An easy salmon dinner, a cookbook that no bot could ever write, well-loved kitchen gear and gadgets
Greetings eaters and readers! I’ve been steadily working on the next Weekday Vegetarians book for you, and last week I reached the phase when I write every recipe title on a notecard, spread those cards out on the dining room table, and then take breaks throughout the day when I just kinda stare at them. For some reason certain patterns emerge more clearly this way than they do if I’m just looking at a spreadsheet, and it gives me good ideas for chapters and structure. And, by the way, I wasn’t planning on discussing this yet, but that novel Romantic Comedy you see in the corner? I got an advance copy and — I’m just gonna go ahead and make the call here — it’s going to be the book of spring, you heard it here first. I am a longtime Curtis Sittenfeld fan (Prep, American Wife, You Think It I Say It) and Romantic Comedy, about the romance between a writer for an SNL-type show and a guest host is just so much fun — sorry there is no better way to say it. No one does that high-energy, bantery dialogue better than Sittenfeld, which makes the pages turn themselves. (More details when it comes out in a few weeks, but it is available for pre-order.) In other news, I thought you’d like to know, if you didn’t already, that the legendary cookbook author Andrea Nguyen writes a newsletter called Pass the Fish Sauce, where the goal is to “explore and demystify Asian foodways.” As anyone who has spent even a minute reading this newsletter knows: I love Andrea’s books (Vietnamese Food Any Day in particular) and I am excited to see where she takes it. Lastly, did you notice something cool? I used the word spring up there. That felt good! Your weekly Three Things….
1. Gochujang-Glazed Fish
I cleaned out our refrigerator over the weekend and found a tub of gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste) hiding in the back, far away from where most of my condiments live. Which might explain why I forgot about it for some time. And I’m not sure how because it’s one of those ingredients that really earns its keep — it stays good forever in the fridge (up to 2 years) and a little goes a long way to impart a deep, spicy, slightly funky dimension to whatever you’re cheffing up. I particularly like mixing the paste into a glaze for roasted salmon or char, which I did on Sunday. Here’s the recipe.
2. A Cook’s Book, by Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater, the longtime, beloved food columnist for the Observer and author of the seminal Tender and Toast, has a new book out called A Cook’s Book: The Essential Nigel Slater, and it has, at least for the moment, beaten back my fear of bots* taking over the world, and further endangering soon-to-be-extinct English majors like me. Part memoir, but mostly simple, fresh, unbelievably appealing recipes, the book is trademark Slater, poetically spare (visually and editorially) and nourishing (gastronomically and emotionally). The names of his chapters are themselves worth the price of admission: “The joyous sound of dinner,” “All you need is a good recipe (well, actually no),” “a soup of bread and cheese”, “a calming supper for one,” “to cook the steak.” The recipe names are often just three listed ingredients, which somehow sound like mini poems: “Mussels, coconut, noodles”, “Rice, salmon, Japanese pickles.” Below is “the ridiculously useful mashed eggplant recipe” that I’ve already made twice. The book is out today.
*And yes, I realize that anything I say about ChatGPT* will be viewed in the very near future as mockingly hilarious, sorta like watching Bryant Gumbel ask “What is Internet Anyway?” on the Today show in 1994.
the ridiculously useful mashed eggplant recipe, by Nigel Slater
Dear reader, I cannot tell you how often I make this. A thick, smoky mash of eggplants the color of parchment, it is part and parcel of this kitchen. Follow the recipe below and you will have a soft, vegan-friendly cream with which to play. I like to use it under the roasted eggplants or spread thickly in a deep ivory-hued wave on toasted sourdough. It makes a silky mash in which to dip baked mushrooms or a filling for rolled flatbread (the real thing, thin, supple, and toasty, not the ubiquitous cardboard slippers in plastic bags). Few things are more useful to find in your fridge than this creamy sauce when you fancy pasta for dinner. (Boil your orecchiette as usual, then toss in a generous amount of this eggplant cream some torn basil leaves, a shot of lemon juice, and a few toasted pine nuts.) A handful of chopped mint is worth thinking about, too, added as you sit down to eat. Few things make this cook hungrier than the scent of smoked eggplant, lemon, and mint.
Set the oven to 400°F. Slice a couple of large eggplants in half lengthwise and put them cut side up in a roasting dish. Cut deep into the flesh, almost through to the skin, in a crisscross pattern. (It will encourage the heart to go deep into the flesh.) Trickle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, til their cut surface has blackened and they are tender right through. (Don’t be shy with the blackening— it is crucial to the smoky notes of the dish. Cook them over a griddle if you prefer and have a very good exhaust vent)
Scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon and put it into a bowl. Mash the eggplant flesh to a course puree with a fork. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, a little salt, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil till you have a sloppy, silky, fragrant cream.
“A handful of chopped mint is worth thinking about, too.” Why is that so great? Would ChatGPT ever say it like that? (Don’t answer, please.)
3. My Favorite Kitchen Gear
Just your bi-annual reminder that I’ve rounded up all of my most well-loved most well-used cooking gear all in one place, in case you are in the market for a skillet or a coffee maker or a chef’s knife or anything else that might make your life a little more pleasant in the kitchen. (P.S. That red Dansk Kobenstyle soup pot up there reminds me of how much I am coveting this Dansk Baker-Casserole.) Happy shopping!
P.S. Vacation Highlight Reel: London
Reminder: This week’s bonus post is a detailed write-up of our 5-day stay in my new favorite city. To receive bonus posts, you have to subscribe, which you can do by pressing this fun little orange button »»
Thanks for the support and have a great week!
I can't wait to try that eggplant! Thank you for sharing, also just pre-ordered Romantic Comedy. Your rec for Lessons in Chemistry was spot on so I will follow you on this one too.
So many great book suggestions here !!! 😍😍😍