I was supposed to go to LA this weekend but it snowed and my flight and all its fellow flights got cancelled. I almost cried when I got the email, silly as that seems. I had been looking forward to this trip for so long — just not being in New York’s slush, ice and cold for two days was the carrot I dangled in front of myself to get myself out of bed many mornings. But I was able to rebook for a weekend in March and now I have this weekend totally free. There are definitely worse fates. I think I’ll make borscht.
The recipe I’ve used lately is adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s highly educational and fun book, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. If you know anyone who was born in what was then the Soviet Union, you need to read this book so that you can understand where they’re coming from — literally, figuratively and culinarily. My only criticism of this book is that it doesn’t have nearly enough recipes, but I suppose that’s what Anya’s encyclopedic book on the cuisines of all 15 former Soviet republics, Please to the Table, is for.
The borscht recipe in Mastering is for an “über-borscht” that contains apple, kidney beans, green pepper and a garlic-parsley gremolata. This is probably delicious but the traditionalist I live with would never stand for it, so this is basically Anya’s recipe stripped down to its basics. She also includes rehydrated porcini mushrooms and their cooking liquid and while I like the umami depth this lends the soup I think they are texturally distracting as well as EXPENSIVE so I declare them optional. If you’d like to use them, rehydrate 1 oz in 1 cup boiling water and add them in the stage where you add the stock to the vegetables. 
Ingredients:
broth:
2lbs beef chuck or brisket (I highly recommend springing for brisket!)
14 cups water
2 whole onions
2 whole carrots
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
soup:
1/4 lb smoky bacon
2 medium beets
1 carrot
3 medium russet potatoes
half a green or savoy cabbage
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
distilled white vinegar
for serving:
sour cream and dill, scallions also if you like.
you could sub greek yogurt for the sour cream but no Russian person would ever do that, fyi
Making the soup:
Put the meat, onions, carrots, bay leaf and some delicious salt, Russian people’s favorite spice, in your biggest stockpot and cover with the 14 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off gray scum that floats to the top, then simmer partially covered for an hour and a half. Strain and reserve the stock and dice the meat into cubes, discarding fat and tendons and anything you wouldn’t want a bite of in your soup.
Peel the beets and carrot and potatoes, cube the potatoes. Grate the beets, carrot, cabbage and onion with a box grater or, if you are lucky enough to own one, a cuisinart with grating disc attachment. (Anya roasts the beets first, I don’t think this is necessary but it’s good, do it if you feel like it. Try it both ways for fun?)
In a separate pot if you have one, like maybe ideally a big dutch oven, render the fat from the bacon, then reserve the bacon for another purpose such as just eating it while you wait for the soup to be ready.  Then add the grated vegetables and sauté in bacon fat til soft, adding butter if they look too dry. Add the stock, tomatoes, meat cubes, and potatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt, white vinegar and, if necessary, sugar. (!)  
Serve with mandatory toppings, incorporating the sour cream into your soup til it is a romantic, valentine’s-appropriate shade of pink. 

I was supposed to go to LA this weekend but it snowed and my flight and all its fellow flights got cancelled. I almost cried when I got the email, silly as that seems. I had been looking forward to this trip for so long — just not being in New York’s slush, ice and cold for two days was the carrot I dangled in front of myself to get myself out of bed many mornings. But I was able to rebook for a weekend in March and now I have this weekend totally free. There are definitely worse fates. I think I’ll make borscht.

The recipe I’ve used lately is adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s highly educational and fun book, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. If you know anyone who was born in what was then the Soviet Union, you need to read this book so that you can understand where they’re coming from — literally, figuratively and culinarily. My only criticism of this book is that it doesn’t have nearly enough recipes, but I suppose that’s what Anya’s encyclopedic book on the cuisines of all 15 former Soviet republics, Please to the Table, is for.

The borscht recipe in Mastering is for an “über-borscht” that contains apple, kidney beans, green pepper and a garlic-parsley gremolata. This is probably delicious but the traditionalist I live with would never stand for it, so this is basically Anya’s recipe stripped down to its basics. She also includes rehydrated porcini mushrooms and their cooking liquid and while I like the umami depth this lends the soup I think they are texturally distracting as well as EXPENSIVE so I declare them optional. If you’d like to use them, rehydrate 1 oz in 1 cup boiling water and add them in the stage where you add the stock to the vegetables. 

Ingredients:

broth:

2lbs beef chuck or brisket (I highly recommend springing for brisket!)

14 cups water

2 whole onions

2 whole carrots

1 bay leaf

kosher salt

soup:

1/4 lb smoky bacon

2 medium beets

1 carrot

3 medium russet potatoes

half a green or savoy cabbage

1 16 oz can diced tomatoes

distilled white vinegar

for serving:

sour cream and dill, scallions also if you like.

you could sub greek yogurt for the sour cream but no Russian person would ever do that, fyi

Making the soup:

Put the meat, onions, carrots, bay leaf and some delicious salt, Russian people’s favorite spice, in your biggest stockpot and cover with the 14 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off gray scum that floats to the top, then simmer partially covered for an hour and a half. Strain and reserve the stock and dice the meat into cubes, discarding fat and tendons and anything you wouldn’t want a bite of in your soup.

Peel the beets and carrot and potatoes, cube the potatoes. Grate the beets, carrot, cabbage and onion with a box grater or, if you are lucky enough to own one, a cuisinart with grating disc attachment. (Anya roasts the beets first, I don’t think this is necessary but it’s good, do it if you feel like it. Try it both ways for fun?)

In a separate pot if you have one, like maybe ideally a big dutch oven, render the fat from the bacon, then reserve the bacon for another purpose such as just eating it while you wait for the soup to be ready.  Then add the grated vegetables and sauté in bacon fat til soft, adding butter if they look too dry. Add the stock, tomatoes, meat cubes, and potatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt, white vinegar and, if necessary, sugar. (!)  

Serve with mandatory toppings, incorporating the sour cream into your soup til it is a romantic, valentine’s-appropriate shade of pink. 

TGIF POSOLE! 
This soup is based on a recipe from Better Homes And Gardens that Ayun Halliday posted on her facebook page. I have made it a lot but lately I feel like I’m really nailing it. As you’d expect based on its provenance, it is not the authentic posole that your abuela or Diana Kennedy would recognize as such. It’s just spicy chicken stew with hominy in it. YUM!
This is a lazy soup. I have made it after drinking up to 3 glasses of wine and it’s still come out great. My method is that I start with 3lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, season them heavily with a mix of kosher salt, cumin, cayenne and oregano, then throw them in the dutch oven and brown them in olive oil. Then I fish them out, sautee a mix of chopped carrot, celery and onion in the spicy oil, add a package of precut butternut squash cubes after the onion wilts, add the chicken back plus a big can of white hominy (drained and rinsed), then add water to cover. You could add chicken broth but I think unless you have a light homemade broth around you’re better off with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer partially covered for as long as you can stand it, ideally til both squash and chicken are falling apart. I mean at least an hour. Then add a bunch of chopped washed greens — kale, chard, or mustard greens are all good — and cook til the greens are soft.  Serve with radish slices, lime squeeze, or even greek yogurt though that is sort of gilding the lily (but is very good.)

TGIF POSOLE! 

This soup is based on a recipe from Better Homes And Gardens that Ayun Halliday posted on her facebook page. I have made it a lot but lately I feel like I’m really nailing it. As you’d expect based on its provenance, it is not the authentic posole that your abuela or Diana Kennedy would recognize as such. It’s just spicy chicken stew with hominy in it. YUM!

This is a lazy soup. I have made it after drinking up to 3 glasses of wine and it’s still come out great. My method is that I start with 3lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, season them heavily with a mix of kosher salt, cumin, cayenne and oregano, then throw them in the dutch oven and brown them in olive oil. Then I fish them out, sautee a mix of chopped carrot, celery and onion in the spicy oil, add a package of precut butternut squash cubes after the onion wilts, add the chicken back plus a big can of white hominy (drained and rinsed), then add water to cover. You could add chicken broth but I think unless you have a light homemade broth around you’re better off with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer partially covered for as long as you can stand it, ideally til both squash and chicken are falling apart. I mean at least an hour. Then add a bunch of chopped washed greens — kale, chard, or mustard greens are all good — and cook til the greens are soft.  Serve with radish slices, lime squeeze, or even greek yogurt though that is sort of gilding the lily (but is very good.)

Damn, I am in love with Jerusalem. I haven’t been this into a cookbook since the Momofuku cookbook came out and I put ginger-scallion sauce on everything short of ice cream for a year.  Part of why I love it is that a lot of the dishes I’ve cooked so far are 2.0 versions of things I cook all the time anyway: I made a chicken and rice dish on Friday that was a cardamom + currant-flavored variation on the Doree chicken that’s been a staple of my repertoire since she first tweeted about it, and last night I made this swiss chard + tahini-yogurt sauce with buttered pine nuts thing that is basically the platonic ideal of my go-to nothing’s in the fridge dinner, which is: garlic spinach on steamed white rice or polenta with a poached egg on top.  
The chard dish takes a little bit more advance planning and, non-negotiably, the acquisition of some good pine nuts. I hate to perpetuate food weirdo-ness, but the chance that you could have a taste in your mouth like you’re "sucking on a wad of tin foil soaked in vinegar" for several days seems like a good argument against Chinese pine nuts to me, even if the risk is small and the savings are large.  Other than that, you just need two large bunches of chard, some tahini, some greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, butter and olive oil, and white wine (or beer, which is what I used bc of my extreme classiness.)  
You combine the tahini with yogurt and lemon juice plus one crushed garlic clove and set it aside, then blanch the sliced chard, rinsing it in cold water and then wringing it dry with your hands.  Then you fry the expensive, non-poisonous pine nuts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter for 3 minutes, scooping them out of the pan into a bowl when they’re golden. Add some sliced garlic to the pan, let it go for a minute, then deglaze with booze.  After that you add the chard + 1 tablespoon of butter back in, heat it thoroughly, and serve topped with the sauce and nuts.  You don’t have to serve it with rice, I just wanted it to be more of a main course. 

Damn, I am in love with Jerusalem. I haven’t been this into a cookbook since the Momofuku cookbook came out and I put ginger-scallion sauce on everything short of ice cream for a year.  Part of why I love it is that a lot of the dishes I’ve cooked so far are 2.0 versions of things I cook all the time anyway: I made a chicken and rice dish on Friday that was a cardamom + currant-flavored variation on the Doree chicken that’s been a staple of my repertoire since she first tweeted about it, and last night I made this swiss chard + tahini-yogurt sauce with buttered pine nuts thing that is basically the platonic ideal of my go-to nothing’s in the fridge dinner, which is: garlic spinach on steamed white rice or polenta with a poached egg on top.  

The chard dish takes a little bit more advance planning and, non-negotiably, the acquisition of some good pine nuts. I hate to perpetuate food weirdo-ness, but the chance that you could have a taste in your mouth like you’re "sucking on a wad of tin foil soaked in vinegar" for several days seems like a good argument against Chinese pine nuts to me, even if the risk is small and the savings are large.  Other than that, you just need two large bunches of chard, some tahini, some greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, butter and olive oil, and white wine (or beer, which is what I used bc of my extreme classiness.)  

You combine the tahini with yogurt and lemon juice plus one crushed garlic clove and set it aside, then blanch the sliced chard, rinsing it in cold water and then wringing it dry with your hands.  Then you fry the expensive, non-poisonous pine nuts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter for 3 minutes, scooping them out of the pan into a bowl when they’re golden. Add some sliced garlic to the pan, let it go for a minute, then deglaze with booze.  After that you add the chard + 1 tablespoon of butter back in, heat it thoroughly, and serve topped with the sauce and nuts.  You don’t have to serve it with rice, I just wanted it to be more of a main course. 

Jami reminded me the other day that the name of this Tumblr is Thing I Ate That I Love, not Screenshots From Lesbian Novels That I Loved. Well, she put it more nicely, anyway, this post is for Jami! Hi Jami!
The most important thing about an easy chicken soup recipe is that it has to be so easy you can make it when you’re sick. This eliminates, right off the bat, any recipes that involve making homemade stock as a first step of the recipe. Of course, if you have homemade stock sitting around in the fridge/freezer you can sautée some vegetables and chicken, insert stock, simmer til everything is tender and move on with your agenda of watching Veep on your laptop via stolen HBO GO.
Stock/broth from a box is a no-go, though. I’m not being a snob, I’m looking out for your tastebuds. Stock from a box is ok as an ingredient in some things, but not a soup that’s primarily broth. It is wack and also why does it cost $4? It probably costs $.13 to produce. It tastes like the smell of a nursing home. You are seriously better off, in a dire pinch, using this stuff, which doesn’t taste great but also doesn’t taste vile. If you’ve been sick to your stomach a cup of this, sipped daintily from a tiny spoon, is a great first food to eat (drink.) 
Anyway, here is my soup hack when you have no stock on hand. It results in a soup that is a little oily but that’s ok, it’s good for your sore throat. (You can skim the layer of fat off the refrigerated leftovers tomorrow when you’re feeling better.)
3 leeks, sliced
3 medium carrots (or one big thick carrot), cubed
3 small parsnips, cubed
3 cloves garlic, smashed
sprig fresh thyme (optional)
2 lbs chicken parts, skinless if poss, some with bones if poss.
In a dutch oven, brown the chicken in some olive oil. Remove to a plate, then add all the vegetables and cook in the olive/chicken oils til the leeks are wilted. Add the chicken back in plus enough water to cover, then simmer gently, covered, (ie don’t boil the eff out of it) til the chicken is cooked through.  So you are sort of poaching the chicken during this part of the recipe.  Remove the cooked but not rubberized chicken and allow to cool while the soup continues to cook, partially covered. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and give small manageable pieces of its skin and gristly bits to your cat and put the good parts back in the soup. Then: eat! Heal thyself!
This is the most recent iteration of a recipe I have probably published on the internet 40 times btw, but this is the best version.

Jami reminded me the other day that the name of this Tumblr is Thing I Ate That I Love, not Screenshots From Lesbian Novels That I Loved. Well, she put it more nicely, anyway, this post is for Jami! Hi Jami!

The most important thing about an easy chicken soup recipe is that it has to be so easy you can make it when you’re sick. This eliminates, right off the bat, any recipes that involve making homemade stock as a first step of the recipe. Of course, if you have homemade stock sitting around in the fridge/freezer you can sautée some vegetables and chicken, insert stock, simmer til everything is tender and move on with your agenda of watching Veep on your laptop via stolen HBO GO.

Stock/broth from a box is a no-go, though. I’m not being a snob, I’m looking out for your tastebuds. Stock from a box is ok as an ingredient in some things, but not a soup that’s primarily broth. It is wack and also why does it cost $4? It probably costs $.13 to produce. It tastes like the smell of a nursing home. You are seriously better off, in a dire pinch, using this stuff, which doesn’t taste great but also doesn’t taste vile. If you’ve been sick to your stomach a cup of this, sipped daintily from a tiny spoon, is a great first food to eat (drink.) 

Anyway, here is my soup hack when you have no stock on hand. It results in a soup that is a little oily but that’s ok, it’s good for your sore throat. (You can skim the layer of fat off the refrigerated leftovers tomorrow when you’re feeling better.)

3 leeks, sliced

3 medium carrots (or one big thick carrot), cubed

3 small parsnips, cubed

3 cloves garlic, smashed

sprig fresh thyme (optional)

2 lbs chicken parts, skinless if poss, some with bones if poss.

In a dutch oven, brown the chicken in some olive oil. Remove to a plate, then add all the vegetables and cook in the olive/chicken oils til the leeks are wilted. Add the chicken back in plus enough water to cover, then simmer gently, covered, (ie don’t boil the eff out of it) til the chicken is cooked through.  So you are sort of poaching the chicken during this part of the recipe.  Remove the cooked but not rubberized chicken and allow to cool while the soup continues to cook, partially covered. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and give small manageable pieces of its skin and gristly bits to your cat and put the good parts back in the soup. Then: eat! Heal thyself!

This is the most recent iteration of a recipe I have probably published on the internet 40 times btw, but this is the best version.

Normally I hate leftovers but I just ate this for the third time very happily so I thought I would share the recipe, which comes from Better Homes and Gardens via Ayun Halliday's Facebook! 
Shopping list:
Kale
a butternut squash
a 15 oz can of white hominy
chicken broth if there is none in your freezer
limes
cilantro (optional if you hate it)
radishes (optional if you are too lazy to deal with them)
queso fresco or feta (I didn’t do this but feel it would be a good addition)
1.5 lbs chicken thighs. The recipe specifies skinless, but what I did was peel off the skin and fry it, drain it and salt it to make the delicious cook’s snack that is the closest observant Jews ever get to bacon (besides, I guess, lox.)
Before you go to the store, check to make sure you have cumin, chili powder and oregano, and that none of these are old and crusty/infested with pantry moths. And you have olive oil, celery, onions and garlic, right? Ok, just checking.
Making it:
Wash and prep your kale and carve up your squash. My local supermarket doesn’t have those precut packages of squash but if they did I would buy them all the time; butchering a squash is an annoying, knife-dulling 10+ minute endeavor. My local supermarket makes it up to me by carrying lots of intriguing Caribbean products like this delicious breakfast pudding.  Hey, why not do everything ahead of time and have a mis en place like a professional chef!  Dice two onions, finely chop 4 cloves of garlic, and slice up 2 sticks of celery (the recipe calls for 4, I feel that’s a lot).
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your dutch oven, brown the chicken thighs, remove to a plate.  Do aforementioned chicken skin procedure if desired.  Add the garlic/onion/celery mixture and 1 tsp each of oregano, cumin and chili powder to the hot fat and stir til onion is translucent. Add the chicken back in plus the squash, the hominy, and 6 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the kale. Simmer another 10 minutes. Take the chicken out, wait til it’s cool, cut it into pieces + remove bones, give some to your pathetic cat who is standing underfoot saying “CHICKEN” over and over again in cat language.  Serve with lime juice, sliced radishes, and queso if desired.  Avocado or a poached egg on this is good too, especially on days 2 and 3. 

Normally I hate leftovers but I just ate this for the third time very happily so I thought I would share the recipe, which comes from Better Homes and Gardens via Ayun Halliday's Facebook! 

Shopping list:

Kale

a butternut squash

a 15 oz can of white hominy

chicken broth if there is none in your freezer

limes

cilantro (optional if you hate it)

radishes (optional if you are too lazy to deal with them)

queso fresco or feta (I didn’t do this but feel it would be a good addition)

1.5 lbs chicken thighs. The recipe specifies skinless, but what I did was peel off the skin and fry it, drain it and salt it to make the delicious cook’s snack that is the closest observant Jews ever get to bacon (besides, I guess, lox.)

Before you go to the store, check to make sure you have cumin, chili powder and oregano, and that none of these are old and crusty/infested with pantry moths. And you have olive oil, celery, onions and garlic, right? Ok, just checking.

Making it:

Wash and prep your kale and carve up your squash. My local supermarket doesn’t have those precut packages of squash but if they did I would buy them all the time; butchering a squash is an annoying, knife-dulling 10+ minute endeavor. My local supermarket makes it up to me by carrying lots of intriguing Caribbean products like this delicious breakfast pudding.  Hey, why not do everything ahead of time and have a mis en place like a professional chef!  Dice two onions, finely chop 4 cloves of garlic, and slice up 2 sticks of celery (the recipe calls for 4, I feel that’s a lot).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your dutch oven, brown the chicken thighs, remove to a plate.  Do aforementioned chicken skin procedure if desired.  Add the garlic/onion/celery mixture and 1 tsp each of oregano, cumin and chili powder to the hot fat and stir til onion is translucent. Add the chicken back in plus the squash, the hominy, and 6 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the kale. Simmer another 10 minutes. Take the chicken out, wait til it’s cool, cut it into pieces + remove bones, give some to your pathetic cat who is standing underfoot saying “CHICKEN” over and over again in cat language.  Serve with lime juice, sliced radishes, and queso if desired.  Avocado or a poached egg on this is good too, especially on days 2 and 3. 

I cooked a meal just for myself at home today for the first time in a while. This felt special and good and stabilizing after a week of travel and minor chaos.  I still haven’t gotten my brain back in order completely but I have high hopes for tomorrow.
Sari taught me how to make delicata squash: you slice it in rings, remove the seeds, baste with olive oil and sea salt and roast the rings a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes on each side.  Mine had been sitting around a while and had lost some of its sweetness, so I tossed the rings with a mix of 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt and pinches of smoked paprika and cinnamon.   After it was roasted I put it on a salad with pecorino and half a slightly sad avocado and a shallot vinaigrette (shallot, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, olive oil.)
This recipe is suspiciously healthy living blog-y, but it is actually very good and satisfying. 

I cooked a meal just for myself at home today for the first time in a while. This felt special and good and stabilizing after a week of travel and minor chaos.  I still haven’t gotten my brain back in order completely but I have high hopes for tomorrow.

Sari taught me how to make delicata squash: you slice it in rings, remove the seeds, baste with olive oil and sea salt and roast the rings a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes on each side.  Mine had been sitting around a while and had lost some of its sweetness, so I tossed the rings with a mix of 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt and pinches of smoked paprika and cinnamon.   After it was roasted I put it on a salad with pecorino and half a slightly sad avocado and a shallot vinaigrette (shallot, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, olive oil.)

This recipe is suspiciously healthy living blog-y, but it is actually very good and satisfying. 

Ok, as an inducement to read past the long ranty paragraphs that are coming I have to promise you that this post is actually about AN INNOVATION THAT MAKES THE WORLD’S BEST AND EASIEST BROWNIES EVEN MORE PERFECT (albeit not easier, but not much harder, either.)
For the past month I have been off the social Internet but more importantly for the purposes of this discussion, off wheat. Not  off gluten — I have been eating spelt, rye, etc — just wheat. I like experiments and I also like denying myself things and feeling virtuous about it, so at first this was fun. Actually it’s still fun, because I feel way less creaky and joint-achy and old-before-my-time than I did a month ago and getting out of bed is much easier and a workout doesn’t leave me sore for days anymore.  I’m not at all saying you should quit wheat, odds are wheat is fine for you.  But wheat is not my friend.  Acknowledging that something doesn’t have to be intrinsically evil to be bad for me, personally, was the big obvious lesson of this experience. (See also: the Internet.) 
There have been un-fun moments, of course. Sitting outside this bakery for a couple of hours and smelling all the baked goods baking was, in the immortal words of Claire Zulkey, not a party.  But, although I didn’t believe this at first, it turns out you can make some okay baked goods without wheat.  Not a lot of them, and definitely damn all those prepackaged gluten-free cookies straight to hell.  But brownies and cookies, which are supposed to be dense and chewy, can get along without wheat flour very well.  Especially these brownies, especially if you use my ONE WEIRD TIP.
That tip is: ghee, aka clarified butter.  Ghee was previously known to me only in the context of Indian food and Ayurvedic medicine and I thought there was some esoteric process that went into making it which explained why it was only sold at the health food store, and for like $15, but it turns out to be very easy and satisfying to make at home; you basically just melt a bunch of butter then forget about it at a low heat for a while, then scrape the white milk solids off the top and strain the remaining clear oil into a clean glass jar.  David Lebowitz has good photos and step by step instructions.  He also says you have to use “good” butter but I have used butter from, literally, Wal-Mart. 
According to my witch doctor, ghee is better for you than butter because it is butter without lactose (those white milk solids) or “impurities”, and is a nonhydrogenated fat (somehow.)  According to me and pastry chefs, ghee is better than butter in some baked goods because it has a lower water content, which is great when you want chewy, caramelized, perfect brownies.  And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making a whole batch of ghee — though you should, even if you digest lactose perfectly it’s better than butter for scrambled eggs or frying anything — you can make a small amount of lazy person’s ghee in the first step of this recipe, which is adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen. 
Preheat your oven to 350.
STEP ONE: In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt a stick of butter over low heat and then go do something else for a while, half an hour or so, but near the stove so you can use your nose to be sure the butter’s not burning. When you come back to the stove, the butter will have separated into a layer of clear yellow oil and a layer of white crud on the top. Scrape off the white crud (strain it if you’re finicky/hate lactose) and proceed with 
STEP TWO: Wipe out that ghee saucepan with a paper towel, then use it to grease an 8X8 pan (if using larger pan, start checking for doneness sooner in step four.) Dump that golden oil into a heatsafe bowl with 3 oz. broken-up bittersweet chocolate and stir til it melts. If melting isn’t happening, you can stick the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds or, if you lack a microwave, quickly rinse your saucepan, fill with a couple inches of water, heat it up and put the bowl on top to create a double-boiler effect.  Once it’s melted go on to
STEP THREE(ISH):  Whisk in 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, then 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, then 2/3 of a cup of any kind of flour you like (all-purpose, spelt, and Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free work absolutely equally well) plus 1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt. 
STEP FOUR: Dump the batter into that greased pan! Salt lovers (me) might consider sprinkling additional sea salt on top.  Bake 30-35 minutes, checking for doneness (toothpick comes out clean) early and often. 
Cool completely before you cut them up, obviously, and eat them happily somewhere far away from a computer screen. 

Ok, as an inducement to read past the long ranty paragraphs that are coming I have to promise you that this post is actually about AN INNOVATION THAT MAKES THE WORLD’S BEST AND EASIEST BROWNIES EVEN MORE PERFECT (albeit not easier, but not much harder, either.)

For the past month I have been off the social Internet but more importantly for the purposes of this discussion, off wheat. Not  off gluten — I have been eating spelt, rye, etc — just wheat. I like experiments and I also like denying myself things and feeling virtuous about it, so at first this was fun. Actually it’s still fun, because I feel way less creaky and joint-achy and old-before-my-time than I did a month ago and getting out of bed is much easier and a workout doesn’t leave me sore for days anymore.  I’m not at all saying you should quit wheat, odds are wheat is fine for you.  But wheat is not my friend.  Acknowledging that something doesn’t have to be intrinsically evil to be bad for me, personally, was the big obvious lesson of this experience. (See also: the Internet.) 

There have been un-fun moments, of course. Sitting outside this bakery for a couple of hours and smelling all the baked goods baking was, in the immortal words of Claire Zulkey, not a party.  But, although I didn’t believe this at first, it turns out you can make some okay baked goods without wheat.  Not a lot of them, and definitely damn all those prepackaged gluten-free cookies straight to hell.  But brownies and cookies, which are supposed to be dense and chewy, can get along without wheat flour very well.  Especially these brownies, especially if you use my ONE WEIRD TIP.

That tip is: ghee, aka clarified butter.  Ghee was previously known to me only in the context of Indian food and Ayurvedic medicine and I thought there was some esoteric process that went into making it which explained why it was only sold at the health food store, and for like $15, but it turns out to be very easy and satisfying to make at home; you basically just melt a bunch of butter then forget about it at a low heat for a while, then scrape the white milk solids off the top and strain the remaining clear oil into a clean glass jar.  David Lebowitz has good photos and step by step instructions.  He also says you have to use “good” butter but I have used butter from, literally, Wal-Mart. 

According to my witch doctor, ghee is better for you than butter because it is butter without lactose (those white milk solids) or “impurities”, and is a nonhydrogenated fat (somehow.)  According to me and pastry chefs, ghee is better than butter in some baked goods because it has a lower water content, which is great when you want chewy, caramelized, perfect brownies.  And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making a whole batch of ghee — though you should, even if you digest lactose perfectly it’s better than butter for scrambled eggs or frying anything — you can make a small amount of lazy person’s ghee in the first step of this recipe, which is adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen

Preheat your oven to 350.

STEP ONE: In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt a stick of butter over low heat and then go do something else for a while, half an hour or so, but near the stove so you can use your nose to be sure the butter’s not burning. When you come back to the stove, the butter will have separated into a layer of clear yellow oil and a layer of white crud on the top. Scrape off the white crud (strain it if you’re finicky/hate lactose) and proceed with 

STEP TWO: Wipe out that ghee saucepan with a paper towel, then use it to grease an 8X8 pan (if using larger pan, start checking for doneness sooner in step four.) Dump that golden oil into a heatsafe bowl with 3 oz. broken-up bittersweet chocolate and stir til it melts. If melting isn’t happening, you can stick the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds or, if you lack a microwave, quickly rinse your saucepan, fill with a couple inches of water, heat it up and put the bowl on top to create a double-boiler effect.  Once it’s melted go on to

STEP THREE(ISH):  Whisk in 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, then 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, then 2/3 of a cup of any kind of flour you like (all-purpose, spelt, and Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free work absolutely equally well) plus 1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt. 

STEP FOUR: Dump the batter into that greased pan! Salt lovers (me) might consider sprinkling additional sea salt on top.  Bake 30-35 minutes, checking for doneness (toothpick comes out clean) early and often. 

Cool completely before you cut them up, obviously, and eat them happily somewhere far away from a computer screen. 

Quick and easy latke recipe:
1. Find some children and get them to peel 5 potatoes. Watch them shred the potatoes and 2 large onions into a bowl.  Exert no effort during this process except saying “careful!” every once in a while
2. Squeeze as much juice out of the shreds as you can
3. combine with 3 tablespoons of flour, 3 eggs and salt to taste
4. Fry in very hot oil and serve with sour cream and applesauce.  Congratulate yourself on being such an observant Jew that you are basically a rabbi at this point

Quick and easy latke recipe:

1. Find some children and get them to peel 5 potatoes. Watch them shred the potatoes and 2 large onions into a bowl.  Exert no effort during this process except saying “careful!” every once in a while

2. Squeeze as much juice out of the shreds as you can

3. combine with 3 tablespoons of flour, 3 eggs and salt to taste

4. Fry in very hot oil and serve with sour cream and applesauce.  Congratulate yourself on being such an observant Jew that you are basically a rabbi at this point

I made these pancakes so I could try the maple syrup a kind Vermonter got me for my bday. I don’t know if you can see it, but the side of the syrup container suggests putting it on “steamed rice”—strange! I will try it!
I ad libbed this recipe with my still slightly weird post-move larder contents and it worked out pretty well, even the lack of any kind of leavening agent was fine and the ‘cakes, while less-fluffy, didn’t have that bisquicky tang that baking powder/soda impart.
Combine 1/2 cup whole wheat with 1/2 cup white flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, mix with fork.
In a separate bowl mix 1 tablespoon melted butter, one little bucket of Total 2% greek yogurt, and one egg. mix thoroughly!
Combine wet and dry ingredients and then thin out the resulting glop with whatever kind of hippie milk you have on hand. If it’s not vanilla coconutmilk, add a little tiny bit of vanilla.
Fry them up in peanut oil and serve with maple syrup!  For some reason maple syrup never fails to remind me of the “I’m A Lumberjack” song from Monty Python (because … no idea. Trees are involved?), which my friends became completely obsessed with at some point in middle school and sang ad infinitum while waiting for the bus.

I made these pancakes so I could try the maple syrup a kind Vermonter got me for my bday. I don’t know if you can see it, but the side of the syrup container suggests putting it on “steamed rice”—strange! I will try it!

I ad libbed this recipe with my still slightly weird post-move larder contents and it worked out pretty well, even the lack of any kind of leavening agent was fine and the ‘cakes, while less-fluffy, didn’t have that bisquicky tang that baking powder/soda impart.

Combine 1/2 cup whole wheat with 1/2 cup white flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, mix with fork.

In a separate bowl mix 1 tablespoon melted butter, one little bucket of Total 2% greek yogurt, and one egg. mix thoroughly!

Combine wet and dry ingredients and then thin out the resulting glop with whatever kind of hippie milk you have on hand. If it’s not vanilla coconutmilk, add a little tiny bit of vanilla.

Fry them up in peanut oil and serve with maple syrup!  For some reason maple syrup never fails to remind me of the “I’m A Lumberjack” song from Monty Python (because … no idea. Trees are involved?), which my friends became completely obsessed with at some point in middle school and sang ad infinitum while waiting for the bus.

This recipe, from a pick-your-own farm near my hometown, is what you get when you type “peach cobbler flip” into Google so maybe they invented it!  It’s an ideal thing to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen— all you need is a cake or pie pan, flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, milk, peaches, salt and a cup measure (and you don’t even really need that.)  For this reason, eating it reminds me of every childhood beach vacation my family has ever taken.
Only an idiot (me) would attempt to substitute coconut milk for the milk incidentally.

This recipe, from a pick-your-own farm near my hometown, is what you get when you type “peach cobbler flip” into Google so maybe they invented it!  It’s an ideal thing to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen— all you need is a cake or pie pan, flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, milk, peaches, salt and a cup measure (and you don’t even really need that.)  For this reason, eating it reminds me of every childhood beach vacation my family has ever taken.

Only an idiot (me) would attempt to substitute coconut milk for the milk incidentally.