Note: I’m very excited to begin a food column for The Recovering Politician. From recipes to restaurant trends to chef interviews, this space will be devoted to all things gustatory. Check back regularly for updates!
Most people would not call my father a foodie. His diet revolves more around salmon and nuts than bahn mi or foie gras corn dogs.
Every morning, he pulses kale, spinach and other nutrient-packed ingredients into a murky green concoction he calls a smoothie. The potent quaff, which has yet to tempt my palate, appears to have a life of its own.
And yet, he has a point. A physician, he espouses the life-changing qualities of eating well at his busy medical practice and has had meaningful success with his patients.
But the example he sets is more than just about health. The biggest imprint his eating lifestyle has had on me is his dedication to and appreciation of good, quality food.
Growing up, I watched in wonderment as he skinned freshly caught fish in the backyard, slicking the scales off with a look of great intensity.
I would scrutinize with the closest attention the reddening orbs sprouting in the strawberry patch he had planted near my play area. The towering asparagus edging the fence appeared to me like a jungle, but one I knew better than to explore.
Today, cucumbers, peas and onions are ripening in his backyard forest of green, and the basil is ready to be freshly picked for his smoothies. If it’s a Saturday morning, you’ll find him culling pokeweed to sauté with bacon (really the only way to eat pokeweed, if you’ve ever tried it).
At this time of year, other dads may covet grilling tools, a well marbled steak, or an aged bottle of scotch. For my dad, those gifts would be met with a bewildered stare.
But. He has a weakness. I hate to share his secret so publicly, but every hero has his sweet spot.
For my dad, that weakness is jelly thumbprint cookies. A specialty of my mother’s made only a few times per year, the cookies offer the perfect guilty pleasure. Gently sinking his teeth into a freshly baked, piping hot cookie lovingly imprinted by my mother’s own thumb, he needn’t say a word to express his bliss. The delicate sweetness of the treat is heightened by the velvety texture of the blackberry preserve topping.
This Father’s Day, you’ll find my dad savoring each bite of his cherished cookies, eyes closed. The memory will have to tide him over until Christmas, the next special occasion worthy of the splurge. But until then, he will relish this moment.
Luckily, you don’t have to wait as long as my dad to have a taste. I coaxed the recipe from my mother’s dog-eared treasure trove just so I could share it. You may just find that your father, or any other special man in your life, may enjoy it just as much.
If you want to get creative, use the cookies as a canvas for a variety of fillings, from jams to honey to Nutella.
Or if you’re short on baking time, I’ve included a few other ideas that will satisfy any man’s appetite:
For the Cook: The Lee Bros. Charleston Cookbook by Matt Lee & Ted Lee
Reflective of a modern but simple Southern sensibility, the Lee brothers share delectable fixings such as smothered pork chops and kumquat gin cocktails.
For the Cultured Connoisseur: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel
If your father is an enthusiast of distilled beverages, give him a snifter of this fine bourbon poured neat for an after-dinner indulgence.
For the Meat Eater: Charcuterie from Olympic Provisions
A mouth-watering array of cured meats such as capicola, finocchiona and even saucisson au chocolat are available by mail-order from this salumiera based in Portland, Oregon.
For the Gardener: Heirloom Seeds from Southern Exposure Food Exchange
From butterbeans to collards, Ira Wallace’s seed collection spans an impressive range of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, with more than 700 varieties.
For the Red Wine Lover: Wild Horse 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast
For a classic California wine that doesn’t break the bank, Wild Horse provides a fruity, medium-bodied flavor that pairs well with steak.
Dee Dee’s Jelly Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolk
2 2/3 cup flour
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat butter in bowl until creamy.
- Add sugar; mix until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Add flour gradually, mixing just until moistened.
- Shape by tablespoonfuls into balls. Place on greased cookie sheets. Make indentation in each cookie with thumb.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
- After removing from oven, place cookies on drying rack for cooling.
- Once they have cooled, cookies may be filled with homemade jam or jelly.
Note: My dad prefers Blackberry preserves, but there are a variety of tasty fillings you can use. My favorite is a vanilla-orange flavoring. Here’s how you make it: In a medium saucepan, melt 1/3 cup of butter, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 6 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed orange juice. Whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar into the liquid. Then spoon the frosting onto each cookie.