Granted, my threshold for feeling accomplished has always been, shall we say, modest (“I added the perfect amount of sugar to my matcha latte today I can do anything!“) but ever since I was introduced to these supremely distracting pudgy cheeks, I’m finding smaller and smaller accomplishments count as victories in this household. Dinner made during naptime, victory. Clean laundry, not folded, but at least in the basket, victory! (Actually, laundry where I actually remember to put in the detergent? And didn’t forget, twice, until everything had gone through the washer and the dryer? Victory.) Clean kitchen counters before bed? Clean kitchen floors, too? Huge victory.
So Julia Turshen’s Small Victories, which arrived on our doorstep around the same time that our little chubawub did, is proving to be a book to live by these days. Not only could I just live in the food and the photos (which were taken by Gentl + Hyers, and are providing no small amount of inspiration for this project), each recipe is written with a little thing to feel good about, like mayonnaise as a worthy replacement for raw egg in Caesar dressing, or a tip that a damp paper towel under your cutting board will glue it stolidly in place on your counter. They also each have “spin-offs,” so that one recipe leads to not just one triumph in the kitchen but many.
The book finishes with two wonderful things. The first is a section on giving back, listing organizations and resources fighting hunger around the world, which is why Julia and her publisher put together a campaign with No Kid Hungry last November — the kind of not-only-feel-good-but-do-good that I think is needed more than ever these days. And the second is a chapter called “Seven Lists,” which are lists of things that are somewhere between full recipes and simple but brilliant ideas and which gave rise to this post. Amid a list of “seven easy-but-memorable desserts,” like ice cream with olive oil (a combination I can attest to) or peaches in cold white wine, there’s just a short little paragraph on dates with mascarpone, advising us to buy “really good, juicy dates, halve and pit them, and spread the cut sides with mascarpone.”
That’s it! But, in the truest testament to what Julia does, it is magically delicious. Creamy, milky mascarpone (especially from Vermont Creamery!) spread on sticky, molasses-y dates is the most perfect combination that I’d never thought of until now. I soaked the dates in a bit of strong black tea, just for a little extra nuance, but it’s hardly necessary. Even with that extra step, the dessert comes together in less time than it takes for B3 to wake up from his nap, let alone take one. It’s easy, yet delicious, and leaves all the time in the world for other things, like celebrating not-folded-but-at-least-clean laundry, or wiping down the counters after far too long, or doing none of the things you are supposed to and spending an hour rubbing noses with a tiny person instead.
Thank you to Vermont Creamery for providing the wonderful mascarpone in this post. All opinions here are, as always, my own.
Tea-soaked dates with mascarpone
This is so simple it hardly needs a recipe, but so delicious that it demands one. The creamy mascarpone offsets earthy, caramel-like dates and malty black tea. I found that it reminded me of these White Rabbit candies I grew up with, in an odd but fantastic way.
Barely adapted from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories.
- 1 cup halved and pitted dates (I used some magical honey dates from Nuts.com, but good Medjool ones are wonderful, of course)
- 8 oz strong black tea, brewed from 3-4 tea bags
- 1/2 cup Vermont Creamery mascarpone
- Place the dates in a medium bowl and pour the black tea over the dates. Let sit for 5 minutes, then drain and serve the dates with mascarpone for spreading. Enjoy!
You can reserve the tea to drink, diluted a bit with water if needed — it’s naturally sweet from the dates!