It’s not often that things on TV are pretty much exactly the same in real life.
Last week I sat on a jury for a five-day trial. The defendant was accused of 24 counts of crime, including first-degree rape and possessing a weapon when he wasn’t allowed to possess a weapon.
(Fun fact: the defendant’s last crime was prosecuted by Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993. Federal drug charge.)
I have never sat on an actual jury; I have been called for jury duty three times in my life, and mostly it’s just lots of sitting around and watching movies like How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days and Avatar. This time was different, and I was quickly seated as Juror #4 by noon on my first day of reporting, then sent home until Monday when the trial would begin.
Everything about the trial was pretty much what it looks like on TV: the dramatic opening and closing statements, the cross examination, the witnesses getting testy with the defense attorney, and, finally, conflict (and resolution) in the deliberation room.
Time seemed strangely fluid as well; hours would pass in the courtroom in what seemed like minutes, but in the deliberation room, every minute was an agony of waiting. At the end of the day we would emerge from our windowless room, cram ourselves into the elevator, and then emerge at the corner of St. Paul and Lexington, blinking against the too-bright sunshine of the late afternoon, at the height of rush hour to crawl our way home.
Of all the things that stuck in my mind that week, one in particular stands out. Whenever the lawyers had to gather something or find something that meant the action had to pause briefly, they would say, “Court’s indulgence,” and the judge would nod, indicating that she was cool with the wait.
I don’t know why, but I love this saying. It’s a respectful request for permission to pause while you gather your thoughts, something we could all use every now and then.
One day when I came home it was stuck in my head like a mantra, playing over and over as I fed the dogs and made dinner. On that night, it was hot outside and the back door was open, letting in a feeble breeze (and lots of flies, which drives The Black Dog crazy, an admittedly short trip). It had been an especially long day, nine to five listening to a case about rape and gun violations, and I wasn’t particularly interested in making something complicated for dinner or turning on the stove.
Court’s indulgence: I remembered my preserved lemons, which were ready and waiting.
Court’s indulgence: There were some small, sweet yellow, red, and orange peppers in the crisper, along with half a red onion and some arugula that I wouldn’t even need to wash.
Court’s indulgence: A bomb shelter’s worth of canned beans in the coolness of the basement.
Et voila. Dinner, eaten with the court’s indulgence, on the balcony in the back of the house as the evening wore on and the sun sank low.
White Bean, Sweet Pepper, And Arugula Salad With Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon (rinse to remove salt and also strip away the squishy flesh)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup best-quality olive oil (it matters)
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper (I like a lot of pepper)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
One large red pepper, chopped, or five small multi-color pepper, chopped
1/2 large red onion, sliced
Handful of arugula per salad
Make things easy on yourself and mix this all in the same bowl. I used a medium-sized round white Corningware bowl.
Place first five ingredients in bowl and mix together. Add beans, peppers, and onions and stir to combine.
To serve, place a large handful of arugula in a bowl, then top with beans. If you feel the need, you can drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, but mix it all around and taste before you do that.
Beans are even better the next day, chilled and then brought to room temp before serving.
I certainly have the temperament for it – I am an introvert, and I over think everything. At a minimum I think writers need to be comfortable alone, stuck in their head for substantial periods of time.
But for as long as I can remember I have been jotting words down on scraps of paper and hoarding them. Sometimes these words come together with periods and commas and semicolons (my favorite form of punctuation. #TotalDork), sometimes they are occasionally formed together on the wings of a poem, and sometimes they remain just fluttering scraps of thought that I save, maybe waiting for their chance.
I have always loved journals and pens and the accoutrement of writers, but bar napkins, receipts, and matchbooks (from back when there were such things readily available) are all a part of the flotsam of my writerly (if not always writer’s) life.
I even remember my first typewriter: an IBM Selectric. I didn’t write much on that beige beast except for papers and other undergraduate work, but I lugged it around with me for years before finally donating it to Goodwill where I am sure it languished on a dusty shelf until someone decided to recycle it.
My behaviors are those of a writer – seclusion, procrastination, and moment- and memory-hoarding.
That writing is tragically hard for me is an unfortunate irony of my chosen profession. Writers complaining of the pain of writing is not unusual and indeed seems to be part of the job description. Every word you put on the page is a reflection of yourself shining glaringly back at yourself, like a mirror that doesn’t really allow for whitewashing of flaws or highlighting of assets. Writing is radical honesty, only self-inflicted.
If I am honest with myself, which I always try to be, writing is the most painful and precious and cutting place I have ever visited because, as a writer, even if I don’t write it down it stays humming around in my brain, and even if I do write it down and never read it, I know it’s there. There are blogs from the early days of Dane’s death that I simply cannot read now. They are raw streams of emotion poured on the page, the very essence of grief distilled in a paragraph or two when keeping it inside was not a viable option.
So there’s that physical pain of writing the truth as I see it.
And then there’s the intellectual pain. Not the mental struggle to choose the right word or really be honest with what I mean to say and not give in to the urge to have some sort of flourish that is not me. Although this can be excruciating, in many cases time, work, and careful attention to words and the craft of assembling them can help with this, as can copious amounts of reading and patience and careful editing.
I am talking about that odious bitch, the Anti-Cheerleader. The constant mental struggle against feelings of inadequacy and doubt.
The clear knowledge that millions of people are writing AT THIS VERY MOMENT, and most of them are doing it better than me. That someone has already said what I am saying, and way better. That somehow, everyone’s thoughts are better than mine, and I am foolish to believe that anyone gives a rat’s ass about what I have to say.
Do you see the trend? The Anti-Cheerleader assures me that I am unworthy, that my work is not worth the price of the ink used to print it out, and that I will never be able to find any value – monetary or otherwise – as a writer. And, finally, that I should not even be calling myself “writer.”
It seems masochistic to willfully undertake something that continually reminds you how bad you are at that thing. And then to tangle your identity (“I am a writer”) all up in that thing? Well, that is certainly madness.
As it is a well-known fact that many artists are batshit crazy, I suppose a tinge of madness comes with the territory. But still.
Every time I sit down to write or I avoid sitting down to write or I read about someone who has sat down to write I am forced to confront all of these feelings over and over again.
But I was born to write.
I was born to the struggle of shaving words onto the page. I was born to turn the things I experience into sentences that mean something, even if they only ever really mean something to me.
I love words. I love the way they look on the page. I love the way they sound when they are spoken. I love the way they connect to each other and disconnect from each other and connect the people who read them with an invisible thread.
I love trying to figure out which word is exactly the right one, even if the word is simple and small and not flowery and worth 50 cents on the SAT.
Language matters, and it happens to be the currency in which I traffic.
For me, food is like this, too.
Food connects people in ways that even language cannot. I have been fascinated by food since I was young, especially the ways in which it brings people together. Aside from having to eat to sustain life, special moments are marked with food, and that food becomes the shared experience upon which lives are built.
But, as with writing, there are millions of people cooking better than I am. And developing better recipes. And just in general knowing more that I do, latecomer as I am to the whole business of cooking and eating, and with no formal training or work in the back of the house.
Writing + Food = Food Writing, which also = Nearly Paralyzing Feelings Of Inadequacy
And then there is this:
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Hell, YEAH, it is.
Because there is ALWAYS someone who is better. Who knows more. Is funnier. Has tighter abs. Better hair. Whatever. Name it. Someone is better.
Which can be, I suppose, a bit of relief. There is no such thing as “the best.” Maybe it might be “the best right at this moment..whoops…not anymore,” or “the best for you with what you had at the time.”
I say this “can be” a bit of relief because most days, if I am being honest (which I always try to be), that doesn’t really help. I still feel like a huckster and a fraud selling skills which, if I actually possess them, are ephemeral and difficult to regulate and duplicate.
Then some days, quite accidentally, there is a shining bit of joy, when the Sunshiney Rays Of Competence dart through the Clouds of Self-Doubt And Despair with a crepuscular golden light.
Today is not that day.
My particular friend Khristian works with a lovely woman, Linar, who you all just WISH would teach your kids someday. Seriously. Her classroom (and her manner with the children and pretty much every person who crosses her path) is so lovely and loving and supportive that every time I see her, even my introverted self leans a little closer. Linar gave Khristian a bottle of rosewater, and he turned it over to me. I promised her a recipe using that, so here it is. Pistachios and rosewater is a classic combination, and macarons have been my archnemesis.
Turns out, they remain my archnemesis.
While the macaron flavor was delicious, they did not rise on glorious feet. The filling tasted like a mouthful of flowers, even though I was very sparing. Some might like it; for me, it was overly perfumed and not pleasant.
This is not the end that I expected to have, but there it is. It is important, I think, to discuss the hard parts, the failure, in cooking. It’s easy enough to make something look delicious; that’s only so much smoke, mirrors, and microwaved tampons.
Failure isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary. If you must fail – and rest assured, you must – fail forward.
For the curious, here’s the recipe. I would advise you make these at your own risk, and if you do, let me know how it goes.
Pistachio Macarons With Rosewater Filling
1/2 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 cup finely ground almond meal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons rosewater (less or more, to taste)
Line two baking sheets with silpat mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift ground pistachios, almond flour, and powdered sugar. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment, whip egg whites until they begin to gain volume and become bubbly. When this happens, slowly add sugar until fully incorporated and egg whites are thick and holding soft peaks.
Add egg white mixture to nuts mixture and fold in vigorously with a spatula until thoroughly incorporated.
Place macaron batter in a piping bag fitted with a round tip (or use a large freezer bag with the end snipped off) and pipe into circles onto silpat (which may have guides on them already). Bang cookie sheet on the counter to settle the batter (just a couple good whacks) then let macarons sit for 30 minutes to an hour. The macarons need to dry and form a skin, of sorts, in order to get a good lift while baking and have visible “feet” (the frilly part on the bottom of the cookie).
When the top of the macarons are dry to the touch, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for nine to 12 minutes or until they are crisp outside. Cool completely before removing from silpat and filling.
To make the filling, combine egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl and set over a pan of simmering water, beating with a hand mixer until it thickens and is hot to the touch. Remove bowl from water and, still mixing, add butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing until incorporated.
Continue to beat this mixture until it thickens and has the texture of light frosting. Add rosewater to taste and stir to combine.
Pipe a circle of frosting on the flat part of one macaron, and top with another.
I do not use food coloring, but if you do, the macarons can be colored with two drops of green, and the filling can be colored with one or two drops of red.
Macarons should be stored at room temperature and eaten within a day or two. They also freeze well.
My Superfriend, Bonnie, previously mentioned in a post that featured her incredible Toasted Cashew Hummus, has been making fun of me lately.
I hadn’t seen her in awhile, the result mostly of her traveling to two different countries in the space of two weeks (and staying there, and knocking heads together when necessary, and co-authoring a paper on a new method for treating – curing? diagnosing? I can’t remember – tuberculosis) while still organizing childcare for two of her three children and dealing with a broken water heater from another continent.
In the midst of all of this, she had (rather foolishly and perhaps to her deep regret) committed to cooking me my Second Annual Birthday Dinner, just one week after she returned to the States. When I stopped by the Sunday before the dinner and she asked me how I was, I spoke the truth.
“I’m tired, ” I said.
She looked at me in a way that could only be described as askance. And can you blame her, really?
I am a freelance writer who teaches yoga and cooks for people. The actual hours I work every week vary greatly, but they don’t come close to the 40 that many others routinely put in. I am also living a child-free existence until June 10th, which means that “homemaking” consists of making sure the dog hair doesn’t get any higher than the bottom of the couch and the toilets are cleaner than a truck stop’s.
But I have been exhausted these past three weeks, drained and sleeping poorly and feeling anxious and sweating pretty much every little thing that my brain can make up to sweat.
This is where a caveat about how I know how much harder everyone else has it, and I shouldn’t complain usually comes in. And make no mistake: this is not a complaint.
I feel incredibly lucky that this morning I got to walk to a coffee shop in Baltimore’s beautiful spring blossoming. And after that I got to sit on the floor of a bookstore and leaf through cookbooks for an hour. And after THAT I got to walk through a sunshower of cherry blossoms raining on the sidewalk on my way home to meet Khristian, where we ate breakfast together and I made bread.
So there is no complaint here.
But there is something important here.
Even if I don’t have a full-time job, I am still allowed to be tired. I am still allowed to feel, as has happened in the past three weeks with multiple projects, overscheduled and understaffed. I know what it’s like to work 80-hour weeks and be a parent, and certainly my fatigue now does not have the same feel to it as that.
Sometimes, though, I just get tired. Tired of meetings every day. Tired of being “on,” and tired of a schedule. People sometimes dismiss themselves and their feelings because other people have it so much worse than they do, and while I think that in the big picture that is the best way to operate, that can be taxing day-to-day. It’s okay to own your struggle, your fatigue, your frustration, your anxiety – even if others have more cause to feel those things.
And again, I have to put in a plug for not only Superfriend Bonnie but also the other people I know, parents or not, partnered parents or not, who are killing it everyday and are SO. FREAKING. TIRED. also. I don’t know how you do it.
I just want to be at home, puttering, and today is a day for that. Today was the first day in awhile that has been unscheduled and unclaimed from the moment that stupid bird woke me up with the sun at 6:04 a.m. until I lay my head back down on the pillow and my millennial neighbors pick up their ill-tuned guitars and start wailing.
The best way I know to stop time when this happens is to put something up, and preserved lemons seem like the way to go.
It’s a simple process that nevertheless takes 30 days to bear fruit (ha). And every day you visit your lemons and give them a little shake.
For the next 30 days, even if I am busy or tired or have too much to do or have to be less of my normal introverted self and more of the extrovert that some of my jobs require, I can look at my little pint jar of sunshine-y time and remember that day I sat on the back deck for just as long as I felt like.
What helps you stop time? What reminds you to slow down?
You have places to go, people to see, and lots of stuff to do.
But can you stop for just one minute? Maybe two, if you read slowly?
I just saw this on the interwebs, Purveyor of Many Things Great and Terrible, and I feel like maybe you (yes, YOU), need to read this today.
You will, of course, need a snack.
It is, as you may realize, the tail end of citrus season. When I was growing up, my parents would ship my brother and I off, solo, to family in Miami over the holidays. We would leave a cold, sleety, dark place and be discharged from an airplane into balmy, breezy air and a week of (often) unchaperoned adventures in either my grandparents’ development or my cousin’s apartment complex.
There was a kumquat tree in the front yard of my grandmother’s house.
Kumquats. Even the name is exotic and unusual and complex and way sunnier than this past week has been, and I’m not just talking about the weather.
They are the strangest citrus; you eat the whole thing. Nearly every website that talks about kumquats has a click-baity title like “The one astonishing thing about kumquats,” or “The strangely counterintuitive thing to do with kumquats,” as if kumquats are somehow built into our intuition about things in general.
But I digress.
Kumquats start out mouth-puckeringly tart, with less bitterness in the peel and pith (sweetness, even), and end up with a marvelous caramelly sweetness that spreads over your tongue and completely erases the initial tart flavor. even slightly unripe or slightly over-ripe the process of flavor is pretty much the same, with minor variations in intensity.
I don’t know that we gorged ourselves on these, but I do remember eating my fill whenever I felt like it, or just mindlessly reaching up and grabbing one as I passed by the tree. Kumquats were as much a part of my childhood as any other memory I have that was good and innocent and as sweet and beautiful as the nighttime Miami breeze on my bare shoulders in December, a thousand miles away from home.
I saw kumquats again in the grocery store this week and finally grabbed a few after years of passing them by. As my birthday fell on the snow day, and I happened to have the will, the time, and the ingredients, this lovely concoction came about and emerged, damn near perfect, on the very first try. So simple and complex and utterly delicious.
Today’s assigned reading is below the recipe. For those of you in tl;dr mode, there will not be a test on the reading, and maybe you don’t want to hear some of what I have to say (beyond the food). So if you take it upon yourself to skip the reading and just make the snack, that’s cool.
I know you’re busy.
Honey-Roasted Kumquats With Homemade Ricotta on Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Bread
Note: Hell, YES, I made all of this. Not. Hard. Full disclosure: I was trying to just link to the bread recipe from America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook, but it’s not published online. Which sucks, because now, just for you, I have typed it all out. This took awhile. If you are gluten-free, you can send your appreciation in the form of good old American dollars because it was a royal PITA. If you are not gluten-free, you can skip the recipe and use any old crusty bread you like.
Unlike other recipes on this blog, each component is written out completely, and they are organized in the order in which they should be made.
GF-Whole Grain Bread (this takes awhile, so maybe start here)
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
11 1/2 ounces (2 1/3 cups, plus 1/4 cup) gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used my own flour blend, but see recipe notes)
4 ounces (3/4 cup) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal
1 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) nonfat dry milk powder (in the baking aisle)
3 tablespoons powdered psyllium husk
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Optional: 2 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds
Spray 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ (or 8″ x 4″) loaf pan with cooking spray. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that will fit around the loaf pan. Fold it so it is double, lengthwise, then forma collar around the top of the loaf pan so that a double thickness of aluminum foil rises at least one inch above the top of the loaf pan. Staple to keep collar in place and set aside.
Whisk water, eggs, oil, and honey together in a bowl.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix flour, hot cereal mix, milk powder, psyllium, yeast, baking powder, and salt until combined.
Slowly add water and mix on low until dough comes together, about one minute. Increase speed to medium and beat until sticky and uniform, about six minutes. If using sunflower seeds, reduce speed to low and add them now, mixing until combined.
Scrape dough into prepared pan and use wet fingertips to smooth dough into pan. Smooth the top of dough and spray with water. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise at least 90 minutes in a warm, non-drafty place.
Adjust rack in oven to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and spray loaf with water. Bake until top is golden brown, crust is firm, and sounds hollow when tapped (Side Note: I cannot tell when bread is done by tapping it. If you can, more power to you. But that’s the direction America’s Test Kitchen gives, so I am reporting for you. #YoureWelcome), about 1 1/2 hours, rotating pan halfway through (Side Note the Second: I forgot to rotate. Bread still fabulous.).
Transfer to wire rack and let cool in pan for ten minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely for another two hours.
Bread can be double-wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for 3 days, or you can slice it all up, wrap in plastic and store in a freezer bag in the freezer.
Flour substitutions America’s Test Kitchen recommends (but that I did not test myself) include King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour and Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour, but King Arthur’s makes the crumb of the bread denser and Bob’s Red Mill is drier with a bean taste. Seriously, people. Just send me a note on the Let Me Cook For You page and I will give you a price for some of my flour.
Please, if you are a gluten-free baker, buy a scale. The best $20 you’ll spend.
1 cup whole milk (see Recipe Notes)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or any white vinegar)
Bring milk, heavy cream, and salt to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Let sit until it begins to curdle, about 2 minutes, then pour into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Strain at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. For thicker cheese, twist the cheesecloth into a tight ball to get even more water out.
Milk can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized milk doesn’t work. #AskMeHowIKnow
You can discard the whey (the liquid that drains from the solid ricotta), use it to bake bread with, or give it to your dogs or chickens.
Kumquats, sliced in 1/4″ rounds, seeds removed (see Recipe Notes)
4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Slice kumquats and place in a bowl with vinegar and honey. Macerate for at least 30 minutes and up to four hours.
When you are ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.
Place kumquats on cooking spray and roast for about 20 minutes until honey begins to caramelize. I didn’t flip them over, but I suppose you could if you like.
I used kumquats that are approximately the size of a ping-pong ball if that ping-pong ball was more of an oval. There are also smaller varieties with different variations of flavor. For this, I used about six kumquats, but honestly? I could have eaten eleventy million more. So there’s that.
You need bread, ricotta, kumquats, fresh basil, freshly cracked black pepper, and maybe honey and fleur de sel.
Slice bread and toast lightly.
Slather ricotta on toast.
Place fresh basil leaves on ricotta, then top with roasted kumquats. Add a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper, and if you want a little more sweetness, just a wee drizzle of honey and a flake or two of salt.
Assemble your toasts, have a seat, and get to reading.
RULES FOR BEING HUMAN
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school, called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error – experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. “There” is no better than “Here”. When your “There” has become a “Here”, you will simply obtain another “There” that will, again, look better than “Here.”
7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answer to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.
11. You can remember it whenever you want to.
These are not my rules; I am just reporting on them. What would you add?
Okay, so I am no food prognosticator; I don’t claim to be able to predict what’s going to be The Next Big Kale. I am okay with this. I don’t want to be an influencer or any of that. Mostly I want to cook for people, eat good food, and develop recipes that make sense in the grand scheme of my life.
So it’s quite a lovely happenstance when ingredients I have started to work with suddenly become The Next Big Thing.
For 2017, here are five of those ingredients.
Harissa is having a moment. And for good reason – this shizz is delicious, subtly spicy and versatile for preparations both savory and sweet.
Found most often as a paste, harissa is a pantry staple in North Africa and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is made by combining some form of chile pepper, olive oil, spices like coriander, cumin, and caraway. Tomatoes round out this complex flavor profile which can be quite spicy and sometimes a little sweet.
I had a hell of a time finding harissa and ended up finding one jar tucked away in the mustard section of the local Whole Foods. I expect this will change as the year progresses, especially since The Splendid Table just did a story on harissa this weekend on NPR (just FTR, I started this blog post on Thursday. So there). You can also make your own harissa if you are so inclined. I am, and will make it after I finish the jar I have on hand.
I love harissa for an absurd number of applications, from roasting sweet potatoes to spicy salad dressings to harissa cauliflower, baked in the oven and served with a yogurt and garlic dip that features, unsurprisingly, one of the other food trends to watch in 2017.
Contrary to what is sold on shelves, za’atar is less a spice blend and more a family of spices that are frequently used together, with many regions in the Middle East having a region-specific combination.
Think of za’atar as the bouquet garni of Middle Eastern spices in that once you have your particular combination it is as ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cooking as the famous French bundle of herbs.
Spices that make up za’atar can included oregano, cumin, savory, thyme, and sumac. Sold as a blend, za’atar also often includes sesame seeds, fennel, and salt.
Families guard their particular blends with their lives, passing them down orally and only to those who might deserve it.
My experience with za’atar is rather limited at this juncture, but I have added it to roasted cauliflower (Vegetable of the Year, 2017) and soups. Khristian says he has had it spread with olive oil as a paste on naan, something that I might actually eat my weight in, were I able to consume gluten. Plans in 2017 include making either gluten-free naan or gluten-free focaccia so that I can, in fact, test this theory.
I would also like to make my own za’atar, but sumac is a pain in the ass to find locally. I am sure that Amazon can help me out with that. I also think it would be great to come up with my own blend – a food project that only requires excellent record-keeping.
Honey – Specifically, Hot Honey
No matter where you live, it seems you can no longer swing a dead cat without hitting a hot chicken joint.
Full disclosure: I did contribute to Carla Hall’s hot chicken joint in Brooklyn and was honored with not only my name on a plaque in the restaurant but also recipe cards for the chicken itself and a treat card that is good for life. As I don’t live in Brooklyn, I will not be redeeming that last item, and that makes me a little sad.
If I can’t travel up to New York for my monthly dose of hot chicken, then I can at least stay down here in Charm City and spread hot honey over errthang. Paulie Gee’s down the street from me uses hot honey on their pizza pies but are less than welcoming to the gluten-free set, so I will go ahead and just steal that idea thankyouverymuch and load up my own pizza with some. Think sausage and thin lemon slices with a drizzle of hot honey.
Or a hot honey yogurt dip.
Or hot honey on biscuits with bacon.
Hot honey popcorn.
Hot honey roasted carrots.
Hot honey stir fry with tofu and broccoli (I got you, vegetarians).
Technically not a food, amaro falls under the category “Food/Drink” and thus counts as in the running for a food trend to watch in 2017.
I won’t lie or pretend to be an expert; my first real foray into amaro (other than accidentally in a cocktail) was in writing about the Black Manhattan. Research on that and my general love of the bitter, sweetish, herby flavor profile, plus the distinct undercurrent of flavors and the complexity from amaro to amaro, makes me want to use this more in various applications.
Brad Thomas Parsons literally wrote the book on amaro, and it’s on my winter reading list.
Also not a food but rather a spice, turmeric is experiencing a renaissance in food culture that has been going on for at least a couple of years already, with no signs of slowing down.
At first glance, the bright yellow color of powdered turmeric is mildly alarming. Yes, it’s beautiful, but it’s also bright and intimidating. That shit gets everywhere and stains everything (#LearnedTheHardWay), so dedicate a side towel to use when you are working with this spice.
Turmeric can be found in a powder, a paste, or a ginger-looking root. I recently experimented with turmeric in golden milk and realized quickly that although powdered turmeric is easy to come by, fresh turmeric is the way to go in liquid applications.
Regardless of form, the taste of turmeric is deeply earthy and soulful; there is really no other way to describe it. I would imagine that turmeric, as a root, has a distinct terroir, just as other foods do, but I am certainly not close to being that sensitive to subtle variations in flavor.
When you eat something with turmeric you get a deep sense of doing something very good for you, and not just in the standard way of low-fat, low-calorie, no-sugar bullshit. Turmeric is a warming spice, so perfect for long, dark winters. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic spice. Practitioners of ayurveda believe that it balances intestinal fire and can help with digestion, joint pain, and many other ills (including lowering blood pressure and fighting cancer).
Go far beyond curry and use turmeric in tea, scrambled eggs, sprinkled on popcorn, and more.
Runners-up on my food trends to watch include cauliflower and a resurgence of snacking before dinner, what my kid calls a “French nibbler” (cheese, nuts, olives, etc). I think snacking before dinner will become the new dinner (or maybe that’s just going to happen in my house). I am looking at you, bleu cheese with a hot honey drizzle!
What food trends do you want to see gone forever? What would you like to see more of in 2017?