Roasted Artichokes – 30/67

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I am not really an animal person. I don’t ooh and ah over dogs passed on the street or with their owners on the train (RIP going anywhere). I hate movies about animals, I think zoos are dumb, and I would gladly never watch a cat video again on youtube. I don’t really like the term “fur baby” or “dog mom” because… how could an animal be like a baby? It never learns to talk or read, it will always get in the way of vacations, and kids eventually wipe their own butts. I love my friends and family who love their pets, and so I give as much love as I can to their pets. I don’t dislike them! I promise! I just didn’t really get the point. 

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This is not a popular opinion. It doesn’t make you liked at parties. In fact, it makes people think you’re a psychopath. 

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I’m not a psychopath! I just didn’t grow up with animals. I may have been slightly traumatized by a friend’s giant Newfoundland in first grade and a dog bite or two in elementary school. Animals don’t really like me either, so ha. 

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And so it is slightly incongruent that I have now found myself the owner of a very cute cat. I have officially had a cat in my house for one week… and I like it!

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A couple things incited this progression. In our old garden unit apartment, we had a bunch of strays living in the backyard. And oh my lord were they adorable. They just kept breeding and breeding, so there was a new crop of kittens every few weeks. They played and climbed and stared at us through our window. They warmed my cold, animal-averse heart! And then I started spending more time with a friend’s two adorable cats. I found myself wanting to hang out with them. The cats! Not just the friend! So we began to talk about fostering. 

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And then this whole quarantine thing happened. Now was the time! We signed up to foster with 4 different agencies and — there were no cats left in NYC. Sigh. Good for the kitties, bad for us. But then, lo and behold! Our friend Becky was one of those lucky fostering ones, and she happened to have a wonderfully cute and friendly and curious cat who turns out she was allergic to and did we want her?? 

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And this is how I’ve found myself a new card carrying member of the I Have A Pet club. And I am totally smitten with Sadie Pumpernickel! She’s a little love. I can’t stop taking pictures of her. And poking her when she’s sleeping so she’ll wake up and play with me. I’m not sure I’m at “cat mom” level yet, but I get you, loved people, who want to talk about your animals a lot. I don’t blame you. Let’s send each other pet pics! This little cat is breaking up the monotony of isolation and bringing us so much joy. I’m so glad she’s here. 

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This artichoke recipe came from my friend Erin, who I’ve likely offended in the past with my pet feelings. I’m sorry, Erin! Your dog is a total sweet face! I promise it wasn’t personal. I have you to thank for seeing a wonderful, committed pet owner in action. And also for forever changing the way I’ll make artichokes. These are so great, so permeated by the garlic and flavorful after basting in their own juices. These roasted artichokes are the purest, highest calling of one of the most magical vegetables. Make them now, it’s artichoke season y’all!

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Roasted Artichokes

from my friend Erin, thanks!

fresh artichokes
some peeled garlic cloves
lemon juice
olive oil
kosher salt

melted butter
mayo thinned with lemon juice
toast

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. Snip any pointy leaves. Cut down the base. Rub all over with lemon juice to prevent browning. Pull back inner leaves of the artichokes, stab with a knife, and stuff with whole garlic cloves. At least 2-3 each. Drizzle all over with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and add a final squeeze of lemon. Wrap tightly in two layers of tin foil. Roast for an hour and twenty minutes, until the bottom is soft when pricked with a paring knife. Remove from oven and let sit til cool enough to handle. 

Spread garlic on toast. Dip bottoms of leaves into your sauce of choice. Or not! They’re so delicious even without. Don’t forget the heart, the best part. Avoid the choke.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves – 29/67

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My high school graduation party was catered by a little mom and pop Egyptian market in the suburb next to ours. Instead of burgers and potato salad, we had vats of falafel, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, hummus, buttery rice pilaf, and stuffed grape leaves. My mouth waters just typing all those words in a row. I’m not sure where my Middle Eastern food obsession began (maybe the Lebanese restaurant next to my dad’s work that was a treat when we’d visit him there?), or how/where/if it collides with my Jewish roots, but I do know the love is deep. I’m not interested in debating ownership of my favorite foods — I know many countries claim creation of falafel and hummus and dolmas, but I will not engage. I will happily eat all varieties. Whichever is nearest is the best. (Except for my vast disappointment while teaching in Azerbaijan a couple years back, where I learned ALL dolmas there have meat. They called this rice-filled stye “fake dolmas” and looked down their noses at it. I had zero stuffed grape leaves in Azerbaijan 😦 .) 

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The owner of that mom and pop market loved my parents and got to know them a bit — I mean, they’d order TONS of food for big parties every so often, how could they not. At some point around high school he told us that he couldn’t wait to cater my wedding someday. I’m sure I was immediately embarrassed and rolled my eyes and said yeah sure, whatever…

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And then ten years later, lo and behold, I was engaged! And the first thing I knew I wanted at my wedding (besides the right husband 😉 ) — was the food! Stuffed grape leaves, falafel, mezze and dips galore. Homey, bright, flavorful food with history. No chicken breasts or veggie pastas. We started from food and made decisions from there. As the wedding was not close to my childhood home, alas, we could not fulfill the prophecy made by Mr. Market Owner, but I never forgot his words.  We hired a different mom and pop operation — or I guess it was more like pop and friends — and it was more Turkish than Egyptian, but oh man I feel pretty good about claiming we really had the best ever wedding food. The grape leaves were lip-pursing with pomegranate molasses, the hummus silky smooth, the fattoush crunchy and seasonal. I only wish I ate more of it. 

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I can’t believe I’ve never tried to make grape leaves, long one of my favorite foods. I will always order stuffed grape leaves if they’re on the menu (well, if they’re meat-free and nut-less, not guaranteed), and rarely have I found one I don’t like. Daniel was iffy about them until I came along and showed him the light. Calling them “grape leaves” doesn’t do justice do the tangy, spicy, citrusy, poppy dare-I-say vegetal dumpling that awaits. And so this seemed like a great project for a Sunday afternoon during quarantine. I had a jar of grape leaves around from my bridal shower and had a recipe for them in #thebinder, but I went off script and used a completely different recipe, one that had Turkish spices, as we just bought black Urfa chili flakes and dried mint from my friend’s amazing spice company and wanted to put them to use, and because it was vegetarian. Daniel added some beef to his, but admitted it wasn’t necessary. We didn’t totally nail the cooking time on these, but they’re still amazing, and still highly recommended for a weekend project. 

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five years ago: grilled pineapple and baked bean tacos

Stuffed Grape Leaves

adapted from Give Recipe

1 lb jar of grape leaves (we didn’t use all of them)

Filling
2 cups white rice, rinsed
1 big tomato, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, finely diced
¼ – ½ cup fresh parsley, finely diced
½ teaspoon cayenne (these are on the spicy side! do less if you’d like)
½ teaspoon black urfa chili flakes (optional, but nice and smoky)
2 teaspoons dried mint
1 teaspoon sumac
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato or pepper paste (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil

Ground beef, optional

To Cook
At least 2 cups water
¼ cup olive oil

Remove grape leaves from jar and soak in hot water to remove some of the brine. 

To make filling, mix all filling ingredients in a big bowl. To make a meaty version, remove about a quarter of the mixture and place in a new bowl. Add about a quarter pound of ground beef and mix to incorporate. 

Lay out a grape leaf. Cut off the pointy stem with a paring knife. Place about a teaspoon or two of filling in a line right above the removed stem. Fold the bottom of the leaf up. Fold both sides in. Roll up to form a small log. Don’t roll too tightly, as rice will expand as it’s cooked and you don’t want them to explode. (The video from from Give Recipe shows this folding process clearly.)

Repeat until done with filling. As you’re filling, remove any misshapen or torn leaves. Use them to cover the bottom of a wide pot or braiser. Then, stack all filled and rolled grape leaves in the pot. Pour 2 cups water and ¼ cup olive oil over your nested grape leaves. Cover pot and turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes. Check for rice doneness and continue adding water and steaming as necessary. Ours took another 20ish minutes. 

Try to stop yourself from eating the whole pan warm off the stove. Store in the fridge and serve with yogurt if you’d like. 

Charoset, aka Drunken Fruit Salad

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I don’t celebrate Passover every year, but try to when I can. And, for some reason, I am most determined to celebrate it when it is least convenient to. Last year, for example, when I was in Russia, I got it in my head that I MUST attend a seder. Through a complicated series of events, I ended up getting myself invited to the Head Rabbi of St. Petersburg’s family’s seder — by far the most Orthodox and traditional Jewish thing I’ve ever done. I was incredibly out of my element but luckily everyone mostly ignored me. They couldn’t wrap their minds around that, yes, I was Jewish, I knew the prayer over the candles and had been to many seders, but why would I dream of eating my matzah with something before the 8th day? Apparently these folks wouldn’t eat a matzah pizza or the famous cream cheese jelly schmear until the last day. As someone brought up pretty Jewish, these were the staples of the holiday! My Russian hosts were shocked when I spoke about our tradition of hiding the afikomen — a looked-forward-to treasure hunt for all Jews under Bar Mitzvah age, I had supposed incorrectly. To each their own, but I was so surprised to learn my own was so different than their own. There are so many ways to be Jewish, and our ways were very, very different. It was possibly one of the more uncomfortable evenings of my life, but I’m still glad I forced myself to seek it out and attend and have some sort of ritualistic connection itch scratched – and now I have this great story. 

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And this year, I decided I wanted to try to replicate Passover from my apartment as much as possible, never mind that I’ve never hosted it or tried to locate the various seder plate elements. I usually show up to family or a friend’s with wine or a flourless dessert and then happily eat the matzah ball soup and gefilte fish and carrot pudding and roasted veggies provided by others. 

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Here was the plan: chocolate covered matzah, homemade matzah, matzah ball soup, boiled eggs, charoset. (I contemplated gefilte fish made from a can of tuna but luckily stepped away from that madness before it was too late.) Then I had one boring tragedy after another: the caramel didn’t set for the chocolate covered variety, turns out homemade matzah tastes like baked glue, I didn’t have matzah meal so made “masa” ball soup (which was actually great), and, oops used all the eggs in the soup. Sigh, thwarted at every step. But! My charoset was awesome. Charoset is supposed to represent the mortar of the bricks the Jews were forced to use in ancient Egypt. It’s usually apples, nuts, Manischewitz. Welp, I do like apples? I decided to basically make sangria, but with proportions inverted. And it was delicious. There’s a recipe-ish below. You should try it. 

Some fail pics:

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Oy, matzah isn’t supposed to be floppy. It’s funny that the moments I want to cling closest to my Jewish roots are when everything else has been turned over. Being in a new country, experiencing a pandemic unlike anything in lifetimes. I find comfort in clinging to old traditions and family and feeling grounded. In feeling like I am more than this moment — I am a continuation of what was before me and the future will continue to spiral outwards from this moment. There have been thousands of 30-year-old women fussing about boiled eggs and soup and wine glasses. I take comfort that in that when so much else is unknown. 

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So, whether you are of the tribe or not, drunken fruit salad is never a bad idea. It’s pretty great on matzah (from a box, please) or just with a spoon. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I made this black sesame Mochi cake recently and can’t stop thinking about it…
two years ago: nothing of note, but if you’re looking for a perfect pantry meal, may I recommend my fav red lentil dal?
three years ago: apple cheddar quinoa cakes
four years ago: baked stuffed sweet potatoes with chickpeas, kale, and tahini
five years ago: roast eggplant and pepper soup with orzo 

Drunken Fruit Salad, aka Charoset, aka Inverse Sangria

a swanky original

Chop fruit of your choice into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces. I used one red apple, a big handful of red grapes, a perfectly juicy clementine, and a couple dates. Mix in a bowl. Add a healthy pour of red wine. (I finished an old bottle — probably about ¼ cup). Add two big spoonfuls honey, about ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and many dashes of orange bitters. Stir everything together and refrigerate, stirring every so often, until cold and well-combined. 

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Perfect Glazed Salmon – 28/67

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Two new experiences I have coronavirus quarantine to thank for:

1. Online grocery shopping.  I must confess, I love going grocery shopping in person. I am a walking stereotype at the farmers market, pointing at each variety of potato and sampling each apple. I stop in every new bakery I pass, rarely to buy anything but just to see and smell what they have and file it away for later. I take great joy in going slowly through the aisles of our grocery store, thinking about future combinations of ingredients or if it’s overkill to get another jar of fancy olives. In our neighborhood, I go to different markets for produce, cheese, breads, and pantry staples. 

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Alas, the pandemic has made all of these excursions moot for the time being. The one time we went to a store in the past three weeks, it was stressful and fast and overwhelming. So! Now we find ourselves scouring freshdirect for available time slots. We tried instacart before their strike; didn’t recommend it then and definitely don’t recommend it now. (Daniel had ordered under a pound of chicken breasts and they delivered (and charged us for!) $26 of chicken!) When Daniel and I got a freshdirect timeslot last week in a stressful episode well past midnight, we literally whooped and high fived. More coveted than Hamilton tickets. What a relief to have ingredients delivered. We’re so lucky to have this option. And most things were in stock! Friends, we are back in full-stocked flour and canned bean and toilet paper land, I am happy to report. 

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A note – I have so much respect for the folks at our grocery stores right now —  restocking, cashier-ing, limiting customers, and continuing to show up for their essential work in these scary conditions. Thank you, thank you. 

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Anyway, we online-ordered salmon, which I usually cook about once a year. I like to eat fish out of the house, but rarely cook it myself. Since we’re not eating out of the house, now seems like a good time to practice that fish cookery! This recipe is really the only way I ever make salmon. It’s how my mom made it growing up. It’s just sweet enough and full of umami and comes out perfectly cooked and honestly every other preparation just wishes it were this one.  I ordered “one piece salmon” on freshdirect, I guess not paying attention to sizes. We received one fillet, which was a fine dinner for one. Daniel was fine with one of the aforementioned chicken breasts given the same treatment. It worked remarkably well, a good trick to keep in mind for next time. Served with leftover farro and green bean salad, it was a perfect dinner in. I wish we had leftovers! 

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2. And the second new experience I have is reading graphic novels! I’ve wanted to read Watchmen for years, but it’s a bulky two-hands-needed book to bring on the train everyday. And so hurrah! What a perfect moment to read it. I was shocked by how theatrical the whole thing was, playing with time and memory and realizations in beautiful ways. I thought it was going to be low on plot, high on action, but it really was a psychological character study about a world on the brink of destruction. An apt and engaging book to read in this moment. Highly recommend! And the movie was cool too. Lots of imagery and dialogue taken impressively from the book, though some characters and diversions I would’ve imagined differently. Regardless, it was a joy to watch while eating salmon for dinner. Looking forward to the HBO show next! 

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What are you reading and watching during this pandemic? Anything good??

one year ago: ah, no posts, as I was in Russia, eating mayo-y salads and lots of smoked fish and black bread aplenty. Perhaps I should try to recreate the famous herring under a fur coat while I expand my fish-cooking repertoire?
two years ago: –
three years ago: 
italian egg drop soup
four years ago: charred chipotle broccoli tacos
five years ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza and tomatoes 

Perfect Glazed Salmon 

my mom’s classic recipe 

4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 pound salmon

Preheat oven to 450F. 

In a small bowl, mix together mustard, soy sauce, and brown sugar. 

Remove roughly 2 tablespoons of this mixture and put in a new small bowl. Add rice vinegar and set aside. This is now your dipping sauce. 

Put fish in a baking dish. Pour the not-dipping-sauce on the fish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until desired doneness. My mom says you could also grill it for 4 minutes/side. 

Serve with dipping sauce and a green vegetable and a carb. 

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole – 27/67

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Today is day 17 of my quarantine in Brooklyn. 

18 days ago, I cautiously went out for dinner, took the subway, met a friend for coffee, waited in a line that wrapped around the whole grocery store. 18 days feels like a year ago. This day 18 days ago didn’t feel like a particularly noteworthy day (besides the long check-out line), but has now become a symbol of everything that changed since then. 

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Since then, like you (I hope), I have left my apartment rarely. I have not gone more than 5 blocks from my home, besides one bike ride. I have ordered takeout 0 times. I have washed more dishes than I thought possible. I have slogged through the workday to the hum of (still considered “essential”????) construction next door. I haven’t done laundry and am still not sure where/how/when we will accomplish that. I have gotten very mad at online grocery delivery services whose websites break and who have no delivery times available, and who I am continuing to find empathy for. I have cycled between work leggings – sleep leggings – yoga leggings – repeat. I have gone stir crazy and sang dramatic musical theater songs at the top of my lungs. 

And also — I have cried at NYTimes push notifications calling the hospitals in my beautiful city “an apocalypse”. I have cried while donating to GoFundMes for our local restaurants and bars. I have cried about all the plays that had to close early, the artists out of work, the nonprofits wondering how they will keep up their payroll. I have cried about the health care workers putting their lives at risk to treat the flood of patients that isn’t slowing down. I have teared up at many a casual “how are you doing”, because the answer is still, well, not great. 

And also — I celebrated my one year anniversary not by visiting one of the best omakase places in NYC (in the Upper East Side, which might as well be as far away as Alaska at this point), but instead by making a version of ma po tofu with the somewhat correct ingredients we happened to have at home and by getting drunk on a full bottle of champagne leftover from our last party. I have made dinner with my remarkable husband every single night and shared a pot of coffee with him every single morning. I have gotten said husband to do online yoga classes with me! I have facetimed, zoomed, google hang-outed, phone called, texted, instagram messaged, keybased, and whatsapped friends I haven’t spoken to in months. I have felt extraordinarily lucky to be safe at home, still with a source of income, still eating well, still healthy. 

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I am cycling through being grateful, and scared, and anxious, and just sad like no other moment in my life. It gives me hope to know everyone else I know is experiencing this cycle too. And throughout all these micro-adjustments, we’re all cooking! All the time. I made a dorky silly google doc to track what we’re making for dinner — partly because it gives me some structure and partly because hey, I already did the work, maybe others can get inspiration from it? A mini blog. You can find that here. All recipes are loosely followed and adapted aplenty. 

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We’ve been making some comfort food, some projects, lots of fresh veggies, many easy pantry meals. In the comfort food category: I can’t believe I’ve never shared my Grandma Evie’s mac and cheese recipe. It is one of the first foods I remember eating growing up, one of the first things I made for a dinner party in college, a staple at every family event (especially alongside bagels and lox at brunch!). Most of the family fought over the crunchy parts on top, but I always liked the creamy core more. My mom always said her version wasn’t as good as her mom’s, and mine is likely not as good as either of theirs. 

The recipe is from my great-grandma Aranka, a Hungarian immigrant to NYC (hence the paprika finishing this recipe). When I get overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world, I take comfort in thinking all I have to do is stay at home, in constant contact with my family and loved ones, and I should be safe. I can’t imagine the trip taken by my great-grandparents, escaping hateful countries, getting on a boat to a new home, with no way to communicate besides snail mail. I think of these family stories and am strengthened: New York City, and its vast network of resilient residents, will recover. It may not be how it was before, but it will be back. People always need food and art and gathering places. We will pick up the pieces and move always forward. We just need to stay the f home and cook cook cook. 

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one year ago: caramelized onion and goat cheese hamantashen
four years ago: kung pao Brussel sprouts and tofu
five years ago: spicy lemon fregola with artichokes and caramelized onions (omg I might actually have everything to make this during quarantine!!)

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

passed down from my spunky Great Grandma Aranka

Most of a 1 lb box of pasta (elbows are traditional, for yesterday’s version I used part farfalle and part orecchiette)
About 8 oz cheese (a block of cheddar is great. I did half cheddar, half gouda)
One can tomato sauce (14 oz preferably, or 8 oz if that’s all you have in you pantry, like me)
Milk – one can’s worth
Salt and pepper
Paprika (I only have smoked and it’s great!)
**this time I added in a chopped chile in adobo sauce because it sounded good. It was!**

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Boil your pasta in salty water til al dente. Drain. 

Grate your cheese into a big bowl. Add tomato sauce. Pour milk into the tomato sauce can and add to the bowl. Add chile in adobo if you’d like. Add drained pasta and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix together. If it looks dry, add a bit more milk. 

Pour pasta into a baking dish. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake for 50 minutes, until bubbling and top is golden brown. Let a cool a bit before serving. This makes amazing leftovers, and can be frozen too.