I sometimes feel like the condiments are the best part of the show. My friend Elizabeth is a fantastic cook and when we make brunch together, the table is a veritable solar system of dips, sauces, sides, and toppings. Our bunches have eggs to order and yogurt to anchor everything, and even though the eggs will sport deep yellow yolks of happy hens who possibly roost on hand quilted thrones and the yogurt comes from cows so happy that we actually spy them all getting mani/pedi/udder massages (this is a lie), the real stars always lay in the orbiting mismatched bowls. Elizabeth brings her homemade caraway kraut, local honey from a friend’s bees in the Mission, dark and caramel. She makes jam and homemade salsa. Ginger will throw down with perfect southern biscuits and even started making some gluten-free ones for me, and we’ll put her cinnamon vanilla sunflower seed butter on them and close our eyes when we chew. I tote in a chutney of spiced fruits and pomegranate pear champagne vinaigrette for the massaged shaved kale salad with hazelnuts and fennel. We eat and pass bowls. We laugh and top each bite with different crowns. We brunch like champions, lazy and happy as the great world spins and we sip tea like there’s no work to do or bad phone calls to get. It’s condiment brunch and it’s one of my favorite days.
I also want to say that one of the best things about gathering people these days is the fact that everyone has different food needs. I live in San Francisco where you can’t spit without hitting someone who is going gluten free or paleo or vegan. Myself included. I do cleanses each season and I want people to just like food and feel good. So all these different desires that used to cause eye rolling and panic are now just an invitation for me to learn new things to make, find ways to bring together all kinds of new foods and make it No Big Deal. Because really, it’s not. It’s totally a blast. Send me your food needs and sensitivities, people. I AM NOT AFRAID.
CREME FRAICHE: So your latke gathering is now prepared with applesauce from yesterday. Today I bring you the creamy stuff to plop on your latkes. You won’t believe how friggin’ EASY it is to impress people with things like homemade creme fraiche. Making anything with the implication of a French accent really bowls your American pals over. But really all you have to do is this: The night before your party, put 2 tablespoons of buttermilk in a cup of heavy cream in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a pretty towel you like so in the morning it’ll be like being greeted by a chorus of angels. Not to get too Christmassy at Hanukkah, but whatever. I live in a mixed house. Let the bowl sit for like 12 hours or more if you like. Maybe up to 16. Then mix the creme and put it in the fridge until you want to serve it.
Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Creme fraiche for the people.
This condiment is incredibly fun to modify for a good time. Meyer lemons are in season right now and you can zest one and squeeze a tiny bit in for a good tangy version. You can add harissa and about 3 finely diced olives for a Moroccan flavor or you can have a Greek kind of number with cucumbers and cilantro. This is a topping that just keeps giving. Tis the season after all.
VEGAN CASHEW CREAM Again, Mary, this is so easy, girl. Here’s what you need:
1c raw cashews
1/2 c filtered water
Soak your cashews for about 6 hours. They don’t need to soak as long as almonds do. They’ll plump up and turn white, which is appetizing for a cream situation. Pour off the water. Don’t use the soaking water in the next step. Ew. Now put your soaked cashews in a blender and cover them with new filtered water. I cover mine just barely. The less water, the creamier the sauce. Puree for several minutes. You want the nuts completely blended with no chunks or anything.
Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Vegan creme for the people.
NOW, if you want vegan SOUR cream, just add in 1 t apple cider vinegar and the juice of one small lemon.
Play around with these. toppings are so fun and it’s easy to find your signature taste. People will be all up in your grill to bring the fantastic blah blah to the next neighborhood mixer. And you’ll be happy to because it’s fun to be the big hero in literally 5 minutes. Oh look, my inner Leo is showing.