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.
After vacation last month and a slow start getting back into the swing of things, these last couple of weeks feel like we’re settling back into old routines. Slow mornings aided by snooze buttons (why is it so much harder to get up when it gets chilly out?) later evenings in the office with a salad and extra coffee with PSL syrup. On my commutes I tap out ideas for these posts on my phone, or play with Steller. Other times I doze off on the person next to me and things get awkward.
Lately, in an effort to keep my forehead from landing on my neighbors’ shoulders, I’ve been reading a lot — the ubiquitous Fault in Our Stars; The French Lieutenant’s Woman; South of the Border, West of the Sun; on Molly’s rec, Jeffrey Steingarten’s awesome and hilarious essay compilations. Reading food writing (well, the non-blog kind) is new for me, but awesome — I’ve been nose-deep in One Souffle at a Time by Anne Willan, and I’m super loving it so far.
To be totally honest, I’m a spring and summer girl all the way. But I kind of savor the evenings after busy fall days in a certain way that I don’t summer nights. Bowl #2 puts on some TV series or another (right now, a rewatch of How I Met Your Mother — yess) while he keeps working and I pretend to work but actually just lie prostrate under the favorite extra-nubbly throw blanket I’ve been longing for since May, nursing a cup of hot tea. We stay up too late, then spend too long talking in bed, leading to … another slow, snoozed-alarm morning, when it starts all over again.
Awhile back, when we were still in the midst of summer and spontaneity, B2 and I trekked up to New Haven for the day and visited an old haunt of his, Bar, to do a little recon on a recipe I’ve been wanting to recreate. We went for the pizza, but as it turns out, they also serve up a pretty mean salad — the one that gave rise to this version. The combination here is nothing new, so I won’t say too much more, but I thought it was a perfect fall segue salad, with the sweet spiced decadence of autumnal comfort foods, but the freshness of crunchy fruit and leafy greens for balance. It isn’t the kind of salad you order for dinner at work when you’re trying to be good, the kind where you’re thinking about protein and good fats and staying power. It’s just the fun kind, the kind on the side that’s kind of dessert hiding out in a camouflage of greens. But it’s cool, because we have like five years before it’s beach season again, right? 🙂
This week, a new class of associates is starting at my firm. This is strange for a whole host of reasons (like, wait, I still don’t know anything, how can anyone be junior to me?) but mostly because it doesn’t feel like a whole year has passed since I started. Maybe the thing that stands out to me most about this new “grown” quotidian is that time suddenly feels a little unchained. Instead of living life in neat, segmented bites of time, fed to us through semesters, summer breaks, and midterms, it’s now nebulous seasons, the next three-day weekend, a new wave of co-workers.
So it all feels more free-form, and hallmarks seem to ambush me a little more. (Do not let me say “I can’t believe it’s almost [insert month or holiday]” again. … But really I can’t believe it’s almost October.) I realized while making this bread that it was only about a year ago that I first ventured into baking with yeast. Which is remarkable, because even though I still find rising dough completely crazy — it’s alive — it’s now hard to imagine a kitchen without it.
This loaf might just be my favorite yeasty recipe in my nascent bread-making life. I was a tad freaked when I first started testing recipes for it, given that Hokkaido milk bread has a reputation just about as lofty as its sky-high crumb — but thanks to a recipe adapted from this one by Christine’s Recipes, the result was everything I imagined it would be. Soft, wispy sheets of bread with a rich, tender crumb and just a touch of sweetness, good enough to eat plain, but even better toasted and smothered in condensed milk. You can find the recipe on Food52.
Wishing you all lovely weeks ahead!
Happy Friday! Just popping in to wish you guys a happy weekend and to share these teeny apple crumbles, up on Verily Magazine today. These little guys were one of the first mini-fied “for two” recipes I made for this blog, and they’re still one of my all-time favorites. They’re unbelievably easy to make (seriously, you probably don’t need a recipe) and they have all the pairings I love in a little 4-ounce package: crisp textures on top matched with soft and comforting underneath, sweet notes with savory ones, warm gooey fall-spiced filling with cold ice cream. I’m especially in love with the cheddar in the crumble topping — it might be off-putting to some, but I promise it’s so delightful. Far from being jarring, the cheddar melts into a subtle nutty, savory note that’s barely but happily noticeable, and adds a little chewy resiliency to the crust that I adore. You can find the full recipe here. I hope you all have fantastic weekends!
For as long as I can remember, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been one of my favorite holidays. It means it’s time for the best dessert known to me –- mooncakes. I am obsessed with mooncakes. Dense and rich, with intensely sweet, velvety-smooth fillings and a vermilion duck yolk in the center, they’re so good that I used to wait all year for the few months in the fall when they’d appear on the shelves.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong right around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In Hong Kong, mooncakes are something artisanal -– in August and September, the Peninsula Hotel will sell only a limited number of extravagantly priced boxes, while the regular Hong Kong bakeries turn to selling almost nothing else, their shelves filled to bursting with every variety you can imagine. They’re traditionally given as gifts during the holiday, since the Mid-Autumn Festival is a little bit like a Chinese Thanksgiving, and a time for family reunions. But maybe I kept a stash in my fridge that year, just for me. You know … maybe.
Being away from mooncake mecca this year, I thought I’d try something different and make them from scratch. I expected them to be finicky, or at best a poor imitation of storebought cakes, but they were wonderful, and not at all as hard as I thought they would be. All you need is one of these nifty molds from handy Amazon, and a few specialty items from the Asian market. And the result is a mooncake that strips away everything heavy and indulgent about the dessert, but is just as delicious and nostalgic as the original.
Happy zhongqiu jie to anyone celebrating!
The first time I had burrata was just a few months ago, at this little shindig. It was served over stone fruit in a salad that inspired this one, and it blew my mind. Burrata is like a present but the present is wrapped in a present — it’s more like two cheeses in one, a thin, supple pouch of fresh mozzarella that holds soft, creamy ricotta-like curds in its hollow belly. The contrast in textures fascinated me, and since then, it’s been on my list of foods to experiment with at home.
So a week or so ago I picked up two snowy-white specimens from Murray’s Cheese to take home with me. One I cut up and tossed with penne, tomatoes, & basil for a simple but so satisfying dinner (the creamy insides melt into the best sauce!), and the other I used in this grilled peach salad, a humble take on what we had at Sensi in May. I feel like this salad embodies everything a summer salad should be — fresh and sweet, a little bit decadent, and full of vibrant yet uncomplicated flavors. Grilling the peaches lends an extra smoky sweetness to them, perfect for those few that are a little less ripe than their friends, and the bite from the arugula and the pungent balsamic glaze help balance out the richness of the peaches and
cream burrata. To top it all off I added a little bit of caramelized onions, just because caramelized onions make everything better.
I kind of think any day that begins with homemade pancakes is bound to be a good one. Our Fourth of July began with these. There was no work for either of us (a real rarity for Bowl #2), no grand cookout plans or things that needed doing, just a quiet, rainy day with these pancakes, video games, and the glorious return of the fireworks to the East River on the horizon. (By the way, I also think any day that begins with the boot-up jingle of a video game console is guaranteed to be a winner. Regardless of how old you are.)
The idea for these began in the leftover cream and milk from the ricotta I made a few weeks ago, but it didn’t become a plan until I was digging around in the recesses of our crisper drawers and found (in a fit of excitement) a hefty bag of Meyer lemons that our friends left us when they moved out. (If you have friends moving out of their apartments, especially super cool and food-savvy friends with penchants for fancy brands of mustard, move in. They will leave you three types of jam you’ve never heard of and Thai drinking vinegar and hardy fresh oregano that refuses to die under your black thumb. And three weeks later you will find inexplicably fresh Meyer lemons.)
Lemon ricotta pancakes are as fluffy as their buttermilk counterparts, but the ricotta lends them a creamier, denser texture and flavor, while an extra egg adds a hint of custard to the mix. The “Meyer”-ness of the lemons is at its height when zested, and the extra zest on top is lively, yet sweet. But what truly stole my heart was the chamomile whip — the light floral notes from the tea add an irresistible buoyancy to heavy cream, even without any extra sugar. Whipped cream at breakfast (waffles!) always seems to add a touch of celebration to the whole meal, but this delicate chamomile confection takes it to a new level. The perfect start to a long weekend.
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!
Once upon a time, a miniature version of me hated cheese.
Right? I know. I don’t know. Somehow I went through an addled childhood as an outspoken enemy of cheese, picking shreds of it out of salads, scraping it off lasagna, and generally living a deprived existence. (And then one day I ate a Kraft single at a friend’s house, and the next thing I knew, half a pack of highly processed cheese was gone and a lifelong obsession with all things melt-able was born. Also, indigestion. Also, I was clearly an excellent house guest.)
Back in my inexplicable cheese-hating days, ricotta was Public Enemy No. 1. My only exposure to it was in school cafeteria lasagna, more or less, and the watery, gritty, faintly sour form it came in back then was anathema. Even after I grew into my cheese, ricotta was one that I could pretty much take or leave, haunted by that substance lurking between formless, soggy sheets of pasta on my lunch tray. It wasn’t until one day a few summers ago, mid-bite into a crostini at Frankie’s 457, that I changed my mind. Spread thick on a crusty, toasted baguette with a drizzle of honey, good ricotta is creamy, richly decadent but not overpowering, not in the least soggy or gritty or bland. And has me, a dozen-odd years later, eating it with a spoon straight out of the cheesecloth.
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.)