You Need a Non-Boring Salad
My signature recipe ahead
Welcome to This Needs Hot Sauce (And Other Food Thoughts), a newsletter sharing something to cook, somewhere to eat out, and something to read. I'm a native New Yorker who spends far too much time thinking and reading about food. I love helping people find better things to eat and solving problems, so let me know how I can help. Let's dive in.
This week has no photos because Tiny Letter is not cooperating so please use your imaginations and bear with me, I tried lots of work arounds.
This was a weird pre-holiday week that felt both long and short but it included some really good meals and felt like the beginning of the end of 2017. I've been trying to resist the feeling that this year is over by reminding myself how much we can still do in these final 5/6 weeks. Cooking is a really tangible way to measure that and so is entertaining and spending time with family and friends. It won't change everything but we have to start somewhere.
Without further ado,
Something to make:
Next time you're making a cheese plate, consider pairing pretzel bread, aged gouda, and mustard (inspired by Emma).
I brought cranberry sauce (recipe from last week's newsletter) and a salad to a Friendsgiving last night. Holiday salads are often filler, something to assuage guilt over all the forms of bread/potato on the plate. But this salad is really good. That's because it had lots going on and because we served it on its own as a first course after a dope baked brie appetizer.
Everyone ate their vegetables before diving into the main cause which included homemade rolls, Hasselback potatoes au gratin, stuffing and really good creamed spinach (this meal was basically heaven).
Here's the salad, which had people going back for seconds:
Roasted Grape and Butternut Squash Kale Salad
1 minced garlic clove
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (they called for sherry vinegar but that is too fancy for me)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt & Pepper
Mix this all together till it's emulsified. You can do this ahead of time.
1 small butternut squash
1 big bunch of kale (I used purple kale and Tuscan kale)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
Shaved parmesan (1/4 cup)
2 cups seedless red grapes
Spices: 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 400. Peel and cut up a butternut squash into small pieces (about 1-2 inches wide). Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Combine spices (you might need more depending on the size of the squash) and sprinkle most of the mixture on top. Roast for about 40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until the squash is tender but not falling apart.
Prepare the grapes the same way, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining spices. Roast at 400 until the grapes burst open, about 15 minutes.
Wash and dry kale and cut into ribbons by rolling the leaves and cutting strips. Put kale in the serving bowl and add 1/2 the dressing. Massage the kale and give it a few minute to chill with the dressing.
In the meantime, cut or shave strips of parmesan cheese and toast some pumpkin seeds (I didn't measure but maybe 1/4-1/3 cup) in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes (watch them so they don't burn).
Once your toppings are prepared and cooled, add them to the kale along with the remaining dressing. Serve at room temperature.
I spent a night at my parent's house and we did, in fact, make linguine with clams, riffing on this Bon Appetit recipe. Let me say that toasted breadcrumbs are never a bad addition.
Something to order:
I had a great night exploring Williamsburg this week, stopping for happy hour at Fresh Kills Bar and then grabbing oysters at Walter Foods. Fresh Kills has a fun happy hour with a few classic cocktail preparations where you select your favorite booze. Drinks come with metal straws, very hip.
If you're looking to impress someone, call ahead and add yourself to the list at La Milagrosa, a mezcal speakeasy that you enter through a laundromat (thanks Julianne for letting me in on this). It's cash only and perfectly not packed, rare for a weekend night plus you'll feel part of an exclusive club. Keep it on the DL.
I'm a pretty devoted lunch packer (see below) but wanted to shout out Inday, a not-too-far from my office option, with fresh Indian inspired bowls (because all food comes in bowls now). You can get a decent sized lunch for about $10 and the baked falafel is good, as is the charcoal eggplant and cauliflower rice (wow this sentence got insufferable fast, huh?). They do have a decent housemade hot sauce in really poorly designed dispenser containers so ask for a side to avoid messing with that.
Also in the office neck of the woods, Obica is a pretty good happy hour spot in Flatiron. The Italian owner pours a decent house red and there are $5 snacks and $6 wines. It's spacious and the bar is well designed. I wouldn't rush here for a full meal but would love to go back between 5 and 7.
Something to read:
The New York Times did a great series of essays on what Thanksgiving means to different food personalities. Masha Gessen's stood out, as did this one.
The Splendid Table is one of my favorite podcasts and their Thanksgiving Special: Turkey Confidential is an annual treat. It's a live call-in show that is so enjoyable even if you're not cooking or eating turkey. Highly recommend.
Only vaguely food related but this essay about mourning in Paris by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is beautiful, like everything she writes.
NBA players are faster than ever...and increasingly vegan.
A friend has a goal of packing more salads for lunch. The requirements: they can't be soggy or boring.
A: Packing lunches is one of the best ways to save money and eat healthier. It's also a total drag sometimes. My rules for lunch packing:
-Never eat the same thing for lunch and dinner. I'd rather eat scrambled eggs for dinner than any version of my lunch.
-Give yourself at least one day a week to buy lunch (and find something you actually like to make that day special).
- Texture is everything.
-Pack enough food. If you're used to packing pasta or something heavier for lunch, use a bigger container to pack your salad. It's less dense and you want room to mix things in and above all, you want to actually be full.
-When in doubt, add avocado. I buy an avocado and bring 1/3 each day (cut with the skin on) in a Ziploc bag or separate container. It won't get that brown and then you can reheat your lunch without warming the avocado because warm avocado is gross.
-Be generous with your definition of salad.
-Keep some helpers at work. I take free Sir Kensington's mustard packets whenever I'm walking out of Whole Foods and keep red pepper flakes in the office fridge. A mini tabasco or sriracha helps too.
-Keep this in mind.
-Small containers are your friend. Order a few on amazon so you can pack dressings, toppings, herbs, lemon wedges without a mess.
Sweet potato miso broccoli bowls (I made a very loose adaptation of this, usually combining quinoa, kale, broccoli, sweet potato and the addictive dressing. Kimchi and avocado are perfecting toppings)
Thai Quinoa Crunch Salad with the addition of kale (add the lime juice, peanuts, scallions, and cilantro each morning when you pack the lunch so it stays crunchy)
Not a salad but a veggie-forward lunch: Spaghetti squash tacos via the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Pack the filling in a container and wrap any leftover tortillas in foil to warm up there.
When in doubt, I often bring kale, roasted vegetables, and chickpeas and add toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch, avocado and a tahini dressing (lemon juice, garlic, tahini, salt & pepper, and a little bit of water to make it less thick). The best part of the salad is how flexible it is. Throw in the 1/4 head of cauliflower you roasted, some cashews, a chopped up pear or apple, whatever. As long as these flavors aren't horribly clashing, you'll have something mildly interesting and healthy for your well-deserved lunch break.
While I freely admit that a packed lunch won't always blow your mind, neither will most midtown lunch options. So I try to embrace lunch as a way to try new things, buy seasonal produce, and save lots of money to eat at fun places on nights and weekends. Any tips or recipes you swear by?
Have a great week full of good meals and deep breaths. Please let me know if you have any questions/end of year anxieties you'd like to share. I'm grateful for the support you've shown me and this newsletter so far and can't wait to see what's next.
Happy eating and thanks for reading.