Here’s the thing: working the farmers markets in the summer isn’t all that bad. There are sun-kissed peaches, warm breezes and happy customers. There are sunflower-toting toddlers, sweet tomatoes and wily dogs. But let’s say September hits and it starts raining in Seattle. Really raining. When this happens, there is a noticeable lack of peaches, warm breezes and happy customers — all replaced, instead, with soaking wet tents, soggy bags of granola, and zero shoppers It’s been that kind of a week. But thankfully, I’ve long had a big crush on fall and this year is proving to be no different. Despite the time I’ve had to work at the markets, the rain has actually been really nice. We bought some new bedroom furniture, I’ve been baking muffins and cooking fall soups, and FIGS. Hello, roasted figs. And hello, simple whole-grain breakfast parfaits. When I was a teacher, fall was all about fresh starts. There was a noticeable mark on the calendar for when school was back in session and I’d get a few new notebooks and a new sweater or two to mark the season. Today, the days aren’t as structured — August bleeds into September more fluidly and less noticeably without the new notebooks or sweaters. I miss the fresh crop of eager faces and the anticipation that comes from writing a new syllabus. I miss the wonderful health benefits and shorter work days. But there are things I don’t at all miss either: the hectic mornings with only time for a quick granola bar on the way out the door. These days, mornings can be a little slower. I can answer emails while making a real breakfast and sitting down to enjoy it instead of tackling it during the morning commute.
I worked on these fall parfaits for this month’s recipe over on Attune Foods, and I’m excited about it for a few reasons. First, if you haven’t yet tried their Rye and Hemp Cereal, you’re missing out: it combines rye, hemp and barley for a not-too-sweet and wonderfully toasty breakfast cereal (with 11 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein!) Second, if you haven’t tried your hand at roasting figs, now is the perfect time. Roasting draws out the fig’s natural sweetness, making them even jammier (plus, it’s a great way to save any that are starting to soften / turn). You can roast the figs and toast the coconut the day before so when busy mornings strike, you’re simply layering yogurt, cereal, and figs and sitting down to breakfast — no more time than it would take to pour a bowl of cold cereal, really. So whatever mornings look like for you these days, I have a feeling these will gladly saddle right up to the table.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Slice figs in half and arrange cut side up on a medium rimmed baking sheet.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and olive oil. Drizzle over the tops of the figs, and roast for about 12 minutes, or until the figs are soft and the honey mixture is bubbling. Scoop figs onto a plate to cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350F and toast the almonds and coconut until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes (feel free to use the same baking sheet although watch the coconut carefully to avoid burning).
To assemble: Select four of your favorite 8-ounce glasses or cups and scoop ¼ cup plain yogurt into the bottom. Layer on 2 fig halves and top with 1 tablespoon of toasted coconut, sliced almonds and Rye and Hemp Cereal. Repeat to create an additional parfait layer and add an additional drizzle of honey, if desired. Serve immediately.
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.