It’s the season of warmth, this one, and I hope you’re feeling that fully. There’s been more rain this week than I’ve ever experienced in the Bay Area, and it has left me wanting to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of something hot and steaming to drink. But it’s not just the rain that leaves me longing for coziness and cheer. We’re in the thick of the holidays, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Just before bed, whilst brushing my teeth, you very well might find me standing in the dark living room, staring at the twinkling, friendly lights of the Christmas tree, my eyes glazed over but my heart a little lighter, feeling just a bit better about the world than before.
I’m enamored with this season, it’s true. I get really nostalgic around mid-November, and it carries through all the way until New Year’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that holidays have always held a lot of meaning for me, and also that my family is big on traditions—decorations, cookie making, advent candles, Secret Santas, special meals and the like. I hold off on Christmas music and wild festivity until Thanksgiving, but from then on, I am all in. I’m eager to get a tree and decorate it with little colored lights and ornaments whose origins I know well. Most of them I purchased when I first bought my own Christmas tree, bringing it home from the last and snowy farmers market of the season back in Michigan, and they’re now joined by a few gems from Ben’s childhood. Christmas movies are all I want to watch, including such classics as While You Were Sleeping, which, as you may know, takes place mainly between Christmas and New Year’s, thereby falling firmly into the category of holiday film. I love the parties, too—even the marginally awkward ones, where I don’t know many people and/or drink just a little too much champagne while making interesting-as-possible, not-politically-divisive (it’s just not that time of year) small talk.
I hope you’re feeling similarly inclined toward festivity, and that your days are filled with light. If you’re in need of something sweet for the next party, to have on hand in case friends stop by, to whip up as a gift for your coworkers or to munch on during your holiday movie nights, I’ve got just the treat for you. These pistachio-and-tangerine-flecked morsels come from Erin Scott‘s cookbook, Yummy Supper. I brought them to my friend Kimberley‘s (non-awkward) holiday/birthday bash last weekend, and they were quite a hit. They’re nutty and sweet, with a hint of citrus and just the right amount of salt. They also happen to be super cute, which is a bonus on the party front.
As it happens, I was introduced to Erin through Kimberley. We started commenting on one another’s blogs, and I was taken aback by how thoughtful and kind Erin’s words were, time after time. I know few people who communicate so gracefully online. We met in person only recently, at her book launch party on a hot summer day in Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard garden. There were popsicles and kids running everywhere and lots of laughter. She wrapped me up in a hug as soon as I told her who I was—I can tell you now that she’s as lovely and genuine as she seems online and in the pages of her book. Reading her cookbook, it’s clear that you’d be welcome at her table, and that you yourself are capable of making these many delicious meals and treats in your own kitchen. Erin’s cooking happens to be gluten free, but you’ll enjoy these recipes whether this aligns with your own dietary needs or not. I’ve not missed the gluten in anything I’ve cooked from this book—roasted chicories with dates, an almond torte, french lentils with preserved lemon and tarragon. Everything is delicious and wholesome and thoroughly satisfying.
If this sounds like it’s up your alley, you’re in luck! Erin’s publisher, Rodale, has been kind enough to offer me an extra copy to give away. Whether you’d like this cookbook for yourself or as a last-minute gift*, you can enter by leaving a comment telling me how you’re reveling in this season—what’s your favorite festive activity or seasonal treat? How do you celebrate at this time of year? This contest is open to US readers only, and entries will be accepted until Wednesday, December 17, at midnight.
P.S. If you’re looking for more gift ideas, I recommend the lists out there on the internet by Tim, Kelsey and Kasey. As I think most folks know by now, lovely kitchen gifts can be found on Food 52’s Provisions, Quitokeeto and Brooklyn Slate.
And if you’re in the Bay Area, stop by Ordinaire or Bay Grape for a great bottle of wine to gift, or head to Alchemy for booze. Or, for something experiential, consider The Cheese School of San Francisco. A class there was my birthday gift to Ben this year, and it was a delight. Also, ridiculously delicious.
On the homemade front, a few favorites from my archives include Olive Oil & Rosemary Shortbread (my main edible gift last year), Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts (distributed widely the year before) and Honey Cranberry Cornmeal Bread.
*I’m hoping this will arrive to you by Christmas, but I can’t make any promises!
Pistachio Tangerine Sugar Cookies
Very slightly adapted from Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper
I’ve written the recipe as Erin intended it below. When I made these, however, I inadvertently bought unsalted roasted pistachios instead of salted, so I added a heaped 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt in place of the pinch of Maldon called for in the recipe. The cookies turned out perfectly salty, so feel free to take that route if you have unsalted pistachios on hand!
Makes about 40 small cookies
1 cup shelled roasted salted pistachios (10 – 12 ounces in the shell)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup quinoa flour (or use all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon tangerine, mandarin or orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
Grind the pistachios in a blender or food processor until they are the consistency of cornmeal.
In a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer and large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk. Continue mixing, then add the ground pistachios, flour, zest, orange flower water and a generous pinch of Maldon. Mix until well blended.
Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap and form the cookie dough into two logs, each about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap the logs tightly in plastic and chill in the freezer for at least half an hour. Store the dough in a freezer bag if you’d like to save them for another day.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice the cookie logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and place them onto the baking sheets, leaving space as they’ll spread slightly while baking. If the logs or cookies break apart while you’re slicing, just squeeze the dough back together.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Let them cool completely on a rack before eating.
These cookies will stay fresh and crisp in a sealed container for a few days.