Whew, it’s been a week (or two.) Anybody else experiencing an election hangover? For all my grand ambitions about healthy momentum, my schedule completely fell apart over the course of days of counting and waiting (and repeatedly listening to this Turkish drummer’s interpretation of the Ievan Polkka, as discovered via this meme.)
Regardless of the cause, my sleep schedule’s out of whack, my exercise routine non-existent, and my pledge to consistently eat vegetables forgotten. I woke up at 7:30am this morning because Sam had his weekly Turkish lesson (yes, he’s the best!) and then proceeded to stay in bed until noon, as if I were back in college with no responsibilities.
I’ve realized that when things get stressful, I tend to let myself fall out of routines in the name of self-care and being kind to myself. Not beating yourself up for failing to meet your ordinary standards is, of course, critical, but in practice this tends to mean letting myself eat junk and skip workouts and stay up too late refreshing Twitter. None of that is productive, and instead of giving me any sort of lasting comfort, these behaviors actually end up making me feel worse. It’s cliché, but annoyingly, mood does really follow action, and if I want to feel good, I need to use routine as a proactive measure - not just a preventive one.
My goal is to do a “hard reset” this week and dive back into 6am wakeups and yoga and reading, hopefully aided by the fact that we’ve gone into pre-Thanksgiving quarantine so we can spend the day with a family member who’s also in NorCal. Having done the quarantine routine a few times now, I’ve planned strategically to give us things to look forward to: specifically, by scheduling no-contact delivery of a coffee cinnamon roll from Astranda Bakery, which I have been ogling on Instagram for months, and the “chili crab experience” from Dabao Singapore, which, again, see prior explanation about Instagram and ogling.
General lack of healthy habits aside, the past two weeks have been exciting food-wise. I’ve loved getting to work through my two newest cookbooks, Leela Punyaratabandhu’s Simple Thai Food and Nik Sharma’s The Flavor Equation. The first recipe I ended up making from the latter was the broccolini with chickpea pancakes and Indo-Sichuan sauce, mostly because I’ve been wanting to try Indo-Chinese food for months after seeing Khushbu Shah post about Gobi Manchurian and Hakka noodles (you guessed it, on Instagram) months ago.
Each element was delicious, and while I probably won’t eat them in this exact combination again, I’ve already applied Nik’s method of raising broccolini on a rack for better air circulation to great effect in my general roasting adventures, specifically alongside a dry-brined, reverse seared, double-cut pork chop from Ballerina Farm that had the most glorious and delicious fat cap.
If I might jump on my pork soapbox for a moment, I am now an evangelist for cooking pork to at most medium, 145F. This is now officially deemed safe by the USDA, and coupled with really good quality pork makes for meat that is ten times more delicious than the bone-dry pork chops and tenderloin you may have been eating. Do not let outdated ideas of food safety keep you from optimum deliciousness! (And while I’m on the hot takes, fat on meat is delicious when cooked properly and you should just eat it instead of throwing it away.)
But truly, one of the pandemic-era food shifts I’m most grateful for is the change in ways I consume meat. You all know I’m a firm fan of Ballerina Farm out in Utah, which sells high-quality, mountain-raised pork and beef I can see happily running around on Instagram, but I now also source my other meats exclusively from local farms who attend the Stonestown farmer’s market, like Root Down Farm and Fallon Hills Ranch. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it feels extremely worthwhile to have meat that’s more ethically raised, and plus, if the price convinces us to eat less of it, that’s a net good for the environment too.
Speaking of Fallon Hills, I bought a lamb shank from them a few weekends ago and then proceeded to cook it in my instant pot with the flavors from hünkar beğendi, a Turkish dish of lamb on a bed of puréed eggplant. I did not have the energy to char the skins off a bunch of eggplant at that point in time so instead served it with mücver (zucchini fritters) and rice, and it provided exactly the nostalgia hit I was looking for.
The other item I bought from them on that trip was pork jowl, the cut that when cured is called guanciale and traditionally used in carbonara. So of course, a first attempt at actually making carbonara was in order. I survived with minimal scrambling thanks to Daniel Gritzer’s very thorough method on Serious Eats, and it was delicious, though personally I’d use double the meat next time.
Overall, it’s been a very noodle-heavy few weeks. I bought a block of tamarind pulp to make Nik Sharma’s Goan fish curry (also in The Flavor Equation, and also great) and then, after soaking it and squeezing out fresh tamarind paste, had a bunch left to use up. So, I figured it was time to finally try to make Pad Thai, as outlined in Simple Thai Food. The outcome tasted surprisingly close to what I’d get in a restaurant, errors in my noodle-soaking technique aside; I’d definitely make this again.
Emboldened, I moved on to my preferred Thai takeout order: Pad See-Ew. Leela is very honest in the recipe notes that it’s basically impossible to replicate this at home because home ranges simply do not get hot enough for the requisite charring. I also managed to overcook the noodles due to my lack of an adequate noodle straining basket dumping in too much water (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself) so they tore more than is ideal, but were delicious nonetheless. If you try this recipe, note that the video link is broken but can be found here, and that this definitely feeds two people comfortably as written.
Does anybody get near-constant ads for Fly By Jing on Instagram and Facebook? I am now grateful for them both because their products are great, but also because the recent batch of ads feature a peanut noodle recipe from Indulgent Eats that, true to the name, takes literally four minutes and is quite delicious, even if you neglect the scallions on top because you do not have it in you to chop anything. I’ve officially added this to my make-when-wiped list (which I outlined on Twitter a few days ago, if you need it.)
Just so nobody thinks I’m finally over my eggplant obsession (heresy!) I’ll share one new recipe that I really enjoyed: the soy-glazed eggplant donburi bowl from Just One Cookbook. It’s a little fussy but really delicious. If you make it, I’d definitely recommend using a cast-iron or nonstick skillet to fry the eggplant - it stuck horribly and never released when I first tried it in my stainless steel pan.
I’ve currently got a big batch of pork fat rendering away into lard in my slow cooker, and coconut caramels cooling on my countertop. The former is destined for Samin Nosrat’s flour tortillas and the latter is Yewande Komolafe’s recipe, destined to satisfy my craving for Chimes coconut caramels, which I was obsessed with in high school but don’t often find here. I did mine with just ground cardamom and a little flaky salt on top, and initial taste tests have deemed it very successful.
What’s on the menu next week? I’ve got a Ballerina Farm pork leg roast defrosting in the fridge, dry pot cauliflower on my mind to use up the rest of the pork jowl, and a little carton of heavy cream that’s destined specifically for Nik Sharma’s dal makhani from The Flavor Equation. Two separate people have now recommended this New York Times recipe for miso-peanut butter cookies, so maybe I’ll finally cave. And there are bags full of cilantro and parsley in my crisper drawers, so it’s probably time to revisit Sohla’s piyaju, which I never add zucchini to and really love. Stay tuned!
Reading-wise, I’ve been working my way through some really excellent fantasy - specifically Foundryside and its sequel, Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. (Thanks for all the stellar recommendations, Joelle!) I’d highly recommend any of them if you need a really immersive novel right now. I also read and quite enjoyed Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev, and am very much in the market for more romance novels, so hit me with your recommendations!
That’s all for now, folks! In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below. Stay home and stay safe!
So many new recipes pinned!! I just wanted to also say if you have any guanciale left over, my favorite sauce bucatini all'amatriciana uses it -- it is probably the only dish I consistently miss since I've been meat-free for 4 years!