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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
My mind is in the tropics, with sand between the toes and an umbrella drink clutched in hand. Two weekends ago, I was in the Bahamas with my friend Sam, taking my first beach trip since I studied abroad in Sydney seven years ago, despite having reassured myself every month since then that a seaside retreat would come soon, so very soon. Sorry, self — I misjudged.
Once the beach was within sight, I stripped off my oversized gingham shirt like it was on fire and sprinted into the waves to do some hardcore frolicking.
I didn’t even stop to check for sharks.
Speaking of which, dressing for the beach is so easy because it’s just 1) bathing suit and 2) something to cover that bathing suit. But in Seattle, it’s back to pants. Ugh. Pants, you guys. PANTS.
Indulge me while I share some vacation snaps with you all, seeing as how my nice tropical tan will soon fade now that I’m back to spending 8+ hours a day indoors in an office. Just let me have this.
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.
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.