Plus, 666 godless recipes from the Sierra Canyon School of cooking
(JS) Hello lovely readers, and nowruz pirouz to those who celebrate. Once again we find ourselves in a pretty garbage news cycle, but for my personal, potentially toxic sake, I’m striving to find something good to grasp onto – this week, it’s a palpable sense of spring and an extra hour of daylight. With all being so uncertain these days (weeks? years?), I'm finding small but significant moments of joy in my circadian rhythms, occasionally straight up loling at how much a mere shift in the weather can improve my mood.
I’m not usually one for gratitude practice, but as I gear up to celebrate my third pandemic birthday (innovative!) I wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who’s joined our proverbial table these past few years – it’s been a real treat to share our thoughts, feelings, silly little recipes, and the occasional not so blind item with y’all, and we’re eager to experiment with how we can make our newsletter even more of a community moving forward. We’re going to trial some new formats in the coming months, but if there’s something in particular you’d like to see, our inbox is open. Like, genuinely – this nice(ish) Jewish boy keeps the comments open. (SB: I think we’ve learned to trust nice-ish boys only.)
Here’s what I’ve been cooking lately:
Priya’s Krishna’s saffron pistachio blondies; fearing they might skew a bit sweet for me, I scaled back the brown sugar a tad. Good on day 1, peak on day 2; still excellent on days 3 and 4. White chocolate (suggested by Priya’s partner Seth, who doesn’t skip arm day) was an unexpected hit.
April Bloomfield’s ricotta gnudi, as good a solution as any for those seeking a meal that’s >90% dairy. All things considered, it’s less rich than you’d expect!
I’ve been trying to recreate ijjeh, the parsley-forward omelet I usually order at Manousheh, wrapped in their signature flatbread slicked with labne. As will soon become clear, we’ve been on a real eggs, herbs, and cultured dairy kick recently.
(SB) Hey there sweet readers, I’m curious how you’re all doing out there! It feels silly to deny that the past few weeks have felt like an emotional grab bag: the weather has been great, and then terrible, and then great again; I’m hopeful we’re turning a corner on COVID, while feeling the undeniable pangs of anxiety caused by fact that we’re no longer funding free COVID-care; my professional life continues to hang in a strange and poignant limbo. I find myself thinking a lot about violence on a day to day basis, as both an idea and a real, lived experience. It’s generally hard to escape it if you’re watching the news– geopolitical violence, interpersonal violence, random violence, structural violence– and so, I bet you are too.
At the risk of being a huge bummer, I wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge how difficult that is for me. If you’re reading this hot off the presses, it happens to be the one year anniversary of a terrible series of shootings in massage parlors in Atlanta. Eight people died, most of them Asian women, targeted because of a racialized and gendered hatred so horrifying that the whole country seemed to suddenly pay attention. In the intervening year, I’ve had so many conversations about safety, fear, and violence. I have grown exasperated that we seem to lack the imagination or political will to come up with solutions for safety that are not predicated on more violence. I’ve yet to make sense of it or how to move forward. Talking about it all does make me feel cared for and like I’m part of a community. I guess what I’m saying is… I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves out there, because these are tough times. Have you eaten yet? I hope so!
Here’s some of what I’ve cooked, eaten, and enjoyed since our last letter:
Tejal Rao’s excellent keema, which I added some potatoes and peas to. I’ve been cooking a fair amount of Indian, including– a little dal, some easy sheet pan aloo gobi (I didn’t use a recipe but one might consider Priya Krishna’s for reference),
A supremely cozy post-cemetery walk meal at Kofte Piyaz. I then attempted to recreate the cacik at home.
More than a few Vegitalian sandwiches by way of the Park Slope Food Co-op. I’m a little obsessed. I will almost certainly be recreating at home.
IT TAKES TWO: Polenta-Crusted Quiche
This week, we begin a silly little series exploring the wonders of the humble springform. Buckle in and spring form-ward with us as we plumb the depths of just how much this vers king of a pan can offer (just make sure to wrap the bottom in foil – you never know).
(JS) A few years ago Gabrielle Hamilton published an essay in the Times celebrating the beauty of a well-made quiche Lorraine – for her, quiche as a whole had unfairly fallen victim to the set it and forget it school of cooking, a dish borne of convenience rather than intention, marrying fridge odds and ends with a frozen pie crust. (SB: Not going to lie, feeling a little judged.) The best quiches are indeed a labor of love, and often a multi-day affair if you give your dough optimal resting time (to say nothing of the par bake). I can scarcely think of another dish characterized by such an inverse relationship between the effort that goes into making it great and the ease with which it’s marketed as a quick and casual – it’s got big “this old thing?” energy. Today I am pleased to report that we’ve encountered a solution for a slightly more relaxed, though no less delicious quiche – polenta crusted, its custard a blank slate. Would I call this a lazy mxn’s quiche? Not exactly, but it’s a faster and generally less finicky affair that could certainly take on some if not all of your crisper detritus.
Inspired by a broad swathe of polenta-crusted quiches across Al Gore’s internet, we took stock of our pantries and got to work. I began with a simple water-based polenta, streaming coarse grain cornmeal into salted boiling water and stirring for ten or so minutes until thickened. As I pulled it from the heat, I stirred in a knob of butter, grated parm, and a hefty crack of black pepper. After letting it cool to not quite room temperature, I spread the polenta across the bottom of buttered springform and an inch and a half or so up the sides. I placed this in the fridge to chill as I prepped my custard.
I’m not quite sure how but I found myself with richer than usual in cultured dairy this week, and so I beat five eggs with roughly a half cup each of sour cream, Greek yogurt, and heavy cream. To this, I added a handful or so of fresh herbs – thyme, marjoram, parsley, basil, and dill – not quite kuku quantity, but a healthy amount nonetheless. I poured this into my 7-inch springform and baked her off at 325 for just over an hour. The results were phenomenal – rich but not heavy, with a hint of herbs, and a crust reminiscent of cacio e pepe. FWIW, I think you could commit to the latter as a full flavor profile by dialing up the parm and pepper in the crust and custard alike. I prefer my quiche (and tortilla and frittata, for that matter) room temp or even slightly chilled.
(SB) I followed the same formula as Jake, with a few key differences. That’s how we keep things fun and interesting around here. After making and cooling my polenta, I spread it quite high up the sides of a 9-inch springform, letting it cool in the fridge overnight. I think the longer chill time was essential to the structural integrity of my rather deep-dish quiche. After it was chilled, I covered the bottom of the crust with a layer of caramelized onions.
For my custard, I beat 8 eggs with a cup of heavy cream, half a cup of milk, and some vegetable cream cheese loosened up with 2% Greek yogurt. Like Jake, I baked the mixture into the springform and baked it at 325 for about 85 minutes– which is just about how long it took for my quiche to lose its jiggle. The results were, as promised, sumptuous: I served it along with some roasted asparagus and mushrooms for dinner, but it longed to be enjoyed with a glass of wine in some sort of sun-drenched Nancy Meyers set. I’ll likely add some herbs, or perhaps a schmear of pesto on the crust, when I make it again. I look forward to leftovers, but am not entirely sure how much will remain by tomorrow as I have been Miranda Hobbes-ing slivers all day.
TRASH TALK: Lummur
(SB) To my great relief, my new rice cooker has in fact proven to be one of my most used kitchen appliances. The shame I’d feel surrendering limited counter space to an appliance that did not earn its keep is overwhelming. (JS: Say that.) One of my favorite ways to use it, at the suggestion of my lovely coeditor, is to set an overnight timer for steel-cut oats. Spring may be springing forth out there, but I wonder if I would have made it to this finish line without the warm embrace of those just-cooked grains buoying me through winter. The one drawback of this beautiful vignette is that I often overestimate just how much oatmeal two people are likely to consume. And, though we seek to be virtuous and good, more often than not my fridge has a cute little tupperware of cold oats (JS: It’s giving Westside Market Maria; IYKYK) – waiting in vain to be reheated, reminding me of my folly and overindulgence.
On a recent Sunday morning, finding myself particularly uninspired by the thought of reheating my stash, I went on a little search for a pancake recipe that might let me repurpose these oats. What I found was lummur, an Icelandic pancake made up of cooked oats (or barley porridge!), a little flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, eggs, and milk. The steps are simple enough to get through before you’ve had a coffee: mix the dry ingredients, and then add in the leftover oatmeal, eggs and milk. I used my smallest measuring cup to ladle the mixture onto a buttered griddle, taking care to flip only after I saw bubbles well up. I also threw some blueberries into the batter at the last minute. Was it my favorite pancake? Perhaps not. My lummur were soft, sweet, and cozy all the same. They’re traditionally served with jam, quark, or smoked trout and pickled vegetables. To my own surprise, I served them with the syrup we had in the fridge this time.
MEAT TREAT: Lilia Inspired Lamb Steak
(JS) A couple weeks ago boyfriend of the newsletter David snagged a six-top at Lilia on a Saturday night, a celebratory return to an old favorite for the first time since the pandemic began. (SB: Mere days before Skete & Kim; who is the trendsetter, I ask?). There are a handful of dishes that most people are guaranteed to get (and perhaps ‘gram), many of which have been on the menu or open secrets among semi-regulars since Missy Robbins opened her Williamsburg flagship in 2016: the pink peppercorn malfadini; the focaccia with green garlic butter; the Italian job (vanilla gelato finished with olive oil and fennel pollen). Secondi tend to play second fiddle at Lilia, perhaps in part because diners tend to go hard on the excellent pastas. If you find yourself on Union Street, I urge you to save a little room for the lamb steak. (*Bernie voice* Once again, I am asking for your support.) The cross-cut from the leg is rubbed with Roman spices and char grilled, then finished with a bright and acidic celery salad. I was nearly stuffed by the time it arrived, but I couldn’t resist going back for bite after bite.
Cut to last Saturday after a few hours of restocking bulk goods, when I found myself in front of the meat case contemplating options for the week – a wild lamb steak appeared! A little googling turned up little in terms of recipe guidance, so I relied purely on taste memory to reconstruct the dish. For spices, I toasted fennel and coriander til fragrant then crushed them with Aleppo and a bit of Sichuan pepper just for kicks. I seasoned my steak on both sides and let it sit for about an hour as I worked on a quick salad – chopped celery, scallions, and parsley, plus buttery castelvetrano olives and a dab of yuzu kosho, tossed with olive oil and a splash of ACV. I seared the steak hard in a cast iron slicked with a little sunflower oil, roughly four minutes per side, finishing with butter then letting it rest for five minutes before slicing. The result was more medium than medium rare but perfectly seasoned, a delightfully gamey counterpart to the punchy celery topping. With the paschal festivities just around the corner, consider this your quick and easy meat treat for two.
PERMANENT ROTATION: We’re mixing things up in this section for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s a limit to the number of things we can honestly claim as mainstays of our day-to-day. Also, let’s face it – we’re obsessed with all of you and are curious which recipes make recurring appearances in your kitchens. Our first crowdsourced PR comes from one of our favorite friends of the letter, Jessie G, who recommends a classic cocktail/dessert combo - Very Samantha, IOHO.
Start things off with a Pom-Pom, somewhere between a dark and stormy & a mojito; according to Jessie it’s “extremely easy” and she “always has everything.” Feel free to ignore the suggestions of Dewars (unless they too are sponsoring you). She’s also a big fan of this brown sugar maple cookie, which “basically turns into a giant skillet cookie” and is “the easiest recipe with the fewest ingredients for a pie” she has ever seen. Jessie typically forgoes the crust because she thinks “it’s weird to have a skillet cookie with a crust.” We can’t help but agree; shine on, gluten-free queen.
(JS) Should I drop $250+ for a ticket that was originally $40 to see Jazmine Sullivan tomorrow at the King’s Theater for a little Saint Patrick’s Day/birthday eve treat? What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a resale ticket and was it worth it?
(SB) This is a little wacky, but hear me out: I think I want to learn to sew. Do any of you have good recommendations for where to start and what kind of sewing machine I should get? I’m hoping for something powerful enough to do some light alterations and create some chic baggy clothing but also affordable enough that I don’t hate myself if I don’t turn out to be cut out for that life. This is currently my leading contender.
(JS & SB) Make steamed food sexy again with this Mini Donabe Steamer from Toiro. Nothing says I’m an independent woman quite like single serving ceramic cookware.
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