The Good Stuff + Zucchini, Basil, and Goat Cheese Salad

People get down about this time of year, but even today there were fat little partridges, clementines heavy with juice, and bunches of narcissi to cheer us up. There is good stuff if you are prepared to go and find it.
— Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries

One hundred miles might seem like a long drive for a picnic. You are not wrong to think so, but our destination was a place of respite, something we desperately needed. Normally I would have planned an elaborate lunch, cooking pasta salad and assembling sandwich ingredients, trying new recipes, buying cheeses, generally overdoing things. But lately I've been learning the important lesson of letting go, conserving my energy, and not doing everything myself. It's hard to do, but freeing. 

I bought most of our provisions earlier in the week from Good Eggs, and had them delivered on Friday. Local goat cheese, salami, beet chips, and seed clusters for snacking made for the best picnic fare I could have hoped for. Early Saturday morning we tucked Emma (the dog) into her travel bed in the backseat and stopped by a favorite bakery for ham and Gruyere sandwiches and two macaroons to finish our meal. An hour and a half later, we were eating brunch at Jeannine's in Montecito.

It's a long way to go for a picnic, yes, but we ventured out to find Nigel Slater's "good stuff." In this case, we knew where it was located already, we just needed to drive there. Our "good stuff" is the shaded patio of Rusack Vineyards, overlooking a mountain lined with grapevines, a glass of Rose in one hand and a bite of cheese in the other. And a warm breeze. 

I've been making my way through The Kitchen Diaries, a volume I've been longing to read, and the way it's written in monthly chapters makes it easy to revisit throughout the year and read month by month to glean inspiration. 

For picnic inspiration, I turned to the month of August. Yes, I'm a bit far ahead, but the weather we've been having has made it feel like summer, so I've been craving lighter fare. For meals outside, a zucchini, basil, and goat cheese salad is perfect. Dressed with oil and lemon juice, you can barely call it a recipe. It's more like a suggestion for having the most splendid afternoon.

Zucchini, Basil, and Goat Cheese Salad / Eat This Poem

Zucchini, Basil, and Goat Cheese Salad

Recipe slightly adapted from Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries

Serves 2

This is what I would have made had I been able to fuss with it, but as I mentioned, I let others do the work for me this time and was grateful for the rest. Back at home, though, cooking is in full force. 

4 zucchini, cut into thick strips, about 1/4-inches (you'll get three or four strips out of each zucchini)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
2 large basil leaves, torn
1 ounce goat cheese

Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Brush each zucchini strip with oil and place on the grill pan. Cook for three to five minutes per side, until golden grill marks form. Arrange on a platter, then whisk a tablespoon each of oil and lemon and drizzle it over the zucchini. Scatter the basil and goat cheese over the top before serving.

Spelt Crepes with Lemon Ricotta and Blueberries + Instagram poems


Many people have asked me how I go about developing a post for Eat This Poem, and the answer is usually, it depends. Some poems are so clearly ready to be paired with a recipe that I think of one seconds after reading the last line. Other poems inspire me, but need to sit for a few days or weeks in the file drawers of my mind until I'm ready to visit them again. Sometimes it's the other way around, like today's offering, when I cook something that I love so much I immediately long for a poem to go alongside it.


In true food blogger fashion, I posted a picture of these crepes on Instagram minutes after finishing breakfast with the caption "I need a poem to go with these crepes." Two readers answered the call with splendid little poems that made me smile. 

The first is a haiku from @thesugarhit. You can visit her blog by the same name.

Crepes soft and custardy
a splodge of jam is perfect
to compliment you.

Second, a little rhyming poem from @katenolan2, who blogs at Pig Pie Pint.

Roses are red
berries are blue
send me those crepes
please and thank you!

I love that both of these poems are short and sprightly. The use of "splodge" in the haiku works well because it's not as refined as a dollop might be, and anyone who has seen a plate smeared with blueberry sauce knows it's a completely delicious mess, as are our relationships on occasion. 

Although I normally shy away from rhyming poetry, Kate's stanza is whimsical, and a fitting response on Instagram, I think. Rather than say "Wish I had some of those crepes right now!" a few poetic lines make the response far more elegant.

Thanks to you both for responding in verse! 



Makes 6 to 8 crepes; recipe is easily doubled

I've been incorporating spelt flour into my baking with relative frequency lately. It's one of the easier whole grain flours to swap for all-purpose white flour, and I've experimented already with pizza dough and pancakes with great success. Crepes were a logical extension, and a ratio of half and half makes this recipe more wholesome to begin your mornings. The recipe is easily doubled to make more, but I found this to be enough for two people to enjoy on a lazy Saturday morning.

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus a bit for the pan
1 egg

For serving
1 lemon
1 cup ricotta
1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Add all the crepe ingredients to a sturdy blender and process until very smooth. Add a small piece of butter to an 8-inch saute pan and warm over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, pour just about 1/4 cup batter into the pan (a little less than 1/4 cup is fine), and quickly tilt it in a circular motion until the batter spreads evenly. Cook until the edges begin to curl up and pull away from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for just a minute longer.

Stack the crepes on a plate until you've finished making them all. In between making the crepes, 
zest the lemon into the bowl with ricotta, and add 1/2 the lemon juice. Stir well to combine. 

Add the blueberries, maple syrup, and juice of 1/2 the lemon to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the berries have warmed through and the sauce has thickened.

To serve, smear a spoonful of ricotta into each crepe and either roll it up or fold it into quarters. Top with a drizzle of the blueberry sauce. 

"Why I Am Not a Painter" by Frank O'Hara + Sardine and White Bean Salad


Some artists board themselves up in a room for weeks until the canvas or the typewriter inspires them. Others obsessively carry notebooks so that ideas can be captured the moment it strikes. Some go on retreats in the woods or by the sea, cut off from their digital lives for weeks at a time. Others look for it in their daily lives, in small doses that fit between work and school and errands.

The creative process has always been somewhat of a mystery, mostly because it affects each of us differently, and it can take years to fully understand how your own creativity ebbs and flows. One day, Frank O'Hara decided to write a poem about this very topic. "Why I Am Not a Painter" invites us in as if we are a friend sitting across from him at the dinner table, having a conversation.