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.
they’re just so versatile – perfect as breakfast, as an afternoon tea accompaniment, even as a dinner accompaniment. (for real though, scones + salad = winning combination.)
they also freeze up great, which is both bad (my freezer is now one-fourth occupied by various scones) and good (now a flaky, butter-laden treat is only a 25-minute bake away!) …and bad (now a flaky, butter-laden treat is only a 25-minute bake away!) .
anyways, over the years, I’ve run the gamut of scone flavor combinations, from ill-received matcha-pomegranate scones (I loved them! even if no one else did) to caraway-blueberry scones. but somehow, I’ve never done a full-on savoury scone.
in general, scone recipes are sweet. it seems that in the great scone-biscuit divide, biscuits claimed a place at the dinner table while scones took over breakfast (and brunch became the uneasy DMZ, if you would).
but what if I told you that there existed a scone recipe with the perfect balance of sweet and savoury? the refreshing tang of crème fraîche and the golden melted chewiness of cheddar and the addicting smoked saltiness of bacon – all in one scone? yeah, it sounded crazy, overwhelming, impossible to me too.
presenting the solution to brunch with friends who claim to dislike sweets (but really, who are these people?!), the solution to that pastry craving that hits at dinner time. if scones are versatile, these bacon cheddar scones are the da vinci of scones – all-around perfection, and perfect for just about any occasion.
makes 12 scones
3/4 cup + 1 tsp (107g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup + 1/2tbsp (196g) cake flour
1 1/2 + 1/8 tsp (8g) baking powder
3/8 tsp (1.5g) baking soda
2 tbsp + 3/4 tsp (27g) granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp (3.5g) kosher salt
9 tbsp + 1 tsp (132g) cold unsalted butter, in 1/4-in cubes
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (71g) heavy cream
1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp (89g) crème fraîche
12 oz (340g) smoked bacon, cooked, drained, and cut into 1/8-in pieces (~77g cooked weight)
2 + 1/2 cups (144 + 36g) grated white cheddar, divided
1/4 cup (10g) minced chives
freshly-ground black pepper
thomas keller and sebastien rouxel. bouchon bakery. new york: artisan, 2012
1 sift all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. mix on lowest setting for a few seconds to combine. add salt and mix again to combine. 2 stop the mixer, add butter, and on the lowest setting, mix until butter is well-coated in flour. increase the speed to low and mix to break up butter and incorporate it into the flour until butter is pea-sized (~3 minutes). 3 with the mixer running, slowly pour in the cream. add the crème fraîche and continue mixing until all dry ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together around the paddle (~30 seconds). scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for a few more seconds until well-combined. 4 add bacon, 144g cheese, and the chives and mix again on low until incorporated. 5 mound the dough on a plastic-wrapped work surface and, using the heal of your hand or a pastry scraper, push the dough together. place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough and using your hands, press the dough into a 7×9-in block, smoothing the top. press the sides of your hands or pastry scraper against the sides of the dough to straighten them. wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (~2 hours). 6 line a sheet pan with parchment paper. cut the block of dough lengthwise in half, then cut each half into six rectangles. arrange them on prepared sheet pan, lover with plastic wrap, and freeze until frozen solid (~2 hours, preferably overnight). scones can be frozen up to 1 month. 7 preheat convention oven to 325ºF (350ºF in standard oven). line sheet pan with parchment paper. arrange frozen scones 1-in apart on sheet pan. brush tops with cream and sprinkle with remaining 36g cheese. top with black pepper. bake for 24-27 minutes (33-36 min in standard oven), until golden brown. set sheet on cooling rack and cool completely before serving. (scones can be stored in covered container for one day.)
*time saver tip: I froze a few scones after sprinkling them with cheese and black pepper, then baked them up a week later. they come out with a golden-brown cheese topping as well, though the cheese does not spread as much as it did when baked from room temperature.
in the modern age, “looks good enough to eat” takes on significant meaning – emphasis on the word “looks”.
the first cookbook I ever used was the dean and deluca cookbook, a paperback publication void of any pictures. as evidenced by its stained pages and creased binding, my family loved that cookbook. in it is the recipe for our usual holiday mashed potatoes, which we have used for the past decade.
presently, it is unheard of for a cookbook to have no pictures, and people rely heavily on how food looks as an indicator of how it tastes, especially when choosing recipes online. I admit to totally judging food by its appearance, but am also amused by the lengths to which some photographers go to make a dish look more attractive. there’s the small stuff – spritz salad with oil to give it that sheen, arrange the accoutrements ever-so-artistically atop a soup, twirl the pasta enticingly around a perfectly polished fork. then there’s the ridiculous – I recently tried a coq au vin recipe whose photograph promised a rich burgundy shade of stew. either those people dumped in a tablespoon or two of utterly unnecessary red food coloring or someone got a little overzealous adjusting the colors on photoshop. the dish itself tasted amazing, but came out rather brown (which, in retrospect, is the absolutely correct color for a wine-flavored chicken stew).
as I planned out the thanksgiving menu this year, I abandoned the traditional mashed potato recipe, seduced by the glossy pages of thomas keller’s ad hoc at home and the promise of consuming a premier chef’s (side) dish without having to sell an organ. as I plated the garlic potato purée (better known by its plebeian moniker, “mashed potatoes,”) and preparing to photograph them, one of my cousins asked what I was doing. “I’m creating more surfaces for shadows, to take a better photo,” I replied, while gently pressing creases into the swirls of mashed potato with a wooden spoon. (yes, it looked just as ridiculous as it sounds.) in my opinion, keller’s recipe is superior to dean and deluca’s – faster, involving less human labor, and with a more complex flavor profile thanks to the chives. but dean and deluca’s has this awesome punch of roasted garlic flavor – something that is impossible to capture in a photograph.
at dinner, the mashed potatoes were well-received. but then again, so was the stuffing, butt-ugly burnt edges be damned.
makes 6 servings
1/4 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup canola oil
4 lb large yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp minced chives
thomas keller. ad hoc at home. new york: artisan books, 2009.
1 cut off and discard root ends of garlic cloves. place cloves in a small saucepan and add enough oil to cover them by 1 inch. 2 set saucepan over low heat. cook the garlic gently; very small bubbles will come up through the oil, but should not break the surface. cook garlic for ~40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cloves are completely tender. remove the saucepan from heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil. 3 meanwhile, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. season water with 1/4 cup salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 4 adjust heat as necessary to maintain very gentle simmer and cook for ~20 minutes, until tender enough to purée. drain potatoes in a colander and let them steam until cool enough to peel. 5 heat the cream over low heat in a heavy saucepan; keep warm. 6 in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add one-quarter of the potatoes, top with 1 pieces of butter and one-quarter of the garlic, and purée. repeat with remaining potatoes, butter, and garlic in 3 batches. 7 warm potatoes in saucepan over medium heat. as they heat, whip the cream into potatoes. season to taste with salt and pepper and fold in chives. transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining chives, and top with a dollop of butter.