In the four days since I’ve been back, it’s been wall-to-wall catching up with friends, and happily being on the receiving end of endless generosity.
Four different girlfriends, four shared lunches at my house.
First up, lunch with Elona.
She brought me flowers and ingredients she couldn’t use, and I gave her a Goat Cheese Salad with Avocado Toast.
It was so great to catch up with her post-my Californian trip and pre-Costa Rican adventure for her.
Another pal came over and we enjoyed Spinach Salad with Fennel and Cucumber.
I had so much spinach on hand I decided to drop off dinner for a pregnant neighbor who’s been working far too much lately — I left it on her porch with a text alerting her it was there.
Sweetheart that she is, Elizabeth later returned my stuff with flowers.
That’s no surprise — she often leaves me goodies on my doorstep.
I don’t remember seeing white Gerber Daisies as an arrangement, though — and they’re so cute in their ivory glory.
White flowers of any kind make me so happy.
Girlfriend Lunch No. 3 was a simple Avocado and Tomato salad with Goat Cheese on Tabor Bread Walnut and Currant Loaf.
Tabor Bread is one of the best bread bakeries in town — and I’m obsessed with their loaves.
In the midst of all this catching up, I spied an ad on a local on-line bulletin board that was offering free blue hydrangeas — one of my favorites.
The woman’s ad said that she needed to trim her flowers and wanted her neighbors to enjoy the cut stems, and she included the address as to where to pick them up.
And this illustrates one of the things that I love about Portland.
People take the time to take stock of what they have and think to share it with others. They then use their precious time to alert others of their offering, doling it out freely, often with people they’ve never met.
No gimmicks, no expectation of return, just the trust that others won’t abuse the kindness.
Such unbridled generosity and random acts of kindness make our community as a whole stronger, more tight-knit, and ever more grateful. In a world that sometimes feels off its axis, these small gestures are like a healing communal salve.
I swung by the address assuming they’d all be gone as the ad was hours old, but no.
And that’s how I came to have a house brimming with beautiful free flowers.
And for my last girlfriend lunch, Chrissy and I enjoyed Turkey Brown Rice Bowls with Avocado and Tomatoes.
This was a great way to use up leftover from a taco blowout the night before, and it was delicious with that Trader Joe’s Cilantro Dressing I love so much.
And because I’d gotten up extra early, I was able to offer all the kids gathered a special treat.
It’s so simple to make — all you need is a few ingredients, a couple bowls, a morning mostly consisting of benign neglect.
A dough comes together in no time– you just need a few hours to let it rise
and then rise again right on the baking sheet.
In no time you are rewarded with a kitchen with the most heavenly aromas and a sheet pan of goodness (I brushed my focaccia with roasted garlic olive oil and Parmesan).
So while Chrissy and I enjoyed these
the kids had an indoor picnic.
I’ve got all the color and brightness I need right now.
- 1¾ C. warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 5 C. all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
- 1 Tbs. kosher salt plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling
- 1 C. extra-virgin olive oil
- Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cold, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 Tbs. of kosher salt, ½ C.olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.
- Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.
- Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
- Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining ½ C. olive oil. (Anne says: :This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!")
- Put the dough onto a jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Anne says:" Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)
- Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.