Good afternoon everybody! Today is our fourth straight gray day here in New York, and I know I’m not in the position to ask much more of the universe than continued good health, but I would really like to see the sun. Yesterday I read Love Letter by George Saunders and if you want to read possibly his best short story ever, you should follow suit; I walked into town with Andy and the dogs to mail a letter (sometimes I feel like Laura Ingalls writing these dispatches); and tested a shortcut tofu banh mi recipe for my next book. (That’s a mini one up there; left over for today’s lunch.) Still have tweaking to do on it, but here’s is a delicious Vietnamese tofu salad that should stand in just fine if those are the flavors you are craving. Here are three things that might help you get through today…
Pantry: Victoria’s Pasta Con Ceci
This recipe gained a cult-like following after appearing in Food52’s Genius Recipe series, and for good reason: It spins the humblest pantry ingredients (and so few of them!) into something really elevated. Victoria Granof, a legendary food stylist, helped me with my last book and you can read more about her special kind of genius here. This serves 2-3.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons good tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
2 cups boiling water
crushed red pepper flakes, for serving
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and fry for 30 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, ladle the pasta into shallow bowls, sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, and drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil on top.
Project: Banana Bread
I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of times my daughters have made this recipe over the years. It comes from my old friend Elizabeth Mayhew, who, by the way, is doing some fun baking videos on instagram herself these days. Check her out if you have time.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine in bowl:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Alternate mixing dry mixture with 4 tablespoons sour cream into butter mixture.
Fold in 2-3 mashed bananas and chocolate chips (to taste) if you have them.
Bake for 50 minutes in a lightly greased loaf pan until an inserted knife comes out clean.
Purpose: Isolation Journals
In her twenties, when writer Suleika Jaouad had leukemia and was confined to her bed for weeks, she credits her 100-Day Project (a small creative act every day for a hundred days) with keeping her grounded and connected. Now, she’s starting a reboot of that for all of us, a 30-Day creativity project called The Isolation Journals. Sign up to get prompts from her favorite artists and musicians.
Stay safe, stay home.
The goal of the Project, Pantry, Purpose series to keep us sane, distracted, and connected. Please continue to comment below with suggestions for recipes, projects (for kids and adults), good deeds, donation ideas, stories, movies, games, puzzles. Or just tell me how you’re doing, what your daily routine is, and how DALS can help you or people in your community. You can also email me directly at email@example.com.