SWEET GIRL BIALY, WHO CARRIES SOMETHING WITHIN HER HEART WHEREAS IN A BAGEL, IT’S JUST AN UTTERLY HOLLOW HOLE
What’s a bialy, if you don’t already know?
I’d like to think of bialy as the ugly sister of bagel, who comes without the shiny crust nor a robust PR campaign, but, in my opinion, ultimately wins hearts and minds through slow and quiet diplomacy. Or at least it should, if only in your kitchen. Think about it. Bialy and bagel practically shares the same dough, which isn’t a difficult one if I might add, but that’s about as much sameness as bagel’s gonna tolerate from her sibling. Not a fault of her own, but bagel, being held to her finicky New Yorker status and all, is somewhat of a… hm what’s that word… right, bitch.
You didn’t “retard” the dough in the fridge for 2 days, not a bagel. You didn’t boil it, not a bagel. Didn’t boil it long enough, not a bagel. Boiled in the wrong water, not a bagel. Can’t use her crust as a mirror, not a bagel. Too soft, not a bagel. Too hard, not a bagel. Lives in Montreal, definitely not a bagel.
But you see, bialy on the other hand, ah, sweet girl bialy… whether by virtue or as a necessary strategy for unpopularity, is very low maintenance. Without exuding much judgements, she doesn’t mind being taken on a speed date, from kneading to baking, all under as short as 4 hours of your time (well, a bit longer if you live somewhere dry and cold, I mean, a lady’s gotta keep warm). And surprising to whom care to look beyond the lack of a glamorous shine, her lightly browned exterior is thin but not without character, in fact, delicately crusty if you cherish it warm out of the oven as one should. Then you’ll notice that her soft but chewy crumbs remind you so much of a bagel that you wonder if it’s really worth pursuing the other. But perhaps the most heart-winning gesture from bialy is that she does, actually, carry something within her heart, a filled crater in the center whereas in a bagel, it’s an utterly hollow hole. —- OK.. usually some sort of onions with poppy seeds kind of stuff and let’s admit that none of it is very chic and if anybody needs a before/after it’s this poor girl —- In this case, I say why not, honey and butter coated sweet dates bedded within softly whipped cream cheese. Right, you may think that’s rather odd against that whiff of onion powder being mixed into the dough which gives the bread a hint of savoriness, but no, it’s not. That’s what’s surprising about this bialy, sweet and creamy but not without her savory core, soft to the touch but playfully chewy throughout, a bit of confliction but just the right amount.
Ultimately, the one you’ve been looking for.
Yield: 5 bialy
DOLLOPS OF SAVORY WHIPPED CREAM HELPLESSLY DESTABILIZE UNDER THE BLAZING HEAT OF THE OVEN, RENDERING INTO A PUDDLE OF SALTY, OILY, HERBY AND CREAMY MAGMA
You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.
Off carbs? I wish. Gluten-free? Is there any other diet more torturous by design? How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever? OK, yeah I have that. But, no. No, not for any of those things. In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.
Wait, pizza can do that? Yes, pizza can do that. How? By making me fat.
THE RESULT WAS AN ONE SKILLET, BLINK OF AN EYE, ELEGANT AND REMARKABLE QUILT OF EGG MAGIC
Ever since I published a self-proclaimed genius recipe for my magic 15-seconds creamy scrambled eggs, I didn’t think a better one – and by “better” I mean it in the context where you need a speedy and easy recipe for morning eggs – could ever come across my path, which proves, again, that I know nothing.
A glimpse in one of the episodes in Anthony Bourdain’s Return To Catalunya, in a fairytale land far far away they call Barcelona, there under the sparkling dim lights in a snuggly tapas bar, I saw it. Quiet and flashing by, one can assume that among the dazzles of celebrity TV personalities and seemly endless flow of Spanish culinary bewitchment, this egg dish wasn’t even the heroine of the night. But I saw it, I noticed, a hot cast-iron skillet cuddling what seemed to be the most beautiful, golden blanket of creamy eggs. We locked eyes. None of us said a word. But just from that split second of eye contact, me and it, almost telepathically, we understood something deep about one another.
From its wet and almost undone surface, its slightly firmer and rippling bottom, and fact that it was served being cradled inside a warm cast-iron skillet, it whispered to me how it was made, like watching a movie unrolling, but only in my mind, a glowing mirage of prophecy. I saw one hot skillet, butter in a hypnotizing swirl, then almost abruptly, the flame wisp away only to welcome the stream of eggs into its warm embrace. Barely guided was the slow and perfect congelation, and the restrain to apply any unnecessary heat was absolute, resulting in an one-skillet, blink of an eye, elegant and remarkable quilt of egg magic. At that point I’ve never met it, tasted it, but I immediately understood its calling, its noble mission of life – to ensure that no one on this earth bestowed with the gift that is eggs, will ever, ever taste a bad one again.
And what it understood about me? Well, you’re reading it aren’t you.
Serving Size: one
I apologize before I say this simply because it’s gross and stuff, but yesterday somebody, two days in a row, decided to leave a hot steamy pile of poop right in the middle of our “aged” leather sofa… I’m sorry, I told you, it’s gross. But more importantly, why? What could possibly be the reason for this deeply punishing act? Hey beats me. Just to fuck with the word motherhood, I guess.
I recognize the weirdness in the usage of such word, motherhood, I get it, so let’s talk about it for a sec. Some swear by it. Some avoid it. And some get offended when it’s used in this context of, well, dogs. But for the convenience of making a conversation, I struggle to find a better word. Some say, “dog owner” is the more accurate phrase. Hey, I hear ya, but, it’s just that… I don’t own dogs, just like nobody owns children. They are mine, but not properties. If someday my dogs tell me that they wants to leave the nest to go to Amsterdam and smoke pot for the rest of their lives, hey, fair game, I would just lock them up and take away all their food-money like any discerning parents. Doesn’t make me an owner, just makes me a mother. So for the lack of a better word, last month, or 20 days ago to be exact, I became a mother again, for the fifth and sixth time. Yes, twin girls, two rescued Rottweiler-mix puppies.
Rottweilers × 2!? You must be thinking I’m crazy. And I’m starting to think you’re right.
How big do Rottweilers get? Please don’t tell me because I have no freaking clue. But the the fact that they are growing exponentially against our best wishes, seems to be one. To put it into perspective, our maltese Dumpling was what, 3 kilo? So by optimistic estimation, each of them would grow to be about 12 Dumplings, and together, 24 Dumplings. That’s 70 kilos of pure muscles powered by the spirit of a trampoline. We named them Sesame (芝麻), and Sticky Rice Ball (湯圓) or SRB for short, though the petiteness of their names is starting to sound more ironic than cute.
Who’s freaking out? I’m just sayin’.
So how did this happen? Couldn’t we just try a single Rottweiler on for size and good reason first? Well, the way we see it, we had no choice amidst a very complicated situation.
There was this adoption day thing at our local pet supply store that we simply wanted to “just check it out”, and there they were, two puppies inside the same crate. No harm in asking a question is there? So are they boys or girls? “Both girls, sisters!”, answered the staff. Hmm, girls, we’ve been wanting a girl. This one on the right seem to be nice and calm. Can I hold her? “Yes, of course! She’s the younger one.” Awww look at her just relaxing on my lap! Jason, Jason! Are you seeing this?! Wait, why is the other one acting all nervous and shit? “The sisters are very attached to each other.” What is this, woman? You trying to make me feel bad? Fine, Jason, can you just hold the other one so she’s doesn’t feel left out?
Oh wait you’re waiting for more complicatedness to come? No, no, that’s it. Yup. The beginning of the end. Put me on your friends-who-got-a-kid-and-gone-missing list. Likewise, I’ll resurface the earth in 10+ years.
But on the bright side, the food side that is, giant wall-eating babies are putting me in a whole new perspective. I never understood this “easy home cooking” business. I mean if you like cooking, what’s the problem? And if you don’t like cooking, why you cooking? Golfers don’t complain why is it 18 holes and not 4 holes. But now, ehhh… I sort of get it. The other day I allowed myself to spend a little obsession on homemade ramen, and someone ate my chair. Literally, ate my chair. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen anymore, but the stakes for negligence are higher these days if you know what I mean.
Which brings me to mention – Simple Fare.
Look beyond the soul-sucking-ly beautiful photographs by the hands of Karen Mordechai, there is also the answer to the prayers of all bone-crushingly exhausted parents. Take this elegant rye bread for example, which she calls “half day rye bread”, which really turned out to be “quarter day rye bread” in the warmer month that is May. It was a cinch to put together, so much so that I was able to test two loafs at once even with two flying trapeze-artists demolishing my apartment (and Shrimpy) in the background. I’m not an expert in the political correctness of a proper rye bread, but a smear of good room-temperature butter and a thin slice of fennel salami from Tuscany, I melted in a moment of relaxation and satisfaction, a rare one these days no doubt…
So thank you, Karen, but I simply must go because I just stepped into a puddle of pee.
WHILE MY BRAIN WAS ANTICIPATING TYPICAL BREAD, CAME THESE POPS OF DEEPLY SAVORY AND UNMISTAKABLY CARNIVOROUS STIMULANTS.
Working mothers, I don’t know how you do it.
Those of you who follow our Instagram will know that recently, two toddlers have joined this family. Not just some harmlessly drooling, homo sapien nuggets that crawl inside your neatly confined perimeters sucking on a bottle. But two wall-eating… wood-shredding, (stuffed) animal-hunting, flying and flipping and cirque du soleil-style acrobats that, quite literally, ate and pooped the entire past week away, and then some. Hi Internet, please meet 芝麻 (Sesame), and 湯圓 (Sticky Rice Ball. SRB for short), the two Rottie-mix that we newly adopted over the past weekend.
So long, sleep. Hello, stress.
I have so much to say about them, how we met, how we overcame fear, how we took an oath. But this type of story deserves clarity and mindfulness, both not what my sleep-deprived head of glue can provide as we speak. So I’m just going to leave you today with a Tuscany-inspired country bread, speckled with salty bits of porky fatness. You heard right, a delightful discovery made in a motherly restaurant named Trattoria Dardano, nestled inside a tiny yet historical town named Cortona where we stayed. The conversation we were having without suspicion was upended by my first bite of the unexpected burst of flavors. While my brain was anticipating typical bread, came these pops of deeply savory and unmistakably carnivorous stimulants. WHAT was that!? I investigated immediately, to realized that this seemingly unremarkable bread was relentlessly laced with specks of salty fatty cured pork-bits which, I assumed, not only created these sparks of salivating porkiness, but also spread their gospel aromas into the neighboring bread-tissues when their fat was rendered during baking.
Geniale! I shouted, but in English.
I think you’ll agree, too.
Gotta go. Somebody’s eating my feet.
YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME THAT YOU DON’T WANT THIS?
You’re probably looking at this and asking yourself three questions.
A). Isn’t dim sum month over?
B). Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes just like buffalo wings?
C). Are we making soup dumplings at home now? Is that what it’s come to?
Look, all very legit questions, deserving very responsible and adult-like responses. But I’m afraid that in the absence of an adult in this room, I will have to assume the task of answering them myself. In my best effort to be thorough to Question A), I guess, I lied. OK, next question.
Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes like buffalo wings? Okay, who’s being the baby now? Grow up. Adulthood is not about needing things. It’s all about wanting things. And you’re trying to tell me that you don’t want a delicate pouch of dumpling filled with melty minced chicken and a sudden explosion of red-hot and tangy stream of sticky juice and spicy, garlicky butter? Where everything is so carefully contained within a subtly yeasty wrapper so thin that one could almost see through its sinister intent, resting on top of a shard of chicken skin cracker that shatters into intense poultry-ness, only to be cooled down by a dollop of sour cream twinkling with crumbled blue cheese? All is one. One is all. Spicy, tangy, juicy, fatty, crispy, creamy, delicate, intense… all in an ecstatic dance of all the best stimulating senses. You don’t want that? I think you need that. OK, next question.
Are we making soup dumplings at home now? Yes we are.
Because? See answer to Question B. Plus, it’s easier than you think.
HOW DARE YOU. I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE TASTE-BUDS OF HIGH CALIBER
As we are preparing for our Tuscany vacation that is fast approaching this Saturday, I’m going to quickly leave you with an even faster recipe.
I threw this together in less than an hour today, in a frantic effort to clean out the freezer (duh, to make way for the incoming fleet of
smuggled imported Italian goods), and they turned out to be little drops of afternoon delights. So why fish wonton? Why fish? See, I don’t know about you, but when other people stock up their freezer with prime rib-eye steaks from Cosco, I do mine with frozen catfish fillets. I don’t know why. Cheapness, possibly. Don’t make me admit that I like frozen catfish. I’m supposed to have taste-buds of high caliber. How dare you. No, the point is, I was saying… as I was cleaning out my frozen fish tank, I thought, fish wonton, why not?
Ground fish, here in Asia, is actually quite a common ingredient with wide applications. What it lacks in meaty-ness, it gains in an uniquely light, soft and creamy texture which resembles between ricotta filling and French quenelles. It makes a wonton that is light in body and texture, with a particular sweetness in its gentle nature. To dress it up, I used a deeply savory olive oil with salty specks of anchovies and crispy garlic, brightened with fresh grated ginger, chopped herbs and a subtle zing of tabasco sauce.
Satisfying afternoon pick-me-ups, or, if kept ready in the freezer, light and well.. relatively healthy meal on demand.