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Charming Nonetheless | Fig & Almond Butter Thumbprints

Charming Nonetheless | Fig & Almond Butter Thumbprints

Fig Thumbprints | Delightful CrumbFairytales are just that—tales. And we all know this, of course. I steer clear of them most of the time, primarily due to their problematic presentation of gender roles and concerning lack of realism, which I don’t think are the very best lessons to teach young children nor great concepts to drill into our own adult minds. I am very passionate about the reality that life is difficult, and when we act as though that’s not the case, we all feel let down, e.g., our constant pondering of why everyone else’s lives look so much better on Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong, I think life is great! But it’s also really really hard. And happy endings aren’t really a thing—there’s no ending until the actual end, and while that can be a peaceful, happiness-adjacent thing, it doesn’t quite match the endings of our favorite fairytales and romantic comedies. Those endings are more often beginnings, introductions to the next chapter, which will surely be full of conflict and confusion and money problems and insomnia and, you know, life. I’m not proposing we tell the children that their experience in the world is going straight downhill from where they’re sitting, because it really does get more interesting. But I do think we ought to be careful.

However, least I over-intellectualize this, let me get to the point here. When I dip my toes back into fairytale land, I, too, am swept away. So much hope! So much magic! We recently watched the new Cinderella film, and I was utterly charmed. Lily James’ Ella is strong and intelligent enough that I refrained from any gendered analysis, likely to Ben’s great surprise. That night, I pulled my well-worn copy of Ella Enchanted off the shelf in our bedroom. The book (which is much, much better than the movie that’s based on it) is my favorite Cinderella retelling, with a tough, curious female lead and lots of whimsical elaboration on the old, well-known story. I read it in 24 hours. I am now doubly charmed. I am also reminded of what a great idea it is to read young adult literature. I understood every single reference and feel like the fastest reader alive.

My other current obsession in the land of fiction is Gilmore Girls, which I’m re-watching on Netflix. I recognize that it’s light and kind of silly and the speed at which they speak is totally unrealistic. But their little town is just SO DANG CHARMING, and it’s all about a mother-daughter relationship and growing up, two subjects that make me extremely sentimental, which is enough to cheer me up on any given day and also to eliminate completely my inclination to critique.

This obsession began in earnest around the time I got let go from my job at Good Eggs and fell down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what to do with my life. No big surprise here, right? We want to escape to something simpler and to the world of happy endings when our own lives feel confusing and complicated. And I think that, at least sometimes, it is absolutely okay to give in. Despite loving big cities, I have lately been longing for the simplicity (and cleanliness) of a small town, where you know everyone and easily stop by the store when you’re out of milk and have just a handful of close friends, but they’re all really awesome and you see them constantly, and you can walk wherever you need to go. I wish for a world that doesn’t need or want the thousands of apps that are being made here in the Bay Area, the ones that try to recreate this sort of simple life but in doing so bring about their own set of problems. Though that’s a subject for another day.

While my life generally doesn’t feel as simple as I’d like, I’m grateful for the small communities I have within this big city, like the neighbors I know and our church and the people I met through working at Good Eggs and the new community I’ve fallen into at Ordinaire. And I’m grateful for the shining memories of my childhood, set in a smallish town, when things really did feel simple.

This recipe is tied to one of those childhood memories. My mother made wonderful thumbprint cookies every Easter, little nutty shortbreads filled with pastel-colored frosting. I loved them. I still love them. I really need to make sure I bake some this next spring; it’s an oversight of past years that I ought to correct. While these old favorites are filled with frosting, others are filled with jam, and I’d always thought it would be fun to swap out jam for fresh figs, which are, well, jammy. A favorite snack (and breakfast) of mine these past couple of months has been an apple, a fig or two and a big spoonful of almond butter. I figured all of that would make an excellent cookie, and a healthy one at that.

It’s a very small happy ending, this one, but charming nonetheless.

Fig Thumbprints | Delightful Crumb

Fig & Almond Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

1 cup almond butter (unsweetened, no salt added)

1/2 cup natural cane sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

12 figs, stems removed and halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, mix the almond butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and mix again. Add the baking soda and salt and stir with a spatula to combine. At this point, you can chill the mixture for 30 minutes, advisable especially if the dough is not firm, which depends quite a bit on the consistency of your almond butter.

Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls (about 1 heaped tablespoon each). Press them down slightly, making a shallow indent with your thumb or the back of a tablespoon. Set a halved fig atop each cookie. It looks a little silly, but the cookies will spread, letting the figs sink down into the dough.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned and the figs jammy.

These cookies are best the day they are baked but will keep for a day on the countertop in a well-sealed container or for several days if refrigerated.

The Season of Kale with Tahini (Among Other Things)

The Season of Kale with Tahini (Among Other Things)

Kale & Tahini Salad | Delightful CrumbAs many have picked up from the sudden proliferation of my mid-day Instagram posts, I no longer work at Good Eggs. Those of you in the Bay Area and following food news might have read about the round of layoffs and closures that happened in early August; I was among the crew let go. If you know me well, you will know that I loved working there these past two years, pursuing a mission I believed in and working with amazing people. So I am, of course, disappointed, and I have experienced the full range of emotion that you might expect to come in tandem with such an experience. But it was a fantastic run. I am immensely grateful for that.

However, it has been a strange month—some of it good, some of it bad, most of it confusing.

I’ve had fun, of course! Ben and I had two free days betwixt his summer job of painting and the start of the school year, so we went to Point Reyes to walk for miles and gaze at elk. I’ve bumped around town during the day and slept in and said yes to things I’d have had to turn down before. I’ve become enamored with breakfast at Pizzaiolo. But in reality, I’m not one of those people who can just enjoy the ride! I want to know what’s next. I want structure. I want to feel purposeful.

In some ways, I know what I’d like to do next. But in other ways, I’m puzzled, even when I interview for jobs that seem in line with my aspirations. I don’t want to rush back to the grind that it seems most of us experience in our working lives. I would like a little balance. I know too many people who have worked a corporate job and then left, disillusioned and cynical, to pursue something that felt more meaningful. I’m increasingly tentative about startups, especially those hawking a product that seems unnecessary or replicated a million other times. I can’t help but take a long view: What do I want my life to look like in 10 years? Why should I choose to run the rat race when I’ve seen so many succeed unhappily? What sort of career will let me have a robust, restful, thoughtful life—and, someday, a kid or two? I would like to keep sleeping enough. I would like to keep cooking dinner.

The future of work is unclear (to me and others), and to further complicate things, I am a classic jack-of-all-trades, a poster girl for my liberal arts education. We no longer have career paths but rather mazes, as a friend wisely put it. So, what to do? I know things will work out no matter what I choose. I say to the friends with whom I lost my job, It’s a great, big, wonderful world! Amazing things will happen! And I do believe that. But I sure wish someone else could make a few decisions for me.

For now, I am working at Ordinaire, my long-beloved neighborhood natural wine bar, getting things organized (my forte!) and helping out behind the bar as well. This has been wonderful. Great people, great wine and purpose to boot. I can hardly believe I work there, considering how long and how fervently I’ve loved the place. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this, but I’m grateful for it. I’m learning a lot, exploring a field I find compelling, resting in something that’s good in a very basic way.

These past weeks have reminded me anew of how quickly we wrap up our identity in our careers. I’m working on adjusting my sense of self and well-honed resume pitch into something that’s applicable to my whole life, to the values I hold and work toward regardless of the title I might hold at any given moment. I never again want to lose or leave a job and feel unsure of who I am and what I offer to the world when my everyday responsibilities are stripped away.

That’s all I will say about this for now. I just wanted to come out of the closet with the news, open this space to the things I want to write about at this moment: the confusion of in-between seasons, the goings on at Ordinaire, the likely reason why I’m so relieved by autumn this year.

This is the season of not knowing. It is the season of big salads for lunch, of novels, of natural wine in abundance, of occasionally sleeping 9 hours, of a faint but constant buzz of confusion in my ears. And maybe that’s okay. It’s likely I will look back fondly. I will probably discover something meaningful. And I will definitely survive.

Thanks for being here for the ride.

Kale & Tahini Salad | Delightful Crumb

Kale Salad with Tahini

Makes enough for 1 big portion or 2 smaller salads

Since I’ve been tasked with making my lunch once again (thanks for feeding me for these many months, Good Eggs kitchen team! I miss you!), some version of this salad has been making an appearance on my plate at lunchtime several days a week. I’ve gotten numerous questions about the dressing and preparation, so I figured I ought to share. It’s incredibly easy, delicious and wonderfully healthful, too.

Collard greens and thinly sliced cabbage also work well here, instead of or along with the kale. So do zucchini noodles, which I make with a simple julienne peeler. You can also change things up by swapping out the tahini for peanut or almond butter. I’ve mentioned some of my favorite additions and toppings below, but this is only an outline: take whatever liberties you like!

2 tablespoons tahini

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Small pinch of Aleppo or red pepper flakes, optional

Big pinch of lemon zest, optional

Dollop of Sambal Oelek chili paste, optional (choose cider vinegar or tamari as the next ingredient if you go this route)

Red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or tamari

1 small bunch (or half of a large bunch) kale

Possible additions (mix these into the dressing along with the kale): zucchini ribbons, carrot ribbons, thinly sliced cabbage, cubed avocado, herbs (basil, parsley and mint are my favorites)

Possible toppings: chopped toasted almonds, toasted almonds, toasted sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi, fresh corn, halved cherry tomatoes

To make the dressing, put the tahini into a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt, some freshly cracked black pepper and the pepper flakes, lemon zest and/or chili paste, if using. Stir to combine. The mixture will be very thick. Add a big splash of whatever vinegar you choose and stir again. Add water, a teaspoon or so at a time, until the dressing reaches the consistency you like. I like to keep it pretty thick, as too much water dilutes the flavor. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Cut the kale into thin ribbons. I like to roll it up (parallel to the stem, the long way) then slice it as with a chiffonade.

Put the kale and any additions you like into the bowl. Toss the salad with your hands until the dressing has thoroughly coated the kale. Taste and adjust again. I often add another pinch of salt or a bit more acid. Finish with a few more cracks of pepper and whatever toppings you like. Transfer to a plate (or plates, if you’re sharing) and enjoy!

Café Almond Cake & The Kitchen Gypsy

Café Almond Cake & The Kitchen Gypsy

Café Almond Cake | Delightful Crumb Kitchen Gypsy spread | Delightful CrumbKitchen Gypsy | Delightful CrumbEarlier this month, I went to a beautiful dinner at Joanne Weir’s home in celebration of her new cookbook, Kitchen Gypsy. It was a potluck, a genius idea that put a whole array of recipes from the book in front of us and had the added benefit of letting Joanne witness people cooking from her book—which is, of course, the goal of most cookbooks but an act rarely observed by their authors. Joanne regaled us with stories and made a few recipes on the spot, including a killer chocolate milk shake spiked with chile powder and tequila that I will soon replicate in my own kitchen. She was in her element, teaching favorite recipes and encouraging home cooks. As their feet hit the top of the steps, several guests were voicing their concern about the correctness of their salad dressing, or how terrifying it felt to cook Joanne Weir’s recipes for Joanne Weir herself—perhaps not realizing that, if I’ve read her right, these happen to be the very fears Joanne lives to alleviate. She praised food and remembered names left and right, a charming hostess. The evening was gorgeous, sun streaming through the windows as we sipped wine and filled our bellies and made connections with strangers-turned-friends. It was quite dreamy indeed.

This cookbook is a culmination of Joanne’s long career in food, and it’s full of recipes and stories alike. And oh, such stories she tells! I love memoirs somewhat indiscriminately and hope to write one myself someday, merely waiting to gather sufficient experiences and a storyline—the absence of these the fatal flaw of memoirs. Joanne’s is the perfect reason why it’s wise to wait. I imagine she could have written a memoir per decade, honestly, but since she waited until this moment in her career, this book is chock full of wonderful stories. There are photos of her grandparents, family and travels, as well as more than a couple brilliant photos of Joanne herself (I’m especially fond of the images from the 70s, when she was rocking a serious amount of hair and some excellent fashion sense.)

As for the stories, I am, perhaps, most enamored with the one she tells about her first trip to France. She’s in her early twenties, settling into a new apartment with a friend, and upon finishing a bottle of wine together, she discovers a fly that had been bottled up with the wine. And so she wraps it in a piece of foil and sends it to the winemaker along with a letter of complaint. The extremely prestigious French winery respond with an apology, mentioning that if she’s ever in the neighborhood, they would love to offer a meal to her and a guest. So she goes—to France!—along with her roommate, and they have a life-altering meal at the winery, complete with gorgeous Frenchmen and Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and a copious amount of wine. It’s early-twenties living at its finest, a subject I adore.

But I’m also pretty smitten with Joanne’s tales of her time at Chez Panisse, when the California food revolution was in its infancy and she chatted regularly with Alice Waters and cooked alongside such beloved figures as David Tanis and David Lebovitz. Ruth Reichl speaks to the fascination of we the (food-obsessed) millennials with this particular moment in history in a recent article in the Times. It’s true. But how can we not be transfixed? To imagine being there for those crucial moments—driving them, in fact!—long before it was even clear that this was a movement, before anyone knew that there were jobs in food beyond chef, restauranteur and critic, before it was ultra-trendy to work in food. I so admire the people who stepped into this work, not knowing what the outcome would be but believing so strongly in good, thoughtful, well-sourced food that they chose this path for the simple purpose of pursuing and sharing what they believed in and loved.

In that section, Joanne shares a recipe for an almond cake that perfectly exemplifies the wonder that is Chez Panisse: it’s absolutely simple and profoundly delicious. I love it for dessert, paired with afternoon coffee or eaten in thin slices late at night.

Many heartfelt thanks to Joanne Weir, Sunset Magazine and the ladies at Dadascope Communication for including me in this lovely celebration! I was a guest without obligations, and all opinions here are my own.

Café Almond Cake | Delightful Crumb

Café Almond Cake

From Joanne Weir’s Kitchen Gypsy

Serves 8 to 10

If you know me, you will know that this is my sort of cake. I’ve watched many people pass such cakes by, in shops and cookbooks, what with the lack of flashiness and all, but I can spot a winner like this from miles away, and it was calling my name the first time I flipped through this book. As with the best simple cakes, this one will serve you well at breakfast, during tea or after dinner. And it’s not only simple in form and looks but also in preparation, about as easy as these things get, thanks to the power of the food processor.

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional

1 1/2 teaspoons baking poswer

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups natural cane sugar

7 ounces almond paste

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round springform pan, then dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine the granulated sugar and the almond paste, processing until well mixed. Add the butter and process until light and fluffy. With the food processor running, add the eggs, one at a time, processing after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and process one more time, just until thoroughly blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Gently smack the pan against the counter to knock out any air bubbles. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center feels springy when gently pressed with your finger, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes. Run a thin knife blade along the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then unclasp the latch and remove the rim. With a wide metal spatula, carefully slide the cake onto the rack and let cool completely.

Transfer the cake to a cake plate or stand and dust the top with powdered sugar.

Last gasp of summer

Last gasp of summer

Garlicky Green Beans | Delightful CrumbI’m just popping by briefly today to point you toward the most recent collection of super simple recipes I put together Edible San Francisco. These hail from the summer issue, which came out several weeks ago ago, but I didn’t think to share them with you until yesterday, when I was reminded of their continued relevance (and that they’d been posted online!). I know I was waxing poetic about fall just last week, and it’s still true that my current obsessions are pointing firmly toward autumn. In a few conversations in recent days, I’ve found that I’m not the only one relieved by the change of seasons this time around. It rained yesterday, for the first time in who knows how long, and I was completely captivated, safe inside, watching it through the window with the cool breeze gently sweeping in through an open door.

But as Bruce reminded me when he tweeted a link to these recipes yesterday, we’re not there yet. Just as fall hasn’t entirely arrived, summer isn’t quite over—and we should enjoy it! There are still summery delights at the market, and I hear the temperatures will rocket back up this weekend. It’s easy to be eager for the next season, at least for me, so I’m always glad to be reminded to revel in the transition, too. These recipes are perfect and timely for what Bruce called the “last gasp” of summer. Aptly put, and charming, too.

Find the full collection, including the recipe for the Garlicky Green Bean Salad pictured above, right here. Enjoy this last gasp of summer, friends!

Summer into fall, with Sweet Corn Soup

Summer into fall, with Sweet Corn Soup

Corn Soup | Delightful CrumbThis might not seem like the ideal moment, at least in the Bay Area, to post a recipe about soup. It has been suffocatingly hot here all week, exacerbated by the fact that ours are not apartments or businesses or schools—or people, for that matter—made for the heat. But you can eat this soup not only hot but also cold, a feature that might be helpful to those of you who have wildly variable temperatures from one day to the next, which seems to be not just Midwesterners but rather most of us of late. I have heard, though, that cooler days are ahead, a suggestion supported by the refreshingly cold fog last night in San Francisco, the one that felt like a blessed relief from the hot day it punctuated and sparked daydreams about late-night whiskey and a renewed affection for sweaters and tea.

Besides, this is that moment, heat wave or no, when the transition from summer to fall begins. It was about two weeks ago that I first felt it. Despite warm temperatures, it was clear that something had changed, in the way the breeze felt as it brushed past me, in the smell of the air. It’s hard to put a finger on what really changes, but I’m always comforted when I feel it in my bones.

I love summer, of course, desperately and passionately, like a teenage romance, like ice cream and sparklers and boisterous backyard parties. But I love autumn, too, with a quiet, steady love, welcome like aging and wisdom, when I’ve become weary of chasing summer bliss and the effort required to stay on top of the fun. I’m eager for soup and the sturdiness of squash and tights and scarves. I love the changing colors of the leaves, and we’re planning a trip north in coming weeks, where I hear the whole thing is a bit more stunning. We made a tradition of this when I was little, the beloved “color tour” ritual that we practiced each autumn. We would jump in the car and head north (the proper direction in Michigan as well!), where the trees would be on fire with red and orange and burnished copper. As we drove, we’d watch the dense forests rushing past like a brilliant sweep of watercolors, my sister and me cozy and happy in the back seat of the car. It seems fair to say that the dual feelings of comfort and adventure, which I think may peak during childhood, are perfectly captured in that memory.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re not quite there yet, out in the throes of autumn, but right this minute is the perfect and only moment for those lovely soups that can be whipped up from summer produce: pappa al pomodoro, tomato soup made from real tomatoes, zucchini soup zipped through with lemon and cream. And this, of course: sweet corn soup, a rather ideal representation of the category. It tastes like the very essence of corn, and thus of August itself, but it’s warming and comfortable, too, a harbinger of what’s to come. It’s flexible—open to elaborate garnish or a simple drizzle of oil, delicious whether served either hot or cold. And this is, in fact, the very trait we ourselves need in this transitional time. If you’re not feeling ready, this soup might help.

Corn Soup | Delightful Crumb

Sweet Corn Soup with Black Sesame Gomasio & Basil

Barely adapted from Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen

Serves 4

The original recipe calls for chives, but I had basil on hand and love the obvious-but-delicious pairing with corn. Gomasio is a fun and very tasty touch. I think toasted pepitas or little edible flowers would be lovely atop, too.

I’d heard of using corn cobs to make a more flavorful stock or soup, but this was the first time I tried it. It’s a brilliant way to use something that might otherwise go to waste, and I think it makes a huge impact on the flavor of the soup.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

5 cups sweet corn kernels (from 5-6 ears), 3 cobs reserved for cooking soup

4 bay leaves

5 cups water

Freshly cracked black pepper

Black sesame seeds, toasted

1 small bunch basil, leaves cut in a chiffonade


In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until golden. Toss in the garlic and salt and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, bay leaves and water. Break the reserved cobs in half and add them to the pot as well. Raise the heat and bring the soup to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until the corn is bright yellow and fully cooked.

Remove the corn cobs and bay leaves. In an upright blender, purée the soup in batches on the highest speed for 1 or 2 minutes, until completely smooth. Season to taste.

Serve topped with cracked pepper, gomasio (recipe follows) and basil.


To make the black sesame gomasio, start by toasting the seeds. It’s helpful to rinse them first. I like to toast them in a dry sauté pan over a medium flame or in a 300 degree oven. Allow the seeds to cool, then put a few tablespoons in a mortar along with a pinch of salt. Crush the seeds with the pestle, until coarsely ground. Keep any remaining gomasio in a sealed container for up to a month; it will keep best in the refrigerator.