Lately I’ve been waking up like clockwork at 7:30, rolling out of bed and getting right to work. I’m up a good hour before Sam on most days, so I start the coffee and sit down at our breakfast nook and begin prioritizing emails. Some days I don’t get up again until it’s time for lunch (it’s been a big month: more on that very soon), and work can really cloak the whole day in a way that can make it tough to differentiate a Tuesday from a Saturday. And then a book and a conversation can change that quite suddenly, too, and introduce a new morning routine. Even if just for a day or two. Such was the case with these whole-grain pancakes.
In the newish memoir, Blue Plate Special, Kate Christensen details family life and relationships through the lens of food. While there’s a great bit to say about the book, there was one line that grabbed me in particular. To set the scene, Kate decides to set off on a 13-mile round trip hike up the Continental Divide alone (her husband John pulled his ankle muscle on a hike the previous day). As the weather turns and she finishes her water and starts to grow more and more tired, she begins to hurry just to get home before exhaustion sets in. A hike becomes more of a frantic, harried run. Finally back at the motel room after a hearty dinner and a few glasses of wine she thinks to herself, “I looked out at the lake and surrounding mountains, replaying in my memory all the views I’d missed that day.” While I can assure you I haven’t been doing many 13-mile runs lately, I have had that same feeling doing short errands around our neighborhood: when did the leaves become this vibrant? How did I miss this? No, really: there’s so much to see here, and clearly I haven’t been paying attention.
My friend Keena lives less than a mile from us but is currently doing some work for her company in India. The other day we were texting and she asked how the leaves were at Greenlake, one of our favorite walking spots. She insisted that they must be wonderful and lamented the fact that she couldn’t see them in person. I felt pretty sheepish that I hadn’t yet seen them in person myself despite the fact that, unlike Keena, I can walk right on down anytime.
This recipe is fitting because while it’s simple at heart, it is one step beyond oatmeal in terms of time and preparation. So it forces you to slow down for just a moment. And because pears are in season and pancakes are good fuel for leafy walks, I thought it was a good time to share it with you today. It’s in a series I’ve been doing for Attune Foods, and this recipe in particular uses their delicious Uncle Sam Rye and Hemp Cereal. I often fold rolled oats into my pancake batter to add a little more heft and personality, but lately I’ve been grabbing the Rye Hemp Cereal instead. It’s crunchy (and maintains that crunch even once baked) and has a really subtle earthiness that works so well with these simple whole-grain pancakes. I hope you enjoy them, slowly, with a good view of the trees.
For the Pancakes:
For the Cinnamony Pears:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, buttermilk and butter.
In another small bowl, whisk together the flours, cereal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes to allow the whole-grain flours to soak up some of the liquid.
Prepare the pears: In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the pear slices and cook until lightly browned in spots, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and cinnamon, stir well, and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until pears are completely soft and fragrant.
Cook the pancakes: Melt a bit of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼-cup of batter into the pan. Repeat, cooking each pancake until the tops begin to bubble and the bottoms are golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side an additional 1-2 minutes.
Serve warm with cinnamon pears spooned on top. Maple syrup is nice, too.
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.