Cherry Oat Crumble

I moved to Seattle at the very start of winter and even before I felt like I was given the chance to hit the ground running, the world itself seemed to be losing its energy. Trampled leaves blanketed sidewalks in grey and brown rot and the sun sighed out every last bit of life by the time I’d leave work. For my first 6 months here, I knew only rain and cold and darkness and listened to the tales of the elusive “summer” that shyly crawls in each year for its brief time to shine. And, at last, that time arrived.

This summer has been tinged with its own bit of magic I’ve never really seen in summer before. Far from the sticky hot, firefly and cicada ones of my home, these don’t hesitate to remind you that there are still snow-capped mountains across the sound, touching the perpetually blue skies. It lets you know that the sun does, in fact, know how to stay up past bedtime, and that, unfortunately, everyone suffers through a heat wave together because this place has no concept of air conditioning. To my utter delight as well, it has been a haven for cherries and the only place I know of where Whole Foods has the occasional $3.99/pound of Rainier Cherries.

With cherries aplenty, that I normally just decide to snack on, I was reminded that fruit desserts so often are the best kind: thrown together. And that is exactly the only kind I can make when the larger portion of my baking supplies remains boxed up in my parent’s garage 3000 miles away. So tell me that I only need a bowl and a pyrex dish?? Hell, I’m game even if it does require a brief span of time where the oven is on. And given that some of my favorite summer desserts fall into the category of crumble/crisp/cobbler, not only for the crunchy, buttery bits but also because of their natural affinity for ice cream, I couldn’t resist a little cherry crumble action.

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This particular crisp makes use of a gluten free topping, one that is comprised of both whole oats and oat flour. Although quite wet and sandy when mixed together, it bakes up beautifully into crisp and golden nuggets with a deep nutty flavor due to both almonds and almond extract. The filling uses sweet cherries mixed with blueberries and lemon juice for an added bit of tang. This is a time where a cherry pitter would have been a nice addition to life but, alas, a paring knife and 30 minutes of spare time had to suffice. Regardless of how you get there, however, that deep rich cherry syrup will make it worth every last bit of effort from your cherry-stained hands.

Cherry Oat Crumble

Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For the Fruit Filling
12oz blueberries
1lb 4oz pitted sweet cherries, quartered
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbs lemon juice

For the Crumble Topping
2 cups gluten free oats, divided
½ cup slivered almonds
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
8 Tbs (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x9 inch glass baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch. In a larger bowl, combine the fruit. Add the sugar mixture, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Tip the fruit into the baking dish.

Add 1 cup of the oats to a food processor or blender and process until you have a fine flour. Add the almonds and pulse a few times until they are the texture of coarse sugar. Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining cup of oats, brown sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Stir in the butter, vanilla extract and almond extract. Use your hands to combine well and gently squeeze the mixture into chunky crumbles.

Scatter the crisp topping over the fruit and bake until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges and the topping is golden and crisp. Let cool for 30 minutes before dishing up and serving with vanilla ice cream.

Grain and Kale Salad with Chicken and Cranberries

In case you've been checking back here regularly, because I'm sure soooo many of you are, you will see a significant absence of posts. How is it that back in November I'm saying, "Oh look I'm in Seattle!" and then...nothing? Not a whisper of elaborate dishes, no artfully constructed tabletops, no sun-drenched flights of beer while gaggles of beanie-clad folk mingle and laugh in the background. 

If I must be honest, food for me these days is more about eating on a budget in a kitchen the size of Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs. I buy takeout with coupon codes and turn it into leftovers. My default uninspired dish of "a pot of rice" emerges more than I care to admit. And then there’s the fact that a trip to the grocery store requires a half-mile and uphill walk, meaning I limit myself to one reasonably-sized bag. 

In addition, the Seattle winter has lived up to its reputation of dreary, drizzly and cold with the occasional spring-like day thrown into the mix that elicits a mindset of, "what soup shall I make this week?" whenever I think about meal prep. I then live on the soup for 5 days, heating up leftovers that precariously tilt and tip in the bowl balancing on my knee while I endlessly tie the knots of some macramé project or another. 

Every now and then I look over at this compilation of years and years of my inspiration and fascination with cooking and get worried that the passion that once filled me so much got muddled somewhere along the way. I used to live for combining flavors, obsessed over putting together lists of recipes I want to try. Now I just linger around the produce aisle in a rut of indecisiveness. “Broccoli or Asparagus? Broccoli or Asparagus?”

Strangely, a few weeks ago, I was struck with an idea out of nowhere for a myriad of flavors that I craved all at once. A grain salad of sorts that combined protein and fiber, crunch and chew, salt, fat, and acid. I went to Trader Joes in a frenzy and once home, concocted something that I loved so much, that I found so incredibly craveable, that I made it again as soon as I was out.  It’s by no means genius but it was mine. For the first time in so long I was inspired and, trusting only what I’ve learned in my years of cooking about how much/how long/how to, I made something that really worked. The inspiration was of course not lost but tucked away, hiding behind the same low-hanging clouds that scrape the tops of the buildings I see from my window. At last, the fog could be lifting.

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Grain and Kale Salad

serves 6

Ingredients

8 oz. quick-cooking farro
1.5 lbs chicken breasts
2 small leeks, trimmed
2 cloves of garlic
2 bunches of lacinato kale, cleaned with leaves stripped from the stems
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 lemon
6 oz. crème fraiche
½ cup roasted and salted pepitas
salt and pepper, to taste
manchego or pecorino cheese (optional)

Prep the vegetables. Cut the trimmed leeks lengthwise and then cut crosswise into ½ inch half moons. Transfer the leeks to a colander and thoroughly rinse. Mince the garlic and then tear the cleaned and dried kale into rough pieces.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook according to the package instructions. Once cooked through, drain, return to the pot, cover, and set aside to keep warm until ready to use.

While the farro cooks, add olive oil to a large and deep skillet and heat over medium. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and add to the skillet. Cook until golden on the outside and all of the pink is gone in the center, 6-7 minutes per side. When the chicken is cooked through, transfer to a cutting board to rest. After a short rest, chop into bite-sized pieces.

In the same skillet that you used for the chicken, add another splash of olive oil, the kale and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently until slightly wilted. Add a ½ cup of water and cover, leaving a small vent for steam. Let the kale braise like this for about 5-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cranberries, chicken, and the cooked farro. Cover and let sit for another 5 minutes until the cranberries become soft. Remove the pot from the heat and add the zest and juice of the lemon, the crème fraiche, and the pepitas. Mix well and taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, dish up a bowl of the grain salad and top with shaved pieces of the cheese, if desired.

Kale Pie and Oh Yeah, I Live in Seattle Now

Furniture sold? Check. Tenant replacement found? Check. Car serviced? Check. These were just a few of my to-do list items recently. You see, nearly a month ago…damn, has it really been a month??... I spent my final hours as a Virginia resident, packing up my Honda civic with the bare essentials, readying myself for my cross county road trip and move to Seattle.

So as you can imagine, the move, the process leading up to the move, really the last two months in general, feel like the craziest dream I’ve ever had. And maybe it’s because I really am living what has been my dream for nearly the past 2 years. But here I am and every morning I leave my little studio apartment, walk out the door, and am still in shock. My view is the entire cityscape, the Space Needle directly in front of me, mountains peeking through on particularly clear and crisp days. I walk to work now (small tech company, and yes it is amazing), splurged on a nice raincoat because that’s now what I consider an “investment piece,” and do things like write food blog posts at a communal table in a coffee shop while wearing all black on a Saturday afternoon. Yup, this is life now.

It’s hard to put the past few weeks into words. In a weird, and I suppose reassuring, way it feels as though I’ve been here for years, as if settling in was the most natural process I’ve ever had to endure. As my dad put it, “I’ve never seen you make a decision so quickly and with so much finality for someone who can never seem to make a decision at all.” But it’s true; I never doubted it once. Though having good friends and a cousin here helps. And yet, there’s the constant feeling of being so new. Listening to people talk about traffic and the surrounding neighborhoods and their networks of Seattle-native friends makes me realize I have a lot to learn, a lot of catching up. The exhaustive list of things to do and see is beyond daunting. The inspiration I see each day has me itching to spend each waking moment immersed in creating. Combining that with the eye-opening road trip through landscapes I didn’t even know existed in the U.S. makes for that crippling sensation of being very small and without enough time to experience the world in its totality.

When I get into these phases in my life were I feel very introspective, driven, and motivated and inspired to go after my goals, I settle back into a routine of dishes as a means of saving time and mental space for other things. You’ve seen some of them here, most notably the coconut and kale rice, the curried peanut stew, the braised carnitas. But one I have yet to divulge is a cheat version of spanakopita that I’ve so lovingly named “kale pie” because nothing says “look at me, I live in Seattle-fucking-Washington now” like “kale pie.”

In short, you take a frozen pie crust, you fill it with a pound of kale from the frozen section of your local whole foods that has been mixed with sautéed onion and garlic, eggs, feta (in brine, duh), parm and red pepper flakes. Then you bake it until the eggs are set and the crust is brown and flaky and hopefully devoid of a soggy bottom. Boom, done. While it bakes, you pop on some reruns of Top Model and build yourself a particleboard desk from Target and then you sit on the floor (because you don’t have a table), taking in each savory bite until it’s time to return to crazy life-ing again.

So here we are, Honeycomb is now a Seattle-based food blog hidden and buried amongst the plethora of other Seattle-based food blogs. I don’t know what that means for this here journal of my cravings and thoughts, if it will survive now that life is throwing my attention at so many other things art and experience-related. It starts to feel trivial and outdated in ways, faddish almost, and beyond the point in time where food photography required more effort that switching to portrait mode on an iPhone and a person’s attention span was longer than the length of an Instagram story.

It’s an interesting time for the creative food world and I’m starting to feel lost in it. It’s become a medium that is so accessible.  So instead I’ve been working on growing and thriving in the more “American craft” and traditional medium of macrame. This is by no means the end of blogging but I’m afraid that Honeycomb will have to take a back burner position to other things for now and exist more for occasional journaling and travel photo documentation. The piles of fiber and wool and cotton await me now. As is with life right now, the change of it all is hard but it feels right. Onward and upward!

Kale Pie
Makes 1 pie
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 frozen pie crust, defrosted
1 lb frozen kale, defrosted and drained of moisture
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 eggs
6 oz. feta in brine, crumbled
½ cup grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until lightly colored. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium with olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and stir frequently for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. When the onions are cooked and the pie crust is par baked, set both aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the kale, the onion and garlic mixture, the eggs, crumbled feta, and the parmesan and stir to combine well. Mix in a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the piecrust and press it firmly into place. Crumble some extra feta overtop if you have any leftover.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the eggs are set and the crust and top of the pie are nicely browned. Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting a slice.

#ChasingTotality: A Seattle Story of Dance Church, Frozen Cocktails, Savory Bites, and "It's None of your Business"

I’ve traveled a lot in the past few years, to see friends, to check out somewhere completely new, to go to weddings, etc. And whenever I go to a new location I can’t help but think, “what is it that makes a person decide to live here.” Maybe it’s where they were born or where their family moved, and the only place that they know of as home. Perhaps they went there for college or work and just kinda stuck around after. Or maybe they visited the place and had this overwhelming feeling of belonging, like the place was some sort of projection of their soul, like it was where they were meant to be in the world.

I’ve only ever felt that way about a few places. One is actually where I grew up, the countryside and rolling hills of Virginia. Another was London where I studied abroad but felt like I belonged there a week into the semester. The third is Seattle. When my friend Cecily and I visited last weekend for my second trip out to see one of our other friends, I had a distinct moment where time seemed to have stopped and it was as though I’d been there forever, that I was just living my life as normal, and it would continue there. Cecily felt the same. And yet before we knew it we were solemnly sitting in the Lyft on the way to the airport, watching the city diminish in the distance and the illusion fading before our very eyes.

So now what? What do you do when you’re homesick for a place you’ve only ever been to twice? How do you fill that hole in your heart when you left a piece somewhere else? Honestly, right now I don’t know. So maybe I start with reliving my time there, rifling though my pictures, remembering the taste of the excessive pizza we ate or the frozen cocktails we drank, closing my eyes and pretending I’m back at Dance Church, dancing my heart out to Justin Bieber. I guess that’s a good start, so here we go.

Staying with our friends Reilly and Nikson and their adorable pitbull Ollie was like staying at the coziest and friendliest mid-century modern home with a constant supply of pamplemousse La Croix, dog snuggles, friend time, and Great British Bake-Off binge watching. Soooo, that alone would’ve made the trip excellent. But add on our lust for a life that includes wonderful food and drinks at all times and you’ve got the makings of a really great vacation.

One prevalent theme of the trip was “rosé all day” which started at our first destination The Steelhead Diner. Situated in the midst of Pink Place Market, this place has great views of shoppers below from their patio and an excellent selection of fresh seafood. After getting started with a bottle of rosé and crown and cranberry shots, we moved on to, you know, actual food. We started with their crispy tater tot rendition, before moving onto a family-style assortment of gulf shrimp, poutine, and the most tender salmon served over polenta with cherries, almonds, and rosemary brown butter. Ending it with more rosé, chocolate pecan pie, and cheesecake left us drunk, full, and happy and glad for the long walk back.

As if our luxurious lunch weren’t enough, we somehow decided that it was also a perfect night for a giant rectangle thick-crust pizza from Brandon Pettit’s Dino’s Tomato Pie. I’m not joking when I say that this ranks top 3 for best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant, bathed in red light and boasting “the longest bar in Seattle” specializes in greasy but oh-so-good Jersey style pizza with a damn good bar menu as well (including a bomb iteration of frosé with amaretto and blueberry). To say we loved the pizza would be an understatement. In fact, even with our long list of places we wanted to try, we made sure to make another stop at Dino’s before heading off to the airport at the end of the trip.

We may or may not have gotten a little, um, crazy after our pizza so needless to say things were slow-moving the next day. Yet the prospects of a return visit to General Porpoise Doughnuts got us out and about soon enough. It was there, with a chocolate marshmallow doughnut and a latte, that we somehow started singing Salt-N-Pepa’s "None of your Business" in a Batman voice which somehow became a “thing” for the rest of the trip? Don’t ask.

Seeking a savory bite and more frosé after doughnuts, we wound up at Nacho Borracho for chips and guac, some casual mid-day frozen cocktails, and a quick photoshoot with their rainbow fiesta of decorations. After drinks we headed over to Scratch Deli for, you guessed it, more rosé and sandwiches. I got the butter chicken sandwich with curry kraut and highly recommend.

To round out the afternoon, we headed over to Rachel’s Ginger Beer for more cocktails. This is a true gem of a place, specializing solely in fun and inventive flavors of super spicy and fizzy ginger beer that you can get straight up or mixed with a liquor of your choice. You can even get a growler to go. But since it was vacation and #yolo, I opted for the boozy ginger beer float: white peach ginger beer + rum + soft serve vanilla. After this liquor and food-filled day, we took it easy that chilly night, hitting up Soi for some warming thai soup then heading over to Bar Ferdinand for a few glasses of wine in their outdoor courtyard.

The next day started with what I would call the best workout I’ve ever had. World, let me introduce you to Dance Church. With no religious affiliation but an all-inclusive and judgment-free environment, this class congregates on Sunday in a dance studio to dance to the heart’s desire to modern pop music for 90 minutes. While there is an aerobic element and you follow an instructor in squats, punches, and twerking, freestyle dance is the main component. Would go again, for sure.

Having met up with our friend Cody, the five of us headed over to Westward for brunch on the patio. We started with sparking rosé, oysters, and a French toast muffin and continued onto mushrooms over polenta and the fanciest avocado toast I’ve maybe ever seen. We stayed in an Airbnb that night in Green Lake, trading in our fancy night out for a round of kings with Raniers and mini-mart chips and salsa while watching the sunset on the rooftop deck. Then Game of Thrones because, priorities.

The next day, after a disappointing moment of watching the eclipse (we didn’t have glasses so we just stood outside as it got slightly dim with a live stream of the totality playing in the background), we hit up Roxy’s diner for brunch and $6 mimosas and the Theo chocolate factory store. We took it easy in the afternoon, chillin in the park, eating vegan ice cream, watching more GBBO, normal things, and that night decided to check out Bar Vacilando just down the street.

Cecily, Reilly, and I unanimously agreed it was our favorite meal, not just because the food and atmosphere were impeccable, but we all felt so at peace, delving into deep conversations, talking about the future and our lives in general, and missing our 4th wheel Melinda. In our own little corner of the restaurant, which we usually need to protect others from our raucous conversations, I felt more relaxed and at ease with my life than I have in a long time. Maybe the mezcal, elderflower, and ginger beer cocktails helped, or maybe the pear and gorgonzola pizza, salt cod croquettes, Korean fried chicken, and green bean fries added to the experience, but I know without a doubt that the company made it perfection.

Our final day we all worked as we awaited our late flight. It was tinged with a somber feeling, as was our final dinner at Dino’s. Nobody wanted to leave, to part ways, to say goodbye to the place that so quickly became our home away from home. Where this leaves me now, I don’t know. But what I do know more that anything though is that the heart is generally accurate, that it speaks to you when it finds something with which it resonates. I remember last year on our trip together to Denver I was so focused on trying to figure out who I was when I should’ve all along just been trusting that feeling inside when I know I am at peace. I really think that I am my own truth when I have that feeling and rather than trying to put my identity into words, should go on intuition and live by my heart instead. That feels right for now. Until next time Seattle.

Two-Tone Strawberry and Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwiches

Um hey. It’s been a while. Guess I’ve done that thing again where I pretend that life only has meaning if I’m doing so many things I forget to sit back and enjoy it all and ignore stuff that makes me happy like writing and cooking. Whoops. Though when I think about it, making my annual trip to Boston, chillin with my college buds by the lake, spending my 27th birthday at a Rebelution concert, starting another bout of marathon training, and hanging out in Raleigh for a weekend is by no means a poor use of time. But seriously, it’s getting to be less about work/life balance and more about life/life balance here. Sigh.

Having so many aspirations and projects and general things I want to do or things I want in my life made me think of this article that I saw on Cup of Jo recently. It comes up with this formula that “Your Achievement” is “Your Potential” divided by “Your Directions, squared”. It’s a great read if you have a second but the main gist is that truly great achievements aren’t feasible if you’re trying to fit in too many at one time. Instead, your greatest successes (and probably this life/life balance I’m having a hard time finding) come at the cost of cutting things out. And guess what? I don’t like doing that.

I like to think that having this never-ending to-do list means success. But, between my macramé side-hustle, this blog, traveling, running, baking, and spending quality time with friends and family, I feel like my foundations are at last crumbling. At these times a quote from the The Fellowship of the Ring movie comes to mind. Bilbo says, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” That Bilbo, he gets me.

So, like any logical person who believes in sound science, I asked my tarot cards what I should focus on – yes I really am going crazy – and performed a “Mind, Body, Soul” reading to get some clarity. For Mind I drew the Hierophant card, signifying knowledge, a desire to learn, to expand mental challenges. For Body I drew the Eight of Cups, a card of ill health signifying that my body needs to move on from health stagnation. And for Soul, the Nine of Cups, a welcoming card of bliss and harmony, one that shows peace of mind and happiness, of things just turning out right. I could not think of a better focus for my soul.

So in order to focus on my mind, body and soul in the ways I see fit, maybe things may slow down over here for a bit. Not end, of course not, but arrive at a more leisurely pace because I can’t deny that this is good for my soul as well. And even if it takes me 5 days to make, assemble and photograph some sort of dish (like it did for these here ice cream sandwiches) and another 2 weeks to write about it, so be it. And speaking of ice cream sandwiches… I made these babies for my birthday last Sunday and today is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day so it all seemed very appropriate to show them to you at last.

These came from a very eye-catching post in Bon Appetit magazine because honestly who can really resist brightly colored, two-toned dessert foods these days. They take some time, some patience, and some precision but the results are worth it for sure. You start by making these rich and salty chocolate cookies, cutting them into classic rectangle shapes and baking until crisp. Then, with some chilling time in between, you melt, spread, and re-freeze 2 flavors of ice cream (I used strawberry and pistachio), cut them into blocks, and sandwich them perfectly between two cookies. They are best after sitting in the freezer for a day or two as well so the cookies soften a bit because who really wants to bite into an ice cream sandwich and watch the ice cream squeeze out the sides. In the end, I guess I could’ve just bought some cookies and saved myself a ton of trouble here, but I gotta maintain some level of insanity over here, right? Wouldn’t feel normal without it.

Two-Tone Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 20 sandwiches
From Bon Appetit

Ingredients
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks of unsalted room temperature butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 room temperature eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. instant espresso powder

2 pints of 1 ice cream flavor, your choice
2 pints of another ice cream flavor, your choice

Whisk together the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and flour in a bowl. In a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium high speed for 4-5 minutes until fluffy. Reduce to medium and add in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla and espresso powder. Reduce the speed to low and add in the dry ingredients. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Take out half of the dough and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly dust your surface with flour and roll out your dough into a 12x16 inch rectangle at 1/8 inch thick. Cut it in half lengthwise and then make cuts crosswise to divide each half into 10 pieces, making 20 total. Transfer them to the baking sheet, prick the cookies with a fork, and bake for 12 minutes. Soften, roll and cut the other half of the dough while these bake. When the cookies are done, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in a sealed plastic bag until ready to use them.

To prepare the ice cream, take 2 pints of one flavor and scoop it all out into a medium bowl to soften for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a 13x9 inch baking pan or casserole dish with plastic wrap. When soft use a spoon to mix up the ice cream into a spreadable, even consistency. Pour into the pan and spread across the bottom with an offset spatula. Place in the freezer to resolidify, 30 minutes to an hour.  Repeat this process with the next flavor, spreading it overtop the first one. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 12 hours.

To assemble the sandwiches, overturn the pan of ice cream onto a cutting board and remove the plastic wrap. Trim off the edges to make them neat and cut into 20 pieces with a sharp knife in the same way you did the cookies. Use an offset spatula to lift up each piece onto an upside-down cookie and top it with a right-side up cookie. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours until hard. At this point you can cover them and let them soften for 24 hours before eating.