This weekend was The Perfect Storm of religious observances, and I include among those holy days celebrated “Fix All the Things You’re Been Ignoring About Your Apartment Day.”
It may not sound like much, but to congregants of the Most Holy Church of People Trying to Sell Property During a Recession, it’s the second biggest day of the year (Closing Day being the first). By next week, we hope to enjoy the floating holiday of Official Listing Day, which is followed by the always depressing Open House Season, which requires a lot of fasting lest you dirty your kitchen when potential buyers want to visit.
The other holidays are, of course, Easter, where we ply young people with sugar until they experience visions of the risen Christ, and Passover, when the ghost of Charlton Heston materializes to bring guns to all the little Jewish boys and girls.
Remember: guns don’t kill people; sudden onset heart attacks brought about by unexpectedly running into the ghost of Charlton Heston in your kitchen at two in the morning kill people.
As it turns out, your can ignore a LOT of little shit when you live somewhere for six years. Brian and I observed Fix-it-Up Day by cleaning out all the closets, painting the bathroom, re-painting a bunch of doors that were scratched up because the dogs don’t have opposable thumbs and completely overhauling the patio and garden to make it look like we are people who are friendly with nature.
“And lo, there was a great spackling, and the women’s garments were covered with primer. And the women and men did cry out unto the LORD, for the sowing of many low-cost perennials did foment a great pain in their knees and backs, reminding them that they are now in their mid-thirties.”
An integral part of Fix-it-Up Day are the challenges thrown at you and your foolishly ambitious timeline. For example, all the gardening caused my lower back to completely wonk out, making me useless for a lot of tasks. And when we got home from a dinner break we took with grand plans to re-paint the staircase before bed, the downstairs toilet conveniently clogged for no discernible reason.
“The woman did become concerned by the gurgling noises issuing forth from the commode, and she called to the man in a great fright, fearful of the foul effluents they might bring forth. And the man did battle the commode with great valor for over two hours, until it was fully subdued with dish detergent, hot water and much plunging.
And the woman and man rejoiced greatly, for they had eaten much spicy food that evening, and they knew then that the LORD did not desire them to disturb the neighbors at that late hour and be forced to take a chile pepper shit in a foreign commode.”
Needless to say, there wasn’t a ton of time for intensive weekend cooking, nor did I have the energy. Still, I can almost always muster the energy for food of the “dump shit together in a bowl and stir” variety, and had been intrigued by a recipe for sweet panzanella from Super Natural Every Day – lightly sweetened toasted bread tossed with macerated yellow raspberries. I liked the idea but wanted something with a little more dressing (I like my panzanella bread on the soggy side) and maybe some nuts to make up for the lost crunch, so I took this recipe and ran with it.
“The woman did become discouraged, and fell prey to doubts; giving in to temptation, she issued the order that a batch of Domino’s Cheesy Bread be brought unto her at 1:30 in the morning that she might consume it emotionally. She was tormented throughout the night by the foul stench of her burps, and knew then that she should stand firm in the face of temptation, although frankly, she did also feel less cranky.”
I decided to macerate blackberries with sugar, freshly-squeezed orange juice and white balsamic; I love the way the vinegar plays with the berry flavor. After the mix sat for a while, I mashed about a third of the berries to encourage further juiciness; this left me with a nice bowl of berries in syrup.
A crusty loaf of whole grain nut-and-seed bread got cubed up, tossed in some melted butter and sugar and dried out in the oven. I tossed the bread with the berries and juice and added unsalted pistachios and shredded mint, leaving the whole mess to sit on the counter and give the bread a chance to absorb all the flavortaste.
To serve it, I plated up a heaping bowl of panzanella and topped it with slightly sweetened greek yogurt with orange zest.
It’s light, refreshing and flavorful. The yogurt keeps it grounded (especially if you use full-fat) and keeps things from getting too insubstantial; the mint is bright and the nuts add great texture. Because the bread was so hearty to begin with, it both soaked in the berry juices and kept its chew, so you didn’t feel like you were eating a bowl full of mush. I kind of can’t wait for berry season to really begin, because then this will be even better and will likely become a go-to dessert along with some homemade ice cream.
“In the end, both woman and man were rewarded for their days of toil, as the neighbors invited them forth for a feast, having prepared a grilled leg of lamb and many other delicacies. And the memories of their times of trial were washed away by several rounds of gin with Aperol and grapefruit.
adapted from Super Natural Every Day
1 lb. fresh blackberries
3 tbsp. + 1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 loaf whole grain bread, the more seeds and nuts the better
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. unsalted pistachio nuts
1/4 c. mint, sliced into a fine chiffonade
Mix the berries with the juice of the orange, 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the vinegar in a large bowl. Use a potato masher to crush about a third of the berries. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about an hour, tossing when you remember.
Preheat your oven to 350.
Cut the bread into one-inch cubes; you’ll want about five cups’ worth. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat; add the other quarter-cup of sugar and stir until it’s fully melted and combined. Stir in the vanilla.
Turn off the heat and add the bread cubes to the pot; toss vigorously to get all the bread coated. Dump the sugary bread onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until nice and toasty.
In a large bowl, toss the bread, berries with accumulated juices, nuts and mint together. Let sit for another hour or so, tossing when you remember.
Serve chilled or at room temp with some whipped cream, yogurt or ice cream on top.