The entire world seems to be glowing with green these days—there’s been so much rain everywhere. Central Park is a riot of vivid jewel tones, between the grassy lawns and the stately canopy of trees that line the cobblestone sidewalk of Fifth Avenue. I went home for the weekend; as we turned down the long driveway, the rolling hills of the farm were laid out in front of us, in various shades of dark green, pale green, and bright green. The cow pasture, the tops of the trees in the woods beyond the stream, the high grass of the field above the ponds…all green. (This is the farm where I grew up—the namesake of this blog and where my parents still live, and I still—and forever—will call home no matter where I live.)
Last week before I got home my little sister found two four-leaf clovers outside. The grass where she searched for them is covered in clover and dotted with tiny purple and yellow flowers and the puffy white heads of dandelions gone to seed. On Saturday, my niece and I go on a tiny adventure, tromping about to find more dandelions and pluck them from the ground, blowing on them to make wishes.
We march down to the pig pasture to find our Yorkshire pig, Elliot, waiting eagerly for food. He snuffles and oinks and roots his nose at the base of the old wooden fenceposts. We skirt the pasture and enter his pen (which is affectionately referred to as the ‘pig palace’ because of its roomy interior, copper piping, and beautiful green paint with a creamy trim). My niece, who is barely three, is all business—I lift her up to reach over the edge of the pen and she tips out the blue plastic pail she’s holding, dropping banana peels and leftover carrot cake onto the dusty hay-strewn floor. Elliot snorts happily, falling upon the cake.
Once we get inside the house, as evening approaches, the rain starts up again, tapping gently on the windows and dancing on the surface of the three ponds, making them look dimpled and misty from our cozy spot inside.
In the summer, there’s no nicer feeling than having reached the end of a day filled with outdoor adventure, the sort where you feel exhausted from jumping on the trampoline and stream-walking and eating sugar snap peas straight from the garden and swinging on the rope swing. I like being dirty from a day of activity—muddy feet from walking around barefoot and sweaty from a good run and grassy from lying in the sun—and then taking a long hot shower.
I emerge, rosy-cheeked and squeaky clean, and put on pajamas. I come downstairs to our big round room, which is shaped like a big half-octagon with tall picture windows overlooking the farm. Everyone is there—my three sisters and my parents and the little ones. There are glasses of white wine and soda water (my mother) and craft beer (my brother-in-law) and a bourbon and OJ (my dad). The kitchen is warm and brightly lit and smells like melted cheese and yeasty dough: there’s pizza in the oven.
As it gets dark outside, we sit down to eat. My mother sets out the worn wooden salad bowl, in which she’s tossed baby spinach leaves with tomatoes, cucumbers, plenty of cheese, and a simple vinaigrette. There’s a Swiss chard quiche with a crust so flaky and buttery it would put most French patisseries to shame, and a platter of hunter chicken (my mother’s saucy tomato-y take on classic chicken cacciatore).
And there’s that pizza. It has a thin, crunchy crust that bubbles at the edges. She makes it by pressing out the dough onto a battered old baking sheet using her fingertips, so it forms a ragged rectangle with rounded edges. It’s almost cracker-like in some places where she presses it more and chewier in other spots.
Pizza toppings vary, but are almost always vegetable-heavy. This weekend, it was a combination of broccoli (quickly sautéed in olive oil first over high heat so the edges are golden and crispy), thinly sliced red bell peppers, and a hefty coating of cheese.
We cut the pizza into squares and pile them onto a pile. I choose pieces with lots of edge real estate—I eat the interior first then save the outer crust, piling extra spinach salad onto the crust and eating it like a makeshift salad pizza. Or a salad with a very large crouton? Whichever way you look at it, the combination is perfect.
For dessert, we always have biscotti. Usually chocolate with pecans, made in the traditional Italian way with no butter or oil, relying instead on beating the eggs with the sugar into pale, thick ribbons which gives the batter air and makes the cookies delicate and domed and so crunchy they practically beg to be dunked in milk.
Try as I might (and I have—over and over again), I can never make biscotti that taste just like my mother’s do. But I know that every time I’m home, she’ll have them. And when I ask, she’ll make them for me to take with me; I can think of dozens of times over the years from college onwards when I’d leave home with a shoebox packed tightly with biscotti under one arm.
But because one really shouldn’t have to go to bed sans chocolate, I have to turn to other recipes to fill the void. And even though nothing can come close to the comfort of biscotti, these cookies are a more-than-acceptable stand-in when I’m baking for myself.
Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Cacao Nibs
Makes 18 large cookies
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (160g) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (127g) dark chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (85g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (340g) chocolate chips (I use a mix of semisweet/milk/dark—you can also use chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup cacao nibs
flaky sea salt, for finishing
Cream together the butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy.
Meanwhile, melt the 3/4 cup of dark chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.
Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt. Mix until just incorporated, but don’t overmix.
Add the melted dark chocolate and mix until well-combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight—this will help it firm up enough to scoop easily.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Scoop the dough into balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 4” between each as they will spread some. I like to use a small cookie scoop for this, but a large spoon works too—make them any size you like!
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with flaky sea salt, if you like, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Don’t overbake them! They’ll look slightly too soft, but that’s okay. They’ll firm up as they cool.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan until they’re firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.