Sweet Potato Corn Chowder (Inspired by Lost in the Trees)


Photos by Amy Davis

THE DISH
Sweet potato corn chowder (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
One of my favorite musical discoveries last year was Lost in the Trees, a classical-inspired folk group from North Carolina. Their most recent album All Alone in an Empty House is sad and beautiful, telling the somewhat autobiographical story of frontman Ari Picker’s family. There’s death, fighting, pain and depression, but also hope. It’s a warm, comforting album perfect for fall, and perfect for healing (this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is likely going to be a theme with most fall music featured here). In the album’s centerpiece, “Fireplace,” the shouted chorus goes, “So surround yourself with good people/ I know it’s painful but we can stand.”

I chose soup because, well, as far as I’m concerned, soup heals everything. But it’s also an ideal dish for big gatherings/communal eating in general: sharing with other people and being together in both good and not-so-good times. As for the flavor, the sweet potatoes and corn are for the band’s southern roots and comfort food in general. (Sidenote: While thinking about corn, autumn, and being “lost in” anything, I couldn’t help but remember the time my cousin and I got lost in a cornfield in northern Michigan when we were toddlers.)

This is easily one of my favorite soups I have ever made; it’s sweet and savory, and can be eaten warm or cold (I prefer it warm, but a friend at work loved it cold). However you eat it, though, I can tell you this stuff was amazing. I said soup is great for sharing, and this one was tasted by my roommates, my friend Amy (who took the accompanying photos), and three coworkers — and they all approved. This soup requires quite a bit of veggie prep work, but it’s well worth it, I promise.

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Raspberry-Peach Jam + a rainy-day playlist

THE DISH
Raspberry-peach jam (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
It’s funny to be posting this on a day with zero chance of precipitation, but the start of last week was all rain, and the weekend forecast wasn’t looking much better. (I’m going to Seattle at the end of the month; clearly New York has been testing my rain tolerance.) So I wanted to take on a food project fitting for a rainy day, since between the weather — which actually ended up being OK! — and the train I live near undergoing some major weekend construction, I wasn’t planning on going far from my apartment. So I picked up a few jars and took my first trip to the Brooklyn Kitchen, where I picked up a candy thermometer, canning funnel, and a super-awesome little book about jams, jellies and canning.

Making jam and canning is sorta labor-intensive, and I was definitely nervous about jars exploding while I was boiling them, but the whole thing was actually pretty exciting and I will totally be doing it again! (Even though the second batch I made was too runny…whoops!) Also, you can definitely use this recipe for my next recipe post.

THE PLAYLIST
Some songs about rain! If you’re on Spotify, you should be able to check out the playlist here (please let me know if it doesn’t work!). Here are the songs:

Bob Dylan, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”
Basia Bulat, “If It Rains”
The Tallest Man On Earth, “It Will Follow The Rain”
Garbage, “Only Happy When It Rains”
Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”
Joni Mitchell, “Rainy Night House”
Adele, “Right as Rain”
Mayer Hawthorne, “I Wish It Would Rain”
NewVillager, “Black Rain”

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Gazpacho + a few songs to beat the heat

Confession: I made this dish a couple weeks ago, one of the last posts conceived in my old kitchen, because I moved last weekend! Apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple weeks — between traveling to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding, packing up my apartment and moving, and my 17-year-old brother coming to visit this weekend, blogging has sort of taken a backseat (but not for long, I promise!).

THE DISH
Simple tomato gazpacho (recipe at the bottom)

THE INSPIRATION
It has been hotter than hell in the city, which has made the thought of cooking quite unappealing. Standing over a stove or in front of an oven? In a sauna? No, thank you. (OK, so I’ve still had to do it a bit anyway; but it’s awful.) So I made gazpacho, cold soup that doesn’t require any cooking. To go with it, check out a few summery songs I’ve heard recently — maybe they’ll make you forget about the heat for a little while?

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Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce (Inspired by Jonsi)

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THE DISH
Sun-dried tomato sauce (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I recently learned that a few years ago, Jonsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros made a cookbook with his partner Alex Somers; all raw, vegan dishes that they called their “Good Heart Recipe Book,” along with several cooking videos. Jonsi released his first solo album, Go, last year, and I loved it because it’s light and colorful, with lots of layers and textures, but it doesn’t feel too over-produced or synthetic. Every recipe in Jonsi and Alex’s whole “book” (available as a PDF) is the same way — different colors that come from foods in their natural form, but assembled in ways that create different textures. I chose one of the recipes from the book — the “sundried good heart tomato sauce” — and while I realized I overestimated my fondness of sun-dried tomatoes (as in, I thought I liked them more than I actually do), it was still tasty. My friends and I ate it with pasta and veggies; although I guess maybe we should have kept things raw to keep in line with the book, but oh well.

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Peach-Pineapple Salsa (Inspired by Washed Out)

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THE DISH
Peach-pineapple salsa (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
This weekend was HOT. One of my best friends was in town visiting from Michigan, and we were out and about for three straight days — mostly in direct sunlight, sweating more than we would’ve liked to while walking and eating our way through the city. After getting back to my apartment every evening, we needed a light and refreshing meal to cool us down — and on her last night in town, that was sauteed kale and baked tilapia fillets topped with peach-pineapple salsa. The salsa matches how I feel about Washed Out’s music: They’re both bright and combine different textures, but they’re still low-maintenance. The salsa doesn’t require much thinking to make, and it doesn’t take much thinking to enjoy Washed Out’s woozy, repetitive tunes with few vocals — not to mention they’re both perfect for summer. And I chose the peaches because, not only are they refreshing, but Washed Out’s Ernest Greene grew up on a peach farm in Georgia.
Washed Out on MySpace (New record Within and Without is out now on Sub Pop)

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DIY Business Association Conference + Red Pepper Hummus and Beet Dip

Alternately titled The Little Food Processor That Could OR No One Girl Should Make All That Hummus
(skip to recipes at bottom)

I’m starting this post shortly after taking a way-too-expensive car ride home from the first (but definitely not last) DIY Business Association Conference in DUMBO, and I am glowing because WHOA, I am full of inspiration from a day of panels and chatting with friends, past and present colleagues, and new acquaintances who are all working on amazing creative projects.


In my running around all day, I failed to take photos; I’m sure other people’s will surface soon…

The DIYBA was started this year by Amy Schroeder, a close friend who began as my mentor; she founded the now-defunct women’s music and culture mag Venus Zine when she was a student at Michigan State (also my alma mater, though we’re 10 years apart). When I was in college, Amy took me on as an intern and soon after hired me as an editor, and it’s because of that experience — and the constant support from her and the other colleagues, mentors and friends I met because of it — that I truly believed I could make a living writing about music in New York. Just four years later I was able to make it a reality. Anyway, Amy put on an incredible conference (I helped out most of the day and with the help of Stefanie of The Petite Soiree and a kickass volunteer team, it was like clockwork) and every single person left with something new.

“Ideas need to have sex with each other”
Most of the conference focused on collaboration — Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge talked about seeking out people in communities outside your niche who share the way you think; Molly Neuman, who I work with at eMusic, talked about how Ted Leo (who she manages) has started collaborating with comedians to reach new audiences; bassist Gregory Jackson, who’s played with countless reggae, soul and R&B artists, talked about getting gigs that combine music and art. The conference today was a clearing for new ideas and inspiration, and I know there will be some cool projects related to this blog that came out of today. (Jessica H. Lawrence talked about ideas needing to “have sex with each other” and it’s true.)

Among the people I met today: Journalists Niema Jordan and Annie Reuter, who wrote concert reviews for me at VZ back in the day but I’d never met them in person; Shondes drummer Temim Fruchter; comedic songwriter Jessica Delfino; BUST Magazine designer Erin Wengrovious; Brian Merchant from the Utopianist; photographer (and fellow former State Newser) Eleanor Templeton; Patrice Fehlen at September Gurl PR and quite a few others. I definitely have some cooking and wine-drinking dates and collaborative ETB posts ahead of me.


Journalist Niema Jordan (of Essence magazine and others) and Temim Fruchter of the Shondes

So, speaking of food (of course), the other notable part of the day is that I offered to make snacks for the drinks and mingling hour at the end of the event; which was about 150 or so people … which I had never done before. Considering the logistics — I had to make it a day ahead of time and it had to sit in a fridge or at room temperature all day — I decided on roasted red pepper hummus and beet/goat cheese dip, with pita, carrots and cucumbers, and a huge fruit salad. I also have no perception of how much food should be made for that many people, and I spent Saturday hovering over my tiny, tiny food processor, making my weight in hummus. (I don’t even wanna talk about it. The morals of my story are 1) I need a bigger food processor, and 2) I should never make that much hummus again.) And before the conference I chopped up two watermelons, four cantaloupes and combined them with six cartons of strawberries and about four pounds of grapes. WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.

In my frantic planning and errand-running and food-making, I completely freaked out. I thought, “I’m representing my food blog and this food is totally nothing fancy and people are going to think I’m super lame” … and then I realized it actually doesn’t matter. At all. What I do on ETB is not fancy. OK, I guess sometimes it can get a bit elaborate — but it’s usually not, and that’s a lot of what this site is about. I’m a home cook, not a business. I’m not trying to sell you anything; I just love to make food and share it with people. And reminding myself of that made it totally fine that I was making two dips and fruit salad. And then at the end of the evening when people said they liked my hummus, I realized how silly I was for thinking people would judge me in the first place. It was a great learning experience. And since I made WAY too much of everything, I pushed hummus-filled Greek yogurt containers onto other volunteers and conference-goers, and I can only hope they eat it.

Anyway! If you tasted these at the conference or they just sound good to you anyway, recipes are below. Both are very simple, though I recommend using a large food processor if you plan to make more than a few batches.

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Basil-Mint Watermelon Lemonade (Inspired by Beach Fossils)

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DRINK
Watermelon lemonade with lime, mint and basil (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
When it’s as hot as it is in New York this week (in the 80s and 90s, aka I AM MELTING IN MY APARTMENT AS I WRITE THIS), the only thing I can think about is watermelon. And now, I can assure you, the only thing I will ever think about during times like this is this drink. It’s inspired by the Brooklyn band Beach Fossils, whose music is equally fit for this weather; they’ve recently become my start-of-summer soundtrack. Their music is breezy and drenched in reverb, and while the songs have plenty of pep and energy, they never seem to be in too much of a hurry, which is exactly how I like to be in the summer. In their song “Lazy Day,” from last year’s self-titled debut, frontman Dustin Payseur sings, “Lazy today, lazy tonight and later on/ All we had to do was nothing at all, under the sun.” Sounds about right to me. Their recent record, What A Pleasure, isn’t as explicitly about the laziness of summer, but still has the same feeling. What a pleasure, indeed.
Beach Fossils on MySpace

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Buy Nothing Day: Tips For Using What You’ve Got (Inspired by The Go! Team)

We don’t plan it all/ ‘Cause making it up is so natural”
— “Buy Nothing Day,” by the Go! Team, from 2011’s Rolling Blackouts

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

In the past couple weeks, I’ve been making more of an effort to use up what I already have around my apartment instead of picking up a few extra groceries: I begrudgingly opened a box of cereal instead of buying missing ingredients to make more granola, I dug out a can of black beans that had been hiding on my shelf; finished up a box of quinoa; and used up random chunks of cheese scattered in my fridge. It’s definitely saved me a few bucks this month, not to mention I’m not letting anything go to waste. Below is a quick guide to using up some common foods you probably have sitting on your shelves and in your fridges — veggies, beans, herbs, nuts, and grains.

THE INSPIRATION
Of course there’s the literalness of a song called “Buy Nothing Day” — the goal is to not have to purchase any extra ingredients for these dishes — but the lyric about not planning is relevant, too (even if that’s a little creative interpretation on my part…). When you’re left with just a few things in the pantry, making dinner is not a matter of following rigid instructions or recipes — it’s about making do with what you have. Also, the peppy, cheerleader-esque qualities of the Go! Team’s music is sorta how I feel when I pull together a full meal from what seemed like nothing on my shelf in the fridge.
The Go! Team on MySpace

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High-Energy Apple Muffins (Inspired by The Apples In Stereo)

“And the world is made of energy
and the world is possibility
and the world is made of energy
and there’s a light inside of you
and there’s a light inside of me.”
— “Energy” by the Apples in Stereo, from their 2007 LP New Magnetic Wonder

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Apple-nut-quinoa muffins

THE INSPIRATION
The Apples in Stereo’s perfect spring anthem “Energy” is guaranteed to make you feel great, and these muffins might make you feel even better. They are delicious (I wanted to eat spoonfuls of the batter), but you don’t have to feel bad about eating them because they’re packed with high-energy, high-protein ingredients like quinoa and walnuts, and the sweetness comes mostly from shredded apples, plus raisins, coconut, cinnamon and just a little bit of raw sugar. (Yep, they are vegan.)
The Apples in Stereo on MySpace

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Asian Veggie Pot Pie (Inspired by Abigail Washburn)

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THE DISH
Asian-inspired veggie pot pie (recipe at bottom of post). This was enough for three small baking dishes (two that were about four inches in diameter, the other a little bit bigger); I recommend adding more veggies to fill an actual pie tin!

THE INSPIRATION
My friend and former housemate came to visit last week, which was a perfect excuse to cook a LOT, since he was one of my best cooking buddies when we lived together. He’s just finishing his degree in Asian history and, it goes without saying, is super interested in Asian culture. We took a trip to Chinatown and came back with a bunch of fresh produce and some other goodies that resulted in a couple of really awesome Asian-inspired meals. Banjo player/singer/songwriter Abigail Washburn plays one of my favorite types of music (folk/Americana), but she’s been heavily influenced by Chinese culture, thanks to time she spent living and working there. So I wanted one of our dishes to be inspired by her self-titled record with The Sparrow Quartet (banjo master — and now Washburn’s husband — Bela Fleck, cellist Ben Sollee, and fiddler Casey Driessen), which mixes Americana and Chinese folk music.

As far as the dish goes, I wanted to take a very American comfort-food dish (because Americana music makes me think of comfort food) — pot pie — and give it an Asian twist with veggies like bok choy, bean sprouts, edamame and scallions. These turned out really great, although the recipe below is slightly modified from what we did because a couple of elements weren’t quite right! I definitely think I’ll be trying this one again, though, so expect an update sometime in the future.
Abigail Washburn on MySpace

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