Anger / Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler

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This week’s recipe: Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler

I went to go see Network on Broadway last weekend. It’s a stage adaptation of the 1976 film, starring Bryan Cranston as the disillusioned news anchor Howard Beale. Beale has recently been fired for bad ratings, and he uses his final broadcasts to rail against the “bullshit” he sees in the world and to threaten to kill himself on the air. Viewers are drawn to his righteous anger and straight-shooting style, and ratings shoot up. Beale encourages his audience to get angry, inspiring them to stick their heads out their windows and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

Even if you’ve never seen Network, you’ve probably heard this iconic line. But I was more interested in the larger speech in which it appears. Beale, who is in the throes of a nervous breakdown at this point, rails against the world’s ills, and how anesthetized the population has become to violence, economic depression, environmental despoliation, and so on. He says, “I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot — I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’ So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE! I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE! Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Network is about so many things that are relevant today—news as spectacle, the corporatization of media, the way capitalism chews people up and spits them out. Heck, there’s even a shout-out to the pernicious influence of Saudi money. But what I found most thought-provoking was what it has to say about the nature of anger. Anger is at the core of both Beale’s being and his appeal. It’s what makes him authentic and refreshing, and gives him a reputation as a truth-telling “mad prophet.” But while seeing a newsman get angry and express strong opinions may have been an exciting novelty in the 1970s, we have dozens of cable channels and online media outlets devoted to just that in 2018. Has it made the world a better, purer, more truthful place?

Let’s go back to that rant for a moment. What’s interesting is how Beale openly admits that he doesn’t have solutions to offer. He seems to think that the cleansing power of honest anger will somehow lead to a nationwide moment of clarity that will allow them to “figure out what to do.” This makes sense, because if there’s one thing that anger has historically been good for, it’s helping people think more clearly and rationally. Just kidding. It’s dumb. It’s like saying, “I don’t like either of the major party candidates so I’m voting Green.” You know it won’t make things better and may in fact make things worse, but all that really matters is that you’re emotionally satisfied. It’s like Trump saying, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.” No, dummy, anyone who spent even ten seconds thinking about or studying the problem knew it was complicated. You only ever thought that it was simple because rightwing media figures and politicians have been saying since at least the 1990s that there’s an obvious solution; it’s just that no one has been able to propose or implement it, because…reasons. The world is a complex place with complex problems. Addressing them takes hard work and organization; getting angry, in contrast, is something that any two year old can do. No one likes endemic crime and chaos, and it’s ridiculous to think that everyone was just living in a slumbering fog until some guy on TV told them that all the bad things going on in the world are, get this, bad.

Another interesting factor for those who would take “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” as a rallying cry: Howard Beale is crazy. He sees visions and hears voices. That is the nature of prophets, but unlike most prophets, Beale experiences honor in his own time—a massive and respected platform with which to disseminate his message. Plus, as a middle-aged white man, he is a default authority figure, so his influence only grows despite some manifest mental issues. This leads to the vital question of whose anger is considered valid, and the situation hasn’t changed much since the 1970s on that score. When a woman expresses anger, she’s “emotional.” When a black man expresses anger, he’s “threatening.” When a black woman expresses anger, she’s a stereotype. The reaction to Colin Kaepernick and the NFL protests has proven that, in the eyes of many, there is no right way for some people to express anger. But for other people, anger is always justified. It’s why you get so many sympathetic profiles of “economically anxious” Trump voters, or why the media believed for so long that the Tea Party was a grassroots expression of deficit-related fury rather than a movement funded by plutocrats and fueled by racism.

There’s nothing wrong with getting mad when you’ve been wronged. It’s a healthy and natural emotion. The problem is when anger gets channeled to destructive ends, which is much more likely to occur when people are being positively encouraged to hold onto and nurture their anger—even when they haven’t been wronged! The modern conservative movement is afflicted with a massive persecution complex, telling its members that they should be deeply affronted if someone says “Happy holidays” to them or if they don’t like the design of a Starbucks cup. And while I hate false equivalence, I have to say that the left isn’t much better; the entire concept of microaggressions trains people to be offended by things that they wouldn’t otherwise find offensive. But the far left’s power is comparatively minuscule, and it’s rightwing rage that is more likely to manifest in violence. They’re angry, and someone out there – whether it’s a talking head on cable news or posters on a Reddit forum for incels – is telling them that their anger is righteous and valid, so they go bomb a government building or drive a car into a crowd of people or shoot up a school. Or, in a less extreme but far more common reaction, support Donald Trump.

As with so many pieces of art in 2018, Trump is the unspoken subtext of the story. The Broadway production ends with a video montage of all of the presidents from Ford onward taking the oath of office at their inaugurations, and when it ends on Donald Trump, the message is clear: the media’s obsession with shiny objects, bullshit distractions, and, above all, ratings, did this to us. But what if they did it to us not through the corporate-engineered complacency that Beale excoriated, but through fanning anger…the very emotion that Beale sees as the heart of truth and righteousness?

So anyway, here’s a cobbler. But not a cobbler as you traditionally know it, with fruit n’ shit. This cobbler is savory! It’s a go-to brunch recipe for me, since it’s tasty, can feed a crowd, looks beautiful and impressive, and, most importantly, isn’t a cliche. Plus it makes you feel like you are eating vegetables, which then gives you permission to gorge on cinnamon buns or whatever other sweet treat is also laid out at the brunch. Win win!

Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler

From Huckleberry

 

Ingredients

BISCUIT TOPPING

  • 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup (100 g.) all-purpose flour
  • 3½ tbsp. cornmeal
  • 2¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp. (130 g.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3½ tbsp. cold buttermilk

FILLING

  • 5 cups (900 g.) cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 batch Egg Wash (recipe follows)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. (55 to 85 g.) goat cheese

Instructions

  1. To make the biscuit topping: Combine the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a very large bowl. Stir to blend. Toss the butter with the flour mixture. Work the butter between your fingertips until the pieces are pea-and lima bean-size. Add the buttermilk and lightly toss to distribute.
  2. Dump the dough onto a clean work surface. Begin by firmly pressing the entire surface of the dough with the heel of your palm. Toss and squeeze the dough to redistribute the wet and dry patches. Repeat, pressing thoroughly again with the heel of your palm, and continue pressing, tossing, and squeezing until it begins to hold together. But be sure not to overwork the dough! It should stay together but you should still see pea-size bits of butter running through it.
  3. Press the dough into a disc ¾ in. (2 cm.) thick. Cut the dough into nine biscuits. Transfer to an ungreased sheet pan and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  4. To make the filling: Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, 2 sprigs of the thyme, and the salt in an ovenproof sauté pan. Cover and cook over high heat until the tomatoes begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until all the tomatoes burst slightly.
  5. Brush the frozen biscuits with egg wash and arrange them, 1 in. (2.5 cm.) apart, on top of the tomato mixture in the skillet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove briefly and quickly dollop the goat cheese between the biscuits over any exposed tomato. Return to the oven, increasing the temperature to 475°F, and continue baking until the top is nicely browned, about 10 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with the remaining thyme.
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Weddings, Luxury Living Style / Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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This week’s recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

“It has an article in it about wedding trends,” my kindhearted future mother-in-law told Mark as she handed him the summer issue of Luxury Living magazine. “Maybe you’ll find some useful ideas!” Well, I did find some useful ideas – for a lazy blogpost when I can’t think of anything else to write about and I just feel like making fun of something. So thank you!

Luxury Living is everything that its title implies. It’s one of those magazines that exist mostly to sell ads to the demographic of people who summer in the Hamptons. I opened it to four random pages, and the ads were for Jaguar Land Rovers, pearl necklaces, Rolexes, and booking the yacht club for your next event. The articles are about a celebrity chef, the hottest restaurants in the Hamptons, an opportunity to purchase Grey Gardens now that it’s back on the market, a charity founded by Matt Damon, a resort in Dubai, and, of course, summer weddings. Mark and I had many a good laugh over this last article’s, uh, suggestions for what you need to make the ultimate wedding in 2017. First of all, the article writer’s name is Claudia Gryvatz Copquin, which is really just the best. And now, I invite you to enjoy these totally normal and reasonable wedding trends and recommendations:

-Invitations: make these from combinations of non-standard materials such as moss and acrylic or linen, silk, and branches. To make your invitation really stand out from those lame-o Minted ones, you can also include a pearlescent wax seal or have it engraved on a piece of slate.

-Menu: if you met at an Asian food restaurant, you had better have an Asian food station or an event planner from Bridgehampton will come and murder you. You may also consider having menus printed on rawhide and barnwood for that extra touch of rustic-ness at your $80,000 rustic wedding.

-Décor: a wedding wish tree is a “unique idea” that is also “trendy.” How can something be both unique and trendy? Shut up, that’s how. If you want something more high-tech, just hire a Tony-winning set designer to incorporate projection image mapping onto your venue.

-Leaving the wedding: sparkers, a horn section, fancy fiddling, doves.

-For the bride: every wedding photo you’ve ever seen has included a bride holding her purse, so go ahead and splurge on a $681 Swarovski-beaded opera clutch.

-For the groom: Why get fresh flowers when you could spend $250 on a flower pin made from burlap or “upcycled denim,” whatever that means. He’ll totally wear it again!

-For the bridal party: $158 cashmere and fox fur pom-pom slippers. Having been a bridesmaid, I’d really rather that you just give me the $158 to offset the $1000+ I am spending to be in your wedding, but I guess I’d rather have the slippers than the $85 “Birch Wood Meditation Box,” which is literally just a box filled with sand.

-For the newlyweds: a $240 butter churn. The perfect gift for the couple that just had an $80,000 rustic wedding.

So anyway, here’s some zucchini bread. I know it looks more chocolate-y than anything else, but trust me, it has zucchini in it, so it’s basically a salad. It’s so moist and rich and chocolate-y that you’ll never know it has vegetables in it! Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

From Two Peas and Their Pod

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.

Running / Breakfast Smoothie

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This week’s recipe: Pre-Run Breakfast Smoothie

Yesterday I ran my second half marathon. Since I have now run two (I ran my first one in March 2016), it’s basically like I’ve run a marathon, right? That’s just how math works. Everyone says that after you run a half marathon, you will want to run a marathon. I say that hitting mile 12 in a race and not even being halfway done is too depressing to contemplate. Still, the fact that I am able to run any sort of far distance is kind of miraculous.

I don’t exactly come from an athletic family. My dad is in excellent shape, and he bikes and runs, but his involvement with team sports was limited to being in his high school marching band. My mom falls down a lot. My oldest sister was a pretty good tennis player in high school but not exactly Serena Williams. My middle sister evinced a genuine interest in sports, and an equally genuine lack of ability or talent. As for me, I was on the volleyball and softball teams in middle school, because if you were on a sports team, you didn’t have to go to regular gym class. Since I was so terrible at both volleyball and softball, the coaches almost never put me in the game. If they did, they would rotate me out again as quickly as possible, or stick me way out in the outfield where I had ample time to scheme about how I was going to convince my parents to let me see Rent. This arrangement suited me just fine, in large part because my gym teachers exhibited all of the sadism for which members of that profession are famous. A particularly memorable example was when they forced us to run across the length of the gym within a certain time (15 seconds or thereabouts). If the whole class didn’t make it to the opposite wall before the time was up, we had to do it over again, until everyone made it in time. Needless to say, if you weren’t capable of running that far in 15 seconds the first time, it didn’t become any easier after ten or 20 tries. Out of mercy or boredom, the gym teacher finally let us stop, but not before I was red-faced, panting, and humiliated to the verge of tears with the knowledge that my slow ass was messing this up for everyone.

Nothing got better. In seventh grade, we were bussed out to Astoria to run the mile. Out of about 50 girls in our grade, I came in second-to-last. I was also the only girl in our grade to suffer an exercise-induced asthma attack during the mile. So you’ll understand that I did all I could to avoid running. In high school, we got to pick our gym electives, and I signed up for strength training. I was the only girl in the class. It turned out that the athletic kids did sports; the unathletic girls did a class called Body Conditioning; and the unathletic boys (and I) did strength training. It was awesome. Everyone in the class, myself included, was an unpopular nerd, so we sat around on the exercise machines and talked to each other and, on the rare occasion that the gym teacher bothered to poke his head in, pretended to work out. It was the best.

On the other end of the spectrum was camp, where I had to join a team sport. If I had been less of a goody-goody, I would have gone the route of many of my bunkmates, who picked a sport coached by a counselor who they knew didn’t give a shit, and then never went to practice. Instead, as I had in middle school, I picked volleyball because I thought it would involve the least amount of running. Unlike in middle school, that turned out to be a tragic misperception. Our coaches were real bastards of the old school, and we did more running than any team other than soccer. And in the summer heat and humidity, no less. It was the worst.

The first time I ever remember running without someone forcing me to was right after the summer I spent in Israel on a teen trip. That summer, with its early morning hikes through the desert and hot Israelis in tiny swimsuits, had brought home to me how very overweight and out of shape I was. I was waking up very early in the mornings because of jet lag and one morning, I decided to go run around the Central Park reservoir as the sun came up. I was extremely slow and had to take a number of breaks, but I managed to do it, and I was amazed at my increeeeeeedible accomplishment of running 1.6 miles in, like, 25 minutes.

From then on, I ran very sporadically for the next eight years. The exact moment that I got into running with any seriousness was January 12, 2014—the day I bought my first smartphone. For reasons that are still unclear to me, the very first app I downloaded was Runkeeper, and I immediately set a goal to run 20 miles by the end of January. From there, I kept upping my mileage goals, and kept hitting them, until running became a habit. When my sisters suggested that we should do a 10K, it seemed natural. Just as it seemed naturally to drunkenly register for the New York City half marathon lottery, never thinking I’d get in.

Fast forward to a year and a month later, and I’ve just completed my second half marathon. This one was significantly harder, in part because of the course (twice through Central Park, with all of its hills), and in part because I didn’t train nearly as hard as I did for the first one. This was partly laziness, and party the fact that, psychologically, the knowledge that I had already run a half marathon once made me much less anxious about running one a second time. And although I spent the whole race wanting to die, running half marathons has really changed my relationship to my body. Women spend so much time hating their bodies–their arms, their butts, their stomachs, their thighs, and so on. When I run a half marathon, I look at myself and think, Wow, my body is capable of doing this amazing thing, how could I possibly hate it?

So anyway, here’s a smoothie. Specifically, this is the smoothie that I always have before a race. I know what you are thinking. Chocolate + peanut butter = yum! Chocolate + peanut butter + strawberries = eh? Chocolate + peanut butter + strawberries + spinach = stop, that’s disgusting. But it’s actually insanely good, and it gives you exactly the energy boost you need to run a race. It’s the breakfast of champions, and will get you through your run so that you can enjoy the dinner of champions: Scotch and cocktail weenies.

Pre-Run Breakfast Smoothie

From Peanut Butter Fingers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 pack frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. Blend and enjoy!