From now on
Our friend Ben was here last week. He arrived on Thursday, just in time for lunch, and flew out early Tuesday morning. Even June misses him, I think. She got into the habit of standing at the top of the basement stairs – our guest room is down there, a dungeon with red deep-pile carpet and faux wood paneling and an enormous oil furnace that’s as loud as a train – and yelling, Beh! Beh! Beh! until he came upstairs. We all agree that his trip was too short, but he did stay long enough to play a ukulele duet with Brandon, to get a kiss from June, to make me a Boulevardier and a great steak, to help us host a giant holiday party at Delancey and Essex for a chef friend and the staff of her four restaurants, and to eat the majority of a quart of sweet-hot spiced nuts that I made the night before he arrived.
I wasn’t planning to post about these nuts. I figured you’re probably all Christmas-baking-ed out, or maybe you already have a spiced nut recipe that you like, or, I don’t know, who really eats spiced nuts? This admission will no doubt mark me as an empty, soulless person, but I always thought of spiced nuts as the kind of holiday gift you don’t actually eat. Right? No? You admire the packaging, and you’re touched that someone gave them to you, but you never actually feel moved to eat them? I only made this recipe because I did my holiday baking this year with my niece Hillary, and she suggested it. Hillary is an excellent cook and eater, and I knew she wouldn’t lead me astray. So we made a double batch, and a week later, my half has been entirely eaten. From now on, I defer to Hillary.
Of course, because I didn’t plan to write about them, I only thought to photograph the nuts once they were almost gone, at a moment when I was eating a fistful of them out of a plastic storage container while standing next to the sink piled with dirty dishes, drinking an afternoon cup of PG Tips. Still, I hope you get the idea: they’re toasty and crunchy, coated with a crackly layer of caramelized sugar and spices and just enough salt to land them on the savory side of the fence, and though they’re intended to be eaten with a cocktail, they go with anything. PG Tips. Plain water. Boozed-up egg nog. Saliva. Between me and Ben – I’m not sure Brandon even got to taste them – we ate so much that I could only give them to a couple of friends before they disappeared.
The recipe comes from the bar at Gramercy Tavern. Hillary lived in New York until recently, and she had eaten them there and remembered how good they were. So she dug up the recipe online, and between my spice drawer and a trip to the store for nuts, we pulled together the ingredients. The nuts are easy to make: you stir together sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, black pepper, and nutmeg, and then you stir that mixture into a bowl of almonds, pecans, and cashews, along with a little simple syrup, a little oil, and the smallest amount of corn syrup. (Not to be confused with high-fructose corn syrup – though if you don’t want to use corn syrup at all, I’ll bet honey would be a fine substitute.) If you taste the spiced nuts in their raw state, you will probably not be pleased: they are much spicier before you bake them than after. (And if anyone can explain why that is so, I would be grateful.) They are spicy(!!!) spiced nuts. But once the spices toast and meld with the sugar and the mixture turns to caramel, the heat fades to a humming warmth, and the sugar and salt strike an amicable balance, and then, boom, they’re gone.
Gramercy Tavern Bar Nuts
Adapted from Mix Shake Stir, by Danny Meyer
This recipe uses two different kinds of salt. I don’t know why, although I’m guessing that the different salts coat the nuts differently? In any case, my kosher salt is Diamond Crystal brand, and that’s important to note, because it’s significantly less salty than Morton brand kosher salt. If you have Morton (or another brand), you’ll want to use much less than the 1 tablespoon this recipe calls for. I’d suggest about 1 ½ teaspoons.
Also, to make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, stir until the sugar dissolves, and then take it off the heat and allow it to cool. (To be honest, though, I didn’t allow mine to cool; I made it just before using and only cooled it for a few minutes.)
Last, the original version of this recipe uses volume measurements, and I forgot to convert them to weight measurements when I made it. I know, I know; I usually give you both types of measurements, and I, myself, prefer weight. I am sad. Apologies.
Preheat the oven to 300˚F.
Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to a plate, and set aside to cool.
While the almonds toast, make the spice mix. Combine the sugar, salts, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, black pepper, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Stir to mix.
Reduce the oven temperature to 275˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the almonds, pecans, and cashews. Toss to mix. Add the simple syrup, corn syrup, and grapeseed oil, and stir to coat the nuts. Add the spice mix, and toss gently until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the spice mixture is caramelized and the nuts are toasted, about 25-40 minutes. To check for doneness, take a few nuts out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes; if done, they should be dry to the touch.
Cool completely; then store in an airtight container. (The original recipe says that the nuts should keep at room temperature for a week, but I’d guess that they’ll keep longer than that. Two weeks, easy.)
Yield: about 4 cups
Their good work
Hello again! If I don’t write a post tonight, I will have to do my real work, which is to read the final proofs of Delancey before it goes to print, and that is a terrifying prospect. So! La la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaa As it happens, combing through files of old film photos is also a great way to avoid work – and I can use the photos here! Behold: somewhat ancient photos that have nothing at all to do with this post! But more to the point: as I wrapped some Christmas presents the other evening, I found myself thinking about how much I enjoy the gift guides that crop up online every December. I can easily feel overwhelmed by exhortations to…Read more
Approximately a soup
First: RING THE BELLS! I HAVE A NEW CAMERA! Here at Wizenberg-Pettit World Headquarters, we are excited. And grabby. Second: we are also into soup, apparently, which is why I’m going to tell you about yet another, our third soup in a row. I am so, so sorry. This particular soup, however, is only approximately a soup. I don’t know that I would have even thought to call it a soup, actually, except for the fact that its author, the wonderful, recently departed Marcella Hazan, called it that. She called it Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup. To me, it’s closer to a risotto, a risotto that starts with an entire head of Savoy cabbage, shredded and cooked very gently in…Read more
So, how bored will you be if we talk about soup again? Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup? I didn’t set out to write about this one – I made it mostly as a vehicle for a ham bone that I put in our freezer last April, forgot, and then triumphantly unearthed the week before last – but June liked it so much that she did her special high chair “dance,” swaying from side to side and grunting, so I changed my mind. Swaying and grunting: strong praise from young June E. A. Pettit! (Also, Swaying and Grunting: what I will call my debut album when I launch my third career as a down-and-out country singer.) I know that it’s almost…Read more
But the soup
Would you look at that! While trying, and failing, to start this post about squash soup, I accidentally ate an entire chocolate chip cookie dough ball from the Delancey walk-in! Let’s get right to it. I’ve been wanting to tell you about this soup for more than a week now, but a certain crazy-haired dancing maniac of a young person is getting a molar, or something, and has been waking up veeeerrrrrry early and then spending a large portion of the day crawl-running around the house/park/bathtub/Delancey, panting, grunting, and generally looking and acting a lot like Animal. After she goes to bed, I make myself a drink, warm up some soup, open a book, close the book, and sleep like a dead person.…Read more
The days are twice as long
This time last week, I was in a wood stove-heated cottage with no Internet, no telephone, and no television, reading my sixth New Yorker of the day. I am fully caught up with The New Yorker. (!) (!!) Those words may never again be assembled in that order by me, or by anyone, ever. Actually, I should already switch tenses: I was caught up with The New Yorker. Briefly. Past tense. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending two nights at Hedgebrook, a nonprofit retreat for women writers, located on Whidbey Island. It’s an incredible place: just six one-room cabins, a cottage, a farmhouse, a garden, and a couple of woodsheds on 48 acres, dedicated solely giving women the time, space,…Read more
It made an impression
I had to get a new computer last week, one of few life events with the power to make a person feel both elated and completely bankrupt. After I brought it home, while I waited for my blood pressure to stabilize, I combed through the files that had been on my old computer and happened to find a document that I had forgotten, a recipe for a brown sugar clafoutis with pears. BROWN SUGAR CLAFOUTIS! WITH PEARS! I made the clafoutis last week, and again yesterday, and then I hustled over here to tell you about it with an oddly colored iPhone photo of my leftovers. I had clafoutis for the first time when I was 23. It came to…Read more
Over and over and over
It was a summer of greatest hits. I’ve always been a redundant cook, content to repeat a couple dozen recipes over and over (and over and over and over), recipes that I know as though they were wired into me, the way I know my name, the alphabet, and lyrics to songs that haven’t seen radio play since Bill Clinton was president. (Wheeeeee…) This summer, I really let myself run wild in that department, which is to say that I have done nothing even vaguely wild, and it has been great. I’ve made meatballs three times now, my best meatballs, which are Cafe Lago’s recipe cooked in Marcella Sauce. There was a batch of Lago’s pomodori al forno, too, using…Read more
I planted about a half dozen plants back in late May, and I don’t know how to explain it, but they’re not dead yet. It’s difficult to describe how much that satisfies me. I am not a gardener by any stretch of anything, but I noticed the other morning, as I was puttering around (in a pair of old bagged-out maternity leggings and a tank top that I accidentally cut a giant hole in and can now only wear for puttering), watering the plants with my Hario coffee kettle (because I have no watering can, and because I keep forgetting to buy one, and because I am obviously a very, very classy person), that it gives me inordinate pleasure to watch plants…Read more
A new reason
I just sat down, looked at the calendar, and noticed that it’s August 9th. June is eleven months old today. On Monday, Delancey will be four years old, and on Thursday, Essex will be one. Is this what happens when you become a firm-and-fast adult? You’ve done enough stuff and crossed paths with enough people that at some point, each day comes with a birthday or anniversary? I mean, in addition to bills and tax deadlines and increasingly tight hamstrings? In other words: there’s always a new reason to eat cake, isn’t there? Or drink wine? Both? I have a very cold bottle of riesling in the refrigerator. But there is no cake here, and that is because there is no…Read more
I am typing this post from the back office at Delancey, where I’m holed up, working on a deadline, while Brandon and Co. prepare a five-course meal for forty-five in celebration of a gorgeous new book. Deadline: I will destroy you. In more ways than one. But I had to take a break to pop into this space, and to send up a cheer – if you can, in fact, hear me from back here behind the Essex walk-in – that it has been nine years today since this site was born. Nine! I was a delinquent graduate student then, giddy to be creating a space to write about things other than Michel Foucault and discourse analysis and anything described…Read more
A rare benefit
I’ve started this post four different times now, on five different days. I’m already tired of it, and I still haven’t figured out how to start. Does that ever happen to you? Do you do what I do and take a “break” to raid the walk-in at Delancey for chocolate chip cookie dough? Do you tell yourself, What harm could it really do if I listened to Freedom ’90 again? Do you ever wonder if you’ve missed your chance to be a dancer in a Janet Jackson video? Shall we start this thing already? First, I want to tell you that I was elated by your response to Delancey. Totally elated. Ecstatic. Even slightly stoned. I’m still coming down from it. Thank you so very, very…Read more
This thing is on
Maybe you will remember a day, more than two years ago now, when I announced that I was writing a new book, and that, if all went according to plan, it would be out in the spring of 2013? And then maybe you will also remember that nothing went according to plan, in ways that were hard and good-but-hard and then great and really, really great, and here we are, with no book, in July of 2013. Maybe you will join me, then, in heaving a giant sigh of relief – more than that: a great wind, a hurricane-force gust – that Delancey is not only done, donedonedone, but that it now has a cover. A cover! This thing is ON. I will tell you…Read more
Friday! Yessssssss. It’s just after noon, and I’m sitting in Essex, my “office” by day, with an imposing to-do list. But before I put on my blinders and get down to it, I wanted to stop by and share a few things that I enjoyed this week. It’s going to be hot (84 degrees! Sunny! HOTTTTT!) in Seattle this weekend, and weekends aren’t really our weekends, living as we do in Restaurant Land, but I have plans nonetheless to get new tires and a rack for my bike, so I can start riding to the office next week. (My last real bike ride was at 19 weeks pregnant and a very bad idea.) In any case, I hope you’ve got…Read more
Told you so
Every so often, I encounter a recipe that makes me want to forgo the usual niceties of a post – the introduction, the story, the conclusion, the delicate foreplay – because that would only slow you down, when what you should really do is grab your shoes and make a list and run to the grocery store and throw some money at the cashier and run back home and make this immediately and I mean it, go, right now, DO IT. One such recipe is Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas, and Chile, from the stunning book Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Even June is all over it. The only problem is that I made it for a late dinner a few nights ago, when…Read more
Last night, it occurred to me that I had inadvertently neglected to write down something important: that June’s head smells like strawberry jam. I’ve thought about it for a long time, trying to make sure that was it, and now I’m certain: not strawberries, but strawberry jam. She smells like something I would like to eat on buttered toast. Now there’s a menu idea for Delancey. Brandon bought himself a record player as an early Father’s Day present, and he’s been buying old records left and right. The other day he came home with Cat Stevens’s Tea for the Tillerman. The next morning, before he woke up, June and I were hanging out, like we do every morning, and I turned on…Read more
You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while raising young children? You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while working and raising young children and doing all that household stuff that most of us wind up doing? I throw myself at your feet. I don’t have anything remotely original or insightful to say on the subject; I just think you’re remarkable. I have childcare twelve hours a week, jobs with flexible hours, a supportive spouse, and a kid who (usually) sleeps well (please don’t let this jinx me, please don’t let this jinx me), and yet I fight to get to this space. Of course, part of the problem could be that, each night,…Read more
I’m feeling daring
I have finally learned how to use the espresso machine that Brandon chased down on eBay and gave me for Christmas in 2011! The best part of this development, however, is not the double espresso that I can now enjoy each morning while sitting on the living room floor with June, reading Madeline or singing along (poorly, loudly) to our favorite song, “On the Road Again.” No, no, the best part is that while I make said double espresso, I get to recite aloud for June and Alice, in my best/worst Italian accent, the molto gag-worthy slogan written in loopy script on the side of the machine: For Music ~ Puccini For Art ~ Bernini For Espresso ~ Pasquini In other news, do…Read more
I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the past few days, but I wanted to pop in. I promise not to breathe on you. June is going to be seven months old on April 9, this Tuesday, which would have been my dad’s 84th birthday. Brandon says that she has my eyes, and if it’s true, then she has my dad’s eyes, because that’s where I got mine. She and I are flying to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, to visit my mother. June’s first trip to my hometown, to the house where I grew up! It feels like a big deal. But if you’re on our plane, I would like to apologize in advance: June is chatty, and…Read more
We have a rhythm
June is six months old. She has two teeth, monstrous thighs, and is my favorite person in the world. Totally predictable, I know, but I really never thought I would say that about someone who spends most of the day drooling and pulling my hair. Sometimes she looks at me tenderly, places a dimpled hand on either side of my face, and then lunges forward, giggling, and savagely bites my nose. She suits me so well. Really, she’s perfect for me. We have a rhythm. I sent my revised manuscript to my editor in the final days of February. A few days later, we lost our manager at Delancey and Essex. Though losing a staff member always makes me and Brandon…Read more
In the time since we last spoke, I’ve revised the manuscript for my next book! I’ve traveled alone with my five-month-old baby to a family wedding on the other side of the country! I’ve felt like an Olympic gold medalist for having survived traveling alone with my five-month-old baby to a family wedding on the other side of the country! I’ve consumed biscuits and dark chocolate milkshakes and fingers and cheeks, listened to Fugazi and almost remembered what it felt like to be 15 and have a crush on Guy Picciotto, tried two recipes for healthy cookies, decided that I’m not into healthy cookies, made my daughter wear a pair of sunglasses that were intended for a doll, and rekindled my love for farro. The usual. I…Read more
A small revolution
You good, good people. Before I say another word, I want to thank you for your many comments, your e-mails, and the incredibly kind card – a real, three-dimensional paper card – that one of you sent to me at Delancey. Your kindness blew me away. I thought for a long time before deciding to write that last post, and I want to thank you for making me feel not only safe in deciding to do it, but very, very glad. I remember my doctor saying to me, one day in mid-December, that I would not only recover, but that someday soon, I might even have a hard time remembering exactly what postpartum depression felt like. Though he’s been my…Read more
My father wasn’t a writer, or not in the vocational sense, but he liked to play with words, and I grew up thinking of him as someone who wrote. He never made a big deal of it; writing was just something he did sometimes, a few quick lines on one of the index cards that he always kept in his shirt pocket. I haven’t seen a lot of his work – only a goofy poem he once jotted for me on a notepad from a medical conference he went to, and some haikus that we found in his bathroom drawer after he died. Many years ago, in a context that I now don’t remember, my mother told me that Burg…Read more