chicken with dates, saffron and freekeh

 

Immigrants have enriched American food culture for so long that it’s hard to imagine what our dinner plates would look like without them. When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to use food as my lens to remind others of our shared humanity with these communities. Their struggles are our struggles.  Immigrant food is American food. If fear stems from misunderstanding, what better way to unite than by eating the foods of these vibrant and diverse populations? What better way to learn their stories?  All I want for this blog is to make you hungry. Hungry for some flavors you might have not tried before or some ingredient you might not be that familiar with.

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wu wei

(n.) Conscious non-action, or a deliberate decision to do nothing whatsoever. Wu wei is a Taoist mental state in which our actions are effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life. The literal Chinese translation is “not doing.”

Happy (belated) New Year! I didn’t make any resolutions because I never listen to myself anyway. Overall, I’m just grateful to be happy and healthy, and I’m looking forward to a new year of self-discovery and doing what I love surrounded by people that I love. In other words I’m going to embrace the whole wu wei thing this year and strive for non-striving. Going with the flow has never been my strong suit, and it’s taken me a while to realize that  certain things in life can’t be achieved by trying harder. Not setting myself up for failure and just letting things happen as they may are high on my list of priorities this year. It’s pretty refreshing! If I absolutely HAD to make resolutions they would probably go something like this:

1. Travel more.
2. Love yourself more.
3. Eat more bread.
4. And cake.
5. Spend more time with people that you love.
6. Climb a mountain? That would be cool.
7. Try not to go a nearly a whole month without blogging like you just did…

Anyway, things have been absolutely insane over on my end (in the best way possible). I had a house full of adults and kiddos for the holidays. I had lofty ambitions of cooking a big Christmas dinner for everyone, but we ended up having Chinese delivery and champagne. Sometimes life is like that. I did manage to make SOME goodies which I’ll be sharing later this week. In the meantime, guess who’s still pumpkin-ing? This girl.

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breaking the silence

It’s been over two weeks since my last post which is much longer than I ever intended to go without posting, but that is life. Like most of you, I’m still in total and utter disbelief over the results of the presidential election. It was a heartbreak like that I’ve never experienced, and I haven’t had the spirits to get back in the kitchen no matter how positive I try to be. Well, that, and my fridge and freezer died last week so I’m actually incapable of grocery shopping while I wait for repairs. That, paired with the seasonal affective disorder that usually strikes around this time of year (why so dark so early??), and I could really use some hugs. Additionally, I want to hug all of you. All of you who fought the good fight, and still are fighting for women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people and human beings in general. I’m inspired by all of you to stop sulking and start being louder and prouder. Kinder and wiser. So today I made a happy list because first things first it’s time to stop being so sad. Here’s a bunch of stuff that makes me grin uncontrollably.

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hyggeligt

(n.) The Danish word for a feeling of extreme comfort or coziness.

It’s actually cold enough to feel like fall in New York, and I’m currently accepting any and all Netflix/TV recommendations to go with these pumpkin magic bars and my sweatpants that I’m never taking off. Also, my love for pumpkin is so strong and so deep that I didn’t even realize how real of a thing pumpkin spice shaming is! Sorry pumpkin shamers, guess this one isn’t for you. 

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firgun

(n.) The Hebrew term in Israeli culture that describes genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of another person.

 
When I think of firgun I automatically think of my best friend Lindsay and her mother, Mushy, as we affectionately call her. They are my second family and my biggest supporters and the reason I’ve had a life long obsession with Jewish culture, traditions and food obviously. Lindsay and I have been best friends since the womb (born only a day apart in the same hospital!) which means we did everything together from Hebrew school to family dinners at each other’s houses. What I loved more than Sunday morning bagels at the Kramer house and more than Mushy’s chicken and farfel was the overwhelming sense of comfort and support I felt every time I came over. I lapped it up. I let them force feed me until I couldn’t physically eat another bite and tell me how awesome and special and beautiful I was even at the pinnacle of prepubescent awkwardness. Since Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner, I wanted to make Mushy and Lindsay proud with my interpretation of a Jewish apple and honey cake.

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shemomedjamo

(v.) The Georgian expression for eating past the point of being full because something tastes so good. Literally, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

We need to talk about these salted caramel crack brownies. I made them for a friend’s birthday a couple weeks ago and people are still talking about them and asking me for the recipe. They are without a doubt the best brownies I have ever made/eaten, and they completely live up to their name. I shamelessly stole the recipe from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones. Anna is one of my favorite cookbook authors and she also has a great column over at The Guardian if you need some gorgeous vegetarian inspiration in your life, like this and this. I followed the recipe exactly, using the coconut oil and spelt flour options (but I bet rye flour would be terrific). For the actual brownie (not the caramel) I used coconut sugar, per Anna’s suggestion. You basically start off making the caramel, which Anna makes super simple and doesn’t even call for a candy thermometer or any of that business. Then you take that caramel, freeze it, chop it up and dump it in your brownie batter so it melts into these oozing pools of  goodness when baked. They are supremely gooey and cozy, and I can’t think of a a better recipe to share on this first week of fall.  I’ll be shocked if you don’t accidentally eat the whole thing. 

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bodhi

According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) achieved enlightenment in 528 B.C while sitting under a type of fig tree called the bo (or bodhi) tree. 

My favorite fruit to eat this time of year has a fascinating anatomy. Figs, like breadfruits and pineapples, are considered “collective fruits” because they contain hundreds of tiny male and female flowers inside. In other words, they are not so much fruits as they are inverted flowers. In botanist speak, this is called an “enclosed inflorescence”. You can’t see these flowers from the outside of the synconium (the part you actually eat) but slice one open and there it all is. Figs contain multitudes. Figs are lusty and mysterious. Figs are feminine. Figs are also really, really delicious when roasted with wine, as I learned from Claire Ptak’s column in the Guardian a couple weeks ago.

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koolee

(v.) Literally, the Darija (Moroccan- Arabic) word for eat

Sesame seeds are one of my favorite spices. I check my teeth for remnants about five to seven times a day, as I’m always looking for an excuse to add their toasty crunch to everything I eat. I love them in every form, from Middle-Eastern sesame paste (tahini) to sesame oil to those seedy little candies bound with honey. My latest obsession is gomasio, a Japanese toasted sesame salt that tastes amazing on white rice, soba noodles or fish.

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sobremesa

(n.) Spanish term for the conversation at the table that continues after a meal is over

I begin this blog with a snapshot of one of my favorite moments as of late. A quick dinner of calamari and squid, pan con tomate, gazpacho and of course enough vino to keep the sobremesa going for hours. We savored every bit of both, the conversation and the food, on the rooftop of this new-ish home of ours. Here’s to many more nights like this.

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