This post is several months late, but you know, it’s a spice cake and those are very winter appropriate (not to mention Thanksgiving appropriate if you want an alternative to pumpkin pie!) so here it is nonetheless. This past summer was the 11th year of my annual reread of Lord of the Rings, and this time my friend Katie joined me. To make it a truly immersive Middle Earth experience, every time we finished one of the books, we’d prepare a themed meal and watch the corresponding movie. For Fellowship of the Ring, we had a dinner of mushrooms that even Farmer Maggot would envy. But for The Two Towers, we wanted something sweet.
The first time I ever had charred shishito peppers was at Umi Sake House in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, and it blew my mind. A friend had ordered it to share, and when it arrived, I definitely looked at the small pile of peppers with a great deal of skepticism.
Peppers? As an appetizer? Wouldn’t that, you know, hurt to eat? But you guys, it… well, it does hurt. Sometimes. I wouldn’t lie to you. This is a place of honesty and trust, after all. But mostly, the peppers are an insanely addictive combination of sweet and bitter, with just a small dose of heat. Except for sometimes, like I mentioned, when it is a large dose of heat. But they always seem to be the minority, and in any case I think it just heightens the experience when you have no idea if you’ll come across a “surprise pepper” that lays on the napalm inside your mouth. Does that not sound great to you?
No? Just me?
Halloween is coming!
Okay, it’s still a month away, but it’ll sneak up on you. Like Christmas always does, but way spookier and with much tackier decorations. Speaking of, have you ever really thought about what you’re buying when you buy Halloween decorations? You’re spending money on things to make your house look like actual garbage: cobwebs in a bag, bloody rags, maybe some rubber severed limbs. It’s pretty bizarre, all things considered, to have a holiday where you actively try to make your yard look like you’re some kind of mass murderer with a poor sense of body disposal.
That said, I do love Halloween. What better excuse to put together an amazing costume that represents who you truly are inside? Perhaps Batman, or Beetlejuice, or a sexy Spongebob Squarepants.
But even as an adult, the thing I love most about Halloween is the candy. Or rather, all the candy that goes on massive clearance the day after Halloween, muahahahahahaaha. And the king of all candy? KIT KATS.
I am into corn in a big way. I eat little Del Monte cans of whole kernel sweet corn straight from the tin with a spoon. If I weren’t so keenly aware that it’d be very weird, I would even offer it to guests as a dessert. (“Annnnd to cleanse your palate, a can of corn with a spoon in it! Wait, where are you going?”)
Luckily, there are more socially acceptable ways of feeding your guests (and yourself) corn instead of just eating it from a can like some kind of animal that has access to a can opener.
What better time to partake in corn than in the summer, when sweet corn is at its golden peak and ahem, really, really cheap?
BLUEBERRIES BLUEBERRIES BLUEBERRIES. The best berries (second only to the blackberry) and whenever they’re in season, I stock up with pints and pints of it. The best way to enjoy blueberries is to shovel them into your mouth, without shame or decorum. But another excellent vehicle for blueberry delivery, if you need to eat in a manner that is more socially acceptable, is the blueberry galette.
Golden, crispy crust and sweet, warm blueberries oozing out here and there — what’s not to like? Better yet, if you’ve got as much of a delicate hand as a herd of cattle, fret not because galettes are supposed to look messy and wild. It’s rustic.
The downstairs apartment is apparently undergoing renovation, so as I write this, my floors and walls are shuddering from all the banging, thumping, and mysterious mechanical sounds that make me think maybe a Transformer is trying to build boat with its fists in good ol’ #203. Good grief.
Anyway, that has nothing to do with cornbread. I don’t even have a clever segue planned. Speaking of boats… No. Nothing of the sort.
But cornbread! You’d think having grown up in Texas that I’d wax poetic about how Southern cornbread is unbeatable and that these Northerners just don’t get it right, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But you’d be wrong. I grew up eating a lot of the stuff when I lived in Houston, and I loved it then as much as I love it now. But up until recently, the best cornbread I have ever had was from a barbecue joint in Seattle. I mean, the actual barbecue was… not exciting. But the cornbread! Holy shit!
And now that experience has been dethroned by the little slices of cornbread heaven I had in… Vancouver, Canada. I know. But I had another Texan with me and we both agreed that this was the best cornbread, A+ cornbread, 5 stars, 10 thumbs up. So obviously, this is now a true fact: delicious cornbread can be found anywhere. Even in your own home!
Turnips. No one gets excited about them. Whenever someone says they’re bringing turnips to the company potluck, no one shouts “AWESOME!”, and approximately zero spontaneous rounds of high-fives break out. Turnips just don’t elicit the kind of yearning that vegetables like potatoes do. Turnips don’t even grace pre-packaged vegetable platters like carrots and celery, nor are they used as ornamental garnishes in fancy salads like radishes. Poor turnips.
But why? Why is it neglected and so often overlooked? Turnips, after all, are packed with vitamins, are entirely edible from bulb to leafy greens, and may I say, they’re even a little bit sexy.
So shapely, oh myyyyy.
But most importantly, they are tasty. That is, as long as you stick with wee, tender little bebbeh turnips.
I’m back! It turns out that I’m like a cat; I need to lie out and charge in a sunbeam if I’m expected to do anything at all for the remainder of the day. And well, the sun skidattles from the sky by 4pm this time of the year here, so I haven’t been doing much cooking for the past few months. Yikes. But now that it’s somewhat bright when I leave the office — even if it instantly becomes pitch black by the time I reach my front door — I can feel the desire to throw down in the kitchen returning to the frozen cockles of my heart. Hooray!
This weekend’s dinner gathering hosted by my friends Sara and Adrian was the perfect push to fire up the stove again. And what better on a cold Sunday night than something green and spicy?
Growing up, one of the staple weekend activities in our house was to go to the Asian market to replenish our fridge with bittermelons, salted eggs, Thai basil, and all that other stuff that we could never get from the local suburban supermarket. My mom loved to frequent one in Houston’s Chinatown called Hong Kong Market, and after an hour or so of grocery shopping (at the time, we had several aunts, uncles, and cousins living with us, so there were a lot of mouths to feed), we’d stop at the tiny Chinese bakery across the shopping plaza.
One of the things my mom would always get would be Hokkaido milk bread, though I always just knew it as “Chinese sweet bread.” It’s soft, fluffy, and a little sweet, and we always just ate it toasted with a thin layer of butter or completely plain. I guess the name “milk bread” comes from the use of milk powder or condensed milk, and some versions of the milk bread we’d get would also have swirls of grainy sweet milk mixture rolled in. It’s not as strange as it sounds, I promise!
This particular rendition of Asian milk bread doesn’t have anything swirled in, but I imagine you can easily roll in a cinnamon-sugar-raisin mix if you so please, or even the traditional milk mix (future recipe, perhaps?). The possibilities!
This past weekend was blazingly hot, like the departing summer sun was leaning in to give Seattle a big ol’ hug before it inevitably ignores us for the fall and winter. As a result, the ambient temperature of my apartment reached levels that were previously only recorded inside of active volcanoes.
And that’s where I ran into this little dilemma — the last thing I wanted to do was turn on my stove, but the only thing in the world I wanted to eat was pasta. That’s how my mind works, folks, like the time I decided to walk in a blizzard because I wanted ice cream. Sigh. Simmering a nice red sauce on the stove was out of the question, but what can be done instead? This can be done instead.
I found this recipe on Epicurious years ago, and it’s something I find myself making over and over again. It’s so simple and easy, and best of all, requires minimal stove time. Just long enough to boil whatever pasta suits your fancy plus a minute more for the broccoli to get all nice and soft, et voilà — dinner is served.