It's a good week for cupcakes
Plus, the dangerous return of indoor dining, Super Bowl commercials, and a look inside Bon Appetit
It’s another chilly Monday in New York and indoor dining is reopening on Friday. This is a bad idea, especially considering the new variants and the current rates. Helen Rosner wrote a persuasive argument against indoor dining (support the New Yorker union!). Restaurant workers were made eligible for the vaccine at the last minute via a Cuomo press conference, leading to a scramble to get appointments before the reopening. None of them will have the full protection of two doses before serving unmasked diners on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t have to be this way, but our government has failed, time and time again.
In the similar but different category, Door Dash and Uber Eats both ran Super Bowl commercials about supporting local businesses (the Door Dash one weaponized the appeal of Sesame Street and Daveed Diggs and Uber Eats got Cardi B). Both Uber Eats and Door Dash, which owns Caviar, do not support local businesses, rather they charge exorbitant fees and refuse to classify their workers as employees. Spending millions on commercials in a year where so many restaurants have failed, in part due to the fees charged by these services, is gross. Let the commercials be your reminder to call your favorite restaurants or order directly from their websites.
Returning to workplace rights, Reply All released the first in a four part series on Bon Appetit, told exclusively by former employees of color. The episode, which begins in 2010 when Adam Rapoport was hired as the magazine’s editor in chief, is a tough and recommended listen (it may stir up trauma for anyone who’s been in a toxic workplace). Bon Appetit isn’t the only toxic media company or workplace and so much needs to change. It’s also painful to think about how many stories we didn’t hear because of the white supremacy at play (it’s always a good time to support independent Black owned media like Whetstone and For the Culture).
I know that’s a heavy introduction, but I can’t stop thinking about these issues and the links between them. On a lighter note, my first cooking class is this Thursday. We’re making a cozy winter dinner perfect for snowy days. I can’t wait to see you there!
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
I got a loaf of sourdough bread and have been making all kinds of toast. I made fancy toast with goat cheese, mint, honey, and flakey salt and avocado toast with za’atar. I froze the rest of the bread for future toasts.
On Saturday night, I turned a slightly floppy bunch of broccoli into this delicious sesame tofu with broccoli. The sauce is so good and thickens nicely to coat the tofu. Serve it over rice.
For the Super Bowl, I wanted to make some kind of dessert. Instead of my usual cookies, I made cupcakes from a very compelling Joy the Baker recipe, which turns 1 stick of butter into 12 frosted cupcakes. The recipe worked perfectly and the cupcakes are delicious. The frosting is sweet, the cake less so, and the sprinkles add the perfect amount of whimsy. Make these for Valentine’s Day and drop them outside your friends’ doors. Cupcakes are back.
Other things I made: quesadillas with goat cheese instead of cheddar, lots of soft scrambled eggs with toast, crispy chickpeas with broccoli and a lemon tahini dressing (a riff on this recipe), a green smoothie with ginger and mint (add mint to your smoothies, it’s so refreshing).
Tonight, I’m trying the TikTok pasta with feta and tomatoes. I think I’ll add roasted garlic like this version. Have you made it? Any suggestions?
Something to order:
Dale texted me asking if I wanted tacos from Los Tacos while I was teaching. I said yes, of course. About 40 minutes later, the tacos arrived and I discovered he had also ordered nachos! The best surprise. Their nachos are well layered and include lots of pickled jalapeños, which is ideal. They also have a mini size perfect for one person.
Julia, Julianne and I got dinner in Sage’s backyard on Thursday. It was almost 40 degrees and we were the only people in the yard, which is partially enclosed. It’s a set up I wouldn’t be comfortable with if it were full, but it worked that night. Sage’s green curry is so delicious and they have a good beer list too. I also order takeout frequently.
For dinner on Friday, Dale and I picked up food from Casa Ora. Their guacamole with plantain chips is some of the best (they packed it with an extra layer of plastic to keep the color) and the empanadas are so good.
Julia was in Greenpoint to see Sam and brought the best gift back: an almond croissant and half a baguette from Bakeri. Their baked goods are Paris quality (Dani and Paul, who now live in France, always got their baguettes there). If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, stop by.
Dale takes wings very seriously and yesterday was a big day for wings. On Saturday, I picked up wings at Bar Coastal on the Upper East Side (I was in the city for work anyway). If you’re not eating your wings immediately, he recommends getting the sauce on the side so you can reheat them properly in the oven and keep the wings crispy. We also got excellent bite sized corn fritters and a veggie burger for me.
Something to read:
Alicia Kennedy on natural peanut butter (and more)
An ever-growing list of Black owned wine shops across the country (I love Vyneyard Wines in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, owned by André Mack)
The case for buying a tofu press
I donated to support Kia Feeds the People. Who wants to join me?
Important updates on the De Cecco Bucatini shortage
What is it about the vegan caesar? It’s one of my favorite salads.
What to eat on a soft food diet? Ice cream
Pasta to match your inner turmoil
The absurd logic of internet recipe hacks
Lessons learned in one year of the Anchor Brewing Union
It Took Leaving the Restaurant Industry for Me to Understand How Wrong I Was to Stay Silent About Its Abuse
I want to try Danny’s Nut Butter and love the founder’s story (He wants his products to be in Key Food so they’re accessible to his community).
How our relationships affect what we eat
Undocumented restaurant workers should be prioritized for the Covid vaccine
Huge reminder that Covid is easier to get than ever. Rachel and her girlfriend are extremely cautious and still caught it. Read their story here.
ICYMI, I wrote about my experience with the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A great update: my grandparents in California finally got their first dose on Saturday!
The inspiring story of Madeline Maldonado, one of New York’s top sommeliers
Appropriately, Samin Nosrat’s final column for NYT magazine is about beans
Now, on to beans and how we make them. I’m so pleased this community is full of fellow bean lovers!
Alicia sticks to canned beans: Beans from scratch — not worth it. I've tried on more than one occasion and they've come out too firm. I did it because I was trying to save money, but canned beans are almost as cheap with none of the effort. Bean-related: this is my favorite soup lately. My partner hates celery so we subbed in a green pepper and I think it's an improvement!
Lizzi’s bean and vegetable pasta is so good: I don't make beans from scratch but I aspire to and have several dried beans I keep telling myself I'll soak. My favorite canned beans are cannellini beans, rinsed and roasted with garlic, lemon and sauteed broccoli rabe and maybe some pasta- it reminds me of being home and my mom and I frequently text whenever we're eating this. I also love chickpeas roasted in the oven with tons of spices (including the B&B sumac you got), added to all sorts of dishes.
Zoe has some very good refried beans tips: As for beans, I've definitely never made them from scratch. But after spending copious amounts of time with my (Mexican) boyfriend and his parents during Covid, I realized doctoring up a can of any type of beans (typically refried in their house and their favorite brand comes in a bag not a can) is an absolute game changer. Options include a mix of sauteed and raw onion (gives flavor but the raw gives some texture), some canned chipotles, garlic, and even consomme!
Chrissy uses her Instant Pot for quicker beans: BEANS! When I'm feeling ambitious, I make beans from scratch in my Instant Pot - no soaking required! PRO: it's very fast compared to the stove. CON: I'm always afraid I will accidentally explode my house. (So far, so good.) A few weeks ago I risked it all for this Chickpea Piccata, which is a long-time fave!
Liz and her love of refried beans are in good company: BEANS! Since the pandemic I’ve ONLY used dry beans, which i both soak and cook in my Instant Pot (#storagespaceprivilege). I mainly cook pintos which I turn into refrieds at least twice a month. But I also have a great black bean soup recipe that is a good WFH lunch staple.
Julianne puts her canned beans to good use: I love making chili!!! I also just generally keep a lot of black beans in my pantry for soups, salads, or the promise of a potential nacho night. I've recently added chickpeas to my "always have on hand" stockpile and it's been great! I've roasted them as a snack (which you taught me) or for salads, or I'll use them in soups.
Michelle is an avid dried beans fan: Very passionate dried bean fan over here!!!! I definitely keep a few cans on hand just in case but it’s so easy to soak and cook dried beans and they taste so much better. A tip - freeze soaked and drained beans for quick use. And save the cooking liquid to add to soups! Ruth Reichl has an amazing black bean recipe that I love in her My Kitchen Year cookbook. You cook them on the stove with lard or bacon fat and epazote which cuts down the, erm, gassiness of the beans. So good in a taco or brown rice bowl with cheese and salsa.
This week, I’d love to hear your diner orders, inspired by this tweet from Carmen Maria Machado. I’d get a grilled cheese and a seltzer or a spinach and feta omelette with toast, well done potatoes, and lots of diner coffee. I spent a lot of time at diners growing up, especially in high school. They’re the best.
When the pandemic is over, what will you get at the diner? Reply to this email and let me know! I’ll share the answers next week.
Stay safe and have a good week. I hope to see you in class (bring a friend) and so appreciate your support.
On Thursday, I’m writing about Valentine’s Day and ways to show love through food for paid subscribers.
So many good things in your newsletter! (As always, I seriously look forward to them.)
My partner and I started our dating years frequenting diners (its easy to eat vegetarian) and we definitely miss them. Our first date was pie and coffee at a now, sadly, covid-closed-forever diner.
My go to order would either be a grilled cheese with grilled onions and pickle, fries and a coke, OR a veggie omelet, hashbrowns/potatoes, and one pancake.
Also- I just made a version of the baked feta Tik-Tok pasta and it was delish and hold up. I was hoping it wouldn't disappoint since I love feta and tomatoes! Can't wait to see how yours goes.