Tomorrow is Jay's birthday. He'll be thirty two. Thirty feels like a big deal in the birthday department, as does thirty five, though thirty two just sort of comfortably hovers between these two milestones. Thirty two feels like an age when we're still close enough to our twenties to occasionally make ill decisions, yet close enough to mid-life that we know we need to keep them far and few between.
Although Jay and I are both suckers for traditions and holidays and the like, neither of us are big birthday people. You know the type. Those people who spend multiple weekends celebrating their birthdays with a million groups of friends, the type who purchase special outfits to wear on their special day and who expect a million gifts in celebration of the fact that they've made it another year. Around here, birthdays usually begin with a card and a thoughtfully written note. At some point during the day, we'll share a special meal and a few rounds of drinks. Some years there will be gifts; others there will not (there is really no rhyme or reason to this decision to tell you the truth…). The only real constant is that, every year, each of our birthdays always includes a special dessert.
Although I might not be able to tell you every gift Jay has ever purchased me for my birthday (or vice versa), I feel strongly that I could tell you every dessert we've shared on one another's special days. We still reminisce about Jay's twenty fifth birthday -- the first we spent together -- when we walked through Times Square late one humid June night after attending a comedy show and rushed the first Mister Softee truck we could find, vanilla and chocolate swirls dripping down our hands as we stood on a curb and devoured them. I guess the tradition started there and hasn't really stopped since.
Last year, we opened the shop on my thirty first birthday. Although Jay and I keep birthdays simple, we always do something to recognize them so that the day does not simply pass us by. But last year, it was the very first time in my life when I honestly forgot my own birthday. For the days leading up to it, we were so painfully overwhelmed with last minute tasks and to-do lists to get our doors open on time that the thought of a birthday was quite literally the furthest thing from either of our minds.
The night before we opened was one of the longest nights of my life. At 11:30 p.m., we realized we did not have the right hardware to install one of our dining counters, none of the custom made table tops were connected to their bases, boxes of trash were still all over the dining area, our electricity was inexplicably not working on one whole side of the shop and our large menu sign was still in the back of my mother's car in New Jersey. At exactly 12:01 a.m., the first official minute of my birthday, I was in the back of the kitchen running a shop-vac across every surface and periodically pausing to rub a copper scrubber across the tile floor. It was very glamourous.
I don't know what made Jay look at the clock at that precise moment, but for whatever reason he did. Before I even realized he left the shop, he was back inside of it and standing at our recently painted service counter, a defeated look spread across his face. "I'm so sorry," he said. "With everything going on, I just completely forgot. This was the best I could do on such short notice." In front of him rest a double chocolate muffin and a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream purchased from the bodega next door, each dessert adorned with a thin pastel birthday candle. I turned off the shop-vac and moved toward the service counter in silence. "It's my birthday, isn't it?" I asked, stunned that I had completely forgotten the date. We both had a lot to wish for at that moment, though when I blew out the two candles I was so physically tired I think I simply wished for sleep. When the candles were extinguished, we devoured the ice cream and the muffin, which ended up being the only things we ate until nearly twenty-four hours later, after we closed the doors to the shop at the end of her very first day.
This year, we both have a bit more clarity. Though we don't have anything special planned for tomorrow -- likely just work, a quiet dinner and then maybe a few drinks with family or friends -- what we do have, as always, is dessert. Jay's favorite summer dessert is fruity sorbet. We've experimented making sorbets a lot together over the years, though we rarely follow a recipe. Usually, we just blend some fruit, a bit of citrus, and a splash of whatever alcohol we happen to have on hand. However, this Strawberry Preserves Sorbet has completely made me rethink the way we make sorbet at home. The recipe is simple -- blend berries, ginger, and water, then freeze -- though the addition of fruit preserves (as opposed to sugar) creates a smooth and creamy sorbet packed with serious berry flavor. To accompany it, I've also made a small batch of super thin, incredibly crispy ginger and oat cookies, which are surprisingly easy to make (and no mixer required!). While I plan to nestle them into giant scoops of sorbet, they'd also serve as perfect vehicles for simple, strawberry sorbet sandwiches. I hope you'll like them, and I hope the birthday boy will too. Here's to another year!
Strawberry Preserves Sorbet & Oat Ginger Crisps
from Food 52 and Green Kitchen Stories, respectively
Strawberry Preserves Sorbet
- 4 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 heaping teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup ice cubes
Add the berries, the salt and the preserves to a blender or a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add the lemon juice, the lemon zest, the ginger and the water and blend until all ingredients are incorporated. Add the ice cubes and blend until the ice is broken up and no large pieces remain in the puree. Add the puree to an ice cream maker and mix for 2-3 hours, or until the sorbet becomes thick and creamy.
Oat Ginger Crisps
- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl (you can use an electric mixer, though I prefer to use a wooden spoon for this recipe). When mixed, it will look like you have very little dough -- do not worry. This is right.
Shape the dough into small rounds (you should end up with 10-12 rounds total) and drop onto a baking sheet. Using your fingers, flatten out the rounds until they become very thin. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are a nice, golden brown (the centers will still be soft, though this is okay, as they will continue to crisp up as they cool down). Store in an airtight container for 1-2 days.