Happy belated Fourth of July. Those are fireworks over the East River as seen through our living room window. This was taken on June 30th, which is when my neighborhood in Queens traditionally has its big Independence Day celebration; New York City’s main fireworks display (sponsored, as all NYC holiday-themed celebrations seem to be, by Macy’s) took place a bit further down the river, around the Brooklyn/Queens border, on the correct day. It's a scheduling thing, I suppose.
Iskipped the roundup last week because I was scrambling to finish that Duranalysis; you’d think that’d mean I’d have twice as much to talk about now, but that’s not the case. I don’t even have any new book giveaways this week! For the time being, Wrong City and Four Emperors are still both free at Smashwords (and pretty damn cheap at Amazon, if you’re more of a Kindle person), so I'm giving you those links again. And here’s the link to my full book list.
Anyone out there on Twitter? It’s an easy and (mostly) reliable way to get in touch with me, so if you feel so inclined, go ahead and follow me, then send me a quick message to let me know who you are; I’ll follow you back (unless: a) we are fundamentally ideologically incompatible, or b) you tweet or retweet more than, say, twenty times a day).
There are a bunch of Duranalyses in the works, thanks to the slew of fantastic topic suggestions everyone has submitted. Huge thanks to you all for that. Look for them roughly every other week throughout the summer.
It’s been hot, quelle surprise. Because using the oven is out of the question, I’ve been making a ridiculous number of salads. My summer grocery shopping methodology is thus: Go to Trader Joe’s once a week and pick up as many vegetables as my little arms can carry, then figure out what to do with them once I get them home. As long as I have a bunch of key staples on hand—olive oil, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, lemons, limes, garlic, ginger, vinegar (balsamic and rice vinegars seem to be the most versatile for my needs), bacon, peanut butter, nuts, soy sauce, sriracha—it doesn’t really matter what vegetables I get; I can use the same basic techniques with multiple different combinations of whatever ingredients I have on hand. Here are the salads I’ve made this week:
1. Peanut slaw. I gave the recipe for this one a few weeks back, but again, it’s just shredded cabbage, peanut butter, lime juice, grated ginger, rice vinegar, sriracha, and soy sauce. Yum.
2. I had fresh bing cherries on hand, so I did a variation on this Food & Wine cherry-cucumber salad. I had no cilantro (I'd used it all up in the avocado salad further down on this list), so I skipped that. I used rice vinegar instead of white, and I didn’t bother with the olive oil (I’ll generally leave out the oil in a salad dressing at first, unless I decide there’s a compelling reason for it to be there. For a fruit-based salad, I saw no reason to add it). So, it’s just pitted fresh cherries, chopped cucumber, rice vinegar, salt, pepper. Good textures – cold and fresh and crisp, with a nice sweet-sour-salty balance.
3. Baby kale, shredded carrots, chopped apple, pepitas toasted with salt and chili powder, with a dressing of Dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Kale always tastes like the weeds my sister and I used to graze on in our backyard in Spokane while growing up. I mean that in a good way, more or less. I like kale, but I’m never sure it tastes like something I’m supposed to be eating.
4. Shredded Brussels sprouts, bacon, balsamic glaze. I just pillaged this recipe off of the back of the bag of shredded sprouts. Fry up the bacon, remove it from the pan, stir-fry the Brussels in the bacon fat, add some balsamic vinegar and cook it a couple minutes to reduce, crumble the bacon and add it back to the pan. I cooked this for less time than suggested, because I prefer Brussels sprouts that still have some fight to them. Really good. Fatty, smoky, crunchy, slightly bitter goodness.
5. Chop up and sauté unseasoned zucchini in a bit of olive oil – leave it alone in the pan long enough to get some good color on it, stirring only as necessary. While it’s still hot, add the zucchini to a bowl along with a ton of minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. After it’s cooled to room temperature, I added a bunch of chopped grape tomatoes. It’s a variation on this Food52 recipe, only minus the fresh basil and with balsamic instead of red wine vinegar.
6. Broccoli tahini slaw. Usually I do this one as a variation on this Marcus Samuelsson recipe (note: do not be timid with the tahini, lemon, and garlic! Raw broccoli is pretty stern, rugged, woody stuff, so you need to club it into submission with tons of acid and strong flavors!): shredded broccoli, chopped apple, tahini paste, raw minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. This week, however, I picked up Trader Joe’s new green tahini sauce (ingredients: tahini, lemon, parsley, green onion, dill, mint, garlic, cilantro, salt, cumin), because I thought it sounded promising, and just added that to the broccoli and apple. Holy crap, that was a good move. Quick, easy, loaded with flavor – the mint particularly comes through.
7. Chopped avocado, chopped grape tomatoes, chopped red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt. It's really a very chunky guacamole, and it's fricking delicious. This is pretty much the recipe that Jack White infamously demanded in his leaked tour rider; I'm not going to give Jack too much crap about it, because it's good.
There’s minimal cooking involved in all of these – frying bacon, sautéing zucchini, toasting pepitas – which is ideal for this miserable hot, muggy weather. All this week, I’d make up a few of these each morning, chill them, and serve them for dinner along with some cold sliced rosemary-balsamic grilled chicken.
Eighties song lyric showdown, deadbeat dad edition: Who’s more despicable – the singer in Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, or the singer in Wham!’s “Everything She Wants”? Examine the lyrics: In “Billie Jean”, the singer repeatedly and near-frantically claims: a) Billie Jean is not his lover, and b) the kid is not his son. He maintains this stance even when presented with a photo of the baby in which “…his eyes were like mine (oh, no!)”. This would seem to suggest, hey, the kid’s probably his. At the very least, the worried “oh, no!” indicates paternity is in the realm of possibility, which in turn indicates that Billie Jean is or has been his lover, his denials to the contrary.
And then there’s “Everything She Wants”, in which the speaker airs a litany of grievances against his pregnant girlfriend (wife?). Word to the wise: “I'll tell you that I'm happy if you want me to” is probably not the best reaction to a pregnancy announcement from your mate, though his subsequent anguished wail of “My God, I don't even think that I love you!” manages to make an awkward situation far, far worse.
I love both these songs to bits, despicable narrators notwithstanding. Have a good weekend, everyone.