpiece of a meal. Chock-full of natural sweetness, it doesn’t need all that much from us—just heat and time. Most of my sweet potato preparations are super easy, and many of them begin with the same step. So I thought I’d share that today. On your day off, just pop a tray of sweet potatoes in the oven to roast, eat some right away and save the rest. You’ll be set up for days of variations on a theme!

So pull up a chair, warm your belly and enjoy the season.

Sweet Potato Soup | Delightful Crumb

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I generally choose small-to-medium sweet potatoes, which I would quantify as somewhere in the realm of 7 to 11 ounces (about 200 to 300 grams). That’s what I have in mind in the recipes that follow, but these are truly flexible outlines, and worrying about exact ounces would thoroughly defeat our purposes of ease!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash your sweet potatoes well. Poke each one with a fork or sharp knife several times. Spread the sweet potatoes out on a large pan so they’re not touching. (If you’d like, you can line the pan with aluminum foil to ease cleanup.) No oil or salt needed here!

Bake the sweet potatoes until tender, about 1 hour, though this will depend on their size. They should be very soft to the touch, and when you pierce one with a knife, it should go all the way through without any resistance. If your potatoes are different sizes, keep checking on them and remove them one by one as they’re finished.

Allow to cool or proceed to a recipe, below. You can keep the cooled sweet potatoes in the refrigerator for several days, in a tightly sealed container.

Six Variations

#1: Soup

You’ll need about one sweet potato per person for a single hearty bowl of soup each.

Boil water or stock, about 1 cup for each sweet potato. Meanwhile, put the sweet potatoes in a powerful blender, skins on. For each serving/potato, add a pinch of salt, a pinch of cumin or paprika (smoked or not), a few shakes of cayenne if you like things spicy, lots of cracked black pepper and a splash (about 1 tablespoon) of apple cider or white wine vinegar. When the liquid boils, pour it into the blender to just cover the sweet potatoes (about 1 cup per potato).

Blend the mixture until it’s completely smooth, adding more water or broth if needed. Taste and adjust the salt, spices and acid (vinegar). Blend again, and drizzle in some olive oil, a tablespoon or so per potato. If your potatoes weren’t cold and the liquid was hot, your soup may well be plenty warm. If not, heat it in a pot on the stove.

Top bowls of soup with a drizzle each of olive oil and plain yogurt, a little more black pepper, a sprinkle of spice (cumin, paprika or cayenne) and toasted pepitas if you have them on hand. Arugula and herbs like parsley also work well here, as would fried sage.

#2: Stuffed

If the sweet potatoes are cold from the fridge, warm them slightly in the oven, toaster oven or microwave. These instructions will yield enough filling for two to four potatoes, depending on how hungry you are and whether there are other dishes on the table. But leftovers will save nicely for a couple of days, too.

While the potatoes warm, heat a thin layer of olive or coconut oil in a cast iron or other heavy pan. Add a chopped large leek or onion and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the leek or onion is translucent but not yet browning, then add minced garlic and fresh ginger. Toss in a can of chickpeas (or a couple of cups cooked from scratch) and continue cooking for a few minutes more. Smash the chickpeas slightly with the back of a spoon for texture. Add a small bunch of kale, leaves stripped from the stems and chopped, or several big handfuls of spinach. Cook until the greens wilt. Taste and adjust for salt.

Slice the warmed sweet potatoes lengthwise and pile the sautéed vegetable mixture inside and over top.

This dish really sings with sauce. Make one with tahini thinned with water and brightened up with lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt. Or, combine yogurt with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of salt and a minced or grated clove of garlic. Drizzle the sauce over the potato and finish with Sriracha and/or parsley, if you like.

#3: Green Salad

Start with a couple of handfuls of greens per person. Anything will work here, but chicories are a favorite of mine in the fall and winter months. Make a simple dressing of olive oil, red or white wine vinegar and a small spoonful of mustard, whisked well and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the greens with the dressing.

Slice the sweet potato into cubes. If you have an orange on hand, slice that up as well.

On a big platter or individual plates, arrange the greens and top them with the sweet potato and citrus. Add something creamy, like diced avocado or crumbled goat cheese, then something crunchy—any toasted nut or seed will do. Finish with pomegranate seeds if you have them on hand.

#4: Composed Salad

Use cooled sweet potatoes for this simple salad. One large potato will yield a small salad for two or a single sizable salad.

Thinly slice a red onion or shallot and place it in a small bowl along with red wine vinegar and a big pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, and allow the onion or shallot to sit and pickle slightly while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Slice the sweet potato crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds. Arrange them on a plate, slightly overlapping. Top with the lightly pickled onion or shallot and drizzle with a bit of the leftover pickling liquid, as well as a generous drizzle of olive oil. Finish with chopped toasted walnuts and crumbled Feta or blue cheese. If you have any microgreens in the crisper, they would be lovely here, as would arugula or soft herbs such as parsley, leaves picked.

#5: Toast

Start toasting some bread while you prepare the sweet potatoes. Use a thick slab of good bread for the centerpiece of a meal, or opt for thinner slices of baguette for an appetizer or party snack. Toast the bread until lightly browned.

Two sweet potatoes will yield about three hearty servings, and leftover mash saves well for a few days. You can leave on the skins, but if they’re loose, feel free to remove and discard some or all for a smoother texture. Cut the sweet potatoes into pieces and place them in a medium bowl. Add a pinch of salt, freshly cracked pepper, a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Mash to combine, but leave some texture.

Roughly chop a big handful of well-toasted almonds. Place in a small bowl with good olive oil to cover, a pinch of salt, freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes (optional).

When the bread is toasted, rub each piece with the cut side of a halved clove of garlic. Spread a big spoonful of the sweet potato mash over each slice of bread. Top with almonds, the extra olive oil from the bowl, a small handful of arugula and flaky salt.

#6: Twice-Roasted

This preparation was inspired by Bon Appétit, which has published a few versions of this technique over the years. These potatoes work nicely in a grain bowl or atop a salad, could take the place of sweet potato fries alongside a sandwich and would make a satisfying side alongside a hearty protein. Plan for about one sweet potato per person.

Preheat the oven to 450. Slightly flatten the sweet potatoes with your hand, then tear them into large, irregular pieces. Spread them out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange the potatoes skin side down so that they don’t stick to the baking sheet, and spread them out so they don’t steam. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp on the edges and golden brown underneath. Serve hot.

Shouts & Whispers | Roast Eggplants with Goat Cheese & Sumac

Shouts & Whispers | Roast Eggplants with Goat Cheese & Sumac

Roast Eggplants | Delightful CrumbThis is the time of year when I crave the signs of autumn. I’ve written about the transition into fall ad nauseam, so I will try not to go on about it again. But it’s this Midwestern internal clock that sends me out in search of apple stands and cider mills, trees in shades of orange and ochre and brick red, leaves carpeting the ground, crisp breezes and the sweater weather that has yet to arrive on my side of the Bay except for, of course, inside my apartment, which has descended into a wintery chill.

I had the chance to get out of town and go north twice in the last week or so—first a quick getaway with Ben to the Anderson Valley, where we stayed at the charming Boonville Hotel, wandered around the valley’s sweet cities, tasted cheese and wine and beer and literally every variety of apple at Philo Apple Farm. It was an ideal escape—restful, contemplative, quiet, easy. The sky was bright blue, and we found the rust-colored leaves we were seeking. We came home with a bag of perfectly imperfect apples and sparkling cider and a big jar of apricot jam.

Just days later, I drove up the stunning Sonoma Coast for a work event. I reveled in the views along the way and the evening was a great success—until my car didn’t start. The following morning, I waited for AAA for hours on a forested hill where there was no cell service or other human life, watched my AAA savior knock the car’s starter with a long metal pole until the engine lurched to life, drove straight home to the shop in Oakland without stopping—no telling whether I’d get going again. While waiting, I tried not to worry too much about the car and whether I’d be able to get it started without a tow and the impending bill (while it may well run forever, my teenaged Honda Civic invariably presents extra issues at the shop), tried not to think about the work I had intended to do that afternoon, tried not to dwell on the fact that even though I was stranded in an epically beautiful place, I couldn’t explore it.

And yet. The Pacific air was clean and fresh. The ocean, laid out dramatically behind the dated, musty lodge where I was staying, was vast and glorious. When I walked down the hill in search of aid, I heard sea lions barking in the distance.

Several days and a fat repair bill later, I keep thinking the experience must have meant something, but I still don’t know what.

Mary Oliver says, “Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still it explains nothing.”

I search for meaning in everything, yearn for explanations. But they’re not always there. Is it the beauty that matters most?

Oliver continues, “The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.”

I clutch the sentiment like a pearl, admire it as an empty signpost on a trail. I think about the feeling of the ground beneath my feet and how the ocean looks as if it extends forever and try to silence my anxious questions, if only for a moment.

Roast Eggplants | Delightful CrumbRoast Split Eggplants with Goat Cheese & Sumac

Adapted from Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach

I’ve been making this dish since late summer, when eggplants arrived at the market, and it is both incredibly simple and terribly delicious. Diana Henry’s instruction is to roast the eggplants, but I’ve liked the texture that comes from a quicker broil, which blisters the skins and yields a meltingly soft interior. You can, of course, go the oven route instead. Henry suggests 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Several small or medium eggplants

Extra-virgin olive oil

Soft goat cheese


Flaky sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the broiler to medium or high heat.

Wash the eggplants and make a few slashes in each one to prevent any explosions in the oven. I leave the stems on for a pretty presentation. Place the whole eggplants on a baking sheet, or a piece of aluminum foil if a baking sheet won’t fit under your broiler.

Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggplants are completely soft. The amount of time required will depend on the heat of your oven and the size of the eggplants, so just keep checking for doneness.

Allow the eggplants to cool just slightly. Split each one down the middle. Tuck in a few small spoonfuls of goat cheese. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac, flaky sea salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Philo Apple Farm | Delightful Crumb

La Ensalada Valenciana

La Ensalada Valenciana

Ensalada Valenciana | Delightful CrumbI’ve been thinking lately about the places that most matter to us—those that are not just objectively special, but also subjectively so. Some places we can all agree are extraordinary: famed vacation destinations, the national parks, hip new restaurants, the long-lived classics. Most people can at least appreciate the charms of New York City and London; I’ve never heard anyone argue that Hawaii is not as beautiful as they say. The Grand Canyon truly is grand, the Rocky Mountains are majestic, and Paris is, in fact, a magical city.

I’m not talking about home either, which many of us cherish for rather obvious reasons of nostalgia. What I’m talking about are the places that matter to us in a way that transcends their concrete qualities. There’s an intersection here, of course. But I think that for each of us, there are places that simply speak to us in another language altogether.

For me, a prime example is Denia, a lovely seaside town in Valencia, Spain, where I lived as a student in 2007. I was enchanted with this place from the start, as soon as I first walked the streets with my brand-new host mom, Maite, to her apartment on a dark January night. She looped her arm through mine and chattered excitedly all the way. I can almost conjure the feeling: thrilled for the adventure but knowing nothing of what was ahead.

There’s an old castle in Denia, where, for the grand admission price of three euros, visitors can more or less run free to scramble across the ruins, visit a humble museum with a smattering of ancient artifacts, admire the city and coastline from above. And there’s a mountain, too, called Montgó, where I hiked just once with friends, stopping to eat our sandwiches of tortilla española on soft baguette, getting good and lost before making it home just as dusk was falling.

Denia runs into the Mediterranean, with a rocky, wild coastline in one direction and a sandy beach in the other. Maite lived in a plaza alongside the water, the historic home of the fisherman, each apartment marked by a tile depicting fisherman at work, some of whom still live in this and the adjoining plaza. I could see the vast, blue Mediterranean from the kitchen window, where I’d sit with my morning yogurt and coffee made with an unfamiliar percolator, then again at lunchtime, when Maite and I would eat the hearty midday meal together, which most always included a simple salad we’d finish at the table with olive oil and vinegar, a practice new to me. I jogged down the path on the rocky side of the beach and hiked even further with friends to an ancient tower perched where the coastline twisted to the right. I drank coffee with Maite, paired with pan con mantequilla y mermelada, on weekly dates to her favorite cafés. I explored the city with my new German friends, girls who worked at the local church, meeting in the middle with our shared language of Spanish. I studied a lot, for better or worse, in our tiny apartment or at the library. And I spent time with our neighbors. We ate together in the little common space in the back of the plaza, feasting on paella, and celebrated Las Fallas—which is a story all its own, given that the festival involves burning huge statues made of papier-mâché. It was my first time living in a home that wasn’t my parents’, and I loved the very fact that I had neighbors, not to mention a new city to wander through, to class and back down the palm-lined street.

Denia | Delightful CrumbI was primed for the experience, of course, eager to study abroad, ready for adventure, excited to finally visit this country I’d dreamed about for years. And I realize that I existed in the separate plane of a student and of the young, detached from the everyday struggles of adulthood. Yet I felt, even then, that this place was particularly special—for me. While some students traveled every weekend, I more often stayed in Denia, recognizing that the chance to live with a feisty 72-year-old Madrileña wasn’t one that would likely come again.

At first, I thought I’d be right back. I thought that would be easy, unaware of the demands of a full time job, financial challenges, competing priorities—all of those things that get in the way. And so, the years passed. But even from the early days of our relationship, Ben and I dreamed of the European trip we’d take: revisiting Spain for me and the Netherlands for him.

It took a long time, but in the summer of 2017, we did just that. And so, exactly 10 years later, I returned to Denia. I’d told my stories enough that I was confident in the city’s objective greatness. But I’m not sure I recognized the subjective part, the wave of emotions that hit me when we rolled into town on a sweaty July night, after making two buses—one just barely—from the airport in Alicante. Or when we had a proper 10 pm dinner on the bustling street of our hostel that night, then walked down to the water and over to my old plaza, bathed in yellow light, looking so familiar that, for a moment, it felt as if no time had passed since I’d been there.

I feel at ease in Spain, but particularly in Denia, calmed by the sea and the joyfulness of the food, simple and complex at once: lengths of toasted baguette topped with butter and jam for breakfast; masterful rice dishes, of which paella is only the beginning; a rectangle of perfect coca bought on a whim from a corner bakery after visiting Maite in the nearby town where she now lives; ensalada valenciana in its varied forms; pan con tomate; beautiful seafood and fish fresh from the sea; allioli with everything.

I’ve been fortunate to go on a few exciting trips—some work, some vacation—these past few years. And all were, indeed, thrilling. But some places, like Denia, feel distinto, to use one of my favorite Spanish words that doesn’t quite translate. I’m hoping to make the once-every-10-years thing a tradition, but in the meantime, I’m grateful for photos and journals, a husband who has now seen this place and loved it, too, and the food that can, if only for a moment, bring me back.

Al Forn | Delightful Crumb

Ensalada Valenciana

Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side

This is a simple salad, a rendition of which is served at most any restaurant in the Valencia region of Spain. Feel free adjust to your preferences, breaking from tradition per your taste or the seasons or what you have on hand. I sometimes add avocado, and I’ve also seen it served, as pictured above, with shredded carrot or red cabbage. I know that the raw corn might seem surprising, but I like its fresh flavor. You could also blanch the cobs before cutting the corn off the cob. I should note that I’ve typically been served this salad in Valencia with canned corn, so that shortcut would perhaps be the most authentic option! And the olives typically aren’t pitted, but do as you like and consider warning your dining companions if you leave them in.

For an easy meal, roast some potatoes and/or serve with a fresh baguette—or, even better, pan con tomate. I’ve listed the rough quantities for a big salad, which the two of us can eat as a meal but would make an excellent side for four or five if there’s more food on the table.

2-4 eggs

1 onion (red or white), halved and sliced into thin half moons

Lettuce, such as mixed greens, little gem lettuce or butter lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces if desired

1-2 cobs of corn, shucked and cleaned, corn cut off the cob

1 large or 2 small tomatoes, sliced into large wedges

1 small cucumber, cut into cubes

1 5-oz. can high-quality oil- or water-packed tuna, drained and broken up into pieces

A handful of olives, such as Castelvetrano


Freshly cracked black pepper

Good olive oil

Sherry or red wine vinegar (or a quartered lemon)

First, cook the eggs. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Gently place the eggs in the pot and begin a timer. For this salad, I like my yolks slightly runny but not overly so, achieved at about 7 minutes. For a firmer yolk, cook for 8 minutes. When the eggs are cooked to your liking, removed them with a slotted spoon and place them in ice water to cool.

Place the sliced onion in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and a pour of vinegar. Massage the onion and let rest to mellow its flavor while you prepare the rest of the salad.

On a large platter or wide serving bowl, arrange the lettuce. Top with the rest of the ingredients, arranged in sections: the corn, tomatoes, cucumber, tuna and olives. Remove the onion from the vinegar and add that as well.

Peel the eggs and slice them in half or quarters lengthwise. Arrange them on top of the salad. Sprinkle the salad with salt and pepper.

Finish with generous pours of olive oil and vinegar, or place the bottles on the table so that your guests can serve themselves.

Streets of Denia | Delightful Crumb

Even More Fanfare | Chocolate Fig Cake

Even More Fanfare | Chocolate Fig Cake

Chocolate Fig Cake | Delightful CrumbThis week, the market was overflowing with figs. It was an abundance I can’t recall seeing before—big crates packed with fat figs at multiple stalls, ripe and bursting, water balloon skins no longer able to hold in the jammy centers. My favorite fig purveyor let me assemble my own boxes, a pretty simple offer that put me over the moon. I walked away with Green Ischia figs so ripe they’re about to split and plump Brown Turkey figs, too, plus a separate box of little, uniform Black Mission figs for baking.

When figs are at their ripest and freshest, you can’t do better than eating them out of hand. I love them best with goat cheese and honey, perhaps with good bread alongside. A more elevated version of the same thing is to top toast with ricotta and sliced figs, drizzled with honey and/or olive oil; an easier one is to split the fig in half with your fingers and add a spoonful of Greek yogurt, which is what I did when I got home from the market yesterday. The figs right now literally taste like jam, and I know I’m a broken record, but I am just as excited about them as ever.

One thing I love about figs is their dual harvest. They come around long enough for me to get excited, then slip away. When they’re back, it’s with even more fanfare. The second season is longer and, quite literally, more fruitful. It’s basically opposite of the experience we have with ramps and sour cherries, which are painfully fleeting. And for the rare tangible moment of abundance in a world where I’m so often tempted to linger on scarcity instead, I am grateful.

While I will continue insisting that figs are best fresh, I’m still compelled by each pretty picture of a fig cake I encounter. I haven’t yet found my ideal everyday fig cake, so please let me know if you have one up your sleeve (criteria here). I made Melissa Clark’s Figgy Demerara Snacking Cake last weekend, which was fantastic but calls for two dozen figs and bakes up into huge 18×13-inch rectangle. I loved having cake to share with my neighbors but can’t always afford two dozen figs, notwithstanding all of this talk of abundance. But if you have an over-productive tree, pick up Cook This Now—and/or call me.

So this weekend, I moved along to another recipe I’ve had bookmarked for years, which requires just half that quantity of fruit. This is basically a decadent brownie topped with sliced figs, which break down in the heat of the oven, forming jammy pockets and getting sticky syrupy goodness all over the top of the cake. I served it with brandy-spiked whipped cream, a show-stopping finale to a delightful dinner with friends.

Chocolate Fig Cake | Delightful Crumb

Chocolate Fig Cake

Adapted very slightly from Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine

This cake is basically a brownie topped with jammy pockets of baked figgy goodness, and it’s a delight. It’s also quite rich, so the whipped cream is a worthwhile accompaniment. Sweeten the cream only lightly, if at all, and flavor with brandy, bourbon or almond extract if you want to add some extra pizzazz. I baked this closer to 45 minutes, as I wanted the cake to be more or less cooked through. You could remove it much earlier if you want a more gooey dessert.

Makes one 8-inch cake, enough for 8 very reasonable servings

3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup (50 g) cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (250 g) cane sugar

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus more for the pan

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (85 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate

10-12 ounces (280-340 g) fresh figs, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, to serve (optional)

Whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and the sides of an 8-inch springform or cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter that as well. Dust the pan and paper with flour.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter at medium-low speed, then add the eggs and vanilla. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat the mixture until it lightens in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the pan, using an offset spatula to smooth the top. Arrange the sliced figs on top, covering the surface of the cake. It’s okay if they overlap a bit. Bake the cake until it is set but still slightly wiggly in the center, 35 to 45 minutes. You can remove the cake when it is less done if you want a gooey consistency, or bake until all but the very center is set.

Cool the cake and slice it into wedges, or spoon the warm cake into bowls. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and a dollop of whipped cream, if you like, just before serving.