Ask Digestivo: U Up?
Rabbits, as it turns out, cannot have a little bagel as a treat
Happy hump day, sweet readers. We’re back in your inbox with advice, or something like it. This week: suggestions for keeping those late night hanger-induced feelings at bay, and a few thoughts on hostx gifts – your presence, contrary to what you may have been told, is not a present. If you’ve got a question, comment, or just want to share how you’re celebrating Britney’s freedom, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep on dancing ‘til the world ends, fam.
I get home from work at 1 AM and I always want to eat something easy and tasty and healthy, as I cannot live off bodega sammies or handfuls of snacks alone. What should I make (or prep earlier???) so I can go to bed before 4?
-Workin’ 9 to 5am
Firstly, let’s just say it here: you work so hard and deserve sumptuous snacks, good rest, and honestly maybe a foot massage. In terms of speedy post-work meals that can be simply prepped ahead of time and still feel satisfying, we have a few ideas to share.
One is the infinitely adaptable, easy, lazy silken tofu snack. Frankly, snack might be a misnomer if you eat a whole block of tofu with a spoon (as I (SB) often do), but famously words no longer mean things. In short: crack open a block of silken tofu, top it as you like, and enjoy. Tik Tok is full of inspiration for toppings and sauces, but you could certainly get creative. Some combination of a sauce, something crunchy/salty, and something fresh-ish is a nice way to get started. Think: soy sauce, black vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, black bean sauce, Zhong sauce, easy peanut sauce; toasted sesame seeds, bonito, nori flakes, chopped peanuts, crispy rice; tender herbs, scallions, green chilies, chopped cucumbers, your favorite fridge pickles... or for something completely different, tomatoes and balsamic.
There are also a few fridge and freezer staples that are handy for this dilemma. I (SB) have been known to keep a tub of some kind of hippie miso pastes in the fridge to simmer with hot water (bouillon if I’m feeling kinky), ginger (I (SB) like the frozen Dorot cubes you can find at Trader Joe’s; I (JS) keep whole roots in the freezer, auntie style, ready for microplaning at all times), and a quick cooking vegetable (zucchini tends to work well, so do mushrooms) for emergencies where I simply need something warm and comforting. The previous combination of suggestions compels me (JS) to suggest picking up some sundubu kits next time you’re at H-Mart. Come to think of it, doenjang jjigae is also not a huge lift, especially if you have some teabag-style instant anchovy stock on hand.
If you’d rather something cold but still comforting, keeping a little cottage cheese in the fridge goes a long way: try it with tadka for something savory, or even subbed in for the paneer in our favorite Padma-inspired chickpea chaat. Or, you know, throw some on a piece of toast and top however you’d like. Sqirl could never!
If you’ve got tortillas and a half decent melting cheese, quesadillas are always dependable and infinitely riffable; filled with jammy, garlicky zucchini, they might even arguably be healthy. If you have a sourdough starter kicking around, Caroline Schiff’s sourdough pancake is a remarkably adaptable vehicle for all sorts of fridge mixins and dips.
My (JS) unhelpful truth, sweet reader, is that I’m the type of deranged person who comes home late and will still proceed with cooking as usual, potentially snacking in the process to keep the hanger at bay. But understanding that not everyone cares to prep, say, chicken vesuvio near the witching hour (it’s mostly inactive time I swear!!!), I took the liberty of asking some trusted sources about their quick fixes.
Numerous friends of the letter came through with ideas for eggs. April sang praises of rice (warm, from her rice cooker) with fried eggs, furikake, kimchi and sesame oil. Viv likes her eggs steamed with soy sauce, scallions, and sesame oil, or she’ll sometimes beat them into a savory oatmeal with parm and cracked pepper. Marg shouted out the frozen chive buns she picks up at Great Wall Market, which we imagine would make for a perfect late night egg sandwich slicked with your preferred condiments. (SB: Side note, I can’t stop thinking about a bun with a little truffled liver terrine and some pickled vegetables…) And Caro keeps things simple, pairing hard boiled eggs with kimchi or sauerkraut.
Also, have you heard about all the things you can do with tinned fish? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: unless you’re Jeremy Piven in Speed the Plow, we stand by the belief you can never have too much tuna. I (JS) love an acid-forward tuna salad with quick pickled shallots and capers, while Caro takes her tuna salad sando with jalapeños, celery, and a lot of salt and pep (I might even add chips!!!). For a simple fix, try sardines + crackers + butter + pickles. Canned seafood is the new charcuterie, you heard it here first. Even simpler: Viv fucks with smoked canned mussels, “just straight out of the can; nothing else.” It’s giving Spanish holiday and we’re not mad about it! I (SB) endorse all of the above and have been enjoying quite a bit of smoked trout on crackers slicked with a little something creamy (creme fraiche, cream cheese, etc.).
Frozen dumplings also score high marks for practical sustenance, requiring little more than quick dipping sauce for a complete meal: my (JS) most basic version is black vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil, but if I’m feeling ambitious I might add chopped cilantro, scallions, and/or peanuts. And if you really wanna switch things up, check our this primer from Eater’s James Park (aka @jamesyworld) for how to hack (🥴) your freezer dumpling stash. I (SB) like throwing them into that broth-y soup mentioned above, or sometimes serving them on a bed of yogurt like a kind of naughty fusion pelmeni. I suppose you could also buy frozen pelmeni.
Speaking of freezer stash, you might revisit our post from a couple weeks back for ideas about things you can prep and portion, both sweet and savory. Friend of the letter April also recently put us on to these Souper Cubes, a lovely way to preserve a few single-servings of soup or chili the next time you find yourself cooking at leisure.
Any ideas for fun and easy host gifts this holiday season? I find myself with many a gathering on the calendar and less time than I’d like to bake or prep something personal ahead of time, but I don’t like to arrive empty handed.
-Demonstrably Grateful Guest
Assuming you’re up on that treasured and perennial favorite (wine), there are a few other host gifts that tend to go over well in our experience. Despite their rep as impersonal, we actually love to give (and receive) candles, and options abound across budgets — we’re personally partial to Maison Louis Marie, particularly when they’re on sale (have you tried potential scam app FastAF yet? Use code GIFT40 for 40% off anything! Make venture capital work for you, you know?). You could also bring over some fun vinegar, our favorite regional potato chips, or a tinned fish with absolutely no complaints – many of our cherished pantry staples are actually available at a slight discount when buying in bulk, so consider stocking up and making it your signature present. In that spirit, you might commit to the full Nalini Ramamurthy and keep a cabinet full of chocolates strictly for gifting — everyone love’s See’s Candy! If your hosts partake, the time is also absolutely right to normalize bringing pre-rolls to the dinner party.
New York State’s ethics watchdog has retroactively revoked their blessing of Andrew Cuomo’s COVID tell-all hagiography, prompting some to wonder if our former governor might not be far from making his Cameo debut. How’s THAT for a host gift?
All adults over 18 are now eligible for a COVID booster shot in New York City! Both of your fine editors are officially boosted, blessed, and recommend you leap at any excuse to spend a controlled sick day in bed. Find your booster here – I (SB) continue to be impressed by the city’s New Deal-esque ability to mobilize state power for public good, while I (JS) was again disappointed and confused by the almost Sisyphean task of waiting on line at Walgreens.
Potential side effects from said booster dose include: aches, chills, and fever dreams that you are the interim CEO of Homegoods trying to manage the fallout of the founder’s child (and future CEO) being quoted saying that they’d never buy a candle from Homegoods because “they smell like cheap ass.” Yes, we have been watching Succession.
Friend of the newsletter Becky did in fact influence both of us and our whole ass Cheeky Baby Martini group chat to invest in filthy dirty merch from Wear Your Snacks.