The Culinary Ouroboros
Eating for fortune every new year, and finding... what?
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BK / JK
DISH: Eat Well, Eat Often
Bon appétit translates to good appetite. It is one of a handful of expressions used universally in western and European dining to wish diners well. So it is what we say to you as 2021 disappears and another year breaks. We hope you eat well. Literally. For nearly two years, many of us have alternated between well-intentioned dining and succumbing to pandemic-fueled binges. That’s fine, so long as the balance swings more towards the former than the latter. We're not so sure that’s been the case for us – as in, the actual Costco cases that have been delivered in the past two years versus the previous 20 years state the position quite clearly – but why reflect when we can look forward? (Seriously, the guilt does nothing to restore good habits. And everyone knows we aren’t going to cancel drinks, chips, and candy.) We’re not going to make eating resolutions per se. But in the best sense we’ll put it out there, and write it down here. After all, Jen did give up Diet Coke last year, and largely stuck to it, with the exception of a minor slip here and there. In the next year, we will add a special focus on the delicious and healthy. More color, more veg, and more recipes. We can’t wait to share. So to 2022, we say bon appétit. Eat well and often, with a good appetite and the intention of enjoying a life well-lived.
BK / JK
DISH: The MIA Menu
What do you eat on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day to ensure fortune? Sometimes, it's a gamble. Many cultures have a tradition about who gets the luck and who doesn't. In Sweden, they eat rice pudding with an almond hidden inside; whoever finds the almond is supposed to have a lucky year. As for everyone else, well... Germans eat Berliners (donuts), some of which are jam-filled and others of which spout mustard. Get one of the latter, and it's not just your palate that's unhappy. Mexicans cut up a sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes, which contains a charm or coin. The lucky dessert eater gets it. I prefer the more egalitarian Spanish tradition of las doce uvas de la suerte, eating 12 grapes at midnight and making 12 wishes – one for every month of the year and every chime of the clock – if only because everyone can do it. In Miami, where many Latin communities live, it's quite the thing to do. Usually I prefer drinking my grapes. But tonight my husband and I will be eating them, too, after our own personal habit of consuming stone crabs with mustard sauce. I also like to try an assortment of new cheeses on this night – a practice that started for an annual article I used to write and that has persisted beyond it. I still love to haunt the shops, aisles, and online stores for cheeses I haven't sampled, and find unusual pairings for them. (Sometimes I wind up including them in articles anyway.) It's unfortunate that our usual partners in this endeavor as well as the stone crab tradition are currently recovering from Covid. We'll miss consuming all that goodness with them. Fortunately, they were triple-vaxxed, so it wasn't too bad an illness for either. But playing it safe seems like a reasonable proposition. Tonight might just be the two of us, with our son and his friends dropping in snacks, if duck terrine and cornichons are on their minds. And grapes, of course. Good wishes are for everyone in this house.
DISH: The NYC Menu
Tonight’s menu features a lentil-and-sausage soup. Yes, I’ve already peeked at the offerings at one of our New York faves. We are joining another triple-vaxxed couple for dinner. With the latest swarm of Covid surprises lately, I didn’t want to discover it was going to be a New Year’s Eve prix fix menu when we sat down. (Yes, I really hate holiday set menus even as I love them at other times. I’m eyeballing you #danielnyc❤️!) Turns out The Leopard will have specials as well as the standard menu. Tanti bacci to that - we can’t wait! But to get back to the lentils. They’re part of the Italian tradition for the New Year. Eaten after midnight or gifted to friends, they’re meant to usher in good fortune and prosperity. I can’t speak to the combination with sausage, but lentils are mighty healthy sources of folate, protein, fiber, iron and potassium. They’re considered heart healthy, gut-enhancing and cancer-protective. Can we all say, check! Ditto the Hoppin’ John and black-eyed peas and rice offered in the South for the New Year. The New York Times shared an excellent article tracing the derivation and distinctions of these Black American cooking traditions. Did we know collards represent crumpled money? Makes sense. The Chinese New Year brings a host of foods for the future, including dumplings for wealth, sweet sticky rice for family togetherness, and a personal favorite, longevity noodles. When we eat and what we eat are inextricably tied to who we are. Not that we can’t and shouldn’t share the most delicious and fortuitous. After so much Covid craziness, we should all be willing to try anything and everything. Jen and I definitely are ready.
DISH: Super Salmon
Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about eating for life and not just immediacy. Bagels are almost always more appealing than bananas but lack the potassium. I’m not eliminating bagels and will probably have that round delicacy to start my year since its shape also suggests longevity – and I just like them. But I’ll also be focusing more on the rainbow and Mediterranean diets that we know bring health. So I started this week with a salmon dish that can be doubled for a family or slimmed down for a single's lunch. It is easy and delish. Sub another fish like Arctic char if you’re not a salmon fan. Salmon: ¾ pound of salmon, skin on 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 head radicchio, sliced 1/3 inch horizontally 1 orange, peeled with a knife and sliced horizontally Salt & pepper to taste Dressing: 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (or chive, or both) 2 tablespoons orange juice 1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil Salt & pepper Take the salmon out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for 15 minutes. Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan. Grill radicchio 1-2 minutes per side until there is color. Remove. Arrange radicchio and orange on a plate. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pan. No need to clean the pan. Grill the salmon flesh side down 2-3 minutes. Turn and grill 1-2 minutes, then cover for about 5. This will be about medium for salmon that’s about an inch thick in the middle. Let it rest a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing except the olive oil. While whisking, add the minimum of oil. Taste and adjust oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over radicchio, orange, and salmon. Serve immediately.
TILL: Smoke N’ Bubbles
Tired of Champagne? (As if!) But seriously, if you're looking for something a little different tonight, this is a terrific cocktail – a little tart, with a peppery bite and smoky edge. Our friends at Mezcal Campante sent it to us. Try it and let us know what you think. Not that you'll change our minds; we already know it's liquid dynamite. 1 1/2 ounces Mezcal Campante 3/4 ounces pink grapefruit juice 1/2 ounces Peppercorn Simple Syrup (see below) Pinch of salt 1 - 2 ounces Champagne/sparkling wine Twist of grapefruit Ground pepper Add Mezcal Campante, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and the salt to a shaker. Add ice and shake at a medium rate, about 10 seconds. Double strain into a flute and top with Champagne. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit and a bit of finely ground pepper. This is beautiful with oysters on the half shell! For the Peppercorn Simple Syrup: Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a pan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just starting to boil. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns. Cover and let steep for 2 hours. Strain out the peppercorns and refrigerate the syrup in a sealed jar for up to a week.
DISH: Recap and Coming Soon
Betsy is in the digital and real world teaching culinary, mixology, and floral skills. Fully vaccinated and boosted, she's back to planning events, too. You can hire her for both by contacting her at email@example.com.
Jen's having fun with gingerbread, inspired by her trip to Sweden, and gluten-free brownies for Cheryl's Cookies. She's returned to Miami New Times, where she first started as a dining critic – you can guess how many years ago – as a "carry-out critic." So far, she's reviewed what stone crabs and trendy pizza tastes like when it's taken out and delivered. In the poetry world, her poem "Nazi Memorabilia Are the Hot Lots," about encountering unsavory World War II "collectibles" in online auctions, was a finalist in the 2021 Joy Harjo Poetry Contest and will be published in Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts. Coming Soon: Jen's developing more gluten-free brownie recipes for Cheryl's Cookies and testing vacuum sealers and indoor grills for BobVila.com. She's writing profiles for the spring issue of Lifestyles South Florida and a couple of culinary pieces for HuffPost, one about how to sous vide and one about non-dairy milk appliances. An article on what she learned – and still uses – from Home Ec (remember that class?) is forthcoming in Allrecipes. Poems will appear in A-Minor, Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Creek Review, DIAGRAM, Escutcheon Review, Mom Egg Review, Notre Dame Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Terrain.org, UCity Review, and The Westchester Review, as well as couple of anthologies, one on the pandemic and one on disabilities. She also has an interview about her and two other poets forthcoming in The American Poetry Review. You can hire her for writing by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at jkaretnick.com.
I read the Nextdoor app for poetic inspiration, not necessarily for connection to my neighbors. There are some awfully strange questions and stories on there sometimes, like the one about the woman who called fire rescue to save a duck from a storm drain only to find out it was a bullfrog. (That became a great poem, actually.) Lately, people have been asking where to safely watch fireworks on New Year's Eve. Many mentioned condo/apartment rooftops until someone told us that he once found a bullet lodged in the shingles of his roof on New Year's Day. People shoot guns in the air to celebrate here in Miami (other places, too). It's pretty stupid. But it did remind me of this poem, which I wrote about flooding and climate change in Miami. Stay safe!
Fishing from the Roof of the House
This is no Hemingway tale. The fish we catch are not fabled and will not make our fortune, harnessed to nothing more than some jerk spices and the bottom of a frying pan liberally coated with oil so the flesh will not stick as ours does to the sheets we lie on at night when the waves have quieted like overtired children. We cast sidearm the way we used to heave a baseball into mitts to avoid throwing the brims of each other’s hats into the ocean with the bait, although this has happened, and this is what we have reeled in: saturated reminders of another life when the mean seats of a marlin stadium meant a blistered nose for a couple of days and not this flooded, floorless amphitheater where the only entertainment is skin after peeling skin, eternal, infinite, varying only in hit, fight and run.