I’ll confess, I wasn’t going to post a THING today, but then my friend J. saw a photo on Instagram of the dinner I made on Saturday night and asked for a recipe. So here we are!
This is such a cheat post I can hardly stand it, since I have only my phone photo and I measured nothing. It also isn’t (quite) an NYT recipe recreation, though I will admit the inspiration for the cauliflower puree does come from there: I had planned to make the same dish, using the puree recipe as my bloggable item, and then I just wasn’t happy with the recipe as-is, so I scrapped it and went my own way. Feel free to do the same with any part of this, and note: all quantities here (except for the butter) are approximate. You do you.
I did a lot of bragging the other week about how familiar and comfortable I am with baking, I suspect making myself out to sound like some kind of expert who always reads her recipes carefully and measures correctly… and indeed I went into this week’s NYT Cooking choice – a gorgeous and intriguing sounding recipe for Gochujang Caramel Cookies – with great confidence. I collected my ingredients, I dutifully softened butter, and I whisked together the first component of the recipe: a stick of soft butter, packed brown sugar, and a heaping tablespoon of gochujang, which is a compelling and addicting Korean sweet chili paste.
My idea for this new project was simple: the night before I went grocery shopping, I’d open the NYT Cooking app, note the “recipe of the day” with delighted anticipation, write down the necessary ingredients on my list, and make that. Easy peasy. Done.
Until the day I actually did look, only to find a gorgeous recipe for salmon with Thai flavors over coconut rice. While he can stomach it in a spicy curry where the flavor is all but undetectable, N’s tolerance for coconut pretty much ends there. It can be buried deep, deep in the ingredient list and he can still detect it. Coconut-scented sunscreens make his nose wrinkle with objection. Even items cooked in or with coconut oil can be suspect. A coconut rice simply wouldn’t fit the bill.
As you might guess, this led to a much-longer-than-anticipated perusal of the site and substantial additions to my virtual “recipe box” (which I suppose is good in the long run for keeping this little project on schedule). And then, somehow, I ended up with the simplest of all recipes, which was a near-perfect fit for the gloomy, soaking wet weekend we just experienced.
How intolerably cliché it would be to begin this post by quoting Scottish poet Robert Burns! But alas, all too often those plans – well laid or not – “gang aft agley” despite our own efforts. Our “agley,” regrettably, was COVID: early last week our three-year avoidance streak came to a sudden and sniffling end, and thereafter the closest I got to the Cooking section of The New York Times was a few half-hearted Wordle guesses.
But then on Saturday, the latest King Arthur Baking catalog was unceremoniously shoved through our mail slot, and got no further than this recipe because why would I? The mash-up of tender cake with streusel-y crumbs on top, and the familiar-seeming ripple of what turns out to be chocolate, not the cinnamon sugar you were expecting, felt like a treat we were due. And since I’m thankfully feeling a bit better now, it also felt doable.
Last year for Christmas, I was gifted Tamar Adler’s 2011 book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. This, along with some shifts in our shopping routine lingering from pandemic adjustments, has affected the way I cook. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, if any of you are still out there, it has certainly affected my presence in this little space.
First, the book. Adler’s objective is to help her readers understand cooking and eating not as a series of steps followed in a recipe, or a collection of impressive meals that can be trotted out for company or posted on Pinterest or Instagram. Instead, it is “a book about eating affordably, responsibly, and well, and because doing so relies on cooking, it is mostly about that” (Adler 1).
There isn’t much of a backstory to this one, aside from I saw a photo on Instagram (maybe through food52?) of a ramen noodle salad, cold, liberally doused in chili oil, and I immediately ran to my pantry to recreate it. I had a small bottle of chipotle oil in there, given to me by a friend not that long ago, or so I thought, until I unscrewed the top, the smell of rancid oil hit me, and I realized it had been sitting in there for at least five years… maybe longer…
It happens. Then I remembered the bottle of yuzu hot sauce* I’d bought from Trader Joe’s with no clear idea in mind of what to do with it, and suddenly, delightfully, that little bottle had a decided purpose.