A new delicious salad and a pie

I am bushed tonight, y'all, but it's been a productive, good week. We received several letters from the boys; Jack sounds positively ebullient, and Oliver does too, in his own understated way. No one who knows him will be surprised to find that with all manner of found object -stones, cobwebs, pine needles, etc- he has erected Tent 7 Town Hall underneath his tent (they're raised structures) at camp and is running it in his down time. We know not who else participates in T7TH but perhaps that doesn't matter. 

I am really starting to miss them and will be beside myself with anticipation one week from Sunday when I first get to lay eyes on them. Aah!

In the meantime, a beautiful pie and a new salad to share.


The pie is a strawberry rhubarb balsamic. Because yesterday was so humid, I could take great liberties with my oil-based crust. It's often quite finicky but is a snap on a wet day. So, fleurs.

And this salad arose from a burst of creativity and a need to use up some produce. I shaved a bulb of fennel and a nectarine, halved a few cherries, and chopped some fennel fronds and mint. I had some pepper-crusted goat cheese and roasted pistachios too, so those went on, and then I drizzled the whole thing with salt, freshly ground pepper, peppery olive oil, and some pear balsamic. Dreadful photo, scrumptious salad. Summer on a plate!

not the prettiest photo, but alas

not the prettiest photo, but alas


Velvet apricots are here, and so, jam.

Each and every year, when velvet apricots find their way to our local markets, I fall back in love with their simple, sensual beauty. Red velvets emerge first, and then their black velvet kin, at least in my area.

I am a stone fruit fanatic, but truth be told, I rarely enjoy eating fresh apricots. Too often they are mealy, mushy, and/or flavorless. But dried, stewed, or preserved? Yes. Now we're talking. 

A few years back, in the thick of my jam-inventing heyday, I happened on a combination of velvet apricots, pluots (a plum-apricot hybrid), sugar, cognac, and a touch of black pepper. It is both basic and decadent, its taste as divine as its jewel-tone hue. 


This year's red velvet apricot crop has beaten plums and pluots to market shelves, and so I had to tinker a bit with my recipe, to optimize for the basket of apricots I'd recently brought home. I suspected that a just-ripe nectarine would do the trick, and it did. I love being forced to come up with alternative ingredients- necessity breeding creativity, and all that.

It's been a while since I had (made) a few hours to make a batch of jam at my own pace. To take time to chop and taste and photograph and stir. The serenity that results from crafting something delicious and pretty, from start to finish, is something that's always drawn me to my kitchen.

This past Friday, as I ladled hot jam into sterile glass jars, screwed on lids and bands, and set the sealed parcels into their boiling bath, I thought about how much I thrive on focused creation. Whether it's working in my garden, writing an essay, or turning a few pounds of fruit into preserves that we'll enjoy throughout the next year, I need to regularly remind myself, especially during harried times like the end of school, that making time for productive, inventive pursuits is never time wasted. 

Hope all of my domestic friends are enjoying this long weekend, and to those around the globe, cheers!