I think now is as good a time as any to make the formal announcement that I’m working on another cookbook! If you are a newsletter friend then this is old news (also, thank you for subscribing!) or you may have noticed a sly little hashtag on Instagram, #newcookbook, popping up in a few of my recent photos. I’ve sort of tiptoed around all of this for awhile but today it felt right to tell you all. While the fanfare may not be the same as the first time around, the excitement joy I feel is allllll the same. Perhaps even more so because I get it. I mean I know what’s coming and while part of that is terrifying (truly, like wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night scary) mostly I’m reveling in the creativity – waking up and going to sleep thinking about new recipes – and just so excited to share extremely practical, delicious, inventive recipes that will bring us all to the table.
This book is quite a departure from the first and yet totally not because they are both completely me. Date Night In was date food. I mean some menus took hours to prepare and the food was indulgent in the best sort of way – it needed to be, because again it’s date night! The food helped set the intention behind the evening. With this book though, my aim is for it to be stunningly practical. We’ll cover everything from Tuesday night dinners that take all of twenty minutes to prepare and utilize pantry staples, to our Christmas Eve Wellington with homemade quick puff and Winter Greens Gratin. There are recipes for those weekday mornings when you need to somehow make breakfast in-between showering and brewing coffee like Cocoa Coconut Date Shakes or Sesame Fried Eggs with Miso Aioli. And then for those mornings when you have time to preheat your oven and can make Oven Baked Pancakes with Maple Roasted Rhubarb.
Even though I’ve done this before I’m approaching this yet-to-be-named book quite differently. Date Night In started off with an 80 page proposal which served as my road map. This time it was as if the map was sketched by a 4 year old. But I love that about it – sure it’s caused some fretting in me (I can’t help it, I just fret a lot) but I’ve grown accustomed to this new process and embraced the fact that much of this book is simply coming from me spending time in my kitchen. I want to take you with me as I approach food from the perspective of having worked in professional kitchens but now am a home cook who has a passion to feed my family and friends food that evoke joy and beauty. The recipes don’t necessarily follow a certain diet trend and yet to me it’s health food because they are made with real ingredients with the intention of sharing or sparking a moment of gratitude in our otherwise frantic days.
This post is making all of this real. I mean the contract is signed it’s totally happening but it suddenly feels more real having shared the news on this space. After all this is the place that started it all. And even though the Internet is crowded and we are taking in information at rapid speed and most of us are probably feeling overwhelmed by all the noise, this place will always be my happy home on the world wide web. It’s here where I learned how to take photos of food and by making thousands of mistakes I learned how to write a recipe that you all could follow. It’s here where I discovered a love of writing and sharing my heart. This place, and you all, led me to writing Date Night In where I found that writing books is quite possibly the best work I could ever imagine. And here we are doing it again. It’s just all so damn good I don’t even know what else to say, except thank you. From every square inch of my being I want to thank you all for being here, supporting me, sending me the loveliest emails that so often encourage me in my moments of doubt and insecurity. You all are the absolute best and I can not wait to cook with you in the kitchen through this next book, whatever the name may be.
Now let’s talk about tacos for a minute. Asparagus Tacos: Two words found on the Taco Tuesday menu at Essex and the moment I saw them I knew two things – 1. I had to order these tacos and 2. They had to make them at home. My version uses asparagus that I roast with olive oil, salt, and whole cumin seeds. With a few staple ingredients we whip up a zippy, but not too much so, sauce and top it all with shaved radish, cilantro, lime and crumbled Queso Fresco. What I’ve since learned about these tacos is that they are much more pleasant to eat when you roughly chop the asparagus so that’s how I have written the recipe although the images were taken prior to that revelation. Since it is indeed spring asparagus makes perfect sense but I can imagine the taco craving being just as strong in the winter so in that case I think cauliflower roasted in the same way, or even broccoli or brussels sprouts would make a fine substitution.
With a mouthful of asparagus taco my friend said, “This better be in the book!” Yes, it will be in the book.
*We’re falling into spring with our friends at Chateau St. Jean. This is the first in a series of three springy date night recipes. We’re starting with a Grilled Lamb Salad that is both hearty and light – just what is needed as we slowly move away from long gray days of winter and into light, breezy and nearly warm spring. We’ve paired this recipe with their Cabernet Sauvignon. With aromas of berries and spice it holds up to the lamb quite nicely.
I hate to admit it but it is true what they say about Seattle – it rains, a lot. This year in particular has proven that point beyond what I feel it needs to. We’ve broken many sodden records and recently a headline read “Never-ending gloom? Seattle has had just 3 sunny, mild days since the start of October” That’s right, we have had a collective 30 hours and 51 minutes of sunshine since the beginning of October.
I’ve reached the point in the season where I am desperately ready for the next. I’m ready to feel a bit of sun on my face, get my hands dirty in the garden, wander the beach (without four layers on) and pluck sun-warmed berries off the vines. The roaring fire in the fireplace was once cozy but now I curse it for its necessity.
This morning, Roman was ready for school well before it was time to leave. He put on his hooded rain jacket and favorite baseball hat, grabbed his wooden bat and went outside to practice his swing. I held my coffee cup in tight as I watched him take swing after swing while the rain trickled off the brim of his cap. He turned to the window and saw me watching him with a big grin across my face. His lips curled into a smile, matching mine, before returning to swinging position never once letting the rain slow him down.
Our marriage has weathered its fair share of seasons. In fact it was in the midst of a season that felt much like our gray, wet late winter days when Gabe and I started dating at home. I had resigned to settle into the season of raising young children while pushing aside our marriage. There will be time for us when they’ve grown I would say to myself but just like Roman out in the rain practicing for sunny days on the ball field, I decided that I couldn’t simply wait for this season to pass and expect that our relationship would be okay at the end of it. We needed to continue to live and invest in one another even – or especially – during the gray. Had we waited for the proper conditions – kids in school, sleeping through the night or even waited until they were out of the house – we would have missed so many beautiful moments together in the midst of children wailing, sharpie sketches on the wall and long sleepless nights. Because we made us a priority even when we felt we had nothing more to give at the end of the day, our relationship thrived in a season where it could have easily shriveled and suffered immensely.
In the kitchen I’m willing spring to come regardless of what it looks like outside. I won’t allow myself to sit around and simply watch the rain streak down my windows while there are delicious things to be enjoyed right now. This hearty yet healthful salad is a tip toe into spring as it’s laced with fragrant herbs and peppery greens. It is indeed decidedly green, which to me is the color of spring with fresh, bright and pungent herbs leading the charge.
If Israeli couscous is tricky to find you could easily substitute it for chickpeas, rice, lentils, quinoa or simply leave it out and serve as a more traditional salad. The same goes for the lamb. I love the gentle gaminess here but chicken, beef, fish or even grilled peppers and zucchini would all be lovely in its place.
This salad pairs beautifully with a glass of Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon
1 pound lamb shoulder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Israeli couscous, cooked until just tender
4 cups assorted spring greens (mustard, arugula, watercress, friseé)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup basil and mint leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Chef 1: Salt and pepper the lamb. Grill or roast until medium-rare, 145°F.
Chef 2: Prepare the dressing by whisking together the herbs, cumin, vinegar, honey, dijon and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt then taste and adjust the seasoning to your tastes.
Chef 1: On a serving platter arrange the greens, then the couscous, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and onion. Drizzle on some of the dressing then top with the lamb and add more dressing. Top with more fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime.