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).
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.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.