For the past few days and for the remainder of the weekend, I’m house-sitting at my mom’s house. Hallelujah. I’m amazed at what a little change of scenery can do for a girl. And before I get into that and the magic I’ve created with a few blood oranges, I want to thank you all for your comments on the last post. I feel so lucky to have such amazing readers, friends, and family. Thank you one hundred times over.
Onward: Remember how I used to live at my mom’s place before moving into the city? She lives about thirty minutes north of San Francisco in San Rafael, a beautiful but sleepy sort-of suburb. It’s great to be back hanging out in the blooming backyard, snuggling with her dogs, catching up with bad gossip magazines, watching cable (such a luxury now!), feasting on homemade lasagna and brownies, and getting a good night’s sleep. I’m actually really nervous to go back to my place on Monday, but I know I need to face my life there, too. There are changes to be made and conversations to be had. Oy. You know what makes facing life just a little bit easier? The bottle.
Now of course, I jest. Sort of. Now that I think about it, I’m actually not sure if we’ve discussed my penchant for very strong cocktails. There’s nothing I hate more than eating out and ordering a weak drink. I like to really taste my liquor. My friends and family are used to me ordering an extra shot of tequila to throw into my margarita or ordering doubles just in case. And fairly recently, I’ve discovered the wonderful world of Manhattans. Those always seem to hit the spot. So that should give you a little insight into this cocktail. These babies are strong.
I’m sure you’ve been seeing blood oranges in your local market lately. When I lived in Boston, February was always the hardest month to get through in the winter–and ironically, it’s the shortest. The holidays are over, it’s damn cold and gray and slushy…and cold. So I remember always giddily scooping up these beauties when they’d start arriving in the stores with tangerines, glistening lemons, and big meaty grapefruits. Even though I live in California now, I still find myself grabbing for color wherever I can find it.
The recipe for this cocktail can certainly be adapted. Feel free to use Triple Sec instead of Cointreau if you like–and play with the proportions as you go. If you want it a little juicer with less kick, squeeze another half a blood orange in and see how you like it. People take cocktails so seriously these days, but I tend to kind of throw a little of this and a little more of that in until I’m happy. So have fun with this. Heck, if we can’t have fun with our cocktails, there’s a lot more than February that’s looking bleak, right?
What are you up to this weekend? Hibernating? I’m working a catering job tomorrow, visiting and photographing a new burger place with a friend for a review I’m writing, and lounging with Netflix (Paper Heart-seen it?), the new Vanity Fair, and Tara Austen Weaver’s new book on welcoming meat into her life. As a once-vegetarian for almost fifteen years, I relate to her struggles with learning how to eat, prepare, and think about meat again. Check it out. See you back here early next week with a great breakfast recipe. Hint: break out the good butter and the marmalade. Until then: Cheers.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and pour into a glass that makes you happy to look at. Enjoy.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.