We all blasted through the front door a few hours ago, feet dirty and a bit exhausted from a full day of blueberry picking — something that’s become a bit of a family tradition in late July ever since Oliver was born. We have photos out in the field with O in the baby carrier, chubby legs swaying in the breeze while I obsessively applied sunscreen every ten minutes. Last year found Oliver and his friend Lewis traipsing through the rows of berries together in the late morning hours, eating more than we ended up taking home. This year’s photos tell a different story: Oliver and I in a big open field used for overflow parking, he sitting on his little potty, me singing songs and chatting away, the sun beating down on the two of us. We’re deep in the thick of potty training, so as it turned out, Sam and Oliver’s Aunt Christa did the brunt of the picking today. But Oliver and I had some good talks while staying hydrated, people watching, and eating Sour Cream and Onion Kettle chips. Not a bad way to spend a morning. And really, it’s never about how many berries we bring home because neither of these years have proven to be particularly bountiful, but it just never feels like high summer until we get out there and start filling our buckets, however slowly.
I’d promised you a savory baking recipe today but I’m still testing it, so instead I bring you mixed berry scones! And no, I didn’t just whip these up using the berries we picked this afternoon because, well, I’m just not that much of a sorceress. But I love this scone recipe for a few reasons, most importantly: their simplicity. I flirted with the idea of calling them Vacation Scones — you know those recipes you kind of keep memorized or you kind of roughly pull together when you’re traveling and they manage to somehow always taste great? For me, I can make an impromptu fruit crisp wherever I may be without a recipe and can make pretty respectable pancakes. These scones are simple enough to start to add to that list: they don’t have any fussy ingredients (I’m looking at you, lemon zest), they don’t require any rolling or turning or cutting butter into the dough (I use a food processor for ease and speed), and they’re easily adaptable. I dig them.
And I did promise I’d share a few other things I’ve been into lately as the summer ticks on. I have a pretty decent commute now with my new job, so I’ve been listening to more podcasts, have been forcing myself to read more in the evenings, and have bookmarked some new recipes. So here’s a quick and loose list of a few of those things:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: I’m ashamed to say I have a few pages left of this novel and there’s no good reason (other than I can’t keep my eyes open at night) because it’s such a rich, beautifully-written story and I can’t recommend it enough. On the surface it’s about a marriage, but it speaks so much to the different kinds of love, how time changes people, and the different versions of ourselves that we discover along the way.
Like a Mother by Angela Garbes: I haven’t read this book! So why recommend it? I have MANY friends who have and it’s on my ‘next to read’ list. I love the recent handful of books coming out that speak to a bit of a different experience of pregnancy, labor and motherhood than is portrayed in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. From the description, “With the curiosity of a journalist, the perspective of a feminist, and the intimacy and urgency of a mother, she explores the emerging science behind the pressing questions women have about everything from miscarriage to complicated labors to postpartum changes.” Let’s read this, shall we?!
Momrage Podcast: My online homie Amelia Morris has come out with a really interesting podcast along with her friend Edan Lepucki. They delve into questions about motherhood that are often unpopular or skirted around. And I love that they’re doing it; it’s about time.
Tully: Ok, so at first I didn’t like this movie. I even texted my friend Julie and commiserated with her about our mutual dislike for it. The day after though, after thinking about it in the shower for quite some time, I decided it actually resonated more than I gave it credit for. I love Charlize Theron and, without giving too much away, this film offers a unique and important glimpse into postpartum mental health.
Girls Night In: While I think I’m not necessarily the target age here (I’m guessing it’s more like early 30’s), I’ve been surprised with how much I enjoy this newsletter. It’s really well done, smartly written and always has a few links that interest me.
Green Chile Chicken Verde (in the Instant Pot!): As I mentioned, I (very) reluctantly gave into the craze: I’m the (reluctant) owner of a new Instant Pot and this recipe is calling my name. What else should I make?!
Instant Pot Tomato White Beans: It’s been really too hot to do major cooking this week, so when I stumbled across this recipe, it was immediately bookmarked. I’ve heard that making beans in the Instant Pot is a real game changer, and I’m looking forward to keying up this recipe to find out what all the hype’s about.
Our Favorite Vegan Ice Cream: More often than not we have a pint of Frankie and Jo’s in the freezer. It’s not cheap, but it’s hands down the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had and just so happens to be a few blocks from our house (but they also ship!). I love the Berries and Cultured Cream flavor this month. So good.
These whole grain scones aren’t too sweet and are a great way to use up a glut of summer berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries all work great here (I used a mixture of raspberries and blackberries). As you’re making the dough, remember that flour is your friend: if your dough feels too wet or you’re sticking to your work surface, just add a bit more! These are best the day you bake them, but are still great the second day if stored in an airtight container. Beyond that, freeze them for future weekday breakfasts.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the butter and pulse until it’s incorporated into tiny pebble-size pieces. Slowly add the buttermilk through the feed tube, stopping right when the dough starts to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Place your berries on top and fold the dough over a few times until the berries have been incorporated (they’ll likely be kind of hiding in the center layer there, which is great; you can’t mess this step up … just get those berries in there as messy as it may seem). Add a little more flour to the dough if it’s sticking to the surface.
Form the dough into a rectangle shape (do the best you can here; it’s totally acceptable to have different shaped scones, so it really doesn’t matter). Slice into 9 large scones or 16 small scones.
Quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Best if enjoyed within two days of baking.
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.