Hello there, August. You have brought with you wonderful tomatoes which I’ve been eating almost daily, outdoor weddings, a new camera to play with, and sunny clear mornings. You’ve brought iced coffee with a touch of simple syrup, dinner with friends outside, and nights spent sharing a beer while watching the Olympics (those runners!).
You’ve brought picnics and big fava beans and juicy peaches. And so far, lots of time in the kitchen testing recipes and writing recipes, but little actually preparing real meals (thank goodness for Delancey pizza and late night burritos from El Chupacabra). You know that summer slump feeling when, although you’re surrounded by beautiful produce, you can’t quite think of what to cook? That’s where I’ve been lately. We’ve been eating lots of egg salad and tuna salad for lunch and simple grain salad concoctions for dinner. Little to no baking. Until just the other day when inspiration struck in the form of a cookbook.
In case you don’t already know, Sara and Hugh Forte, creators of the blog Sprouted Kitchen, have a cookbook coming out in a few weeks. It’s a true feast, visually and otherwise. I wrote to Sara the day after I received it in the mail to tell her I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it and awoke thinking of all the recipes I was excited to make. Right up at the top are the buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon, creamy millet with roasted portobellos, and that coconut lime tart. And these cookies, of course, which I promptly made and we promptly ate most of the same afternoon.
On the blog and in the cookbook, Sara is the force behind the very do-able and delicious recipes (her salad recipes alone are worth a visit to the blog) and husband Hugh takes the photos. He approaches each dish with a unique angle and eye, resulting in some of the more innovative food photos I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks to both of them, you want to make dinner again. And breakfast. And lunch, too.
Which brings us to these cookies. They are the perfect little tea cookie — an afternoon treat or late night nibble much in the same vein as the sesame cookies we talked about a while back. Strewn with coconut, toasty cacao nibs, and little bits of fragrant almonds, they’re wonderfully nutty and naturally soft from the combination of coconut oil and almond meal. In the cookie world, these are keepers. You’ll get the sense before you even get them into the oven.
I should mention a few tweaks I made before getting to the recipe: I used a touch more salt than Sara does and ended up using demerara sugar instead of the muscovado she recommends. I’d recommend using any natural cane sugar you have on hand. If you don’t have any, it’s easy to find in the bulk aisle of a well-stocked grocery store and will make a difference flavor-wise here (you’ll notice a special chewiness from darker, natural sugars). I also decided to toss in some chopped toasted almonds at the last minute for a little extra crunch.
This afternoon, I’m hoping to break our usual Sunday farmers market routine and check out the Wednesday market instead. To stock up on a few things to cook for dinner tonight, thanks to Sara and Hugh.
Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toast the sliced almonds until fragrant and golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Let cool, and then chop well.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almond meal, cacao nibs, chopped almonds, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In another bowl, beat the egg very well until it’s a uniform color and doubles in volume. Whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate bowl for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls using your hands. Place on baking sheet with 1 1/2-inches space between them, and give them a gentle press with the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
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.