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Every Tuesday

Whoa. I got sucked into a black hole for a bit there, a (very pleasant, very festive) black hole of weddings and out-of-town visitors. Somehow it’s now September 26, and I’m glad to be alone tonight, in a quiet house, with a so-so brownie that I’ll probably eat anyway, rain falling outside and all the lamps lit. Hello! Or, OH-LO!, as June puts it.

In the weeks since I was last here, Megan and Sam got married, and Gemma and Christophe came to help us celebrate, and after that, my in-laws arrived, and now we’ve got a cousin from New York and her boyfriend in the guest-room-slash-dungeon downstairs. And because there is no one who doesn’t like tacos, for the past three Tuesdays, we’ve taken whoever is in town, including Sam’s entire family, to Essex for taco-and-tiki night.

Brandon started daydreaming last winter about doing something fun at Essex on Tuesdays, a night when Delancey is closed and Essex, at that point, was too. He played around with a few ideas - maybe a barbecue-only menu, or spaghetti and meatballs, something like that. We were both big fans of Alvaro Candela-Najera’s Monday night tacos at Sitka and Spruce (which you can now find every night at The Saint), so that got us thinking, and then Niah mentioned that he wanted to try doing a tiki night at Essex, and as it happens, tiki-style cocktails go well with the flavors and heat of Mexican food, and boom boom boom, one thing led to another, and that’s how we decided to do a special taco-and-tiki menu every Tuesday - with meats cooked in our wood-fired ovens (!) and tortillas made on-site from fresh masa (!!) and a free chips-and-salsa bar (!!!) and housemade hot sauce (!!!!).

Of course, Brandon and I know a lot more about eating tacos than we do about making them, so we turned for help to a couple of cooks at Delancey and Essex, Ricardo Valdes and Pedro Perez-Zamudio, whose families are from Mexico. To be fair, Tuesdays are now much more theirs than ours. After a couple of months of testing and re-testing, the menu was ready around mid-May, and that’s when I added the words "Taco-&-Tiki Tuesdays, 5 to 10 pm" to the hours sign in the Essex window, and we were up and running.

I’ve wanted to write about taco-and-tiki night here for a while now. But I wanted to share a recipe when I did, and it was hard to choose one that fit. Some of the best parts of the menu - the al pastor tacos, for instance, or the lamb barbacoa, or the lengua - involve a lot of steps, a wood-burning oven, a kind lady named Juana with a bowl of masa and very skilled hands, and spices that can be hard to find if you don’t have access to the kind of vendors that supply restaurants. Happily, though, Ricardo’s famous guacamole is not nearly that complicated, and he agreed to teach me how to make it.

Ricardo’s recipe was inspired by the guacamole his grandmother Guadalupe made when he was growing up in Oxnard, California. Originally from Jalisco, Guadalupe - not sure if I am permitted to call her by her first name? Maybe not? If I’m struck by lightning tomorrow, you know why - had an avocado tree in her backyard, and she grew her own cilantro, jalapenos, and serranos, all of which she used in her guacamole, along with red onion, garlic, tomato, and a generous amount of lime. Ricardo remembers watching her make it, methodically cutting each avocado in half, removing the pit, and scoring the flesh with a small knife before scooping it out of its shell and mashing it up with two forks. (I felt wistful just typing that, possibly because the only cooking I actually witnessed my grandmother do involved a packet of Lipton soup mix, a kettle of boiling water, and a mug.)

Years later, when he was hired as the chef de cuisine of a new Mexican restaurant, Ricardo was tasked with working up a great guacamole, and he started from Guadalupe’s formula. He left out the tomato, added some olive oil, and over a number of reworkings, he pinned down the quantities. The result is, and I don’t know how else to say it, really special. I mean, we’ve all made guacamole: you chuck some avocados in a bowl with stuff, and it’s good. Right? It can’t be bad. Still, this one is special. It’s bright with lime, spiked with just the right amount of herbs and heat, chunky enough to stand up on a chip but silky from a scant addition of olive oil. It’s the result of a lot of repetition, of familial memory coupled to muscle memory - Guadalupe’s taste and technique, honed and refined in restaurant kitchens.

And if you have someone smart around - someone like Ricardo, an actual professional who has the foresight to save some whole cilantro leaves for a garnish - your guacamole might even look attractive in a photograph! I had no idea that was possible.

It occurs to me that I should also share a (life-changing, guacamole-changing) tip that Ricardo gave me about avocados and ripeness. TAKE NOTE. When you’re making guacamole, of course you’ll ideally use firm-ripe avocados, but if only some of your avocados are ripe, weep not. Take the unripe ones, scoop the flesh into a food processor, add a dribble of olive oil, and blend them until they’re creamy, like soft, beaten butter. Somehow, blending them like this with oil deepens their flavor and makes them taste richer, riper, not sweet and starchy like normal unripe avocados. You can then take this blended avocado and fold it together with cubes of nicely ripened avocado, and make your guacamole from that.

P.S. I’m excited, and somewhat terrified, to be leading a discussion with one of my mentors, Renee Erickson, at Book Larder this Wednesday night, October 1, at 6:30 pm. Renee’s first book, A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus, comes out on Tuesday, and it’s every bit as good as you would expect. (Someday I will get a tattoo of my life motto: WWRD, or What Would Renee Do.) Come see us!

P.P.S. On a related note, Brandon and Co. are cooking a four-course dinner at Delancey on Monday, October 6 to celebrate Renee.  There are still a half-dozen tickets left, I believe, and you can purchase them through Book Larder.

P.P.P.S. While we’re talking about restaurant stuff, this talk by Mark Canlis, of Canlis, is so good, so smart, and so humane. If you’re interested in the industry, or even just an avid diner, it’s worth listening - particularly to the first 27 minutes. Turn it on while you’re cooking one night.

Ricardo’s Famous Guacamole
Adapted from Ricardo Valdes

If you don’t mind the expense, it’s a good idea to buy a couple more avocados than you actually need for this recipe. Inevitably, one will have some gnarly spots of rot inside, and you’ll want to throw it out. Also, don’t cut open your avocados until you’ve prepped the rest of the ingredients, because the flesh browns quickly when exposed to air.

Last, note that this recipe scales up nicely. At Essex, our batches are ten times this size, and we mix them in a bowl big enough to sit in. (That’s last week’s batch, at right.)

2 teaspoons lime zest (about 1 lime’s worth)
¼ cup (60 ml) lime juice (about 2 limes’ worth)
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion (about 1/8 of an onion)
A handful of chopped cilantro (about ¼ of a bunch)
½ of a jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
½ of a serrano, seeded and finely chopped
½ of a garlic clove, pressed
4 teaspoons olive oil
A couple of generous pinches of kosher salt
A couple of grinds of black pepper
3 firm-ripe avocados

Prepare all of the ingredients, and keep them close at hand. Then, and only then, cut the avocados in half, remove and discard the pits, and (very carefully, with the avocado skin still on) cube the flesh of the avocados with a small knife. Use a spoon to scoop the cubed flesh into a medium bowl. Dump the rest of the ingredients on top of the avocados, and then go after the mixture with two forks or a potato masher, stirring and smashing until you like the texture. Taste, and adjust seasoning. It will likely need more salt, and you may also want more black pepper. If you’d like your guacamole to be spicier, add more chopped jalapeno or serrano. If you’d like more garlic flavor, add another half a clove. Note that the freshly made guacamole will be quite lime-y, but don’t worry, because the lime flavor will mellow with time. (That said, if you still think the lime is too dominant, feel free to add a dribble of olive oil.)

When the flavor is to your liking, press plastic wrap directly against the surface to keep air away, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Guacamole will keep this way without browning for at least a day, and it’ll still taste good after a few days, though it will probably discolor at the surface.

Yield: depends on how guacamole-crazed you are, but probably enough for 4 to 8 adults


September 6

From the summer of 2006 until the early spring of 2011, we lived in a nondescript duplex on 8th Avenue that shared the block with some other nondescript duplexes and one notably terrifying exception that we referred to as Boo Radley’s house. I didn’t love the neighborhood, but it was mostly fine, and after we adopted Jack, I got to know it well, because Jack, being a terrier, needed a lot of walking. We found our habits. If the sun was out, we’d walk up to the P-Patch at 60th and 3rd and ogle people’s tomatoes and dahlias; if it was raining, I’d drag him for a quick loop around the block; and if it was evening, dark already but not too cold, we’d walk a big rectangle through east Ballard so that I could look through the lit-up windows of the bungalows we passed as families cooked and sat down to dinner. I often dreaded walking the dog, especially in the fall and winter, when it gets dark so early, but once we were out and in a rhythm, the glowing squares of those windows would keep me going - we’ll turn for home after we pass the next house, or, wait, the next one - and so would the smells that filtered out to the street. I remember one night when I caught what was surely the scent of banana bread baking, another when someone was clearly burning garlic, and another when a whole block of 7th Avenue smelled like ripe apples. Or maybe it was applesauce cooking? Maybe I’d passed under an apple tree? It was too dark to tell.

We live closer to the water now, about a quarter mile from Puget Sound, and if the air smells like anything, it smells like saltwater. I imagine that will always feel novel to me, having grown up in a city where the nearest beach was, I don’t know, 500 miles away. I don’t walk much after dark now, because Brandon is working and June is asleep in her crib and Jack is an old man. I’m usually doing something like I’m doing tonight: sitting on the sofa with Alice, avoiding the dirty laundry by drinking a Negroni and reading, listening to Jack snore down the hall.

But late this afternoon, June and I took a sunny bike ride around the neighborhood, and somewhere between an impromptu stop at Uncle Sam’s house and a quick trip into the grocery store, June started screeching that she couldn’t get into her Tupperware of crackers, so I pulled over, reached into the bike trailer to help her, and that’s when I noticed it: the air smelled exactly like summer in Colorado, like the camp I went to for two summers 25 years ago, like dry pine needles in the heat. It’s something we almost never smell here, living as we do in what is essentially a rainforest, where everything is damp and green green green, always. But there it was. My memory of the scent was immediate, below language, just boom, Colorado summer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A couple of blocks later, blissed out in the grocery store parking lot, I misjudged a turn and fell off my bike into a trash can. But that smell! I’m so glad I found it again.

I was going through my hard drive last night and came upon some photos I took on my old digital camera six years ago, the summer that we got Jack, in that janky duplex. I was surprised by how nostalgic I felt for those windows and that white table, which we still have somewhere but don’t have a proper place for. All of these photos were in a folder called "Lunches." Lunches! I’ve let my lunch game slip. Oh well.

There’s a lot of good stuff going on out there lately:

How to be polite.

What Writers Can Learn from Goodnight Moon. (Goodnight nobody!!!!)

Chaz Ebert on Life Without Roger, from Anna Sale’s very, very smart Death, Sex & Money.

Ashley English’s newest, Quench, won't be out until late October, but I got an early peek. Rose and Cardamom Soda! Homemade Throat Soother Tea! Hard Cider! I'm in.

I picked up a copy of Rookie Yearbook Two last weekend, and the essay "Eating: A Manifesto" had me doing the Arsenio Hall woot woot woot arm thing. I love Rookie.

Betsy Andrews, executive editor of Saveur, is teaching a master class on food memoir and poetry at Hedgebrook.

My friend David Huffman has just launched a Kickstarter for his film Fork, and I’m backing it.

Last but not least, it’s pledge drive time at Spilled Milk. Right. I know. Nobody likes pledge drives. But I speak for both myself and Matthew when I say that making Spilled Milk is our favorite job. And we give it away for free. Your contribution helps us pay for ingredients, equipment, audio hosting, and production assistance, so that we can bring you regrettable jokes every week. (Thank you!)

I hope you’re having a great weekend.



I have a child who is about to be two years old. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but one thing I do not have a lot of thoughts about is a second birthday party. I could take it or leave it. For one thing, June doesn’t understand birthdays yet, so it doesn’t matter to her either way. Also, I am lazier than I let on. When your kid turns one, a party feels mandatory, because you kept a small human alive for an entire year and you survived it and bells must be energetically rung. Cake must be baked! BEERS MUST BE DRUNK! I am here to report, however, that a second birthday party feels much less urgent.

Still, it seems sad to not mark the occasion. My friend Natalie and I were talking about that sometime in July, because her Eero was born in early August and my June was born in early September and we were both feeling lukewarm on party planning. Then Natalie hatched an idea: we could throw a joint party. And: FUDGESICLES.

We split the difference in birthdates and threw the party in mid-August, inviting a bunch of friends to the park for a Sunday potluck lunch and popsicles. (I highly recommend, by the way, throwing kids’ parties in public parks, preferably ones that include playgrounds. That way, the kids can lose their minds on the slides and teeter-totters while the adults toss around frisbees, lie in the grass, whathaveyou. And: it’s FREE.) This particular park has a sloping lawn that points toward Puget Sound, and that morning, there was a dense fog hanging over the hill. We claimed a couple of picnic tables, hauled the coolers across the lawn, and hoped for sun. Natalie and Michael brought two big balloons, and I brought two strings of paper flags that Natalie made for Eero’s first birthday party last year and then bequeathed to me for June’s first birthday party a month later, after which my father-in-law carefully folded them into a Ziplock for safekeeping and I stashed them away in the kitchen closet, and now that I have typed all of this, I guess it could seem like a real bummer to reuse somebody else’s old party decorations?  I assure you, these are some really nice flags. We intend to use them until they fall apart.

Brandon and I bought a chickpea salad, a platter of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and a pile of blankets, and Natalie and Michael brought guacamole, Natalie’s famous cucumber dip, chips, water, and a croquet set. As our friends arrived, some with their own children and some without, they brought cheese and fresh fruit, lemon bars, noodle salad, Greek salad, so much food.

At at some point, I noticed that the fog had lifted and my child was running after a crow (GETTA BUHD! GETTA BUHD!) with a croquet mallet in her hand. Then somebody opened the coolers, and popsicles were happening.

We’d agreed that Natalie would make a batch of popsicles with stone fruit, and what she came up with was much more than that: peach with honey and chamomile. I made my usual raspberry yogurt pops (I cut the sugar back to ½ cup / 100 grams, though; not sure why I ever thought you’d need more than that) and, at Natalie’s suggestion, I made fudgesicles, too. She’d never had luck making them, she told me, and I’d never tried. But I like a challenge, or I sometimes like a challenge. I occasionally like a challenge. Anyway, I decided to work on a fudgesicle recipe.

There are a lot of them out there, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. It’s even fair to say that there’s a fudgesicle mini-craze going on right now: Food52, for instance, just ran a recipe for them. My goal was a chocolate popsicle that resembled, at least somewhat, the Jello pudding pops of my childhood. I wanted it to be silky, creamy, dense, and rich, and not even remotely icy, and I wanted the flavor to lean more toward chocolate than cocoa. What I wound up with posed almost no challenge at all, because it’s only a small tweak on Alton Brown’s recipe. (Thank you, Alton Brown.) It uses only five ingredients: chocolate, cream, milk, a small amount of cocoa, and vanilla extract. It also comes together in maybe 20 minutes.  As my aunt Tina, one of June’s namesakes, would have said, What’s not to like? June smelled like chocolate for the rest of the day, and secretly, I hoped she always would.

P.S. I am thrilled to announce that in late October, I will be teaching a four-day workshop on storytelling and personal narrative at the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute. I was a writing student at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute as a teenager, so I am beyond, beyond all number of emotions, to be teaching at Quartz Mountain myself. (!!!) The fee is $605 for in-state participants and $1,005 for out-of-state participants, including meals and lodging. Scholarships and discounts are available for Oklahoma educators and members of arts organizations.

Adapted from Alton Brown

You will note that there’s no sugar in this recipe, which means that you need to be thoughtful about the chocolate you use, because that’s what will bring sweetness. Brown calls only for "bittersweet chocolate," but when I tried using 70% cacao chocolate, which I think of as a pretty standard percentage for bittersweet, it made for a very bittersweet popsicle. More bitter than sweet. Brandon loved it, and June ate it, but it wasn’t really my thing. I like to combine two types of chocolate for this recipe: Valrhona “Jivara” 40% milk chocolate, and Valrhona “Manjari” 64% dark chocolate. I use four ounces, or 113 grams, of each. (Yes, they are wildly expensive! I know. We buy them in 3-kg bags at the restaurant, and I regularly steal some for my home use. I am a lucky bastard.) If you don’t want to shell out like that, Scharffen Berger also has a good 41% milk chocolate, and my guess is that it would blend nicely here with either the 62% semisweet or the 70% bittersweet. Whatever chocolate you choose, I wouldn’t recommend going above 64%, at the highest.

And as for popsicle molds, I use these.

8 ounces (225 grams) chocolate, ideally between 45% and 65% cacao
1 ½ cups (355 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons (about 11 grams) unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Finely chop the chocolate, and put it in a medium bowl. (If you have a bowl with a pour spout, use that! Perfect.)

In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and cocoa. Whisk well to dissolve the cocoa, and bring just to a simmer, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, let sit for a few seconds, and then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes; then whisk to combine well. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Divide between popsicle molds, and freeze until hard.

Yield: 8 to 10 popsicles, depending on the size of your molds.


August 18

A couple of weekends ago, we packed up the better part of the restaurant kitchen, crammed it in the back of a pick-up, and drove two and a half hours east to cook an all-day anniversary party for a pair of longtime Delancey regulars.

We rented a big house along the Wenatchee River, about ten minutes from the property where the party was held, and we brought as many people as we could fit inside, including a set of 8-month-old twins and one almost-two-year-old June.

If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth in the summertime, you will remember how hot it gets. It hit 100 that weekend, and no one had air conditioning. The flies were out and biting. But the party guests were somehow still cheerful, playing lawn games, hula hooping, napping in the grass, clambering down the hill to cool off in the river.

Brandon and Co. got up at 6:30 to start smoking a billion pounds of brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder. Ricardo manned the smokers; Brandon and Ben and June ran errands; Amy drove to Idlewild Pizza to borrow their ice cream machine (thanks, Eric!) and churn twenty quarts of vanilla custard. At some point, Cody showed up, and Katie and Kyle and Michelle, and some Campari shandies. I got to sleep in(!) and read a decent chunk of a YA novel (that I, for the record, refuse to feel embarrassed about), and then June and I crashed the party and at least one of us ran around waving a half-eaten hot dog bun like a lunatic.

Actually, I shouldn’t call it crashing. The couple who threw the party had invited our staff to be a part of it, to sit down like everyone else and enjoy it. Of course, it’s hard to actually do that, and between running platters of food and bussing empty plates, we wound up perched on ice chests or leaning against the folding tables of our makeshift kitchen rather than sitting at the table they had set for us. But to have been included was something in itself, because that’s not standard protocol. When you work in a restaurant (or at a grocery store, or as a bank teller, etc. etc. etc.), if you do your job well, your work makes you invisible. Most often, we as customers only notice service when it’s really, really bad, because when it’s good, it feels effortless, natural, so subtle that you can’t really point to it. As customers, it can be easy to forget that someone is working hard to make us feel that way. So it means a tremendous amount to me, and to Brandon, and to all of us, I think, who have ever cooked and served, when we can get to know the people we are working for, and when we are included not only to work, but also to play. And now I am getting sappy.

In this case, they even called us over for a round of applause. WE HAVE LIVED THE DREAM.

Because it was so hot that weekend, the river was only cold enough to take your breath away for a minute (as opposed to permanently), and when I managed to ease myself in, I was rewarded with watching an otter swim by. We are having a summer. Hope you are, too.


July 22

A month of summer gone already! I don’t want to think about it.

I rediscovered my Fuji Instax over the weekend and have been firing off shots like I were made of money. That’s another thing I’ve decided not to think about. I want June to have photo albums from her childhood - proper, three-dimensional albums! With the requisite wonky Polaroids! Like the olden days! Next up: suspenders and a paper route! - so I’m not allowed to fuss over the cost of film or the stupid, stupid, stupid flash that goes off whether I want it or not. Babies: they get your priorities straight. I appreciate that. Though I wouldn’t mind sleeping past 6:30 again someday. It seems like a small request.

So far this summer, the song I listen to more than any other is Neko Case’s "Guided by Wire." It feels especially right in the car, where I can turn it up loud and sing along. If it’s a really great day, it’s loud enough to make my ears hurt. Growing up in Oklahoma, I carefully avoided any music with a twang: it was what I was supposed to like, and that meant it was terrible. But I don’t have so much to prove anymore, or not in that way. I can say it now: some of my favorite songs have a twang. All of my favorite Neko Case songs have a twang. Long live the twang! Another good one is "Whip the Blankets," FYI. Very sexy.

Last month, I mentioned that I keep a dozen-ish favorite cookbooks on top of my fridge, and some of you asked me to tell you about them. You’re in luck. The good people at Serious Eats got me talking, and you can read all about my most beloved cookbooks (and see a picture of the ones on top of the fridge) over there.

Speaking of getting me talking, perhaps you’ve heard of the esteemed Christopher Kimball, the man behind Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen? I had the great pleasure - and anxiety; Kimball is big stuff - of talking with him about Delancey for America’s Test Kitchen Radio, and the interview aired in July 11th’s episode. To listen, go to America’s Test Kitchen Radio in iTunes, and look for the show titled, "How (Not) To Start a Pizzeria." Our conversation begins at 18:40 and runs for about 17 minutes.


I love Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s take on the spritz.

A couple of months ago, I read this New Yorker article about extreme cavers, something I knew nothing about, and it so consumed my attention that I sometimes forgot to breathe. The same thing goes for this more recent New Yorker article about the ordeal of the Chilean miners. Visceral storytelling, spectacular reporting.

My good friends Hannah and David created a website called the 1K Project. This month, they invited me to contribute a photograph, and David wrote a 1,000-word story from it.

Columbus, Ohio! I’m coming to you next month! I’m going to eat a totally immoderate quantity of Jeni’s Ice Creams! But most importantly, I’ll be at The Seasoned Farmhouse on August 25, reading from and talking about Delancey (and anything else you’d like to talk about) while we share a three-course meal. Join me for lunch or for dinner; both are ticketed, limited-capacity events.

Hope you’re having a great week.


I promised

It hit 85 degrees in Seattle today, and here in our city of no air conditioning, that counts as a heat wave. I know: talking about the weather is boring, blah blah blah, but on a cloudless day in mid-July, the best one can hope for, I think, is to have nothing but the weather to talk about.

I come this evening, however, to talk about sour cherry milkshakes. I promised.

Most of us know sour cherries in their cooked form, as the kind of cherry that you bake into a pie. I didn’t know them at all until five summers ago, the summer of 2009, when we were about to open Delancey and I had no idea how to run a station in a professional kitchen, so our friend Renee invited me to hang out one evening at Boat Street Cafe and watch the way her kitchen worked. Renee has a sour cherry tree - Montmorency, I think - in her yard, and that afternoon, she had brought a brown paper grocery bag full of cherries. She probably sensed that I felt awkward just standing in the corner, that I would feel better being useful, so she put me to work pitting them. They were bright red, nearly translucent, and they felt like marble-sized water balloons, soft and full of juice. I could ease out the pit with my fingers, Renee showed me, by pulling on the stem with one hand and gently squeezing the cherry with the other, so that the pit slid out with the stem. While she and her cooks finished prepping for the evening, I pitted the bag of cherries, and while my hands were busy with that, I watched everyone bustle around. Later in the evening, Renee cooked the cherries into a quick jam, I think. To serve with pound cake, maybe? I can’t remember. But I do remember that that was the first I knew of sour cherries. (For that and many other things: THANK YOU, RENEE! Sorry I was grumpy and in Antisocial Work Mode when we ran into you at Barnacle the other day.)

Of course, all this said, we’ve now reached the part of the post where I have to admit that I don’t actually like the usual vehicle for sour cherry consumption, by which I mean cherry pie. I don’t like cooked cherries in general. I am not a real American. On the upside, I’ve discovered that I love raw sour cherries, particularly when they’re whizzed into a shake.

My friend (and Spilled Milk co-host) Matthew taught me about this recipe, which, like a lot of my favorite things to eat, is so simple that it hardly counts as a recipe. You take raw sour cherries and toss them into a blender, zizz them until they liquefy - I thought about typing “are pureed,” but really, they do liquefy; they’re that juicy - and then scoop in some vanilla ice cream and blend some more. That’s it. The result is thick and pale pink, flecked with pretty bits of red cherry skin.  When you take a sip, what registers first is the acidity of the fruit, a kind of light, almost sparkly cherry flavor, and then comes the sweetness, but not too-sweetness, of the ice cream. It was June’s first shake, and I decided not to tell her that it’s all downhill from here.

Sour Cherry Shake
From Hungry Monkey, by Matthew Amster-Burton

The season for sour cherries is short, and they can be hard to find. But keep an eye out: they’re small, bright red, and often labeled as Montmorency cherries. (Or, if they’re dark red, they’re probably the other main sour variety, morello.) You can pit them with a cherry pitter, or you can do it by hand: just pull gently on the stem with one hand while you gently squeeze the cherry with the other. Usually the pit will slip right out with the stem. Usually. (And if not, they’re still easy to pit by hand, tearing them open and pulling out the pit with your fingers. Be sure to do it over a bowl, so as not to lose any juice.) If you can’t get fresh sour cherries, Matthew says that jarred or canned sour cherries (note: not pie filling!) make a good substitute, and that the jarred morello cherries from Trader Joe’s are his favorite.

Oh, and don’t feel as though you have to have two full pounds of cherries on hand to make this recipe! Sour cherries are expensive! I get it. I only had about 12 ounces last weekend, myself, so I just scaled back accordingly, using about one and a half cups of ice cream. We wound up with three small shakes, perfect for an afternoon snack.

2 pounds (900 grams) fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted, or 24 ounces canned or jarred cherries, drained
1 quart vanilla ice cream

Put the cherries in a blender or food processor, and blend to a smooth puree. Add the ice cream, and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth and pale pink. Pour into four glasses, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 (12-ounce) shakes


July 6

We spent half of last week on Lopez Island, staying with friends at the home of friends-of-friends, breaking in our sun hats, making buildings out of driftwood, wearing ourselves out so well that we were in bed before the light was gone, getting reacquainted with summer.

Despite the fact that I seem to have filled my life with a lot of work and obligations and businesses and whatnot, I am not someone who enjoys feeling busy. I do not like to feel busy at all. I also do not like to set goals. But my goal this summer is to have a lot of days like the ones we had on Lopez, summer days like the ones I had as a kid, or even during college summers, after work and on my days off: days with few plans, a lot of sunscreen, and the time and space for reading a new book or sitting on the curb or making a sour cherry milkshake because I had the cherries and, HOLLAAAA!!!, there was ice cream in the freezer. (More on that in the next post.)

I have, once again, been listening to a lot of Talking Heads. Especially the last five tracks on Sand in the Vaseline, Disc 2: (Nothing But) Flowers, Sax and Violins, Gangster of Love, Lifetime Piling Up, and Popsicle.  If the next couple of months follow this pattern, the summer of 2014 has a good chance of resembling the summer of 1998, when I was 19, working in the cheese section of a Whole Foods in Mill Valley, California, and in the early stages of my ongoing fascination-slash-obsession-slash-telepathic love affair with David Byrne. Except now, my clothes don’t smell constantly, nauseatingly, of Fontina.

I’ve also been enjoying the new podcast Death, Sex, & Money with Anna Sale. Nothing passes the time while one is unloading the dishwasher like a good story. This was the first episode I listened to, and I loved it. I also liked this one, with Jane Fonda.

Also, public service announcement: lavender essential oil on mosquito bites! Who knew? Everyone but me? I’m not saying it’s going to make them stop itching entirely, but it helps. If you, like me, find yourself suddenly with a half dozen mosquito bites on your left foot, it will keep you from wanting to tear off your entire leg. That’s something.

Happy Monday!
I’ll be back shortly with those milkshakes.