Discover more from Dinner: A Love Story
Never-fail roast chicken, drinkable ginger-miso dressing, a new Saturday ritual
Good morning eaters and readers! We were in Minnesota visiting Phoebe last weekend, and even though it was a 48-hour whirlwind, I feel the need to report back on two culinary highlights: lunch at the bustling, family-run Vietnamese restaurant Quang in Minneapolis (amazing food, amazing energy!) and the homemade pop tart I had at Little Joy Coffee in Northfield, which was essentially a frosted cherry hand pie. It reminded me of the giant pop tart that my friend Patty made for Abby’s graduation party last year. (Look at that spread! Hurry up, spring!)
In other news: I just read about Nisha Melvani’s book Practically Vegan which, according to its press release is “based on the idea that one vegan meal a day is better than none…” This, on the heels of NYC’s mayor Eric Adams launching Vegan Fridays in the largest public school system in the country, Jessica Seinfeld’s book Vegan At Times and, of course, my Weekday Vegetarians. In summation: I’m liking this new movement based on the idea that it’s more realistic to get a lot of people eating less meat as opposed to fewer people eating no meat. (ATTN: food and dining section editors! Where is my trend piece on “reducetarianism?”)
One last exciting note: You can now read Dinner: A Love Story in the new Substack app for iPhone. With the app, you’ll have a dedicated Inbox for my Substack and any others you subscribe to. Comments and other media all work seamlessly. It’s so cool! Hope to see you there (or back here, if that’s your thing which is A-OK!)
Alas, your weekly triptych…
1. If You’ve Got Dressing, You’ve Got Dinner
My heart swelled a little bit last week when Abby texted me from college saying she had figured out how to concoct a pretty decent vinaigrette using only dining hall ingredients (“oil balsamic a lil soy sauce onion powder pepper salt sriracha and yellow mustard…i’m surprised yellow mustard works”). Not only that, but she was whisking up a batch with a fork and a drinking glass for her whole table: “can’t believe I ever used the pre-made one,” she texted “it’s just a new level.” This is facts. From a previous text I had also learned that she’s excited about “coded variables” from her stats class, which sounds useful (I think?) but as far as I’m concerned, college has already armed her with an important life lesson: if you’ve got homemade vinaigrette, you're gonna be in good shape for dinner. Exhibit A: My new favorite ginger-miso dressing that I could drink by the gallon, and when there’s a jar of it in the refrigerator, I swear I feel like dinner is mostly made. It’s a simplified version of a Samin Nosrat recipe, and now (sound the trumpets!) I’m ready to add it to my rotation of go-tos. Drizzle it on top of any greens or vegetables, then toss in a protein…
…like my eight-minute pan-fried sesame tofu cubes and you’ve got a pretty hearty, healthy, umami-packed meal. The salad in the photo up top is made of spring greens, cucumbers, radishes, thinly sliced red onion, and minced red pepper. (Such boring vegetables! And yet!) I also added some sliced almonds, but wished I had chopped, crushed peanuts. Obviously, you can and should play around with the vegetables, and add an avocado if you’ve got one. I did not. I love this kind of dinner -- I feel both satisfied and weirdly virtuous when I’m finished. You can get the recipe for the dressing, the tofu technique, and some general salad guidance over at Dinner: A Love Story.
2. Your New Never-Fail Roast Chicken
I finally wrote an updated version of my Classic Roast Chicken, which I’ve been tweaking and perfecting ever since it appeared in my first book, Dinner: A Love Story. You’ll have to wade through a bit of my whining — I do not find roast chicken as brain-numbingly easy as everyone else in the world seems to — but it will be worth it because this chicken does not ever let me down. Might I suggest it for Sunday dinner?
3. A Saturday Morning Ritual
A few weeks ago, I read a story from The Guardian, irresistibly, click-bait-ily titled 100 Ways to Slightly Improve Your Life Without Really Trying. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.) Like all those kinds of resolution-y lists there’s a lot of goofy stuff in there (“Laugh at your own jokes!” Really?), and a few extremely resonant ones (“Don't be weird about the dishwasher.” Ahem, Andy!) But #24 really jumped out at me: “Start a Saturday morning with some classical music; it sets the tone for a calm weekend.” This is the kind of advice that sounds pretentious and maybe a little corny — I mean, I know literally nothing about classical music — but my dad, who knows a lot about classical music, has done this on Saturday mornings his whole life, and when I picture him sitting in his upholstered chair in the sunny living room of my childhood home, reading the weekend paper, while Mahler or Don Giovanni or Andrés Segovia waft through the house, yes, the word that comes to mind is calm. Maybe even civilized. In short: It sounded like something that might actually improve my life, and I said as much out loud to Andy, who was not, at that moment, complaining about my dishwasher loading. Instead, he walked to his office (read: the dining room) and returned with a copy of Every Good Boy Does Fine a memoir by Jeremy Denk, one of America’s foremost pianists, who has performed on every major stage and with every major ensemble in the world. (He’s also a MacArthur Genius.) In his book, not only do we hear the beautifully told story of a musical prodigy, and a pretty mind-blowing exploration of how music works (the short chapters on harmony, melody, and rhythm are a master class on metaphor), but at the end of the book, we get a classical music playlist annotated by Denk himself – a rundown of every piece he mentions in the book. It’s gold, worth the price of admission on its own.
Anyway, I took the book as a sign, and will be queuing up Denk’s Goldberg Variations (or maybe that Schumann Concerto in A Minor?) this Saturday. Who’s with me?
Yet Another Easy Way to Improve Your Life
Andy is Denk’s book editor and if you are interested in hearing more about Every Good Boy Does Fine, you can join them on Zoom for An Evening of Music and Stories on March 22, 7:00 - 8:00 ET. Denk will play a few pieces and talk about his memoir. I hope to see you there!
Ukraine Relief Effort: Where To Give
Building on last week’s list:
Airbnb providing housing for refugees
United Ukrainian American Relief Committee organizing humanitarian aid to war victims
International Rescue Committee providing sleeping bags, blankets, medical supplies at reception centers on the Ukrainian/Polish border.
World Central Kitchen handing hot meals (read: handing dignity, love, comfort) to families across five countries, on all borders
Lastly, thank you to subscribers who joined the “Where Should I Live Next?” discussion. It was unbelievably helpful and entertaining.
See you soon!
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