Ask Digestivo: Sliving Large

We love cooking, but we're not trained chefs, and we're not trying to be.

Hey hi hello lovely readers! We’re reporting to you live from our first ever (can you believe?) in-person edit. We celebrated with a vegan dinner in the style of Eleven Madison Park, insofar as there were no tips and Sandy continued to eat meat in a private room – who’s the alpha in this house? This week: a twofer from a most inquisitive reader seeking our thoughts on excess, both in the form of herbs and Paris Hilton’s new Netflix series. Feel free to foster our mission creep from Grub Street amateurs to Vulture dilettantes by sending your questions to askdigestivo@gmail.com

I'm living alone for the first time which has been mostly fucking awesome except that now when I go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for, say, a singular chicken curry or coconut soup, I have to buy a shit ton of cilantro or parsley or whatever because "a shit ton" is the only unit of measurement in which we sell herbs. I am tired of seeing my herbs slowly deteriorate in my fridge after I spend a week half heartedly sprinkling some leftover cilantro on my eggs or whatever because I remember at the last min that I gotta use 'em up – can you plz provide some guidance on creatively using / storing my herb abundance more efficiently? 

–Sleepless in Cilantro

Sweet reader, let’s start with perhaps the most obvious advice we can offer – when faced with a shit ton of herbs, simply cook with a shit ton of herbs! We tend to take liberties with recipes, and besides pretty much always salting to taste, you can bet that we’re taking most herb measurements as mere suggestions – if a tablespoon is good, a small handful is better. At the risk of getting a little Alison Roman-esque, a flurry of fresh herbs is an easy way to enliven the simplest of recipes, and unless you’re cursed with the cilantro-tastes-like-soap gene, will rarely overwhelm a well-seasoned dish. Of course, if you’re seeking a little more direction than “use a shit ton of herbs,” we’ve also got a few recipes for you to consider. 

If you’re looking to move weight, Persian cuisine makes ready use of sabzi by the pound. At their freshest, you could simply enjoy a platter of them raw (aka sabzi khordan) with feta, naan and perhaps some radishes, while classics like kuku, ghormeh sabzi, ash reshteh, and sabzi polo are reliable options to make use of mixed greens that have perhaps seen better days. Indian food is likewise hip to the call of the herb: everything from baigan ka bharta, raita, yogurty marinades, most dals, and masala coke makes use of cilantro. Speaking of both cilantro and the herb, is it too soon for us to repromote the raw cannabis tiger salad we featured last week? 

We’re rapidly barreling toward roast chicken season, and Olia Hercules’ version cooked in herby creme fraiche requires little more than a bit of good bread for a hearty one-pot meal. (Flavor-wise, this ticks all the same boxes as Samin Nosrat’s Green Goddess dressing.) The matter of frankly named shrimp in green sauce is another adaptable weeknight staple, readily accommodating all manners of lingering fridge greens and acidic liquids (once again, best served with bread). We’re not sure if this newsletter is ready to wade into the shakshuka wars just yet, but we’ll happily admit to enjoying a green version from time to time, swapping tomatoes for quick saute of alliums, kale or chard, and whatever herbs are floating around the fridge. A couple Greek green pies you might try include Aegean hortopita, made with phyllo, or aradopita from Epirus if you’re craving a cornmeal crust. Also have you heard of tabbouleh? 

The editors of this newsletter famously prefer our Bloody Mary on the “gazpacho” end of the spectrum, and therefore heartily recommend using the leftover herbs in your life as a jumping off point for a savory cocktail. Excess dill pairs nicely with caraway and your traditional vodka; basil might accompany a fresh tomato (and, dare we dream, cheese ball) garnish; cilantro or parsley go nicely with a range of Bloody components, from sriracha and fish sauce to chaat masala and chiles. For extra credit, you could also infuse some vodka, tequila blanco, or even a simple syrup with the herbs directly (ideas here, here and here for starters.) 

Of course, green sauces (salsas verde, if you will) have always been a favorite way to use up extra herbs. It’s helpful that there is no shortage of templates from basically every cuisine, and in our experience, many are flexible enough to accommodate whatever you have on hand. Throw your greens together with a little mustard or coconut oil for a South Asian-y chutney, roughly chop them with some red wine vinegar and garlic for something like chimichurri, or blend with green chiles, lemon, and warming spices for a spin on zhoug. Certain Italian versions may introduce chopped capers or anchovies, offering a more briny or umami profile, while others fold in hard-boiled egg to add body. Speaking of more luscious takes, Hawa Hassan’s Somali cilantro and green chile sauce adds coconut milk cut with a bit of vinegar. We’re also well-documented fans of the maybe more Angelino than Peruvian green sauce formerly known to us as aji, but you can create a similarly sumptuous sauce by processing together some garlic, mayo, and whatever herbs you have on hand. Perhaps equally controversial and intriguing is Madhur Jaffrey’s riff on uchucuta, an Andean sauce typically made with Peruvian huacatay, here blending mixed herbs with feta, peanut butter, and chiles. Paula Wolfert’s herb jam, cooked down with oil-cured black olives and smoked paprika, is a great option for herbs that are on their way out.

As for storage methods, I (JS) swear by a jar half filled with water and covered with a produce bag – I find this method keeps most bunches of cilantro, parsley, dill, and some types of mint fresh in my fridge at least a week (basil is a bit more touch and go). The food blog-o-verse is also rich in a world of handy ways to preserve your herbs in ice cube trays with olive oil and other seasonings if you find yourself in the mood for our favorite game: freezer tetris. 

P.S. EAGERLY AWAITING DIGESTIVO HOT TAKES ON "COOKING WITH PARIS" 

Ever your humble servants, we took it upon ourselves to slive it up and watch a few episodes to provide a fully researched review. The pilot finds our protagonist on a mission to “elevate breakfast,” aided by none other than famous morning person and mother of four Kim Kardashian West. We’re treated to a glimpse of Paris’s deranged scrapbook-as-cookbook recipe notation system, apparently the latest iteration of an old Rite Aid sticker collaging habit she cultivated with Kimberly. FWIW, we think this gives off the same energy as our shared Google Doc. I (JS) liked this episode for the ways it makes KKW look both down to earth and experienced, casually tossing around cheffy terms like “tongs” and suggesting twelve minutes of bake time is the perfect window to clean up. Similarly, I (SB) appreciated witnessing the latest chapter of KK’s gracious extension of friendship towards her former bestie, replete with anecdotes about camping in Jade Jagger’s European compound; I also later came to appreciate there being at least one adult in the room to hedge against some more implausible interpretations of recipe instructions. 

We then skipped ahead to Italianx night with yogurt-hating radical vulnerability expert Demi Lovato. This episode was pure chaos and not in a good way. I (SB) don’t think it’s safe for humans to consume that much glitter, even if it’s allegedly food-grade. Despite their well-documented sobriety, Mx Lovato once again finds themself lost in the sauce while preparing Caprese, offering the deeply misguided suggestion that “you really can’t overdo the balsamic so just go for it.” And the technicolor unicorn-oli oozing barely stabilized filling were borderline pornographic (“right in front of my [overdressed] salad?” vibes).

We felt that Cooking with Paris most confidently hits its stride by the last episode: Steak House Night with Nicky and Kathy Hilton. Paris’s posture remains impeccable, her outfit a study in over-the-top camp, and the cold open was packed full of meme-able moments of feeding the dog caviar and delicately placing gold flakes on truffle butter. While there are mishaps, gratuitous food waste remains minimal (with Demi, not so much; sorry not sorry), and we appreciated the raw authenticity of moments like Nicki accusing her mother of “shoveling the cav” after a particularly enthusiastic bite, or Kathy questioning Kim’s confidence in the kitchen (not bad for a girl with no talent, IOHO). 

All things said, we’d declare it perfectly respectable background television, something to throw on while doing those small motor skill activities your therapist keeps recommending, packing a bowl, not reading the books you’re supposed to review, or gently nodding off. Do we loves it? Maybe not. But you might find it cute!

PETITS FOURS

  • Boyfriend of the newsletter Willis and I (SB) hitched a ride to Rochester from his dad up by the 242nd St 1 stop last weekend and were truly delighted to stumble upon Claudy’s Kitchen, a Peruvian eatery perhaps best known for creatively stuffed empanadas and flavored flan. We sampled the passionfruit and the lychee. Yes, they had the green sauce.

  • Ever compelled by a recipe compilation benefitting a good cause, we’re particularly excited to order a few copies of the Tables of Contents Community Cookbook (with proceeds going towards FIG NYC) this holiday season. 

  • If you’re seeking an easy way to rack up some more screen time, might I (JS) suggest Mahjong 13 Tiles? Friend of the newsletter Viv’s mom Winnie recommended this free app to brush up on everyone’s favorite Chinese/Jewish retiree tile game and readers? I’m fucking hooked.

  • Tired: eggplant canoes. Wired: sponge beds. Thank you friend of the newsletter April for this iconic houseware find.