We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today — a fact I’m not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we’d ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we’re young and we’re working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
I had the pleasure of working with Attune Foods for these delightful (and portable) No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes. It was part of their Honey Bee Project, which aims to spread awareness about the importance of honeybees in communities. I made these cheesecakes in the afternoon and Sam and I each had one for a snack. Then we were meeting a friend for drinks downtown and decided to bring her two — they’re that good (I was scared to have them around). I love how you can just put a lid on them and tote them to the beach or the park for a picnic. And that you never have to crank on the oven. I love that there’s whipped cream folded into the cream cheese “filling” so they feel both decadent but utterly light at the same time. Most of all, I love that they’re perfect for young hard-working folks and older bird-watchers alike.
See you back here soon with photos, recipes, and (I hope) a big ol’ celebration of summer (it’s getting warm in Seattle! Hooray!)
For the Crust:
For the Cheesecake Filling:
Make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, roasted almonds, brown sugar and salt until fine crumbs form. Scoop the mixture into a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are thoroughly moistened.
Make the filling: In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the diced strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and allow to macerate while you mix up the filling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using hand beaters), beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Using a spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream topping.
To assemble: Select 6 of your favorite 8-ounce jars (or pretty glass cups). Press 3 tablespoons of graham crumbs into the bottom of each jar. Spoon 1/3 cup of the cheesecake mixture onto the top of the graham layer, followed by 2 tablespoons strawberries and 1 tablespoon remaining graham crumble. Divide remaining cheesecake mixture, strawberries and graham crumbs on top of each parfait.
Chill cheesecakes in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour 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.