055: Integration Test Email
Who did you guys rank for *in our Drake* comptrolla... comptrolla?
(JS) Readers, readers, readers, it’s been barely a fortnight since I last spoke at you and I feel as if I’ve lived a thousand lives. In addition to skipping town for a week to flee the city heat and enjoy freshly laid cable internet at Chez David in New Hampshire, I’ve also met multiple Covid babies; published another Lunch Rush (with a noted cameo from my humble co-narrator); attended a backyard wedding; and gained an entire cousin (shoutout to my Floridian readers). At the same time, I feel like I’ve spent most of the past couple weeks primarily fucking up my back in the desk chair I still haven’t replaced (despite your thoughtful if belated suggestions), eventually tearing my eyes away from the screen to park my languid ass in front of a withering window unit, cradling a fat Nancy Silverton-inspired (read: fridge-cleaning, meat and cheese heavy) chopped salad and thinking about my choices. Time is a flat circle, etc.
Here’s what I’ve been cooking:
David took charge of most savory cookery during our stay up north (Betty Liu’s soy sauce braised duck legs, Maangchi’s spicy grilled chicken, Korean bapsang’s galbi jiim, sides aplenty); I handled the sweets, including some OG Digestivo faves like this strawberry balsamic cobbler and an adaptable rhubarb torte
Sohui Kim’s japchae, with personal Zoom coaching from the chef herself thanks to the fine folks at Pineapple Collaborative
A full on vegan wedding cake, for the aforementioned backyard affair (mazel Lily and Max!); Deb’s chocolate olive oil cake, with a little espresso rose twist in the ganache, decorated with still-in-season New Hampshire peonies and New York roses; ever the practical baker, I made a baby two-tiered show cake for the happy couple, and two half sheet cakes for the guests, which I brought to the wedding in boxes from Sal’s (IYKYK)
(SB) Oh sweet readers, how have you all been these last two weeks? I’m writing to you after a couple of breezy weeks in California. It’s been nice to have a break from regular life, especially one filled with Golden State produce, hanging with my family, and a 10-episode deep dive into the short-lived Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries marriage. However, it’s time for me to return to the Rotten Apple, hot on the heels of my absentee ballot. In all honesty, I’m not looking forward to the stultifying humidity and eager to disrupt some of my more punishing workaholic tendencies in the post-solstice days that stretch forward before us.
I have let my parents do a whole lot of cooking for the past two weeks, but here are some of the best things I ate out in the world while here:
A sampling of Bay Area hype beast treats, including rolled ice cream and Myungrang hotdogs.
The best strawberries I’ve ever eaten, a truly transcendent steak banh mi, and lots of Boochman genmaicha kombucha (with chaat masala!) from the Cal Ave farmers market.
PS: We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that next Wednesday we’ll be debuting our new biweekly feature ASK DIGESTIVO, where we answer all of your hard-hitting food or food adjacent (like… sometimes very barely adjacent) questions. If you’ve got something on your mind and want us to take a stab at it, marinate it, chop it, sauté it, or perhaps even sous vide it (sorry), send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org; we promise to limit our culinary metaphors in the answers, and only sparingly refer you to TikTok for solutions.
HOT IN HERRE: Whip It (Ricotta) Good
(JS) Whipped feta has been having a moment across the internet (see examples from NYT Cooking, Serious Eats, Chr*ssy T**g*n), and as much as I love an airy, spreadable cheese, I don’t quite get it; these recipes all require a secondary dairy component in addition to the titular ingredient, as well as a bit of olive oil to tame feta’s trademark salty funk. To spend money on double the dairy and end up with something toned down flavor-wise seems sort of silly when ricotta, my favorite blank slate of not-quite-cheeses, is right there waiting to be whipped into shape.* Do I feel a little lazy coming back from a week off of writing this newsletter with a one-ingredient-one-step recipe? Sure. Is it also extremely easy and incredibly good? Yes. (SB: release yourself ! Work won’t love you back! Etc.)
First, get yourself some ricotta – it doesn’t need to be the fanciest stuff, but I’d aim for a step above Polly-O if you can swing it. Look for the brands that are sold in those heaping metal pails wrapped in plastic – I used Calabro when we made this at chez David, but usually I buy Narragansett if I’m at home. (SB: I plan on writing up a very lazy Instant Pot ricotta one of these days.) Throw that ricotta in your food processor, and blitz – watch with amazement as the curds are sliced and diced to the point that they disappear while the blade folds air into the mix, creating a fluffy ricotta cloud. The internet leads me to suggest you could also accomplish this with a blender (I assume classic rather than immersion), though I haven’t tested it myself. Toast, broil, or grill up some bread, or fetch your cracker of choice. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can throw the whipped ricotta in a piping bag or a Ziploc with the corner cut off and go for the full Misi (fat ribbons on toast). FWIW, it tastes just as good when applied with a spoon, or even dipped.
From here, you could take your toasts in any direction, whether that’s a seasonal accompaniment or a pantry staple – we quite enjoyed our whipped ricotta with some slow roasted peppers (olive oil + garlic + covered pan @ 325°F for two hours), but you could also take things in a sweet direction with stone fruit (grilled, roasted, or fresh) or berries. Jams or confits would likewise fit right in, and I think it would make an excellent vehicle for Sarah Jampel’s seemingly cheffy yet remarkably easy bittersweet roasted radicchio and dates.
*If after all of this you still find yourself wanting to make something with feta, might I instead suggest roasting it with a drizzle of thyme honey?
TRASH TALK: Crunchy Green Pilaf
(SB) I have been thinking about making this crispy rice pilaf since friend-of-the-letter Kate R. heartily recommended it to me weeks ago. While their endorsement was hearty (“this has no right to be as good as it is”) and my curiosity was piqued, a series of small mishaps kept me from it for some time: forgetting to buy peas, not actually having mint in the fridge, not having the wherewithal to pre-cook rice, misreading the recipe and believing that it required turning on my oven, etc.
Still under that final misapprehension, I finally turned back to the pilaf at my parent’s house in a more temperate climate, only to discover that the oven-based instructions for this delightful little recipe involve only toasting pistachios. The rest of the recipe was so easy and flavorful that I have been kicking myself repeatedly for my inattention, with visions of leftover takeout white rice flitting before my eyes. I share it with you now as a great way to use up a variety of different odds and ends in your fridge: day-old rice, wilting herbs, and awkward stockpiles of soft, salty cheeses.
Begin by toasting, cooling, and coarsely chopping a generous half cup of pistachios-- on the stove is fine if you live in a humid hellscape (JS: *in my TikTok* are you from New York even?!?!). Set them aside and prepare the green sauce by combining about 4 cups of whatever herbs you have on hand (I used a lot of cilantro, some mint, and basil; Molly Baz recommends a little dill as well), plus white miso, lime juice, salt, and olive oil in a blender until emulsified. While this recipe calls for 1-3 serrano chiles with the stems removed and reassures us that the sauce should be a little spicier than you’re comfortable with, I actually found just one whole serrano a little intense. Set this aside, as well.
The rice now receives a tahdig-lite treatment: heat some oil in a large nonstick skillet, press down rice with a spatula until it forms an even layer, and cook on medium heat until the rice forms a golden brown crust. Season with salt. Add fresh peas to the rice (I also added some sliced fennel I wanted to use up, it’s trash talk people!) and cook over medium heat, tossing until everything is cooked through.
In your serving bowl, combine the pistachios, crumbled feta, and a generous fistful of golden raisins (I soaked mine, for fun). Add the rice and peas to the bowl and toss. Add the green sauce in, and stir so that it coats the rice evenly. Kate was right: this is better than it has any right to be. A little bit of biryani, a little bit tahdig, I liked this best after it had been lightly salted and allowed to sit for a little while; I wouldn’t hate it with a little extra goat cheese or a tahini drizzle. We definitely ate it with some yogurt.
TMYK: S-Sour Cherries
(JS) Here in the northeast, sour cherry season has arrived and it is infamously short – like, a few weeks at best, so get those pitters* ready and get thee to the greenmarket pronto. Know before you buy these babies that they’re basically ticking time bombs – perhaps I’ve been cursed by bad suppliers, but I find these will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days at best. If you’re not immediately using them, you’d maybe be better off pitting and freezing your haul to be consumed or baked at a later date. Try to collect the juice as you pit and add it to your freezer bag, as it’ll help prevent freezer burn and is absolutely delish (also: wear an apron or a smock or keep oxyclean at the ready). Of course, the other way to ensure getting only the finest fruit is to pick your own. Real fans may recall that last year, our socially distanced and masked Hudson Valley dreams were in fact soured (🙃) by like minded fruit fans seeking a high pandemic escape from New York; Fix Brothers Fruit Farm, where boyfriend of the newsletter David and his family historically PYO’d, was picked clean in just one day.
Smaller and sharper than their sweet siblings, some may pass on enjoying these sour cherries fresh – I kind of enjoy the tartness, a distant relative of the black cherry warheads enjoyed by 90s kids with taste and/or a tendency to succumb to peer pressure. Skeptics, however, can rest assured that a little time in the oven subdues their acidity, and they’re absolutely transcendent in baking, particularly in pies. Last summer I tried out the sour cherry bourbon number from the Sister Pie cookbook (adapted here) and was intrigued by Melissa Clark’s twice-baked version, but the recipe from Four and Twenty Blackbirds is hands down my favorite. Strangely enough, the filling incorporates an entire egg. Don’t question it, don’t think about it, just do it – you don’t taste it, but I swear it does something magical for the consistency, helping things firm up without becoming gummy or gelatinous. I’ve also adapted the recipe to incorporate other stone fruit – sour cherry pairs perfectly with peaches (peeled) or nectarines (unpeeled). I’m also hoping to test them in a galette with some sort of frangipane; watch this space, as the kids like to say.
If you find yourself with a sour stash and aren’t in a baking mood, are lacking freezer space, or just want to try something different, might I recommend these pickled sour cherries from David Lebovitz? Save for the pitting, the recipe comes together in all of two minutes, and will preserve your sour bounty in the fridge for “at least a year.” These make for a lovely addition to grain salads or an unexpected cocktail garnish, and would probably pair well with fatty meats (perhaps duck, or even kabab). Throw a few on a whipped ricotta toast with black pepper and a drizzle of honey? Honey...
*Hot take: I don’t love the OXO pitters and think this kind works much better; check your local hardware store!
PERMANENT ROTATION: Though both the editors of this newsletter have a famously low tolerance for bubbles and suspicion of sugary drinks, this weather calls for some kala namak spiked syrup by way of the Coca Cola Company.
(JS) Now that I finally got my nonstick fix, I need to upgrade my utensil game – a vaguely garlic-scented rubber spatula can only do so much work. I’m eyeing this set from Food52, but would welcome recs.
(SB) Unsurprisingly, after two weeks at home I am wishing for a stash of some high quality heirloom rice (Koda Farms intrigues) and a Zojirushi rice cooker. Please feel free to send these items my way as a gift!
(JS & SB) Does the perfect window-unit actually exist? What does it look like? What does it cost? Is it made by July? Until we know the answers, catch us dripping in sweat and daydreaming of wifi-enabled chill.
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