'that thing you always stock up on in Oregon Trail' Rhubarb (Short Stack 05/12)

I was very excited to try rhubarb for the above reason. For so much of my life (26 years!) (technically more like 20, I guess) “rhubarb” was a mythical creation: my characters in “Oregon Trail” always bought a ton of it, because it was cheap and traveled well; and every spring, I saw food writers sing the praises of rhubarb [pie/jam/crumble/etc]. But until this month, I’d never gotten around to trying it.

Alas, it was not May 01 that I tried it, and that’s why once again it feels like I’ve made very little from this particular Short Stack. I hit the Union Square farmers’ market on May 1, ready to stock up, only to find that spring had not yet sprung quite enough for rhubarb to start being harvested and sold. It was closer to the middle of the month that I finally managed to get my hands on some, and that delay in tandem with my unusually busy social calendar (ha) meant that I didn’t come close to using as much rhubarb as my Oregon Trail pixel settlers did.

It can be hard for me to try new foods (thank god no one took me on the Oregon Trail, I guess); there’s a lot of sensory anxiety and social anxiety wrapped up in it. One of the things that I’ve loved about this Short Stack project (and that I love, in general, about home cooking) is that I can try things by myself, in the comfort of my own kitchen, where no one has any expectations of me. If I don’t like rhubarb after all, I can give the pie to a friend. If it turns out that I absolutely love whole-grain honey mustard, I can hoard it, buy it, or make it again myself. The stakes are low, and the anxiety is minimal. But I liked rhubarb a lot. I’ll be stocking up and freezing a ton before the season ends, so that I can drink rhubarb lemonade in November and think of spring.


Book: Rhubarb, Sheri Castle (Short Stack Editions)

Recipes made: 4/23


Rhubarb Pancakes:  These were supposed to involve rhubarb syrup, but the pancakes themselves were a last-minute breakfast-for-dinner decision, and they were still fantastic with maple syrup and butter. Sweet, buttery, and exactly how I like my pancakes.

Rhubarb Pancakes: These were supposed to involve rhubarb syrup, but the pancakes themselves were a last-minute breakfast-for-dinner decision, and they were still fantastic with maple syrup and butter. Sweet, buttery, and exactly how I like my pancakes.

Herbed Rhubarb Lemonade:  My girlfriend has insisted I save her a glass, which means I can’t do what I want desperately to do and down the pitcher. It’s really good, and simpler than I thought making lemonade at home would be…aside from my constant struggle to remember to open seltzer over the sink. I’m 0 for 2 on that one.

Herbed Rhubarb Lemonade: My girlfriend has insisted I save her a glass, which means I can’t do what I want desperately to do and down the pitcher. It’s really good, and simpler than I thought making lemonade at home would be…aside from my constant struggle to remember to open seltzer over the sink. I’m 0 for 2 on that one.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie with Ginger-Pecan Streusel:  The note in the book says “new fave fruit pie”. It’s true. I am not a huge fan of fruit pies, even though I enjoy baking them, but I loved this. I was a bit nervous about the streusel, being that I am also not a huge fan of nuts, but it’s so good and goes perfectly with the pie. The pie itself, my god! I had quite the adventure attempting to partially blind-bake the pie crust, and then burned the top of the crust in an oven mishap. It’s fine! The pie was still so good! I love the custardy filling that goes over the rhubarb. I’m gonna go get a slice right now, actually.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie with Ginger-Pecan Streusel: The note in the book says “new fave fruit pie”. It’s true. I am not a huge fan of fruit pies, even though I enjoy baking them, but I loved this. I was a bit nervous about the streusel, being that I am also not a huge fan of nuts, but it’s so good and goes perfectly with the pie. The pie itself, my god! I had quite the adventure attempting to partially blind-bake the pie crust, and then burned the top of the crust in an oven mishap. It’s fine! The pie was still so good! I love the custardy filling that goes over the rhubarb. I’m gonna go get a slice right now, actually.

Tart Rhubarb Vinegar:  I made it but haven’t used it, and didn’t take a picture of it because it’s…just a jar of ruby-red liquid. Which is really pretty, actually, but here, take this #aesthetic photo from the lemonade-making process instead.

Tart Rhubarb Vinegar: I made it but haven’t used it, and didn’t take a picture of it because it’s…just a jar of ruby-red liquid. Which is really pretty, actually, but here, take this #aesthetic photo from the lemonade-making process instead.

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).