Amidst this moment of major personal and collective loss, I have rediscovered my love of cooking. Spending time at home has allowed many of us, I think, to reflect on, refocus, and redirect our passions. Perhaps you’re a performing artist like me, whose work is so reliant on face-to-face communication, and must now cope with how to maintain emotional tethers in a socially distant reality. For me, cooking is not only a fun creative outlet— it brings people together, even while apart. It’s a craft that both stimulates and nourishes the body, mind and spirit. For this week’s blog post, then, I would like to share some recipes that have become near and dear to my heart (and stomach!). You can find links to all of them, along with a few extras, on my Pinterest board: https://pin.it/7mAuAv3.
Sea salt and olive oil granola
This is a wonderful recipe that I got from my mom, who got it from Samin Nosrat, in her cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat (which is also a great Netflix series). Store-bought granola can be heavily flavored and over-sweetened, while many recipes can be too fussy, requiring the use of a stovetop, oven, and a bunch of ingredients. This granola, however, is scrumptious in its simplicity: it contains oats, coconut, nuts, seeds, olive oil, maple syrup, a bit of sugar, and salt. After combining everything in a bowl and spread onto baking sheets, just bake for 45 minutes, with the occasional stir to ensure an even bake. Dried fruit can be added afterwards. The result is a beautiful balance between toasty, nutty, sweet, and salty that will surely level-up your breakfast experience!
Eggplant parmesan casserole with honey balsamic brussel sprouts
I gathered these next two savory recipes from separate websites, although together they form a fantastic meal. I made them for dinner last week for my family, and it was a smash hit! Eggplant is a great vegetable to use when building a layered, cheesy, and saucy dish; when baked, it becomes tender and savory while maintaining a crispy exterior. The key is to sweat the eggplants beforehand, which involves slicing them, laying them on a flat surface, sprinkling them with salt, and letting them rest for 30 minutes. This removes excess moisture. As for the brussel sprouts, they were made entirely in the frying pan (although you could definitely bake them if desired). They are super quick to cook, and full of the bold flavors of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic and honey. A special shoutout to my beloved friend and classmate, @kalynberg, for turning me onto this particular recipe!
Homemade “Better-than-Cinnabon” cinnamon rolls
Probably the most ambitious recipe I have tried so far, these cinnamon rolls are sinfully delicious. At first, I was nervous to work with a yeasted dough, but after three attempts so far, I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable in a baker’s hat. I still have much more to figure out, but these three basic principles about yeast are extremely helpful to know. First: yeast loves warmth and humidity. Putting a steaming bowl of water next to the dough while it proves creates the ideal environment for it to grow. Second: yeast loves sugar, but hates salt. Be careful when adding salt, because it can kill the yeast if added to early. Make sure to add it last, after all of the other ingredients have been mixed in. Lastly, dough requires patience. Don’t panic if it doesn’t rise as much as you expected. It will have multiple opportunities to grow, both before and during baking. I enjoy the challenge of this recipe, as well as getting to knead such an elastic dough— It’s super satisfying!
The best feeling I get from cooking is the moment when someone I love digs into their first bite. The comfort and delight that translates to their face fills me up with twice as much of each. And although there are so many loved ones out there who I want to cook for right now but can’t, I hope that this culinary love letter can serve as a substitute, at least for now.