Friday Faves

Happy Labor Day Weekend, friends! Its always a little bitersweet to say goodbye to Summer, but I think Fall is in the air – it was gray and rainy in Seattle yesterday, college football starts tomorrow, and in case you haven’t seen it all over Facebook/Instagram, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back (a few weeks early, IMHO). I’m looking forward to celebrating my cousin Max’s wedding tonight, and the first Husky game in our new stadium tomorrow. I hope everyone has fun plans for the long weekend!

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{raspberry smash cocktails at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara}

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{chalkboard wall, inspirational quote, and tassel garland at my favorite local coffee shop near my parents’ house}

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{my new skincare obsession, thanks to my friend Jessie’s recommendation}

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{truffle popcorn on the RN74 happy hour menu}

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{berry sangria on the porch at my friend Katie’s beach house}

Very Berry Sangria, from Real Simple Magazine

1 bottle of red wine (750 ml)
1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1 12 oz. bottle of ginger ale
1/2 cup sugar (or simple syrup, to taste)
2 oz. blackberry liqueur

Toss the wine, berries, sugar or simple syrup, and liqueur in a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Pour in ginger ale just prior to serving. Fill individual glasses with ice and pour sangria over ice. We then topped with champagne, optional. Cheers!

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Homemade Pesto, Two Ways

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I’ll never forget the first time I went to Italy, in 2002, and discovered “pesto genovese.” I had read that the Cinque Terre was the birthplace of pesto, and thus rationalized ordering gnocchi alla pesto at every meal for weeks. A classic basil pesto, made of just seven ingredients, it was somehow so much more delicious there than anywhere I had ever had it here – and remains more delicious than any I’ve had since (but for a couple trips back).

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I plant basil every spring, use it throughout the summer, and somehow have an abundance turning to flower in August.  As such, last week I decided to make a batch of pesto to freeze (one of my favorite uses for pesto, aside from just using it as a pasta sauce, is to use it as a garnish for minestrone soup all winter – freezing small amounts in an ice cube tray is the perfect way to have homemade pesto on hand year round).  And as long as I was in the pesto spirit, I tried a kale pesto recipe that had been on my to-do list as well. While the classic pesto is always delicious (although nowhere close to the Italian version), the kale version is pretty dang good too, and you can feel that much better about yourself.

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Classic basil pesto, Barefoot Contessa version: pine nuts, walnuts, garlic

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Blend in the parm, basil, salt and pepper, and then add the olive oil until it reaches the consistency you’d like. Ina calls for a fair amount of oil, I used less. I do wish I had blanched the basil leaves, as some recipes recommend – it helps remove any bitter flavor and helps the leaves maintain their bright green color as well.

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Basil Pesto, from Barefoot Contessa

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts (you could use all pine nuts for a more traditional pesto, or all walnuts for a cheaper and healthier alternative)
3 tablespoons garlic, or 9 cloves (I used a little less)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place the pine nuts, walnuts, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds, then add the basil, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly puréed. Add the parmesan and purée for another minute.  Use immediately, or store pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of oil on top (any exposure to air will turn your beautiful bright green sauce brown within minutes, it’s just heartbreaking).

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This kale pesto is pretty similar to the basil pesto recipe, only it uses all walnuts, and lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. I used the bagged kale from Trader Joe’s because I was too lazy to drive to another grocery store, but its a lot easier to cut out the stems when you’re working with whole leaves.  Here you definitely need to blanch the kale leaves, and remove the stems, or it will be too bitter.  Even if you aren’t a kale lover, this is a delicious and super healthy pesto that could be used as a sauce (thinned with water), a dip or a spread.

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Kale Pesto, from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

1 small bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (I used a little more)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or a little more)

Blanch the kale leaves for about a minute, then transfer to a strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Once the kale has cooled, squeeze out the excess water and set aside. You should have about a cup and a half of kale.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, and walnuts and pulse to chop. Add the kale, water, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and pulse to combine (I added a handful of basil here as well). Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you like (I thinned it with a little too much water, which is why it looks like gross green water in the picture – I promise it tastes better than it looks).

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Friday Favorites, Santa Barbara Edition

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I’ve spent the last few days in Santa Barbara with my cousins, and we’ve had a delightful time biking, eating, and drinking our way through the city.  I’m having trouble with my poolside wi-fi, so just a few brief highlights while I take a break from the sun.  It’s a rough life, I know.

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{bike ride to butterfly beach}

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{happy hour at the harbor}

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{new favorite juice bar}

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{wine tasting downtown}

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{delicious dinner at bouchon}

Happy Friday! I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine, wherever you may be. xoxo

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Barefoot Contessa’s Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

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So I know we’re still at least a month too early for soup season, but since August is the height of tomato season I figured now is as good a time as any to share this recipe. I was first introduced to this soup by my friend Lindsay, so I need to give her some credit for it. When we were roommates in college, I used to cook more than Linds – and even for a number of years after college, her cupboards/freezer usually consisted of cheerios, red and black licorice, and lean cuisines (and the fridge was usually empty – I think she ate her cheerios dry). Once she got married, remodeled her kitchen, and stocked said kitchen with all sorts of registry loot, however, she turned into this amazing gourmet cook. Coupled with the fact that she has a much more adventurous palate than I do, this means I can always count on her for some fun new recipes. And ever since she introduced me to this soup, I’ve had multiple requests (and repeat requests) for it from pretty much anyone who tries it.

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I picked these tomatoes from my parents’ backyard – they’re literally ripening faster than they can eat them/give them away (what I would give for a full sun deck to grow my own!!). Everything else you can get at Trader Joe’s. Tomatoes go in seeds and skins and all – you don’t even have to peel the carrots.

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The best part about a puréed soup is that you don’t have to worry too much about dicing your veggies too perfectly – just give them a rough chop and toss them in the pot.

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Ina would love it if we all used homemade chicken stock, all the time, but that usually doesn’t happen (read: never happens) for me.

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Such a tiny bit of cream (I use half and half), it hardly counts. And who doesn’t love an immersion blender?!? Vitamix also works great here.

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In a perfect world, this soup would be topped with prettier homemade crostini – but Dave’s killer bread is so much better for us than baguette, right? Any homemade crouton or crostini really does make for a yummy topping, though – at least until its actually soup season, and we can just eat it with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup, from the Barefoot Contessa

Serves Six

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion (1 large/2 small)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (approx. 3 cloves)
4 lbs vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (approx. 5 large tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil, plus julienned basil leaves for garnish
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
Croutons or crostini, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes.

Add the cream to the soup, and then process through a food mill (Ina’s suggestion) or purée with an immersion blender (I do it this way since I don’t have a food mill, and it turns out just fine – you could use a blender or a food processor as well if you don’t have an immersion blender).

Serve hot, with julienned basil leaves and croutons/crostini.  Enjoy!!

Friday Faves

So I realized last night that we’re halfway through August, and thus two weeks away from Labor Day. Can someone please tell me how that happened? Where did the summer go? Fall is my favorite season, so I’m not too sad, but it’s always a little scary to realize how fast time is flying by. It was almost dark at 8:30 last night – as excited as I am for sweaters and boots and football season, that kind of made me want to cry. Next week I might have to focus on more “summery” highlights, but for now, some randoms:

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Coffee and breakfast treats at my favorite Madrona café on Sunday morning, after dropping off my Glassybaby rental (let’s pretend that peach scone is a tofu scramble, Carrie Underwood-diet-style).

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Thank you gift from my friends Ellie and Charlie after our play date last Saturday night. Babysitting used to pay five dollars an hour, and I would do homework once the kids went to bed – this time I received a lovely “sussie” instead, and I got to pour myself a glass of wine and watch Mindy Project reruns after the babies went down.

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Falafel salad – my new obsession from Harried & Hungry, my favorite grab-and-go workweek lunch place. Healthy(ish) falafel recipe coming soon – such a great vegetarian (and gluten free!) option that I often forget about.

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Happy hour at Bottlehouse, my new favorite summer/deck/happy hour hang out in Madrona (where I spent a lot of time last week).

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Some of my favorite pics from my brother’s wedding last weekend (at least, from those that were on my phone) – clockwise from top left: terrible angle for me, but somehow the only picture I have of me and Joe; my hair, which I was obsessed with – after countless weddings with “meh” bridesmaid hair, finally a “messy side bun” that turned out like I wanted it to (and on a related note, anyone planning a wedding in the Portland area should call Portland Makeup and Hair immediately); the beautiful bride and groom; killing time pre-ceremony  with the adorable flower girls.

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy these last few weeks of summer while they last!

Party Planning: Rehearsal Dinner for my baby bro

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Shortly after my brother got engaged last summer, I asked my parents if I could take over “their” responsibility of planning the rehearsal dinner. I’ve always loved weddings, and any sort of event planning, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to help my parents, do something nice for the bride and groom, and indulge my inner party planner at the same time.  I had so much fun choosing a venue, invitations, the menu, etc. – if only I could figure out a way to do this for a living.

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Simpatica is a catering company and “dining hall” in Southeast Portland – I love the simplicity and casual elegance of the room, and of course the food is to die for. Hilary, the woman who coordinates their private events, was so great to work with and took care of all of the important stuff – all I had to worry about was the fun little details like flower arrangements and decor.

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Anyone who knows me knows I’ll use any excuse to decorate using Glassybaby. I rented “Elephant” and “Sweet Pea” to coordinate with the gray and lavender color scheme for the wedding, and the white and lavender dahlias – and fresh lavender – were the perfect accent.

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Deciding on a menu was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that my brother has the palate of a picky five year old, and this is a hip, “foodie” (and very Portland) type of a restaurant. I don’t eat red meat, so I’m never entirely confident in my meat selections – but I feel like you can’t really go wrong with steak and salmon. My mom and I had fun picking out apps and sides that sounded delicious but would still pass the “Joe test” (nothing too exciting/exotic, and absolutely no beets). Most of the guys were skeptical of the gazpacho shots, and I’m pretty sure my grandparents thought they were alcoholic, but aside from that I think the food went over well with everyone.

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Gazpacho Shots with Radish Salsa – fun fact about me, I adore soup in shot glasses

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Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto on Crostini – so simple but somehow so delicious, I’m now on a mission to make my pesto this good

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Blackened Chicken Skewers with Sweet Pepper Marmalade

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Heirloom Baby Romaine Salad with Bing Cherries, Grilled Walla Walla Onions, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

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Applewood Smoked Ribeye with Garlic Herb Butter

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Cedar Plank Salmon with Italian Salsa Verde – literally melted in your mouth

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Grilled Summer Squash, Walla Walla Onions, and Green Beans with Romanesco

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Crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Fresh Herbs and Olive Oil

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Baird Family Farms Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream – clearly I waited too long to take this photo

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Drink Menu/Wine List – yes please

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I was so happy with the way that everything turned out, and I think my parents and Joe and Rose were too – everyone seemed to have a lovely evening, and there were barely any leftovers (true sign of a yummy dinner, right?). The bartender even told me this was one of the funnest (and loudest) groups she’d had all summer. As it turns out, throwing a four course meal for 36 is easy, so long as you have a professional coordinator to help, and someone else’s visa to pay for it all! Can’t wait to plan my next event!

Friday Faves, Portland Edition

Happy August 9th, everybody! Today is my brother’s wedding day, so it’s an extra exciting day around here. I spent a lot of time in Portland over the past week, in preparation for the wedding festivities, so please enjoy some of my “Portland Faves” while I’m off to get my hair and makeup done (and have a mimosa):

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My all time favorite food cart, from the city that made food carts hip. My perfect lunch: “bambino” size Whole Bowl, hold the sour cream and olives, for $5. I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to bring WB to Seattle, but I recently discovered the “GFF” cart and its a pretty close second.

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Stumptown coffee at Petunia’s, my favorite vegan, gluten-free cafe in the Pearl – I didn’t realize when I ordered my Americano that “vegan” meant no half and half, just almond milk – only in Portland! (also: reasons I could never actually be vegan).

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Pre-wedding brow wax at Blush, my first stop whenever I’m in town.

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My Grandpa Nelson passed away fifteen years ago, but during his life he had the most amazing (and enormous) garden and orchard. Rows and rows of tomato plants, corn, carrots, potatoes, tons of berries, plums, apples, pears – I could go on and on. One of the saddest things to watch after his death was the deterioration of his garden. It’s only taken 15 years, but this year my dad planted his first tomato plants.  I even got to make a yummy pasta with the first red ones!

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Last Friday night I drug my mom, aunt and cousins to dinner at Simpatica, the restaurant where my parents hosted the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding last night (blog post coming Monday, get excited).  I wanted to see the space, taste some wines, and do some last minute layout-planning for the rehearsal dinner, but as a perk we all enjoyed an outrageous four course meal. 1st: fried squash blossom stuffed with herbed chèvre on a buttermilk dipping sauce; 2nd: baby mixed greens, grilled haricot verts, blueberries, chopped almonds, red wine vinaigrette; 3rd: fennel-crusted Oregon Albacore, sautéed padron peppers, cherry tomatoes, corn, basil, green goddess dressing; 4th: peach crisp, crème fraîche ice cream.

I hope everyone is looking forward to something fun this weekend.  Wish me luck on (co) writing my best man speech – nothing like waiting until the very last minute! xoxo

Smitten Kitchen’s Peach Dumplings with Bourbon Hard Sauce

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I’ve been dying to make these dumplings ever since I first opened my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook last October (when I went to Deb’s book signing party, obviously) – but since peaches are a summer fruit, I’ve been patiently waiting to make them until now.  My dad’s favorite dessert is anything involving peaches, and his birthday is in mid-July, so my goal was to make them for his birthday dinner.  July came and went, however, dumpling-less (you know summer is way too busy when you can’t find time to make your dad peach dumplings for his birthday!!).  So when I was at my parents’ house this weekend, I decided to make them for a belated birthday dessert.  The birthday boy tried to ruin my plan by announcing that he’s not eating gluten, but I chose to ignore that minor detail and made them anyways.  And what do you know, he ate his entire dumpling – they were just way too good to pass up.

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After sampling peaches from literally six different booths at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, I ended up getting these at Whole Foods – but they were local and so, so sweet and juicy and delicious.  Luckily the recipe only calls for three, so if you happen to get a bag of five or six you have a few to snack on.

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The only difficult part of this recipe is the pie dough – and it’s not really even difficult, its just that I’m not a pie dough expert and thus my dough did not roll out into a perfect rectangle like the recipe said it would. I should maybe say it’s the only time consuming part – everything else is quick and easy. I don’t want to tell anyone to use store-bought dough, but technically if you wanted to, you could (I feel like I point out this shortcut a lot, but it’s only because I really want you to make this, and I’m afraid most of you won’t because you’re afraid of pie dough).  Having said that, this crust recipe is really, really good.

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Anyway, once your dough is rolled out, you’re golden. Mine just took the longer route to get to six 6-inch (ish) squares, but once it got there the rest was a snap. 

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All of the sudden I feel like I’m making Chinese food. It’s a little dumpling – how cute is that!?!  Just put a teeny, tiny dab of butter on your peach half and fold it up.  I definitely had to re-chill my dough, though, as after about my second dumpling it was pretty soft and thus harder to fold/crimp.

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All the crust hardships were worth it, though, because 45 minutes later this deliciousness came out of my oven. I served it with the bourbon hard sauce (Deb gives you the option to just use a few dashes of vanilla and a tablespoon of water if you don’t want to use alcohol, but I thought the bourbon was pretty dang good) and vanilla ice cream and it was really was pretty close to perfection. The butter and sugar melt together with the peach juices to make a delicious caramel-y sauce, the crust is flaky and crunchy and divine, and then there’s a whole (technically a half, but an intact half) peach inside!  Deb says its one of the best things she’s ever made, and I’m inclined to believe her.

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For the pie crust: (Smitten Kitchen’s “All-Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough“)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup ice-cold water

For the filling:
3 large peaches
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark brown)
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few fresh gratings of nutmeg, or a pinch of ground
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces, kept cold
1 large egg, for glaze

For the hard sauce:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
A few dashes vanilla, optional

Make Crust: Instructions here.  Deb will explain why she thinks mixing your crust by hand results in the flakiest crust, but I’m lazy and did mine in a food processor, and it turned out just fine.  If you don’t have a food processor, however, a pastry cutter will work – and your crust will probably be flakier than mine.  Roll your dough out to a 12-by-18-inch rectangle (this is pretty tricky, mine did not look as good as Deb’s looked in her pictures), and divide into six 6-inch squares.  If dough gets too soft or warm while you’re rolling it (mine did), continue to the square stage, but then transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill them in the freezer for a couple minutes, until they firm up again.

Make Filling: Halve peaches and remove pits.  Deb recommends scooping out a little extra flesh from the pit indentation with a melon baller, so that there is more room in the “belly button” of the peach to pack the filling.

Assemble Dumplings:  Mix brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a little dish.  Spoon one lightly packed tablespoon on top of each peach half, smooshing as much of the sugar mixture as you can into the center. Dot the top of each with a piece of the cold butter.  Center a peach half, cut side up, in your first pastry square.  Bring corners up to meet each other over the center – if it feels tight, or as if you’re short of dough, make sure that the dough underneath is flush with the peach curve; it tends to get slack – and seal the seams together, pinching with your fingertips.

Bake Dumplings: Arrange dumplings in a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg together with one teaspoon water to form a glaze.  Brush glaze over the tops and exposed sides of dumplings (I then sprinkled with demerara sugar). Bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 45), until pastries are puffed and bronzed on top.  

To Finish: While baking, make the hard sauce.  Beat softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, and bourbon until smooth (I added a few drops of vanilla here as well).  Scrape into a serving dish.  When pastries come out of the oven, dollop each (or at least the ones that will not be served to children) with a heaping spoonful of the hard sauce, and serve pastries with the sauce melting over the sides.  Ice cream optional, but delicious.

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Happy Peach Season, and Happy Birthday Dad!

Friday Faves

Happy Friday, friends! Can you believe it’s already August? It feels like this summer – this whole year, actually – is flying by. After weeks and weeks of perfect summer weather, Seattle had its first few overcast days this week, and I know I’m a true Northwesterner because the grayness, mist, and 65 degree temperatures felt heavenly. This girl is definitely ready for football season. A few highlights from the half sunny, half gray week: image Wine tasting at Two Vintners, my new favorite Washington winery. I joined their Wine Club this past weekend and can’t wait to go back – and to drink the Grenache Blanc that I purchased (featured on Canlis’ tasting menu this month, no less). image Peach shortcake for my friend Scott’s 30th birthday dinner – homemade Smitten Kitchen biscuits, fresh peaches tossed with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar (Scott: “are these like homemade canned peaches?”), and Ben & Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream (Haagen Dazs vanilla bean on the side – no such thing as too much ice cream, right?). image Latest score from the (constant) Banana sale. The day I attempted to purchase these, they were 40% off of the first markdown – but they had to ship them from a different store, and by the time they processed the transaction the following day they were 50% off of a second, further reduced price. $130 shoes for $38, yes please! image Nordstrom Anniversary Sale “Beauty Exclusives” – $268 value for $128 – if you do the math (which I obviously did), that’s a 53% savings. Stock up before the sale ends on Sunday! image My half successful, half failed attempt at dinner last night – the all-over-Pinterest Martha Stewart one-pot pasta. I did one pot with gluten free angel hair (fail), and one with Smitten Kitchen’s farro version, which turned out delicious. I’m sure regular pasta would be fine – the rice pasta just got too gummy – but I think the fact that the farro takes 30 minutes really helps develop the flavors (the pasta only takes 7-10, so those onions still looked pretty raw to me). Wishing everyone a lovely, back-to-being-in-the-80s weekend. I’m having another peach dessert tonight (peach crisp with crème fraîche ice cream, how yummy does that sound?!) -trying to enjoy these last few summer weeks while we have them.  I suppose fall will be here soon enough.  xoxo