Strawberry Leek Pizza with Kefir-Soaked Einkorn Crust

strawberry leek pizza cover

Picking up where we left off Tuesday, here’s a strawberry leek pizza—because nothing showcases summer strawberries quite as well as dolloping them onto a cracker-like crust, alongside sauteéd leeks and cheese. The strawberry-leek combo here came to us after making Sara’s quesadillas, which, yes, we already referenced in the last post but, trust us, they’re good enough to warrant at least one more nod. The combination of golden, oily leeks with sweet, sliced strawberries is one of those classic pairs that, after you taste them together, you’ll want to apply elsewhere again and again. The night I came home from strawberry picking, Tim and I were standing there in the darkening kitchen, eating our slippery, gooey quesadilla triangles, wondering out loud where else strawberries and leeks could belong, “Paninis!” one of us said. “Grilled cheese!” from the other. Then, “Tarts!” “Pies!” “Quiche?” when, like a giant “of course!” it came to us. Pizza. Pizza!

making homemade pizza

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Strawberry (Basil) Jam + Strawberry Jam Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Field of Strawberries

Last week, my friend Christina and I went strawberry picking. I like Christina. Christina is sharp and funny and unassuming enough to regularly surprise you as you get to know her over time. She’s one of the maybe three friends I’ve ever had who is a twin. I’ve always wished I were a twin. People sometimes mistook my brother and me for twins (do you see it?) but, as his knee-jerk reaction has always been sheer and absolute horror when these assumptions have been made, I think it’s safe to say I’m the only one flattered there. I met Christina’s twin, Nicole, a few months ago over tacos at a table barely as wide as a paperback book; I liked her, too.

Freshly Picked Strawberries

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Strawberry Walnut Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

bowloficecream

Last summer, summer 2011, was the summer of wedding planning (also known as The Pit). I spent all my free time hunkered down in there, absorbed in the constant tasks of ceremony details, caterers, jazz bands, invitations, favors, showers, guest lists, seating charts, expectations, and I’ll be honest with you: sometimes it got a little dark. Thankfully, Tim was with me. Having the two of us together made The Pit more cozy.

The only problem with hunkering down for a summer, however, is that you miss a lot of things. It has to happen, but you do. While we were making regular trips back and forth from Chicago, the rest of the world continued on, the way it always does. While our weekends were spreadsheets of to-do lists and hours picking towels and bed sheets at Target, I tuned out of blogs and stopped reading or writing or paying attention to, well, anything that couldn’t get into The Pit with us. Sometimes my family got in there. Sometimes, our friends. But everything else didn’t fit, and so I let it go.

For the most part, that was OK. Simplifying, even. But then a few weeks ago, I was washing dishes in our kitchen, looking out the window, and I noticed how big and tall and purple our neighbor’s tree had gotten. In an instant, my eyes moved across the street to another one, hot pink like a Spring Break bikini. We drove to the grocery store, past that vintage brick apartment complex we always see, and an entire row of trees bordering the road had exploded into whites and reds and violet and deep maroon. It was then that I realized just how deep we’d been buried, together with our heads down, moving through that tunnel in the dark.

Last summer, I don’t remember a flower. This year, giant blooming trees are EVERYWHERE.

Nashville in Bloom with white buds
Nashville pink flowers
NashvilleinBloom_flowers
NashvilleinBloom_house

So if there’s one thing I’ve wanted for summer 2012, it’s to stay above ground. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been here so often. When I look back on this year, I’ll remember making risotto with my brother, enduring weeks of three-digit-temperature days, sitting inside while the sky got dark with clouds and rain and thunderstorms.

NashvilleinBloom_sky

I’ll remember walking through neighborhoods with Tim to see the world in bloom, camera around my neck, marveling at the different colors and the intricate petals and the way they look against the early evening sky.

I’ll remember telling myself to take the time to notice, really look at and observe, the life I’m living: the mornings Tim and I shuffle to the dining table, laptops in hand; the afternoons walking down the driveway, feeling the heat as we grab the mail and see that couple across the street who wave like friendly grandparents. I’ll remember walking through a park last night, where the air smelled mossy and moist, surrounded by one hundred different shades of green.

NashvilleinBloom_twilight

But mostly, I’ll remember what we’ve been eating:

The ice cream.

dual_icecream

Summer 2012, in addition to being the first summer we were married and the first summer I felt like I lived in Nashville has also, more notably, been this, at least in our house: The Summer of Ice Cream.

icecream

There are new flavors rolling out every week, from frozen yogurt to chocolate chunk to cinnamon honey, and we eat it almost as quickly as it comes out of the machine. The first time Tim made this strawberry version, plumped up with chopped walnuts and big pieces of soft chocolate chunks, we polished it off in one day. It might be our current favorite.

bowlandspoon

In fact, the way things are going, this fall may be The Autumn of Ice Cream and this winter, The Winter of Ice Cream, and who knows how long it will go. But whatever the future brings, ice cream and otherwise, one thing’s for sure:

I get to have my eyes open to notice it, right now, today.

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on salad (and other things)

Yesterday for dinner, we made a salad.

I like salad.

strawberries

I like salad especially this time of year, when the weather’s crazy hot in Nashville, the kind of hot where your shirt sticks to your back and sweat beads on your upper lip and walking down a street holding your fiancé’s hand means having to wipe your palm on your pant leg afterwards. This particular year, the heat has brought with it cicadas, ugly little flying creatures with bright red eyes and loud chirping noises, camped out in the trees, on my house, and, for a tragic few minutes Monday morning, right in my freshly washed hair. It’s been something.

But thankfully, these 90-degree days have also brought with them the more agreeable experiences of popsicles, tank tops, week-long visits from my brother (which included the purchase of one very expensive white dress), homemade ice cream, flip flops, Memorial Day grilling, and, back to the original topic, giant summer salads.

(I mean, the salads don’t exactly make up for having to be swatted at on your way into a weekday lunch, but they certainly help.)

pouring oil on the salad

The idea for Tuesday’s salad came pretty simply: Tim got a block of Parmesan as a birthday gift, and we all know Parmesan works wonderfully atop a salad. We bought some berries and arugula and combined them with Trader Joe’s balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, and big shavings of Parmesan.

adding some Parm

And while we both thought the salad needed the extra crunch of nuts—pine nuts? walnuts? toasted almonds? and Tim really liked the sound of adding a sheep’s milk feta throughout, even as it was, it made a refreshing meal. Oh and on the side, there was garlic bread: toasted rosemary sourdough topped with butter and sliced roasted garlic. Pure perfection.

garlic bread

Given that this recipe is still a sort of work in progress, two things:

1) I’d love to hear your versions or ideas for improvements.
2) I feel like I should offer you something else today.

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Homemade (Grass-Fed) Jello

The other day, while I was depositing a check in the drive-through lane, I saw a man come out of my bank and walk to a car that had an Illinois license plate. It was the simplest thing—a license plate—something that I wouldn’t think twice about while I’m at home. But sitting there in Nashville, waiting for my $20 and a receipt, I wondered where in Illinois he was from: maybe the suburbs? I wondered how long he’d lived in Nashville—or did he even live in Nashville? Maybe he was visiting like I’d done so many times over the last year?

Shared experiences, even hints at them, are funny. We all enjoy meeting people who have gone through situations like we have, especially when the situations are less common—say, moving to a new state, for example. We like running into people who know our friends or interacting with strangers who seem to understand us. It’s just nice to feel that commonality. Often, it’s the very way that friendships begin.

Shared experiences can be big things like losing a loved one or, small things like, I don’t know, going wedding dress shopping for the first time (hollah!).

It’s kind of like jello.

gelatin and palm sugar and Vitamix

I mean, how many of us didn’t grow up eating jello, right? There were the fun jigglers of our childhoods, cut into crazy shapes and able to be picked up with your fingers; the fancy molds of holiday dinner parties, filled with fruit or marshmallows or nuts; the simple mixes where all you had to do was combine a packet with hot water and stir.

It’s something so common, we don’t even think about it. But yet, if we went somewhere and they didn’t have it (in the same way another state doesn’t have our license plates), seeing it would be kind of comforting and exciting and community-making. I love jello.

strawberries

And it’s not just the familiarity of jello I love. When I learned how powerful gelatin is in healing the gut (this broth article is excellent in explaining that more), jello took on a whole new value.

For me, the next step was finding a really high-quality gelatin, one made from grass-fed cows rather than pigs, which led me to Great Lakes, an easy-to-order option found online.

A couple experiments and entire-bowls-eaten-in-one-sitting later, and I bring you the strawberry jello pictured in this post. While it is a little different than the boxed variety, it is filled with whole, natural ingredients that you can feel really good about putting in your body—not to mention that help your digestion and overall health.

homemade grass-fed jello

It’s a jello I’m eating a lot lately, so I hope you’ll try it, too—and then tell me about it! Because, the way I see it, we can all use a little more community and kinship, even the kind centered around a food we eat.

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finally getting it now

fresh strawberries

I don’t remember the first time I ate a strawberry. Do you?

I wonder if I liked it right away or if it took some time. I wonder if it was like tomatoes, where at first I hated the texture, and then I had some sliced on pizza and didn’t hate them, and soon started to want them (on pizza, on sandwiches, growing more plants every year). I kind of feel like I always liked strawberries, but who knows? I mean, some things take time to warm up to.

soaked spelt berry muffins

For example, I do remember the first time I soaked flour, and it was no strawberry. Remember that bittersweet soaked whole grain bread experience, the one where I was never quite sure if I’d done it right and the yeast plus my inexperience added up to ho-hum? I could have given up right then. I could have said no more soaking! It’s not easy to like! But then again, where would that attitude get me? I’ll tell you where: to a world without tomatoes, cherries, cheese, kefir, eggs, exercise and, heck, even some of my favorite people.

So I persevered. And go figure! I think I’m finally getting it.

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it’s not enough, but it’s something

strawberry cake

Oh, my. I hardly know what to say. When I sent that last post out into the Internet, I knew you’d be kind, but I never could have predicted you’d be that kind, or that the next morning, reading your messages, I’d have tears in my eyes learning about your friends who are young, or with children, or well into their middle age with very controlled symptoms, one still embracing a huge passion for food, or that several days later, I’d be sitting at my computer screen and wondering how in the world to thank you people, who not only encouraged me SO MUCH this week but who do that, regularly, like habit, here.

So here is what I think: Even if I had every one of you that commented on that last post over for dinner, one at a time, a meal just for you, and we sat and talked, and ate, until we were past full, feeling happy, it still wouldn’t be enough to thank you. I could bake you cookies and bring them to your doorstep. I could hug you, tight, until you could barely breathe. None of it would be enough.

So, like I am doing all the time with you, I’m just going to say thank you. Thank you. And bring you something.

cake on table

This cake, special as it is, still isn’t enough; I know that. But it’s something, and it’s what I have—kind of like that box of bath soap I bought for $3.00 at Walgreens one time when I was a kid, after my mom had given me some money and I knew her birthday was coming, and I wanted to be like the grown-ups and give something. So I sneaked to the counter when she wasn’t looking, and I bought the box with the money she had given me, and when I gave it to her later, she said how nice it was, which in a lot of ways, was her giving to me again. You guys are like her in that way—you say such kind things, and you tell me your stories, outgiving me again and again, and I here I am, offering my box of bath soap.

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