Late the other night we arrived home from a week-long stay on the big island of Hawaii. Oliver promptly fell asleep in the car ride home (of course, after not sleeping through the duration of our 12 hour travel day), and Sam and I were starving so we stopped at the store for a frozen pizza, got O into bed and brought the luggage upstairs, and sat quietly at the dining room table listening to the spring rain sharing a few slices. It wasn’t great pizza, and it followed not great airport sandwiches, and all I could think about was how excited I was to get in the kitchen and make something great. Something with protein that felt nourishing and tasty — that all of us would eat and love. So instead of tackling the piles of vacation laundry today (so. much. ketchup), I headed to the store to pick up a few things to make a springtime chickpea salad — great as a sandwich filling or dip, and the perfect antidote to too much starchy food on the road.
While spending time in Hawaii, sandwiches were our lunchtime savior: we were on the East side for the first half of our trip, staying at a farmhouse situated near the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. There’s a great natural grocery store in nearby Honokaa where we often stocked up for dinner provisions, and a good spot for acai bowls in the morning, but lunch often found us out and about so we relied on peanut butter and jelly or turkey and cream cheese sandwiches. Both felt bland and dull but simple to execute, and on long sightseeing days, that’s really the best you can hope for.
Back home, it was time to add some color, crunch and a little acid to the mix. Our sandwich game needed some help. This morning Oliver went to his Aunt Christa’s for the day so we could catch up on work and settle back in, and I mashed up a can of chickpeas, cut up some herbs, grated carrots, chopped celery and pickles, and squeezed a fresh lemon into a bowl. Good things were happening.
Because I’m hanging onto vacation mode just a bit longer, I decided to put a few Tim’s potato chips in my sandwich for extra crunch. Sam thought I’d lost my mind until he tried it: elevated sandwich game accomplished. Now, onto the next great thing. See you back here soon.
While this isn’t the sandwich I’d choose to pack for a long trip (it’s a little messy — in the best possible way), it’s a great vegetarian go-to and is sure to elevate your sandwich game at home. I love serving these with a few potato chips inside the sandwich for extra crunch, but if you’re not much of a sandwich person, you could always forego the bread and fold in some leftover cooked grains or even pasta to make this a filling salad on its own.
In a medium bowl use a fork or potato masher to mash the chickpeas. You’re looking for a chunky texture – it’s ok if you have some whole chickpeas remaining but you want to avoid an extremely overmashed texture (like hummus).
Add the celery, pickles, carrot, shallot, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, chives, parsley, dill, salt, turmeric and pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired, adding additional salt or pepper as needed.
Lay two slices of bread on a flat surface and arrange a flat layer of spinach on one slice. Spread chickpea mixture on top of spinach. Pile a handful of potato chips on top, and place remaining slice of bread on top of chips. Press firmly to marry all the sandwich fillings.
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.