Pulling off the farmers market this past weekend was a bit of a challenge. I had flown back from Seattle Friday afternoon, knowing full-well that the evening would consist of harried hours of crimping and baking, filling and frosting. And I was okay with that. I wanted as much time there as possible.
Time to explore pie shops and see what other bakers are up to. Time to share french fries with Rachael in the afternoon or a pre-museum hot dog with Sam at Dot’s. Time to take evening walks around the lake or back from Delancey. Walks to the grocery store or the movie theater. Back home from playing darts or out to meet Tara for dinner or Jess for a good chat. Or a rather brisk walk to catch Dana at Booklarder (and we did!)
So you’d think with all of that walking, talking about feeling settled might seem odd. They’re opposites, really. It’s funny: so often that word has negative connotations. In regards to a bad relationship, it could be “she’s just settling.” Or in speaking about someone who has become much less adventurous or interesting, you might say they’ve already “settled.” As for Sam and Seattle, settled is just what comes to mind, what feels right. It feels like we’ve been in each others’ company for a very long time. But then Sam will say something or do something unexpected that leaves me dying with laughter or challenged or thoughtful. So it’s all perfectly comfortable and, at the same time, perfectly new.
When I returned home, with Marge, I just felt less frazzled, less worried, knowing full well that somehow all the baking would get done. It had to. And it did. On Saturday, I had two small leftover pies and I traded them for some beautiful tomatoes. I didn’t really set out to get tomatoes, actually. I wanted a few bunches of greens and some french radishes. But the girl at the farmstand insisted. She said they were almost the last of the season and that I didn’t want to wait. They wouldn’t be around forever.
You could make a soup, she said.
I looked at the large bag of tomatoes she was handing over. That’d be a lot of soup, I said.
Well, yes, but I’m sure you’ve got someone to make soup for?
I continued staring at the big bag of tomatoes, strangely hesitant to reach out for them.
Or, you know, just freeze any extra. That’s what I do. She seemed to be hedging, nervous she’s said or offered too much.
But I decided quickly that I liked her. She was resourceful. She was a woman that appreciated a big pot of soup — for someone else or just for yourself. She was also a woman that was practically giving away tomatoes on a blustery afternoon in early October and, for that, I handed over two small pear pies and walked away with my bag of round, slightly bruised beauties.
And truth be told, I do have someone to make soup for. He’s not in the next room, mind you, but we’re going to see a lot of each other this fall. And continue taking rainy evening walks. And eating lots of soup. Settling, in the best sense of the word. Not like these tomatoes, in which you’re advised by the rosy-cheeked woman selling boxes of them not to wait because they won’t be around forever. No, not like that at all.
This is an incredibly simple soup that consists of roasting a pan of tomatoes, garlic and onion and pureeing them with a bit of broth. Because of its simplicity, do be sure to use the very best, seasonal tomatoes you can find. You’ll taste the difference. Because I leave the skin of the tomatoes on, this soup is going to have a bit of texture at the end. I like this; if you don’t, run it through a mesh sieve after pureeing. The amount of broth can vary, too, depending on how thick you like your soup. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your tastes. If you like a creamier soup, add up to 1/4 cup heavy cream of half & half at the very end.
Preheat the oven to 375′. Spread the quartered onions and cloves of garlic out onto a cookie sheet. You want to get rid of some of the seedy part of the inside of the tomatoes — don’t go overboard here and aim for perfection but your tomatoes will be a bit too juicy if you roast them exactly as is. Use your finger to get some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes out of there. Then place tomatoes on baking sheet along with garlic and onion. Dash the olive oil over everything and sprinkle with salt and parsley
Roast for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and slumped and reduced to almost half their size. Remove from the oven and scoop all of the ingredients from the pan into a medium saucepan.
Add the broth into the saucepan and allow to simmer on the low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the saucepan itself or feel free to cool slightly and use a blender instead.
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.