Can the subscribers just take a second and marvel at our new banner, courtesy of designer and number one Italian friend of the newsletter Mari Fierro? *In our Dorit Kemsley* Bellissima!
(SB) What a week it’s been, lovely readers… And not in a good way! It’s often been difficult to tell if we’re all at the beginning, middle or end of a particular roller coaster over the last several months. We’ve at least arrived at Libra season, usually a time of abundance and beauty in the world as our most charming and beautiful friends host gatherings celebrating their births :) (JS: Real ones will recall). Unfortunately, astrologers seem to agree that this year will be a little different — with the season marked by a turn towards seriousness, marked by difficulty communicating and the rising tensions of a true political clusterfuck.
(Just the) Rib tips
For me, the last week has felt busy in nice ways: I’ve seen some close friends for the first time since March — and indulged in some masks-on harm reduction hugging. I’ve been on the subway a few times, and haven’t cried once. I’m trying to stretch my body most days. The sunlight of early Autumn is transcendent: golden, gentle, hopeful. But, if I’m being honest, I can’t help but feel that this time is but a pit-stop between catastrophes, a chance to catch our breath and touch base before hunkering down for whatever winter may bring. All that bracing and caution, even deep down, can be a lot to carry. In case you’re also there, I’m here to advocate, as always, for a little more gentleness in your approach with yourself. I’m still trying to practice what I preach there, but this week, I made:
Pork chops dry rubbed with salt, pepper, and ginger seared and then smothered with caramelized onions, garlic, fennel, apples, and pears (JS: Joanna Newsom vibes). Really great topped with some sambal.
A whatever-you-want style white bean, chard, and sausage soup with some leftover sweet potatoes thrown in for good measure.
More cottage cheese toasts: toppings included cilantro, green chilis, and spring onions; cherry tomatoes, sea salt, and some olive oil; sambal.
(JS) Well friends, we’ve made it through Rosh Hashanah and are barreling toward Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Sweetness? She’s come and gone! An entire holiday dedicated to overthinking, self-flagellation, and food anxiety? Sign me up! What was that bit about gentleness toward yourself? Not today, babe! We’re gonna THINK about what we did and REFLECT on it and maybe even APOLOGIZE for it! Atonement: it’s not just a Saoirse Ronan vehicle!
Chicken soup for the body mostly
Having exhausted both my sarcasm and exclamation point quotas, I will say these guilt-ridden cult practices can be helpful in times of chaos. The Days of Awe provide a luxurious moment for introspection, a time to think about how we can do and be better in the year to come. These next few weeks are guaranteed to be chaotic, so if you have the opportunity to take some time for yourself next Monday, I encourage you to join in our reflections (but like, not in a proselytizing way). Then treat yourself to some kugel (recipe follows). Here’s what I’ve been eating:
Alon Shaya’s pickled shrimp, a delightful Mediterranean take on a Southern classic
Bar Tartine’s chicory salad, excellent with all twenty ingredients but still absolutely acceptable if you omit seven or eight
Roast chickens: one for dinner, one for soup and salad purposes. ‘Tis the season. We kind of hate to see it.
DADDY LESSONS: NOODLE KUGEL
(JS) Rosh Hashanah was my Grandma Judy’s holiday, schlepping to Philly for a decidedly WASPy erev-Rosh prime rib dinner followed by more traditional fare on the actual new year (standouts included paradigmatic matzo balls and mustard baked Kosher salami), but the Yom Kippur festivities have always been local. For those of us in areas with substantial Jewish populations, much of the traditional Ashkenazi break fast table is picked up from your preferred deli, so while there are many flavors I associate with the holiday, rather few are homemade. Bagels and smoked fish are best left to the professionals, methinks, but if you’re looking for something special to cook for the day of atonement, give kugel a shot. For those who have not tasted it, noodle kugel can be a hard sell (SB: I, famously adventurous eater, have yet to really “get it”). Descriptions like “sweet mac and cheese” and “dessert pasta” are somewhat misleading but not entirely wrong -- FWIW, in our house, kugel is always served as a side rather than after dinner. Don’t overthink it and embrace the unfamiliar. It could be exciting! (SB: OK, OK, I’m excited.)
Recipe card for my textual originalists
My favorite kugel comes from my dad’s side of the family (hence, Daddy Lessons™), specifically my Nanny Reeva (of blueberry cake fame), though the recipe is attributed to a woman simply called Selma. We don’t know much about Selma, but the mononymous mystery remains a kugel icon. Her method is quite simple. Warm egg noodles are tossed in a mixture of butter and cream cheese, to which you then add cottage cheese, sour cream, and sugar. Next come the eggs — first the yolks, then the whites, beaten to stiff peaks and folded in. Some may insist on adding raisins; to them I say, not today! Add salt to taste and pour into a well buttered pyrex, which ensures optimal crispy edges. The real kicker is the topping, an addictive mix of cornflakes tossed in melted butter and brown sugar (which we’ve since incorporated into bread pudding). You could probably sprinkle this combo on anything (gravel, styrofoam packing peanuts, radioactive waste, etc.) and I’d lick the plate clean.
Thee Kugel, prepped but not baked, to be frozen, courtesy of Auntie Sue
You can prepare your kugel ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it unbaked, leaving more time for atonement on the big day. Once you’ve sufficiently repented, place the kugel in a cold (i.e. not preheated; the mysteries of Selma!) oven and bake at 350°F for an hour.
(Editor’s note: Auntie Sue has informed me the famous Selma was my great grandmother aka Nanny Byer’s neighbor)
TRASH TALK: Vegetable Sculpture (and Stock)
If there are historians* reading this, years from now, let the record reflect that while the City of New York officially suspended the curbside compost program on May 4, 2020, COVID-19 related budget cuts and health concerns had all but brought an end to the era of reliable brown-bin pick ups sometime in April. Despite our fair city’s massive trash bill, municipal composting wasn’t really ever rolled out to all neighborhoods, either (Jake, famously, did not get a brown bin!!). Dutiful composters may have toted their scraps to a local greenmarket, but, in the midst of this pandemic those pick-ups were suspended as well. While some enterprising environmentalists made the most of this state of affairs, I descended into what might best be described as “vegetable scrap madness” and became a veggie stock queen. I highly recommend trying it yourself.
Stacks on stacks
Though we are now emerging from the perfect storm of dried bean mania and vegetable scrap abundance that defined those early months of quarantine for me, many of the same conditions persist: I am loathe to descend and ascend six floors to empty the trash, and I am still a little bit of a hoarder. Instead of trashing vegetable scraps, I keep a few plastic quart containers (and, okay, one large format tupperware) in the freezer that I fill while cooking other things over the course of a few weeks. The detritus from all sorts of projects then comes to have a second life as I rejoice about their future in stock: potato skins and carrot ends are particularly nice, basically any peel will do. A large bunch of wilting herbs? Transformed from a failure of fridge management to a deepening of stock possibilities. A little parmesan rind? Savory heaven! Cucumber skin? In small quantities, it works. I try to stay away from onion and garlic skins, but I’m finicky about colors (JS: have you tried natural dyeing?). In the best of times, this method promises that your favorite vegetables (especially treats, like ramps or beautiful daikon radishes) have a chance at a flavorful second run. It’s really a story about redemption and possibility, you see.
Stocks are up in this house!
When the quart containers fill up, it’s time to make a stock. This is also your opportunity to create some pretty scrap sculptures. Please enjoy some photos of my objets d’art. The stock process is easy: place your scraps, frozen or semi thawed, in a large stock pot. Throw in any bones or carcasses you have rolling around your freezer as well. Fill the pot with water, until the scraps are submerged. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer. Here, you can cover the pot or leave it open — it really depends on how concentrated you’re looking to get.
Category is excess
I like to let my stock bubble bubble toil and (no!) trouble for at least a couple of hours before slowly fishing out the larger scraps, and then straining into even more quart containers. This freezes well, but it’s nice to have some on hand for your soup and bean needs (JS: Ever the Tetris-head, I store mine in freezer-safe Ziplocs for stacking).
IT TAKES TWO: Hart’s Olive Oil Cake
(JS & SB) This is for all those times you’ve tasted something and found yourself wondering: was it the recipe or was it me? In this feature, we’ll both cook something new and share our results, offering #raw and #unfiltered feedback on what we loved and what we didn’t. We’re kicking things off with a dessert we’ve been eyeing for quite some time: Katie Jackson and Nick Perkins’ olive oil cake from Hart’s, as published in ROAR’s Serving New York.
(JS) The olive oil cakes I’m used to are usually orange-scented, light and airy, with a delicate crumb (e.g. Smitten; Melissa Clark; Maialino), so I was intrigued when I saw the photo of this cake with its well-done craggly edges, slathered in whipped cream and a pile of blackberries. It reminded me of a flourless chocolate cake or perhaps something made with almond flour. I was surprised to see this recipe uses no leavening, and instead relies on a mixer to do some heavy lifting. This caused a bit of concern as I’m currently at chez David in New Hampshire, where the old farmhouse aesthetic extends to the kitchen appliances, and the vintage Sunbeam mixer, chic as she looks, accepts nary an attachment besides the standard beaters. These worked fine for the first half of the recipe, slowly incorporating oil into a golden mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and lemon and vanilla, but I had trouble whipping my egg whites to stiff peaks, instead achieving something merely foamy. I folded this into my batter, baked it off, and crossed my fingers. The result was undoubtedly denser than intended, but still quite good. Lacking the energy to make whipped cream, we enjoyed it with some blueberries and a dollop of Cabot 10% yogurt.
(SB) Baking is not my favorite activity. I might succumb to the occasional pan of brownies, tray of cookies, or quarantine-banana-bread, but know myself to generally lack the attention to detail required for more advanced projects. I do, however, love a cool dairy/warm dessert combination. So, when Jake texted me about this cake (specifically: “this cake with yogurt and blueberries? bitch”) I knew I was going to try it sooner rather than later. Plus, in a lucky coincidence, I purchased several liters of very nice olive oil sometime in mid-March and Jake’s old KitchenAid mixer in February. Fully equipped, and committed to corralling my tendency to play fast and loose with substitutions, this little olive oil cake came together rather nicely. Folding in egg whites beaten to industrial-motor stiffened peaks into the rather sticky lemon scented olive oil, yolk, and flour batter resulted in a crumbly, meringue layer around the cake when baked — imagine a large, round madeleine. We didn’t have any whipped cream or berries for our first night with the cake (foolish), but it was delicious with some kaya jam. It should be noted that I will absolutely be exploring the traditional whipped cream later tonight.
PERMANENT ROTATION: Meera Sodha’s daily dal. We truly could eat it daily.
(JS) I’m channeling my political anxieties into one of my favorite pastimes: texting! Tonight at 7:30 I’m signing on for a GOTV text bank initiative organized by my friend Susannah with Supermajority. Won’t you join me?
(SB) My knives (really, the two knives I use for everything these days) need a good sharpening. I am actively seeking recommendations! Do you have a knife sharpener you know and trust in New York City? Send them my way, please!
(JS & SB) Friend of the newsletter/tried and tested tastemaker April just copped these babies at H Mart and we think we could all benefit from a pair.