Not here

A couple weeks ago, it seemed that everywhere I looked people were enjoying ramp season – like here, and here, and even here. But – and this is the important part – not here. That is, not here, in my house, in California. Where I am.

If these impossibly hip foraged delicacies can make Alana Chernila feel that she’s “looking on at the cool kids from afar,” well – I am a whole lot farther afar than Alana, as measured both in coolness zone and in time zone. Ramps just don’t grow here. And if they did, I probably wouldn’t know the people who knew how to find them. Excuse me, forage them.

But don’t worry – as much as I would love to taste ramps some day, this is not a pity party! No, no. This is a scallop party!

Scallops? you say, surprised. But Hannah you don’t like scallops.

Ah, no, you’re right. I eat most anything, and love most fish, but normally I’m not so much of a non-fin-having-fish person. But my husband … my husband loves scallops so much, and I love my husband so much, that one time at Nobu 57 I ate something that he ordered off-menu, where they sliced the scallops onto our dish as they served them – that is to say, those scallops were NOT DEAD YET when they put them on our plates. I love sushi. But as I regularly try to explain to Jacob, there is a difference between raw fish and alive fish. Or alive fish-like-things. Quick shout out to cousin Melissa for braving it with me. (And yes, it was actually, sadly, predictably delicious).

Where am I going with all this?

For the first time in my life, I cooked scallops. I had all this bright, crisp asparagus ready for roasting and I was thinking butter, greens, springtime … fish. But they were just unloading a pile of fresh bay scallops into the display case when I got to the fish counter, and for whatever reason I had a flash of Kyle’s exuberant face when we ate those other scallops, so many years ago. So, it turns out that sometimes love looks an awful lot like a container of small, creamy white, vaguely cylindrical sea creatures.

I prepared them with a slurry of butter and green garlic from the farmer’s market. The scallops were creamy and slightly sweet, the butter was – well, butter – and the green garlic was almost like eating a romantically whispered hint of garlic, or a beautiful idea of garlic, rather than garlic itself. Those lovely little garlic shoots were sweetly fragrant, thinly streaked with purple … come to think of it, they almost look like ramps.

Well, we live in hope. After all, scallops are one thing I never thought I would see in my kitchen – so for next year’s ramp season … I guess you never know.

Bay Scallops with Butter and Green Garlic
Simple, tasty, and full of springtime goodness. I turned to Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food for my scallop cooking method. The sauce is just butter and garlic – letting those delicate green garlic flavors really shine. 

3/4 pound bay scallops
1-2 teaspoons canola oil
4 green garlic stalks, cleaned and thinly sliced (if you have ramps, I imagine they would make an adequate substitute … )
2 tablespoons butter
Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat. Once it is hot, pour in canola oil, just enough to coat the pan. Turn the heat to high, and add the scallops – do not crowd them, since they need space to brown. Cook for three to four minutes, tossing in the pan as they cook – don’t overcook. Better to slightly undercook them, actually, since they are coming back in the pan in a moment. Remove the scallops from the pan (they should be starting to get toasty brown edges, but still be mostly white). Reduce heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan. Add the sliced green garlic, and saute for about a minute. You want to soften it and release the fragrance, but not let it get anywhere near mushy. Return the scallops to the pan and toss gently for about thirty seconds, to coat with the butter and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm, with oven roasted asparagus and crusty bread.

Once you start

I have always been a morning person. But I have never been a get-out-of-bed person. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to make that move from inside our wonderfully soft, warm sheets to outside of them, bare feet on the cold floor. Once I stand up though, I’m set. I’m awake and happy and so glad for the early morning light and the quiet and the time to myself.

Similarly, I have always loved being outside and being active. In high school and college my sports and fitness activities were morning ones, very early morning ones actually. I love the feeling of being outside in the morning freshness, and then sitting down to breakfast knowing that I have already accomplished one thing on my to-do list. But lacing up those running shoes or pulling on my yoga pants, and then getting out the door and down the driveway, takes some serious self-talk. Usually I try something along the lines of “Just go outside, and if you really still don’t feel like doing it, you don’t have to. You can just walk around the block. Or come back in.” Once I start though, it is easy to keep going. An object in motion and all that.

Apparently, waffle-making has something in common with getting up early and with being active. Once you start, it is easy to keep going. These are made with my favorite salted maple pecan granola, and they are nourishing and golden. This is a denser and chewier waffle than our still-loved yeasted buckwheat version – and it is just the thing to change it up when you are out of buckwheat flour or forgot to make your batter the night before. Long may your waffle streak continue :)

Golden Granola Waffles
These are wonderful smeared with strawberry jam, or you can do what Jacob does – mix maple syrup and strawberry jam together in a bowl, and then dip the waffle into it. This is slightly adapted from Marion Cunningham’s Whole Wheat Granola Waffle recipe as it is found in The Breakfast Book.  

1 1/2 cups salted maple pecan granola (or whatever your favorite granola is)
1 3/4 to 2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

* I don’t use any salt in this recipe, but if your favorite granola is not salted, you might want to add 1/4 teaspoon or so

Mix the granola and 1 3/4 cup of the milk in a mixing bowl. Let it stand for about ten minutes, until the granola has softened somewhat and absorbed some of the milk. Meanwhile, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda (and salt, if using). Preheat your waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

Once the granola has softened a bit, mix in the eggs and then the melted butter. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until just blended.

The batter tends to be very thick; if you find that yours is too thick initially to spread easily into your waffle iron, or if it thickens too much while you are making the first few waffles, then add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it thins a bit. It is good to have a nice thick batter here, but it needs to be loose enough to spread out and fill the waffle grid.

Cook 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter per waffle, until your waffle iron just stops steaming and the tops are golden brown. Eat warm with syrup, or cool on racks and then freeze for later. These reheat really nicely in a toaster oven.

Home (salted maple pecan granola)

I have loved each of my “home towns” in turn. From the duck ponds in Golden Gate Park (all I seem to remember from my early childhood in San Francisco), to the tumbling wabi sabi rose gardens of Berkeley, to the stately tree-lined streets of Princeton – not forgetting my brief sojourn in the Sonoran desert and our five year stint in spectacular Marin county- each place has been beautiful. Each place has also offered a deeply engaged community and a world of opportunities to its residents, and I know I am especially lucky in that sense.

Now we have made our permanent move (well, as much as anything is permanent anyway) to the peninsula just south of San Francisco. I am slowly learning my new town, my new community, my new home. Running in the early mornings through our quiet neighborhood, where the streets are named after the trees that grow around and through them – oaks and pines and towering eucalyptus – I am starting to love it. From our house we can catch glimpses of the glistening bay, and the deep green of the valley. On any given morning as I loop through the hills I am greeted by neighbors out jogging, biking, strolling with their kids or their dogs. Now that the weather is getting warmer, people’s greetings are more expansive – hellos are exchanged, instead of just nods and smiles. There is occasional banter between the runners and the joggers, about who is faster or gets the right of way. Moms stop and chat while their babies doze in their Ergos. And as more and more people come out from behind their big gates to talk about the weather, their dog, the house that just sold down the street, or the Giants chances this year, I am starting to recognize my neighbors. It is a good feeling.

There is no denying the vitality of urban spaces. Big cities are exuberant and lively and full of an energy that can make even tired neighborhoods feel somehow vibrant. My brother Dan, whose multi-media project on Oakland’s 880 freeway continues to inspire, believes that cityscapes are the loveliest landscapes. There was a time when I agreed with him. I can still feel my heart lift a little bit when Oakland’s ports come in to view from the freeway, and I will never tire of viewing San Francisco from any angle (my favorite will probably always be from the Larkspur Ferry as it heads in to the city, close second being from the Marin headlands). But the more I live in quiet places, places just ever so slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the center, the more I believe that these are the places I am meant to be. It is the quiet places that, given the chance, I seem to love most deeply.

Perhaps it is because the quiet places sneak up on you – their vitality is not striking and screaming at you, not evident at a glance or from a tourist bus. But it is there, waiting to be discovered. Neighbors constructing a chicken coop together, a fence being built ever-so-carefully to allow the branches of a live oak to stretch through, motorcycles surprising you with their rumble as the stately retirees down the block head out for a Sunday ride.  I can hear birds calling all day long through my open windows, and the near-constant breeze here on the hilltop rustles through all those trees and has become entirely familiar.

When I get back from my morning runs these days, I usually head straight for one thing: granola. Pancakes and waffles make their appearances on our breakfast table, with occasional eggs or scones or toast. Lately we’ve been on an ojai pixie kick, and the kids love oatmeal or apples with nut butter. But most mornings for me are the same: a smoothie made by my husband (recipe follows the granola recipe), a cup or two of coffee (usually also made by my husband), and granola.

I make granola almost every weekend, and our whole family depends on it throughout the week. If we run out on Thursday or Friday, there is a lot of hemming and hawing seen around the pantry, as we try to find something else that will do. We eat if for breakfast, yes, but we also use it as a dessert on top of yogurt, as an afternoon snack, and to make granola-filled waffles. My recipe is pared down, ultra-basic, almost not a granola at all (perhaps it is actually a granula?)  It has no sugar, but gets sweetness from maple syrup and crunch from how it is baked. It is not an exuberant granola – no fruits or seeds or overly-sweet clumps grabbing at you. It is a granola that sneaks up on you.

For me, it is the quiet (yet crunchy) taste of home.

Salted Maple Pecan Granola
This recipe makes enough to fill one gallon jar. We fill a half gallon jar on Sunday morning, and put the rest in the freezer, to replenish the jar later in the week. It is also nice right out of the freezer though, if you are using it as a dessert topping or snack. You could certainly make a half recipe, since this makes a lot – but you might well end up needing to make more mid-week :)

Note that this granola sits in the oven overnight, so you will want to make it in the evening, after you are otherwise done with your baking. When you get up in the morning your house will smell amazing and you will be greeted by pans full of crunchy golden deliciousness.

10 cups rolled oats
2 cups rough-chopped pecans (or almonds, also very good)
2 cups coconut chips (NOT shreds, but chips)
1 tablespoon salt
100 ml olive oil
250 ml maple syrup – grade B, or a mixture of B and C

Pre-heat your oven to 285 F and line two baking sheets with parchment. In your largest bowl, thoroughly mix the oats, nuts, coconut chips and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, mix the olive oil and syrup. Pour about a third of the liquid into the oat mixture, and stir for a minute. Pour another third and stir another minute. Pour the final third and stir until everything is evenly mixed and all liquid is incorporated, a minute or two more.

Spread evenly over your two baking sheets, then put them in to the oven on a middle rack. After twenty minutes, stir the granola and rotate the pans. After twenty more minutes, stir and rotate again. After twenty more minutes, turn off your oven. Leave the granola to sit in the oven overnight. In the morning, put it in to air-tight containers, and place in your pantry or freezer. It will keep for quite a while in the freezer, and for a couple weeks in the pantry – though ours is never around that long.

Breakfast Smoothies
This is not so much a recipe as a formula, and it is not so much mine as my husband’s. Kyle is so much the smoothie-maker at our house that if I ever am the one to do it, Jacob gets nervous and says “You know, Daddy is really good at blending. Maybe you should ask him to help you.” Since we can’t all have Kyle make our breakfast smoothies every morning, I’m sharing his master technique with you instead. Yum. 

1, 10 to12 oz. bag frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or mixed)
1 banana
3/4  cup plain kefir and 1-2 tablespoons strawberry jam, honey, or other sweetener
OR 3/4 cup strawberry kefir

Optional add-ins: ground flax or chia seeds, or fresh squeezed orange juice, or fresh fruit chunks (mango or berries are especially good – melons are not good, since they are very watery). If you use orange juice as your liquid, you can reduce or eliminate the kefir – add some plain yogurt if you’d like the flavor and protein. 

Put all the ingredients in your blender pitcher the night before you want to make your breakfast smoothie. Put the pitcher in the fridge overnight (the berries will soften this way, and everything will be ready to go when you are rushing around in the morning). When you are ready to make the smoothie, put the pitcher on the blender and blend on your lowest setting for about fifteen seconds, then turn it to medium. Keep blending until you get a vortex in the middle and everything is liquified. (You can add more kefir or juice if you aren’t getting a vortex, or you can eat your smoothie with a spoon, like blender ice cream).

Serve cold. (Extra servings will keep for a day in the fridge, and can be used to make a treat out of your afternoon snack on a hot day or to start tomorrow’s smoothie).

Arsenic what?

This is homemade Chocolate Almond Butter. It does not contain organic brown rice syrup. You know, that ingredient found in granola bars and crackers and baby formula, and other things that obviously should have arsenic in them. Because arsenic in brown rice syrup is – wait what? No, actually – wait, WHAT?!

Yes, I offer you one more reason, in case you needed it, to make your kids’ snacks yourself. I loved Jenny’s post at DALS; she made Alana’s granola bars from The Homemade Pantry (yes, it is sort of like a new kind of bible around here) and loved them. We have also made Alana’s car snacks and loved them. Today though I offer you a combination guaranteed to get your kids off packaged goodies forever. If you doubt me, look at this:

And he’s my pickier one :)

This cracker recipe has everything that a good graham cracker has, but I find it even tastier – there is something about that maple-y whole grain goodness, mixing with all that butter and brown sugar, that is warm and rich and wonderful. (I didn’t promise you my healthiest recipe today – I promised you no arsenic. I mean really, let’s not be too picky about the butter and the sugar on this one, okay?)  And then, when you smear some homemade chocolate almond butter on top, and perhaps sprinkle a couple little leftover slivers of that 70% cacao baking bar on top of that … and maybe even sandwich another cracker over it … well, you might be stuffing your face too. Even if you can find a way to resist them, I promise that your kids, or your grandma, or your neighbor, or your spouse, or whomever you cook for, will enjoy a special treat.

And it won’t be all Flowers of the Attic-y to give it to them.

Maple Brown Sugar Grahams
Adapted from Alana Chernila’s graham cracker recipe in The Homemade Pantry – 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying And Start Making

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into one inch cubes (freeze for a couple of minutes before it’s time to add it in)
5 tablespoons grade B maple syrup

In the bowl of your mixer, combine flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder and sugar.  Whisk together well. Attach to your mixer and add the cold butter. Mix on medium-low speed just until starting to combine, about 30 seconds.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the maple syrup with 1/4 cup cold water. With the mixer running on medium-low slowly add the maple syrup to the bowl in stages, giving the dry ingredients time to absorb each addition. Once it is all in, continue to mix for 20-30 seconds until the dough suddenly “clumps up” (per Jacob) – it will all of a sudden look like dough and come together around the paddle.

Push the dough into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. We went with overnight. You could also freeze one half of the dough if you wanted to make a second batch some other time.

About twenty minutes before you are going to start making the crackers, remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 350 F. If you are using the whole recipe, cut the dough in half.  Lay one half between two sheets of wax paper and roll it as thin as you can (Alana says ideal is 1/8 inch). Tip: I made my wax paper sheets a little bit long, brought the ‘tails’ over the edge of the counter, and then leaned against them as I rolled. This held it in place so I could roll it with more pressure and get it thinner.

I used our pizza cutter to cut out the crackers. (Alana used some kind of crinkle cutter and the photo of her crackers is so cute!) Reroll any scraps and cut those too. Then do the other half of the dough, if you are doing it now. They can be squeezed close together since they won’t spread – I was able to fit fifty crackers, 25 per sheet, with each cracker cut to more or less 2×3 inches (I was not completely precise but they were all pretty close).

Bake at 350 F for about fifteen minutes or until turning gold at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

Alana suggests that her graham crackers are better the second day, and I did find that the flavor had matured on day two – you could taste more of the subtleties of the flours and the syrup. That said, they were really delicious out of the oven.

Chocolate Almond Butter
Much like butter, this takes only a few minutes and my guys love making it. They also love eating it – I give them spoonfulls right out of the jar, which they call “pops”. It is really nice on toast – or smeared on a maple graham :) 

1 cup shelled raw or roasted almonds, whichever you prefer
(if using raw, I also add about 1/4 teaspoon salt)
2 heaping tablespoons dark chocolate shavings from your favorite baking bar
1 tablespoon canola oil, if needed

Put the nuts, salt if using, and chocolate into your food processor with the blade attached. Pulse a couple times, and then blend for about thirty seconds. The nuts and chocolate will break down into a grind (sort of like flour, or ground coffee). Keep pulsing, and eventually they will start to clump together. If you’re not getting a relatively spreadable consistency after a minute or two, drizzle in some of the oil and pulse again. Repeat as needed to get your almond butter the consistency that you want.

This will keep for a day at room temperature, or about a month in the fridge. And it is totally arsenic free.

The fluffness

I promised you three breads for eating with your butter. Challah is a favorite around here, especially on weekends. We typically make a honey whole wheat version that includes slap-kneaded butter and ends up feeling kind of like brioche – I’m sure it is not even remotely kosher, and it also requires an overnight rise in the fridge. I couldn’t quite get there last week. So this is not ‘my’ challah.

But it’s really, really good.

This super easy, kid-friendly, and prolific recipe comes from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, via Emmy at If you’re not familiar with Claudia’s books, check one out from the library – though you’ll want to keep it. If you like stories with your food, not just personal stories but real food history and ethnography, she’s your woman – her recipes are also very often wonderful. I knew I liked Claudia, but I had never made this challah. Then Emmy casually mentioned that it made four loaves. And took only a few hours to make.

Four loaves in a few hours vs one loaf in twenty-four hours. Time to try a new challah recipe.

Our friends Brian and Miles were coming over to play, and they were bringing Zachary’s spinach and mushroom over from the east side (yes!). I decided to make a big salad and this four-loaf bonanza. I planned to have them take a fresh-baked loaf home with them. But we got slightly off schedule and then we changed the plans, and they took an un-baked loaf home instead. This sounds terrible but was actually awesome.

A couple things, then – first, note the ENORMOUS rise of dough (above), up out of my bowl – I am not used to all-white-flour recipes, and was expecting a longer rise time! It worked out – it was high-risen, but not over-risen.  Second, after we braided the loaves I let three do their second rise, and put the fourth in the fridge. That fourth loaf was eventually wrapped in parchment and sent home with Brian and Miles, where it was dusted with poppy seeds and baked later in the evening – and by all accounts turned out perfectly, “really really good” even. So you can share a fresh-baked loaf with a neighbor, as Emmy suggests, and you can also send your play date home with a loaf to bake themselves. Then their home will get that fresh-baked smell, their better half will get to share the post-playdate joy, and they might even send you a text message that says “It’s really really good!” (Those of you who know Brian realize what an extraordinary show of emotion this is).

One final thing – we never, ever have plain white-flour bread around here. Not even challah. Soon after this was out of the oven, I found J with a huge hunk, ripping out the bread’s insides and scarfing them down. “Were you really hungry for bread?”

“No. I just really like this fluffness!”

The Fluffness (or, four loaves of challah)
From Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, via Emmy at

2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (body temperature is good)
1 teaspoon sugar

4 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
9-10 cups flour

1 beaten egg mixed with a teaspoon water, for egg wash

Dissolve the yeast in the water with the first teaspoon of sugar. Set this aside until it bubbles up (ten minutes).

In your biggest bowl, beat the eggs. Add the salt, sugar, and vegetable oil, and beat again. Then add the yeast mixture and beat one more time.  Gradually add flour and let the dough come together. You will need 9-10 cups total; I measured this into a separate bowl, then let J slowly add it while I kept mixing and then kneading in the bowl. Once it was workable dough, I put it on the counter and kept kneading, sprinkling more flour as needed to keep from sticking (I wanted it moist, but not sticky). Knead for about 15 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. (Dough with no whole grain flour is much easier to knead! Who knew?)

Oil your bowl lightly and replace the dough ball, turning in the bowl so all sides are oiled. Cover bowl and set aside to rise; original recipe says for two to three hours, until doubled, but note that it took my dough not quite two hours to more than double.  Punch down and knead again. Divide into four sections (each will become a loaf – a sharp knife and your baking scale make this easy to do evenly).  If you’d like to add raisins to a loaf, knead them in now (a couple handfuls, per Emmy – we didn’t try it, but it looked delicious).

To shape the loaves: you can braid them (just like braiding hair!) or spiral them like snail shells.  (Note: once the loaves were shaped, I put one in to the fridge to slow the rise and allow me to send it home with our friends – this worked brilliantly). Move the shaped loaves that you plan to bake now to parchment lined baking sheets. Let them rise for 1 more hour, until they have doubled again.  Heat your oven to 350 while they rise.

Once they have completed rising, brush loaves with egg wash. Brian recommends that you sprinkle with poppy seeds, though we went plain. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until well-browned and hollow-sounding when you tap the bottoms of the loaves.

Beautiful golden crusts, and delicious fluffness inside. What could be better? Oh, right – a little pat of butter on top of a slice. Enjoy :)

Shining one corner – occupy {2}

No recipe in this post, but if you like food, this is important :)

Marion Nestle, in yesterday’s NYT:

Healthy eating requires a food environment that makes it easier for everyone to make better choices. It also requires a food system that makes it cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables than less healthful foods, so everyone can afford to eat healthfully. Fix the farm bill! (read the full article here)

Lots of people far more eloquent and legally versed than me are talking about the food bill – here, or here, or here. Marion Nestle calls out the food system and its role in our country’s health problems, and I think for many of us she is preaching to the choir. But this idea of a food environment, rather than just a system, is subtle – it brings the responsibility back to us as individuals, which is another way of saying that it gives us back some power. The vast behemoth of big agriculture and industrial food-product creation probably overwhelms even the bravest among us. But our own personal food environments – this is a place where we can make an impact, and see a difference, day to day.

We can teach our kids to eat healthfully, and we can ask our kids “Are you still hungry?” instead of “Are you full?” We can eat locally, vote with our dollars, keep fruits and vegetables in our kitchens instead of Oreos and Pop-Tarts. Or if we have to have the Oreos and Pop-Tarts, we can make them – leaving out the real scary stuff, eliminating the packaging, and on the best days teaching our kids about how to nurture themselves and their bodies with what they put into them.

Changing our home environments might not feel like taking on the system in the ways we want to and ultimately need to – and there is a place for big action, a place for speaking truth to power. But there is also a place for taking care of our selves and our families. We impact our own food environments every day – and I think it is important to know that it matters.  We can shine one corner of the world.

(Or paint it, as the case may be).

Cheers to all of you out there shining your corners. Thank you for feeding your families with love, and awareness, and hope for a brighter food future.