Good morning. Gabrielle Hamilton quit drinking for the month of January and watched her consumption of sugar soar: supermarket cakes; pints of ice cream; lots and lots of Little Debbie Nutty Buddy bars.
“While the Nutty Buddy, with its peanut-butter filling, wafer layers and milk-chocolate-y coating, was a bomb of dextrose, chemicals and ‘chocolate’ that felt like wax in the mouth,” she wrote for The Times this week, “it had become my very favorite new craving. In a lot of ways, it was right up my alley: sweet but savory, crisp and plain and nutty. As usual, though, I wondered if I could make my own version with, you know, hardly any sugar, and maybe an extra bitter, high-quality chocolate.”
And with the help of her friend Katherine Yang, a pastry chef, she did just that, and delivered along with her column a recipe for a luscious, silken peanut-butter wafer cake (above). It’s what Gabrielle calls “deliciously sweet, not toothache sweet.” I hope you’ll make it today.
That dessert is a project, for sure. So keep your dinner simple: maybe this easy one-pot spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and kale?
On Monday, I like the idea of this spinach and cilantro soup with tahini and lemon.
Tuesday might be good for pressure cooker split pea soup with horseradish cream, ready in about an hour. You can make it with a smoked ham hock absolutely, but it’s pretty lovely with smoked turkey wings or, if those aren’t an option, with a sprinkle of crisp chopped bacon added at the end.
For Wednesday’s meal, which for many is the biggest bummer of the week, stuck as we are between the poles of Sunday and Saturday, I’m thinking you might consider ordering takeout and giving yourself a break from the endless cycle of cooking-cooking-cooking. But I get it if that’s not a play — you don’t have the money, or there are no good takeout options where you stay; you don’t want to order takeout; you love to cook. In that case: chicken piccata and Dean Martin, “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
Thursday: tacos, cook’s choice. Quesabirria is very much in fashion. Middle-school style is not. Both are fantastic.
And then on Friday, you can slide into the weekend on the back of a roast chicken. Samin Nosrat’s buttermilk-brined version is aces if you have the time to set up the marinade the night before. Jacques Pépin’s roast chicken is the way to go if you do not. Have some smashed and fried potatoes on the side, and some sautéed spinach.
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Now, it’s absolutely nothing to do with tostones or kombu, but I wasn’t going to read Christine Smallwood’s debut novel, “The Life of the Mind,” no way. Fiction set in academia: hard pass. But then I read John Williams’s review of the book in The Times and found myself trundling off to the library. “Smallwood’s novel,” he wrote, “is a good argument for judging a book by the sole (but high) standard of the liveliness and incisiveness of its prose.” I’m in.
Brooklyn Vegan has an interview up with Vernon Chatman and John Lee of “Wonder Showzen,” and it seems as good a time as any to re-up Lee’s band Muckafurgason’s disastrous-hilarious appearance on “Showtime at the Apollo,” with Steve Harvey.
Here’s a new poem from Billy Collins in The New Yorker, “Days of Teen-Age Glory.”
Finally, in Friday’s newsletter I proposed serving sabzi polo, herbed rice with tahdig, with the khoresh-e fesenjoon I recommended for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Among others, the cookbook author Naz Deravian threw a flag: The dishes don’t work together well at all, she said (nicely!). Apologies if you discovered that fact on your own. I’d go plain rice with maybe a little bit of saffron instead? The sabzi polo would probably be better with fish. I’ll be back on Monday.