Hi friends! How was your weekend? We spent a fun one down in North Carolina at the wedding of one of Bowl #2’s college friends. This might just be me and the fact that I haven’t gone to that many yet, but I feel like I love weddings more and more with every one I go to, even when I’m a plus-one and I’ve never met the bride and groom. (But also there’s a 20% chance you’ll find me crying in my office to YouTube highlight reels of strangers’ weddings on any given afternoon. Just so you know what kind of constitution you’re dealing with.)
There’s something so fun about seeing where someone grew up. Like the first time I visited B2 in Hawaii — I mean, it’s pretty crazy to see what it’s like to grow up in a place like Hawaii to begin with, but I got overly sentimental seeing his old elementary school classrooms, the Banyan tree he used to climb during recess, the route he ran through Manoa for cross-country, his high school late-night hangout spots (you know, just places like this beach, no big deal.) As well as you know a person, it just feels like there’s a little something extra that falls into place when you know where they came from, too.
That first trip, B2 took me to a little Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant in Honolulu called Pietro’s, because it was a place he frequented in high school. So it’s entirely possible that my glowing impression of it was just a product of my rose-colored “oh my gosh this is the fabric of his existence” sentimentality, but I don’t think so — fusion can be a tricky thing to pull off, and that place knew how to play it. My favorite dish of theirs was a spicy spaghetti with ground beef, chilies and delicate Japanese eggplant — good, simple, un-fussy pasta with just a little Japanese touch.
Oh man. So here’s a thing about me — I am really, really clumsy. Like, if I were a candy bar, I’d be this one. And if I were an idiom, I’d be a bull in a china shop. Sometimes I think it amazes Bowl #2 — who does everything thoughtfully and deliberately and un-clumsily — how little sense I have of space and time and, you know, where my body is. (It amazes me too.)
And I’ve been on a roll lately! I don’t know if I’ve just been really out of it from a few long weeks at work, but I am a bull in the china shop of life these days. Yesterday I was slicing a chicken breast and overturned the cutting board into a sink full of dirty dishes. A few weeks ago, B2 had to play ceramics doctor on a beloved Akiko Graham plate after I broke it and almost had a heart attack, and this weekend I spilled an entire ink bottle all over the table, myself, and the floor in the middle of addressing our wedding invites. I don’t even know. But all’s well that ends well — thanks to B2’s magic, the plate is as good as new (can you even tell?!) and thanks to Jesus, the ink missed our wedding invites (and our white couch, ohmygosh) and our first batch of invites actually made it into the mail this morning! We finally mailed (some of) our invites! Small miracles.
(I don’t know what to say about the chicken. Or my ink-stained legs, which currently look diseased. But otherwise, miracles!)
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.
So, if you’ve been around this blog (or on the Internet in general) for more than half a second, I think you just might be familiar with the work of art that is my dear friend Stephanie’s i am a food blog. It’s got awards galore under its belt; it’s home to my favorite Sunday reading. It’s always got something unbelievably cute and mini, or else it’s swoon-worthy melting and cheesy (or cute, mini, and melting-cheesy), and no matter what her latest post is, it’s always delicious, and always as stunning as it is delicious.
Long story short, Stephanie’s created one of my favorite places on the web — and now the best news is that she’s morphed it into a cookbook that’s every bit as wonderful! I’m in awe of this book. It’s 99 flawless recipes, each with their own endearing, catch-up-over-coffee anecdotes, vibrant photos, and their own graphics. And every page, cover to cover, is designed by Steph herself. I read it on the subway home from work last week, and one stop from home, I looked up to find both my seat-neighbors craning over my shoulders to read it, too. It’s that great.
If you read Stephanie’s blog, you’ll know that she’s not just one of the most talented bloggers around — she’s also one of the most cheerful, genuine, and caring people I’ve had the honor of calling a friend. (Not to mention the humblest!) The best part about Easy Gourmet is that that fun-loving, approachable personality shines through in every page. For every recipe that breathes new life into an old classic with joyful, Stephanie-esque spirit, there’s a recipe that makes an otherwise intimidating technique seem accessible, fun, and inviting thanks to her guiding words.
For me, risotto was the latter, and I knew instantly that if I ever successfully made it, it’d be with Steph as my guide. Sure enough, Stephanie’s easy-going, friendly instructions led me straight into these plates of savory, comforting, Italian goodness. One bite took me straight back to the first revelatory taste of risotto I ever had, and if I didn’t see my own hands make it in front of my eyes, I might not have believed it was me. So good.
In a book that’s all about the easy, Steph has done what is, in a lot of ways, most difficult — she’s put a finger on the real, the wholesome, the crave-worthy food that’s accessible yet fantastic (or, should we say, easy yet gourmet?!) I’m in love with it, and I have no doubt you will be, too.
Courtesy of Page Street Publishing, I’m giving away one copy of Easy Gourmet: Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook! To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me a kitchen skill or special dish you’ve been meaning to conquer. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents, and ends next Tuesday, September 30th at 11:59 PM EST!
The giveaway has closed! Big yays for Lily Sheng! Look out for an email with more details. I hope you adore Stephanie’s new book.
According to my mother, ours is a wonton household. I grew up watching my parents deftly fold armies of plump little wonton soldiers at the kitchen table, watching my mother boil plate after plate of them, slurping copious bowls of soup, and, if I was lucky, crunching into a panful of fried wontons on a special occasion. But when it came to dumplings, our consumption was mainly of the frozen variety — bought in bulk and boiled or pan-fried by my dad on weekend lunch duty. (The other two members of the rotation were ramen and Papa John’s. In other words, weekend lunches were the best.)
So, when I set out to make dumplings from scratch last year, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience behind me. But it turns out they’re delightful. The dough is simplicity at its best, and I find the pleating miles easier than the flip-and-twist-and-seal dance that wontons call for. I think they’d be perfect for an afternoon when you have a little extra time on your hands, or a DIY dinner party (which, I guess, is why dumpling parties are a thing). You can find my take on potstickers, plus recipes for three different fillings, over at Verily Magazine this morning. Hope you’re all having lovely weeks!
After such a long and lingering winter this year, it feels like this late, coy spring is hurtling into summer faster than I can keep up with. One moment it was snowing in April, a perpetual winter, a movie on pause, and the next it was everything at once — an 80-degree Memorial Day, violently green foliage everywhere we look, another year’s worth of friends getting illustrious degrees, my brother finishing his freshman year and coming to visit New York for the first time. A wedding venue booked (!), a date set, a trip to Vegas to celebrate some amazing friends. Our first New York lease on the cusp of expiring, an apartment move next weekend.
With the whirlwind of things that have been happening lately, this past long weekend could not have been more welcome. There were things to do, but spread out over three days instead of two, it gave us the chance to take a couple much-needed deep breaths, pump the brakes a little, and relax. We took a break from packing to watch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which appealed to every sentimental whim of my English major heart; we enjoyed our favorite things about this creaky “has character” apartment in our last weekend before the move, like the green-tinged, dappled sunlight that filters lazily through our vine-covered balcony in the early afternoons. (And the in-apartment washer-dryer. We’ll miss you, world’s oldest and smallest washer and dryer. You may have been highly inefficient, you may have threatened to explode, but you were in our apartment.)
So I have this problem. Namely, it’s a shocking inability to put a salad in my mouth that is not, at the very least, just as unhealthy than a burger or a pizza or any other non-salad-y unhealthy thing that I would otherwise be eating if I weren’t eating a “healthy” salad. And then I also have this other problem — namely, a shocking inability to leave bacon out of anything and everything. (Creamed corn. Pancakes. … Chocolate chip cookies.) Put those two together and … well, you get this salad. Ta-da! Two wrongs do make a right! (Or two rights make a righter right.)
I don’t really associate New Year’s Eve with champagne or sequins. Instead, I associate New Year’s with food — maybe even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas, at my house, New Year’s Eve meant a family feast. A traditional Chinese New Year (and regular December 31 New Year’s Eve, because we totally double-down on our New Year’s celebrations) at my house was hot pot and “long life noodles,” hot pot because it symbolized prosperity and celebration, and noodles because they symbolize … well, long life.
I realized this weekend that it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything savory. Which is funny, because I consider myself a pretty novice baker — I guess we just rotate much more frequently between tried and true meals, whereas Bowl #2 never has any input on sweets, so I just try any new thing I feel like. Anyway, I thought I’d change it up by posting about one of our very most favorite “tried and true”s — kimchi fried rice.