Well. We made it all the way to September of this nightmare we bitterly call 2020, and I wish I had something uplifting to say about that. Alas, I do not. I, like you probably, am mourning the end of a summer I did not get to have. The past three months were mostly terrible, raining down two tropical storms amidst a relentless, climate-changed-fueled heat wave that our northeastern US infrastructure is ill-equipped to accommodate. And never forget there’s still an uncontrolled pandemic raging, forcing us to forego travel, the gym, restaurants and bars, parties – all our favorite things about summer. The best I can do is to make space for the grief.
I can be a bookworm with the best of them, but my reading pace has slowed considerably this year. Gee, I can’t imagine why! That said, I’ve got four outstanding book recs for you. I know that leisure reading may be a luxury right now, especially for parents. But I do hope you can sneak some time for yourself here and there, do something to decompress, breathe, escape.
Billion Dollar Whale by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright:
Shiiiiittttt. Let’s break this *completely true story* down.
Plot: random Malaysian dude you’ve never heard of scams a couple billion dollars from Hollywood, the Malaysian government, and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund.
Sub-plot: Is Leonardo DiCaprio okay? After reading this book, I genuinely worry about him sometimes!
Sub-sub-plot: Ban all yachts.
Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi:
There is simply no one else in the chef and food media world I wish more success for than Kwame Onwuachi. You will happily lose an afternoon to this gripping, incisive memoir. Onwuachi offers a peek into the racist underbelly of fine dining, a behind-the-scenes look at the hit show Top Chef, and ends each chapter with a recipe. I especially cannot wait to make his gumbo and jollof rice.
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell:
If even a tiny space of your brain fancies itself a World War II history buff, then you cannot miss this book. This riveting page-turner details a fascinating portrait of Virginia Hall, an American spy who took on the Gestapo and Vichy French, all with a considerable disability. When the War ended and she returned to America from France and Britain, the newly-established Central Intelligence Agency was an unorganized douche bros club full of three martini lunches and devastating sexism. To say Hall did not get her just due in a timely manner is a gross understatement, but her papers were recently declassified, and historian Sonia Purnell got right to work. This book is the fruit of her labor – a worthwhile read to give a heroic woman her deserved glory.
I believe it’s important to find at least one writer who could blather on about watching paint dry and you’d still read their prose. Lyz Lenz is one of those few writers for me. So even though I’m not pregnant, have never been pregnant, am not a mother, etc, I still pre-ordered her newest book, then devoured it in one afternoon. No regrets. Part memoir, part meticulous research, wholly a compelling dive into the world of the politics of pregnancy.
I wish you a safe and as-okay-as-possible Labor Day weekend!
Fried Calamari and Shrimp Cocktail
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup chili sauce I used Heinz
- 3 tbs horseradish or to taste (horseradish is subjective)
- 1 tbs + a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce to taste (I used Texas Pete)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 tsp silver tequila
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 lemon halved
- 2 bay leaves
- A small handful of black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
- Up to 1 lb large shrimp unpeeled
- ½ lb. squid cleaned and cut into rings; halve tentacles if large
- 1 cup buttermilk well shaken
- Hot sauce to taste (I used Texas Pete)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 ¼ tsp Cajun seasoning plus more for sprinkling
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Canola oil for frying
- Add all ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Squeeze half the lemon juice into the pot, then add the squeezed lemon into the water. Add the bay leaves, black peppercorns, and a nice handful of salt (similar to what you’d do for pasta water). Add the shrimp. Once they’re cooked through, remove them with a spider or large slotted spoon. This doesn’t take long at all, don’t walk away. You could be looking at as short as ninety seconds, or up to three minutes. They’re done when they turn bright pink and are firm to the touch. Chill them in the fridge while you make the calamari. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.
- You can absolutely serve these as peel-and-eat. I may or may not have married someone who greatly dislikes The Vein (I’m sympathetic), so while the oil for the calamari is heating, I go ahead and peel and devein them before serving. Either way is fine, just make sure they are chilled for maximum flavor.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the squid pieces to the buttermilk, along with a few dashes of hot sauce. How much hot sauce - if any! - is subjective. I add enough to turn the buttermilk pink, but you can add as little as you like; it’s also fine to skip if you’re not into it.
- In another larger mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, plus kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Lift the squid pieces out of the buttermilk, shake them off a bit, and add them to the flour mixture. Toss or stir to fully coat the squid. You want to do this in batches, to ensure even coating. Leave the squid in the flour while you heat up the oil.
- Pour the oil into a high-sided large skillet or Dutch oven about two inches up. You want the temperature between 350 and 375 F. When the oil is ready, drop the squid pieces into the oil. You’ll want to work in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry until the breading is golden brown and the oil is sizzling much more slowly around the squid. It takes two to three minutes. Lift them out with a spider or large slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Immediately sprinkle with more Cajun seasoning - you can be as stingy or as generous as you prefer here, but I would not skip this step. It adds amazing flavor.
- To serve, transfer the cocktail sauce to a small ramekin, and surround it with the shrimp, the fried calamari, and the lemon wedges. Serve immediately.