It’s been too long. Time for a photo-fueled update.

Halloween came and went, and though I dressed in a cape and sat watching from our creepy house on the hill with a large bucket of candy, no children ventured up to my heights. I was left to enjoy the view of our valley of steeples and take disturbing photographs of the children from above.

I’m settling into my job and enjoying the confidence routine brings. There are other, less routine, delights, like making thanksgiving decorations or receiving a bouquet of colored roses from an older gentleman I met at church.

I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of getting to know my roommate’s sister better, who bravely moved across our wide state to join us in town, though living with her father on his farm in the sticks. She had me over for dinner this past weekend, trying her hand at Thai cuisine with tasty results.

After an accompanying glass or two of wine, I decided to stay the night on the couch, and was delighted by the morning light as it gamboled amongst the glittering first frost.

I slept beneath this wall,

and was given the gift of these views on my drive home from her rural abode.

Other nights I spend painting chairs, fixing walls, and experimenting in the kitchen. Did you know that if you boil beets and then cook perogis in the same water, the color of the resulting dumplings adds some real pizzazz to your plate? Same with pasta. All red food is better than the sometimes too frequent beige plate, in my opinion. In our excitement, we decided to save the beets for a future meal, so the perogis could take center stage.

I’m finally starting to feel cozy here. Miss you.


Pere Marquette

One of my last days in St. Louis, we went on an early morning roadtrip to hike Pere Marquette, a park north of the city in Illinois named for Jacques Marquette, a French missionary from Joliet’s expedition. We loaded Walker (the German Shepherd I was dog sitting) into the back of Lizard’s car, eating breakfast on the way. It wasn’t even eight, but it felt like mid-afternoon.  I took a photo through my sunglasses, thinking this might capture the oppressive heat.

  The sun had more to show us.

Recipe: Caramelized Onion Quiche

Jimmy is the new kid in town. When he wakes up tomorrow morning, there is an 80% chance that he’ll be brave and strong, and a 20% chance that he’ll be cowardly and weak. The local bully, Jesse, enjoys fighting new kids, but only the weak, cowardly ones. Jesse won’t be able to figure out whether Jimmy is brave or cowardly, but he will be able to observe what Jimmy eats for breakfast. As a general rule, brave, strong new kids prefer beer, while cowardly, weak new kids prefer quiche.

I’ll spare you the choice theory part of the Beer/Quiche Game, mostly because I don’t understand it at all. I heard this game from my friend Y, who loves riddles, and who often, in jest, uses the Beer/Quiche dichotomy to categorize the men in his life.

Dearest Internet, there is nothing weak or cowardly about this flavorful, savory, slightly tangy quiche. But just to be safe, serve it with a cold summer ale.

Caramelized Onion Quiche
Adapted slightly from Simply Recipes

1 pie crust (store-bought is fine, but this recipe is really tasty)
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb red onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (or whatever sharp cheese you like)
salt and pepper

1. Caramelize the onions. Cut onions in half, root to tip, and peel. Then cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Melt butter in a large skillet and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir frequently so the onions caramelize without burning. This will take a while. After 40 minutes or so, add the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking until onions are completely caramelized.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare the crust and parbake it.

3. Make the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, and a pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with foil, to catch any custard runoff. Sprinkle half the cheese over the bottom of the parbaked crust. Spread onions loosely over the cheese (so the custard can fill up the nooks and crannies). Top with remaining cheese. Pour custard over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. (If edges of crust begin to burn, cover with foil.) Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing.

Recipe: Strawberry Summer Cake

I would not be exaggerating if I told you that this is the best dessert I’ve ever eaten.

It’s sweet – very sweet, but not sickly sweet. It’s a complex sweetness: butter, fresh fruit, and maybe just a little bit of sugar coming together to make something astonishing. I strongly suggest you make this soon, at the peak of summer, because fresh, fully ripe strawberries atop this moist, sweet cake make for a very special, very summery treat.

Strawberry Summer Cake
from Martha Stewart via Smitten Kitchen

10-inch cake/pie pan (the standard 9-inch pie pan won’t work – your cake will overflow)
6 tbsp butter (plus extra for buttering the baking pan)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350. Butter your cake pan.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, cream butter with 1 c sugar with an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and mix in egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients a little bit at a time. Transfer batter to pie pan.
Arrange your strawberries on top of the batter, but don’t worry too much about how they look, because they’ll probably get enveloped by rising cake batter as they bake.

Now sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp sugar over the strawberries and the batter.

Perhaps just a bit more…

That’s the ticket.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes; then reduce oven temperature to 325 and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Recipe: Berry Rhubarb Pie

I don’t know if I can adequately explain how much I love summer in the Midwest. You’d think, coming from California, that I wouldn’t be so enthralled by sunshine. You’d think I’d be used to it. I suspect there are two reasons why I still feel so elated when summertime rolls around each year.

The first is that summer is qualitatively different in the Midwest. In California, rain comes in the winter, and the summer is dry and hot. Summer means sunshine, but it also means a brown, dead landscape. But in the Midwest, the summer months are peppered with powerful thunderstorms, so when I throw open the kitchen door to let in the sunshine, I see this:

The whole world is green.

And then, of course, there’s the sheer contrast. In California, we have two seasons: warm and sunny, and grey and rainy. It’s mild and pleasant, and one never needs a down coat, but I never truly appreciated the sensation of sunshine on my skin until I moved to the Midwest and experienced winter.

Rhubarb is another Midwest summer standby I never knew about growing up. It looks like red celery, but it tastes perfectly tangy and it bakes up into the most beautiful pies. Rhubarb has a short season, so make this soon, if you’re so inclined, and content yourself with the knowledge that, though rhubarb season will be ending soon, it’s not yet midsummer, and there are many more adventures to be had.

Gimme the recipe!

Recipe: Summer Squash Salad

At the beginning of this summer, I set one goal for myself: to spend time enjoying simple pleasures. I have succeeded magnificently.

I have picnicked and barbecued. I have seen a craft project through to completion. I spent a delightful evening with new friends repurposing old books into luminaries for a wedding centerpiece. I have baked many pies and eaten them. I danced with my friend at her beautiful wedding, and the joy, pure and so palpable, has stuck with me all week.

Summer is an easy time to revel in simplicity, especially when it comes to food. All my favorite things are in season – tomatoes, apricots, rhubarb, basil, and, above all else, avocado, which is the one produce item I’ll buy year-round, no matter how out-of-season it is, no matter how many miles it traveled on a truck to reach me. I just can’t help myself.

Mmm, avocado. >>