Coming back from vacation is hard. Coming back from vacation with a bad case of food poisoning is brutal. I’m suffering ladies and gents. What makes it worse is that after a week of jean shorts and beaches, I return to San Francisco and it is full-on FALL.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to summer – I’m still not – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t autumn treats to look forward to. I’m ashamed to admit that I was once, not so long ago, an addict of Starbucks’ bevy of seasonal beverages. Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’m looking at you. I don’t think I even liked the taste all that much – it mostly tasted like a normal subpar Starbucks latte with a shot of nutmeg. Pumpkin Spice Lattes were more like a comfort food, familiar and warm and consistent. Writing these words I’m realizing how incredibly effective their marketing was on me…
In the spirit of holding on to the last bits of summer, I reincarnated the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Meet the Pumpkin Latte Popsicle. Everything you loved about fall espresso drinks in summer-friendly form. Enjoy them while you still can!
ALSO – photos are all film. I really like it. What do you think?!
Summer, I hate to say it, is ending. Even though I’m no longer a student, summer still provides relief from the norm. Sure, I still go to work everyday, but it feels different…playing hooky just seems a little bit more okay. I don’t think I’m alone with this feeling. So in a city without seasons like San Francisco, what makes us feel like summer is the time to let loose? Maybe it’s the longer days, or the store shelves full of bikinis and shorts. Or maybe it’s just the years of conditioning from school. Whatever the reason, I’ve been clinging to these final weeks and celebrating the season whenever I can. This meal is my dedication to summer nights. The tofu and mushrooms are marinated in a fresh ginger sauce and served cool – nothing gets more summery than that. I served it over rice, but it would be equally great on noodles or even greens, so go with what you love.
Okay. I have a confession. Again. I made three batches of these in two days. I want to blame it on Spencer…but that would be a bold-faced lie. Sure, he ate his fair share, but this is on me. I’m addicted to these muffins and I’m not afraid to admit it. Lemon poppyseed was always a favorite of mine growing up. Muffins are already a questionable breakfast choice, but lemon poppyseed avoids the cloying sweetness of coffee cake or chocolate chip, so you can almost convince yourself it’s nutritious. I’ve substituted orange here, and it’s lovely. The orange juice imparts more fruitiness than your boring run-off-the-mill lemon muffin, which I favor. I imagine you could use any citrus, so go crazy with that grapefruit/tangerine/lime!
It’s not something I recognized at the time, being the law-abiding goody two shoes that I was/am, but I lived a very sheltered childhood. One of the few things I was allowed to do without supervision was walk to the local farm stand. I felt like a total badass doing this without my parents. Yeah, sure, it really only involved crossing a street, and my mom probably trailed me the entire time, but that didn’t take away from the thrill of independence.
One of my favorite things to buy was tomatoes. I would slice them up when I got home, sprinkle them with salt, and eat them right then and there. Nothing beats the fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes of summertime – these were especially good, even forgiving my nostalgia. I still enjoy eating tomatoes raw. But hell, now that I’m all grown up and am allowed to operate the oven without my mom watching over my shoulder, I can do SO much more than that. Behold, oven roasted tomatoes. It’s like tomato flavor times ten plus a gooey texture that just beckons to be put on toast. This began as a 2AM holy-shit I’m hungry and there are about 3 ingredients in my kitchen sort of meal. I promise, though, it tastes just as good at more reasonable hours of the day. Just like salted tomatoes, this almost feels to simple to share. But fuck it – happy summer!
I read an interesting article yesterday about a food research firm – these are the people that made Frappachinos a “thing” – and how a small group of people is apparently responsible for mapping the food trends of the world. I hesitate to link it…because yes, I was reading Buzzfeed (…fuck). Nonetheless, I found it fascinating and a little terrifying that there is some person somewhere who decides that kale salads are what’s next, setting off an economic and social domino effect. I mean, can you imagine how psyched your local neighborhood kale farmer must have been when all the sudden kale was the hottest leafy green on the block? Or more realistically, the CEO of some huge corporation who has the patent on germ-resistant kale seeds… There’s a kale salad at Wendy’s for Christ’s sake.
Lentils, to me, are the anti-kale. They’re not trendy – you won’t be seeing lentils served at that hot new restaurant down the block. Every other food blog and that food blog’s mom do not have a lentil recipe or seven. I get it. Lentils don’t look all that great – a rainbow of colors can’t hid their weird shape and mushy texture – and most of the time they come in a fatigue shade that isn’t exactly easy on the eyes. Let’s face it, a bowl of lentils is homely…not exactly the type of dish one would typically want to serve at say a dinner party. This lentil salad is a bit more sophisticated, thankfully. The addition of slow-roasted, balsamic drizzled tomatoes elevates the dish from something your great, great Irish grandmother made on a bad week to a meal more fitting of modern dinner guests. It’s not truly a salad, but for the sake of making it sound less like a bowl of slop, I’m naming it such.
I’m sure that before it’s recent surge in popularity, kale was boring, just like it’s grocery store neighbors, just like lentils. Call me crazy, but I’m rooting for a lentil comeback. They’re quick to cook, nearly impossible to fuck up, and I’ve been told pretty damn healthy as well. When McDonald’s starts serving this…I told you so!
It’s hard to believe that I moved to San Francisco a year ago, fresh off an incredible trip to Vietnam. I blame it on the seasonless weather. Last summer isn’t separated from today by leaves turning or snow falling or flowers blooming. And so last summer feels less like 12 months ago about more like 12 days ago. On the evening we moved in to our apartment, after wheeling our four suitcases across city blocks and up the four flights of stairs, I insisted on making a late night stop to the grocery store. We trekked to Safeway, an eerie and frankly nasty location at that hour. We sat on our mattress – the only piece of furniture we had at the time – and ate our Safeway ice cream out of the tub, with plastic spoons from Starbucks. It was empty and so hopeful, so exciting. Of course, at many moments, we shape the course of our lives, but it always feels subtle, if it feels like anything at all. But sitting in my empty apartment, I felt, albeit briefly, in control of my life – that the emptiness in front of me was mine to fill.
So – what’s happened in the past year? Well, we have furniture now, as much as I enjoyed the austere decor. It took about 8 months to pony up the money and the motivation, but we finally furnished our place. In celebration of our apartment-versiry, we had a number of friends over for dinner. It was our first real “dinner” party. We spent all day preparing. We squished 8 people into our tiny kitchen. We used every plate, knife, fork, and cup that we owned. To say it was a full-house would be an understatement. I made these spring rolls, for the happy occasion, among other things. The last time I had made spring rolls, though, was in Vietnam, last June. It seems fitting, then, to share these now, in celebration of so many things of the past year: our lovely apartment, great friends in San Francisco, delicious food at a real table…owning more than just a mattress…
I’ve been craving all the wrong things lately. It’s summertime and I should be feasting on watermelon and sipping lemonade. But. It’s San Francisco. So instead of picking at salads and getting my tan on, I’d much rather cuddle up with some tea, comfort food and the remote.
Enter potato salad. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s a “summer” food. It makes for a fantastic picnic side dish – you can prep it in advance and the flavors only get better with a little time. I actually prefer it day-old as leftovers. Potatoes don’t jump out as a summer staple, but they’re a starch and paired with mustard are sort of reminiscent of pretzels and beer and drinking at biergartens. …Okay, it’s a stretch, but roll with me here.
Still not convinced? Potatoes still aren’t sounding light and fresh and summertime enough for you? Let me introduce you to my friend spinach. Throw anything on a bed of leaves and now it’s a real salad. And salads, my friend, are meant for summer, so I have license to eat this all month long. Go with the baby spinach varietal to avoid chomping and feeling like a dinosaur.