I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I’d been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I’m honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara’s book and pulled out a few peaches I’ve had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away — having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up.
If you haven’t yet peeked at The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, it is all “bowl food” which is really, instinctually, my kind of eating and cooking. In other words, it’s filled with salads and grain bowls, noodles, oatmeal and fruit crisps. It’s food that is meant to be eaten simply, out of a bowl — you won’t find constructed courses here or fancy staggered meals. I’d go out on a limb to guess that this is the way many of us eat anyway if left to our own whims, and Sara’s recipes are always fresh, healthy and inspired. I have a few pages bookmarked to make and freeze for us to have after Sprout is born: Smoky Black Bean Chili and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. But first, this ice cream.
This summer has been a special one for peaches in Seattle. Collins Farm is a local farm that sells pears and apples in the fall and stone fruits in the summer (among other things). This year in particular, their peaches have been outstanding and I’ll often make a special trip out to one of the markets now just to pick up a bag. I find myself hoarding them and hiding them from Sam; they’re that good. I’m slowly starting to sense the season coming to a close and because we have a few busy weekends coming up I have a feeling this may be our last batch of homemade summery ice cream. That being said, with this one in the freezer, I think we’ve really gone out with a bang.
Sara mentions in her notes that she wavers between having the peaches in the ice cream or serving them on top, so ultimately she opts to do both. The peach flavor is much more subtle when the fruit is frozen, so serving a handful on top is a really nice touch. Peaches aside though, the ice cream base itself is worth making all on its own: it has a quiet tanginess from the buttermilk, the perfect amount of sweetness, and a subtle warmth from the cinnamon. In fact, it occurred to me that this is the perfect “bridge dessert” as we slowly look towards fall: the fragrant cinnamon in the custard is a slow tease as to what’s to come yet the juicy, bold peaches remind us of where we stand right now.
Megan’s Note: I made a few tweaks to this recipe based on what we had in our cupboard which I’ll mention here so you can make some choices based on what you have at home. Sara calls for brown rice syrup which is nice because it has a really mild, subtle sweetness; we were out so I used honey instead. I opted not to use the 2 tablespoons bourbon Sara calls for and it was delicious as is; I imagine it’s even more so with a splash so do as you like. Last, I used cream cheese instead of the mascarpone because we had some leftover from another recipe. If you’d prefer the slightly more decadent flavor of mascarpone, just substitute it in for the same amount of cream cheese. My small changes are reflected in the recipe below.
The only thing I’ll do differently next time is dice the peaches smaller than I did. Big hunks of fruit can feel kind of hard and icy in ice cream whereas little bites are bright and add flavor and texture, so do take the time to do a nice fine dice. If your cream cheese is very firm, you may want to whisk in a quick splash of milk to loosen it up a bit — I ended up doing this just to help it incorporate more easily.
Lightly adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon
Mix the 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, honey, sugar and salt in a large saucepan or pot (at least 4 quarts). Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, another minute.
Gradually whisk in the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon and bourbon (if using). Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for two hours or until cold. If it chills too long, a fat layer will separate to the top. Remove this piece before churning* (see note below).
Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last minutes, add the toasted pecans and half the peaches. Spoon the mixture into the storage container and freeze until firm.
*Just a note on chilling: I chilled my mixture overnight and it was absolutely fine. Mascarpone has a higher fat content than cream cheese, so if you go the mascarpone route, Sara’s suggestion on not chilling too long will likely apply. But the recipe as written here can be chilled overnight.
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.