Randomly on a Thursday

  1. It has been Thursday for the last three days, and the fact that it is actually Thursday today is somehow not doing anything to improve the situation. I’m feeling a bit unmoored from my schedule, which mostly means that I’m walking around with the looming dread that I’ve forgotten something terribly important. I’m trying not to think too hard about this.
  1. Please tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.
  1. It’s made worse by the fact that I’m going out of town next week and I have a commission due – and no matter how many times I check my schedule, I’m convinced one of those things is happening this week and that I’m horribly behind. 

Valentine’s Day grapefruit sugar cookies

There has been snow on my patio for nearly two weeks at this point – and not small amounts either. I have discovered that snow comes in different textures and road salt in different colors. I’ve watched the owners of the car across the street unsuccessfully attempt to unearth it from nearly five feet of plowed and piled snow. 

The southerner in me is equal parts delighted and baffled by all of this. (For context, it was nearly 70°F in my hometown last week.)

I don’t know why all the snow is making me think of citrus – maybe it’s that I keep thinking of all those hot, punchy colors against the white snow. Either way, when a friend asked for a box of Valentine’s cookies, grapefruit was the first thing that came to mind. 


An exhaustive guide to toasting nuts in the microwave

At this point in the pandemic, it’s fair to say that the YouTube algorithm knows me pretty well. So when it suggested Food and Wine’s Mad Genius video on toasting nuts in the microwave, I obviously clicked on it. 

Weird method, easily testable subject, potential for drastic time savings? Yes please. 

I figured this would be a fun, fast little experiment that I could knock out in one or two days and then move on to some bigger projects. 

And then I got interested. And did some research. And realized that I wanted more robust answers. And that’s when my fast little test spiralled into something a little more complicated. 


13 reasons I’m avoiding work right now

  1. I promised myself when I started writing this blog that I wouldn’t apologize or excuse absences.
  1. So this is not an apology or an excuse. Just an explanation. 
  1. Also, I’ve missed you guys, and I wanted to get something up just to chat and see how y’all are doing. 
  1. Those of you who are subscribed to the newsletter know that January has gotten off to a slow start for me. Beyond my completely justifiable trepidation about jumping full throttle into 2021 given what happened last year, I wanted to take some time to focus on creating a healthier work system for myself, to set up a schedule, and to research digital marketing and content promotion so I can work on taking steps to grow our little community in the new year. 
  1. I have learned a lot about food photography while procrastinating actually researching digital marketing. 
  1. I have also started researching a whole hybrid video series on knives and knife skills that I’m really excited about. 
  1. This means I have also learned a lot about videography while procrastinating actually researching digital marketing. 

Thanksgiving: in review

  1. They do not make small turkeys. To attempt to get around this fact, I purchased turkey parts. This was problematic for two reasons. First, I asked the turkey guy at the greenmarket for two thighs. When I got home, I discovered I had four thighs, because I didn’t think to ask how many thighs came in a pack. Second, I bought a 10-pound turkey breast, because they do not grow small birds. What I have learned here is that no matter how hard you try, Thanksgiving wants you to have too much turkey.
  2. Jackson and I don’t eat as much as I thought we did. I quartered just about everything – aiming to end up with 3-4 servings worth of every dish so that we had Thanksgiving, plus a day or two of leftovers. It has been five days. We are still working on clearing it.

A freestyle chowder

It is currently 34 degrees here in New York, the kind of clear, bright, bitingly cold sort of weather that inevitably results in streaming, red noses and dreams of blankets and books and steaming mugs of soup.

But not just any soup.

Walking to the grocery store, I became fixed on the idea of fish chowder – a rich, creamy, aromatic broth, studded with chunks of tender potato and flaky cod. I don’t know why. The only chowder I have ever eaten with any regularity is Taqueria Del Sol’s shrimp corn chowder, which, while delicious, isn’t the sippable soup I’m seeking.

I blame Sam Sifton for the idea. His charmingly conversational (and delightfully imprecise) speedy fish chowder has been floating around in my head – as much for its formatting as for the end result.

It spoke to me, this idea for a no-recipe recipe: just enough guidance to take out some of the fear and guesswork, leaving me the freedom to get creative and experiment without worrying about compromising the end result. Exactly the kind of soul-soothing comfort cooking I can get lost in – something that feels just as good as a warm blanket on a night like tonight.


The quest begins: honey oat sandwich bread v. 01

An overhead shot of two pieces of bread thickly spread with butter and raspberry jam sitting on a white plate. One piece sits slightly atop the other. A knife is resting on the bottom-most piece of bread. In the top left corner, you can see part of a white crock.

I was on the hunt for a new sandwich bread recipe to try last week, partly as a distraction from, you know, *gestures vaguely* the everything, and partly because my current go-to isn’t made with whole wheat in mind. It has a tendency to either misbehave in the proof and get really rough and open crumbed, or dry out and stale quickly, and I don’t love that. Plus, I love honey-oat sandwich bread, and this doesn’t quite fit the bill.

Enter King Arthur Baking Company’s Vermont Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread. It ticked a bunch of my boxes – it is designed specifically for whole wheat flour, it includes both honey and oats, and it has a lovely nearly-one-bowl mixing method that melts my little dishes hating heart. So I baked it. And it was delicious. A beautiful, pillowy-soft crumb that reminded me of the best kinds of cheap squishy supermarket sandwich bread, the faintest whiff of cinnamon to play off the oats, enough tooth to keep things interesting, and, best of all, it didn’t get noticeably dry or stale-tasting until nearly the end of the week.

It was, however, very sweet. We’re talking cinnamon roll-without-the-icing type sweet. Which was amazing spread with butter for breakfast, or for PB&Js…not so much what I’m going for in ham and cheese.

So I decided to hack it.


Randomly on a Thursday

  1. I had grand plans for the opening post on this site. It was going to be a gloriously researched and documented process log for reactivating my long-neglected sourdough starter post-move, and I was (and am) very excited about it. My goal was to have it done by Friday.
  2. That isn’t going to happen.
  1. For a number of reasons, the starter just isn’t starting.
  2. This would have nothing to do with the fact that I haven’t fed it regularly because I am increasingly unable to focus on anything other than election returns in Nevada and Georgia. And the global pandemic.
  3. It also almost certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I’m not used to it being anywhere south of 70°F at this time of year.

Jessi Spell

A culinary degree and two years of professional experience has not stopped Jessi from making stupid mistakes – she just makes them more efficiently. She habitually reads cookbooks before bed, loses track of time on Wikipedia, and yells at cooking shows like dads watching football. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Jackson, five plants, and more cookbooks than a 600 square foot studio should hold.


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