Lunch at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara

We spent last week with some friends (our quarantine pod) in Santa Barbara to ride out the election. And what a week it was! We thought we might be celebrating on Tuesday night as the results rolled in, but, as we all know, Tuesday’s uncertainty led to Wednesday’s uncertainty as the votes were slowly and meticulously counted.

How best to get our mind off of election stress? The ghost of Julia Child visited us one evening and told us to go visit La Super-Rica. The place is legendary — Isodoro Gonzalez opened it in 1996 — and Julia Child counted it as one of her favorite places to eat Mexican food. So off we went.

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Stressbake a Banana Cake

You could bite your nails right now, you could doomscroll through social media, or you could do what I’ve been doing: stressbake.

Stressbaking isn’t so much a strategy, as it is a state of mind. It’s where your body — your hands, your stomach, your taste buds — jump up into your brain and say: “Halt! No more perseverating. There’s work to be done.” In this case, the work involves taking very ripe bananas off of your counter and turning them into a cake.

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Roasted Honeynut Squash Soup with Apples, Ginger, and Yellow Miso

One of the biggest clichés in food writing is the idea of cooking with love. It’s abstract, vague, overly sentimental.

And yet, there’s something about it that makes sense to me, especially when I’m making soup. You can cook with a lot of love when you’re making soup. You can take the time to strain it, for example, to make it extra smooth. You can take the time to make stock from scratch, instead of using stock from a box. Most people won’t notice the difference, but you’ll know that you took the time to do it. So what else to call that except cooking with love?

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How To Make Really Great Pizza at Home

As a person who’s devoted most of my life to food, I have certain beliefs that I fervently hold on to. One: never grill chicken breasts for a dinner party. That’s depressing. Two: When baking with chocolate, it’s important to eat a quarter cup of the chocolate in its raw state. Quality control. And three: there’s absolutely no reason to make pizza at home. Order in, it’ll be better.

Pause on that last one. Recently, I felt inspired to try my hand at homemade pizza again after many unimpressive efforts from the past, earning comments like this one:

Nicholas Bergus had a point. I never quite got the dough thin enough, giving up on stretching it while it still looked rather puffy. The resulting pizza was, as Nicholas Bergus says, “more like focaccia than pizza.” When the internet trolls are right, you know you’re doing something wrong.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Coconut and Pistachios

I own a dangerous book called By The Book. It’s a collection of the By The Book column from the New York Times; a column where artists, musicians, and writers talk about their favorite books and what’s currently on their nightstand. It’s dangerous because any time someone sings the praises of a book, I immediately want to own it. (See: the stacks of books currently on my desk, coffee table, and nightstand.)

Not only am I susceptible to “By The Book,” I’m also susceptible to book suggestions in real life. Case in point: Nik Sharma came on my Instagram Live two weeks ago, and sang the praises of Samantha Seneviratne’s Sugar and Spice. It was on my doorstep three days later.

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Sausages Braised in Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

It’s hard for me to think of dinners that aren’t pasta. When I have sausages in the refrigerator, for example, I think of all of the different pastas I can make with them: rigatoni with sausage and broccolini, ziti with sausage, onion, and fennel. I think I took it too seriously when Sophia Loren said: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”

A year or two ago, though, I developed a dinner that feels like a pasta dinner that isn’t a pasta dinner, it’s a polenta dinner. I take whole sausages, brown them in olive oil, add onions and garlic to the pan, make a quick tomato sauce, and braise the sausages in there. Meanwhile, I cook a pot of polenta at the same time.

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I’d Like To Propose A Toast For Dinner (Creamed Mushroom Toast with Little Gem Salad + Baba Ganoush Toast with Scarlett Runner Beans)

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we had toast for dinner. Now when I say “toast for dinner,” you may be imagining a stale piece of bread, smeared with a little butter and jam. That wouldn’t be a very filling dinner, now, would it?

No, the toasts that I made for dinner were hearty affairs; so filling, in fact, we almost couldn’t finish them. Consider them close cousins of bruschetta; they’re the kinds of toasts that you see sometimes at trendy restaurants, like ABC Kitchen in New York which serves a famous butternut squash toast. The premise is simple: a very thick slice of bread, toasted until very dark around the edges, and then topped with something rich and decadent.

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How To Add Flair To Your Banana Bread

My dad has a joke he makes whenever someone his age has a birthday: “Don’t buy any green bananas.”

I buy green bananas every week, but I’m only 41. The thing about buying green bananas is that eventually they become yellow bananas, perfect for snacking or slicing on to your yogurt and granola. And then those yellow bananas become speckled bananas, perfect for making banana bread.

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