In a few short weeks, we’re headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I’ve ever seen (and he’s quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it’s remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we’ll be gone much of September, I’ve felt a bit of a ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling set in. So we’ve been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
A few weeks back we went blueberry picking with our friends John and Emily and their son, Lewis (Oliver’s best friend). While we love Bow Hill Blueberries, it was a bit of a trek this year with the little guys, so we checked out Bybee Farms instead, right at the base of Mount Si. We loaded up the car early, got a strong latte on the way out of town and pulled up just as the hot (hot, hot) sun was starting to peek out from behind the mountain.
The boys spent much of their time picking and almost immediately eating their blueberries, so we didn’t win any awards for Most Blueberries Picked, 2017. No medals, no crowns, but we did leave with almost 3 pounds and spent the weekend snacking on handfuls and sprinkling them on morning cereal. I ended up freezing a few cups, thinking I’d make a crisp or cobbler. Maybe some muffins.
But then, the ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling moved into the house and I was lying in bed drinking coconut Le Croix and reading A Year Between Friends by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, and stumbled across their Raspberry Ripple pops. It was a sign: 10:30 pm popsicles were in order.
If you’re not familiar with A Year Between Friends, it’s by the women who started 3191 Miles Apart, a website devoted to chronicling a friendship, mostly in photographs, from two homes across the country (Portland, OR and Portland, ME). A few times a week they each post a photo and a few words, encapsulating their day. It’s often something domestic and, perhaps, some would say insignificant but the simple moments all add up to tell the story of their lives, family, and their own friendship with one another. I’ve kept the book on my nightstand for a few months now, and dip into it as an escape and for a little inspiration surge: there are craft projects (naturally dyed baby clothes!), recipes, letters and stories — tales of family passing away, sugar cookies baked, babies born. Lives getting lived.
Maria and Stephanie wrote this recipe for raspberry pops, but I was specifically looking for something to do with our blueberries – so there you have it. But feel free to use any summer berry you like. I ended up straying from instructions a bit and cooking down the berries with sugar and lemon juice to make the mixture a bit jammier before throwing it into the food processor; this is nice, too, because it allows you to use frozen berries instead (or along with) fresh, so these can be a season-less affair.
Adapted from: A Year Between Friends
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook down the blueberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until berries soften and become a little jammy bit and sugar is dissolved (if using frozen berries, this will take longer). Let cool, off the heat, for 10 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the berry mixture until liquified.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar, and vanilla extract.
Dividing evenly, layer the blueberry puree and vanilla yogurt in the pop molds until they’re nearly filled (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top for expansion). To create the swirls, gently poke each pop with the end of a chopstick before placing the lid on the mold and adding the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. To remove the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds and slide them out. Store in the freezer in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.
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.