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I love simple, summer food. I love the lack of preparation involved, I love that whatever you make can be eaten at room temperature and still hold up as a delicious, fresh meal. I don’t know if it’s having a newborn… is it still considered having a newborn when they reach six months old? Well, either way, I feel like I still have a newborn.
Right now I’m watching the girls ride their bikes in circles on the big back porch; Lulu is still in her pajamas, and G is wearing some odd sort of mismatched outfit that she pulled on this morning. It’s nearing lunch time and, although we’ve done our school lesson for the day, I wouldn’t say that any of us are particularly awake. This is somehow all in spite of the fact that Roux slept from 9pm to 4:30am on his own in his travel cot – something he doesn’t normally do.
So, here I sit, sipping tea, thinking about the breakfast I may be too late for, and the lunch I should get up and make, and very vaguely about what I might make for dinner. In our time here in England I’ve gone through lots of “meal phases”. I find something that works and is easy and then I just make it repetitively until I get tired and move on to something else. In the fall it was White Bean Soup, in the winter it was Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, in the spring it was Roasted Cauliflower, and I have a feeling this will be the summer of the Garlicky Spinach Flatbread with Feta, Lemon Zest, and Sunflower Seeds.
This flatbread was inspired by a pizza my mom used to order from a local pizza place when we were kids that had the pleasing combination of spinach, feta, and sunflower seeds along with lots of cheese and other vegetables. I was searching for something for dinner and wanted to make a sort of easy pizza to compliment the sunshine we’d had the pleasure of spending all day playing in. We had a lot of spinach we’d gathered from the local u-pick farm, Kyle was working late, and I quickly kneaded together some dough (I use this pizza dough recipe from The Kitchn), and gently simmered my shaved garlic cloves in olive oil. With those parts prepped, the rest of dinner promised to be easy to pull together with a teething babe on my hip and a glass of cab in my hand.
The key is to roll the flatbread out really thin. I triple the pizza dough recipe, but use it to make 4-5 thin pizzas. The edges get crisp, the feta and sunflower seeds get toasted and browned, the spinach shrivels up and start to burn around the edges. Brightness from a sprinkling of lemon zest and fresh thyme bring the whole thing wonderfully together to be enjoyed with a bit (more) wine still piping hot or at room temperature – whatever your evening dictates.
GARLIC SPINACH FLATBREAD WITH FETA, LEMON ZEST, AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS
This flatbread pizza is intensely garlicky, covered with frizzled spinach, toasted feta and sunflower seeds, and finished with a sprinkling of lemon zest and fresh thyme. I use the pizza dough recipe from The Kitchn (included below), I’ve tripled it for you. I roll the dough very thin – making 4-5 flatbreads from the tripled recipe. Adjust the recipe as needed for how many people you’re feeding! The flatbreads are pretty light so four is about the right number for our family.
Pizza Dough Ingredients.
6 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
18oz lukewarm water
Pizza Dough Directions.
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast to the lukewarm water and allow it to dissolve. Once it’s dissolved add it to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for about 5-10 minutes, until the dough is springy and tight – adding a little more flour as needed if it’s too sticky.
Coat a large bowl with a little olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise. When the dough has doubled in size (about an hour) it is ready to use.
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
lots of fresh spinach
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
zest from one lemon
a few springs of fresh thyme, roughly minced
fresh black pepper or red pepper flakes
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add in the garlic cloves and allow the garlic to very gently simmer in the oil for a few minutes – just until fragrant and sweet – before turning off the heat and allowing the oil to cool.
Preheat the oven to as hot last it will go 400-500ºF is ideal.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil it. Roll out 1/4 of your dough as thing as you can and place it on the oiled parchment paper. Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of the garlicky oil and about 1/4 of the garlic onto the dough, spreading it evenly. Season the pizza with a little flake salt, and either black or red pepper.
Top the oil with a single layer of spinach leaves, sprinkle with a couple ounces of feta, and about a tablespoon of sunflower seeds. Cook the flatbread for about 12-15 minutes, until the edges are browned, the spinach has wilted and begun to char, and the feta and sunflower seeds are toasted and golden.
Remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle it with a little more garlic oil, and sprinkle with a bit of lemon zest and fresh thyme. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Slice and enjoy!
GARLIC SPINACH FLATBREAD WITH FETA, LEMON ZEST, AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS
We spent a week in Austria at the end of May, and now as we are packing up for a week in Belgium and the Netherlands, I thought I’d share a few photos from our trip to Salzburg. Our close friends from Oregon were camped out in Salzburg for over a month so it gave us the perfect excuse to hop on a short flight to visit them. It was wonderful to see “old” friends.
Kyle and I spent a few days in Salzburg in our early twenties, but I hardly remembered just how magical a city it is. It was a wonderful place to be with the kids. It’s a small enough city that you can cover it easily by foot and there were great park tucked all over the city… plus having kids gave me an excuse to belt out tunes from The Sound of Music all over town.
We spent one big morning taking the cable car up to Untersberg and then hiking the last bit to the top of the mountaintop for a seriously spectacular panoramic view. The kids were all a bit grumpy by the time we made it to the top, but some gummy bear bribery helped. I didn’t take too many photos at the top since we were busy making sure no tiny people tried to ski down from the top.
While we were in Austria, Lulu turned four! We loaded up for her birthday day and took the train to Hallstatt. To get to Hallstatt from Salzburg involved taking a train to a boat to get across the lake to the beautiful little town of Hallstatt. It’s picturesque from the boat, but once you’re in the (adorable) little town you can barely move as their are so many tourists! Kyle and I both hate being in crowds like that, so we made our way out to the edge of town, called a cab, and escaped around the bend to Obertraun. Obertraun was quiet as can be, we had a whole cafe to ourselves with a view of a park. The girls played on the playground and came back for bites of birthday cake now and then. It was a long, lovely day.
We had a few more days to explore Salzburg, including a visit to the Hohensalzburg Castle, and a couple visits to the Augustiner Bräu (brewery), and a few key Sound of Music tourism spots along the way. A week was the perfect amount of time for our trip, although I wouldn’t have argued about staying another week there.
We have so many changes happening. Changes that, had you asked me three months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to foresee… I wouldn’t have even known to think in that direction. The direction is that Kyle, after working for the same wonderful brewery for seven years, decided to leave. That was back in the March, and then suddenly here we are in the middle of May and he has wrapped up his time there. It makes sense, he’s spent a lot of time there, worked his way up, enjoyed it immensely, and meanwhile has finished his Masters degree in Fermentation Science and Distillation. Now he is ready for a new chapter in his career.
What that means for our family, and what I have spent a fair amount of time in denial of, is that we will be moving. We aren’t exactly sure where yet, but we’re starting to form a good idea, and it’s very exciting. Exciting, terrifying, surprising, overwhelming. There is a mix of grief at leaving the town that we love; the town that is home to some of the most wonderful friends we ever could have hoped to make; a special town that we’ve called home for ten years; and excitement of striking out on a new adventure.
We will know more within a week or so, and until then I’m keeping one foot firmly in denial. For me, the best place to embrace that lovely, conscious state of denial is in the garden and kitchen. After all, nothing says, “Hey, we’re going to be in this home forever”, than planting tomato plants that won’t bear fruit until the end of the Oregon summer. Of course, on the other side of things our house is already full of mostly empty boxes, ready to be filled with different things depending on which direction things take us. But until those boxes are full, taped shut, and we’re lining up a cleaning service to get our house renter-ready, you can find me in the kitchen, embracing denial and gorgeous spring salads.
Everything in our garden is at it’s most tender. The kale is soft and lacy; the pea tendrils are sweet and feminine; the radish greens just beginning to reach for the sun. A very happy place for me is wandering through our little garden with a sharp pair of kitchen shears, feeling the late afternoon sun on my skin, while I trim here and pluck there, dropping greens, micro-greens, and herbs into the same bin to be rinsed and spun and tossed together into a vibrant, tender salad.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a few variations of this spring salad, so feel free to pick and choose and adapt the ingredients based on what might be growing in your garden or available at a local farmers’ market. The tender little greens are certainly the stars of this salad, but the fresh croutons, and breadcrumb salad dressing definitely contribute to the recipe. This salad begs for a glass of delicious Pinot Noir, or maybe a Tempranillo to accompany it… although a crisp Pinot Grigio would be pretty great too. Pour yourself a glass of wine, make this salad, and settle into whatever the moment brings, you can pack boxes (or answer emails, or fold laundry) later.
SALAD WITH HARD BOILED EGGS, GARLIC CROUTONS, FRIED CAPERS, AND BREADCRUMB DRESSING
small carrot tops
radish (or other) microgreens
French breakfast radishes, very thinly sliced
Roma or cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 loaf ciabatta, torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons minced chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Place the eggs in a large saucepan, cover completely with water, place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Allow the eggs to cook in the resting water for 12 minutes (for fully cooked eggs, shorter if you prefer soft boiled). Carefully transfer the eggs to a bowl filled with ice water. Set aside and allow to cool completely before peeling and slicing in half.
Wash and thoroughly dry your greens, place on a large serving platter or in a large bowl.
Pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a large nonstick skillet, add the crushed garlic, thyme and rosemary, turn the heat up to medium and allow the garlic and herbs to infuse the oil. Carefully remove and discard the garlic and herbs before increasing the heat and adding the torn pieces of bread. Toss continuously in the hot oil until croutons are golden and crisp (adding a bit more oil if/when needed). Transfer the croutons to a paper towel lined plate, season immediately with salt, pepper, paprika and gently toss.
In the still hot oil, carefully add a teaspoon or two of rinsed capers (they may sputter a bit in the oil), sauté them for a minute or two before transferring them to a small plate.
Crush one 1-2 of the croutons into fine breadcrumbs using a rolling pin. In a small bowl, whisk together the champagne vinegar, chives, and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil while whisking. Gently stir in the breadcrumbs, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the radishes, broken up chive blossoms, fried capers, tomatoes, crumbled feta, and eggs to the salad. Season the eggs with a little extra pepper and flake salt if desired. Dress the salad, and serve immediately.
SALAD WITH HARD BOILED EGGS, GARLIC CROUTONS, FRIED CAPERS, AND BREADCRUMB DRESSING
Here I am on Saturday night sipping a Hot Toddy, binge watching Gilmore Girls, and attempting to get caught up on my photography editing. I take photos as often as I can remember to grab my camera. When I look at photos of our family trips, simple day to day activities, or special moments, I remember them so clearly. Maybe it’s all that time looking at them as I edit (or procrastinate editing), but there’s something about photography that captures memories for me, so I really make an effort to photograph things.
It seems like just a couple of weeks ago we went crabbing up at our friends’ cabin in Birch Bay, but it was two months ago. I kept meaning to put these photos together to share but time just got away from me, and here we are in November! The last time we were up in Birch Bay was a couple years ago, when Gigi was almost two. The photos I took there a couple of years ago are some of my very favorite photos ever, which is probably because our trip there was so special.
This was our first trip during crabbing season. In fact this was my first time crabbing! We had such a wonderful time, and such amazing weather. The only good thing about time passing by so quickly is that we are that much closer to next year’s crabbing season. It’s funny to look at these sunny, bright photos of bare feet, ice cold Rainiers, and kids in t-shirts, but my motto is: better late than never. Or, at least that’s my motto in this moment of lateness.
We started off our trip with a stop at the Nisqually Wetlands, and some adventures on the Olympic Peninsula including a visit to my Aunt and Uncle’s farm, a morning in Port Townsend…
After a walk around Port Townsend, followed by a few minutes at the beach in which the kids managed to get covered in hot chocolate, saltwater, and sand, we scurried to catch the ferry across the Sound to Whidbey Island. We don’t get to take our kids on the ferries often, but when we do I soak up every ounce of nostalgia it invokes for me. I loved taking the ferry as a kid and very little, if anything, has changed about it.
After a quick lunch on Whidbey Island and a nice drive North via Chuckanut Drive, we arrived at our friend’s house in Birch Bay. The first night it was just a few of us, but by the following afternoon the place was packed with good friends. We spent the entire weekend crabbing, drinking cheap beer, taking long walks on the beach with the girls, kayaking, and catching up with our friends. It was wonderful.
We’ve already got our calendars marked out for next year.