Tahini (Short Stack 04/12)

God, I really thought I was going to get more of these recipes done this month! It certainly felt like I ate a lot of food from this cookbook, although in retrospect I think that may just be because I made two 4-serving chicken dishes that got spread out over multiple nights. No regrets with what I did make, only what I didn’t — I’m a little annoyed at myself for not making the most basic recipes, like Hummus or Tahini Sauce. Those are only two of the recipes I prepared for and didn’t get around to in April. I’m sure I’ll get to them in the future, because this book was fantastic, something I’ll be referring back to for a long time yet. I’m not surprised: I picked Tahini because it was written by Adeena Sussman, known for a great many cookbooks but, to me, primarily for Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings books. But amid the tumult of a job search and a trip to Nashville, things got…not lost, exactly, but set aside. Which is okay. (But I was really looking forward to the Sweet Potato-Tahini Dinner Rolls.)

There’s a metaphor somewhere in tahini, a bitter sesame paste that can sometimes taste like peanut butter and is used in sweet and savory dishes. The metaphor relates to April 2018 and 2019. Both years, April was tumultuous, but they had different flavors. In April 2018, I was, to put it mildly, a wreck; it was the beginning of a rough emotional journey that culminated in something beautiful, but it was bitter. It was bitter to travel South at the end of March, and begin April in Atlanta for Pesach, remembering what it might have been like if my grandpa were there. (April 2018 marked a year and a half since his death.) This year, the month was sweeter: again there was tumult, and the spectacular misery of anxiety-induced acid reflux, but I feel secure and anchored, not like last year when everything felt incredibly uncertain. This year, when I went to Pesach, I brought my girlfriend with me. (I won’t say I didn’t still remember what it was like to have him there, but the grief has ebbed a bit since last year.)

At one point we looked through boxes of my family’s memorabilia, and came across my great-grandfather’s naturalization certificate, issued so that he could join the army. He immigrated from the Russian Empire (specifically, from a city that is in modern Ukraine and was part of Poland before the partition, but ultimately in the Pale of Settlement). He was very young, so I’m not sure that he was the one seeking safety and a better life in America. Every time a new report of a synagogue shooting comes in, I wonder how much that was really achieved.

Tahini: a familiar bitter taste, even though it’s not the same. Like I said, there’s a metaphor there.


Book: Tahini, Adeena Sussman (Short Stack Editions)

Recipes made: 5/21


Middle Eastern Chicken Milanese:  I made this on a little bit of a whim; it was on my to-cook list, but I didn’t have anything for it besides the tahini. It was incredibly easy and delicious. I’m sure it’d be even better with the accompanying salad, but I can only stray so far from my comfort zone of potato side dishes; I paid tribute to the Middle Eastern flavoring by tossing the potatoes in sumac. Again:  incredible. Easy. Delicious.  I want to make it again right now.

Middle Eastern Chicken Milanese: I made this on a little bit of a whim; it was on my to-cook list, but I didn’t have anything for it besides the tahini. It was incredibly easy and delicious. I’m sure it’d be even better with the accompanying salad, but I can only stray so far from my comfort zone of potato side dishes; I paid tribute to the Middle Eastern flavoring by tossing the potatoes in sumac. Again: incredible. Easy. Delicious. I want to make it again right now.

Tahini Sandwich Cookies with Tahini-Cream Cheese Frosting:  I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting,  and  I accidentally added an extra half-cup of sugar to the cookie dough, but these cookies overcame both obstacles. 5 stars from me, my girlfriend, and her family. They’re crumbly and a bit nutty and completely delicious, and I’m excited to explore more tahini-based baking.

Tahini Sandwich Cookies with Tahini-Cream Cheese Frosting: I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting, and I accidentally added an extra half-cup of sugar to the cookie dough, but these cookies overcame both obstacles. 5 stars from me, my girlfriend, and her family. They’re crumbly and a bit nutty and completely delicious, and I’m excited to explore more tahini-based baking.

Skillet Chicken with Date Syrup, Sumac & Tahini:  I’d never had date syrup (or date anything) before but it was so good! This recipe was SO good! This was my girlfriend’s favorite from the month, possibly from the entire year thus far? It was a little time-consuming, but the end product was so worth it.

Skillet Chicken with Date Syrup, Sumac & Tahini: I’d never had date syrup (or date anything) before but it was so good! This recipe was SO good! This was my girlfriend’s favorite from the month, possibly from the entire year thus far? It was a little time-consuming, but the end product was so worth it.

Chocolate-Tahini Truffles:  As you can see, that is not truffles, that is a mug of hot chocolate. I’m not sure where I went wrong with the truffles, but it was somewhere! They didn’t cool quickly or evenly enough, and I couldn’t get them rolled into truffle shape, so eventually I gave up and went with the variation Sussman provides for hot chocolate. (So it still counts! Hah!) I made it with oat milk, my one true love. Very rich, quite bitter, decadently good.

Chocolate-Tahini Truffles: As you can see, that is not truffles, that is a mug of hot chocolate. I’m not sure where I went wrong with the truffles, but it was somewhere! They didn’t cool quickly or evenly enough, and I couldn’t get them rolled into truffle shape, so eventually I gave up and went with the variation Sussman provides for hot chocolate. (So it still counts! Hah!) I made it with oat milk, my one true love. Very rich, quite bitter, decadently good.

Coffee Halvah:  Another dessert where something went wrong! I’m not quite sure, but something went wrong in the process of mixing the tahini with the sugar syrup, and when it set, it was a layer of liquidy halvah on top of a layer of hardened sugar. It’s fine, I went back to it tonight and melted all of it again, and (fingers crossed) it worked this time. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s like to eat a bar of this, but I compulsively dipped my fingers and spoons in the mixture, so I think that might say it all.

Coffee Halvah: Another dessert where something went wrong! I’m not quite sure, but something went wrong in the process of mixing the tahini with the sugar syrup, and when it set, it was a layer of liquidy halvah on top of a layer of hardened sugar. It’s fine, I went back to it tonight and melted all of it again, and (fingers crossed) it worked this time. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s like to eat a bar of this, but I compulsively dipped my fingers and spoons in the mixture, so I think that might say it all.

Bonus Content : The oft-mentioned girlfriend holding my uncle’s cat, Jimi, a real bundle of very (very) soft joy (so soft).

Bonus Content: The oft-mentioned girlfriend holding my uncle’s cat, Jimi, a real bundle of very (very) soft joy (so soft).

Yogurt (Short Stack 02/12)

In typical February fashion, my cooking didn’t go as planned and there was hardly enough time for what did. Earlier this year I decided to work toward a more plant-based, vegan-ish diet, and Yogurt was left in the dust, due to its inherent nature as a dairy product.

I should have more to say, but I don’t. February has always felt like a transitory month. I’ve had a lot of headaches, real and logistical. I read a lot this month, and I cooked a lot this month, and I tried many new foods this month. That’s probably part of it: transition into a version of myself both more and less like who I was years ago. When I was 10, I could finish a book in a day, and I never dreamt of eating rice. I’m not sure what my motivation was. I was afraid of the possible texture, I think. Reading cookbooks has let me grow softer with my fears. When Samin Nosrat described tahdig in her recipe for Persian-ish rice, I thought it sounded like something I’d like, and if I didn’t at least no one would be the wiser. So I made it, and it was delicious, of course.

Finishing Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat helped me link my love of reading and my love of food in a way that other cookbooks really haven’t before. On an episode of Julia Turshen’s podcast, “Keep Calm and Cook On,” that featured Nosrat, the two discussed their backgrounds in poetry and literature and how that’s affected their approach to food. It was inspirational, and made sense; Turshen and Nosrat both write so lyrically. That’s what I want when I read about food. That’s what I’d like to work toward.

It’s not that that’s missing from Yogurt, obviously. It’s just that, this month, it was harder to limit myself to just one core ingredient when there were so many other tastes waiting for me.


Book: Yogurt, Molly Yeh (Short Stack Editions)

Recipes made: 5/20


Pistachio Rosewater Cake with Labneh Frosting:  I loved this. I loved making it, and I loved eating it. I adore rosewater, and when I made a cake with rosewater at the center of its flavor profile, I adored that cake, so combining that flavor with pistachio — another thing I’d never tried before! — called out to me the moment I cracked open the book. I have a lot of slices of this in my freezer still. I’m hoarding it quite jealously. (Also, RIP that cake stand; my cat knocked it over two days ago while trying to get into a counter and it shattered into bits.)

Pistachio Rosewater Cake with Labneh Frosting: I loved this. I loved making it, and I loved eating it. I adore rosewater, and when I made a cake with rosewater at the center of its flavor profile, I adored that cake, so combining that flavor with pistachio — another thing I’d never tried before! — called out to me the moment I cracked open the book. I have a lot of slices of this in my freezer still. I’m hoarding it quite jealously. (Also, RIP that cake stand; my cat knocked it over two days ago while trying to get into a counter and it shattered into bits.)

Lazy B Mac & Cheese:  I actually didn’t realize until just now that I only made this once this month, which really surprises me because it was so good. I’m not really a fan of traditional mac & cheese; I don’t like the texture of the macaroni, no matter how many times I try it. This version, with pearl couscous, was delicious.

Lazy B Mac & Cheese: I actually didn’t realize until just now that I only made this once this month, which really surprises me because it was so good. I’m not really a fan of traditional mac & cheese; I don’t like the texture of the macaroni, no matter how many times I try it. This version, with pearl couscous, was delicious.

Yogurt Pita:  I am going to make these again and again, I can sense it. My girlfriend was very upset when I wouldn’t let her eat the entire batch, though I think she’s glad I didn’t every time we toast one of the frozen ones to have with dinner.

Yogurt Pita: I am going to make these again and again, I can sense it. My girlfriend was very upset when I wouldn’t let her eat the entire batch, though I think she’s glad I didn’t every time we toast one of the frozen ones to have with dinner.

Cheddar, Za’atar & Kale Frittata:  I love all three of the central ingredients in this frittata, but the frittata itself wasn’t my favorite. I’m still getting used to food that has onion front and center, and if I make this again, I’ll probably skip the yogurt topping; for me, it didn’t work well with the sweetness of the onion and scallions.

Cheddar, Za’atar & Kale Frittata: I love all three of the central ingredients in this frittata, but the frittata itself wasn’t my favorite. I’m still getting used to food that has onion front and center, and if I make this again, I’ll probably skip the yogurt topping; for me, it didn’t work well with the sweetness of the onion and scallions.

Yogurt Egg Cream:  Your eyes do not deceive you: that is  not  a yogurt egg cream, it’s Samin Nosrat’s Persian-ish rice, specifically the failure I made of trying to flip it. The yogurt egg cream itself was wonderful, but I forgot to photograph it.

Yogurt Egg Cream: Your eyes do not deceive you: that is not a yogurt egg cream, it’s Samin Nosrat’s Persian-ish rice, specifically the failure I made of trying to flip it. The yogurt egg cream itself was wonderful, but I forgot to photograph it.