052: How do you measure a year?
In truths that we've learned, in times that we’ve cried/In bridges we’ve burned, or the chickens we’ve fried
(SB) Dear Sweet Readers, we’ve made it — not just to another week, but through a whole year’s worth of eating, laughing, and loving together. I’ll take a moment to be fully earnest: we’re so grateful to have had your audience and company through this incredibly cursed time. It feels like together, we’ve plumbed the depths of summertime sadness and seasonal depression, become part-time Chani Nicholas interpreters, and eaten quite a lot along the way. Thank you for tuning in to witness when we deliver and your graceful acceptance when we phone it in. I could wax poetic about what having a public food journal has meant in terms of checking in with myself, I’m more inclined to spare you and look ahead. Today is going to be another scorcher, and the changing of seasons has me hungry for gossip, socializing, and what I can only describe as “bottomless brunch energy.” As we all strive to kill the cop in our heads (mine is tsk tsking loudly these days), I’d love to hear what you’re watching, reading, and scheming on for fun these days.
‘Til we meet next week, here’s what I’ve eaten:
Tired-and-walking-back-home empanadas from Empanadas Monumental that I cannot stop thinking about… a little plantain con queso, a little shrimp… what’s not to love.
New Haven-style pizza, bottomless Aperol spritz and incredibly delicious coconut and chocolate cake from Atticus during my first trip to the hamlet of New Haven in 2021 to celebrate friend of the newsletter and newly minted non-medical doctor Bench!!!
An experiment at stove-only panzanella during Sunday’s heatwave. It was mostly successful, and featured seared steamed eggplant and asparagus, pan-toasted bread, some sauteed zucchini, and a lot of mustardy dressing. I’m working on the method for the long summer ahead.
(JS) *In my Marilyn by way of Countess LuAnn* Happy birthday… to you… Happy birthday… to you… Happy birthday… digestiiiiiiiiiiivo... Ok enough of that – I’m not sure if it’s just me, but so far this week has felt absolutely chaotic, so for everyone’s sake I’m going to keep things brief. We’ve had a strange freakin’ year, but it’s been such a pleasure to share my Goop-approved brain worms with you all week in and week out. From fumbling my way through cannabutter dosing to publicly wishing for a bidet (and with a little encouragement from you all, actually investing in one), I want to thank you, dear readers, for your sustained attention and engagement, even though not a single one of you recommended a desk chair despite two explicit asks. (NB: This is your chance to redeem yourselves; save my spine!) What’s on everyone’s long weekend agenda? If you can believe it I’m fleeing upstate for a b*chel*rette party – in normie times I’d find such gatherings about as appealing as the Brood X emergence, but given “everything that’s going on” I’m looking forward to a couple days of lakeside VPR-style hangs.
Here’s what I’ve been eating:
Yewande Komolafe’s coconut fish and tomato bake (I used frozen cod); really flavorful for how quickly it comes together, I only wish I’d had some starch to soak up the vibrant sauce
A spectacular celebration dinner for the other newly minted nonmedical doctor David with friend of the newsletter April at Ernesto’s (stuck to small plates, standouts included the soft shell bocadillo, txistorra bikini, and tosta de gambas)
A delightful dinner & karaoke party hosted by friend of the newsletter Ava; she made Joy Cho’s creamy tomato gochujang rigatoni to which she added galbi jjim style short ribs, served with a variety of veggie forward banchan; for dessert, I made Natasha Pickowicz’s cappuccino roulade, which was surprisingly easy for how fancy it looks! I somehow used up all of the espresso buttercream on the interior, so I added Joanne Chang’s malted milk buttercream for a campy star-tipped finish.
USE A CONDIMENT (sort of): Miso Jaggery Nuts
(SB) After a few months of lurking vicariously through my better half (Jake), I recently embraced the opportunity to join Natasha Pickowicz’s Demi community. Affectionately referred to as the “Never Ending Salon”, her community has thus far kept me in photos of pets and other people’s projects. It is my practice to casually glance through these posts from the fog of my own overextension (bake a whole cake? In this economy?!) and try not to feel too bad for myself. Luckily, I am held up by forces more observant than myself, and Jake flagged a post from Nicola Lamb of Kitchen Projects that was appealingly simple and promised to satisfy: miso-candied walnuts.
Nicola’s formula calls for heating mirin (50g), caster sugar (40g), and white miso (50g) together until boiling, adding chopped toasted walnuts (100g) and stirring the mixture until sticky. As necessity is the mother of invention, I looked around my kitchen and made some executive decisions to sub sake for mirin and some jaggery in place of the caster sugar, to throw in a few crushed Sichuan peppercorns, and to follow directions on the rest. The nuts came together quickly, yielding a gooey salty-sweet mixture that reminded me texturally of natto. The success of my jaggery experiment leads me to believe that these would also work really well with Korean rice syrup or honey. I have designs on making some cinnamon buns and using these as a topping over the weekend, while the Never Ending Salon girls are dreaming of churning it into ice cream. I may or may not be eating them plain as we speak.
HOT IN HERRE: Watermelon Soju (High)
(JS) Although this week is shaping up to look like a momentary reprieve from last weekend’s extremely sudden and incredibly concerning high summer heat™, I come to you with a humble suggestion to start juicing your watermelons for subak soju, the official drink of hot karaoke girl summer. A beloved Korean refreshment, the name literally translates to “watermelon soju,” and in its simplest form requires just these two ingredients. With most soju clocking in between 15 and 25% proof, it’s a decidedly lower ABV option than your average watermelon margarita, perfect for extended sipping alongside, say, a hefty BBQ feast, as well as the karaoke which often follows. I’ll admit that juicing a watermelon can be a bit of a production – once you’ve cut or scooped out the flesh, throw it all into a blender and then strain, removing any impurities or stray seeds. Friend of the newsletter and official subak soju ambassador April also insists it’s crucial to skim the foam off of the blended watermelon, an annoying step she likens to “paying penance before you’re able to drink to your heart’s content.” Mix the juice with soju (we like Chumchurum brand) in a roughly 1:1 ratio, but feel free to adjust as you prefer, and serve over ice.
Of course, there is ample room to play with this basic formula. I’d venture that adding a pinch of salt to your watermelon juice might really make things sing (look out M*lly B*z). At Pocha32, the subak soju is spiked with their finest artisanal Sprite, providing a little effervescence and the slightest hint of citrus; adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice would not be the worst idea. Sweet baby April adds some freshly torn mint to the concoction, offering a little je ne sais quoi on the finish. If you’re feeling especially festive (and waste free, even), you can take a tip from Maangchi and serve the subak soju in your scooped out watermelon. If you’re ready to throw all caution to the wind, forgo the serving cups entirely and go full scorpion bowl – stick a few cocktail umbrellas around the edge, then sip directly from the melon with straws (sorry turtles). Bask in the glories of sharing a fresh seasonal beverage with friends, all the while belting power ballads and 96.7 Lite FM’s greatest hits (read: mutually soaking each other with aerosols).
NAUGHTY FUSION: ONE POT MENTAIKO
(SB) Japanese mentaiko pasta is already fusion at its most delicious: mentaiko, or cod roe, is added to a sumptuous cream, butter, and soy sauce base then tossed with hot spaghetti. In New York, I have tried excellent versions at both Davelle and Cup & Cup. The only thorn in going out for mentaiko pasta is the devil’s bargain of eating such an incredibly dairy and butter rich treat before, necessarily, having to take the subway home.
This week, wearily making my way back from a long day of book selling (come visit me at Bluestockings!!), I simply could not get the thought of pasta out of my mind. My feet hurt, my inbox is a graveyard of unmet obligation, my dissertation was neglected... and curling spaghetti around a fork felt like the only way to recuperate some of the life force I knew lurked below the surface. From the moment that the A train crossed Columbus Circle, I resigned myself to the fact that this was a night that called for a comfort-meal introduced to me in the earliest days of grad school: a classic one pot pasta. Luckily, in a victory for the concept of “change over time”, I also had a jar of lumpfish caviar in my fridge.
Allow me to walk you through this fusion, in case you too find yourself in need of a pantry meal that feels like a treat. First, the pasta: melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan, add in garlic (I like a lot) and stir til things smell nice. Pour in one part milk, two parts chicken broth (I prefer better than bouillon here), and dried spaghetti. Season with salt, and if you’re feeling frisky, a little smoked paprika. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir for about twenty minutes. Add in a good deal of grated parmesan, and stir until everything is combined and remove from the heat. The mixture might look a little watery, but it will in fact thicken up nicely in a few minutes. Top with parsley, fresh ground pepper, and a hefty scoop of whatever fish eggs are in your budget. I cannot emphasize enough, this was delicious with the lumpfish. I threw on some chile crisp for good measure, as well. Rejoice.
PERMANENT ROTATION: Meera Sodha’s garlic chicken chaat (for whatever verkakte reason, the aforementioned blogger omits chaat masala from the salad; if you have it, don’t). Once upon a time, this was my (JS) post gym meal of choice. I can now say with confidence it’s just as good after not leaving your apartment for three days straight.
(SB) Despite my mild aversion to pandering, I remain curious about the “warm, vegetal, green fruit” flavors in this “Fuck Trump and His Stupid Wall” booze from Empirical Spirits. It’s Bloody Mary Season, people!!
(JS) I recognize one of us wishes for a hot sauce or fermented condiment every other week, but how often is it that we can wish for both AT THE SAME TIME? Neonata is a Calabrian chile paste with a smack of umami, thanks to the addition of anchovies. I absolutely must try it.
(SB & JS) This tres leches babka class with New York’s reigning donut reina Fany Gerson sounds delicious and just happens to be free. Will we see you there?
All we want for our birthday is for you to follow us on Instagram. (And maybe a desk chair rec.)