Last summer we chatted about Pimm’s Cups and a list of things I wanted to do, feel, eat, and read during those few short months. But by its very nature, summer shouldn’t warrant a list: it’s a time when lists should ideally be thrown out the window and a little bit of whimsy should take the reigns. But I know so many of you can relate to the way in which weeks and months can whoosh on by and before you know it, peaches are out of season and the days are getting shorter. And for that reason, I tend to make summer lists. So here we have this year’s version. I so encourage you to make your own and share one or two or all of them here. I’d love to hear yours. Truly.
Make: homemade popsicles. Lots of them (how about a Boozy Banana?)
Get: a few herbs for the window sill and not kill them.
Cook: from Alice Hart’s Vegetarian. Bake from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery.
Learn: more about using shrubs (tart, fruity syrups) in cocktails.
Watch: the sunset from Tilden Park.
Bake: Tres Leches Cake, one of my favorite cakes and something I have yet to make in my own kitchen.
Drive: up to Tahoe for a girls weekend. Much-needed. Much-anticipated.
Beat: Sam at Tennis. Also much-anticipated.
Visit: Della Fattoria (finally!) I can’t believe I haven’t yet been up to this sweet family-run Petaluma bakery.
So I’m heading out of town in a few days for Seattle and then to continue on to visit my family for the July 4th holiday at my mom’s cabin on Lake George. Here there will be little internet, no cell service, lots of dock lounging, reading books, eating real breakfasts, drinking wine on the porch with my grandma and running the country roads with my sister Zoe.
And speaking of drinking with my grandma on the porch, here’s a cocktail she introduced me to probably about four years ago at a chain restaurant in Naples, Florida. A bunch of family were gathered and we were going out for a big seafood dinner after a hot day at the beach; there was a bit of a wait, so we squeezed into the bar where most of our clan ordered a glass of wine or a vodka/tonic. My grandma broke the trend and ordered a Negroni, insisting that I try it. Now this is a major drink. It is a drink for people who like to taste their booze, who often order doubles when they go out, people like my Grandma Marge — and me.
But it’s not my intention to scare you away from the Negroni. It’s quite wonderful, especially in the summer. A little bitter from the Campari, balanced nicely by the sweet Vermouth and cut with a spalsh of gin (I love Hendrick’s lately. Love.) If you like Americanos, the Negroni is its stronger, burlier cousin — essentially replacing the soda water with gin. The Negroni was designed for summer porches, stoops, or comfy chairs. And so, I’m ushering in this Summer’s List with one and with a lot to look forward to. Momentum and excitement. Longer days and good news. So it’ll be quiet around here for just a bit but I’ll miss you and — who knows– maybe I’ll have a chance to post some photos in between now and then. While away, I will be participating in Pie Day on July 5th. Have you heard of it? Join us! Make a pie! And we’ll chat about it back here in a few weeks. At that time, I’ll have some new Marge developments to share with you, too (Hint: granola).
Fill your favorite cup with chunky ice cubes. Old-fashioned glasses are traditional here, but any short, squatty cup will do. Combine equal parts of the above ingredients over the ice, and garnish with orange peel. Stir vigorously and 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.