So apparently it’s June. And maybe you’re in a part of the country that’s been having more summery, balmy weather than we have had here in the Bay Area. Maybe you’ve already been grilling and have bought yourself a new pair of flip-flops. Because I know it’s happening out there. I’ve been eyeing some sweet J. Crew sandals myself and am thinking about swimsuits, soft-serve ice cream and canoes over the 4th of July weekend. But right here, right now at my little school-house desk, I haven’t been seeing too, too much of that.
Although hey, we’ve got cherries (even sour cherries at the market this weekend!), beautiful berries, and early peaches. I found myself ordering an iced coffee yesterday afternoon and am even fitting in runs in the later part of the evening. And as I’m writing this at 9 p.m., I’m having a simple dinner of heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt, roasted chard, and a poached egg. So it’s happening. Certainly.
We just have to remind ourselves to step back from our little school-house desks to see it unfolding. Because summer, of all the seasons, always seems too brief and fleeting. It’s the time of year when we can let stringent obligations slough away just a little, when we can walk around barefoot and lounge outside doing nothing but people watching, cocktail sipping, magazine reading, stargazing, daydreaming, napping. So let’s not let that slip away, o.k.?
Today I bring you a dessert that will help you usher in summer’s quiet entrance in the best possible way: the easiest way. This is a simple dessert that celebrates summer fruit by putting it front and center. Now a clafoutis isn’t something I’d necessarily make for a big dinner party or to impress a pair of out-of-town guests. It’s a relatively humble, unassuming dessert that lies somewhere smack in between a custard and a pancake. It’s comfort food. It’s summer evening after a little Proseco food. It’s relish-the-season-while-we’re-smack-dab-in-it-food. Because what’s left after a quiet entrance? A moment to dive right in.
For this recipe, I added a smidge of almond extract because it works so nicely with the flavor of ripe cherries. And I used half barley flour as it has a nice, almost creamy quality that compliments summer fruit so well. If you have sliced almonds on hand, they would be lovely sprinkled on top. I’ve also made this recipe nestling a layer of cocoa nibs on top of the cherries and it was fantastic.
Adapted from: Bon Appetit
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Choose 8 ramekins or a large 10″ cake pan or casserole dish to bake your clafoutis in and butter the bottom and sides liberally. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, flours, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts and salt. Set aside.
Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer (don’t allow it to fully boil) over medium-low heat.
Gradually pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour batter evenly over cherries in the pan and bake until the top is golden brown and the middle is set, about 30 minutes for ramekins or 40 minutes for larger cake pan.
Let cool completely, then run knife around pan to loosen, dust with powdered sugar, cut into slices and serve.
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.