Vegetarian pantry dinners, pavlova fever, where New Yorkers eat in New York
Good morning eaters and readers. Did we all enjoy the opening weekend of Premier League soccer? Which is to say, did we all enjoy that very specific weekend morning vibe of drinking coffee and reading the paper while the ambient noise of the game hummed along in the background? In other news, under the category of Very Nice Problem, my friend Lori just texted me “Help! Too many tomatoes, what do I do with them?” Naturally, I replied with the holy trinity: Gazpacho, Tomato Sandwiches and Pasta with Simple Cherry Tomato Sauce, but I’m working on a few more for next week. Lastly, my daughter, Abby, wrote an essay about the power of food to connect, and I hope you love it as much as I do. (What can I say: Some people have kids to ensure enough farm hands, others have them to ensure enough good content.) Here are this week’s Three Things…
1. Vegetarian Pantry Meals: The Crutch Question
Lately, I’ve been into bringing my parents a homemade dinner when I visit them a few towns over. My visits usually happen towards the end of the week, which coincides with my very odds-and-ends refrigerator contents, and the challenge I’ve given myself is to create something simple for them without any grocery shopping. So far the recipes have all been vegetarian, and the whole exercise has reminded me how crucial it is to have some basic crutches in my pantry/freezer to lean on. Here’s what I’ve made so far:
Crispy Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Peas & Mint
Pantry Crutch: Frozen Gnocchi, Frozen Peas
Last year, like the rest of the free world, Abby went through a big Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi phase, and even though her enthusiasm for it has waned a bit, I find myself always scooping up a bag when I’m at TJs. That’s how I found myself pan-frying the gnocchi in olive oil until crispy. I added a handful of chopped onion, cooked another five minutes, tossed in the frozen peas. I scooped everything into a travel container, then topped with Pecorino, freshly ground pepper, and the last few non-black leaves of fresh mint in my bunch.
Tomato Tart with Feta (shown up top; and in the front seat of my car, travel container recommendations welcome)
Pantry Crutch: Store-Bought Pie Dough
You know that lately I’ve been very into slow-roasting tomatoes (toss with olive oil, salt, pepper; roast at 275°F for 1 1/2 hours) if they are mealy or about to go bad or just too mediocre to eat fresh. Well, I found a little stash of the roasted beauties in my fridge —about 1 1/2 cups — loyally waiting to be deployed, so wrapped them up in a Pilsbury pie dough (hold the snobbery please) along with some roughly chopped red onion, a generous handful of crumbled feta, and thyme. (I did all of this on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.) I brushed the crust with milk because I was out of eggs — an egg wash would be better — then baked at 425°F for 20-25 minutes. Since the tomatoes were already roasted, it was really just about making sure the crust was cooked. My dad loved this one.
Pantry Crutch: Canned Beans
Obviously, my world-famous veggie chili is going to be optimal when you take the time to use good beans, but optimal is not really the point here. It’s a recipe that might be classified under the rubric can-to-table, i.e. always there for you to fall back on if you’ve got a stash of canned tomatoes, pintos, Great Northerns, spices etc. And also, I totally made up that my chili is world-famous. I just wanted you to pay attention.
2. I’m a Pavlova-Making Fool
As long as we’re on the subject of recipes that lean on pantry staples, might I remind you yet again that a pavlova is gold spun from simply eggs, sugar, vinegar, corn starch, vanilla extract, and literally ANY fruit you have lying around. Every time I make one, which for some reason has been often lately, I think the same thing: How does something so dramatic come from such humble ingredients? The one you’re looking at above is topped with passion fruit pulp (locals: scored at Port Chester’s La Placita) coconut flakes, sliced nectarines, and powdered sugar. Other surefire topping winners: a mix of fresh berries; or lemon curd and almonds; or a sliced stone fruit medley.
3. Where to Eat in NYC
In early 2020, Joanna asked me to put together a restaurant guide for New York for Cup of Jo and I of course gladly accepted the assignment. I’ve been living in or around the city my entire life and I was eager to learn about a few new spots myself. So I set about interviewing a bunch of New York food people, loaded a few great pizza and dumpling photos, and we scheduled the round-up to run on…March 19, 2020, i.e. the exact week when everything in the city, and the world, shut down. You all know the rest of the story. The pandemic was devastating for the industry — tens of thousands of hospitality workers were suddenly laid off, every day seemed to bring news of another iconic restaurant closing its doors permanently, and the ones that survived struggled with declining reservations and crushing debts. Every time I logged into the platform and saw the story waiting my drafts file, my gut would recoil from the sadness, and I remember telling Joanna that I dreamed of the day we could press publish*. Well, I’m delighted to say: HOORAY! That day has come! “Where New Yorkers Eat in New York” is finally live, and though the original has been significantly edited, I am thrilled that it’s out in the world and, more to the point, that New York is BACK. Keep in mind that this guide is not so much a Best Of list — the goal was to find out where New Yorkers go in their daily lives, where they go in their neighborhoods, where they go when it’s a special occasion, where they go for a drink or a date. Where they bagel and dumpling and pizza and yes, all of those are legit verbs when we are talking about this great city. You’ll read recs from Eric Kim, Amanda Hesser, Jon Gray, Yolanda Edwards, Ali Slagle, Emily Weinstein, Hana Asbrink, and so many more, and I for one have already packed my September calendar with reservations. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you use it.
*Remember the one FedEx box that Tom Hanks refuses to open on the desert island in Castaway? How the promise of delivering it someday represents hope for him? That’s what I thought of every time I looked at the story in my drafts file.
P.S. My friend Catherine had a few friends over for lunch last Monday, and it was such a treat to sit down to an elegant home-cooked meal in the middle of the day. She made Genevieve Ko’s cold Soba Noodles with Snap Peas — Catherine swapped out the chicken for poached salmon. Perfect.
P.P.S. A Weekly Summer Meal Plan
Attn: Subscribers. This week is Menu Plan Week! Look for a weekly dinner line-up (plus shopping list) in your inboxes before Friday. Reminder: Menu Plans (and all bonus content) are for paying subscribers only. You can click on this cute little orange box to subscribe…and in general to be part of the fun. »»