pistachio rose shortbread


i would probably say…wear more dresses.”

he laughed. “wear more dresses. that’s what you’d tell yourself? explain.

i was in an uber on the way to airport. the car itself was a boat. a vintage bmw sedan painted a brilliant turquoise with plush white leather seats and the man behind the wheel had a personality that matched his ride. he was a self-published author and a life coach when he wasn’t driving. that morning i’d opened the car door with a vibrant ‘good morning! are you for abby?” he made a comment on my “unusual joy” and forty-five minutes later we found ourselves in the middle of a conversation on writing and calling and purpose that i’ll never forget.

“well, i was always so self-conscious. i think i would tell myself not to care so much about what people thought.”

of all the advice you could give your younger self. in grade school i had gangly chicken legs that i was perpetually embarrassed by. sometime late in high school when somehow seemingly overnight they went from being too skinny to too fat. if i did manage to muster the courage to make it out the door with exposed legs i spent the next 6 hours regretting it. i’m 5’2 and 104 pounds and have been that way since 9th grade so fat obviously doesn’t even begin to make sense but those kinds of things are never so much about sense. they’re really about insecurity and the fear it breeds. in the right (or should i say wrong) overhead light even those that weigh in at a buck four have cellulite. “wear more dresses” wasn’t (isn’t) about embracing that. at least not entirely. it’s about living free in every way.

if i could hold my own little 9-year-old face in my now 35-year-old hands i would say “don’t be afraid. you have no reason to hide. start anyway. keep going. you’re so very pretty.” all that and about a million other things that probably wouldn’t have saved me from ultimately learning through living but even just one less day spent living limited by insecurity would’ve been a win. i still so often need to hear don’t be afraid. don’t hide. start anyway. keep going. you’re so very pretty. everyone’s ass has at least a dimple or two. today it’s less about exposed legs (although that’s still sometimes a thing) and more about an exposed heart.

so many details of the conversation have been lost to time but the most remarkable thing, the most encouraging thing, was that it happened at all. it’s enough just to remember that for 45 minutes i drank from a firehose of encouragement that had been aimed at me when i wasn’t even looking. though i do wish i’d had the sense to hit record in voice memos. he did most of the talking and i was mostly in my head thinking about the insane timing of the conversation. and then he said this:

‘you have to identify what gives you this joy. and then you should write about it. because i’ve met a lot of people and whatever it is you’ve found, people need it.’


i was thinking about how his words were so much bigger than he knew when we pulled up to the airport curb. he got out of the car, lifted my suitcase from the trunk and then he handed me a copy of his book.

are you not going to sign it?” i asked.
not yet” he said. “i want to see wear more dresses on the shelves. when it’s there you reach out and we’ll sign each others.”

last night i was thumbing through my bookshelf, not for self-help, instruction or non-fiction inspiration but for story. pure mental break imaginative story after a day, a week, that had been jam-packed with work and all things serious and in my search i came across his book. who knows when i’ll get around to reading it but even if i never do i know i’ll keep it forever as a reminder of that day and that God delights to show up in the most ordinary and unexpected conversations with encouragement to keep going, truth that there’s nothing to hide, an exhortation to be faithful and always an invitation to be free.

fear steps out of the car after a funny experience like that and says probably means nothing. faith steps up and says probably means everything. both vulnerability and craft take time and practice and that’s the real hurdle. i know what gives me joy. i don’t have to try to identify it.

pistachio rose shortbread

this base shortbread recipe, easily modified with any flavor spin, is my go-to from days as a pastry cook.


step one

cream together the butter, sugar, and rosewater (if using) on medium for about three minutes. add the flour and salt and beat just until the dough comes together. press into a tart pan with a removable bottom. prick with a fork, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least two hours. longer is better.

step two

preheat the oven to 325 and bake until the top looks dry and the cookie is set. depending on the size of your tart pan (mine was a 13 x 4 rectangle) and the thickness of your dough the time will vary. mine took around 30 - 40 minutes. cover the top with foil if it starts to get too brown. remove the outer edge of the tart pan and allow the cookie to cool for a few minutes before slicing into rectangles. transfer to a wire rack and prepare the glaze.

step three

in a small bowl combine the powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of hot water. whisk to combine and pour over the cookies. sprinkle with chopped pistachios, rose sugar, and sugared petals.


2 sticks (227 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons rose sugar (optional)
sugared rose petals*

* to make sugared rose petals brush individual organic rose petals with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Abby StolfoComment