006: Animal Farm to Table for 200, Please
GOOD MORNING SAY IT BACK
(SB) It’s the end of June, and my brain feels like it’s melting. Sadly, this sounds like it could potentially be sublime and psychedelic but actually feels more like forgetting to respond to emails and rapidly diminishing capacity for executive function. The solstice this past weekend was at once a gratuitous confirmation that we’ve arrived in summer, and a tragic reminder that the days officially wind towards shorter, whether or not we’re ready for it.
My summertime sadness has been punctuated this week by feeling particularly brown in upstate New York. The landscape is gorgeous, and driving by all these rolling hills and breathing in this fresh air, I find myself wanting to scream, at inappropriate moments: stolen! It’s all stolen, from the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondoga, the Seneca, the Cayuga, and Tuscarora. As I prepare to return downstate shortly, I’m reflecting on how a certain kind of escape is impossible; some would say unethical! It has felt so good to be outdoors, planting vegetables and listening to birdsong with someone I love. It has felt so bad to feel watched and observed in public, a cacophony of Trump/Pence signs filling in the subtitles for the expressions I encounter. I feel really tired of making excuses for the bad behavior of other people. I want everyone to start actually being a feminist.
Would Alex Trebek enjoy this pie?
The effect on my palate is notable: I feel stubbornly resistant to things that lack the same pungency of my family’s cooking, and bristle arbitrarily at something as innocuous as jarred sauce. Maybe it’s that I’m feeling all the ways that capitalism and whiteness are trying to kill us, anew. I’ve been watching a lot of Jeopardy and a little TCM. I share all this to say that if you’re having a rough time, I hear you and I’m with you. I recommend eating something rich and watching Alex Trebek brutally skewer an earnest midwestern nerd with a well-timed skeptical glance. This week, I’ve been eating:
My mutton curry leftovers, different ways: excellent shredded in corn tortillas and topped with sourcream; truly transcendent on some yogurt pasta (s/o to friend of the newsletter Eric for this recurring favorite).
Lots of salmon, sometimes barbecued, and sometimes smoked-and-previously-frozen. I want you to know that doughy mass market grocery store bagels represent the future that whiteness wants.
Ice cream cold brew floats & the Atlantic Beach pie Jake recommended a few weeks ago (except, I added some diced mangos a la Samin).
(JS) Sweet readers, I hope you’re staying healthy and hydrated as we hurdle toward Midsommar, and if you’re here in New York, I hope you’re managing to get some sleep amidst the constant barrage of fireworks. Whether or not you buy Twitter’s latest uncomfortably compelling COINTEL-style conspiracy theory, I think we can all agree on one thing: ain’t no rest for the wicked. A tarnished silver lining to the noise pollution is that I’m a lot less likely to fall asleep during my requisite pre-sleep television hour, and have thus managed to catch up on both High Fidelity and Insecure, before anxiously diving into queen Padma’s latest Hulu series, Taste the Nation.
Wrap game strong
It’s no secret that both Salonee and I both worship at the altar of Lakshmi. My boyfriend and I listened to all twelve and a half hours of her 2016 memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate, during a road trip, including the parts wherein she literally reads her own recipes. Her voice alone is audible salted caramel. I once saw her attempt stand up. This is all to say I really wanted to love this show. Padma has wonderful chemistry with her guests, and the rich cinematography inspired some Low Country wanderlust, but something felt strange watching an assimilationist apologia at this particular moment, when many (white) viewers are belatedly realizing long-cherished institutions have historically failed or preyed on so many.
As Alicia Kennedy writes in a brilliant anti-imperialist critique, “the United States’ ‘unique dream of harmony,’ as Lakshmi calls it, is a fallacy, but it is never questioned throughout the series. Neither is the concept or value of ‘the nation.’” In a review for his blog Anise to Zaatar, Eric Ritskes pinpoints a number of unprobed questions worth pondering: “What does the project of a ‘national food’ culture accomplish? What if America was never great to begin with? Can food actually bridge across structures of violence, especially ones embedded in colonial nationalism and capitalism?” I can only hope the producers are reading thoughtful writers like these and taking notes, in the case the show is renewed.
ANYWAYS, here’s what I’ve been eating:
I tried my hand at Marlene Matar’s sambousek halabi, producing an addictively tasty but visually amateurish result. The leftover filling, spiced ground beef spiked with walnuts and pomegranate molasses, made for excellent manaeesh sandwiches, finished with pickled beets, chopped parsley, and a dollop of yogurt.
Friend of the newsletter April brought over some daeji bulgogi, which we ate ssam-style, wrapped in perilla leaves I grew on my windowsill (s/o Park Slope Food Coop). Her mom’s signature marinade, which she always keeps in the freezer, uses agave and homemade gojuchang. I hope to feature it soon.
Inspired by Salonee’s transparency, I will reveal that I went to my parents’ for the weekend, where we very much enjoyed Jerelle Guy’s strawberry spoon cake, as well as Nicole Taylor’s Memphis dry-rub on home-grown shrooms
HOT IN HERRE: Cold Tofu
Your bland/chewy/white fave
While Bloomberg Asia’s food desk showed its whole ass last week, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine (and likely others, as well) have been wise to cold, silken tofu as a hot weather snack for some time. Part of the beauty of tofu-with-toppings is the dish’s flexibility: you can keep things traditional with a Japanese hiyayakko preparation (delicate, with scallions, ginger, and bonito flakes; some add a dashi broth) or really lean into the savory-silky-richness of it all with something like Lucky Peach’s avocado and sesame oil topping. I’ve become partial to my own inspired-by-sesame-noodle topping of nut butter, sesame oil, chile paste, rice wine vinegar, scallions, green chiles, and plenty of fresh ginger. I recommend putting your tofu in a bowl, topping it as you wish, and passing it back and forth in a ravenous/listless stupor with someone you don’t mind swapping pandemic spit with.
USE A CONDIMENT: SWEET AND SPICY PICKLED RAMPS
(JS) You know that feeling when your finished dish just… isn’t quite finished? Perhaps you’re seeking a bit of heat, something crunchy for contrast, or a splash of acid to wake everything up. This is a feature where we’ll introduce condiments and fixins, both bought and prepared, that we like to fall back on in moments of gustatory crisis.
I begin with a confessional: I think ramps are just fine. It continues to shock me how some people seek out these humble wild alliums like hypebeasts preparing for a Supreme drop, but that’s for another discussion. (SB: I, shameless lover of all things marking a change of season, am a Ramp Stan™. Hypebeast for SPRING, if you will.) Pierless Fish was selling them in the late spring, so I added some to my seafood haul without really strategizing how to use them. Faced with a couple bunches and a weird hangup about making pasta for myself (also for another discussion), I wondered what I could do to extend their shelf life. A brief google brought me to this easy recipe for sweet and spicy pickled ramps.
Why is the caption typeface so inconsistent cant wait to switch to Substack next week!
After a couple nights rest in the punchy brine, the sharp garlic notes relax and give way to a warm, spicy finish. Food52 contributor MissGinsu learned the pickling technique from the late Chef Floyd Cardoz, which she’s also used successfully with red onions and cauliflower. Off season, I imagine scallions would work in a pinch. Garlic scapes could be cute. The world is your sweet and spicy pickled oyster. I’ve used these indiscriminately in recipes that call for pickles and chiles, and suspect they would work well in salsa verde. The headnotes claim the ramps are “terrific in savory cocktails,” but frankly I’d save these gems for snacking and sip the brine instead.
TMYK: Pan Bagnat
(SB) I’ve been feeling wistful about the passage of pandemic time, and particularly mourning the absence of our summertime Shakespeare in the Park ritual. I hope you’ll excuse a sentimental note that it was while feverishly packing lunch between waiting for tickets and reconvening to picnic that Jake introduced me to the humble pan bagnat.
I am both obligated to tell you that this “bathed bread” sandwich is a traditional Provençal use for stale bread and acutely aware that this information has historically been preceded by insufferable comments like “when my husband and I first acquired our farmhouse in Provence…”
Not too much tuna
There are varying degrees of orthodoxy accompanying the myth of the pan bagnat, but suffice it to say it’s basically a pressed tuna sandwich. A humble version may bathe stale bread with water, but I’m partial to a version with olive oil. I think the ingredients can be flexible -- think salade Niçoise on a sandwich. Others, like this blogger implore bagnat heads to “save” the form by remembering that it should “contain only bread rubbed with garlic, tomatoes, radishes (or scallions), sweet red peppers, baby fava beans or artichoke hearts, tuna and/or anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, basil, black olives, olive oil, and salt and pepper” -- some of which could be omitted, but nothing should be added lest we degrade the bagnat’s true form (JS: only twelve ingredients? FOH).
Since I purchased the pan for my most recent bagnat from the half-price bakery section of a PriceChopper in Fort Plane, NY I’ll go ahead and give you license to use the rough formula of tuna/acid/tomato/olive oil/pickle-y extras on garlic rubbed bread however you’d like. I’ve found I get the best results when I scoop out a little bread and add some garlic to my tuna. I like to wrap my bagnat pretty tightly in foil, weigh it down, and refrigerate for several hours. (JS: recognizing the aforementioned tendency toward insufferable pan-ecdotes, I am compelled to share this old Melissa Clark story where she calls for “a child of about 7” to sit on your sandwich.)
In this season, it’s especially nice to be able to prepare your sando in the nighttime, after the heat has broken, and have it waiting for you, cold and briney, in the heat of the afternoon. Maybe you’ll share it with friends one day! Who can say.
(JS) I live for a grab bag. Perhaps this is because I am plagued by self-doubt and therefore hate making decisions, but again, that’s for another discussion. I also love a tote, because I am a predictable Brooklyn gay who is (was?) frequently on the go (tbt #DoingThings). This week I’m coveting a bag from Totes Gay, a collaboration of 40 queer chefs and makers benefiting The Okra Project.
(SB) I’m wishing I had a more robust natty wine budget and some nicer wine glasses. I’ve been set on becoming a Wine Bitch for the better part of a year now, but being able to sample and experiment with some guidance now that my local wine bar can sell to-go bottles has made the journey far more fun and accessible. The pandemic exceptions that allow them to do so expire next week, and ROAR has put together a petition to allow small restos to keep selling booze to go here.
(JS & SB) Friend of the newsletter Rana recently tipped us off to her mom’s most exciting quarantine purchase, the Wonderper vertical rotisserie. Though it's marketed as a mini shawarma machine, we say why restrict ourselves to but one variety of shaved meat? We dream of christening this bad boy with a fat stack of al pastor shared amongst friends. Is that haram?
PS: we're probably migrating to Substack next week. Doesn't really mean anything if you're already subscribed, but you know, transparency, etc. Love u, mean it.