061: Almost Moonstruck

Snap out of it with a gentle rip from the harvest bowl for king Stanford Blatch

(JS) I’m not sure about you, sweet readers, but I’ve certainly been tempted to throw my phone at the wall one or nine times this week. Perhaps it’s something in the air, a side effect of the high drama lanternflies local government has instructed us to kill, or just that good ol’ pandemic with no end in sight (YKTV!), but I’ve been feeling more than a little meh these past couple days. I hope your harvest season has started more fortuitously than mine, and if not, that we’ll all find something to celebrate before the week is up. Frankly my appetite has been performing at about 50% these days, but with any luck I’m hoping to get her back up and running this weekend, perhaps jumpstarting things with some savory mooncakes. Send your favorite recipes my way, please!

A few highlights since we last spoke:

  • Desperately clung to the final days of summer last weekend with midday bloodies and leftover kugel from break fast

  • Celebrated finally residing in the same borough as my co-editor with full on pork roast, Has Dac Biet style

  • An easy weeknight meal of Laurie Colwin’s mustard chicken (with legs and thighs instead of breasts), a fixture of the Stavis household that I only grew to love more after devouring Home Cooking and More Home Cooking a couple summers ago

(SB) Dear readers, we made it another week — and let’s celebrate that. It’s been a bit of a breathless stretch in my neck of the woods, with the wheels of the academic year kicking into motion and the demands and desires of Autumn beginning to make themselves known. The pace of my last few weeks has felt far brisker than the weather, and I can’t help but find myself fantasizing about slow evenings and weekend compost drop off. While it would be dishonest not to acknowledge the deep wells of existential professional stress that seem to be disrupting my sleep cycle and frustrating my gut, I’m also beginning to smell a heady whiff of the energy that this time of year can have. Maybe it’s the full moon, the collective energy of many a culture’s mid-autumn festival (Cheosok! Sukkot! Moon festival! Onam! Ganesh Chaturthi!), or the onset of Libra Season (a very sacred time for my people), but I seem to be catching the occasional, much needed energetic Zephyr. While things are busy, I’m eager to remind myself of all the big things afoot: two close friends of the letter tie the knot this week; another just welcomed one of the cutest babies into the world. Potentially our biggest hypebeast just made her New York Times debut. There’s joy to be seized amidst it all, and I’d like to recommit to making a good faith effort to wrap my hands around it. 

Here’s what I’ve been eating:

  • As teased on the gram last week, friend of the letter Ten & I went in on a sustainable salmon share. I broke into my stash this week and freestyled a slow-cooked paprika salmon, served with pureed Rancho Gordo alubia blanca beans and a lil’ salad. I used the rest of the alubias in a chorizo, spinach, and bean soup. 

  • I was at an academic ~gathering~ for the majority of the time between newsletters, so to be real with you I’ve consumed a fair number  of fast casual grain bowls, mediocre Caesar salads, and high-end red wine. 

  • On my most indulgent day of the season, I grazed upon oysters (shucked, right there in the park), truffle mousse, and some truly exceptional kimbap at friend of the newsletter James’s Prospect Park birthday before splitting the aforementioned platter by the good people of Has Dac Biet with Jake.

TRASH TALK: Not Another Sourdough Discard Pancake

(JS) Sixty some odd weeks ago we first waxed poetic about the joys of the sourdough pancake, hailing Tejal Rao’s no-flip stove-to-oven version as a dependable solution for a surplus of Misfits Market apples. Nine-ish months later, my co-editor bravely documented her early forays into discard disturbia, introducing a variety of South Asian flavors into her own sourdough pancakes for a result she described as “uttapam-adjacent.” While versions of both remain near and dear to our hearts, they are recipes that require some forethought, best prepared after the batter has rested overnight and further fermented. This week, I come to you with a remarkably adaptable method for discard pancakes on the fly, and it’s honestly good enough to get you excited about feeding your starter, even if you’re not so regularly baking.

Caroline Schiff’s sourdough pancake, another pandemic baby borne of a desire to reduce waste while keeping the official Gage & Tollner starter alive, is undoubtedly the simplest version we’ve come across. Heat a couple tablespoons of fat in a nonstick skillet – neutral oil is… well, neutral, but feel free to sub olive oil or butter if those flavors mesh with your vision – then pour in a cup of active but unfed discard. Because you’re not adding anything to the “batter,” the complexity of the pancake will come from the flours you’re feeding the starter and the degree to which it’s fermented – Caroline suggests using same day discard for the best results, but “older stuff is ok too,” so long as you let it come to room temp before frying. Season with salt and layer on your preferred mix-ins – I’ve tended to take things in a savory direction, most frequently adding a quarter cup of kimchi and a healthy handful of grated cheddar. I’m tempted to call this cheesy spin on kimchijeon Naughty Fusion, but the mission creep of melty cheeses into Korean dishes of all sorts (buldak, ttekbokki, corn cheese, to name just a few) might suggest it’s actually categorically Nice™ (not to be confused with Walgreens generic label Nice!™). Fry until bubbles form and the edges start to set, then flip. I’ve enjoyed this with a quick dip of soy sauce, black vinegar, and chili crisp. Speaking of naughty fusion…

NAUGHTY FUSION: Milo Coffee Lassi

(SB) Some months ago, my co-editor’s other newsletter featured a recipe for Cà Phê Da Ua Đá, a Vietnamese iced coffee using yogurt, from the mastermind behind Ban Bè and the 17.21women Doris Hồ-Kane (baker and and digital archivist... could a combination be closer to my heart???). Ancestrally a big fan of both decoction coffee and yogurt, I’ve been more than a little intrigued ever since. But, because moving house is a notoriously poor time to invest in a phin, my dreams of probiotic rich caffeination were largely tabled for a later date. 

That date came sooner than expected when I noticed, in the heat of a powerful chaat craving, Desi Galli in the East Village had a coffee lassi on the menu. Not an immediately intuitive concept, Galli’s version of this confection was nonetheless delicious and rich — thick enough to get stuck in my straw and speckled with telltale signs of the instant coffee that had almost surely been part of its preparation. I was just about halfway through mine when I began scheming on a way to recreate yet another version. What I was craving was a little icier, a little sweeter, and perhaps even touched by a whisper of chocolate or chicory. In essence, I was seeking a beverage closer to the confection known as “cold coffee with ice cream” more popular in my dad’s hometown than a fruity lassi, though without the heavy handed sweetness of actual ice cream. 

Fortuitously, I had also been appreciating the preponderance of Milo — a chocolate malted milk drink produced by Nestlé that’s wildly popular throughout the ~*global south*~ and which I used to eat with a spoon as a granulated powder — in my new neighborhood’s supermarkets and bodegas. After a little googling, I was confident that there was a way to bring these disparate threads together in one glorious postcolonial triumph. I’m pleased to report that unlike other, similarly lofty endeavors, it worked on the first try. My recipe is simple and refreshing: place about half a cup of ice (preferably small cubes) in a blender; add about a cup of yogurt. Plain will work, but I was pleased that I used the vanilla yogurt I accidentally purchased and accidentally put on dal last week. In a separate bowl, combine two teaspoons of Milo and a tablespoon of instant coffee (I used Nescafe) and a scant tablespoon of maple syrup.  Add a few drops of hot water, and stir until combined. Add to the blender and blend. Enjoy as a dessert beverage or as valuable afternoon pick-me-up.

POT CHEF: Tiger Salad

(JS) I’ve been itching to try Monica Lo and Seung Hee’s kimchi slaw with raw cannabis ever since I first came across the @SousWeed Instagram in a giveaway that my co-editor famously won. In case you were unaware, (*in my Jill Zarin*) I run with a fabulous circle of people, which is to say that a couple friends have leaned hard into legalization and started growing their own weed, hopefully the final frontier of late pandemic urban homesteading. Although they’re frequently used as gram-worthy garnish or compost, there’s a small but vocal set of wellness folk preaching the nutritional value of cannabis leaves. Eager to give them a spin in the aforementioned slaw, I swung by the market Sunday night to find a produce section devoid of both napa cabbage and Asian pear. Disappointed but determined to make use of the leaves generously gifted to me, I grabbed celery, cilantro, scallions, and a serrano pepper, hoping to instead try my hand at a raw cannabis tiger salad.

Simultaneously piquant and cooling (or to borrow a phrase from Miss Katherine Hudson, “Hot ‘n Cold”), herby tiger salad is the perfect accompaniment to fatty spiced meats and oily noodle dishes of all sorts. New Yorkers may be most familiar with the version served at Xi’an Famous Foods, a bright green tangle of Chinese celery, scallions, and cilantro studded with slivers of red and green longhorn pepper. A little googling let me to believe there’s in fact some variety to lao hu cai, literally “old tiger veg.” The Dongbei-style tiger salad from Fu Run in Queens is finished with a healthy dusting of tiny dried shrimp. In the northwest province of Xinjiang, tiger salad incorporates tomatoes and red onion, a juicy side ideal for pairing with the spiced meat skewers typical of Central Asian cuisine. Fellow waiguoren Ali Slagle (aka NYT Cooking’s current preferred salmon-with-cucumbers Ali*) makes a version with – you guessed it – cucumbers.  By and large, these are dressed with a combo of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of sesame oil. 

Eager to use up a glut of sun-ripened tomatoes and purple basil from my dad’s garden, I threw caution to the wind and combined a few of these recipes, attempting a sort of tiger salad world tour. I cut the tomatoes into wedges and the onion into half moons, then adding thinly sliced serrano and cukes, thick celery matchsticks, chopped scallions, and torn sprigs of cilantro. Because I am sometimes trusting of dubious sources, I soaked my cannabis leaves for a few minutes in water with a splash of vinegar in an effort to kill any potential salmonella or ecoli, then added them to the mix along with the purple basil. I seasoned everything with a bit of kosher salt and tossed the mix in soy/vinegar/sesame sweetened with a bit of honey. Did the cannabis add anything? Boyfriend of the newsletter David declared he didn’t really care for the leaves and I’m not sure I really noticed them, but at the very least my itch to use the whole plant had been scratched. If you’re looking for tiger salad that gets you high, try this version from The Fresh Toast instead.

*To be clear, this is merely an observation and not a dig. Ali Slagle’s salmon with cucumbers slaps.

PERMANENT ROTATION: Grilled romaine – mostly water, but make it smoky and crunchy. Get into it.


(JS) I’ve officially reached the phase of startup brain worms where I’ve begun to consider a standing desk. I’ve been told the converters are a bit of a gamble, but if anyone has a rec to replace this stack of practical reads, I’m all ears.

(SB) I’m in search of plenty of things these days, including an affordable (but comfortable and stylish) sofa, a powerful kitchen island with cabinets, and these Weck glass jars I spied on Nik Sharma’s gram the other day. Please send me any leads you have on moving/estate/refresh sales. 

(JS & SB) We’ve been eyeing pictures of the fluffy Boston cream pie and mooncakes at Yeh’s Bakery in Flushing. ‘Tis the season to bring us an assorted box if you’re coming from Queens.

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