One Meal at a Time
Plus, your favorite hot sauces & my enduring love for cream cheese
Rabbit, rabbit. It’s March! I woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed by the week ahead. On Thursday, I got my second dose of the Covid vaccine (you can read about my experience with the first dose here) and I was down for the count till Saturday. I took it easy, slept a lot, and finally have my energy back. I’m extremely grateful to be vaccinated and know that’s more important than any to-do list, but it’s still hard to turn off that productivity enforcer in my brain.
My plan for the week is to take things one step at a time. As Katie Hawkins Gear wrote in My Sweet Dumb Brain, the anniversary effect is real. If whatever you were doing or canceling or worrying about this time last year is on your mind, you’re not alone. I’ll share more pandemic reflections in a few weeks, but wanted to acknowledge the weight of this year and the grief we are collectively carrying.
One thing I’m extremely excited for is our baked pasta class on Wednesday. Pasta is a huge source of joy for me and an easy baked pasta checks all the dinner boxes. This is going to be a fun one—sign up here (if you’re un/underemployed and want to come, just shoot me an email).
I also want to bring attention to the rising violence against Asian Americans (the incidents this past week in New York are heartbreaking). You can find more information and ways to help in the Something to Read section.
Now, let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
After I mentioned quesadillas with beans last week, someone asked me whether I put the beans inside or on the side. To clarify: I take a large tortilla (usually the fajita size flour ones), warm it up in a pan and then spread either refried beans or smashed black beans over half of it. Then I cover the beans with a layer of shredded cheese, fold it, let it brown and then flip. If your smashed black beans are kind of thick, sometimes I do a layer of cheese both over and under the beans as a glue for them. One can of beans will yield about 4-6 quesadillas depending on how you stuff them. The one below also has cowboy caviar, a corn salsa from Trader Joe’s.
I made hamantaschen on Tuesday with my students and then with Julia and Julianne. Here’s the dough recipe, which performed well in a bake off. For fillings, I loved this cheesecake filling (I made a half batch) on its own, with jam, and with chocolate chips. Sprinkles were fun, too.
Since childhood, I’ve loved cream cheese. I used to eat all of the cream cheese off my bagel and then ask for more (I don’t know how parents keep a straight face). I have some cream cheese leftover from hamantaschen baking and am loving it on sourdough toast.
In class on Wednesday, we made sour cream and onion dip and hummus with pita chips and salad. Pita chips and onion dip are two things that I never thought to make at home, but now I wouldn’t even think of buying. They’re so easy and so much better made at home.
I lost my appetite post vaccine for a few days. It came back in time for breakfast on Saturday: frozen waffles and scrambled eggs. Nostalgia is powerful.
Something to order:
Lucy’s vegan ginger chicken pho is so good. The “chicken” is made in house and so flavorful and they package the noodles, broth and toppings separately for delivery.
The warm weather on Saturday was a balm for the soul. Dale and I got a late lunch at De Mole in Williamsburg (the outdoor dining is kind of enclosed but it pretty empty at 4 pm). It was so good, from the chips and guac, to the margaritas, to the enchiladas divorciados (half red salsa, half green). I’ll definitely be back.
My latest Sunday ritual is dropping off compost in McGolrick Park (NBK Compost is the best and you can read more about my compost journey, which got interrupted due to Covid, here). I followed the drop off with a cappuccino and cookie from Variety, which has lovely outdoor seating.
Something to read:
The challenge of the plum (worth reading despite the needless hamantaschen slander in the first sentence)
Von Diaz’s recipe for smoky, simmered beans, looks delicious
Alicia’s newsletter on future and what kind of innovation gets celebrated (and funded) is so important, especially considering this (they took down the site). Also don’t miss this week’s newsletter on identity.
My beloved North Brooklyn Mutual Aid is doing a merch fundraiser. Preorder by March 14th to support the many initiatives.
Now, let’s talk about your favorite hot sauces! I don’t have space for all the responses but know that I appreciated them all and wish I had enough space to order them all to sample! Hot honey and Cholula also got a lot of love (you can’t go wrong with either).
Noah’s got a clear favorite: Best hot sauce in the world is Yucatan Sunshine. Super tasty, a little heat, I use it for literally everything.
Adam is a newer hot sauce fan: My favorite hot sauces are myriad. Here is a sampling:
Desert Pepper's Salsa del Rio on my eggs every morning.
Anything from Humble House - I probably eat their Habanero & Aji Amarillo Hot Sauce daily, usually on my lunch.
And then I will mix it up with either Heartbeat Sauce's Pineapple Habanero and/or Small Axe Pepper's The Bronx Green Hot Sauce.
And then any others are mixed in as I am still figuring out what I like (I also, like you, enjoy Valentina Brand, usually at my local restaurants, back when we could eat in restaurants).
I am decidedly not a heat-seeker. More of a mild-to-medium appreciator and flavor-hound. And I have The Hot Ones and Heatonist to thank for my late-in-life love of hot sauce (I am 52 and a recent convert).
Stephanie’s household found their perfect hot sauce while traveling: I'm not a hot sauce aficionado, but my spouse and housemate are. Their favorite hot sauce, hands down, is The Pepper Plant, Original California Style hot pepper sauce. My spouse was on a business trip in CA, pre-Covid, and stumbled on this sauce at a breakfast diner. Now we order at least a box of it every year, sometimes two boxes. It can (and does!) go on everything in our house.
Shelley shared an Idaho favorite: This is my absolute favorite all around hot sauce - eggs, pizza, I'd probably put it on practically anything. I have met the owner a few times and it's made 4-5 miles from my house.
Liz has convinced me that Austin is a hot sauce paradise: Here in Austin (where I’m luckily doing fine w/r/t power, heat, and water), there’s just an infinite number of hot sauces available for all needs. My number 1 favorite is the doña sauce from Tacodeli, a local chain taco spot. Many other restaurants also make a version, but Tacodeli is the O.G. Recently I discovered that Trader Joe’s is also selling a version (they call it “jalapeño sauce”) and it is everything I love about the Tacodeli original and I can have it in my house all the time!! My favorite standalone brand of hot sauces is Yellowbird, which is an Austin local brand and makes a variety of different flavors that are all great!
This week, inspired by my cream cheese toasts, I’d love to hear about your favorite toasts. What kind of bread do you use? What are you spreading? Sometimes I use two smaller pieces for some variety/sweet and savory action. Reply to this email with your favorite toasts and I’ll share the answers next week.
Paid subscribers support my work, get a discount on classes, and will receive a bonus edition on Thursday.
Have a good week and thank you for reading! Hope to see you in class on Wednesday.