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.
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.
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.
Ah, summertime. The sun is out and we’re all lying around the beach indulging in glamorous champagne picnics. Or, maybe we don’t live in The Great Gatsby and/or Narnia, so maybe our summer outdoor dining experiences don’t involve butlers and buckets of perfectly chilled bubbly. Booo.
But hey, we don’t need all that. What we do need is excellent company, a venue relatively free of mosquitoes, and delicious, portable food. I’m sure you’ve got the first part covered, so I’ll help out with the third. (And uh, throw me a line when you’ve got the second part figured out because that one I’m still struggling with. *slaps mosquito*)
This luscious bean and chicken salad makes use of the in-season pole beans springing up in gardens and markets everywhere, and it has the added bonus of being more refined than hastily assembled sandwiches. The beans are barely cooked through so they stay nice and crisp, and the garlicky aioli adds a nice kick and binds everything together. The bits of roasted chicken tucked inside… well, who doesn’t love roast chicken? (If you have someone in mind, don’t trust that person.)
I know plenty of people who find tofu terrifying. It’s this weird, beige, jiggly block of something that smells vaguely like stale water — what are you supposed to do with it? I’ll tell you what you’re not supposed to do: eat it plain, straight from the packaging. I know a few traumatized folks who have done just that, the fools. They’re now convinced that tofu is a culinary abomination, but dear reader, this does not have to be your fate.
So what are you supposed to do? I propose that you fry it. And then dust it in a delectable concoction of salt, peppers, and ginger powder so you end up with a tasty, fluffy nugget of goodness. It will make a tofu believer out of you and it will take less than 30 minutes to put together.
But why tofu at all, instead of chicken or pork, or anything else? Because tofu is an excellent vehicle for showcasing rather subtle flavors instead of overpowering them with its own tofu-ness, is super fast to cook, is vegetarian-friendly in case you’re ever going meatless, and the texture just sings with this particular dish — slightly crisp on the outside, and pillowy on the inside. Oh yes.