Mess or Magic? You Decide
Well I absolutely missed the August newsletter. So lucky you, like the September issue of Vogue, this one is stacked with double the recipes and double the content.
I have big personal news that has resulted in a slowdown in my professional offerings but a speeding up in my personal life. I have separated from my partner of 19 years, my dear friend and the father of my daughter. So as we re-establish our separate lives, living situations, and routines, there is a lot to do and a lot to simply feel. It is absolutely the right choice for our family and I can already see beautiful new growth in the form of healthy communication and increased flexibility as we learn to take on new roles and redefine our relationship and our family dynamic.
But yeah. It’s quite a lot. The summer of change has been a rollercoaster of emotions and with the cooler breezes of autumn I hope to find the stability required to get some long-awaited projects going. For example, those embodied cooking classes I have been telling you so much about!
My Life as a Sitcom Character
With this new single life I have had to embrace my chaotic and hijinks-heavy lifestyle. I am not really a person who does things in a normal way. Decisions are made with intuition and I start most projects, even, say, the putting together of a large piece of IKEA furniture, without a clear strategy, but with a solid sense that I will find my way to the end come what may.
I have a wonderful new apartment that I have been outfitting for my daughter and me, but, like all new spaces, especially in New York, there are idiosyncrasies to learn and adapt to. I discovered one such thing in high-key fashion when I went out to my little rooftop deck to eat my freshly made guacamole (it was guacamole with corn in it as Kenji suggests this week at the NYT). My back deck is on a rooftop at the rear of my apartment building. Completely private. Wonderful, I thought.
After a few minutes outside a wasp began really getting into my guacamole and the heat from the sun was uncomfortable so I decided to head back inside. As I tried the door, the wasp became the least of my problems. Despite being unlocked, the doorknob simply would not move the locking mechanism to allow me entry back into the apartment. Side note, my deck is private and I was not really wearing what could be legally be called “enough clothing.”
After a brief, but pronounced, moment of panic I realized that my air conditioner gave me access to open one of my windows from the back. So without thinking too much about the alternatives (calling the fire department? Super-heroing my way over to the fire escape on the next building over??), I opened the window.
Now this was not a simple let’s-just-bend-over-and-crawl-into-the-window situation. This was a window halfway open with a large air conditioner inside it. In order to get back into my apartment without a profoundly humiliating experience (remember, no clothes) I would have to somehow shimmy my body through a tiny space, balancing on a ledge while straddling a very wide air conditioner that I could not rest my full weight onto or it would break the window casing or topple it into the apartment smashing it and god knows what else.
Well I did it. And all I can really say about that is thank GOD for yoga. I absolutely could not have done that even a few months ago. The level of flexibility required was high. Also thank god for the ability to connect to the breath and slow down in these moments of panic to see what the options are. This has been my experience over and over these past months. Something that looks like a disaster can be easily managed with a moment of calm reflection.
Where Disaster and Creativity Collide
This month’s sitcom-like energy extended even into my recipe development this month.
One of the purchases I was oddly excited about for my new lifestyle was a granny cart. You know—those tall, wheeled shopping baskets that can sort of navigate the sidewalks of Brooklyn? I don’t have a car by the way.
As soon as I was moved into my new place I triumphantly went for a big grocery run, granny cart in full use… maybe too much in full use. As I was walking home from the store pushing my cart, I hit a major bump in the sidewalk and nearly went flying forward over the top of it. A bunch of my groceries went careening down and smashed open on the ground. I was lucky to receive a lot of kind and non-judgemental help from a stranger. But one casualty was the yogurt which had burst open and made a bit of a mess.
Feeling glad to have salvaged most of the food and reorganized my set-up, I made my way home. As I unpacked, I was completely overwhelmed with delight as I opened one bag that had gotten hit by the yogurt. The smell of the yogurt mixed with the scallion and mint that were in the bag was incredible and I instantly knew I had to top the gochujang eggplant with this mixture.
I truly think it is part of my learning right now to embrace the odd and synchronistic beauty of life on the edge of destruction and joy and follow the magic that comes. I hope you enjoy the resulting recipe--I think it is incredible and will be eating it on repeat until eggplant is no longer in season.
Sweet and Spicy Eggplant with Herby Yogurt
Serves 2 to 3
TL;DR: Salt eggplant and let sit for 30 minutes. Cook eggplant in pan on medium heat with garlic, tomato, and gochujang, then add corn. Mix together yogurt with everything else. Serve together.
1 large eggplant, diced
Salt, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium tomato or a handful of baby tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp gochujang paste (see note)
1 cob of corn, shucked and kernels cut off
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 scallions, chopped
3-4 sprigs of mint, leaves pulled off and chopped
½ red chile, chopped finely (optional)
Tumble the eggplant into a sieve with a bowl underneath. Sprinkle liberally with salt and toss to coat. Leave for 30 minutes or so. Drain the juices.
Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the eggplant to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, without stirring. Add the garlic, tomato, and gochujang paste with about ¼ cup of water and stir it all together to coat. Let it cook, stirring occasionally until everything is darkened and jammy looking, about 15 minutes. Finally, add in the corn kernels and cook until the corn turns from a dull yellow to a bright yellow. Add salt to taste, turn off the heat, and set aside.
While the eggplant cooks, mix together the yogurt, scallions, mint, and chile, if using. Set aside a bit of the scallion, mint, and chile to sprinkle on top.
To plate, spread about half to three-quarters of the yogurt onto a plate to create a base layer, then scoop the eggplant mixture on top in a big beautiful pile. Then drizzle over the rest of the yogurt and sprinkle with the extra scallion, mint, and chile.
Serve with pita, crackers, or big pieces of lettuce like romaine or butter. Or add to a bowl with quinoa, rice, farro, or pasta to make it into a larger meal.
*Gochujang is a sweet, lightly spicy, and funky Korean chile paste you should absolutely add to your flavor library. Can be found in Korean or most Asian grocery stores or sometimes the Asian section of a standard grocery store.
Spicy Fennel and Lime Salad
TL;DR: Finely slice the fennel and Serrano pepper, soak in lime juice and salt, sprinkle with gouda and eat.
1 large bulb of fennel, fronds included, very finely sliced (use a mandoline if you have one!)
1 Serrano pepper, very finely chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
1 tsp fine sea salt
Crumbled aged gouda or parmesan, to taste
Slice the fennel and serrano, tumble into a bowl and squeeze the lime juice all over. Add the salt and toss a lot to get the salt and lime juice well distributed. Let it sit for 20 minutes so the fennel becomes well seasoned. Then finally add the gouda and serve.
I did some fun media this summer. Here is a delightful podcast called Mood Ring with Anna Borges who writes for many publications about mental, emotional, and sexual health.
Check out our encouraging and dare I say funny conversation here.
And here is a sweet piece on cooking and grief that the lovely Emily Laurence wrote up. It’s about some of my experiences with that space, what I have learned and how I am getting through it.
This summer was challenging. But also I have found myself able to move through it consistently. One morning in late July I walked out the front door to take my daughter Io to camp and we found a beautiful iridescent beetle on its back, waving its legs desperately in the air trying to right itself. We gently helped it get its legs on the ground, but it kept flipping itself over again as it tried to navigate the brownstone stairs. So we carried it to some soil and let it loose. Suddenly it seemed to be able to move so much more comfortably.
Sometimes we just need to find our way back to our natural environment, whatever that may be. I feel I am starting to get there myself. I hope you find yours.
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