029: Save Us, Sexy Colonel Sanders!
Extra crispy thoughts and prayers
(JS) I know that every brand’s social manager has seized onto the idea that time ~iSn’T a ThInG~ in the year 2020, but I can’t help but comment on the deep sense of deja vu I’ve felt this past week. Perhaps it’s my return to a semi-regular at home yoga practice, or the fact that I’m bumping Future Nostalgia on near constant repeat, inspired by the surprisingly entertaining Studio 2054 Zoom concert (would you expect anything less from me, a top .1% Dula peep?). Restaurants struggle to make ends meet in the absence of meaningful government support. And of course, Covid cases continue to surge. Can you smell the 5G in the air? It’s spring all over again! It’s just like Gwen Stefani said: memes have changed, but we're still the same!
As we teeter on the precipice of indoor dining closures here in New York, I’m frustrated by the repeated calls to order takeout and delivery (including those from this newsletter), as if that will provide any sort of guarantee for the future of beloved local establishments. Suspension of disbelief remains a menu fixture for most diners seeking to enjoy a meal al fresco, while service workers by and large face unprecedented acts of entitlement. At what point do our increasingly insulated outdoor solutions start to present indoor problems? Who really wants to dine in a yurt on Union Ave? None of these thoughts is especially original or well developed, but if you’re looking for some more nuanced takes from folks looking to reimagine better futures for F&B, I’d urge you to check out Lunch Rush, a new project I’m working on with my friends and collaborators over at Lunch Group. Our first issue drops tomorrow </shamless promo>
Some things I ate last week included the following:
A couple recipes from Ottolenghi’s latest, Flavor. From the photo, eggplant parm dumplings seemed like a simple shortcut to a time-consuming classic; how wrong I was. Imagine the steps involved in your standard eggplant parm. Now double them, cut the mozz, and make the leftovers fall apart when reheated. Hard pass. Much more successful were his gojuchang braised eggs, cooked over an oven-roasted potato and kohlrabi rösti. This was lovely as a leisurely Sunday brunch, but would also make for a nice weeknight dinner (or supper, for the Flavour set).
Switched up my standard roast chicken for Meera’s masala murghi. Leftovers were repurposed for avgolemono-y soup and skillet pot pie with an ugly delicious spelt crust.
(SB) One of the harder things about the situation we’re in (here, I’m referring to the raging pandemic that we’ve been left to navigate with minimal guidance and leadership from The State within parameters set by decades of austerity-flavored welfare-averse social policy) is that I often feel at the mercy of other people’s whims when it comes to public health guidance. My normal capacity for a basic DFW-at-Kenyon-tinged empathy with my fellow New Yorker has been strained by months of anxiety and impatience. Last week, on a rare trip on the uptown A, I felt that strain acutely as my train car hosted an unmasked Showtime performance. Like a handful of others, I averted my eyes, and held my breath despite myself, and tried not to think about the circulation of tiny respiratory droplets propelled by exercise and projecting voices. Others smiled, lowered their masks below their noses, and tipped. Something that has thrilled me for a decade made me want to disappear on the spot. I want us all to wear masks. I want us to wear masks when we’re shopping at the drugstore, I want us to wear masks when we’re on the train, I want us to wear masks when we’re in basically any enclosed space with others. I want to like Showtime again.
Here’s some of what I’ve eaten this week:
I’m back on my leftover-usage bullshit: I subbed in leftover stuffing for soaked bread and onions in this recipe for some Swede-ish meatballs, enjoyed with mashed potatoes and pickled cucumbers. Some leftovers became meatloaf-y sandwiches, and the rest were crumbled into some carbonara-inspired bacon spaghetti (sorry to our Italian fans).
Gertie’s Apple Oat Muffins from the Family Meal cookbook, which sadly stuck to the tiny little silicone molds but were delicious.
Mark Bittman’s roasted cod & potatoes, with some fennel for good measure.
TRASH TALK: r/souptoast
(SB) I had just made an emergency lunch of too-creamy tomato soup (“it’s like a vodka sauce soup”, said my beloved) between Zoom meetings when friend of the newsletter Senti slid into my DM’s with this recipe a couple of weeks ago. Red Dog Toast, a Reddit-excavated old recipe for french toast made with condensed tomato soup, some eggs, and a few generous pats of butter; it’s fitting that the Dalgona coffee of the approaching winter lockdown is based in canned, condensed soup, right?
Eager to use up the tail end of my cream soup, I decided to breeze right past Jesse from The Kitchn’s advice to be sure to use less-watery, condensed soup and forged on by beating an egg directly into my leftovers* (about ½ a cup). I dredged a few slices of stale-adjacent sourdough rye bread in the mixture, making sure to saturate both sides, and pan fried each in a nonstick with a little bit of butter until browned. Served with a sharply dressed kale salad, my toasts made for an elegant lunch: somewhere between a savory bread pudding and a nightshade croque monsieur. While this version isn’t faithful to the Red Dog tradition, it is how I’ll be using up the barely-there leftovers of my cream-based soups in the future.
*For those curious about the original soup, I combined about 8 oz of canned crushed tomatoes with a shallot sauteed in butter, added some chicken stock, and finished with an overly hearty glug of heavy cream threatening to spoil post Thanksgiving.
GLD: Cashew Coconut Cookies
(JS) Rather than hit you with a massive dump of seasonal baking ideas, we’ve decided to stagger our holiday cookie rollout over the next few weeks. So please, slow your roll, my sweet-toothed reader! Each of these recipes deserves its moment in the spotlight. Plus, as Tim Mazurek rightly reminds us, mixed cookie gifting was doomed from the start! Up first: a sugar cookie with character and some happy memories from the before times.
The last trip I took before the pandemic brought nonessential travel to a near halt was an impromptu escape to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua for a little R&R with friends of the newsletter Faye and Jess. I’d just finished my dissertation a couple weeks ahead of schedule and found myself with a few days off from the museum, so in rather uncharacteristic form I threw caution to the wind, cashed in my miles on a ticket to Managua, and let someone else handle the planning for once. How exactly does one describe a yoga retreat and not sound like an asshole? WWGPD? I’ll spare you the intimate details of down dogs past, but suffice it to say I left that brief holiday both feeling myself and feeling incredibly privileged. I snagged a bag of these unassuming cookies from the tienda just before heading out and and wistfully enjoyed them on my lengthy journey home. They were perfect with a cortadito during what should’ve been a brisk layover in Miami, and bittersweet four hours later as we sat less than patiently on the tarmac, waiting out unexpected weather delays in frigid New York.
I call these coconut cashew cookies because they were sold to me as such, but those ingredients seemed to contribute texture more than flavor. The coconut fades into the background, adding to the chewiness of the final product, aided by a bit of cornstarch and the molasses from the brown sugar. The original recipe calls for melted butter, but I’ve taken the extra step of browning it to complement the nutty aromas from the cashews. Think of these as sugar cookies on holiday, bronzed and pillowy soft with the heady scent of brown butter (SB: Honestly this is how I am going to start thinking of myself in the form of daily affirmations). I can’t make the days longer, but I can offer you this recipe; if ever there was a cookie that doubled as a serotonin inhibitor, this might be it.
USE A CONDIMENT: Date & Tahini Caramel
(SB) There is an ugly part of me, forged in my youth and masked by my more visible enthusiasm for the Erewhon lifestyle, that initially responds to something styled as gluten-free, vegan, and no-added-sugar with skepticism and defensive derision. This is a part of me that was forged in the wake of leaving a life that included a small feast of lovingly prepared sabzis and fresh papadam every evening to one of boxed mac n cheese, peanut butter (!!) and frozen lean cuisine lunches, and has been sustained by a lifetime of experimenting with protein pancakes and believing in the transformative potential of zoodles. And, I am so glad that I ignored it to try my hand at this date and tahini “caramel” sauce.
The recipe is simple: soften 12 (I used 14!) dates by soaking them in about a cup of warmed non-dairy milk (I used oat). Blend the softened dates, milk, tahini, sea salt, ground flax, and some vanilla in a food processor until smooth. The results have an uncanny resemblance to caramel, but almost better: nutty, complex, and decadent without being cloying (JS: 5’5 with brown eyes, smile like the sunrise). I’ve been eating it with sliced apples, putting it on oatmeal, and look forward to topping some vanilla ice cream with it shortly.
PERMANENT ROTATION: Dubu jorim in the style of Maangchi. I (JS) like to think of this as Lady Fair tofu: twice the taste in half the time for the gal on the go. Make yourself a big batch and savor the leftovers with rice and a bit of kimchi for at least a few lunches.
(SB) I’m in the market for some easy & breezy chic outfits that I can wear multiple days a week while feeling elegant and capable. Splurge on patch pants? Work pants from Big Bud Press? Denim Coveralls? Readers, I’m lost — please send your suggestions.
(JS & SB) It’s no secret that we’re heavy consumers of the bounties of the Indian subcontinent: turmeric, cumin, curry leaves… you get the idea. It’s part of why we have been so moved and inspired by the farmers of Punjab, UP, and Haryana as they protest three proposed privatization bills in India. Farmers from India’s bread basket have suffered particularly badly in the face of lockdowns and years of mounting debt. We were grateful to see such a comprehensive primer to what’s going on from Diaspora Co. this week, and remain eager for a way to help. It seems like raising awareness is the best we can do now, but we did want to highlight another regional fundraiser if you’re so moved: Manthithoppu Transgenders Milk Cooperative Society is raising money for the first transgender co-operative living house in my (SB) sort-of home state of Tamil Nadu. You can donate here.
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