Ask Digestivo: Thaw & Order
Decolonizing the spice trade with Dune's Oscar Issac
Well, sweet readers, we’ve swapped coasts since we last spoke – we’re experiencing record-breaking downpours here in New York, and it drizzled in Los Angeles, leading all of my (SB) casual interactions for the last three days to be about the fact that it was in fact going to rain, was raining, or had rained. This week: suggestions for friends in need of a little freezer-friendly sustenance, and reflections on everyone except one person’s favorite holiday. Help us help you – send your questions, comments, concerns, and disorganized thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a few different people in my life going through some major life stuff: babies, illnesses, major depression, and the like. I want to help them out by sending along some homemade meals that freeze well but am running out of ideas beyond lasagna and soup. Any inspiration?
-Actually a really good person
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: a thoughtfully prepared lasagna and Good Soup™ are two surefire ways to brighten our days. At the sake of going full Ina, the difference with the latter lies in starting with homemade stock, so if you’re feeling good good, make a few quarts (maybe freeze one for yourself – we won’t tell) to level up your faves. The slow cooker method has been a game changer for our chicken stock, and we’ve been known to adapt it for roast chicken carcasses with great success. As for veggie versions, we’re into this Instant Pot recipe boosted by browned onions and mushrooms, but this “souper mix” from Food52 is another easy way to ramp up flavor when you’re short on time.
Back to your actual question – this is really an arena where our sisters on the blog-o-sphere are an excellent source of guidance. Smitten Kitchen’s freezer-friendly tag is a tried and true recipe goldmine, rich with hearty favorites and some sweet treats to boot. Beyond lasagnas and soups you might consider easing the breakfast hours by prepping some sheet pan quiche or granola bars. It is with some authority that I (SB) can suggest Deb’s black dal and a chana masala are sure winners in terms of providing some much needed variety from what might be an otherwise red sawce heavy line up. (Would you consider dal soup? We personally say no. Dal us in a crisis, if you will.) While a little less nutritionally dense, it sounds like your friends could also use a treat and it’s never a bad time to send over some ice cream bars, you know?
In trying times, we believe a little braise goes a long way. Deb’s dijon beef stew is an annual treat in my (SB) kitchen, while her broken pasta with pork ragu is one of my (JS) personal faves, (pasta optional, IMHO). Khoresh gheymeh is among the most freezer friendly Iranian stews (see also: ghormeh sabzi, fesenjoon) – traditionally served with fried potatoes, we might be so bold as to suggest Potato Stix as a low-lift hack. Pulled chicken is always an easy option for the oven or slow-cooker, and honest to god, we can think of no easier, more delicious finish than Chrissy Teigen’s chipotle lime marinade (originally published on her now defunct Wordpress but thankfully available via Eat Drink Frolic). Serve with Martin’s potato rolls and your favorite pickles, or use as the filling for some stacked enchiladas. Speaking of...
Enchiladas – although arguably lasagna adjacent (see also: baked ziti, mac and cheese) – are famously freezer friendly and can be prepared to near endless variety. Technically, your best bet would be to freeze the components separately and then reassemble, but in our experience, freezing them fully assembled does not sacrifice much in terms of flavor – perhaps add extra cheese before reheating. You can really get creative here, but check out Kitchn’s basic chicken enchiladas, veggie black bean enchiladas, or Homesick Texan’s beef enchiladas as jumping off points. Plus: did you know you can freeze rice?
Is chili soup? A controversial question for some, but perhaps not as controversial as us declaring this white bean and Italian sausage version our fave. On the topic of not-quite-soups-with-beans, ribollita is another dish that really only gets better with reheating.
There’s also the whole category of things which can be cooked directly from frozen. Homemade dumplings are great to prep en masse and can be easily portioned and prepped according to your recipient’s preferences. Bulgogi (beef or pork) can also be marinated and frozen in individual portions – thaw and cook as normal, rounding things out with some rice and your preferred fridge banchan. As for baked goods, scones often benefit from some freezer time before baking, and we can think of no better template for sweet or savory applications than Briana Holt’s recipe. And we’ve made it a habit to always freeze at least some cookie dough, no matter the recipe – you never know when a craving might strike (right now, for example, we’d do terrible things for one of these coconut cashew cuties).
Of course, if any and all further prep is out of the question, Joanne Chang’s banana bread and Marian Burros’ famous plum torte freeze beautifully – both sweet treats are equally comforting for breakfast. A really good friend might gift either one with a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla.
Dear DJ Stevo (can I call you that?): What’s your take on Halloween candy? Chocolate or Plastic? Tricks or Treats? Inquiring minds want to know.
Personally, we’d sooner a razor blade cross our threshold than allow any refined sugar into our homes. Have you considered simply savoring a square of high quality 70%+ cacao dark chocolate this year? We kid, we trick, we treat! Bring on the milk chocolate!
Tis the season to indulge in a little sweetness, and in my (SB) humble opinion, the kitschier the better. My personal idea of a perfect celebration includes a full Fleetwood Mac sound bath, screening of Practical Magic and a few low-brow “chocolate” treats (Hershey’s Cookies N Cream mini sizes, please) – hold the candy corn. I (JS), on the other hand, am a full Halloween scrooge – I don’t fuck with abstract costuming, calendar-specific mischief, or most fruity candy for that matter. That said, you can most likely find me in full, playfully anti-Semitic form* hitting up Duane Reade next week for those post-holiday sales on crisped-rice chocolates (Crunch, Crackle, and the like).
*Regular reminder I (JS) can say it.
I’m (JS) bumping Majid Jordan’s latest release on repeat, replete with features unexpected (Diddy) and familiar (Drake). My gut says this feels like a better opp for the latter than his previous attempt to score clout in MENA circles.
Prior to jetting off, your humble coeditors enjoyed PLG power brunch that we’ll likely soon repeat, including takeout from De Hot Pot (goat bussup and chana doubles) and Fisherman’s Cove (ironically known for their chicken), plus wines selected by friend/somm of the newsletter Lexi.