Printed word rituals + sandwich contemplation

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Little by little, shelf by shelf, my house is filling up with magazines. Piles of dogeared, coffee-stained New Yorkers and Atlantics, whole shelves crammed with food and fashion magazines of varying age and condition, and the prized bookbound Kinfolk issues neatly stacked under the coffee table.

There are plenty of books, too, though their numbers have leveled off considerably since I caved and got a Kindle.

My true printed love has always been magazines. Less fleeting than daily news with feature stories that can live far beyond the day or week of their release, though most are easily enough consumed in several minutes. Some stay with you–reflections from the survivor of a strange or cruel trial imbue a weird funk that you can’t shake. A powerful descriptor thrusts an everyday city street, meal or facial feature into the spotlight of an otherwise mundane routine.

Words can of course be as powerful on a screen, but print comes with a mini ritual that forces the reader to engage in a way that dragging a finger over a screen can’t replicate. Turning a page or creasing a newspaper, slipping an old train stub in between pages to serve as a makeshift bookmark. Such printed word rituals were on my mind this week after I watched an older man methodically read his newspaper on the crowded subway. Deft folds between spreads to keep the paper’s real estate to a minimum. A quick, clean rrrrip to remove the stock numbers page of the business section, which he then folded and tucked in his jacket pocket for later. Surpassing the entire “life” section with a “flip” after pinching the snubbed portion between his fingers and thumb.

As everyone else on the train stared down at their smartphones, it was impossible to tell who was reading something aside from that man with his paper.

All this print nostalgia has very little to do with this chicken sandwich, which I made for Sean one evening before meeting a friend for dinner. But like a New Yorker review I just read of Tina Fey’s new Netflix sitcom, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” I contemplated each layer of this sandwich probably way longer than I should have.

To be fair, it is pretty damn complex for a chicken sandwich. The chicken is laced with citrus and warming Indian spices; blistered shishito peppers lend a grassy, smoky flavor brightened by a squirt of fresh lemon juice; the feta adds sharp saltiness; and fresh cilantro heightens the grassy, citrus flavors that permeate this dinner-worthy sandwich.


Blistered shishito and chicken sandwich
serves 1


    1 chicken breast
    1 lemon, divided
    Extra virgin olive oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Salt and pepper
    3 or 4 whole shishito peppers
    1 small shallot
    8-inch piece of crusty bread (ciabatta or a bolillo roll works well)
    2 ounces feta cheese
    1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Method: Put the chicken breast in a quart-size freezer bag with the juice of half the lemon, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the garam masala, cayenne, garlic and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Close the bag and massage the marinade into the chicken until evenly coated. Marinate for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, the shishitos, shallot and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until the peppers are blistered on all sides and the shallots are caramelized, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the juice of the other half of the lemon over the vegetables, remove them from the heat and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.


Remove the chicken from the marinade bag, and slice it into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss it with a bit more salt and pepper. (As you can see, I marinaded three chicken breasts at once–so tripled the marinade amount–because this chicken is effing good in/on everything.)


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the chicken when the oil slides easily around the pan. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes until just done. Remove, and set aside.


To build the sandwich, slice the bread in half, and tear out a little of the inside if it seems too bready. Spread each side with a bit of mayo.

Slice the shishitos in half and remove the stems if you prefer. Layer on the chicken, feta, shishitos, shallots, spinach and cilantro leaves.



Close and shovel in mouth immediately.


Sriracha-stir fried cauliflower


Isn’t cauliflower the best? I have been going a little nuts with it lately–putting it in all kinds of pasta dishes, chopping it up and adding it raw to salads, roasting it and topping it with Parmesan, pureeing it into soup, even scrambling it with eggs–because everything is good with eggs.

But then I saw Ree Drummond make a quick stir fry of cauliflower with Sriracha, lime juice and soy sauce and became instantly jealous I hadn’t thought of it first. So I’m sharing it with you now, in case you don’t also watch Food Network cooking show reruns while riding a stationary bike in your bedroom.

This dish is incredibly easy, except for the cutting up the cauliflower part. I feel like a lot of cookbooks and food blogs fail to acknowledge what a pain in the ass it is to cut broccoli or cauliflower into tiny florets. Many of them gloss over that part by simply listing tiny florets as an already-ready ingredient…as in, “1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets”.

But in a dish like this where the total time post-chopping is about 5 minutes, I have to mention what a pain in the ass cutting up the cauliflower is, otherwise I’d be misleading you.

To do it, I like to first cut the head in half. Then I break it down into more manageably sized “trees” by sawing off their stems near the top; then I break those down again with my fingers until I end up with little bite-size florets. (I keep some of the more tender stem pieces and save the rest to make soup or cauliflower ragu, both of which are also great ways to use those outer leaves.)

OK? Now you can relax. The rest will take you almost no time at all, and it will taste like all the very best food adjectives: charred (almost meaty), tangy, salty and hot.

FYI, I’ve tried making this in a few different pans and have found that a cast iron skillet is the best for getting a really good char on the cauliflower.


Sriracha-stir fried cauliflower
adapted from Ree Drummond


    1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
    1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets (see above)
    1 shallot or small onion, minced
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 heaping tablespoon Sriracha
    Fresh cilantro leaves or chopped green onion, for garnish

Method: Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high, and add the cauliflower and onion. Cook, turning every few minutes, until the florets have softened and charred on all sides. Add the soy sauce and lemon and toss to coat.


Cook for another minute, then turn off the heat and squirt in the Sriracha. Toss the cauliflower to ensure every floret is coated. Pile into a bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves or green onion.