051: Open for Dear Evan Hansen spoilers
Aliens exist, and other things that Travis Barker has always said
(JS) Sweet readers, if you can believe it we’re fast approaching this sweet baby newsletter’s first birthday. It feels like only yesterday Salonee texted me the question “should I write a food newsletter” and I casually interpreted that “I” as a “we” (we call that besharam). This week we find ourselves at the tail end of Shavuot, a relatively obscure holiday that predominantly secular Jews of my ilk mainly associate with time-honored traditions like the suspension of alternate side parking. A quick google suggests other rituals typical of the festival include the heavy consumption of dairy products (risky, for many in my gene pool) and studying late into the night (sick) in a ritual called tikkun, loosely, “correction.” This year, that call to interrogate feels especially apt. I grew up in a reform Jewish community, schlepping to temple two afternoons a week where my Birkenstock and pajama-clad peers freely indulged in snacks like pepperoni pizza and dumplings during class to a futile refrain of “sheket bvakasha” (hey; IYKYK). While matters of dress and kashrut were clearly open to interpretation, support for Israel was perhaps the one topic we were never really given the chance to debate.
I’ve been reticent to use my platform to call for the support of Palestinian liberation not because I’m wavering in my beliefs, but because I’m often skeptical of the effectiveness of internet activism. In the few instances I’ve tried to engage with friends or family who maintain their Zionist beliefs, I’ve often been told to “go back and learn my history,” frequently with some suggestion that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic (it is not). Ironically it is because I’ve spent time engaging with that history – not the glossy mythologized version of coaxing life from a desert, but a messy collection of intersecting narratives across the longue duree – that I stand firmly in support of the Palestinian cause. I’m inspired by the deeply Jewish tradition of engaging collective memory to teach others about the Nakba, the Palestinian right of return, and the historical whitewashing of their beloved cuisine. And I commit to continuing to learn, beginning with this Friday’s teach-in on Seeding Sovereignty in Occupied Palestine from A Growing Culture and the Agroecology Fund. Here’s what I’ve been eating:
Returned to this newsletter’s roots with a classic tortilla (frittata) de patatas, which I maintain is best enjoyed room temp or fridge cold
Experimental fridge-cleaning celery salads with some combination of pickles, kraut, slivered almonds, and Sichuan pickled mustard greens
A Saturday out on the town: strolled over to Trinidad Golden Place to pick up lunch (doubles & chicken roti), biked down to Spumoni Gardens for an early dinner slice, then finished the evening off with a cone from Ample Hills (The Munchies, ofc)
(SB) Dear readers, it’s my turn to heartily cosign the my thoughtful and sweet co-editor and co-conspirator’s eloquent words. We are all in our own miserable algorithmic bubbles these days, and mine has featured a nearly constant stream of atrocity, inequity, and grief. Sometimes, my feed is also punctuated by a lamentation about those who speak without “knowing enough” or the “sudden expertise” of many. If you share these feelings, I humbly submit that perhaps those around you have been reading, studying, and learning about the geopolitical struggle that has sapped our tax dollars, refined our technologies of policing, and been an ideological third rail for the duration of most of our adult lives. For those who can’t relate, I’ll kindly note that it is indeed never too late to read a book.
On the subject of some lighter reads, I have been trying to honor a desire to read a little more frivolous fiction as the weather warms by dipping my toes into Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts. I just started yesterday, but I’ve been enjoying doing something with my downtime other than breathlessly following the Mayoral race. June is nearly here, I’ve loaded up my NYPL hold list with some beach-y reads. I am accepting all invitations to the beach, to your pool, and to a world where I believe more heartily that I am worthy the pleasures of rest and renewal. My dissertation surely will miss me. Please don’t forget not to vote for Andrew Yang. Here’s what I’ve been eating this week:
A comfortingly large quinoa-veggie-and-pan-toasted-paneer salad, featuring some Rancho Gordo ciccera-garbanzos*. I also made an improvised agave-lime dressing.
A hummus with those same beans, with some pickle juice to round things out.
A few glorious and indulgent meals with friends of the letter: moo sarong, crab fried rice, a sumptuous veggie coconut curry, calamari and cocktails with Senti in Wayla’s glorious backyard; a canned-mussel and Boursin charcuterie board, kombucha cocktails, and several glasses of Failed Empire wine with Aanchal and Naomi; and a bevvy of delightful baked goods (passion! Fruit! bomboloni!!) from Supermoon Bakery.
*These garbanzos arrived in a shipment for my downstairs neighbor that I mistakenly took, thinking it was my Bean Club subscription (which arrived the next day.) I was alerted to this mix up by my neighbor, who let me know that he had taken my package accidentally, but caught the mix-up before using any of my beans. No such luck for him, as I had already made some chickpeas and opened a hot sauce. They are reordered, but I wanted to share my inattentive felony/neighborly chaos with all of you.
EEL BUT MAKE IT SARDINES
(JS) It’s no secret that this newsletter loves a slow scramble. Most often we enjoy our eggs with toast – in this house, bread is usually selected at random from a grab bag of frozen odds and ends including olive-studded sourdough, buckwheat and apricot baguette slices, and the occasional half bagel – but now and again we like to change up the vehicle. Rice, whether freshly steamed or leftover and fried, is a wonderful accompaniment for scrambled eggs, particularly when those eggs have been dressed up with a splash or soy sauce and/or mirin. Finished with a sprinkle of furikake and scallions, I find this preparation among my favorite ways to enjoy eggs for dinner. If I have a couple cucumbers in the fridge, I might gussy up my bowl with some quick pickles, slicing them into rounds and tossing them with kosher salt, sugar, and dash of rice vinegar – minced garlic and ginger are nice if you have some time to spare, but by no means necessary. It’s an unfussy and filling meal of things I almost always have at home, another example of a dish where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This preparation by itself is hardly a revelation, but Betty Liu’s addition of soy-glazed sardines really takes this weeknight staple to the next level.
Seasoned readers know I’m a fan of the sardine’s inherent funk, but once again I’d argue this is an entry-level sardine preparation, guaranteed to please even the pickiest of tinned fish eaters – butter, mirin, soy sauce, and honey are reduced slightly to form a glossy, sweet and salty concoction vaguely reminiscent of unagi sauce that masks the headier notes. Use your favorite oil-packed sardine – what I thought were simply olive-oil packed lightly smoked Bela Sardines turned out to be “lemon” flavored, though fortunately that lemon note was barely present and had no effect on the final dish. Betty’s recipe calls for a combination of dark and light soy sauces – the former is thicker, darker, and sweeter, and generally used for cooking rather than finishing. Because of its more robust flavor it’s used more sparingly than its lighter counterpart, so a bottle will probably last you a while, but in case you’re without the dark stuff and need soy glazed sardines STAT, The Woks of Life suggests a combination of light soy sauce, molasses, and sugar will work in a pinch.
Betty begins by gently splitting the sardines, removing the spines, and searing them in a bit of neutral oil. I didn’t find this sear to add much (they’re already cooked), and I ended up breaking the delicate fish more than I’d have liked in the process of flipping them, but feel free to try it yourself and prove me wrong. Remove the sardines and set aside while you heat your butter until foaming, then add the mirin, soy sauces, and honey, and bring to a simmer. Add the sardines back to the sauce and spoon it over the fish as it thickens and reduces, about 2 minutes. Remove, wipe out your pan, and scramble your eggs (preferably with a splash of mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce) as slowly as you see fit. Plate eggs and sardines over rice and enjoy, perhaps while reading up on the mystery of where eels come from.
HOT IN HERRE: Strawberry Tahini Dreams
(SB) We all have the occasional weakness, and one of mine is a propensity to be easily cowed by a salesmxn singing the praises of particularly sweet, affordable, or beautiful fruit. This, dear readers, is how I came to be in possession of not one or two but three pints of strawberries this week.
After a delirious evening of dipping these wares in Nutella on the couch, my eye began to wander to more balanced, potentially healthful approaches. Juiced up from a recent reunion with Hawa, I had smoothies on my mind and resolutions not to ruin them with virtuous but chalky rishi mushroom supplement powders. It wasn’t long before I found my way to this little strawberry, buttermilk and tahini number. The recipe is simple: briefly macerate a pound of strawberries in raw sugar before placing them in a 400 degree oven for about twenty minutes. Blend three-quarters of the jammy berries with buttermilk, a frozen banana, tahini, and ice. Dutifully following directions, I immediately lamented the use of an oven: the moments where I long to be eating buttermilk-based meals are rarely also those in which I wish to turn on the oven. I also admittedly flinched at the sugar, skimping to my own detriment. The finished product was tasty: sweet, complex, and easy to drink. (Willis did call it a “hummus smoothie”.)
Despite using up my berries as intended, I found myself back at the fruit stand for another pint today in order to attempt a stove top version more suitable for hot weather. I began by hulling and halving my strawberries before coating them liberally in honey and letting them sit. Meanwhile, I dolloped another hefty tablespoon of honey into a pan on high heat and let the mixture foam and darken. I threw in the strawberries, stirred, and let the mixture soften over high heat for about ten minutes before removing the jammy strawberries with a slotted spoon. I reduced the heat to low, and let some of the honey-strawberry juice cook down a little more. I removed it all from the heat and let it cool, before combining with the same proportions of frozen banana, tahini, ice, and buttermilk as above. The second version was sweet enough to stand up to the tahini (curbing the hummus vibes), while remaining a little complex from the burnt honey. It tasted best served quite cold, with some sesame seeds and a few flakes of sea salt for topping.
A RAW BROCCOLI REC BUT REALLY IT’S ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER DRESSING
(JS) One of the cartoon tropes of my childhood that I could never quite get behind was the idea that broccoli was repulsive to children. On the contrary, I freakin loved broccoli – steamed or sauteed with a little butter and garlic, it was a near permanent fixture on the dinner table at chez Stavis growing up. I love it roasted to smithereens, dry rubbed and charred like a cruciferous rib, or stir fried with sauces of all sorts (garlicky American Chinese preparations to the front). That being said, I never really understood raw broccoli, a confusing outlier of the crudite platter whose shape was often not especially conducive to dipping. That changed recently when I tried the broccoli salad from Emily, the Clinton Hill-based pizza empire perhaps ironically best known for their limited availability burgers (as for their ‘za, I think they’re doing their best work at Emmy Squared).
For this salad, the florets are separated from the stems and cut into bite sized pieces, while the stems are then peeled and sliced into crispy little puzzle pieces. These are tossed with thinly sliced Persian cucumbers and daikon (purple in my case, because I’m… you know…), a couple splashes of olive oil and rice vinegar, then plated over a creamy peanut butter-based dressing and finished with dried cherries (or currants in my case) and whole cilantro sprigs. The composed look is pretty, but I’d recommend tossing everything before eating to get some of that sweet PB nectar schmeared into every little broccoli nook and cranny. To be perfectly frank, I don’t know if I really love raw broccoli so much as I love this dressing – I was a little skeptical at first because my natural peanut butter had separated, but with enough whisking and a final addition of a couple tablespoons of warm water, things came together in a way that was homogenous enough. The peanut forward profile is complemented by soy sauce, rice vinegar, freshly grated ginger, and a touch of sesame oil (the recipe adds sugar, though I might cut back on it or swap for something like agave). I’m hard pressed to think of ingredients this dressing would not improve. Embrace the #raw broc life with this most delicious recipe!
PERMANENT ROTATION: It’s frankly never too warm for pasta in our book, and this mushroom bolognese is savory, satisfying, and sumptuous. I (SB) highly recommend food processing your mushrooms.
(JS) With moderately sized gatherings increasingly permitted, I look forward to once again pushing cakes & pies on folks with reckless abandon. After many years of MacGyvering transit solutions, I begrudgingly wonder if it’s finally time to invest in something like the elusive (read: sold out) “Cakebox” by Piebox 🙃 I’m hard pressed to understand why people would spend $75 on a wooden crate with straps, so if any bakers with social plans have alternative suggestions, I’m all ears.
(SB) I want a large squeeze bag of Japanese black sesame paste.
(JS & SB) We just might pre-order the entire menu for this weekend’s Never Ending Taste x Bạn Bè popup, a sweet dream collaboration between Natasha Pickowicz and Doris Hồ-Kane.
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