The extremely petty and incredibly uncooperative body keeps the score
(SB) About a week after we launched this newsletter, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis and the country was swiftly embroiled in a long overdue conversation about race, policing, and rapidly accelerating inequality, all accentuated by the undeniable vulnerability of Black people to premature and violent death in the United States of America. It’s hard to believe that this was two years ago, almost to the day. As New York City was put under curfew and people were brutalized by the NYPD for peacefully protesting in the streets of their own communities, Jake and I often wondered exactly how one was supposed to write a pithy food newsletter in our characteristically jocular tone under these circumstances. Often, we do so in fits and starts, doing the best we can to be honest and present given the ever worsening circumstances. Writing this, those feelings feel all too familiar. Things are really bad and feel really hopelessly stuck that way. There are a lot of fights ahead to fight and a whole lot to organize around, but it bears acknowledging that everyone I know is exhausted and barely holding things together. I’m certainly permanently hovering somewhere along what my friend Kaajal described as a spectrum of “unwell to unhinged.”
Very much relatedly, I’ve also been stuck horizontal for much of the past four days with horrible food poisoning. The effects have been demoralizing and disheartening. I just want to eat solids and a cup of coffee. Instead, in addition to the feature dishes explored below, I ate:
Oatmeal with mashed bananas and honey.
Pedialyte and seltzer. Mint tea. Fennel tea. Gatorade.
Plain spaghetti with ghee and salt.
(JS) Readers, I don’t know about you but I’m personally at a loss this week. I tried to jot down something coherent and quick on Tuesday night in an effort to digest the news out of Texas while sticking to our own self-imposed publication schedule, but I found myself unable to string together anything worth sharing. I echo everything my co-editor wrote and would only add a friendly reminder to myself and all of you that it’s really okay to step back and process. Two years into this pandemic I’m very much still navigating how and when to log off, and hope you’re giving yourself permission to do the same.
Food-wise, I’ve been keeping things fairly simple, if only because I’ve been a bit strapped for time. A few things of note:
A couple weekends ago I found myself in Westside Market and picked up a cup of Maria’s Famous Cold Oatmeal – this favorite breakfast fix from my college days was in fact cloyingly sweet, but it cannot be denied that Maria walked so overnight oats could run.
Meera Sodha’s cauliflower, cashew, and pea curry with coconut milk – I almost always prefer cauliflower roasted, but this was an easy weeknight option that only improved as leftovers
Friend of the letter April and I enjoyed an early summer feast at home with my parents – grilled scallops, swordfish, and squid over couscous, with a side of grilled halloumi, roasted tomatoes and asparagus. I repurposed some squid for some not half bad onigiri the following day.
ASK AN AUNTIE: Sambaram
(SB) Sambaram is a cooling and highly probiotic drink that is popular in Kerala. Made with buttermilk, curry leaves, ginger, and green chilis, sambaram is the drinkable cousin (sister) of moru kaachiyathu, a turmeric infused buttermilk curry that can be eaten with plain rice. Though I was directed to make the latter by a chorus of Indian relatives who phone when you have food poisoning, I could only muster the energy to make the former – but stay tuned for another variation on this theme during our next heat wave and/or the next time I have debilitating gastrointestinal distress. Whichever comes first! Here’s hoping for option A.
I used the recipe in my great aunt’s rather excellent and thoroughly researched Kerala cookbook, with some pained gut modifications: combine one part yogurt and two parts water in a blender. Add in a liberal amount of grated ginger, and salt to taste. If you’re on the GI struggle bus, make sure you look for a yogurt with active cultures and feel free to be generous with the salt. If you are blessed with a healthy gut and the ability to eat flavors and spices, throw in a chopped green chili. Blend and pour into a pitcher. Rip up 10 to 15 curry leaves (note that I used a cup of yogurt to start, so scale accordingly) and stir into the pitcher. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, and then serve.
All things considered, this is a pretty flavorful and fun way to approach gut-friendly eating. I actually love this drink during the hot summer months. You can also pour it over cooled, parboiled rice for a refreshing curd-rice. Did it help me recover faster? I’m not sure, as I’m still unable to eat. But it certainly tasted better than the average BRAT-friendly offering.
GLD: Not Another No-Churn Banana Ice Cream (Sort Of)
(JS) I know what you’re thinking – frozen blended bananas will never be ice cream. To that, I say, “I agree,” though my co-editor did offer a compelling case for making some anyway just over a year ago, throwing in some frozen cherries and chocolate chunks for a little Cherry Garcia/Chunky Monkey mash up. FWIW, adding to last week’s list of store bought faves, I also have a soft spot for the Gone Bananas bites sold at Trader Joes, ripe banana slices that are frozen and dipped in dark chocolate. But ice cream these are not.
Erin Jean McDowell’s no-churn recipe is a frozen spin on banana cream pie that requires no specialty equipment and likely adapts well to a variety of mix-ins. Very ripe bananas are mashed and added to condensed milk then folded with whipped cream, a base combo that’s familiar to anyone who’s fucked with Nigella’s no-churn ice creams (espresso chip, made with instant coffee is a fave; I’m keen to try Eric Kim’s olive oil version next). To this, she adds crushed Nilla wafers and a dash of cinnamon, pouring the mix into a pan and freezing for six hours or so until solid.
It was not until after I got home from my coop shift and shop that I realized the recipe called for not two, but two and a half cups of whipped cream. Unwilling to go back out and heeding the commenter’s warning that this recipe skews a bit sweet as written, I stabilized my whip with a couple tablespoons of creme fraiche, and swapped the Nilla wafers for milk chocolate Hobnobs, unable to resist my desire for bananas, chocolate, and British-ass brand names.
Was it the smoothest ice cream I’ve ever made? The result was a little closer to semifreddo, but for a no-churn affair I can hardly complain. One commenter suggests they ended up with a similar result from over whipping the cream, but I suspect the water content in the bananas might also have something to do with it. All things considered, I’m still pretty into the condensed milk x heavy cream base recipe for a quick and easy frozen fix, and would encourage you to play around with. I imagine graham crackers, peanut butter cookies, or even ginger snaps would also work, and I’m curious to try something more mature with cacao nibs and toasted coconuts.
NO ONE ACTUALLY LIKES KHICHDI
(SB) As I’ve mentioned to some of you skeptics, I’ve become a big fan of millet recently. It has a low glycemic index (shout out to my South Asian diabetics!), is non-glutinous, and non-acid forming. Allegedly, this makes millet easier to digest than most grains – a big old green light for this food poisoned girl. (JS: I once bought five pounds of millet on a drunk post-East Village dinner Dual Specialty run. If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.) Not unrelatedly, moong dal is by far the simplest lentil to digest by a long shot. The logical conclusion was to combine them in a khichdi, the universal food of sick Desis across the diaspora. Unfortunately, my body found this (and basically everything else) to be rather difficult to digest. Nonetheless, I’ll share my freestyle recipe in the hopes that you have the good sense to take an Imodium or skip adding a packet of Maggi magic masala mix at the last minute. I’ve learned my lesson.
Begin by soaking equal parts millet and moong dal for about an hour. I used ⅔ of a cup of each. If your stomach can tolerate it, sautee half a chopped onion in some ghee in a large dutch oven and add in your drained millet/dal mixture. If you’re avoiding onions, don’t skip the ghee – just add the drained millet and dal mixture directly into the pot. Add 1/8th of a teaspoon of turmeric, and then add about three times the amount of water as you have millet and dal. Bring to a boil, stir, and let simmer, adding water as needed until the mixture is soft. If you’re smart, you’ll add some salt and eat this quietly. If you are flush with the hubris of someone on day 1 rather than day 5 of a GI disaster, sprinkle in a little garam masala, or an any mixture of cumin, coriander, and chili powder that appeals to you. This might also be where I’d add in some chopped tomatoes, baby spinach, peas, etc if I were a blissfully un-poisoned person. Simmer as long as you’d like, or at least until any vegetal additions you made are incorporated or wilted. Add water until the khichdi is the texture you desire. Salt and serve. I would also bet this freezes well – I’ll report back.
PERMANENT ROTATION: This week, we tapped chronic routine follower and boyfriend of the letter David, whose current rotation includes Ottolenghi’s seeded chicken schnitzel, a gussied up version of the cutlets his mom made growing up (aka “mommy chicken”). The recipe calls for coriander, sesame, and sunflower seeds, plus cayenne and turmeric – David likes to add nigella.
SB: I’d like to eat a pint of ice cream outdoors, sure.
SB & JS: ICYMI, the right to a safe and legal abortion remains under threat – eat some cookies in support of the Brigid Alliance with this newsletter’s number one pastry activist Natasha Pickowicz. Get your tickets to Oh God, a Bake Sale here!
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