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?
This is hardly a recipe, but I do love a good sardine sandwich. Sardines?!, you say, barely able to disguise the look of utter revulsion on your face. The oily fish that comes in a tin, complete with spines???
Yes, sardines! I respond. And don’t you dare say a single thing against tinned fish, you mook! Then we breakdance battle, and after I completely wreck you with my triple-headspin-windmill combo and you weep a little, I’ll invite you over for a sardine sandwich so that you will truly understand just how wrong you were to ever doubt the majesty of the humble tinned fish.
Happy 2017, everyone! Welcome to a new year, a symbolic time that promises many things but that in reality probably won’t differ much from December 31st of this past weekend, aside from the fact that we’ll all be scratching out the inevitable “2016”s on our rent checks to hastily scrawl in “2017” instead. Turning an accidental 6 into a deliberate 7 will be messy, but by god we’ll do it.
But despite the unceasing and apathetic forward march of time, let’s all embrace the wise words of Bill and Ted and be excellent to ourselves and to each other. Imagine me embracing you in a hug right now— and imagine it being very awkward for added realism, if you will.
No, I don’t mean baking hobbits. I mean a bake inspired by the merry little Halflings. If you know me at all (or in the very least, follow my silly little posts on Instagram), you know that I read Lord of the Rings every year. And every time I read it, I’m tickled anew by Samwise Gamgee’s fixation on procuring a good ale and some hearty fare. I mean, he even whips up some lean rabbit stew out in the middle of a field after growing weary of their monotonous diet of lembas bread. A hobbit after my own heart, that Sam.
So I got to thinking, what would Sam make if he did have the provisions? Probably something a lot like this dish: assorted vegetables and sausage tossed with fresh and dried herbs, a bit of butter, and all roasted until golden brown and fragrant. And seeing as how Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday is later this week (September 22nd!), it seemed as good a time as any to make it.
I don’t fry things very often because for whatever reason I am completely inept at it. But once in a while, I’ll come across a recipe for something fried that sounds so appealing that I’ll shove aside my fry-aversion and just go for it. These zucchini patties — zucchini fritters, really — called for me to do just that.
These are like potato latkes, but made with zucchini and onion instead. How could I resist? Potato latkes? Delicious. Zucchini? Also delicious. This is an obvious win.
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?
I sometimes become incredibly homesick. I don’t know if it’s so much that I miss Texas, but rather that I just miss all the things that were a given back home. I knew where to go to get my favorite broccoli pasta, where to go to get a good banh mi, where to go to get the perfect fajitas, and so on. All the things I miss are decidedly food-related; even the people I miss have some kind of food memory attached to them — Niko Niko’s with Jessica, sushi with Meredith, dim sum with my siblings, and you get the idea.
The ultimate food memories, of course, are linked to my mom. I was one of those lucky kids who always had a homecooked dinner every night, something I definitely did not appreciate enough back then. That’s a major perk to having restauranteurs as parents, I tell you what.
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?
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that this past weekend, I made an entire armada of dumplings. A flotilla of delicious morsels. A squadron of alright, I’ll stop with the naval analogies. The point is, whenever you decide to make something like dumplings, you have to commit to it. You can’t just make a dumpling or five, just like how you can’t just eat a potato chip or a family-sized pizza.
The good news is, making these things is kind of therapeutic. I usually just set up my station: bowl of dumpling filling to my right, a baking sheet to my left, dumpling wrappers and a bowl of water somewhat in the middle, and a damp kitchen towel in front of me. Then I turn on some Mythbusters reruns or maybe Adventures in Babysitting and get to work. Once you get the hang of things, it’s almost zen.
Another plus: dumplings freeze beautifully. Just line them up on a baking sheet covered in parchment or foil (making sure the dumplings aren’t touching one another), pop them in the freezer for an hour or two, and then transfer them all into a freezer bag until you want to eat them. Your future hungry self will thank you for the foresight.
I love when birthdays roll around — it gives me an excuse to whip up a special cake that might seem too weirdly decadent when the only other occasion is “It is Tuesday.” This month, my wonderful friend Samantha celebrated her survival of another year, thanks in no small part to the absence of overnight zombie apocalypses and/or spontaneous raptor attacks (though I also suspect she’d handle herself juuuust fine in either of those scenarios).
Samantha is also living the gluten-free life, so I made sure her birthday cake was devoid of those pesky flour products. But I didn’t want to just make a cake that tastes good “for a gluten-free dessert,” which is like saying that Leprechaun: In the Hood is good for a movie about a leprechaun in the hood. Just because something is good for what it is doesn’t mean it’s actually good. In my eyes, a truly successful dish is one that is great and wonderful all on its own, to the point where you don’t even notice it is vegetarian, or dairy-free, or is made entirely of kale and corrugated cardboard. Now that is a culinary homerun.
That is why I arrived here at this lovely citrus cake by Nigella Lawson — it is gluten-free, but it isn’t just delicious for a gluten-free cake — it is delicious in general. And that, my friends, is how you do it. And to add to the list of Reasons Why You Should Make This Cake, consider this novel concept: to get all that juicy clementine flavor, this cake uses three entire clementines, peel and all. Whoa.