Can I call chicken “grilled” if I use a grill pan on my stovetop and not an actual, for-real grill? I’m going to go ahead and say yes, partly because I feel like it, and partly because you could make these on an actual, for-real grill if you happen to have one at your disposal. Also, because I’ll bet I can distract you with flashy lime juice, mango-red pepper salsa, and magical baked tortilla chips.
This is a decidedly summer recipe and this past week was decidedly un-summer like, even un-spring like for that matter. Don’t worry, though, temperatures are set to rise thirty degrees in the next 24 hours, because that’s totally normal. I heard there was snow in Maine this past week. I almost cried, and then I cranked up my indoor grill pan and pretended it was bell pepper season instead.
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Sugar: let’s talk about it. Over the past few years, we have determined it is the single worst thing you could ever possibly eat. Ever. It’s more addictive than cocaine and heroin. It’s actually poison, at least according to the 22,000 hits you’d get if you were to search for the first suggestion Google makes when you type in “sugar is.”
Sugar is also delicious. Without it, pie crusts don’t brown; cakes become dense and gummy and dry and decidedly not cake at all anymore; all breads are flat; roasted brussels sprouts never caramelize; and fruit are just vegetables by another name.
Sugar is important — no, crucial — in the kitchen, and using it judiciously, sparingly; saving it for use only when it has the power to make a true, meaningful impact — that is the difference between eating for physiological survival and holistic fulfillment.
So why, then, am I “giving it up” for 4 weeks?
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With our apartment windows flung open, our down comforter nestled safely in the hall closet, and laundry hanging, still damp with humidity from yesterday’s washing, I think it’s safe to say it’s grilling season. I shouldn’t even be as excited as I am — we aren’t allowed to own a grill where we live and, even if we did, I have female-anti-grill syndrome. The grill, to me, is this mysterious machine — just one look at it and my mind fogs over, like a really long word that’s spelled exactly like it sounds but feels too intimidating to even attempt. I can see myself conquering this irrational disinterest when I have a house and a yard of my own, the same vague fate I give to other daydreams, like tending to a prolific vegetable garden [of my own!!] without pauses to flee from curious bees, and sustaining a lemon tree in Northeast America. A girl can dream.
Still, I love this time of year. I love the smell that wafts from one backyard to the next when someone in the neighborhood has their grill fired up. I love how informal family dinners become, and how fresh everything tastes. I love late-season corn, a little musky and too hot to bite, but perfect without any seasoning at all and worth the burn the roof of my mouth will inevitably suffer for not wanting to wait for it to cool. I love how the days last forever and how dusk is the best time of all. I don’t need a grill to love grilling season, though the evenings spent at friends’ and family’s homes who do own one are that much more special.
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Last week, I posted this on instagram and twitter:
For the first time in my life I understand the anatomy of a chicken wing. #honesty #realfood @murrayschickens
I used to love buffalo wings, back when soda was a staple in my diet and the closest I came to eating vegetables was deep-fried and dipped in melted “cheez.” (I know.) Back then, I didn’t think much about where my food came from. Chicken wings, well, they came from chickens, obviously, but beyond that…it didn’t really make sense to me. Why, when you ordered “wings,” would you get two different shaped pieces — neither of which looked much like a featherless wing? Did the itty-bitty drumsticks and “wingettes” come from a small breed of chicken, or perhaps one that wasn’t fully grown? Why did you call a drumstick a wing, anyway?
Please tell me you, too, at one point were perplexed by this issue, because I’m a little mortified to admit to you guys the extent of my ignorance.
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So, it’s almost Mother’s Day, which is crazy because I’m pretty sure it was just New Year’s. No? Huh. Well, Mother’s Day. For most of my life I had this narrow view of it as a Hallmark holiday great for parents of young kids (because what new-ish Mom doesn’t deserve a day of appreciation and pampering?), but increasingly less meaningful as I grew older. There’s something about finally leaving the nest and making a home for myself (err, trying to…) a solid two hours from my parents that makes the day seem more important than in years past.
I’ve always had a close relationship my mom, and I mean that literally. As an infant, I wouldn’t be pacified by anyone but her. My first day of preschool, I purportedly sat by the window and cried at the idea of spending a minute without her. Her body was my protection when I felt too shy to face the world. She always knew what to say, and when not to say anything, and how to speak a thousand words with just a look. Even during the angst of my teenage years when I slammed my bedroom door and shut her out for an hour or a day, I knew how much better a person I was and would always be with her. She’s the kind of person you can’t capture in words without sounding trite or falling short altogether. She’s quiet and unassuming, observant and intuitive, strong and beautiful — how often is it that those among us who are truly remarkable, are also the most humble people you’ll ever meet? I see in my mom the grace and wonder I knew so well in my grandmother, and I can only hope I have in me whatever gene or genes allows (and allowed) them to touch the world so effortlessly.
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At some point, years ago already, my well-organized, hyper-categorized collection of recipe bookmarks became its own life form. Each folder an appendage, swinging wildly and crashing into itself, like a black hole with a heart beat. How many recipes for plain chocolate chip cookies is it possible to have before it’s no longer socially acceptable? Are 215 recipes for ice cream, not even including ice cream sandwiches, cakes, frozen yogurt, popsicles, and other miscellaneous frozen treats, a little out of hand? Because it’s ice cream, I like to think that it’s completely justified.
Still, when you have so many recipes, you’re bound to run into a few issues — like stumbling upon a recipe named “hamburger buddy” from 2010 and wondering what was going through your head when you bookmarked it. Another big issue is repetition. When you have 185 recipes with “brownie” in the title, you’re going to have some copy-cats. Even if they aren’t literally the same recipe posted on multiple blogs and websites (that happens, too), there are only so many ways to combine a set of ingredients. Sometimes I come across these star-crossed recipes when I’m looking for new meals to experiment with, but more often than not, I notice them shyly eying each other from across the “room” of a word document I keep of my notes on recipes I’ve made but not perfected. What I find lacking in one, another has gotten perfectly, and they come together like puzzle pieces.
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