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 started this blog because, like many of you, I love the way food brings people together. I like the conversations that happen, I like the collaboration, I like the stories. I don’t get much out of making recipes alone in my kitchen unless I’m sharing them with others around me. Often this is with Sam. But just as often, really, it’s walking a plate down to the local coffee shop to share with our favorite baristas or giving cookies or pie away to friends. So in thinking about a pre-Thanksgiving post and the one recipe I wanted to share with you before the big day, I kept circling away from the food and towards the gratitude piece of it all. Right this second, I’m thankful for this community (you!), for the opportunity to work for myself doing something I love, for the crisp fall we’ve been having in Seattle, for the satsumas in the market, and for Sam’s mulled tequila toddy recipe. I’m thankful that I get to visit with my family next week, that I’m able to just up and fly home whenever I please, and that I have a business that’s busy enough to make that stressful this year.
I don’t talk about new things going on with Marge much in this space, but if you’re curious and if you like granola, you should hop on over and sign up for our newsletter. I only send it out once a season (at best) and the next issue will have a great coupon for holiday ordering. In fact, I want to send you some granola to try now! I’m not much of a giveaway gal because I can never find an authentic way to work it into a post and really would only do so if it was something I loved. But granola I can do. So if you leave a note here about what you’re thankful for this year, I’ll choose a random winner on Wednesday, November 21 (day before Thanksgiving) and send you a package with all 3 of our current flavors. I really am looking forward to reading your responses!
And now, we’re overdue for a talk on biscuits. And honey butter (I’ve decided this is something we should all just have around in general, biscuits or no biscuits). Now, I love towering, flaky biscuits as much as the next person. These are not those biscuits although they are no less delicious. They’re a drop biscuit so they won’t get those flaky layers but they’re still quite light, rustic in nature, and have a knock-out flavor from the marriage of sweet potato and rosemary. Sure, they’re not towering but they perch happily at the dinner table and sneak on into breakfast territory quite naturally, too. I made a few different versions of sweet potato biscuits before ultimately setting off on my own. I started with a recipe from Martha Hall Foose’s charming book, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, in which she has you melt the butter and uses white flour and a bit of sugar. They turned out quite tasty but they were a bit heavier than I wanted, so I started fresh with a version that has you working the butter into the flour, adding a smattering of rosemary, and relying on my favorite combination of white flour/spelt flour. There’s no sifting or rolling or turning the dough. Just mix, scoop, and bake. Easy. Just what we could all use a bit more of this time of year.
I hope that you have a very happy Thanksgiving filled with people you get a kick out of in a place that makes you feel at home. Sam and I will be in California with my family, those green beans, Moscow Mules and a few days without work. Yes.
A quick one-bowl affair, these biscuits bake up a beautiful dark orange color and have a slightly herbed, buttery flavor. You don’t have to mash away all of the chunks in your sweet potatoes; drop biscuits are meant to be less refined and a few bits of sweet potato are just fine. Avoid the temptation to boil your potatoes instead of baking them as the instructions indicate — boiling them will draw in extra moisture that will change the texture of these biscuits.
For the Biscuits:
For the Honey Butter:
For the honey butter: whisk together the butter and honey until creamy.
Prepare the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times, and place right on oven rack for about 1 hour, or until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cool, peel away the skin of the potato and mash well with a fork or potato masher.
For the biscuits: Increase the oven temperature to 425 F. Butter a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and herbs.Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it’s the consistency of coarse meal. Add the milk and mashed sweet potatoes and stir them into the dry ingredients until they’re incorporated and a dough has formed.
Drop the dough in 2-3 tablespoon dollops onto the baking sheet. If you have a big ice cream scoop, it’s quite useful here. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until biscuits have risen and their tops are firm to the touch and golden. Serve warm or let cool on wire rack. These biscuits are best the day they’re made although covered and stored at room temperature, they’re fine the next day, too (I warm them in this case before serving).
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.