It’s been over six years since I mooned here over a lost dumpling love. Dumplings are kind of a fixation for me; I am unwaveringly convinced that small pockets of food wrapped elegantly in a thin dough are among the universe’s most perfect foods; portable and petite, servings easily scaled, I dare you to find a nutritious food not improved by an adorable doughy package. The vegetable dumplings that I used to get at a chain of otherwise average west side Chinese restaurants were my all-time favorite; before they changed the recipe, I regularly rerouted my day to stop there for an order, and a beer. (Sidebar: Can we talk about how delicious a cold beer in a glass is with potstickers? No, different conversation, huh? Onwards!)
For as long as I have written this website — yes, even longer than it has been since I told you the wee white lie that Paula Wolfert’s hummus was all I’d ever need — I have known how to make the most ethereally smooth, fluffy, dollop-ing of a hummus and never told you. I have some nerve. But, in my defense, I had my reasons, mostly that I knew if I told you how to make it, I’d be able to hear your eye rolls through the screen, they’d be at once so dramatic and in unison. From there, there would be the loud, synchronized clicks of “Unfollow!” “Unfriend!” “Hide these updates, please!” and the under-breath mutters of “Lady, you have got to be kidding me.” Because, you see, the path between the probably acceptable, vaguely grainy but borderline good-enough hummus you probably have been making and the stuff that I dream about sweeping cold, sweet carrots sticks through — the January version of fresh strawberries and whipped cream — has only one extra stop but most of you will argue that it’s at Cuckoo Farm: you see, you must peel the chickpeas.
It’s the first week of January, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that no fewer than 52 percent of you are gnawing on a carrot stick right now. If you’re not gnawing on a carrot stick right now, you probably have some within reach of you. If they’re not within reach of you, they’re in your fridge, because you, like most of us, are more ambitious when it comes to grocery lists than you might be when it’s time to consume said groceries. And if they’re not in your fridge, you might have them on your mind, nagging at you. Early January is like that. (Late January is all about rich comfort foods. Trust me.)
This was my lunch last week. I know that it may look less like lunch and more like penance, some apology for eating too many squares of salted-caramel-glazed fanned-apples-atop-1000-layers-of-buttery-pastry. I realize that most people think that when you start serving them bowls hearty grains and roasted squash that you might have an ulterior motive, like their thighs. I understand that most people don’t believe me when I say this, but it doesn’t make it any less true: I don’t eat food because it’s good for me; I eat it because I like it. And this was one of the most delicious lunch salads I’ve ever made.
I hadn’t meant for this soup to be so quintessentially early January — that would be, virtually fat free, dairy free, gluten free (miso dependent), vegan and the very picture of healthful do-gooding. It’s about one cube of tofu away from earning a halo or at least being surrounded by singing cherubs. In fact, if you advertised a soup to me with all of those qualities, I’d probably run in the other direction because I am a dietary heathen, and I love butter, even if overdoing it in December now requires it in moderation. For the rest of time.
I think that if we’re going to continue to be grand old friends, you’re going to have to admit that you at least occasionally wish you could have potato salad for lunch any day of the week. That you think it’s kind of lame that potato salad is relegated to backyard barbecue indulgence; packed up in Tupperware, saved for 3-day weekends, eaten with apology to the swimsuit you’ll wear the next day. If nothing else you might admit this so that I can feel my habits are less cuckoo. You’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?
I’m pretty sure I had a normal relationship to all things stringy and green when I started this site, but if my archives are any indication, at some point in 2008, something shifted and I became a green bean fiend. It might have even been May of that year, a month that be began with a simple summery salad but by month’s end, I was forcing Alex to endure takeout from a medicore French restaurant up to twice a week, just so I could have their side dish of skinny green beans with a pat of butter, some shallots and tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. (When he cut me off, I simply went into the kitchen and attempted them myself.) I began remembering which restaurants cooked green beans perfectly each time, like the one on 7th Avenue that served them with roast chicken, buried in jus under a pile mashed potatoes and I literally ate them before the salty, crispy skin. I began judging places harshly if my beans flapped or flopped on a plate. I could speak unhealthily at length about various cooking times and what texture they’d leave the beans.