When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: Exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: A brown butter blondie that could get you through anything -- and 4 variations to make it your own.
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Extra chocolate chips. Hella brown sugar. An overflowing tablespoon of vanilla extract.
For my daughter after her pull-ups. For my son as he tries to conjugate the verb dormir. For my husband as he drives away from our Thanksgiving weekend, away from our unit of four, away from our fully-loaded Christmas tree. For my mother because there is nothing better than feeding your mother.
Brown butter with toasted walnuts. No chocolate chips. Less brown sugar.
For me, right before bed, drifting off to sleep with butterscotch on my tongue after defiantly ignoring my toothbrush because I'm 44 and I can do what I want.
Chocolate stirred in while the dough is still warm. Crinkly on the top, marbley brownie on the inside.
For my grandmother, accompanied by lukewarm Lipton tea. Eaten with my hand resting on her impossibly fragile arm. In her hospital bed. After she says "I don't like blondies." After I say to the nurse, "did you know that I wanted to be my grandmother when I was little?" Before she actually bites in and smiles and reaches for more.
A heaping teaspoon of salt. Just enough chocolate chips so the butterscotch flavor doesn’t have to compete. Balanced. Nuts optional.
Brought over by my neighbor: on my birthday or my son’s or just because, at the end of many rough days, after yet another miscarriage. Eaten while sobbing, letting the buttery chocolate squares fill me back up again. Shared with no one.
Versions of all four batches rest in my freezer, cubed and Ziplocked. Up for grabs. For the forgotten second-grade-holiday-party-potluck. For late nights with "The Newsroom" and red wine. For anyone who stops by. For Marianne, Simon, Margi, Sarah, Amy, Yalda, Laurel, Jen, Anya, Anna, my brother, my mom, my dad. I promised you all some blondies. Come over. Let me feed you.
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.