The Anniversary Issue: Looking Back, Cooking Forward
One Year of Newsletters, Ten Years of Marriage, Plus a Recipe for Liptauer
Behold Issue #52. We’ve come full circle—a year’s worth of weekly newsletters. I hope you’ve enjoyed receiving them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. If you joined me on this journey near the beginning, you will receive or may have already received a subscription renewal request. I hope you will click to continue receiving it and perhaps even upgrade to a paid subscription, if you are so inclined. Paid subscribers get city notebooks on where to eat (Paris and Tel Aviv are complete; San Sebastian, Bilbao, Milan and New York are in the works). Subscribers can comment on and request recipes and have access to the entire archive of newsletters evermore. I so appreciate your continued support as we move into year two. —Mitchell
To mark the milestone of my newsletter’s first anniversary, I’m looking back and reflecting on the most popular posts from the past year. When I set out to write Kitchen Sense, my goal was three-fold: I wanted to encourage people to get in the kitchen and cook by offering good but relatively simple recipes and advice on how to approach cooking in general. I also wanted to find a way to help change the sense that cooking is a chore that leads to a finished product, rather than a process that provides insight and joy on the way to something delicious to eat. Finally, I hoped to underscore that the decisions we make about what we eat today—that is, the ingredients we choose, the producers we support, the waste we generate—have a significant impact not just on ourselves individually, but on how we all will eat in the future. I want people to understand that we all have a responsibility to make a better future for everyone by making better choices about the food we eat today.
When I look at the statistics from the last year, it’s interesting to me that those Kitchen Sense newsletters most viewed upon release all fell between December 2021 and January 2022. In addition to any likely seasonal effect, that is, a heightened interest in cooking for family and friends around the holidays and in the colder months, I suspect the spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was also responsible. After a brief feeling of relief, if not normalcy, during the fall of last year, infection numbers started to rise at alarming rates and many of us found ourselves in self-imposed lock down needing to feed ourselves. Or at least with more time to read newsletters about how to do so.
In fact, the isolation and self-reliance that has been necessary to deal with this pandemic was in many ways what got me cooking with such dedication and enthusiasm in the first place. After living a life for many years that required me to eat many of my meals out, sometimes three or more times a day, I suddenly found myself having to eat all of my meals at home. To Nate’s chagrin, I’ve never been able to embrace the idea of takeout, which has to me always seemed to result in inferior food, excessive packaging waste, and poor value overall. Conversely, I’ve always found cooking for oneself, one’s family, and one’s friends rewarding in more ways than just dinner. I had just never given myself the time to do it with any consistency. The pandemic changed that and I continue to relish the opportunity to cook most of the food we eat. I hope to encourage you to do the same. #fasterthantakeout
Here is an annotated list of the five most popular Kitchen Sense issues of last year (in order):
1. Issue #30 (December 15, 2021): Arrival Rituals in Paris: DIY Edition
I suspect that the fact that I was traveling, and to Paris, of all places, added a vicarious interest in this issue, which included recipes for my two favorite first bites in the City of Lights, oeufs mayonnaise and galettes bretonnes.
2. Issue #34 (January 12, 2022): Dumpling Crazy: The Shape of Potstickers to Come
I heard often from folks that they were missing the variety of food they were used to eating out, limited as they were by what they could make. Maybe that’s why this issue about Chinese dumplings was so popular. Or maybe it’s just, well, everyone loves dumplings.
3. Issue #37 (February 2, 2022): Hamburger Helper
I’ve always held that despite whatever culinary revolution may have happened over the last few decades across the United States, all anyone really craves is a burger. Add a homemade bun and some crisp French fries and you have a meal to please any meat-eating American.
4. Issue #32 (December 29, 2021): The Favorite: Latteria San Marco
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked for my favorite restaurant. I used to say that it depended on where I was, whom I was with, what I was craving. But since I lived in Milan in 2015 to create the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano, I can say Latteria San Marco is it. It’s a small trattoria where Maria and Arturo serve homey food to il tutto Milano. This piece included a recipe for their simple, signature lemon pasta with chilies.
5. Issue #36 (January 26, 2022): Game of Chicken: Southern-Style Fried
Right up there with hamburgers (see #3, above), fried chicken holds a special place in the American carnivore’s heart. I married a southern boy. I’ve made and eaten more fried chicken since I met Nate at age 39 than I have made or eaten in my entire life before then (or, pre-Natal, as we say).
My Substack anniversary coincides with another milestone in my life. Nate and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We happened to be up at the lakehouse we are renting on Cayuga Lake, just outside Ithaca, New York, in the Finger Lakes. Coincidentally, or not, this is near where we got married. And we had dinner with my sister Leslie and her girlfriend Judi and our dog Milo at the very spot where we tied the knot, Dano’s Heuriguer on Seneca, a Viennese winery restaurant about 30 minutes from where our house is located. Our friend, owner-chef-pastry-chef-bottlewasher and artist Karen Gilman welcomed us with some local Finger Lakes bubbles and we enjoyed many of the same items that were on the menu on our wedding day (see below).
The only sadness was that Dano Hutnik, Karen’s late husband, partner, the original chef, and a close friend of mine for almost 30 years was not there, having died suddenly four years ago almost to the day. But we toasted Dano and we toasted ourselves and we toasted our crazy world that just keeps getting crazier as the planet spins forward on its axis toward who knows what.
In memory of Dano, I offer you one of his signature recipes that’s a perennial favorite in our house: liptauer, an addictive Hungarian cheese spread flavored with onion, anchovy, paprika, and other goodness. It always pleases.
RECIPE: Dano’s Liptauer
Makes about 2 cups
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 pound (4 ounces) imported feta cheese, such as Bulgarian sheep’s milk cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup red onion or 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 large clove garlic, grated on a Microplane
2 anchovies or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (optional, but desirable)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced (use more if not using anchovies)
1 teaspoon caraway seed, toasted
3 tablespoons very fresh, sweet, ground Hungarian paprika, or 2 1/2 tablespoons in combination with 2 teaspoons of sweet, smoked Spanish pimenton
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and feta. Beat with a paddle until blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth, another minute or two. Scrape down the sides again. Add the minced onion or shallot, garlic, anchovies, if using, capers, and toasted caraway seed, and beat to combine, about 1 minute or so. Scrape down the sides. Add the paprika and beat, scraping down the sides. The spread should have a nice red color, that will darken as it sits. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve with crusty bread.