I’m writing this post while sitting about three feet away from the fan in our master bedroom upstairs — trying not to think about how our old brick Tudor house stubbornly holds onto the heat of the day and just plain refuses to let it go. It’s tough to complain when we look forward to this season all year — the months filled with farmers market berries, juicy stone fruit and bushy sunflowers. The months when it doesn’t actually get dark until almost 10 p.m. and we eat dinner out on the picnic table or spread across the itchy grass, the neighbor’s bamboo tree quietly brushing up against the fence. This year, I planted a blueberry bush out back and Oliver dutifully waters it and checks for berries each day. He runs through the back door to report the count (which, for the past six weeks, has been “no berries, mama. Maaaaaaayyyyybe someday.”) Yesterday while doing his check he spotted THREE berries with his Aunt Christa and promptly snatched them up, refusing to share. It was a good day.
I realize it’s been a bit quiet around here, and I want to thank you for your patience. While we’ve been soaking in all the good summer things, the days have also become much more constrained due to my new job (yay!). It’s been a pretty big transition for our little family — I knew that there were things I took for granted with my freelance schedule: the ability to turn recipe testing for work into dinner for the evening, do midday errands, schedule a dentist appointment whenever I pleased. These things are different now.
We learned quickly that if we don’t meal plan and shop ahead, we just stare at each other at 6 p.m. and end up making quesadillas for dinner (which, let’s be real, isn’t always a bad thing). It took me a few weeks to figure out how to somehow work in exercise or watering the lawn or calling back the insurance company. We’re all getting used to it, and finding new footing.
I usually wake before Oliver and sneak out of the house, getting to the office early to avoid the heinous commute. Sam has been meal planning and preparing a handful of dinners each week which is such an immense treat and lifesaver and relief and … did I say treat? He made homemade broccoli rabe and sausage pizza this week and chicken tinga tacos. It’s tough to complain. Given all of the disheartening and difficult-to-digest news lately, we all just feel so lucky.
Today I’m leaving you with a recipe I wrote for the last issue of Edible Seattle. When I put a photo on Instagram awhile back, many of you messaged me asking for the recipe and I recently included it in a cooking class I taught at The Pantry and was reminded how ridiculously delicious it is. It’s a perfectly balanced whole grain bowl that’s hearty enough to act as a meal on its own. I love the combination of crunchy radishes and cucumbers with the toothsome rye berries, creamy dressing, and salty capers and salmon. Make this one ahead and it’ll be great for a few days in the refrigerator (yes, even with the dressing), and if you don’t have rye berries on hand, use any hearty grain you like (farro, wheat berries, kamut).
I’ll see you back here soon with a summery savory baking recipe I’ve been working on (Oliver has been the lucky taste tester). And a few things that have been making me happy this season (books, podcasts, television and more!).
A vibrant, healthy grain bowl that leaves you satisfied and energized, this recipe comes together quickly if you cook the rye berries and prepare the pickled onions in advance — then you’re just chopping veggies and dressing the salad, and dinner is on the table. You’ll end up having some leftover pickled onions, which is great for all the future salads and grain bowls in your life.
For the Quick-Pickled Onions:
For the Creamy Caper Sauce:
For the Salad:
For this recipe you want to look for hot-smoked salmon that will be nice and flaky vs more of the cold-smoked salmon or lox.
Make the Quick-Pickled Onions:
Place sliced onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure they’re mixed well. Pour over onion slices and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain onions before using. Note: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Keep leftover onions covered and refrigerated along with the vinegar mixture.
Start the Salad:
Place the rye berries in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of salted water. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and chewy, 50–60 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain away any excess water, and set aside.
Make the Creamy Caper Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, yogurt, olive oil, horseradish, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Stir in the capers and set aside.
Finish the Salad:
In a large salad bowl, fold together the rye berries, cucumber, radishes, fennel, parsley, chives, and salt. Chop 1/4 cup of the quick-pickled onions, and fold them in. Dress salad with the creamy caper sauce. Carefully fold in the smoked salmon. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with additional chopped chives and dill. Leftovers can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.
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.