Hello. It’s been one of those weeks where all I’d like to do is get off a dock in Everglades City and slip into the Florida backcountry, maybe find a tarpon or a foot of nose, but no people, no businesses, no phone service, no news alerts, no existential fear. It would be nice to get lost a bit. I was able to enjoy the beauty and the adrenaline, the adventure and the escape.
This does not happen, however. Travis McGee was a fictional character. When the world is awful, there’s no percentage to ignore it.
So I’m going to seek escape and some respite in the kitchen today instead. My guide: Writer Jim Harrison, who passed away in 2016. I’d like to make his West Indian stew recipe (above). Maybe it’s not so much Caribbean – though I’ve had similar concoctions in the Bahamas – as a Key West fever dream, a kind of foodie casserole of ribs, chicken thighs and sausages nestled in a tomato sauce spiced up with scotch bonnet chilli sauce to make it both fiery and floral, with a hint of tropical sunshine.
And then the rest of the week…
Ali Slagle’s recipe for pasta e lenticchie, pasta and lentils, is a classic Neapolitan dish in the same category as pasta e ceci and pasta e fagioli, the legumes simmering with the pasta so that the starches thicken the liquid of baking into something creamy and rich.
This cumin tofu stir-fry, which Margaux Laskey adapted from Hetty McKinnon, is a vegan version of the signature lamb dish served at Xi’an Famous Foods, the New York restaurant chain. There, the meat is dry-fried. Here it is replaced by tofu and cauliflower.
Kay Chun’s amatriciana pasta is the classic preparation made with guanciale or pancetta, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, pecorino pasta and bucatini. The tunnel in the noodles helps capture the sauce, but if you can’t find bucatini (remember the shortage?), the spaghetti does the job.
And then you can slip into the weekend with a silky, sweet skillet full of pork chops with onion sauce. This powerfully benefits from using a heavy hand with Lawry’s seasoned salt, although Old Bay seasoning works quite well. (Just like a combination of kosher salt, ground black pepper, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes.)
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Now it’s hard to toboggan anything to do with basil or burrata, but I enjoyed looking at artist Diedrick Brackens’ weavings, “heaven is a muddy riverbed”. The actual works are on display at the Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles.
For The Times, Alexandra Jacobs reviewed Harvey Fierstein’s new memoir, “I Was Better Last Night.” Click on!
Michael Idov, one of the few screenwriters who can write dialogue fluently in both Russian and English, spoke to Vanity Fair to explain why he won’t write in Russian as long as Vladimir Putin is in power. Maybe it’s just, as he puts it, “selfish self-care.” But it’s a fascinating argument all the same.
Finally, here’s Samantha Fish performing with us, “Twisted Ambition,” live in Lincoln City, Indiana, last year. Listen to this while the stew cooks. And I’ll be back on Monday.