I am a little bit obsessed with this spaghetti. If we’ve spoken recently, I didn’t let you not asking me about it keep me from going on about its simple summer dinner bliss. I have been fixating on the idea of this spaghetti for two delicious summers and I am almost sad that the recipe is done, as it now transfers into the category of Things I Already Know How To Make, which always gets bumped when there are so many Recipes That Aren’t Done Yet for a little manuscript due at the end of this summer.
It started with a zucchini butter recipe I once spied on Food52, but was traced back to Julia Child’s Grated Zucchini Sautéed in Butter and Shallots. Over rounds of tweaking, I eliminated several things, not because they weren’t good, but because they didn’t suit my needs here: the shallots (added too much sweetness), the partial addition of olive oil (I was promised butter, after all), salting, draining, and wringing the zucchini (so much work, all for a shriveled pile of zucchini that dragged in the pan), adding a little more butter (it helps when stretching it across a big bowl spaghetti), and a not insignificant amount of garlic, pepper flakes, basil, and parmesan and I realize that this now relates to Julia Child’s zucchini butter about as much as I relate to being a morning person, but this paragraph is about about what set the idea off, and this next one is about where I hope it goes:
In 2006, mere weeks into launching this internet food blog presence, I shared a recipe for ice cream sandwich cookies that I’d made for a friend’s rooftop birthday party. Oversized, utterly delicious cookies plus a scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day, what could go wrong? Alas, several things. First, regular cookies in the freezer become tooth-breakingly hard. Second, assembled ice cream sandwiches that are not returned to the freezer for several hours after filling melt way too fast, mostly down your arm, delighting the bugs around you but perhaps nobody else. Do know that none went to waste, but I think we all agreed it was all just too much, both massive cookies and massive messes of ice cream. Not learning my lesson, I tried again several years later with a slightly softer, but still not soft enough, cookie, yet it was still enough work that I’ve not made them since. I’ve also tried them with brownies (better) and salted caramel crackers (wildly delicious) but I still wanted to get the classic American ice cream sandwich right at home.
Here is my almost-summer wish for us: I think we should bring a pan of freshly-baked, thick, buttery, crisp on top, and plush with a flavor that absolutely reverberates with corn underneath, to your next park/picnic/potluck. It goes so well with summer salads and snacky things. And when cornbread is good, really good, it feels criminal not to share. This is.
When I was in high school and we were finally allowed to go off-grounds for lunch, we often went to a local deli where my friends would get various sandwiches with turkey, salami, ham, or all of the above, plus, lettuce, tomato, onions, vinegar and oil and I, a vegetarian in a place baffled by this, would get a the same but with cheese instead. I have thought about this sandwich and what it did well — salt, pepper, vinegar, oil, crunch — and what it did poorly — a stack of tasteless sliced deli cheese as filler — for way too long in the years (and decades, sigh) since because I still love a sandwich full of vegetables, but find most vegetable sandwiches very disappointing, either heavy with cheese (and I love cheese, but not, like, an inch of it) or overcooked, under-seasoned vegetables. Why not avocado and crispy kale? Why not hummus, marinated cucumbers and carrots? Why not… make it for yourself, Deb? Which brings us, as ever, back here today.
It’s a gorgeous spring week in New York City, the windows are wide open, and before I find it impossible to resist the siren call of a full shift to picnic–summer-beach-fresh-everything mode (with some ice cream/pie/cookie breaks, naturally) I wanted to tell you about one last easy weeknight pandemic-era favorite: a soy sauce-basted chicken that my family would be happy if I made once a week forever.
Cinnamon buns are perfect — they don’t need disruption, nobody needs a fresh new take on them, and they don’t need refining. I suspect that for most of us, our only grievance is that nobody makes them often enough. Have you ever woken up to the smell of fresh cinnamon buns baking in the oven? Yeah, me neither, but boy does my family have good things to say about it.
I had a very good reason for making this, in fact, the very best reason, the only reason I ever really want to cook anything on busy weeks with no other gravitas-adding forces at play: I wanted it. Last week I had an intense craving for the kind of salsa you get in a jar, that we went through buckets of when I was in college, the kind of salsa that you’d get on a table at a Mexican restaurant that may or may not sell margaritas in cactus-stem glasses and I wondered why I didn’t have a go-to recipe for making it at home. Isn’t that, like, my purpose here? Isn’t that what I do here, week after week for nearly 15 years, share recipes I hope will become your go-tos as much as they’ve become mine? Where was my seasonless* salsa recipe?
At some point in the swamp of time that has been this past winter, my husband convinced me that we should watch Ted Lasso and, despite my skepticism about a dad-joking American football coach who gets a job coaching professional soccer in England’s ability to hold my interest, I begrudgingly agreed. It turned out to be… kind of delightful? Objectively enjoyable, really. Don’t worry, I will not be discussing sports today and there won’t be any spoilers, but do know that homemade shortbread cookies have a recurring role and that is where our story begins.
I know it’s too early for asparagus, at least in New York, but I’m tired of waiting, a feeling that both encapsulates my cooking right now and my mood about [waves hands] everything. I am sure I’m not alone in being ready for summer, for outside, for all of my friends to get vaccinated, for my kids lives to normalize so they can be off screens all day, and I know you do not get things by stamping your feet and demanding them (I may have tried) but if there’s one thing on this list we can safely take an advance on, it’s spring vegetables. Grocery store asparagus is lovely and here for us until the freshly-plucked Greenmarket stuff emerges and I say we embrace it with abandon.
Here’s a really fun dinner I made recently, the sheet pan chow mein from Hetty McKinnon’s, newcookbook, which is a love letter to all the vibrant Chinese food she grew up eating plus many of her other Asian favorites. You — we, if I may be so presumptuous — love McKinnon’s vegetarian cooking because she’s so creative, as we saw in this chickpea and kale shakshuka, and yet it’s all so practically-minded, clearly having been vetted in the chaos of real life family dinners.