2016 brought a flood of vitality, in all of its chaos and glory. there was the feverish experience of working at a small nonprofit, the anguish of november 2016 and the ensuing dread and disbelief. and yet through it all, there persisted the constant hum and bustle of life.
perhaps part of this new perception comes from living in a real city for the first time. to have neighbors across a narrow streets whose windows are so close, i can hear their music and see them read, to be surrounded by the constant reminder that the world is full of others living their lives, the way that their – and i suppose, my – private life is in part put on display, is jarring yet exhilarating.
now a good fourth of the way into 2017, it feels right to return to fort juniper with this recipe, one of my favorites to make in cooler weather. spring has seemed tantalizingly close for months, and yet the weather predicts that this friday will be 48ºF. these braised short ribs make for a leisurely late afternoon project on the weekends. i’ve made it wheat ale, with pilsner, and even with stout. i’ve used butternut and honeynut squash before and have added shallots on occasion. each time, it turns out comfortingly delicious.
makes 4-6 servings
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lb bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 3-in pieces (or 2 lb boneless beef short ribs, cut into 3-in pieces)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 large head garlic
3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 large sprigs parsley + 2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup honey
1 (12-oz) bottle wheat ale (or beer of your choice)
darra goldstein. fire + ice: classic nordic cooking. new york: ten speed press, 2015.
1 preheat oven to 300ºF. heat oil in 6-qt braising pan over medium heat. rub short ribs with salt and pepper. working in batches, place in short ribs in pan and sear until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. with tongs, transfer the short ribs to a plate and pour off all the fat from the pan. 2 remove outer papery skin from head of garlic and cut ~1/2 in off top to reveal the cloves. 3 return short ribs to pan and nestle hear of garlic among them, cut side up. strew onions and carrots among the meat, and stick the thyme and parsley sprigs in any nooks. (sometimes, I tie the thyme and parsley together so that I can easily remove them before serving.) 4 whisk together honey and beer in a bowl and pour mixture over meat and vegetables (it won’t cover them). cover the pan tightly with lid and bake for 2 hours. 5 raise oven temperature to 400ºF and continue to bake meat until it is very tender and liquid has turned slightly syrupy, about 45-55 minutes more. 6 skim off as much fat as you can. you can serve the ribs right out of the pan or transfer to a deep serving bowl. garnish with minced parsley and serve hot. (to reheat, place stew in oven at 300ºF for about an hour.)
I recently met a lovely girl from sydney, australia, named holly. we ran into each other while skiing and I spent the next three days winded, quads burning, trying (and failing) to keep up with her. the best part of those hours was our time on the lift because 1. I got to rest(!); 2. holly, like all australians I’ve ever met, was extremely well-traveled and had a whole arsenal of interesting stories; and 3. I just liked listening to her aussie drawl.
I’ve always been intrigued by accents – it’s so strange how the minute someone begins talking, you know whether or not they have an accent, and if you’re especially worldly, you know exactly where their accent is from. and yet, when you talk, your cadences, your pronunciation, your slang all sound completely normal.
people have told me I sound like an american tv show. like I over-pronounce all my vowels and consonants. they tell me that american english sounds like people trying too hard to speak english. to me, new zealand english is clipped, fast, full of dropped sounds. some london accents sound posh and elegant, like how I wish I spoke english, others sound like the “t” and the “r” sounds just don’t exist. actually, in a lot of accents, it seems like the “r” sound disappears. it almost makes me feel like us americans are doing english wrong.
while riding on the lift, holly and I shared a chocolate chip cliff bar with our fellow lift mate, a marathoner from london. while we chatted, I began to think that food and accents actually are quite similar. there are so many variations on the same dish – take chocolate chip cookies, for example. christina tosi of momofuku milk bar throws pretzels and potato chips into hers; jacques torres lets his sit for at least 24 hours before baking. they’re all recognizable as a chocolate chip cookie, yet all clearly distinct.
then, by serendipity, one of my favorite dessert bloggers posted a lovely new spin on a chocolate chip cookie that I just had to try. I’ve had a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for a while now, but this recipe really might be my new favorite. in fact, it is so good, tahini may replace peanut butter as my new favorite condiment. and I ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every school day in high school. what can I say, I eat like an american tv show too.
makes 12 cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup tahini
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (>60% cocoa; I use ghirardelli 70% cocoa chips)
1 in a bowl, cream the butter*, tahini, and sugar until light and fluffy, ~5 minutes. add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, then continue mixing for another 5 minutes. (I mixed by hand with a spatula, but you can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.) 2 sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. using a spatula, fold flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. fold in chocolate chips. 3 line a baking sheet with parchment paper. using a 2-oz ice cream scoop, scoop 12 dough balls (I just used the standard-size one I have at home and it worked fine.) wrap baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 12 hours (do not skip!). (if you don’t have enough room in your freezer, you can put them in the fridge until hard enough to move them to a plastic gallon bag without getting squished.) cookie dough can be frozen for up to 6 months. 4 preheat oven to 325ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or save the parchment paper from before and reuse). space the cookie balls at least 3-in apart to allow for spreading. bake for 13-16 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges. they will still look fairly unbaked in the middle. sprinkle with flaky salt immediately after they come out of the oven. allow to cool for ~20 minutes on the baking sheet (the center will set and finish baking).
*if your butter is not room temperature, melt a bit of it at a time and mix with the butter until it becomes a creamy consistency.
in the last heat of summer, I spent three all-too-short days exploring the streets of istanbul. at that time, the skirmishes on turkey’s eastern border were alarming but distant, easily forgotten amongst the breathtaking beauty of istanbul’s mosques and palaces, in the dripping heat of late summer days and nights filled with delicious food, loud, bustling crowds, and music.
on the first night, we found ourselves in a back alley behind the galata tower, surrounded by jovial dinner parties; we ordered simply by observing what looked delicious on other tables – some pita and delicious dips, a lemony grilled whole fish, and köfte, or turkish meatballs – and lost ourselves in a smokey haze of music played on a turkish stringed instrument and raki, a heady anise-flavored liqueur.
predictably, we woke up rather late the next morning and rushed to begin our day. mosques and museums passed in a history-crammed, sensory-overloaded blur. we jostled our way through the blue mosque, took some hard-won pictures, escaped the stifling crowd within. we paused for a lunch of testy kebab at the excellent aloran cafe. we sped through ayasofya, taking in the gold-tiled basilica and each increasingly-ornate section of the palace, and did some hard bargaining in the grand bazaar.
between the bustle and the beauty of the city and our breakneck desire to “see it all”, istanbul had left us breathless. on our final day, we found ourselves in the spice market, which was really more like a home goods market where one could find cute cupcake liners and of course, spices for great prices. we wound our way upwards through twisting alleys and steep stairways to the süleymaniye mosque, a quiet, expansive space surprisingly devoid of visitors.
by the entryway, some students proffered educational brochures about suleiman and about islam; they were very open to questions and I learned more from them in a few minutes than I had from the hours-long audio tour at ayasofya. I knew from conversations with my muslim friends at home that the central tenet to islam was peace. however, I was interested and surprised to read a passage about how women should be viewed as equals, an argument for women’s rights way ahead of its time. it forced me to reflect, amidst the shuffling of bare feet on carpet, on the prejudices I had unconsciously adapted against islam even as I thought I had maintained an open mind.
while chatting with the students, we got a recommendation for a nice rooftop cafe overlooking the golden horn. we made our way up a set of dark stairs, past the second floor pool hall/student lounge to an open rooftop cafe. around us, groups of people young and old sat, some in intense conversation, others bent over textbooks or just hanging out. we ordered turkish coffee, sat back, and just stared out in awe of the sprawling size of istanbul, a city whose asian side we had not even visited and whose western reaches remained unknown to us after three days of constant exploration.
a few months later, conflicts that had seemed so distant in the summer arrived in istanbul, first in smaller attacks, then in a suicide bombing incident in the plaza between ayasofya and the blue mosque. the humidity and heat of istanbul and of summer had faded, yet the kind faces and intelligent words of the istanbul university students I met sprang instantly into my mind. I know that the vibrancy of istanbul will return – the city is large and resilient. I pray that their shattered peace returns as well.
makes 4 servings
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup tahini paste
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed (make sure there’s no green sprouts!)
1/4 tsp salt
yotam ottolenghi and sami tamimi. jerusalem: a cookbook. new york: ten speed press, 2012.
michael solomonov. zahav: a world of israeli cooking. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2015.
1 combine beef, onion, parsley, garlic, chives, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, sugar, salt, black pepper, and baking soda in a large bowl. mix with your hands until well-blended. (when I’m feeling particularly lazy, I toss the un-minced onion, un-chopped parsley, un-chopped chives, un-minced garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, sugar, salt, salt, and black pepper in the food processor and grind it into a rough paste before mixing with the beef and baking soda. the koftë texture is not as varied, but the flavor is just as awesome.) 2 form meatballs about 2-in in diameter. refrigerate for ~1 hour. 3 whisk together tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt in a medium bowl, adding water as needed until it reaches a pourable consistency. 4 lightly coat a large frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. space the koftës over the pan, making sure they don’t touch, and flatten slightly with spatula. cook for 3-4 minutes each side, until nicely browned. remove to a paper towel-lined plate, blot excess oil, and remove paper towel. spread tahini sauce around the plate and drizzle on köfte. garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
I still remember the first time I read “the love song of j. alfred prufrock.” since I was young, I have been fascinated by the idea of perfection, which morphed later in life into an interest in the literary elevation of the ordinary. in “love song”, eliot captures so many normally inconsequential occurrences, from rolled trousers to thinning hair to life measured in coffee spoons, and imbues them with portentous significance. these moments flow together and against each other into a poem that is at once a dismantling of eternal perfection and a “love song” to the passage of time measured in mundane moments, more specifically to the way that the passing of time slowly but steadily brings about disintegration.
and yet, rather than feel dread, eliot writes with a certain acceptance – after all, the universe inclines naturally towards entropy.
I love too, that in this poem time is not a sequential concept, but instead becomes something more like tangled and bunched string, how at moments we can seem to have enough time left in our lives, or too much; too little, or none at all.
in modern society, the tradition of a formal, mid-afternoon respite has been forgotten by the younger generation. to us, every moment is somehow measured and aging has become something to avoid, to rail against with all of one’s strength. we spin ever-forward, we pause to catch our breath, we commence again.
baking has long been my solace – when I find a free moment, I love to fill my space with the scents of sugar and butter. I roll out some shortbread or cookie dough, I boil a kettle of tea. I sit and I read, and time falls away.
the love song of j. alfred prufrock [excerpt] | by t.s. eliot there will be time, there will be time
to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
there will be time to murder and create,
and time for all the works and days of hands
that lift and drop a question on your plate;
time for you and time for me,
and time yet for a hundred indecisions,
and for a hundred visions and revisions,
before the taking of the toast and tea.
makes one 8•8-in pan
255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 tsp kosher salt
beans scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod
255g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all purpose flour
75g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) cornstarch
70g + 55g (1/3 cup + 1/4 cup) granulated sugar, divided
elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.
1 preheat oven to 325ºF. butter an 8×8-in glass baking pan. 2 place the butter in a mixing bowl. the butter should be soft – with the consistency of mayonnaise. (if it is not, melt small portions of butter and mix into the rest of the butter, repeating until all of the butter is soft.) add salt and vanilla beans to butter and mix well with a wooden spoon until it dissolves completely. 3 sift flour and cornstarch together into a bowl. 4 add 70g granulated sugar (I used vanilla bean-infused sugar to add more vanilla flavor) to the butter and mix until just combined. add flour and fold into the butter just until a smooth dough forms. 5 press dough evenly into prepared baking dish. (the dough should be no more than 2/3-in deep. bake until top and bottom are lightly browned, ~30 min. very gently shake shortbread loose from the sides of the pan (the shortbread is very delicate, so be careful), then place the pan on a wire rack to cool until warm to the touch. 6 sprinkle shortbread with the remaining 55g granulated sugar. tilt the pan so sugar evenly coats the surface, then tip out excess sugar. while the shortcake is still warm, cut shortbread with a thin, sharp knife into 32 rectangular fingers (1-in x 2-in), or whatever dimensions you prefer. 7 chill pan throughly before removing shortbread. using a small offset spatula, gently lift shortbread out of the pan. shortbread will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for ~2 weeks.
a few years ago, I studied abroad in beijing. I had heard about the air quality and imagined that it would look something like los angeles, but the reality, a greyish-yellow fog that often obscured buildings across the street, was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. within days, I had developed a hacking cough that made it nearly impossible to speak in full sentences, a condition that ex-pats termed the “beijing cough”.
a few weeks later, my cough had finally disappeared and my abroad program held a food preparation contest judged by our chinese professors. my friend and I, both huge dessert fiends, wanted to do something sweet, but in the hot and humid beijing climate, we did not want to use too much heat. we settled on rice krispie treats, trekking to a large carrefour to find marshmallows and rice krispie cereal, then melting it all together in a giant pot we borrowed from a chinese student. we actually ended up winning the contest because our chinese professors had never seen rice krispie treats before and thought they were really exotic and creative!
the contest took place on one of the few sunny days of that summer. the sky was a clear cloudless blue. the night before, a thunderstorm had hit with raindrops so huge, they hurt when they hit my bare skin. we half-joked that the government could control the weather, could create a rainstorm so ferocious that it washed away all the pollution. whether it was true or not, the day after a thunderstorm in beijing was always clear and blue.
I cannot even remember what my friend and I won – it was probably some coupons to a local bubble tea store. but I do remember eating warm watermelon in the sweltering heat, happy to be able to see across the street for the first time in weeks and feeling like I could breathe again.
in the wake of dangerously high levels of air pollution that have made the city almost unlivable, beijing has issued its first red alert for the first time. and for the first time, the chinese government has put environmental concerns before its emphasis on rapid economic growth through industrialization and signed on to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
and here in the northeast, global warming has now made it possible to frolic on a beach in december, then head into the city for some outdoor ice skating (because apparently we still are willing to waste energy for “winter traditions”). so save some energy and add these (super-legitimate chinese teacher’s) award-winning, no-bake rice crispy treats into your holiday sweets repertoire.
1 grease an 8×8-in square pan. 2 in a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. using a silicone spatula, stir frequently until it turns brown and begins to smell nutty. immediately turn off the heat and mix in the vanilla paste. 3 stir in the marshmallows until smooth. if they are not completely melted, stir over low heat until completely smooth. add salt and stir until well-combined. 4 remove pot from stove and stir in rice krispie cereal. using spatula, quickly press into prepared pan. 5 let cool completely (~1 hr), cut into squares, and serve.
over the years, I have attempted bread a few times, from very easy pita recipes to intensive brioche-based babkas. so much flour, so much yeast carnage, so many tears.
all of a sudden, after five years of sad pizza crusts (yeah, I couldn’t even make a good pizza crust) and tasteless dense bread loaves, I had a yeast breakthrough. after finally producing an edible loaf of bread (and then a few more to assure myself the first wasn’t a fluke), I returned to the pita. how does one achieve a fluffy, risen pita, yet retain the characteristic pocket of air inside? the recipes I tried had the pocket, but not fluffy texture inside the pita shell that I loved.
then michael solomonov published his long-awaited zahav: a world of israeli cooking. these days, a cookbook is more than a compendium of recipes – it serves as a culinary memoir for the chef. in zahav, solomonov relates with raw honesty how personal tragedy catalyzed his reconnection with israel, and from there, how his desire to bring israeli culinary experiences to america culminated in zahav, located in philadelphia, pairing relatable writing with accessible and (so far) delicious recipes.
there are incidences of cultural appropriation, most glaringly “israeli salad,” a salad with arab origins which solomonov admits is “technically a misnomer,” but persists in identifying as israeli. however, zahav is overall a worthy addition to the culinary world, where politics often take the back burner to inspired dishes. the book is a heartfelt introduction of israeli food to the uninitiated, and a love letter to solomonov’s family and friends who supported him and to the food that sustained him through times of difficulty. another point of recommendation: his pita bread recipe is the one I’ve been searching for, the neo of pita breads.
hm. maybe finding perfect pita wasn’t such a good idea. two pitas in and I’ve lost all self-control. help!
michael solomonov and steven cook. zahav: a world of israeli cooking. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2015.
1 mix together 1/2 cup water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. let stand until foamy, ~5 minutes. 2 combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. mix on low speed until blended. add the yeast mixture, another 1/2 cup water, and oil and mix on low until the dough forms a ball that pulls clear of the sides and bottom of the bowl. (if the mixture doesn’t form a ball after a minute, add a tbsp of water.) 3 the moment the dough starts to pull clear, add another 1/2 cup water and continue mixing until incorporated. the dough should look quite wet and feel sticky when slapped with a clean hand, but should not stick. (if it sticks, add more flour, 1/2 tbsp at a time.) 4 cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, ~1 hour. (you could also let it rise in the fridge overnight.) 5 preheat to 480ºF convection (500º conventional) and place a baking stone or inverted baking sheet on a rack in the oven to preheat as well. 6 roll the dough into 8-12 balls the size of baseballs (3-in diameter). cover with a cloth and let rise until they are the size of softballs (3.7-in diameter). 7 roll each dough ball to 1/4-in thickness, the size of a hockey puck (3-in diameter) with a floured rolling pin on a floured work surface. place 2-3 at a time on the preheated baking sheet and bake until puffed and cooked through, ~3 minutes. remove with tongs, serve immediately, or let cool.
my first memory of baking was as a child, standing on a new purple rubbermaid stool and feeling important as my sister and I measured out ingredients for snickerdoodles and mixed them together under the watchful gaze of my college-aged aunt.
my aunt had seemed confident and in control at the time, but when the cookies came out of the oven and we tried them, she had this look on her face that I didn’t understand at the time. however, after years of baking, I have finally come to recognize as the expression I wear every time someone first tries my baked goods, or reads something I’ve written for the first time – that desire for approval.
when I was a child, I baked for myself. even if everyone else thought gummy worms in muffins was weird, if I liked it, I was happy. but as I grew older and fell into the routine of endlessly seeking approval for papers, for piano, for most of my decisions, I began to develop worries that even if I loved something, others would not. and when others expressed disappointment or concerns, I took in their comments as a reflection of my personal flaws.
it’s strange to look back on that moment when my aunt watched my sister and I take the first bite of her cookie recipe and recognize that in that moment, my aunt, a fiercely independent world traveler and one of the smartest people I know, was vulnerable to the opinions of two kids.
as I navigate 23 (apparently the age when nobody likes you), I am still trying to figure out my next move. but there’s something I realized – not everyone has the same tastes, and not every decision can be met with unanimous approval, and ultimately, my image of adulthood was not truth, but (mis)perception.
we’ve been told that growing up means letting childhood become memories, but I don’t want to just remember the girl who tried to bake bread in a car parked outside on a hot summer day (and then tried to eat it, to her mother’s dismay). I want to take a lesson from her that life has no recipe, that really, no one has it all together and it’s okay to do things (and even totally mess them up) because you want to, not because it is the formulaically “right” thing to do.
my sister has started her final year of dorm living; it is a bit shocking to think that we are now both older than my aunt was back then (and even more shocking to think that my aunt is married and about to have her first child!). I sent my sister some pumpkin snickerdoodles, a combination of her favorite cookie and favorite fall ingredient. fluffy, tangy, and with warm spiced pumpkin flavor, these snickerdoodles are as delicious as those of my childhood memories.
makes 30-36 snickerdoodles
3 1/4 cup (406g) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
scant 1 cup (185g) sugar
3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (187.5g) canned pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice for 20 seconds; set aside. 2 in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar (until combined; not pale and fluffy). occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout mixing. mix in egg yolk, then mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract. with mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients, then mix until just combined. 3 divide dough in half and cover each half in plastic wrap, then chill for 45 min to 1 hour. 4 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. scoop dough out, ~2 tbsp per ball, then roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture until evenly coated and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. space cookies ~2 in apart and using your palm, flatten cookies slightly. 5 bake 12-14 minutes (slightly under-baked, as they’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet after being removed from the oven.) cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.