042: Super Soul Sunday Roast
CBD treats to stave off future biting incidents and Prince Philip's skincare secrets
(SB) Hi lovely readers, how are we doing this week? I’m finding it impossible not to lead with the elephant in the room: spring seems to be rapidly upon us, with the sun staying out until nearly six and temperatures snaking their way into the 50s. I feel like I’ve been uncharacteristically resistant to the influence of the sun this year, reluctant to feel the kind of unbridled spring-time joy that calls for playing hooky and being outside as much as possible. It’s felt like I’ve had too much to do, too much Zooming and writing and emailing to attend to and not enough of a reason to get out of the house. That feeling, however, is a lie, and one that my body has been protesting for some time with frequent headaches and a perpetually nervous stomach (JS: shoutout to my girls with GI issues). Despite infinite and constantly looming deadlines, I find myself once again resolving in earnest to make my life easier where I can: meetings can be emails for a while and I think that we all owe it to ourselves to slow down the pace a little bit. As it warms, I feel real glimmers of hope at what I think we all want most of all: to be with each other more, and with our work less.
Anyway, here’s what I ate:
A pretty disappointing attempt at a pasta with cicerchia beans, recipe courtesy of the Rancho Gordo Bean Club.
Wills made a delicious meal of Priya Krishna’s “most basic” dal which reminded me to be eating way more dal than I currently am, and also of the importance of ghee.
I’ve been perfecting my lunchtime tuna salad sandwich, which currently includes pickled jalapenos, green onions, and crushed potato chips.
(JS) I have to imagine, sweet readers, that you’ll come across no shortage of “one year ago” accounts this week, and for this reason, I’ll humbly spare you mine (rest assured, I am simultaneously shopping around the script for The Second Thursday in March, an autobiographical short recounting the last day I was meant to be at The Met but instead ended up spending nearly an hour at the 110th Street H Mart, facing unforeseen bouts of anxiety and an exceedingly grim future while panic buying sundubu kits and largely still uneaten hot chicken ramen in bulk). I will instead use this space to echo that most familiar and ever relevant refrain from our problematic Italian-summer-cosplay fave: we have changed, but we’re still the same. (SB: I understand that I can never understand… but still… I stand.) On a broad scale, things remain pretty bad, but at the local level, I’ve seen some glimmers of hope, and maybe even the promise for incremental, substantive change. I’m still making banana bread and don’t quite know what I’m gonna do with my post-doctoral life, but I have a real substantive appreciation for my community and have greatly enjoyed spending time on local mutual aid projects. Poco a poco, se va lejos.
A ver, here are some things I’ve been eating:
Tried these quesadillas con flor de Jamaica from Adriana Almanzán Lahl; perhaps it was because I used long expired hibiscus, but I found the filling a little bland, and ended up doctoring it with some Valentina; it was a bit more flavorful the following day, but overall I’d recommend serving these with salsas, sour cream, and/or guac
Snagged an unbelievably delicious cinnamon bun in a midweek giveaway from Apt. 2 Bread; Carla is a genius and also loves a trade (I proffered some hamantaschen in return)
Faced my pasta fears (sort of) with homemade manti, following Engin Akin’s recipe; I ended up with what I thought was a decent result and a lot of leftover filling, which I then repurposed for an improvised chapli kebab
IT TAKES TWO: Paneer à la Padma and Indian Chile Crisp
A couple weeks ago patron saint of the newsletter Padma Lakshmi posted an instagram tutorial for homemade paneer, which she ultimately served as a chaat-style salad with chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro drizzled with a sesame-heavy Indian chile crisp. Between the sultry soundtrack of D’Angelo hits and her extremely chic neo-70s lewk, there was no way we could resist giving these recipes a try. Did our paneer pass the test? Read on and find out!
(SB) There is a big gulf between fresh paneer and the kind you can find shrink-wrapped at the grocery store, but I really hadn’t considered making paneer at home. For one, the process seemed messy, conjuring hazy memories of my dad wrestling with proper cheesecloth technique while trying to conquer paneer-based desserts with some help from Youtube. Despite being a ricotta super fan and cottage cheese aficionado, the idea of experimenting with my own soft and mild cheeses was intimidating. But if there was anyone who could dispel my trepidation, it was Padma.
Though I am suspicious at best of Instagram Reelz, I could not recommend Padma’s more. Videos usually feature a truly bumping soundtrack, a cast of cousins and Krishna (aka “little hands”) on sous chef duty, and Padma at her finest: chic, gorgeous, and keeping it honest about whether or not it’s worth it for a home cook to compete with a Delhi chaatwala (no ❤️). Disarmed by her poise and laughter during her casual paneer journey, I decided not only that I was up for the task but that it might even be something I could attempt mid-workday.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it was. I began by warming some (whole fat) milk over pretty low heat, anxious it would boil over when I stepped away. Heeding Padma’s advice to use a flame lower than my instinct, my milk took quite a while to puff up. When it seemed like it was indeed rising, I squeezed half a lemon in and stirred… to no avail! I stirred in a few extra squeezes, and stirred some more in vain. After a quick, harried google, I turned up my heat a few notches and let the milk come to a rolling boil, before squeezing in a little more lime. To my great relief, the milk quickly formed some robust and pillowy curds. I tipped the mixture into a cheese-cloth lined strainer on top of a big bowl and, at Padma and Jake’s urging, saved my whey for other use. After most of the water had drained off, I shaped my cheese cloth into a very clumsy hanging-ball and left it hanging from my sink for about half an hour.
In that time, I whipped up a substitute-rich version of Padma’s “Indian chile crisp”, a really remarkable distillation of the classic and beguiling chaat flavor profile: sweet, tangy, salty, and spicy. It was inspired. I didn’t have untoasted sesame oil, so I began by heating some canola oil, and adding in half a finely minced red onion, sesame seeds, ground coriander, Kashmiri chilies, and Diaspora Co. guntur sanam red chili and cumin. I didn’t have simple syrup, so I finished off the mixture with some agave.
When it was done, I crumbled the paneer (which was soft but shockingly formed into a cheese!) over a can of rinsed chickpeas and some more raw, chopped onion and topped it with some mint chutney, a heavy dose of chili crisp, and a dusting of chaat masala. Truly delicious, we ate it with Wassa crackers like hungry animals.
(JS) I always found it confusing when menus and cookbooks described paneer as “Indian cottage cheese,” as the only versions I’d encountered were squishy cubes stirred into saag or a rich mattar gravy, a far cry from the diner staple I mostly associated with grapefruit and fad diets. In my admittedly limited experience, the paneer I’d enjoyed in restaurants and purchased in American supermarkets was the rare ingredient you’d call squeaky, an infrequently desired culinary adjective I’d otherwise reserve for a cheese which is similar but crucially not the same: the barely still-PDO’d halloumi (shoutout to our Cypriot readers). Preparing my own paneer at home brought new clarity to that previously curious translation.
Seeing as paneer requires but two ingredients, I decided to shell out for the good shit (i.e. local milk and organic lemon). I slowly heated my milk at a temperature I would probably deem too low; after some twenty five minutes of intermittent stirring, ever cautious to avoid the dreaded #milkskin, I cautiously added my lemon juice – three and a half teaspoons, following Padma’s loose ratio of “a half to a whole teaspoon per cup of milk.” Perched over my steaming pot of milk, I continued to stir, impatiently awaiting that fateful moment when my sweet little curds would make their fashionable debut. After nearly ten minutes of watchful stirring, I threw caution to the wind, stirring in an extra teaspoon of lemon juice and raising the heat to a comfortable medium. I’m not sure which of these variables kicked things into action or if it was the combination, but within a couple minutes things were indeed a’changing! Once we’d reached what looked like the desired curd count, I poured the mix over my trusty nut milk bag set inside a strainer (look out for more exclusive #wheycontent in the coming weeks), tied the bundle with a rubber band, and hung it over my sink while I prepared the chile crisp.
There is no shortage of great chile crisps out there these days; what I liked about this one was its versatility, as well as its fervent emphasis on the crisp, provided by a generous quantity of sesame seeds. Like my co-editor I was lacking in the untoasted sesame oil department, so I too began with canola, frying my minced red onion and sesame until aromatic. I stirred in the suggested amounts of cumin and coriander, as well as Aleppo pepper, two heaping spoonfuls of Kashmiri chili powder, and a sprinkle of salt. I appreciated Padma’s commitment to a well-rounded crisp, offering not only salt and heat, but also sweet and tangy notes: missing her suggested “liquid sugar in the raw” and tamarind, I went with agave, pomegranate molasses, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. As promised the final product was heavy on the crisp – you could probably thin it with a bit more oil, but I kind of like the wet sand-y texture.
By the time dinner rolled around, all I had to do was crack open a can of chickpeas (save that bean water, garbage monsters; more on that below), chop up the rest of my red onion, and crumble in some of the surprisingly firm paneer – I used about half of mine (somewhere between a quarter and a third cup?) and plan to try making a bhurji with the rest. I dolloped on my chili crisp and couple spoonfuls of leftover chutney sabz in lieu of fresh herbs, and hit the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon juice. Readers? I’m obsessed.
TRASH TALK: Aquafaba-naise
(JS) It seems like someone’s always trying to sell me on the surprising benefits of “bean water,” whether that means the liquid used for soaking dried beans (for your plants; carpe saponin!), the broth which results from cooking them (~caldo de frijoles~ for poaching eggs), or that strangely viscous solution you’d otherwise rinse off your everyday canned beans. A few years ago someone with considerable wellness ingredient clout decided to christen this liquid aquafaba in a remarkably successful attempt to rebrand what very much remains, at the end of the day, “bean water.” Aquafaba has since found its way into a number of vegan baking recipes as a trusty substitute for egg; in addition to functioning as a binder, with enough patience it can be whipped to soft peaks (and stiffened with cream of tartar) for a texture that’s not unlike meringue. While I can’t profess to loving the unexpected inclusion of beans in brownies and blondies, I’ve always been intrigued by another aquafaba egg-replacement recipe: veganaise.
I’ve made many a mayo in my day, both using a food processor (lazy but relatively dependable) and following Samin’s hand-whisked method (with purpose, inspired). The ingredients for aquafaba-naise are basically the same: oil, salt, a touch of acid, perhaps a dab of dijon, and good old bean water, in lieu of the familiar egg yolk. Whip your aquafaba, acid, dijon, and salt to soft peaks, then slowly add your oil, first drop by drop till it thickens, then eventually in a slow stream. I loosely followed scrap queen Lindsey-Jean Hard’s recipe for aquafaba mayo, subbing in lime juice for ACV, and finishing with a touch of chili powder. She recommends making it in a stand mixer, but ever since I upgraded to a 6-quart big boi (bit of a brag, I know), I’ve had trouble working with small quantities of ingredients and opted to use my hand mixer instead. I’ll be honest, making this was fucking tedious, but the mixture ultimately peaked and emulsified as promised. I popped it in the fridge for things to firm up a bit before spicing. After a couple hours rest the condiment had indeed thickened up, such that swiping a spoonful left a trail in its wake. Texture-wise we were nearly there, but it ultimately lacked the richness I want from a true mayo. That said, you could certainly spice this up or whisk it into creamy dressings and dips much as you would with the real stuff. I’m looking forward to testing out some applications this week, perhaps starting with this Erewhon hack from the queen of TBD wellness herself.
POT CHEF: Goldyn Ganja Milk
(SB) If you’re a regular smoker and compulsive hoarder (what?), chances are good that you likely have several small bags around your house filled with little wooden stems and leaf dust. For several months, we’ve been throwing our stems in an Altoid box. Every few weeks, I come across it and remember my intention to make some stem tea out of them.
The concept of tea, or tisane, made of leftover stems and resin (if you’re nasty) evokes high school to many. I think this might be because either the tremendous thriftiness of mining even stems for the THC or the perhaps the perception that stem tea isn’t likely to be all that strong. Well, well, well my friends: do not be fooled. I was undeterred, because the concept struck me as a potentially cozy, chill, and lo-dose way to play with understanding what kind of flavor profiles might actually compliment the skunky herbaceousness of a bunch of stems.
I tried my hand at adding a couple of beloved flavors to your classic stem tea science. The core concepts are simple: boil broken apart stems, any extra leaf, and any shake (potent!) together with water and a binding agent. If using a fatty binding agent, like milk, coconut milk, or butter, add this to the water while it boils. If you’re using an alcoholic binding agent (the internet likes a little rum for its hot toddy energy), wait until the tea has boiled before adding it in and steeping. Since I was feeling bold and kept hearing stories of weak and non-effective tea, I began by combining two cups of water and a half can of condensed milk on the stove, before adding a little turmeric and about 3 grams of stems, a little chai masala, and a couple of small spoons of shake. I brought the mixture to a boil then covered it to simmer, stirring often. After ten minutes, I took the pot off the heat, strained, and divided.
The tea was delicious: sweet, milky, and something like a warmed bhang lassi (Holi is soon!). But be warned, as someone who slept through three alarms this morning, this tea is not to be taken lightly (JS: let the record show I texted a wellness check 30 minutes prior to our planned edit meeting). Watch your portions and learn from my misdeeds.
(SB) The sun is out and I’m trying to be hanging out in the park a whole lot in a few weeks. I coveted everyone’s picnic chairs for many months last year, and will be purchasing my own for this season. This one and this one caught my eye, but any chic recommendations? (JS: Does this count?)
(JS) With temperatures climbing and the clocks about to spring forward, it’s safe to say that my mood has significantly improved, and I’m more eager than ever to soak up all that vitamin D; I’d love to lay out on one of these linen and cotton pestemals from Goldune, feasting on Naive Happy shrimp chips and contemplating an ever-more-conceivable post-pandemic future. At the risk of sounding greedy, I’ll admit to also coveting their limited edition Nowruz tote.
(SB & JS) Is this chic and sustainable “supernatural paper” cooler for a mere $28 too good to be true? Goldune you crazy for this one!!!!