*Last week we took our first family vacation in five years. Five years ago, around this time, we went to mainland china. I still had braces then, and I remember this one shirt that I had way back when—a yellow cropped top with Van Gogh's bust in a three-quarter profile on it. We went with a tour group, and We traveled around some of the rural villages near yellow mountain. Back then, family vacations were more frequent but also more volatile. I was more volatile then—I threw a lot of tantrums, argued with my parents, and fought with my sister. I'm glad to say that five years later, things have changed.
*New York City is my city of choice. It's not the place I would choose to spend the rest of my life, but I love it as a metropolis—a highly concentrated hub of energy and exchange. the city gives me a buzz, an adrenaline rush—the kind that makes me giddy. I'm not a native of new york, but I can say earnestly that I love it and I know the places that U love in new york after having spent a summer living and working there. I like my relationship with new york right now: a familiar place i can enjoy, but not familiar enough to breed the worst kind of contempt—the kind of contempt that leaves you suffocated, tired, and jaded. I take the city in short gasps of air so that the buzz can brew and then settle down again. This is good: I want new york city to remain a place I love.
*It was nice being able to show my family around New York—to be their tour guide—and to visit different restaurants and shops together. A lot of my time in New York has been spent alone—and I like that—but I also appreciated shared experiences—and we've all grown up, and we know each other better now. A family is an object but it is also a process, and I think a family vacation is a self-contained, encouraging vehicle for that process.
*Of all the labors that happen in a kitchen, making a soup or a stew is the most loving, I think. You begin by gathering all of your ingredients from the refrigerator and the pantry. You pull out a large pot and you set it on the stovetop, and you light the stove to heat the pot. Normally, you begin by sauteeing - onions and garlic, most typically, because soups begin with a fragrance. Or else soups begin with water, which you bring to a boil. Either way, the process of soup-making is a crescendo, a labor that cannot be rushed. You stand over the stove stirring, letting the flavors richen and thicken - which is only made possible through patience and time. And somehow, even as the ingredients are breaking down, they are becoming more like one cohesive whole rather than being separate components. Making soup is as fluid a process as the end product. The timing is never rigid; you rely on what you see and smell. Whimsy and spice - even the most unexpected - are necessary ingredients. You taste as you go along, dipping your stirring spoon into the pot and then licking it clean, burning your tongue every now and then. Finally, your gut tells you the soup is almost ready - you just know - and you season with salt and pepper, and you break some bread and serve it with your soup. You've spent hours stirring and adding and tasting, and though the soup is nothing flashy or extravagant, your soup is love. Your soup is the time you spend, your soup holds your daydreams and your thoughts - the ones that floated through your head as you were stirring -, your soup holds your tastes and your favorite spices, your soup retains your desire to comfort and to please - and whoever drinks your soup will understand, when they grow warm as they drink, that your soup is love - pure, unadulterated love.
*Lemony Chickpea Soup
Inspired by The Angelica Home Kitchen
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 bay leaf
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cups cooked (or canned) chickpeas
1/4 cup roasted garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika (+ more to garnish)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley to garnish
1. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Add diced onion and sautee on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, until yellow and soft.
2. Add bay leaf and celery. Sautee for 10 minutes.
3. Add stock, water, canned chickpeas, and roasted garlic. Bring to a boil; turn down heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Using handheld blender, puree mixture. Mix in lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper.
5. Serve with parsley and paprika to garnish.
*After taunting you with pictures of food for so long, here's a recipe finally. It's what I ate for breakfast this morning, alongside some strawberries, chocolate, an oatmeal cookie, and a handful of nuts. What can i say? It's summertime and U have no problem with decadence at 7 AM in the morning. In fact, I'm all for it—which is why this recipe is particularly glorious.
*Last year, while I was in Europe, there was one place I really wanted to go but never made it to: Istanbul. One of my best friends had studied abroad there and loved it, and I have always been fascinated by Middle Eastern architecture and culture. Oh and another thing—the food—I have always loved Middle Eastern food.
*This recipe is inspired by Turkish flavors: the spices, the dates, the nuts, the tahini—those are all staples of Turkish cuisine. When I recall memories of Turkish or Turkish-inspired cuisine, I remember the tahini-covered brussel sprouts with pistachios and pomegranate seeds that I had a Oleana a few months ago, the date-cardamom granola at Sofra sprinkled over thick, tangy labneh, and the Turkish sweets at the Harrods' food hall in London, which I brought back to my hotel room and enjoyed with a cup of tea: tahini shortbread rounds, date-nut rolls, sesame halvah, and a flaky syrup-drenched baklava. I’ve been dreaming about making this breakfast for a long time after realizing how well a tangy cream goes with dates and nuts, and how the creaminess of tahini can add such nuanced depth. It was finally realized this morning in the form of an almond-crusted, date and yogurt stuffed french toast—with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
*This recipe does not take very long to throw together, and it makes for a wonderfully sweet weekend breakfast—but you can also enjoy it on a Monday morning like I did.
*I made a non-dairy version of this breakfast because I don't do well with dairy, but regular milk and yogurt would work just fine.
*This recipe is easily doubled, though the French toast batter in the recipe is enough for 2 servings.
*Turkish Stuffed French Toast
1 English muffin, halved (alternatively, 2 slices of bread)
1/2 c milk (I used almond milk)
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp flour of choice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c sliced almonds
1 tsp coconut oil (or cooking oil of choice)
2 dates, chopped (make sure to use fresh dates! they should be soft.)
2 Tbsp yogurt, cream cheese, or sour cream (I used coconut milk yogurt)
1 serving tahini caramel (recipe follows)
1. In a wide bowl, combine the milk, flaxseed, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk and stir well. Let sit for 5 minutes to let mixture thicken.
2. Place the two English muffin halves (or bread) into the mixture and let sit for 2 minutes to soak up the liquid.
3. While the English muffin is soaking, heat the coconut oil in a pan on the stove over medium heat.
4. Place the sliced almonds in another wide bowl. Dip each soaked English muffin half into the bowl of sliced almonds, making sure that the sliced almonds cover both sides of each half.
5. Place the two English muffin halves into the heated pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, making sure that the almonds don’t burn.
5. With the muffin halves still in the pan, ladle the yogurt onto one half, and top with the chopped dates. Top off with the other English muffin half, creating a sandwich. Let sit in the pan for another 30 seconds, then flip the sandwich onto the other side, and let cook for 30 seconds.
6. Serve with warm Tahini caramel sauce, along with fresh fruit and nuts!
*Tahini Caramel Sauce
makes 1 serving
1 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp date syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
2 tsp warm water
Combine all ingredients and stir well. If desired, heat sauce over stove or in microwave.
*It's been awhile, but I'm back in California with a kitchen—a place where i can be creative—and that makes me really happy, even though it is cold out in the middle of May. I came home for the sunshine (among other things), and the weather gods are really letting me down.
*Still, I've been enjoying myself, relishing the fact that I don't have to eat dining hall dorm-food.
*Saturday morning breakfast was English muffins with avocado+jam; sunflower seed butter + bananas.
*I also made dinner for my entire family last night, which included roasted broccoli + cauliflower, baked tofu, and this dense chewy cornbread, among other things.
*Let's talk about this cornbread, which is not really typical cornbread—but it is one of my favorite breads as of late. It's made mostly from rice + oats + cornmeal, and I've been eating it at every meal. It's delicious and I can't get enough of it.