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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Radishes

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Who can resist the pretty little radishes that are being sold in Midwestern markets right now? They are great served with some salted butter, but they are even better when you coat them in butter and salt.

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#KALE

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Did you ever imagine I’d be writing about kale chips? I sure didn’t. I might be going through some sort of a weird food phase. I’m bored? It feels adolescent, like I should be yelling at you: It’s not a phase! I’ve been making a lot of vegetarian food that you might find on Pinterest. Like, I actually made one of those pizzas on a cauliflower crust (It was really delicious, but had absolutely nothing to do with pizza.). I also made this vegan olive shake that Kenji wrote about over on Serious Eats (It’s great!). We normally eat vegetarian food at home, but it’s usually the same sort or salad/bread/cheese/veg combos. Lately I have been tackling recipes that are fussier, veganier. I’m just trying to keep things interesting.

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(Maybe it is a phase.)

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Buffalo Cucumber Salad

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Someone on the internet mentioned a Buffalo Cucumber Salad and I was like: WHA?

Frank’s RedHot Sauce (or Frank’s®RedHot® according to their website) is one of the great products of Western Culture. I am very devoted. You can imagine my excitement at the idea of this salad. A quick search taught me that this salad was served at Parm in NYC and that the recipe had actually been published by Lucky Peach. I LOVE THE INTERNET. read more+++

#Normcore

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Normcore capitalizes on the possibility of misinterpretation as an opportunity for connection — not as a threat to authenticity. [K-Hole]

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of normcore since it first swept through the internet at the end of last year. The dissemination of the concept and the responses to it have been strange, to say the least. I’ve used it as an opportunity to dust off the critical theory portion of my brain, and ponder some big issues related to culture and food. Doesn’t that sound like fun?!

I’d like to start with a bit of a normcore reader, in case you’re not already a scholar on this cultural idea/trend/confusion.

  1. You should start with the origins of the term: Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom by K-Hole and Box 1824. K-Hole is a collective of thinkers/artists using the style of corporate trend reports to comment on our cultural moment and forecast trends(?). I’m really interested in their work, which exists in a space between art, satire, and academics. The report is dense and at times, I think, deliberately unclear. So, don’t feel bad if you have trouble with sections of it. Overall, it’s good stuff. Normcore, as defined by K-hole and interpreted by me, is the valuing of connections and participation over authenticity or uniqueness.
  2. There are some serious responses to their work.
  3. Later, the idea of #normcore spirals into a bunch of trend reports that seem to lose sight of what K-Hole was initially suggesting and focus on the idea that clothes from Wal-Mart are now cool (which, to be precise is actually #ActingBasic according to K-Hole). It gets weird. People are understandably annoyed by the discussion. Bon Appetit wants to prove they know what normcore is (they don’t).
  4. Then more recently, Thomas Franks responds. We still seem interested in the idea, though we continue to use it to fit our needs.
  5. This is probably a good summary of the cultural moment, if you’re more of a cliff-notes kind of student.

All of that should send you down an internet hole that will take a while to return from, good luck. And here I am, eating onion rings.

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These Damn Nuts

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Folks, these damn nuts have been blocking the blog flow for the last two weeks. I really like the recipe and want to share it but I don’t have much else to say about them. So, I’m just throwing this one out there and suggesting you make them. You’ll like them. They’re a great snack with beer from a great new(ish) cookbook. Freedom!

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Minted Snap Peas

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Summer is here! On Saturday, at our farmer’s market, I had a moment of panic. Looking at all of the fresh fruits and vegetables finally available to me, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t cook and eat it all. There is just SO much right now: berries, peppers, greens, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs! In a couple of months it will all be gone, at least the stuff that grows locally. Time is of the essence.

This summer I have been gravitating toward recipes that don’t require much work. In part because it is easy, in part because it allows me to prepare more food in a shorter amount of time. This simple preparation of snap peas is a good example. Adding some mint oil and salt to a cup of snap peas transforms them into one of the best snacks I have ever eaten. Honestly, we couldn’t stop and this recipe that was supposed to serve 6 people was devoured by Bryan and and me over the course of the afternoon. One of Bryan’s least favorite things is when people say that a particular food is “addicting“. So I’ll just say again that it is very difficult to stop eating these snap peas.

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Strange-Flavor Eggplant

Recipes for something called Strange-Flavored Eggplant (or odd-flavored eggplant) pop up a lot in cookbooks from the 80’s. I discovered this while researching the origins of a starter we ate at Nopi in London. The rather unassuming plate was a sort of smashed up eggplant spread flavored with (what tasted like) sesame oil and soy sauce. It was sweet and sour and so delicious that we considered asking for a second of the same plate because we liked it so much. I came home and started to research the dish and kept coming across these recipes for strange-flavored eggplant.

At first I was worried the origins of the name might be racist-y (strange=foreign?). But it seems as though maybe it has more to do with the translation of a Chinese character? I don’t know. The title certainly doesn’t sell the recipe, which is actually quite wonderful. It isn’t what we had at Nopi, but is similar in its vibrancy. It is full of the flavors of Chinese-American cooking and pretty hard to resist. It really does stimulate the palate and get you excited to eat dinner, which is what we are all looking for in a starter.

In other news, I very happily contributed some of my favorite things to the latest issue of Lonny. I care about home design almost as much as I care about food, so it was a fun opportunity to get to engage in some of that with an online magazine I’ve always enjoyed. I am happy with the way my spread turned out (go designers at Lonny!),  I hope you’ll all check it out. read more+++

Rösti = What to Eat on Election Night

Last winter we drove up to Madison, Wisconsin, with our friends Katie and Justin. Winter had us all feeling a little shack-nasty* and we thought a trip out of town might do us good. On the way home from Madison we stopped in New Glarus, a town famous for its brewery and weird alpine architecture. The brewery is fantastic, and totally worth a stop (though admittedly is more fun in the summer when you can sit outside drinking beer). And New Glarus is a charming enough place to spend a few hours. The bakery in town is pretty great and I always pick up a few pastries for the drive home. We had dinner at one of the several touristy Swiss-themed restaurants in town. It was as expected, huge portions and lots of fat, but also pretty satisfying. Among the things we ate was a giant potato rösti. As delicious as it was, about three bites in I felt defeated by the amount of fat (butter and cheese) in the dish. But I’ve been thinking about the potential. read more+++

Smoky Eggplant Puree with Pine Nuts + Urfa Pepper

About a year ago, we spent an eventful week in the great state of Massachusetts, during which a lot of delicious food was eaten. Nothing more delicious than our meal at Oleana in Cambridge. It remains one of the best restaurant experiences of my life. It was one of those meals where everything kind of collides to make it special—we were on vacation, it was a perfect summer night, and we were seated outdoors. An outstanding parade of dishes came and went from our table and we enjoyed each dish more than the one before. It was all very special. One of the best things we ate was a smoky eggplant puree, and I recently remembered that the recipe was included in Ana Sortun’s cookbook. Why did I wait so long to try it at home?! I made it for the same dinner as the marinated mozzarella. The eggplant was almost as delicious as I remember it being at Oleana—if only we were on vacation! read more+++