We are just back from a long trip east where, among other things, we attended the incredibly fun wedding of Kyle’s cousin Joel and his new wife, Gina. When I say incredibly fun, I might actually mean the most fun I’ve had in years. Years! The food was wonderful, yes, no doubt – but the band! Oh the band. Gina was a relaxed, happy, gorgeous bride and her ease and delight filtered through the weekend like sunlight. We got to see Kyle’s brother and his wife, whom we see not nearly enough of since they live in Raleigh, NC; our two once-little nephews refuse to stop growing between visits and are getting downright enormous. Kyle’s aunts, uncle, grandparents, and cousins have remained the same size, best I could tell, but it was wonderful to see them even at that.
Gina and Joel were married at a special place – a grand old beauty of a hotel. Planted on the edge of the continent, she sits stately and wise, haughtily impervious to the salty sea air. I imagine that if you listen closely in the hallways you would hear ghostly echoes of wonderfully storied footsteps from long ago. We were with our 1 and 3 year old, so we (along with our neighbors, I’m afraid) didn’t really hear much of anything at all, except for excessive scream-y excitement about the swimming pools, which we could see from our windows! (I’ll spare you the repetition of this particular phrase, and assure you that yes, each and every single time you open the gauzy sheers, the pools are indeed still there! And yes, even though we swim in pools every single week here at home, these were still indeed totally shriek worthy!)
We came home to the usual business of unpacking, and laundry, and an empty fridge. Originally I was supposed to be in LA while Kyle managed the unpacking and laundry and emptiness, because my dear dear friend Ann also got married this past weekend – she was kind enough to do it on Sunday afternoon, and I was silly enough to think I could jet back to San Francisco from the east coast early Sunday morning and then scoot down to Los Angeles on the short flight, to celebrate with her and her new husband, Matt. United put an end to my silliness with a flurry of rescheduling – and now my heart breaks a little bit each time I see another photo pop up on Facebook of Ann with her joy-filled smile and her towering blue heels. Bah. ( … by which I mean congratulations, I love you).
While we’re on the subject, I’m so heartened by the news that there is an official marriage-equality plank in a major-party political platform this election season. It makes me feel even more like cheering for all these weddings.
Weddings are one thing, but marriage is something else pretty much entirely. My dad and stepmom are celebrating 24 years of marriage this week (love you guys). And you know, September is pretty much a perfect month to be married in – with its feet planted firmly in summer and the fall breeze rustling its hair, it shows us how we can compromise, how we can coexist, how we can bring together the best parts from all possibilities. Around here, September definitely shows us why we love summer – the temperatures lift, the light lingers, the markets stalls spill over with bounty. But it also brings a sweet kiss of fall – mornings crisp up so your fingers hug your coffee mug, there are those blue blue skies, and the dusk that settles down over the house come dinner time feels like it means business. The buttery light of a September dawn is some of the most appealing I know: it calls me out of bed, to savor one more summer morning even as it melts away.
My in-laws have been married for over 40 years. I suspect that a big piece of what makes their marriage work is a shared love of food: actually, I can’t believe I haven’t already shared one of their recipes with you. Part of the reason is that my mother-in-law, Sandy, makes things a little differently each time: she is the queen of “use what you have on hand.” My father-in-law, Bob, meanwhile, sends me samples of his culinary inspirations (rosemary-citrus candles, for example) with reference to the incredible dinner they made and a suggestion that it might also inspire me … which it does, more often than not, but it’s not really a recipe.
But a while back, they emailed me about a baked-oatmeal recipe they have been riffing on that includes fresh peaches and mascarpone cheese. My first thought as I read the recipe was, dessert! But in Pennsylvania, this is actually considered breakfast! Sandy made it for us while we were there, and I could have eaten the whole pan. And let me say – this dish makes a convincing case for breakfast or dessert. There is the reassuringly familiar chewy-creamy-oatmealiness. But there are crispy bits along the top where the sugar caramelizes, and there are creamy bits throughout where the mascarpone has melted in. That sweet creaminess is cut through by the fresh tang of little chunks of ripe peaches, roasted in the oatmeal until they are appealingly slumpy(?) and their aroma has permeated through all four floors of the Heller house.
This one is delicious, really, no matter when you eat it or what you call it. And it’s a great way to slip a couple of your last summer peaches into a special weekend breakfast. In fact, the peaches are so nice here that if you have a few more, I suggest you slice them fresh over top. No, this is not gilding the lily … it’s just showing some love. And isn’t that what makes a good marriage?
Peach-Swirl Baked Oatmeal
This recipe was adapted by my mother-in-law Sandy from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen blog. You can make it the night before and bake it in the morning, or make it in the morning, bake it at night, and then eat it cold or re-heated for breakfast. Keeps well for a couple days in the fridge, but I predict you won’t have much left to keep! Kyle likes it hot, so it burns his mouth as he shovels it from the pan. I like it cooled down a touch, so the peach bits firm up a little and the creaminess sets almost like custard. Kyle’s grandfather ate it cold, with milk poured over top. But whatever your fancy, really. Just like in marriage.
2 cups almond milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1/2 cup applesauce or 1 small apple, grated
1/2 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups chopped fresh peached
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
Grease a 12 inch cast-iron skillen or 13 x 9 baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the oats, mascarpone and brown sugar. Once everything is combined, stir in the oats and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared skillet. Spread it around evenly then put dots of mascarpone cheese evenly across the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; allow the oatmeal to sit on the counter while the oven is preheating and take off some of the fridge-chill. Once the oven is heated, uncover the oatmeal and bake 35 minutes (or until just firm in the middle).
Remove from the oven, and then switch oven setting to broil. Let it heat for a few minutes while you sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the oatmeal. Broil the oatmeal for a minute or two, until the sugar is melted and top is golden and crisp.