Brownies from a box and the future of New York Restaurants
Plus, Hanukkah treats and other comforts for the end of 2020
Welcome back to This Needs Hot Sauce! We’re midway through Hanukkah and I’m enjoying the ritual of nightly Menorah lightings. I’ve gotten much more into candles this year and they add a little novelty to the same space I spent most of my time in.
If you’re also feeling a little weary right about now, I’m here to recommend shortcuts. Bake brownies from a box, make a dinner assembled mostly of snacks, try cereal for breakfast. Things are tough and there’s no gold star for doing everything the hard way.
Today, I’m also thinking about New York’s restaurants, which were ordered to closed indoor dining with little notice (the announcement came on Friday). While I never supported indoor dining, this closure, without rent relief and expanded unemployment, will mean permanent closures for many restaurants and hard(er) times for restaurant workers. Scrolling Instagram this weekend, I saw many restaurants urging diners to come in one final time. Many are closing outdoor dining along with indoor, sticking to takeout and delivery in these frigid times. Others announced “hibernations,” essentially putting the business on ice and hoping for a sunnier atmosphere next spring. It’s devastating and a government failure. Consumers cannot solve this. If you’d like to feel less powerless, order takeout and tip well, buy merch, and giftcards and send money to restaurant workers via GoFundMe or Venmo. And call your representatives and Cuomo’s office.
If you look at the contact tracing numbers Cuomo released, indoor gatherings are by far the largest source of Covid spread, far eclipsing indoor dining or gyms. Don’t take this closure (which was enacted based on hospital capacity) as an invitation to have dinner parties and holiday gatherings. Indoor socializing must be extremely limited and is not safe. Your sacrifice makes things easier for healthcare workers and essential workers. If you’re in a pod, frequent conversations about risk mitigation (nothing is risk free) and testing are a must. And masked walks in the park aren’t too bad if you put on enough layers (masks are actually very comfortable in the winter). And if you want a glimpse of a different version of 2020, read Julia’s piece on countries that don’t have Covid anymore.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
I’ve gotten into at home breakfast burritos lately. I always include scrambled eggs, some kind of bean (refried or smashed and seasoned black beans) and shredding cheese (ideally cheddar but this weekend I had manchego). The key is wrapping the burritos on a big sheet of foil and then warming them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Unwrap and eat with hot sauce or salsa, ideally in front of some Saturday morning tv.
I was in a the mood for pasta but didn’t want tomato sauce. I found this cavatappi recipe from noted pasta fan Adam Roberts and gave it ago. The sundried tomatoes were so good (mine weren’t packed in oil but I rehydrated them with a little oil a few hours before I started cooking) and I swapped the beans for some veggies (broccoli and kale) because I wasn’t feeling beans. Cavatappi is such a cheerful pasta shape and it was a lovely dinner.
I made Zucchini Latkes a few days before the start of Hanukkah (our secret). They’re so good and easier than potato (zucchini is much faster to grate). My last bit of creme fraiche was a perfect topping. I’ll be making potato latkes later this week.
Brownies are a joyful food (there are a few articles about brownies further down because last week included national brownie day). I grew up on the Ghiradelli mix, which my parents bought in bulk at Costco. Any brand will do. Add water, oil, and an egg and serve with vanilla ice cream to kick things up a notch.
Snack dinners always feel like a treat and they’re fun to arrange. Julia and I enjoyed cheese (manchego and gouda from Wegman’s excellent cheese department), casteveltrano olives, and hummus with carrots and homemade pita chips. Drizzle pieces of pita with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Toast at 350 for 10-15 minutes. I use my enamel tray all the time and it’s perfect here for both making the chips and serving.
Something to order:
The Kimchi fried rice at 19 Café is such a staple. It comes with a thin omelet and is enough for leftovers. Usually it has chicken so ask for a veg version.
Dale had to run some errands and brought back Scarr’s pizza. I hadn’t had it in forever because I never leave Brooklyn but it’s so good! We ate the leftovers the next day with Red Clay Hot Honey, which would be a great stocking stuffer.
My sister and I sent our parents a three pack from Kitá Wines, which are made by Tara Gomez, a Native American woman in the Santa Ynez valley (read more about her here). I can’t wait to try them at some point.
For my pasta on Saturday, I wanted a fun wine (and an excuse to take a walk) so I placed a curbside pickup order at Bibber and Bell and got this orange wine that I had tried years ago at a restaurant. So good.
For Hanukkah, I was delighted to receive a milk frother! So far, I’ve used it with vanilla almond milk to perk up my coffee (I was so sick of my usual). Any other non dairy suggestions for frothing? One it gets warmer, I’m so ready for cold foam.
Something to read:
The Soul Food restaurants of Paris
How venmo and cashapp upended a century old charity model
Checking with restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty as she navigates Covid and takeout
Korsha Wilson shared these findings from a burial site of enslaved Africans in Charleston. It reveals so much about their life and diets.
A Jewish dating app named after lox
Latke recipes from very trusted sources
Also, latke egg sandwiches. Would you try?
If you’re looking for last minute gifts, you can’t go wrong with a spice blend.
A longread about chewy brownies and their elusiveness. And Eater staffers share their favorite brownie recipes.
My bicultural comfort food is the spicy McChicken sandwich
The lookbook visits Meme’s diner on its last weekend
How kitchen islands became a must in luxury homes (someday I will have one)
The lack of diversity among registered dietitians is a real problem. I was glad to see Jess from Food Heaven quoted in this piece. Their recipe episode with Rahanna Bisseret Martinez was awesome.
Key takeaways from a wine industry diversity fair
If you’ve wondered how mutual aid works in practice, this piece follows a New Jersey group. I’ve also documented my trips to my local Free Fridge, where I do a weekly cleaning shift, on Instagram.
Ann Friedman is an independent newsletter legend and I loved reading about how she’s changing her business in 2020
Former Bon Appetit employee Ryan Walker-Hartshorn-Omphroy shared two important threads about how BA misrepresents Black culture and recipes and how, based on her experience, using Marcus Samuelsson as a guest editor wasn’t a great choice. Ryan is a star and I’m so excited for whatever she does next.
If you’re struggling with keeping your house/life in order these days, check out Struggle Care, a very compassionate resource. I also love the founder’s Tiktoks.
Speaking of TikTok, I see so many hot chocolate bombs on my fyp. If you have molds at home, you can give them a shot.
The Flip the Senate Bake Sale looked like a huge success! You can still donate or enter the raffle until 5 pm today (12/14)
Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic
Chopped Champion Kia Damon Wants to Feed the People. I heard Kia on a panel at the end of February and she was wise beyond her years (she just turned 26!)
Baking challah got me through 2020
This man dreamed about a weird meal and decided to share it with the world
Crime wave hits bodegas, threatening a pandemic lifeline.
Finally, I was honored to speak with Amanda Dell of Jewish Food Society about Hanukkah. You can read the Q&A here or watch our conversation on IGTV. Jewish Food Society has a new podcast Schmaltzy and the Hanukkah episode is so moving. They also have an incredible archive of Jewish recipes and stories from around the world.
Later this week, I’m sharing a Q&A with my friend Dani Cadena, who moved to France in the middle of this pandemic (follow her for serious wanderlust and style inspiration). We’ll be talking mushroom foraging, life in lockdown, and what she misses about New York. I love doing these Q&As and plan to continue them in 2021. You can always let me know if there’s someone you want to hear from and I’m so grateful to paid subscribers for making them possible.
Next Monday is the last newsletter of 2020. I’ll be sharing my best meals of 2020 and yours! Reply to this email with your top meals (home cooked or otherwise) and I’ll share them next week. Feel free to include pictures as well!
Hang in there and eat well! If you’re enjoying This Needs Hot Sauce, spread the love and share it with a friend.