PB&J Smoothie (Inspired by Ghostpoet)

THE DISH
Peanut butter and blackberry smoothie

THE INSPIRATION
About a year ago, British singer/producer Ghostpoet put out a Mercury Prize-nominated album called Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam; it’s low key and usually sorta sleepy-sounding, consisting mostly of songs about being down on your luck, but with a hint of optimism. “Cash and Carry Me Home” is about a hangover (and in the bigger picture, asking for help when you’ve hit a low place in your life): “Morning’s approached and I wrestle with a headache/ That was spawned in hell by the devil himself,” he says. And if you follow his Twitter, you’ll learn that he sometimes lets wine get the best of him. (Hey, don’t we all?)

A good hangover cure requires protein (and therefore energy), so I made a smoothie inspired by the album name, with peanut butter and berries (instead of jam, because I think that’d be even weirder than this already sounds). I think blackberries are fitting for the “melancholy” part, since I usually have to pick through the sour to find the sweet. And uh, I have to be honest, the flavor of peanut butter and jelly in liquid(ish) form tastes about as strange as it sounds — but then again, if you’re trying to shake off a massive hangover, is anything really going to taste good?

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Butternut Squash Pancakes and Maple-Goat Cheese Sauce with Pearl and the Beard (Inspired by Bon Iver)

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Pearl and the Beard, performing Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” (get the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here are the butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce I made with the band. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Spiced butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce and candied walnuts (recipe + tons of photos here)

THE INSPIRATION
Within five minutes of Pearl and the Beard (Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles) entering my apartment, I felt like they were old friends. All three of them are bundles of smiles and energy, and they came prepared to make delicious cocktails, which always gets points in my book. I first heard of the band through Dave of Backyard Brunch Sessions and was instantly won over by their simple but creative instrumentation and strong harmonies that often lean more toward cabaret than Americana (though there’s plenty of that, too).

When I asked them to do an installment of BB Songs, they decided to cover Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” from his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago (listen to their gorgeous version of the song here), and they wanted to make “stacks” of pancakes served with goat cheese sauce. From there, I decided on rich butternut squash pancakes and a spread made with goat cheese, maple syrup and yogurt. We topped our stacks with candied walnuts for an extra bit of sweetness — except for Jeremy, who is allergic but still insisted on flirting with danger and stirring them over the stove. Bon Iver’s music, especially For Emma, is a perfect match for the cold — and while we ate these pancakes for dinner, they’d be incredible as a comforting Sunday-morning brunch while holed up in a cabin in the dead of winter. The pancakes are filling, and the sauce — which we spread in between each layer — turns it into a pretty decadent meal. They’re still pretty healthy, though: The sauce is made with goat cheese, maple syrup and Greek yogurt, so there’s plenty of protein and not too much fat. And the butternut squash has got to count for something, right?

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Sesame-Honey Granola Bowl (Inspired by Julie Doiron)

THE DISH
Sesame granola with Greek yogurt, apples and Morello cherries (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
At the end of the summer, I found myself in a long-distance relationship with my “one who got away” (because I’m the kind of totally-sappy hopeless romantic who would refer to a past could’ve-been-love as “the one who got away”). We were on opposite sides of the country and hadn’t even seen each other in going on three years, but it wasn’t long before I’d happily devoted much of my time and most of my energy into Making It Work through Skype, letters, phone calls, etc. — until this week when it ended and left me feeling like I’d been socked in the stomach a bunch of times. Canadian singer/songwriter Julie Doiron is great at writing songs that feel like that, especially on her 1999 album Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars. In “In This Dark” she sings, “Every time things go so well/ I think of all the things that have gone this wrong/ Timing’s never been worse” and in “The Second Time,” “Reckless restless feeling I’m unsure/ Trusting anybody anymore/ And sometimes when I am so unsure/ What difference, anyway.” I love that she doesn’t hold back in putting her entire heart and life into her relationships, however tumultuous they might be, which comes through even in her songs that aren’t quite so dark. Her 2009 album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, has some of the same — in “Heavy Snow” she sings, “Oh, heavy heart, forgive me/ Make me feel like it’s all okay/ Living through the night and living through the day” — but it’s also home to plenty of happier moments in songs that are so simple, but they can put my best moods over the top. The playful opener “The Life of Dreams” starts, “I’m living the life of dreams/ I’m living the life of dreams/ With good people all around me/ I’m living the life of dreams” and the closing track goes, “Every day, every night I tell myself in this beautiful light/ That I’m glad to be alive.” So, here I am, somewhere on the low-ish side of Doiron’s spectrum, but looking up. As my boss so eloquently said to me over IM yesterday: “New years, new beginnings, etc. Fish, sea.” (Really, guys, I’ll be fine.)

As for the food, it’s a recreation of a breakfast I had a couple of times on my last visit (at this Chicago coffee shop). Overall, it’s a filling, comforting breakfast that doesn’t feel too heavy; the sour cherries, tart granny smith apples and tartness of Greek yogurt are pretty much how I feel right now, but the sweetness from the granola is a reminder that things certainly will get better, and hopefully soon.

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Peach-Blackberry-Ginger Popsicles (Inspired by We Are Augustines)

THE DISH
Peach-blackberry-ginger popsicles (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
It isn’t super often that I totally fall in love with a new band; mostly because I hear so much music every week that a lot of it starts to sound the same (my friend Amanda summed that feeling up rather perfectly on Pitchfork this week; I’m not quite at that point of jadedness or whatever you want to call it, but you get the idea). But for some reason when my boss recommended listening to Brooklyn band We Are Augustines (who essentially used to be the band Pela), something clicked and I’ve been listening to their album Rise Ye Sunken Ships more than anything else in the past couple weeks. I can’t even really explain why it gets to me more than a lot of other rock bands, but parts of the album remind me of the National and Against Me! (I know, kind of a weird combination).

The story behind Rise Ye Sunken Ships is pretty heartbreaking; you can read it all on the band’s website, but in short, much of the album is based around singer/guitarist Billy McCarthy’s brother James, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic and committed suicide while the band was recording what was originally going to be a new Pela record. Apparently (at least, according to Wikipedia), the band was named in part for the month of August; the month of two bandmembers’ birthdays, as well as McCarthy’s brother James.

Popsicles perhaps sound a bit too sunny to represent an album with so much pain behind it, but with the pain came a lot of healing. In the song “Augustine,” McCarthy sings, “Keep you head up kid, I know you can swim, but you gotta move your legs.” Ginger and honey are known for their healing powers, while peaches and blackberries are perfectly in season in August (and I got what I used for these at the Greenmarket in Union Square). Anyway, check out the album; it’s pretty great.

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Classic Potato Salad (Inspired by Wilco)

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Easy-peasy — and low-fat, mayo-less — potato salad (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I started listening to Wilco in high school, and the first album I bought was their super alt-country 1995 debut, A.M.. Reading about them in music magazines around the time A Ghost Is Born came out made me curious, and A.M. was the least expensive CD at the store, so that’s what I got. It’s not a great representation of them as a whole, but that album — especially songs like “I Must Be High” and “Passenger Side” — made for perfect summer driving music. They quickly became one of my favorite bands (and they still are); I saw them for the first time at Lollapalooza in 2006 (my first vacation with friends and no parents), and then they played at my college that fall.

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

Growing up I spent lots of summer weekends “up north” (what people who live in lower Michigan call the more northern part of the state — however, that is not necessarily the same as the “U.P.”/Upper Peninsula). My grandpa owned a summer camp in West Branch, Mich., when my mom and her three sisters were young, and for a long time our family still owned several of the cabins (a couple family members still do). My memories from “camp” are of getting lost in a corn field at 2 or 3 years old, picking strawberries, watching my mom and aunt make strawberry jam, catching a trout (and, at 5 years old, promising to eat the whole thing — which I did, thank you very much), paddle boating, and campfires. If you’ve seen those “Pure Michigan” commercials… it’s kinda like that.

Through every phase of their career — the alt-country, sunny acoustic rock, and the more experimental records — Wilco’s songs have always felt like the Midwest: being outside, driving with the windows down, and usually not being in too much of a hurry. Jeff Tweedy assures me that everything is gonna be OK in “Nothingsevergonnastandinmyway(again),” and he makes references to seaside breezes and Michigan beaches in in “Muzzle of Bees” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” (Also, because I’m creepy and I read Spencer Tweedy’s blog, I know they vacation in Michigan).

Call this group of Chicagoans “Dad Rockers” and hate on ’em for it all you want: I am a proud Midwesterner, and Wilco is my musical equivalent of comfort food. So when I hosted my New York “family” (who are mostly from Michigan/the Midwest) for a 4th of July party, I wanted to make a comfort-food picnic and cookout staple: potato salad. I’m proud to say I made this up completely from scratch and without using another recipe.


On my Brooklyn rooftop, watching fireworks with a bunch of Michigan kids

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