Do you ever, once you’ve made it through a pile of scary deadlines and come out the other side, just kind of melt into a blob for a week or two, one that can sit semi-upright in an office chair and guzzle coffee and maybe make ill-advised purchases of overpriced throw blankets but otherwise accomplish none of the tasks that are still remaining but that are simply not yet due? No, just me? Well, it is definitely me right now. I cannot promise that any of this will make any comprehensible sense. You have been warned.
What a strange, hard week this has been. It feels like it has been hard in every sense of the word — difficult, unyielding. I hope everyone is okay. This is the first of a number of recipes I’ve had saved up for these first few baby-filled months, and, thankfully, it is so very easy. I think “easy” was going to be my mantra in the kitchen for the foreseeable future no matter what, now that we have a little person to cuddle and feed and care for, but right now it feels particularly apt to share something that comes together without much effort, without any stress, to be a treat that soothes and indulges.
This week we’ve been reveling in finally getting around to all the things that had fallen by the wayside in the last month or so. B2 led the charge on some direly needed spring cleaning, from finally unpacking our bags from LA right down to dusting everything in sight and wiping down the ceiling fan (which I would never have remembered to do?!), and thanks to him, I finally remember what the bedroom floor looks like. We’ve also been catching up with friends we haven’t seen since 2015, or else catching up on TV shows (just in time for them to go on hiatus — come back, The Flash) or good movies (still crying from Creed) or, very simply, just Sitting Around and Doing Nothing because we can.
We’ve had adventures this week! Last Friday, I braved the pre-blizzard craziness at the supermarket to buy the only things I thought we needed for a snow day — (a) pork and (b) bok choy for (c) lion’s head meatballs. And maybe also some seltzer. While the person ahead of me lugged gallons of water out of the store and the person behind me lugged gallons of water onto the conveyor belt, I went home with my pork, bok choy, seltzer, and zero gallons of water, and I’m fairly sure I texted B2 something like lol the supermarket is crazy as usual even though nothing ever happens, what is this storm even called again. I think you know where this is going — 24 hours later (and just as B2’s cousin came to stay with us, sorry Justin!) the water in our little building did go out, then the heat did too, then right when the water got fixed our sink flooded the kitchen. Haha. And I learned the storm was called Jonas.
It was actually not that dramatic — the building owners are wonderful and live right on the first floor (okay, so I think it was more dramatic for them), the heat came back in about the time it took us to zip up our jackets, and even though our overflowing sink didn’t get fixed until yesterday, it was really just an excuse to eat take-out for three days straight and imagine myself as Mickey in Fantasia whenever I had to dump out the water. But I think this means I’m officially disqualified from making fun of water-buying fellow citizens ever again. You are wiser than me, neighbors. (Although this all happened after I made the meatballs! And they were hearty and comforting and sustained us through our no-heat no-water day! So.)
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.
We had a bibimbap party this weekend! I don’t know whether it’s a function of living in frenetic New York, or having a lot of lawyer friends who are forever sucked back into the office on weekends or late nights, or even just being supposedly “grown-up,” but sometimes it’s startling how easy it is to blink and find that it’s been months since we’ve caught up with some of our friends. So, because the answer to everything is always food, B2 and I made it our goal every couple of months to shove all our random crap into closets, actually Swiffer the floors for once, and have people over for a low-key potluck. Earlier this summer we had a taco party where I made my first pico de gallo ever (I know, how) and Jessica‘s amazing Chipotle-style corn salsa, and overestimated the amount of meat people would eat by about 200% (I still have taco meat in the freezer). And this weekend we had a bibim-bar!
Before these little cheesecakes, my cheesecake experience was solely and shamelessly limited to this — the seven-ingredient recipe on the back of the Philadelphia cream cheese box. It was five ingredients if you bought the Keebler crust in its own ready-to-go tin, which my college self definitely did, it was easy, and it was good; sometimes I swirled blueberry jam or pumpkin pie filling (the recipe from the Libby’s pumpkin can, naturally) into it and felt fancy even though the pumpkin burned faster than the cheesecake could cook.
It’s almost here! We’re actually, really, truly getting married this Saturday and I’m so excited I can’t sit still. This is the last post in this series on our reception food, and after that I’ll finally stop yammering to you about it — in three days, we’ll be noshing on these caramelized onion & Boursin tartlets, this spicy ahi poke parfaitini, and slicing into a real-people version of this cake, among other things (like a rosemary-perfumed short rib and vibrant purple Okinawan sweet potato puree, be still my heart). And as our wedding favors, we’ll be handing out this last recipe!
It’s the last installment in B2’s birthday series! You can see parts one (hurricane popcorn!) and two (chicken katsu plate lunch!) here.
These babes aren’t something that B2 actually ever requested I make — I think I mentioned homemade malasadas once, way back, and B2 chewed on the idea and said it just sounded like too much work to make at home. Usually, when he says he’s not so into something, I take it at face value (or else things happen like I know you said you didn’t want Oreos but, Oreos! And they were on sale! and then I have a pack of Oreos to finish by myself. It’s true, there are worse problems to have.) But I figure the thing about birthdays is that, hey, it’s nice to get something you didn’t have to ask for. And there are things that you might like a lot more than you suspect. As it turns out, a platter of warm, yielding, airy malasadas filled with smooth pastel curd, the kind that brings back B2’s childhood memories of school carnivals and afternoon runs to famed neighborhood bakeries, is one of those things.
Guys! This is one of my favorite things ever.
Okay, so I have a long list of “favorite things ever” — mostly involving cheese, chocolate, or not leaving the house — but seriously, this. This is a favorite of favorites.
I first had budae jjigae in a little upstairs joint in K-town, underneath a sea of fairy lights and soju caps dangling from a net-draped ceiling. It was in weather not unlike the kind we’ve been having this week, and the bubbling pot that appeared in front of us was all my winter-comfort dreams come true — spicy, noodly, Spam-y melty-cheese heaven.
Since then, budae jjigae has been a staple of every winter I’ve spent up North, the kind of droolworthy dish that had me waiting for the bus in snowy single-digit Boston weather and struggling through skyscraper wind-tunnels on frigid Manhattan evenings to find. It’s classic comfort food, one that gets its name from harder times, and true to its namesake, it’s loaded up with all things plain but wonderful — instant ramen, salty Spam, chewy rice cakes and silky-soft tofu. The broth is thick and rich, laced with earthy umami tones from kombu and anchovies, dyed fiery-red with kimchi and gochujang, spicy enough to make you sweat even when your fingers are still thawing from the cold outside. It’s a humble, hearty stew, a stew for sharing, and I associate it with the best memories of warm friends on cold winter nights.