Can every year be one where the Super Bowl, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras fall three days in a row? I have had (1) pizza, (2) wings, (3) a majority share in about four different party-sized bags of chips, (4) dumplings, (5) noodles, and (6) pancakes in the last 72 hours. I feel like this super nutritious line-up of February holidays could really only have been better if Valentine’s Day rounded it off today. But it is this Sunday, so that’s pretty much just as good. (And I already got a head start on the chocolate. So we can add that as (7) on the list.)
I’m boring when it comes to leftovers. (Strategy: Remove from refrigerator and eat. Alternatively, freeze, forget about, then find three months later and still eat.) My mom, on the other hand, makes magic with them — I can’t remember a single time that she tossed out leftovers in our kitchen, or a time that we didn’t ask for the rest of our dinner to be packed up when we went out to eat. Instead, I can see her poised with an open clamshell container in one hand and a metal spatula in the other, mouth pursed, surveying her wok and trying to figure out how to upcycle last night’s takeout into inevitably more delicious fried rice, or stir-fried noodles, or a simmering pot of soup. Some of her recipes are ones where she even swears by leftovers, like her mapo tofu, which she won’t make unless she’s stir-fried giant prawns the day before and has the fiery-red broth left over. (Don’t tell her I gave away her secret ingredient.)
We’re scheduled to fly back to Hawaii in a little less than a month, and an email has already landed in our inboxes from my adorable mother-in-law, asking whether we want galbi or spicy ahi poke when we land. (It actually came through like, two weeks ago.) B2’s mom is my favorite for all kinds of reasons, but I love this about her — every time we go home it’s a parade of food she thinks we might want to eat. Plates of fruit appear when we’re not looking, trays of kimbap emerge from a trip to the Korean supermarket, little rows of pastel dduk are lined up meticulously in case we want to nibble on something. On top of that, since I’m neither Korean nor from Hawaii, B2’s mom has made it her personal mission to introduce foods to me that I might not have had before, bringing home everything from fish jeon to Leonard’s malasadas in the name of my food education. (She also has the cutest tiny cocktail forks that she puts out with everything. So pretty much she embodies all my mom goals.)
So I think I’m about five years late to this party. But I am newly, and really, obsessed with dates. They are so good. How are they so good? I don’t know how I was so woefully misinformed, but up until a couple months ago I had this idea that dates were just a vague something to be nibbled on at your grandmother’s house if all the cookies were gone, or maybe used as a convenient vehicle for goat cheese and bacon, or admired from afar as a healthful “substitute-for” things I am generally reluctant to substitute. And then I was gifted a box of really great ones, with fancy things like orange peel and almonds tucked inside, and my world was totally rocked. This is probably news only to me at this point, but it turns out dates are pretty much candy. They have a consistency like caramel and nearly the same buttery taste; they’re sticky and soft and reminiscent of wonderful things like honey, cinnamon and molasses. B2 was unmoved by my date revolution (although he hasn’t gotten tired of responding to “Want a date?” with “I thought we were already married. Get it?”) but, with or without him, I’m fairly sure I’ve eaten my weight in them since April.
As much as I dread fall (mostly because of the season that-shall-not-be-named that comes after it), I have to admit that I secretly enjoy more things about it than any cold-weather hater should have the right to. There’s the undeniable coziness of multiple layers and fuzzy slippers, the soothing weight of a heavy comforter at night, the crisp in-between weather that’s cool enough for classy wool coats but not so cold that I’m resigned to rustly Michelin-Man puffer jackets; there’s the never-ending cornucopia of magical fall baking, from warm, spicy poached pears tucked into baked oatmeal and scones brushed with maple syrup to a surplus of pillowy baked bread and my very first challah. And, maybe best of all, there are magical things like virtual pumpkin parties, thanks to Sara of Cake Over Steak!
A couple of months ago I stumbled on this caramelized onion and yogurt pasta by Diane Kochilas. It’s just like it sounds — tangles of caramelized onions and thick, strained Greek yogurt, tossed with sunshine-yellow pasta and a few ladles of starchy water, then served with nothing more than a generous grating of salty cheese on top. Yogurt in pasta! And by all accounts, super delicious. I’ve been meaning to try it ever since, totally fascinated by the idea that you could get a rich, alfredo-like sauce from Greek yogurt instead of cream. The one thing that continues to surprise me as time goes on is how rich foods tend to overwhelm me easier and easier these days — clearly this blog shows that I still love it as much as I ever did, but somewhere along the way, slightly more nourishing alternatives, especially when they’re not “lighter” substitutes but just really genius ideas that happen to be good for you, got super exciting. (15-year-old belly with an appetite for Jack-in-the-Box breakfast sandwiches every morning, where did you go?!)
Last week I woke up to find that all the leaves outside our window were gone. Now that the trees are mostly bare, we can see a little sliver of the East River from our dining table; it glints blue-green and looks deceptively peaceful on cold, sunny mornings like the ones we had a whole spate of last week. Lately it’s been typical late fall, early winter fare around here — jam-packed schedules and everything hurtling at breakneck speed. Has it been like that for y’all? We’re staying put this Thanksgiving since we’re travelling for Christmas, and even though we’ll be missing our families, I think we’re both looking forward to a peaceful oasis later this week. (Plus, we’ve got oodles of Thanksgiving dumplings in our plans and we’re pret-ty pumped about them!)
Pinch dishes from The Fortynine Studio.
We had a mini impromptu Friendsgiving last weekend! Even in miniature, it was my first time putting together anything remotely like a Thanksgiving meal on my own, and it was so much fun. For the main, I braised an abundance of chicken legs using Jamie Oliver’s milk chicken recipe, which was life-changing and totally worth the hype, at least in my opinion (also, one day I will stop being scared and I will roast a whole chicken, I swear). For the salad we had mixed greens with ridiculously ripe Bosc pears and shaved Parmesan, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil — simple and easy. But my favorite dishes — as it should be with Thanksgiving — were these sides.
You guys, I am so excited about these next few months. It’s Thanksgiving soon, which means feasting galore (and sides-a-palooza!), and after that it’s the run-up to Christmas, which is pretty much a giant, no-holds-barred excuse to bake every single holiday cookie I can think of, and then it’s Christmas for real, and we’ll be flying out to see my family for the first time in over a year! Such good things ahead.
Guys, guess what! Jessica’s having a baby, and we’re throwing a How Sweet It Is baby shower! I love babies and I love How Sweet It Is and I’m so excited.
Do you read Jessica’s blog? (Your answer: Duh.) The first post I can really remember sticking on is this one, and I think it fairly sums up all the things that are so special about this lady. Luscious, crackly-topped chocolate (dipped in more chocolate with chocolate sprinkles on top) plus a story on living out of your suitcase for a week after coming home — hers is the kind of writing that you can’t read without smiling, and without saying me too me too! It’s that sort of voice that makes her feel instantly known to you, a forever friend in 200 words (or 2300 words), even if she might not ever know you’re reading. It’s the happiest sort of blogging — sharing a part of yourself to bring sunshine into someone’s day and delicious food onto their table. And I mean, sentimentality aside — she puts bacon in her cinnamon rolls. Enough said.