My Summer Staple: Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Summer's ending and I am currently in Vegas for my company's annual meeting. Hot, tacky, loud; I pretend I am Maria in Play It As It Lays. I wanted to smoke a cigarette because I am here. I wanted to play Black Jack and win big. I wanted to lay out by the pool and sleep the day away. Instead, I got Chinese food brought to my room and was in bed by 9:30.

The days here will drag. My annual meeting always signals that summer is over. I come face-to-face with my coworkers and make small talk. I work remote, so I am used to the conversations I have with the dogs--a series of "No's", "Good girl", and "Want some of this cake?". It's their peaceful, calm silent reply, their gentle taking of the food from my palm, the body language that passes between us for the 8 hours I am home alone with them that is a more meaningful dialogue than those I work alongside.

I'm a bit of a crazy dog lady, in truth.

But with this signal of the end of summer, I look back on all that I did not accomplish. I have not written my Vermont post; nor have I made the friends we made there their gifts. I did not clean out the garage like I wanted to, but we did catch the mouse that lived there for the last 2 months--so small and silent and so frustratingly uncatchable for so long. I did not listen to my mother all the times she told me her advice. I did not go to the gym like I had promised myself I would  (again). 

But I did make the best potato salad for a party we threw a few weeks ago. And when my sister asked me for the recipe, I would say this was probably the best thing I did this season. And I'm okay with that, because, finally, I am realizing the arbitrary timelines I put on myself are just that - arbitrary. And I'm learning to take it a little slower now.

Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs red potatoes, roughly cubed
  • 1-2 TB olive oil to coat potatoes
  • 3 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 TB dill, finely chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare a sheet pan and preheat oven to 425*F
  2. Cover potatoes in olive oil and a little salt and pepper
  3. Roast for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crisp
  4. Allow to cool in a bowl slightly
  5. Mix in remaining ingredients, add extra seasoning to taste
  6. Chill for about an hour before serving
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad
Roasted Dill Potato Salad

Crumble Redux: White Peach White Wine Minis!

Just shy of a week ago, we were in Vermont holding hands on Church Street and bracing ourselves against a downpour. Today, Nolan and I helped his dad finish a more secure pen for the chickens. It's been a week of catch-up: making sure there is enough time for the dogs, answering emails, scheduling magazine shoots, making frozen pizzas for dinner because we ran out of anything else in the fridge.

It's one of those slow-quick weeks, where the rug is pulled out from under my numb feet. Where I didn't realize I hit the snooze on my alarm until it was already 9 in the morning. The only thing I've wanted to do this week is sit and sleep and play with the puppies. Instead, it was 4 loads of laundry and making lists of things I wish I could do more of.

I called my mother and we talked for half an hour. It wasn't on the list, but it was time well spent.

I'm hoping for change, growth, understanding. I'd pray for it, if i were the praying type. Instead, I drink a cup of coffee and remind myself to breathe. That it's okay to have a week ebb and that if I stretch out my hands and arms and fingers enough, maybe I'll float along the current a little more peacefully than I am used to. Let's hope so. 

But one cool night, I had the windows open and the dishes done and peaches going to mush, so I recreated my other crumble to serve us for what we wanted: something spiked and small and comforting. Something to get us through this week and looking forward to the weekends ahead where we have a little more energy and a little more time and a little more to do with our day than sit and worry around the house.

White Peach and White Wine Mini Crumbles

With the high level of brown sugar and the butter added into the fruit portion, the fruit gets covered in a bubbling caramel that is too delicious to not want seconds.

White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler

Ingredients for filling:

  • 5 white peaches, chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TB butter, melted
  • 2 TB white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 TB cornstarch

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, slightly softened

Recipe:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients for the filing
  2. Allow to sit and macerate for 30 minutes
  3. After 30 minutes has elapsed, grease 6 ramekins and preheat oven to 375*F
  4. Spoon mixture into each prepared ramekin
  5. Now, dump all topping ingredients into another bowl and, using clean hands, mix together
  6. Continue mixing until all ingredients are fully incorporated and a crumbly dough forms
  7. Pour directly on top of fruit and pat with down
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is browned and golden
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler
White Peach White Wine Mini Cobbler

Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcakes! (And Strawberry Picking is Cute Too!)

Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake

We're deep into Summer and baking has slowed. Instead, I find myself combatting fruit flies that have found their home in the windowsill. I hear the humming of a wasp nest being in an unreachable part of our porch. We worry about the dogs; Murphy is allergic. We have it on our to-do list for this long weekend.

Yesterday, we canoed down the Monogahela. Wine drunk, we floated and made new friends. The rain water stirred up soot and mud and I lost track of how many rocks I skipped when we stopped to swim. And we pulled out the sofa bed and threw on a black-and-white movie and fell asleep to the orchestra of heart beats and dog pants and the air conditioner whirring in the mess of sweat and fog that is 10 o'lock in Pennsylvania.

Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake

Two weeks ago, we began this process of running away from the heat in our house and embracing it more outdoors. We went strawberry picking one Sunday. It was Nolan's idea. He's more creative in this regard, having done more things in his childhood, he can recall those times and recreate them for us now. We drove out to a town called Armagh and grabbed a cardboard box for every berry we found. We laughed and forgot about time here again, too. We stayed on the familiar path and pushed the leaves away a bit deeper. We met a collie named Rudy. We left our orange flag, the indication that a row has been picked-through, and we kissed in the sunlight. We took a two hour nap that afternoon.

Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake

We've snacked on these berries, fed on them. We've given them to our chickens and put them on a cheese plate when we wanted a light dinner. We had them with oatmeal and Pimm's and this week I'll make them the last of them into a crumble. But the first dish I made with them, my favorite for every year (as seen here, here, here, and here), was to put them in a shortcake and enjoy them as they were--some sour, some sweet, some blood red and some white. 

Lemon Poppyseed Scone "Shortcake"

Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk (for egg wash)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 TB poppyseeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F and prepare a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt
  3. With clean hands, roll the butter into the flour with your fingers, creating flakes. Continue to crumble butter until fat is the size of peas
  4. In a measuring cup, whisk together your egg, cream, vanilla, and lemon
  5. Create a well in your dry ingredients and with a wooden spoon slowly mix while you pour your wet ingredients in
  6. Continue to mix until fully incorporated and a dough comes together
  7. Pat out onto a floured work surface and shape into a rectangle
  8. Cut into 9 pieces and transfer onto your prepared sheet
  9. Make an egg wash (1 yolk + 1 TB water) and brush onto your scones
  10. Sprinkle each with poppyseeds
  11. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden
  12. Allow to cool while you prepare your whipped topping and strawberries

Whipped topping and preparation: In a stand mixer, whisk 1/2 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form, then add 4 oz creme fraiche (I love Vermont Creamery's), 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until peaks form.

Cut a scone in half, add whipped filling and a few strawberries and enjoy!

Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry Picking and Lemon Poppyseed Strawberry Shortcake

First Day of Summer - Make this cake!

I can be lazy, but I am not lethargic.  

For me, summer always translated to liquid days. Days that dragged on. The sound of cicadas were the sound of sun rays. Moths hit the windowsill at night and I stayed up way too late. Summer is a melting feeling, I always felt stagnant and viscous in the heat. I spent my time reading. I spent my time sleeping. I spent too much time in hot cars with no air conditioning, waiting in parking lots for my mother to finish grocery shopping. I spent a lot of time alone in the summer months between 7th and 8th and 9th grades.

For me now, who I am at 25, it is different. I have the dogs, the chickens, a fiance. I have a life I fell into, but pursued all the same. I like summer now, in my little town of Ligonier. The rain comes and goes as it pleases and floods our side yard and still I walk barefoot with the dogs when we play in between the flowering trees. I'm not able to read as much, dishes and laundry and days get in the way; but I bake and I write and I am content in the fact that I am growing up. 

I found a shirt the other day that Nolan got me the first month we moved to California. A black Alexander Wang shirt that still smelled like the cigarettes I smoked in law school. It's no longer an anchor to that past life, but just a shirt I pulled out of the drawer now. I am realizing that we are allowed to change and not be constricted to the confines of a past we tried to idealize. That we are better now, better here, better today than we were yesterday.

I am realizing that I can enjoy summer because I am in this nebulous summertime feeling--at 25 I am no longer suffocating, but verdant and green and surrounding by the warmth I couldn't fully embrace before.

Peach Sheet Cake!

Summertime Peach Sheet Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 TB white vinegar
  • 2 peaches, sliced and pitted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line and grease a 14" x 16" cake pan
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt
  3. In another bowl, cream together butter, shortening and white sugar
  4. Add eggs to the sugar mixture, one at a time, and stir until incorporated
  5. In a measuring cup, whisk together vanilla, milk, vinegar, and mayo
  6. Alternate between sugar mixture and milk mixture into your dry ingredients, stirring continuously until you get a soft, light batter
  7. Line bottom of cake pan with peaches in any design you want
  8. Gently pour and spread batter on top of peaches
  9. Bake for 50 minutes or until browned and fluffy
  10. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to enjoy
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake
Summertime Peach Sheet Cake