Digest: Charred Cucumbers and Pepperoni Pizza

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Recently I came across a recipe for some charred cucumbers. I’d never charred cucumbers before, what did I have to lose? (A cucumber, I guess.)

You should use little Persian Cucumbers for this, they’re less juicy which will serve them well in a hot pan. Heat up a cast iron skillet until it is very hot. In the meantime, slice your Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise and toss them in a bowl with some mild olive oil, salt, and pepper. Now that your pan is good and hot, carefully put your cucumbers, cut-side-down, into the hot pan. Let them sizzle away for a few minutes until the underside is charred. You’re done.

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Here

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We were in Iceland for the last two weeks of May. It was the fastest I have ever fallen in love with a place. From the moment my lungs first filled with Iceland’s sea air that smelled like the earth and tasted better than anything I have ever eaten, I knew I was in love. We were explorers. We found glaciers, sea birds, volcanoes, seals, and so many waterfalls that at a certain point we no longer pointed them out to each other. We took waterfalls for granted. Iceland focuses your attention on our earth. It is hard to think about anything else. It is so big, and makes you feel so small. You are confronted with a land that didn’t have to endure humans until very recently. I thought a lot about death, but not in a morbid way. I mostly wondered why the earth isn’t enough. Why do we have to imagine heaven when it is enough for me to know that I will dissolve into a rock, a tree, an arctic tern. I am forever. I thought a lot about entering the earth, communing—sliding into the crevasse of a glacier, burrowing into ash, letting moss grow over me. Iceland does this to you, if you are doing it right. Even in Reykjavik, metropolis of 120,000 people, spring water falls from the faucet in your smartly designed hotel room. The puffin still appears. The lamb you saw grazing on a hill is served on a plate and tastes of the land you explored. It is easy to access the pleasures of Earth in Iceland. It was all we had to do.

We flew back home after Memorial Day weekend to news that everyone in Chicago had been shot. At least it felt that way, though we all know that it isn’t white people being shot in Chicago. Chicago, my troubled homeland, felt like a particularly difficult place to be. We sat in traffic. We read depressing political news. The streets smelled like garbage and car exhaust. I struggled to drink the water coming out of our tap because now it just tastes like chlorine. Bryan and I were short with each other and easily frustrated. It was an acute version of the post-vacation blues, but also something more. read more+++

Rose Petal Harissa

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There are recipes for certain things that I will always try—coffee cakes, for instance. If you write a recipe that has coffee and cake in the title it is likely I will make your recipe. Scones and shortbread cookies are also on this list. My list is mostly sweets. But hot sauces claim a spot. Hot sauces are great because they are easy to share, so if you make too much you can give it to a friend. They also keep well so they can improve your everyday eating for weeks or months.

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Even within the category of spicy sauces, harissa holds a particular allure. I have 3 or 4 recipes that I really love and all approach the task from fairly disparate directions. I am particularly fond of this recipe from one of the most charming cookbooks of 2014, A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus.  Renee Erickson’s recipe requires some ingredients that you will likely have to seek out, and some time. But you are rewarded with jars of a stellar harissa to share or hoard. Now if the perfect time to make this recipe because it will last much of the summer and spices up any vegetable you might be grilling or egg you might be scrambling. It isn’t much work, mostly measuring and blending, but manages to satisfy.

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Fuck Lemon Zest

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Sometimes, while wandering around the internet looking for recipes, I will read the comments. A consistent, and deeply troubling, theme over the last decade is well represented by the following comments:

  • -Do you think lemon zest would brighten this up?
  • -Added lemon zest to these and they are even more yummers!
  • -These needed a little something so I added the zest of 7 lemons, LOVE the recipe!

What the fuck is wrong with everyone?

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Racine, Wisconsin

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We accidentally ended up in Racine, Wisconsin at the same time as Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. We realized when we saw a copy of the local paper at a bakery stop on our way into town. Oh, look, Trump is going to be here. Today. What. We’d made the trek to Racine for the most noble of travel reasons, to eat kringle.

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Kringle is the state pastry of Wisconsin. Did you know that states had pastries? Some do. Illinois’ is the Pumpkin Pie. Maryland’s is the Smith Island cake. (This is a cookbook waiting to be authored.) Kringles are originally from Scandinavia, but through the Wisconsin lens they became these giant rings of danish pastry that are filled with something sweet and typically topped with a glaze. Racine claims the title of kringle capital of Wisconsin. I happen to love both Wisconsin and pastries. But our innocent visit to our northern neighbors (Kringle Krawl 2016 is how we christened it) was suddenly under the dark (orange?) cloud that is Trump. We were all a little tense. Would there be traffic? Would kringles be sold out? Would all of this end in national controversy? read more+++

Chopped Tofu Salad and more….

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We can’t stop with this chopped tofu salad that is posted over at Sprouted Kitchen. I can always rely on Sara for solid recipes that make me feel good. Love her cookbook, too. This recipe makes enough for 4 moderate servings. It keeps well in the fridge, even with the tofu and cashews, so I’d consider increasing the yield if I were you. read more+++

Prune, Oat, and Spelt Scones

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A quick note to say: make these scones! They’re superduper amazing. You should make the whole batch and freeze a bunch to improve future mornings. They are definitely best served hot from the oven.

The recipe is from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, a book that I am slowly growing to love. I didn’t trust it for a long time (see issues below), I don’t believe some of the recipes and there are some conversion problems between weight and volume. But the book is very beautiful and the kind of dumb dreamy read that I often enjoy. I was surprised (and happy!) by how far it made its way through the recent Piglet cookbook competition this year, which is partially what prompted me to use the book more. You can read those reviews to get more perspective on the book.

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Talking and Not Talking

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This election season is rough, and November is still months away. On the one hand we have people promising to “make America great again!”, which is really coded language for “Save the white-supremacist patriarchy!”. On the other hand we have my current (decidedly liberal) Facebook feed which is suddenly revealing itself to be full of bullies—people who are constantly telling me who to vote for and that the other option is a monster who will destroy us all with her evil vagina (but it definitely isn’t about gender!). I don’t know if I am going to survive the summer.

Elections really highlight the divide that exists in America. It is both disappointing and terrifying to see that we all live in this country together and have come to such different conclusions about what it means to be a community. This year feels particularly outrageous. I yell at the television a lot.

I find myself looking for some common ground, and right now all I can come up with is soup.

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Spicy Cold Celery

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I was surprised by how much I like the 101 Easy Asian Recipes book that was published by Lucky Peach last year. I am ambivalent about the magazine, in which I find both brilliance and bro-ness, but the book doesn’t have any of the tone-baggage that the magazine sometimes suffers from. As the title promises, it is a collection of genuinely easy to prepare Asian recipes. The authors (“Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach”) gave themselves two rules when creating recipes for the book, no deep frying and no recipes containing sub-recipes (as in, a recipe that requires you to execute multiple other recipes to complete). It is informative and breezy. I especially like the guide to ingredients at the front of the book. It is the kind of book I will cook from a lot. In fact, I already have and have liked every recipe I tried.

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Panettone$

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I am currently living like the one percent.

Usually I dismiss $65 jars of honey or spice blends when I see them written up in publications. I am naturally skeptical and also aware of the PR machine that drives most food journalism these days, so I assume the products are bullshit. Except for when I don’t. Like when I pay $50 (DOES. NOT. INCLUDE. SHIPPING.) for a panettone because Charlotte Druckman told me to. Druckman appreciates a good pastry more than most people and her NY Times article convinced me this was an important financial investment. Also, I was able to use the excuse of Valentine’s Day to justify this as a gift to myself (and Bryan, I guess). read more+++