Eggplant Ricotta Rolls (Inspired by Lorde)

Eggplant ricotta rolls

It kinda blows my mind that Lorde’s “Royals” is the No. 1 song in the country. Not because it isn’t amazing (it is!) and it’s certainly not surprising that it’s popular, but it’s so not in the same world as everyone charting right behind her — Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Drake. Lorde (16-year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor) herself is so unfazed by everything the pop-music industry usually stands for, she writes all her own lyrics, and couldn’t care less about being famous; it’s refreshing and rare to find that in a pop artist.

Her whole record, Pure Heroine, is amazing, and amazingly smart: O’Connor writes about adolesence and growing up in a way that’s relatable, even for those of us who are a decade or more past her, and she does it without being cheesy or contrived. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she said, “I’m like the most terrible person to go to a party with in the world, because I just can’t enjoy it. I’m just thinking all the time about what it means and what the implications are. So everybody’s getting fucked up and I just can’t give myself over to it, because I’m thinking about…the archetypes of being a teen. I’m really interested in kind of weird social situations and cliques, watching girls vying for attention, watching how the popularity thing happens. I’ve always thought way too hard about everything.” I’m usually so pessimistic about today’s teenagers, and then there are gals like this (and Tavi Gevinson, and everyone who was at her incredible Rookie Magazine party and talent show in Brooklyn a few weeks ago) who remind me that it’s not all bad out there and restore my faith in humanity.

Aaaand, on to the food: A lot of the backing music on Pure Heroine uses rippling, swirly electronics, so the thinly sliced eggplant, and the pieces of it being rolled into spirals, represents that, as well as the layered vocals in most of the songs. The eggplant is also for her music’s darkness; I think of cool colors like purple, blue and gray. The filling has curly kale in it — because Lorde has the best. hair. ever. and also because it’s known as being trendy and high-brow, but in reality kale has been around forever and is easy for any common person to find or afford; kinda like in “Royals” where she and her friends are pretending to be fancy, even when they don’t come from money and only dream about it. The lemon, which comes through really brightly here, is for the boldness in O’Connor’s lyrics — she sings about chasing dreams and, like Kacey Musgraves in last month’s post, living in a small town (“We live in cities you’ll never see on a screen,” she sings in “Team”). And its acidity is for her sarcasm: The line, “I’m kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there” in “Team” kills me every time, and there’s “It’s a new artform showing people how little we care” in “Tennis Court.” Overall it’s a comforting dish, which is for the reassurement that comes from banding together while going through the sometimes-B.S. that is growing up — which happens even when you’re well out of high school.

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melon salad

Honeydew, Mint & Feta Salad with Lime Ginger Dressing (Inspired by Laura Mvula)

melon salad

It has been an impressive year in music for fellow Lauras! Marling, Stevenson, Veirs and Mvula all have released/are releasing great records in 2013, the latter being the only I hadn’t been familiar with before this year. Laura Mvula is a British singer/songwriter who completely blew me away with her debut Sing to the Moon. At first listen her voice reminded me of Adele, but that lazy comparison went away pretty quickly. Mvula’s music is big, soulful, fearless, sometimes a little jazzy, and danceable; her lyrics are smart and empowering, and the whole record is fantastic.

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Spring Quiche (Inspired by Kurt Vile)

spring quiche

Hello! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted anything here, and if you’re one of the handful of people who’ve asked if I’m still doing this thing, thanks for caring and I apologize for such a long wait. Life’s been crazy (when isn’t it?) and while I’ve been stockpiling a bunch of half-baked ideas for ETB, I’ve had a hard time sitting still long enough to fully conceptualize them. That’s not to say I haven’t been cooking — a couple weeks ago, I settled in to my fourth (!) Brooklyn apartment, this time down in Bay Ridge, a lovely neighborhood in the southwest corner of the borough, with this guy. For the first time in a long time (ever?), I’ve got a kitchen that’s set up exactly how I want it to be, with no competition for the stove or fridge space, and I’ve got all my pantry items in one place. Going back and forth between apartments for 15 months was challenging and often stressful, and it especially took a toll on planning food projects. So, now that I’m finally settled in with the best roommate ever for as long as we’re allowed to live in this apartment, I’m hoping I can finally get my act together. Or not. We’ll see! Regardless, I’ve got a lot more peace of mind and I’ve been cooking up a storm — just mostly everyday dishes without ingredient lists or measurements. (And I’m thinking about ways to share that kind of stuff here, too.)

Anyway, on to Kurt Vile and my first legit crusted quiche (recipe here)!

I got into Kurt Vile at the end of 2011 when Smoke Ring For My Halo was on everyone’s best-of lists (I was late to the party) and he’s been in regular rotation since. His new record Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze is one of my favorites of the year and it’s been in my ears nonstop the last couple months. A good amount of Vile’s music is chilled-out, conventional-ish indie rock — great guitar hooks, moments of jangly pop, a few catchy melodies — but just as often he wanders off to the point where it’s easy to get lost and forget that I’m listening to the same song that started six minutes ago. He has a reputation for dark lyrics, but in reality he’s got an amazing, wry sense of humor; in the album’s first song, the almost-title track “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day,” he sings, “Phone ringing off the shelf/ I guess it wanted to kill himself,” and he jokes that he has to think about what kind of wisecracks he’s going to drop that day. Vile, who’s based in Philadelphia, told Pitchfork that he’s mostly a homebody and a “family man” — he’s married with two young kids — and there are a couple times here that he assures his loyalty to his family, like in “Never Run Away” and “Too Hard,” the latter of which is one of the sweetest songs I’ve heard in a while.

It’s finally starting to feel like spring in New York and that’s what this whole record feels like. “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” calls for a light, springy breakfast, so I made a quiche with greens and sweet caramelized onions. Vile’s homebody-ness is a great parallel because it’s a perfect dish for a leisurely brunch, but you’ve got to stick around for a little while to make it. It’s not incredibly difficult, but there’s a bit of prep work — though some of it, like caramelizing the onions and chopping vegetables, can easily be done ahead of time. It’s also versatile and can be used with pretty much any vegetables or cheeses you have on hand. That’s to say you don’t need to pay super close attention to your measurements, at least when it comes to the veggies: Vile’s songs can space out, and you can kinda do the same — just do your thing and it’ll turn out OK.

One of my favorite verses on the album is in the sprawling last track, “Goldtone,” which starts with, “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned/ But I never, as they say, ‘touch the stuff’/ I might be adrift, but I’m still alert/ concentrate my hurt into a gold tone.” Which is to say, things aren’t always as they appear (like the frequent categorization of Vile’s music as stoner-rock). It’s similar to how you might look at this creamy dish and think it’s full of fat — most quiche recipes use a stick of butter in the crust and two cups of heavy cream in the filling, which is kinda nuts, though I’m sure delicious. So while I didn’t skimp on the cheese here, it’s actually not quite as rich as it appears: The crust is made with olive oil instead of butter (and only a few tablespoons of it), as well as skim milk and a couple extra egg whites — but it doesn’t lose any of the flavor.

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Apple pull-apart bread

Savory Apple Pull-Apart Bread and Horseradish Butter (Inspired by Fiona Apple)

Apple pull-apart bread

THE DISH
Apple, Camembert and chive pull-apart bread with horseradish butter

THE INSPIRATION
When I started brainstorming recipes for this site two years ago, one of the first half-ideas I had was a Fiona Apple-inspired dish involving with tart apples — naturally, because of her reputation for having a sometimes-bitter personality that’s come across as much in her public appearances as in her music. I’m glad I held off on that, though, because her latest record changed my perception a bit. The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do (whew!) still has songs about loneliness, heartbreak and defeat, with lines like “I ran out of white doves’ feathers/ to soak up the hot piss that comes from your mouth every time you address me.” But overall it’s not quite as intense as her first two releases, and there are a few more moments of sweetness than I’d expected, and when I saw her at a small show in Brooklyn months before the album came out, she was funny and chatty and just not as angry as she’s been the other times I’ve seen her. Idler Wheel is Apple’s first album since Extraordinary Machine in 2005; it was worth waiting for and every bit as great as I’d hoped it would be.

I’ve only made yeasted bread a few times — partially because if it was a regular thing I’d eat way too much of it, and also because of the time commitment. But it’s becoming tradition when my best friend Jenni comes to visit from Michigan, and the couple times we’ve done it it’s been worth the effort and, like Apple’s records, more than worth the wait for the end result. Last year we made Smitten Kitchen’s apple and honey challah (part of an entire apple-themed dinner) and it was incredible, quickly devoured by my friends at an apple-themed dinner party. This year’s project — a pull-apart bread filled with apples (becoming another part of the tradition, I guess), Camembert cheese, and chives — also took a while; something like three hours if you count the time waiting for it to rise. We had the BF and his mom over for dinner, and this baby was nearly gone by the end of the evening, with just enough for Jenni and me to share for breakfast the next morning.

The bread is baked in stacks of square pieces of dough covered in the apple filling, so when it’s done you don’t need a knife because you can just break it off into big, flaky pieces. The childlike, eating-with-your-hands element makes me think of the Idler Wheel song “Anything We Want,” where Apple sings about pretending to be 8 years old, and also “Jonathan,” a song about her ex, author Jonathan Ames, who supposedly has taken many a date to Coney Island. As for the filling itself, we did use tart apples like my original idea, as well as chives, balanced out by sweet, creamy Camembert cheese.

The album ends with the jazzy vocal acrobatics of “Hot Knife,” driven by the line, “If I’m butter, if I’m butter/ If I’m butter then he’s a hot knife.” Some have written the track off as silly, but it’s actually one of my favorites here. Like other parts of Idler Wheel, it’s uncharacteristically sweet, about a guy who makes her melt (and vice versa later in the song, when it changes to “I’m a hot knife, I’m a hot knife/ I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter”). I also love the story behind the recording: Apple sung it with her sister, an experience that was one of their most intimate. So to complement the bread, we made a horseradish-infused butter; the kick from the horseradish represents the song’s bold claim that she’s going to win the guy over for good: “If I get a chance I’m gonna show him that he’s never gonna need another, never need another,” and the butter is self-explanatory. (In case you were wondering, we didn’t spread it with a hot knife — whoops!) The album’s most quoted line comes from the first track, “Every Single Night”: “I just want to feel everything,” and with the different flavors in this, I think it works here, too.

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Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese (Inspired by Joni Mitchell)

THE DISH
Tomato soup with an apple-cheddar grilled cheese sandwich (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Joni Mitchell will forever be one of my all-time favorite artists, and while there is always at least one song of hers that’s fitting for any given season or mood, I associate her most closely with fall and winter (and not only because of the song “River”). In “Urge for Going,” a song she wrote in 1966, she sings about the year’s first frost swallowing up the summer (“I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town/ It hovered in a frozen sky and it gobbled summer down”).

It’s sorta perfect for New York’s weather right now, since we’ve had small tastes of winter throughout the last couple weeks, and now we have what I expect is our final run of nice weather before winter swallows it up for good. And when that happens, I’ll want to crawl under my covers and escape. But since I won’t actually be able to do that (I’m going to Chicago next month; certainly not a warm-weather getaway), sitting at home with a warm bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich will have to serve as my “escape” for now, or at least my way to make the weather more bearable. In college, my friend Julie and I would stop at The Dairy Store for lunch in between classes, which was particularly rewarding in the winter: On Mondays we could get a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for just $2.10, and it instantly made us forget about the slush we had just trekked through.

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Cheesy Spinach Bake, and a Dad Rock playlist from my dad

THE DISH
Cheesy spinach bake (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
My dad bought me my first guitar — a tiny, tiny acoustic — when I was about 8 years old. It’s a shame I didn’t learn to play one until a few years later, but he’s the one who made me want to start (he’s been playing since he was 17, and he might kill me if I tell you his age now, so let’s just say it’s been 40+ years). While my mom got me into piano lessons, I think my rock ‘n’ roll tendencies started with my dad. I can remember plenty of trips to various guitar stores in the Metro Detroit area, where I accompanied him as he gradually tweaked and added to his collection (I think he’s got about eight guitars now?).

He took me to get my first real guitar — a “midnight wine”-colored Fender stratocaster, which I bought in eighth grade with bat mitzvah money — and the bass guitar and acoustics that came in the years later, and found me a guitar teacher, a hippie-ish dude who was usually late and told me I would like the Violent Femmes. My dad has always been supportive of my musical endeavors (including the less cool ones, like taking my sister and me to see 98 Degrees at the Michigan State Fair), and much more importantly, he’s always supportive of everything I do. The night before I moved to New York, his toast to my roommate and me was, “To Laura and Mike, and New York: Balls to the wall!” He’s the most supportive, generous, hilarious and genuine person I know, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. So thank you, Dad, for being the best. Happy Father’s Day!

This dish is in no way related to guitars, etc., but it’s one of my favorites my dad makes — because, yes, I was blessed with two kitchen-savvy parents. I should also note that my dad is the king of kitchen gadgets (every time I go home there’s some new and weird toy for me to tease him about), and it’s probably a good thing that the spacial restrictions of New York living prevent me from keeping up with him. The best part of this dish is I actually got to make it with my pops, since I was back in Michigan last weekend for my brother’s high school graduation.

THE PLAYLIST
When I think of my dad in relation to music, I think of the Eagles (“Take It Easy” is probably the most-played song on his guitars), The Lovin’ Spoonful (their greatest-hits album got a lot of airtime in his car when I was growing up) and Fleetwood Mac (we went to see them together a couple years ago!). But I left this list up to him, so here you go! It is Dad Rock to the core, and I love him for it. (Obviously I couldn’t use the real version of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.”)

http://grooveshark.com/widget.swf

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Herb-Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits (Inspired by Simon & Garfunkel)

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Cheddar buttermilk biscuits with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (Recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
This one’s pretty straightforward: biscuits with the namesake of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. The name comes from the song “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” which combined Paul Simon’s lyrics with lyrics from a traditional U.K. ballad.

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