Dinner Plans #32
Sorry, what's an office?
Dear readers, some of us have received word that Mondays will once again require us to wake up from two full, glorious days of sleeping, drinking, eating, and laughing, rush to the subway station before 8am, and shove ourselves into dangerously crowded train cars in order to get to work. Court and I are blessed enough that for the foreseeable future neither of us will be messing with our morning routines of waking up at 8:58am, rolling over and being ‘online’ at 9:00am, but we truly, madly, deeply sympathize with those of you who do. We’ve got a few lunch ideas so you can avoid 2pm panic orders of sw**tgr**n, plus a certified banger of a spring dinner party menu that has the audacity to feature both ramps and rhubarb. The nerve! For now we will continue laying in my bed, comforted by the warmth of our overheating computers desperately trying to support Zoom, Outlook, iMovie, and oh, approximately 10,000 internet tabs.
ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:
Roasted Peppers with Feta & Basil: My friends, family and paid subscribers have all fallen victim to my screeds about Molly Baz’s bright new cookbook, and you, dear reader, are next! The book is full of recipes that are both impressive looking and tasting but still pretty easy to pull together. One dish that stuck with not just me, but also two other friends who ate it, was a plate of luxurious, caramelized peppers served in a pool of the spicy, peppery olive oil they spent almost two — yes, two! — hours roasting in. (You can confusingly find the recipe on Crate & Barrel’s website.) Those soft pieces of pepper get thick slices of creamy, salty feta and earthy basil leaves thrown on top. The best bites are the ones of chewy sourdough dragged through the orange-tinted oil before scooping up a chunk of feta and a jammy pepper. (Molly calls these ‘jammy pepps’ and while these peppers are in fact jammy, I simply never want to say, see or type that phrase ever again.)
Ramp Roast Chicken: I discovered a rampy roast chicken recipe by way of Paris Starn, a chef and baker of crunchy, flaky, cream-filled things. She recently shared that she was inspired by this chicken with bright green ramps stuffed under the skin. Paris’ version of the dinner included a few special steps, like buttering the skin before roasting, and doubling down on ramps by building a bed of them for the bird to lay on. The result is an allium-infused chicken covered in crispy skin and crunchy ramps laying in a pool of even more buttery, schmaltzy, pungent ramps. My dad blessed me with a bunch of ramps so big that I’d be putting myself in danger if I showed anyone, so recreating this is my one and only dinner plan this week.
Rhubarb Torte: Dear readers, I lied to you. If you’re one of our sweet subscribers, 1. Thank you! 2. You know that on Friday I claimed I’d be spending my weekend making a rhubarb frangipane tart inspired by Judy Kim’s gorgeous tart from last Sunday’s bake sale. Well, Saturday rolled around and making a crust and filling felt too ambitious, so instead I made a game time decision and pivoted to my old standby: The Marian Burros Plum Torte. Though it famously calls for Italian plums, I swapped in enough rhubarb to cover the top of my tart in a painstaking design. I also hid about a cup of chopped sad fridge strawberries under the sliced rhubarb for sweetness and added a little almond extract (say about a ½ tsp) for some sophistication. It emerged delicious and shockingly intact design-wise! If you can’t be bothered to make something complex with your precious rhubarb haul, I highly recommend this simplest of simple cakes.
SO YOUR OFFICE JUST ANNOUNCED THEY’RE REOPENING
Ash Reshteh: In the before times, Gab and I met in an office around the corner from Taste of Persia, an infamous Persian place hidden in a pizza parlor. ToP was known for their ash reshteh, a deeply herby greens-and-beans soup with a full cast of toppings that could frankly make a pile of cardboard taste great. Crunchy fried mint, soured yogurt, and sweet fried onions and garlic. I was first introduced to ash reshteh when our dear friend and former co-worker Emily brought it back to the office and filled our space with the most enticing smell. In my memory, everyone suddenly perked up from their desks and gravitated towards her desk asking ‘What is that?’ and ‘Can I try a bite?’ Since that time, the world shuttered and sadly so did ToP back in 2020. Luckily we read they’re back doing deliveries, but if you’re not in their delivery zone, make this hearty, flavor-packed stew at home with this easy recipe. It is however missing the slurpy, silky broken linguine noodles hiding within ToP’s ash reshteh, so if that feels sacrilegious to you, Queen Samin has a more traditional recipe over on NYT Cooking.
Greens and Grains Salad: I will go to my grave defending Cava over the likes of Sweetgreen, Just Salad, and *side eye* Chopt. If you’re not familiar with the Mediterranean chain, they specialize in greens, grains, or greens and grains bowls, crowned with as many toppings as you want — no extra charge! Seriously! I’ve tried countless combos and never had a bad one; it’s truly remarkable. Going to Cava makes me feel like Richie Rich, but in reality I am not and still can’t afford to buy my lunch every day. Luckily, it’s extremely easy to recreate at home. My lunches the past few weeks have consisted of any greens I have, cooked farro or brown rice, whatever dips I got from Trader Joe’s that week, and all of the herbs I salvage from our garden. Then, in true Cava style, I’ll go into my fridge door and pantry and scour every possible topping: pickled onions, olives, feta, pickles, pita chips, salty nuts, anything! When you’re home it’s always free unlimited toppings. I douse the whole thing in a big squeeze of lemon and mix to the best of my abilities. As someone who used to have to play mental games with myself to eat a salad (for every bite of pasta, I had to eat one bite of salad), I can safely say I house this mix in minutes every day, no bribery required.
Desk Salad: While I now hope to never work in an office again, when I did, I was a supporter, lover, and early pioneer of the #desksalad. A combination of arugula, feta and tiny cubes of cold cucumber tossed in my go-to vinaigrette (lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil, mustard — preferably both a dijon and a whole grain — salt and pepper) was then topped with whatever leftovers I could get my hands on. Salmon from dinner the night before got flaked in a lot, as did extra roasted vegetables from Court’s much more composed lunches and shreds of the Daily Provisions rotisserie chicken I’d probably picked up for lunch the day prior. If I was forced into an office again this week, I like to think I’d plan a little more than I used to. On this imaginary first day back, Nancy Silverton’s salty salami-studded, provolone-packed, oregano-heavy chopped salad (sans pepperoncini ‘cause I hate those things) would sit in the fridge until it was time to head to the kitchen, use the tupperware I packed in to shake shake shake the salad until the dressing coats each ingredient, and return to my desk with a proper #desksalad.
BBOTW (BEST BITES OF THE WEEK):
Court: Yesterday, my boyfriend went to the furniture outlets at Industry City in search of a cloud couch dupe that wasn’t backordered until approximately 2031. Unfortunately, our furniture search was fruitless but of course our food search was not. We visited Japan Village, a Japanese food hall with everything from ramen to udon to a full fledged outpost of the beloved Sunrise Mart. It recalled fond memories of going to Mitsuwa in Edgewater as a kid, getting my two favorite things in the world: sushi and Pokemon cards. This time around I got neither, but I did eat an obscenely good onigiri from the stall Obentoyasan. I love onigiri, especially when they’re fresh with soft, slightly warm rice and still-crispy nori. They have a selection of pre-made onigiri with fillings like ume, spicy salmon and tuna, but the Chicken Karaage Onigiri was made fresh to order. With a piece of shockingly juicy fried chicken thigh, heaps of sweet kewpie mayo, and generously salted rice, the combination of soft, crunchy, salty, and savory was addictive and immediately elicited Oh my god from both myself and my boyfriend. Go eat this immediately, it’s worth the trek alone, no purchasing of discounted Herman Miller office chairs necessary.
Gab: If you live in Park Slope or somewhere PS-adjacent, you’re likely already aware of Winner, the bakery/coffee shop/speciality food store/restaurant of every neighborhood’s dreams. There are swirly, glazed cinnamon buns, special & seasonal Saturday donuts, roast chicken dinners and huge, hearty sandwiches on crunchy house-made bread. They use their baguettes, ciabatta and sourdough pullman for stacking sandwiches, but also bake fat loaves of cheddar-studded, black pepper-laced sourdough and dense, seedy rye. The bread that (most recently) made my jaw drop, though, was a delicate slice of focaccia whose crunchy, golden brown bubbles gave way to a soft, stretchy, salty center of dough. My slice was covered in pockets of broiled & browned ricotta cheese and scattered with little bites of asparagus and radish, both roasted just long enough to concentrate their sweet flavors but keep a slight bite.