It's beginning to feel a lot like... normal?
Ramp Week, oven-fried artichokes, and musings on re-entry
Hi, friends. I’m writing to you this week from Vermont, which is currently extremely green, very warm, and full of mosquitoes (though thankfully no cicadas.) We flew East last week to attend the wedding of two of our closest friends, which was magical on multiple counts, one being the quick transition from minimal human contact to getting to hug multiple vaccinated friends.
I’ve written before about how being stuck at home made me realize that I might be more introverted than I thought I was, but it also fooled me into forgetting how enriching in-person time with good people is. Making the transition back to “normal” socializing isn’t without its anxieties, but I’d be kidding myself if I said those anxieties (am I talking too much? was that inappropriate to say? is this outfit unflattering?) didn’t exist pre-pandemic. Mostly, I left the wedding weekend brimming with energy, emotional both about my friends and their marriage and all the kind, smart, fun people I’m so fortunate to know.
Our time out here in Vermont has been mostly taken up with a flurry of wedding planning tasks, capped off with some long-overdue family time. Other than work and planning, I’m enjoying using the hours before my West Coast colleagues have hopped on Slack to go for long walks, catch up on work that requires focused attention, and re-start my morning reading routine. We’re coming back out here for the later part of the summer, pre-wedding, and I can’t wait.
I recently mentioned to Sam’s parents that we don’t really get ramps in California, which means that every spring I swipe through endless Instagram stories from New York’s culinary elite and grow progressively more jealous. Within a week, a box stuffed with THREE POUNDS of ramps arrived on our doorstep - yes, I have the best almost-in-laws!
They don’t keep, so we had our first (maybe one day annual?) Ramp Week™ and ate them in a new preparation every day: sautéed in bacon fat, stir fried with Chinese sausage, garlic and chillies for a riff on dry pot cauliflower, turned into escabeche alongside a dry-aged steak, and finally turned into a longer-lasting pesto. Big thanks to Eva, Alex and Erika for the recipe suggestions!
Last time I went to Costco, I picked up two massive jars of artichoke hearts destined for a very specific purpose: making oven-fried artichokes (pictured above with the ramp escabeche.) I’ve been striving for a protein-and-two-veg dinner configuration lately, but the problem with that is usually that if you’ve got nothing in your crisper, you’re pretty much sunk. No longer! If you have oil-packed artichoke hearts, you just dump them on a tray and bake until crispy – if there’s any water in the liquid, you’ll have to drain them on paper towels first. Either way, they’re delicious and involve minimal effort.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m obsessed with cabbage - it’s delicious, versatile, and keeps for ages in the crisper. One of my favorite Turkish salads is a kind of quick-pickled red cabbage, and so I was thrilled when my sister sent me this recipe and I realized how easy it is to make. For those who don’t speak the language, you shred ½ a head of red cabbage, toss it with 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1/2 tbsp salt (I start with less of both and build up) and then massage aggressively until it starts to wilt and turns dark. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and lemon juice to taste and that’s it!
I’m grateful to my friend Sarah for recommending I try Ali Slagle’s black pepper and turmeric chicken, which will be a weeknight staple for as long as asparagus season lasts. It takes less than 20 minutes to make and is beautiful on the plate, especially when accompanied by a purple sweet potato roasted a la Lucas Sin. Don’t skip the rice vinegar or soy sauce at the end (I use both) - it adds much needed complexity.
I’m finally feeling comfortable eating out again, and we had some pretty special meals to kick off this renaissance. So far I’ve been most impressed by Ernest, where we did their tasting menu and left absolutely stuffed. I’d happily go back for the live scallop ceviche, beef tartare with ikura, and the soft serve ice cream studded with honeycomb candy, drizzled with honey and finished with a dusting of bee pollen. Highly instagrammable, yes, but also extremely delicious.
After spending a few weeks both re-reading and re-watching The Expanse (no regrets, the books and show are both excellent) I’m finally making headway on new reads:
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis is ostensibly about the Trump transition team but mostly about the amazing work done by career civil servants with some anecdotes about the former administration thrown in. Quick and engaging, though it stays pretty high-level.
Trish Doller’s Float Plan is a highly readable slow-burn romance with some well-handled discussion of grief; mostly, it made me want to learn to sail and bum around the Caribbean.
Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a solid successor to their fantastic debut novel, Red, White and Royal Blue. The basic premise: girl moves to NYC, acquires a subway crush, realizes said subway crush is not quite of this time. RWRB’s focus on US & UK politics was more compelling to me than One Last Stop’s millenials-in-NYC plot, but I’ll still be re-reading this one.
Sanjena Sathian’s Gold Diggers follows Neil and Anita, two Indian-American teenagers struggling under the weight of their immigrant parents’ ambitions for them, who turn to a magical elixir made of stolen gold to fuel their success. It’s funny, occasionally very dark, and extremely readable.
That’s all for now, folks. See you next month — and in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts via Instagram, Twitter, or the comment box.