I’m a chronic mover. I hate that about myself, actually. I can’t wait for the day to come when I stay in one apartment longer than a year. The reasons vary, from moving to attend graduate school to always seeking a bigger pad in a better neighborhood. So I’m moving again on Friday. This time, interestingly enough, it’s not really by choice. I love living in San Francisco. I love my apartment. Heck, I just bought a new rug, a funky retro lamp and some odd little wired birds that sit happily on my window sill. I’ve got my matchbook collection and the Russian dolls my grandma gave me. And of course, rain boots. My across-the-way neighbor Brian carries my groceries up three flights of stairs for me often, and I’ve figured out a way to ride the bus to yoga for free. I’ve even learned to kind of love living by myself over these past few months.
But San Francisco’s not cheap, and I never intended on paying for this lovely apartment all by myself. So I decided to break my lease (have you ever done this?! So. not. easy). My mom lives right over the bridge and she leaves for the summers. She was starting to think about looking for house-sitters, and I was starting to think about how nice it’d be to walk around the yard barefoot and eat lots of tomatoes from her garden. So it’s temporary. But it’s a win-win for both of us. I’ve forced all of my city friends and acquaintances to promise they’ll make the trek often to barbecue and drink strong cocktails. You all know who you are. I mean it.
Now let’s move on to talk about how much packing sucks. O.k. covered that. God, it sucks. And then let’s talk about how if you’re thrifty like I am and hate throwing things out, you feel inclined to use up everything in your refrigerator before moving day even if it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. It leads to odd combinations of things like sweet potato fries and raisin bran for dinner. Or my personal favorite: frozen broccoli and ground turkey hash. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. But there’s a really nice dish I made a few nights ago in an effort to use up some of my canned beans and tomatoes. It’s a great recipe to make when you’ve packed up and find yourself sitting on top of cardboard boxes reflecting on the wackiness of life and obsessing about your next steps. It’s easy, it doesn’t require many dishes or pots and pans, it’s hearty, and it’s comforting. My mom makes a similar white bean dish that I love, so for me, this reminds me of home. Ironic as I sit here eating leftovers staring at a bare kitchen and a cold, empty living room. But I’m soaking in the last few days here, knowing I’m not going far and can drive on over to run in the Panhandle, have coffee at Matching Half, and dig into some Green Chile Kitchen any old time I want.
Roasting radicchio takes the slightly bitter edge off that tends to turn some people away. This is very much a ‘dash of this and a dash of that’ recipe. If you need a little more oil to coat your radicchio, great. If you’d rather use a different kind of oil, great. If you want to throw in some fresh sage or top with breadcrumbs, that’d be good, too. I don’t use the entire 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes because I find it a bit too saucy for my liking. With warm crusty bread and good butter, a lovely meal is made.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Discard outer leaves from radicchio and cut the head into 4 wedges. Put radicchio wedges on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Before placing in the oven, turn each wedge so a cut side faces downward on the sheet. Roast, turning halfway through cooking, until leaves are wilted, about 12 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir again for 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange radicchio in a serving dish and spoon warm beans over the top.
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.