It’s been another busy month here at Milk Street. Our editorial director has traveled across the globe and back, baker extraordinaire Stella Parks challenged the origin story of the chocolate chip cookie, and we’ve fallen hard for the Middle Eastern comfort food mujaddara. Below, find a collection of recent highlights, plus some useful tips to go along. Also check out our weekly Milk Street podcast, the second season of our TV show, and our online store for holiday shopping. We also just launched our online cooking school with a course on using spices in your home kitchen. Worth a peek.

The salad at Noma, chef Rene Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The salad at Noma, chef Rene Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark.

On the Road: New salads and duck brains

Our ever-wandering editorial director J.M. Hirsch (@jm_hirsch) recently completed back-to-back trips to Sydney, Cairo and Copenhagen. In Sydney, he explored the intersection of Asian and Australian foods that included Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese and Sri Lankan cuisines.

From there, he was on to Cairo, where he was surprised by how pervasive Italian and Indian ingredients are in Egyptian cooking. Finally, a quick stop in Copenhagen where he ate duck brains (and once was enough) at Noma. Next up: Italy. And if you know a city you think Milk Street should visit, please email Hirsch at [email protected]

Salt and Pepper Need a Divorce!

Or so declared Milk Street Cooking School guest teacher Lior Lev Sercarz, an expert on spices and spice blending. Another guest, Turkish cooking expert Ana Sortun, taught us to add water, not more oil, to slowly cooking onions to keep them sweet and tender. Upcoming master class guests include Dorie Greenspan, Gonzalo Guzmán, Yasmin Khan, Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, Edward Lee and Pierre Thiam. Check out our classes (and our new online cooking school as well).

Spice Blends — Lior
Brave Tart Stella Parks Reimagines Americas Favorite Sweets 1

Milk Street Radio: Ruth Wakefield did not invent the chocolate chip cookie

On Milk Street Radio, Stella Parks, author of “BraveTart,” pointed out that newspaper ads for supermarkets selling chocolate chip cookies by the pound predated Ruth Wakefield’s ubiquitous Toll House recipe.

 Stella also told me that the hardest recipe from “BraveTart” was homemade Butterfinger—“It’s like making croissants, but the dough is part caramel.”

Milk Street Recipe: Middle Eastern Comfort Food

During a recent trip to Beirut, I cooked with a local restaurateur who showed me how to make mujaddara, the popular combination of rice and lentils topped with fried onions. It is the favorite comfort food of his two young kids.

We just finished up a recipe for Milk Street Magazine in which the rice and lentils are cooked together, not separately, making it only slightly harder than putting together a pot of oatmeal. It’s our new comfort lunch at Milk Street. Here’s the recipe.

Mujddara
In The Store — Bowls

Milk Street Store: Our Favorite new items

As soon as they came in, I bought a set for myself. Inspired by Korean stone dolsot bowls used for bibimbap, these matte-grey porcelain bowls are the perfect size for a bowl of rice, soup or even ice cream. The snug-fitting wooden covers are gorgeous and help the contents retain their warmth. And the two sets of chopsticks that come with the bowls are beautifully crafted. We have also added Chung Jung One Premium Gochujang, made with 100 percent Korean ingredients. We love it with jjigae, a hearty pork, kimchi and tofu stew perfect for cold winters. (It’s easy to make and a kitchen favorite.) 

Milk Street Tip: Make Your Own Spice Blend

The classic Egyptian spice blend called dukkah is a mix of spices, seeds and nuts. It is used as a flavor enhancement and garnish on everything from vegetables and meats to a simple piece of bread slicked with olive oil. To make your own, in a large skillet over medium heat, toast ½ cup cashews for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and toast for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, then toast for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, let cool, then pulse in a food processor with 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper until coarsely ground.

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More from Milk Street:

“You got a choice. You can be RuPaul, you can be Paula Deen, you can be Diana Ross, you can be Stevie Nicks. Pick your diva and just roll with it. And at least have the decency to show up with some food.” 

Milk Street Tip: Toast pasta before adding it to a soup

When adding pasta to vegetable or chicken noodle soups, fry it in olive oil, butter or bacon or pancetta fat until lightly browned. The little bit of nuttiness does a terrific job of enhancing the soup’s flavor and helping the pasta maintain its identity.  

Milk Street Tip: Stale pita bread makes crispy chips

Don’t throw away stale pita bread. Split widthwise, then quarter. (Heating for a few minutes in a 400°F oven prompts them to puff slightly, making them easier to split.) Mix 1 tablespoon harissa with 1/3 cup olive oil, then brush liberally over the pita chips with a pastry brush, season generously with salt and pepper, then toast at 400°F until lightly browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. If you have no harissa, season olive oil with grated garlic and paprika or a spoonful of za’atar and pinch of chili flakes. 

Milk Street Radio: Michael Twitty on picking your diva for Halloween

I recently interviewed the impressive Michael Twitty, author of the award-winning “The Cooking Gene.” In one of the lighter moments, we talked about dressing up for Halloween: “You got a choice. You can be RuPaul, you can be Paula Deen, you can be Diana Ross, you can be Stevie Nicks. Pick your diva and just roll with it. And at least have the decency to show up with some food.” It's never too early to start planning for next year. 

Milk Street Tip: Joan Nathan freezes soaked beans

I almost never remember to soak beans overnight for a recipe, so when we had Joan Nathan come to Milk Street recently to give a cooking class, we were thrilled with this tip. She soaks beans overnight (we use 2 tablespoons kosher salt to 8 cups water), then drains and freezes them. They can be used straight from the freezer in any recipe calling for soaked beans.  

Milk Street Tip: Powdered ghee for popcorn?

Our director of recipe development, Diane Unger, has been playing around with tapioca maltodextrin. Add it to any liquid fat (she tried olive oil and ghee) and keep adding until it turns into a powder. Diane dreams about ghee powder for popcorn.