Approaching the end of summer

In normal years I imagine summer to be filled with gin and tonics on the front porch, fresh corn on the cob grilled in their husks alongside simply seasoned steaks, grilled sardines paired perfectly with a bottle of chilled rosé… the list goes on. If this were a normal year those items–and many more–would have been on my summer list. The problem with moving is that typical routines get shaken up and it can take a while for all the pieces to fall back into place. For example, this year’s summer list never got finalized, meaning that if something was to happen, it would in a spontaneous fashion. Though we didn’t manage to host our annual rib fest this year, and though we’ve yet to properly break in our new front porch, this has still been a special summer, and one we’re sure to remember for a long time. Here are some of the highlights.

Introducing my dad to the beauty of Walla Walla during a family wine-tasting weekend in June

A trip to Kauai, which served as a much-needed transition for my husband and me from the structure and demands of the academic year to a summer that ended up feeling even busier

The annual zucchini blossom and anchovy pizza, a re-creation of a pizza we ate at Forno in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori during our honeymoon

Many wonderful grilled meals, from salmon and vegetables on my parents’ deck overlooking Puget Sound to the most amazing tender and flavorful ribs perfected by my husband

Cheers! From a celebratory toast at the kitchen island in our new house…

…to the first pie rolled out and baked on that same island a few weeks later when we officially “broke in” our new kitchen

Watching my cat, Max, scared and traumatized by the move, adjust and become comfortable in his new home

An inaugural meal at our new dining room table, which was a gift from my in-laws

Those just scratch the surface of the memories created this summer. I’ll never forget my parents’ generous gift of time and work as they spent countless hours painting at our new house or the weekly dates my husband and I spent at our favorite French cafe in Seattle. The forecast suggests continued warm weather into late September, so hopefully there will still be opportunities for afternoon drinks on the front porch and maybe even some candlelit dinners outside. But regardless of what we manage to fit in during the next few weeks, it’s been a good summer. And autumn is always full of its own delights to anticipate.

Cooking in hot weather

It’s been hot in here today. The home office has felt like a sauna as the still air envelops the skin with humidity, the fan in the other room teasing the writer with its sound, though said writer can’t feel a bit of the benefit.

Still, I’m making a point to not complain about the heat. After all, it’s a rare treat to enjoy summer like this in Seattle. And, after all, Walla Walla–where I spent the weekend wine tasting with my mom–is a whole lot hotter than this.

A lot of people try to avoid cooking when it’s hot out. They seek out summer recipes like Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season or 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. They’re probably wise. But sometimes it’s just a joy to cook. Especially in bulk. Last Thursday I made a plum compote. An hour of simmering on the stove produced a lovely burgundy-colored compote spiced with cinnamon and vanilla bean, the perfect accompaniment for something creamy like ice cream. Or ricotta.

After some other summer cooking–penne with ricotta and zucchini blossoms–I had some extra ricotta on hand. Good thing, because a little bit of hunger one day gave me a grand idea: top the ricotta with some plum compote, stir it around, and enjoy a sweet snack with all the satisfaction of a dessert (it’s reminiscent of cheesecake) with the sense of eating something much healthier.

Try it. The recipe’s easy. It’s delicious. I’m still enjoying it, countless servings later.

Spiced Plum Compote
This comes together easily–just buy a bunch of plums and cook them according to the directions below. However, if you prefer more specific proportions and instructions, here’s the recipe on Epicurious I adapted it from. Enjoy!

A couple of pounds of plums, quartered and pitted (it’s okay to leave the skins on)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split, with the seeds scraped out and reserved
1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients–including the vanilla bean pod and its seeds–in a large pot and heat over low to medium-low heat for about 45 minutes until the fruit has fallen apart and thickened.

Variations on a theme

I still remember the first time I heard about the Corpse Reviver #2. It was November 2008, and my husband and I were enjoying a weekend in Walla Walla with some friends. After leaving Seattle on Saturday morning and spending the afternoon wine tasting, we finished the day with an incredible dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford.

I won’t bore you with the delectable details of our meal, but I will tell you about the intriguing item I didn’t order, but made notes on for later: the Corpse Reviver #2. An ingredient list of gin, Lillet, pastis, lemon juice, and Cointreau, it sounded delicious, but not exactly what I needed after an afternoon of visiting wineries and an evening of fine dining.

I later found out that the Corpse Reviver #2 wasn’t just a specialty cocktail with a crazy name, but it’s an old-school drink that goes way back. Anyway, it’s since become a favorite among my family, and has received a variation on occasion, such as a splash of champagne (don’t tell that cocktail purists about that).

I still don’t know what happened to the Corpse Reviver #1, but I’m taking the #1, #2, etc. approach to naming this lovely set of aquavit cocktails concocted by my husband. The base of them is essentially the same, but it’s amazing how a couple of changes–such as adding bitters or changing the garnish–can significantly alter the taste.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering what happened to Aquavit Cocktail #1, you’ll find that recipe here.

Aquavit Cocktail #2
A couple notes about the ingredients in both of these recipes. Choose an aquavit with a nice caraway flavor. I like Linie, from Norway. For the pastis, I prefer Ricard, but you could also use Pernod.

1/4 oz. pastis
1/4 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. aquavit
lemon peel, for garnish

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until ice cold. Strain unto chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.

Aquavit Cocktail #3
1/4 oz. pastis
1 sugar cube or 1/4 oz. simple syrup
2-3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (available at specialty-food stores or online)
2 oz. aquavit
lime twist

Shake according to the recipe above. Garnish with a lime twist.


What a crazy few weeks. From a crisis at work to the stress that’s been hovering around ever since, I’m in serious need of a break. Thankfully I think a vacation is just around the corner, and it’ll come none too soon.

Have you ever had those times in life when you just want to escape, to go away to a nice hotel room without any communication with most of the real world for a night? Or to get away from work until the stress floating around the office dissipates and disappears like smoke from a dying fire? That’s where I’m at right now.

I know things will get better soon, that it won’t be long before my job seems fun again and my co-workers and I are back to our cheerful, creative selves. But in the meantime, I need to get away at times, to see the big picture, to do things that put the important things in perspective.

RoseLike learning to bake lefse from my 90-year-old grandma. Like creating memories with my in-laws while wine-tasting in Walla Walla. Like savoring a delicious meal with parents. Like grounding myself in my faith in God.

I recently asked you what makes you happy. Seriously, what are those things? Who are the people who always manage to put a smile on your face? Do you think about them often enough? Are you grateful for them? At the risk of sounding trite, the days leading up to Thanksgiving are a great time to reflect on the blessings in life.

PetuniasMaybe it’s your spouse, who loves you for who you are. Maybe it’s the child who reminds you of the miracle of life. Maybe it’s the warm bed you sleep in each night, or the food on your table every day. Whatever you’re thankful for, please try not to take it for granted. I’m saying that just as much for myself as for you. Life is good. We’re very blessed. And thinking about that can help us get through even the toughest of times.

Walla Walla

Walla Walla

I’m back.

After being away for a long weekend, I’m back at my desk at home, checking e-mail, uploading photos from the weekend trip, and writing this message.

I spent a long weekend in Walla Walla with my family. Cayuse Vineyards holds its annual wine release party during this weekend each year, and though I’ve gone wine tasting in Walla Walla several times in the past couple of years, this was my first time getting to experience the party at this master winemaker’s domain. We also visited some other great wineries. What a weekend. What a treat for my palate. What a disappointment returning to reality! But that it must be. And that means I’ll soon have more to write to you about.

I’ve read that bloggers should develop a regular posting schedule, so that their readers will know when to anticipate updates. I’m not sure that’s such a good plan for me, as I want to write when I have something to share. But in an ideal world, I would like to post something at least once a week. So look for something else soon.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos for you to enjoy from this weekend. Santé, or skål!

Walla Walla

Walla Walla

Walla Walla