There’s something about putting together a dough, about measuring and kneading and waiting on a rise, that allows you to get out of your head.
Good morning. How are you doing? I’m compelled to ask. These are not easy days we’re marking. The news is relentless and largely grim, and it’s sometimes difficult to imagine a way forward, toward happiness and grace. You’re not alone, if that’s your state of mind. You’re one of many, and the best thing you can do about it is to reach out to others with empathy, with kindness, just to check in, just to say hello.
And for yourself? You should bake. That sounds like a nostrum, I know. But it’s true. There’s something about the act of putting together a dough or a batter, about measuring and kneading and waiting on a rise, that allows you to get out of your head, and to labor simply in the service of deliciousness.
It doesn’t need to be a project. If a Bundt cake seems too complicated, if you don’t trust your sourdough for a batch of English muffins, at least you can make Genevieve Ko’s recipe for fast and easy focaccia, which comes together in just a few hours and yields bread appropriate for evening sandwiches or for swiping through the sauce below a chicken piccata. It’s a focaccia to make things just a little bit better. And sometimes that’s enough.
Fast and Easy Focaccia
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As for the rest of the week. …
Ali Slagle’s new recipe for baked ricotta pasta is so creamy and light that it almost resembles a pudding. There’s a tanginess to the dish, too, from roasted lemon and tomatoes, with a crisp bread crumb topping for textural contrast. I’m usually not too fussy when it comes to ingredients, but because the sauce is mostly cheese, it’s worth it to use a fresh ricotta, one without gum or stabilizers.
The fall weather is chilling our local waters, and the sea scallops I’m seeing in the market are taut with the sweetness they develop this time of year, making it a lovely time for Alex Witchel’s adaptation of a recipe by the chef Michael Lomonaco for sea scallops with brown butter, capers and lemon. So good.
Midweek cooking can be a chore, which is where Melissa Clark’s recipe for pressure-cooker congee comes in handy. I like to add the chopped Chinese sausage known as lap cheong to the porridge, but you could use shredded rotisserie chicken instead, or slabs of store-bought char siu, or just a handful of roasted cashews or peanuts. Top with chile crisp and a dollop of oyster sauce.
Eric Kim’s recipe for Salisbury steak takes the dish far from the frozen-dinner aisle, restoring its reputation as a comforting, delicious weeknight meal that pairs exceptionally well with peas and mashed potatoes. Nostalgia!
And then you can round out the week with Colu Henry’s recipe for sheet-pan chicken with apple, fennel and onion, an autumn classic. The dish is fantastic with chicken thighs, but you’ll do well with breasts if you prefer them — just decrease the cooking time a little so that they don’t dry out.
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Now, it’s some distance from anything to do with cookies or cabbage, but Molly Young’s guide to the essential works of Vladimir Nabokov is too fantastic not to share.
Here’s a new poem by Anne Carson in The New York Review of Books, “Linnaeus Town.”
I ran across a kinder, gentler version of “Deadliest Catch,” the long-running Bering Sea crab-boat reality show. It’s “Ice Cold Catch” on Discovery, about Icelandic cod fishermen in Arctic waters. Everyone’s very polite!
Finally, some music for the season: “October,” from Broken Bells. Listen to that while you’re making focaccia, and I’ll be back next week.