You know how I go on and on sometimes about how our internet friendships feel real and true and long-lasting?
It’s because they’re years in the making, isn’t it? Blog personalities are slow to reveal, and if you stick with them, you tend to get a feeling for that person who’s writing, commenting. You begin to care for them like distant relatives. You see them through moves, breakups, loss, marriages, changes in career, travel, babies.
One of these long-distance internet loves, for me, is Jessica of HowSweetEats.com.
I started reading How Sweet Eats in 2010, and let me tell you, it has been worthwhile every year. Every day. I’ve come to love her in so many ways, but most of all, because she’s kind and loving and funny and dramatic and as humble and self-deprecating as the day is long. Because I get a feeling that she’s my people. I just have that sense about her.
When I think about people who love food, purely and wholeheartedly, I think of Jessica Merchant. When I think of people who really know how to waltz up to pleasure and take a big bite out of it, I’m only thinking of Jessica. I love the hedonist in her. The part of her that openly admits to hating vegetables, but continues to try to love them.
She’s relentless. The vibrancy, the unabashed fire she has for food — it’s contagious. It makes you want to cook, even if you don’t do that already. It makes you want to eat, even if you’ve already just done that. It makes you want to have a party.
She has this unique way of reminding me that no matter what’s going on around me, no matter how bleak the day, or week, there’s always the fun and sheer joy of putting on a good meal. There’s always something new and bright, some new flavor duo worth playing with. She makes me excited to cook — for myself and my own. She turns me on to food, and that’s enough.
This cookbook of hers, needless to say, is outstanding. Everything I’d expect from someone I admire this much. The recipes are unique enough to excite, but familiar enough to comfort you. Her writing is funny, sweet, and utterly genuine. She’s like your best friend, only she’s someone else’s best friend and she lives in another state.
The first recipe I made from the book is the Spiced Autumn Crostini because it’s just the thing I want to push me into fall. Just reading the recipe was delicious: a warm and comforting pumpkin and mascarpone mixture spread on toasted baguette with fried sage and chopped hazelnuts. Fried sage! That’s all it took.
There are hints of fall in every single bite. The pumpkin and nutmeg give the crostini spread some sweetness, but don’t overpower; there are still those savory notes of buttery sage and mascarpone. The flavors don’t just work, they WORK. They’re rightly balanced in the way that you find a meal at a good restaurant. I loved so much that I’ll serve them all season — until everyone I know and love hates me and my food.
Spiced Autumn Crostini
- 1 whole-grain baguette sliced into rounds
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts *I used pecans
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sliced baguette rounds on a baking sheet. Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then flip the toasts over and bake for 5 minutes more. Remove the sheet from the oven.
- While the bread is toasting, combine the mascarpone, pumpkin, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl and stir together until smooth.
- Add the hazelnuts to a small skillet and heat them over medium-low heat. Toast the hazelnuts until golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan or stirring the nuts so they don't burn. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and place the nuts in a bowl. Once the hazelnuts have cooled, coarsely chop them.
- Wipe out the same skillet with a paper towel and heat it over medium-low heat. Add the butter and, once it's melted, add the sage leaves. Cook the sage leaves until golden and crispy, flipping after 30 seconds. Transfer the leaves to a paper towel to cool slightly.
- To assemble the crostini, spread the pumpkin-mascarpone mixture over the toasts. Cover each toast with a sprinkling of the chopped hazelnuts. Crumble the fried sage between your fingers and sprinkle it over the toasts.
For the record, I also made Jessica’s Brown Butter Banana Bread and adored it. I’m working my way through this cookbook and everything is just as the title says, Seriously Delish.
Get it on Barnes & Noble
Or on Indiebound here.