This past week involved a lot of time with file folders and receipts, readying and finishing tax documents. I’m a big fan of “clearing the decks” at home and at work: I try to get bills out right on time, generally hate clutter, love a Goodwill run to get rid of things we’re not using around the house — so a particular time of year that forces you to revisit all of the stressful financial and business questions that you thought you’d already put to bed? No thanks. At some point last year, my youngest sister got her first credit card and had some questions about how all of the interest, payments and rewards work. I spent some time trying to explain it to her and she ended the call by letting me know how truly overwhelming it is to be an adult. That’s generally how I feel about taxes.
So in between calls to my bookkeeper and filing receipts, I polished up on the fine skill of internet-puttering and cleaned up my Pinterest boards (both highly pressing tasks, obviously) and in doing so, realized I haven’t shared a list of inspiring links with you in awhile, so let’s do that today. And I thought it was high time I shared this special kale salad with you, too; I’ve been making a version of this salad for weeks now with whatever odds and ends we have in the fridge and it’s been the perfect refueling lunch. I actually start looking forward to eating it even as I’m drinking my morning coffee, despite knowing it will be many hours until I pull it all together. I think you’re going to like it.
I’m not sure about you, but the produce at our farmers market has been largely cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and a few root vegetables. Hello, February. That being said, there’s a lot of different ways to get in on the February action, and I think this salad has much of the best our season has to offer: hearty kale; sweet little bits of apple; bright, snappy fennel; vibrant cabbage and parsley. At times I’ll swap in radishes for the apple or a big handful of grated carrots. I’ve been pondering adding citrus next time around. In other words, the salad is forgiving: whatever you’re most excited about that gets you out of the occasional seasonal doldrums is a good inclusion. The whole thing is tossed with a lemony tahini dressing that I’ve come to really love — and this version is topped with a Sunflower Crumble I just read about over on My New Roots.
This Sunflower Crumble has Winter Salad Game Changer written all over it. It’s a quick mash-up of sunflower seeds, coconut oil, nutritional yeast and a few spices all pulsed together in the food processor. While it has a slightly sweet fragrance from the coconut oil, it’s still largely savory and crunchy and wakes up a February salad brilliantly. We’ve also learned it’s pretty wonderful on toast, soft scrambled eggs or sprinkled on top of a creamy soup. I have a hunch it’d be wonderful on roasted vegetables, too. Thankfully the recipe for the Sprinkle yields more than you need for this salad so you can go wild with the stuff.
Now for a few links. I’m not as organized as I’d like to be with these lists, and perhaps some day I can come up with a more diligent schedule to share them with you. For now, I let them add up on one of my desktop Sticky Notes until I have enough to pass along. I hope you have a wonderful week, friends.
Oliver Sachs on Learning He Has Cancer
On Being Podcast with Mary Oliver
This beautiful splurge
Invisibilia (Our Computers, Ourselves)
This Baking Book (I want to visit!)
Broad City (If you like Girls … )
Amy Chaplin’s Oat Walnut Marmalade Squares
Time for a Portland road trip
New Tech City’s Bored and Brilliant Challenge (I’m ashamed to say I failed on Day 3).
My next sewing project
This salad is best eaten the day it’s made. If you wanted to prepare it in advance the day before, just wait to dice the apples and dress /sprinkle the salad until you’re ready to serve. If you don’t have coconut oil on hand for the Crumble, I suspect it would be just as delicious with olive oil, so feel free to experiment.
For the Dressing:
For the Sunflower Crumble:
For the Salad:
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the shallot, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before stirring mustard and tahini and whisking in the olive oil. Taste and season with with a pinch of salt. If the dressing seems to thick for your liking, feel free to whisk in a little more olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time.
To make the crumble: In a large dry skillet, toast the sunflower seeds over medium heat, tossing often so they don’t burn, about 3-5 minutes. Remove fro heat and transfer the seeds to a large plate to cool completely. Place the seeds in a food processor with the remaining crumble ingredients and pulse several times to combine and chop up some of the seeds. Set aside.
Combine all of the salad ingredients into a very large salad bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle a large handful of Sunflower Crumble on top and serve. Sprinkle additional crumble on top as desired. When dressed, salad is really best served the day it is made.
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.