Ask Digestivo: NY I love you, but you're bringing me dal

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Sweet gentle readers: we’re back again, with another round of hard-hitting questions. First, our turn: how’s your summertime sadness hitting these days? Are you drinking enough water? What are you curious about? Run your questions, big or small, by us at askdigestivo@gmail.com and we’ll respond just as soon as we can. 

Last month my landlord turned off my gas for “routine maintenance” and it simply hasn’t returned. Fortunately the weather has been more or less prime for cold showers, but when it comes to cooking I find myself running out of ideas for recipes that require neither oven nor stove. Any recommendations to share? FWIW, I’ve since acquired an Instant Pot...

-Dame (like the beloved West Village eatery) Más Gasolina

Woof, lovely reader — while we’re glad that your particular brush with slumlordish behavior seems to have come at a seasonably palatable time, we suggest that you investigate whether or not you can get a little rent forgiveness (back rent?) by getting in touch with 311. You have little to lose if you have a rent stabilized lease, and you’d be justified spending that cash on take out. In the interim, I’m (SB) happy to share that there is quite a lot that you can do with an Instant Pot that might serve us all well in this summer weather.

First and foremost, the Instant Pot (all pressure cookers, really) excels at making dal. There are a few different easy to master recipes with pressure cooker friendly directions in Priya Krishna’s fantastic Indian-ish (and some previews over here); we’re also both big fans of Meera Sodha’s daily dal, and are eager to cook our way through the Dal Directory published in the most recent Vittles. Since you don’t have a flame to temper spices, you might consider topping your dal with fresh cilantro or some onions soaked in lime juice. Though pairing with rice is obvious, I love a little dal-and-veggie burrito in a roti. If you’re in the mood for something a little more pungent, you might try your hand at making some sambar or rasam. You can also use that IP to cook up some dried chickpeas and cubed potatoes. Throw those together with some onions, lime, a drizzle of yogurt, chaat masala, some chutney, and some sort of crunchy element and you’ve got yourself a grade A street snack. Hell, while you’re at it, why not make your own paneer! I also like Chandra Ram’s Indian Instant Pot Cookbook for inspiration. 

Honestly, the internet’s cup runneth over with wild ideas for what you might be able to do in your pot, and now might just be to take advantage of them. To get you started, Heidi Swanson has a great round up of Instant Pot recipes, and Serious Eats did a similar list some time ago. This is also a great time to get really into beans. Pressure cook beets for a cold borscht, boil some eggs, and take a shot of chilled vodka. In terms of more continental fare, you might google your way around IP mac and cheese (many recipes, all shockingly effective), take a gander at Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant, or try one of the instant pot cheesecake recipes I’ve wondered about for a good 12 months now.

I’m (JS) curious what else you have in the way of chopping appliances. If you’ve got a food processor, make yourself a big batch of hummus and enjoy at least a few days of lunches, mixing and matching your toppings depending on your mood (sidenote: is this a fast casual concept yet? A hummus for every humor?). It’s also prime chilled soup season – gazpacho, aji blanco, and savory green smoothies are easily achievable with a blender, while an iced herby cacik requires little more than a knife. 

Alternatively you might take one and only one specific page from the Sandra Lee playbook and go the semi-homemade route. A supermarket rotisserie chicken is prime for shredding and folding into all sorts of salads. There’s no shortage of classic mayo-based recipes on Al Gore’s internet (e.g. Martha’s, Ina’s), many of which can be doctored depending on what you have kicking around your pantry – add blue cheese and hot sauce for a Buffalo spin; curry powder, slivered almonds, and dried apricots for coronation style; sour cream, anchovy, and a ton of fresh herbs for something like green goddess. And if you’re anti-creamy, you could make yourself a Chinese chicken salad – you could riff on a traditional bang bang ji (if you’re feeling extra ambitious, use the carcass to make stock in the Instant Pot), but if you’re looking for something more Calabasas than Chengdu, we’d steer you in the direction of Chrissy Teigen or Wolfgang Puck. This chicken and herb salad with nuoc cham from Yewande Komolafe is giving us serious summer roll vibes (and come to think of it, you could probably make decent summer rolls with rotisserie chicken).

If you’re willing to throw money at the problem (like, for instance, that rent you shouldn’t be paying), make like Sonja Morgan and consider investing in a quality toaster oven – I’ve had great success roasting vegetables and baking cookies in my near decade-old DeLonghi, but these days you can find a reasonably priced machine to satisfy all sorts of culinary kinks: broiling/convection, air frying, even freakin rotisserie.

And lest you think we’d leave you without sweet treats, rest assured we’ve got plenty of no-bake solutions at the ready. A classic icebox cake is pretty dependable, but feel free to riff on your own using this guide from Sarah Jampel. As for fully frozen options, Nigella’s no-churn coffee ice cream really is that girl (and if you’ve got access to a microwave, check out Pooja Bavishi’s super simple recipe for magic chocolate shell with cardamom). For a lighter finish, might we suggest granita? Most recipes require a simple syrup, but you could instead dissolve your sugar in hot coffee for a granita di caffe, layered with scoops of panna montata if you so please. Alternatively, a watermelon version can be sweetened with straight granulated shug – we’d probably swap lemon for lime, and maybe throw in some mint.

Digestivo: what’s Andrew Cuomo’s next act? 

-A Very Qualified Lesbian

Our money’s on higher ed title IX coordinator, food network personality, or new DA on Law & Order. Perhaps podcast host – newsletters aside, we can hardly think of a better medium for “a lot of listening and learning.”

PETITS FOURS

  • My (SB) act of low-lift genius for the week was freezing a tray full of ginger tea ice cubes. They’re spicing up my seltzers, my water, and if all goes according to plan, a can of Coke in a couple of hours.

  • I’ve (JS) been meaning to pick up a bottle of Supergay vodka because I’m… you know… but also to make Thee Olive Oil Martini. Although I was unable to track some down at my local liquor spot, I did manage to make it to DeFonte’s for a Nicky Special last Saturday, a behemoth that sated me for both lunch and dinner and formed a bona fide booze sponge for too many Malfy gin dirties. Italian summer cosplay continues!

  • Limited series The White Lotus has been renewed for a second season, and although I (JS) am not mad about it, I’m compelled to remind folks once again that words (e.g. “limited”) apparently don’t mean things. On the topic of television, I’m not ready to comment on Cooking with Paris, but I am ready to bravely declare that Screwed is the superior hit from her 2006 self-titled LP; I’m not like the other girls. Meanwhile, I (SB) have been binge watching a little Netflix “limited” series myself, namely The Kominsky Method. Something like Grace & Frankie meets Curb Your Enthusiasm, it's almost like visiting Los Angeles without all the mid-flight panic attack energy. You might give it a try for the vibes.

  • One and a half non-medical doctors recommend seeing your friends as an antidote to - say it with us - depression! Eating with them, whether conservas and french fries with aioli aplenty, or half a pound of mortadella straight from the bag in the park, is even better. (If that doesn’t work, you could always wake and bake in the shower while doing an Olaplex prewash. Sponsor us!)