With Ruth Reichl’s giant chocolate cake (actual name) to soothe back-to-school stresses.
By Kim Severson
Hello from Atlanta, where school started a month ago and we are deep into packing lunches, working hard and trying to ignore the recent courthouse shenanigans that seem to keep Georgia on everybody’s mind.
We are also still mourning our terrible peach season. By some estimates, nearly 95 percent of the crop was lost largely because of a hard and untimely freeze.
I get into peach beefs all the time with friends from New Jersey and California and Colorado, all parts of the country where I have either lived or visited family on a regular basis. Your peaches are terrific, sure. But we Georgians have 40 commercial varieties, all of them ripening to a deep sugary tang under the hot Southern sun. They fill my counter every summer. Usually.
I cherished the few peaches I did get, even though they were crazy expensive and weren’t as sweet or as ripe as usual. The brilliant Ligaya Mishan, a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, came to my rescue with a recipe to grill them (above). A little olive oil and some heat transforms the flesh into a soft, sugary base for a drift of cream, a few blueberries and dukkah, the spicy, seedy secret weapon you should always keep in your kitchen.
Grilled Peaches With Dukkah and Blueberries
View Recipe →
As for the rest of the week. …
Labor Day is a nice opportunity to perform some labor for the people you love (which includes yourself, of course). May I suggest Ruth Reichl’s giant chocolate cake, with whipped cream cheese in the frosting? She baked the tender, tall, rectangle of a cake as a way to help her through the year of grief and self-doubt that arrived when Condé Nast shuttered Gourmet, the magazine she ran. Ms. Reichl has been in the food writing game for more than five decades. #Respect! (And she’s still at it: Check out her newsletter, Le Briffe.)
We’re a taco Tuesday household. We’re also a bo ssam household. Alexa Weibel’s kimchi chicken lettuce wraps is a killer mash-up, and you probably have everything for the recipe already. I had to make it a time or two to dial in the exact heat-sweet ratio for my people, but 10/10 recommend.
My pal Eric Kim explains that the reason vodka works so well in pasta sauce is in part because it helps fat disperse more evenly. That makes everything glossy like only a good emulsion can. Share that fact like a professor when you serve this dish of beans and greens alla vodka, which punches way above its weight. Also, it gets better in the refrigerator and thus solves the school lunch problem for Thursday.
I know I’ve used up my Southern bragging rights with the peaches, but my beloved fresh Gulf shrimp work like a charm in shrimp pad Thai, a recipe from Watcharee Limanon. She, along with chefs Pailin Chongchitnant and Hong Thaimee, explained to my colleague Julia Moskin how they get classic Thai noodle dishes just right in a home kitchen. (It’s as much about organization as it is the right ingredients.) Frozen American shrimp is the way to go here if you don’t live near the Gulf.
You’ve made it to the end of another week. Mazel tov! Mia Leimkuhler, the agile editor of this newsletter, suggests we call it étouffriday and offer readers this really smart vegan mushroom étouffée from Jenné Claiborne, who included it in her 2018 cookbook “Sweet Potato Soul.” Mushrooms stand in for the seafood, and a shake of dulce or some other dried seaweed gives it an umami kick. If you like a thicker gravy, hold back a touch on the liquid.
We’ve got thousands more where these came from on New York Times Cooking. By now, our dear community of readers know we put in a lot of staff hours gathering, testing and writing these recipes. To paraphrase Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” that costs money! Will you consider subscribing today? Thanks.
This was fun. Sam has made his way back to the grid with many tales to tell. And I’ve got to get back to reporting all the food news that’s fit to print.
Remember the good times we had and never change. Until the next time someone goes on vacation. …
Kim Severson is a Southern-based correspondent who covers the nation’s food culture and contributes to NYT Cooking. She has written four books and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment. More about Kim Severson
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