Smoky Cardamom-Coconut Cuba Libre

Smoky Cardamom-Coconut Cuba Libre

Ah, the Cuba Libre. Better known to many as the rum & coke. Has anyone else felt somewhat “above” this drink, or was it just me? My skepticism was most likely due to the fact that it was the preferred beverage of many a douche on the UAlbany campus during my years there — providing those fine young gents with a special combination of caffeine and liquor that let them really get their drink on, as loudly and late into the night as possible. (Seriously, you can only hear “yo bro gimme five captain ’n’ cokes” at a seedy college bar so many times before any thought or mention of rum + coke is met with Pavlovian eye rolling.)

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Angel Food Cupcakes with Coconut-Lemongrass Whipped Cream

Angel Food Cupcakes with Coconut-Lemongrass Whipped Cream

Early morning bike rides are probably one of my favorite things. Around 7:00am, the streets begin to fill with commuters, joggers, dog walkers, and the like. But at 6:00am, they are so quiet. Lights at usually busy intersections blink red and yellow. People on the sidewalk nod and say hello. I coast through stop signs, slow down to ogle gardens, and try to get the attention of the occasional cat wandering the streets. (NB: My research indicates that cats do not respond well to strangers on bicycles.)

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Sriracha-Coconut Popcorn with Smoked Sea Salt

I have a crippling addiction to snacks. Salty snacks in particular. It’s crippling in the sense that I will not stop eating until I’m overcome with nausea, and then left to spend the next hour slouched in my chair, thinking to myself, “why . . . WHY?” I often avoid buying bags of chips or pretzels at the store because I know that in less than 24 hours, they’ll be open on my desk, rapidly approaching empty. And then sometimes, I slip. In the throes of my toasted seaweed addiction, I bought two cases, which I then stored in my bedroom because there was “no room” in the kitchen. Those were the dark days.

Of all the snacks, popcorn is the most irresistible. I blame my mother, as she has been making giant batches of popcorn on a regular basis since I can remember. It goes from the stove top into a feeding trough large bowl, and sits on the kitchen table all day, inviting constant snacking. So while regular ol’ popcorn with salt and spices is tasty enough to shove in my face by the fistful, this stuff, oh lord — whole ’nother level. Seriously. Borderline dangerous.

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Crispy Wasp-Stings on Buttered Toast

That’s right! I know some of you are seeing this title in your email/rss feed and thinking, “uh . . . what?” Brace yourselves — things are about to get deliciously silly, because Thursday is Roald Dahl Day!

As many of you surely know, much of Dahl’s writing featured or revolved around food. This, in conjunction with his knack for dreaming up silly, bizarre, and (at times) rather disgusting-sounding dishes, led to the posthumous publishing of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, compiled by his wife Felicity (and followed later by Even More Revolting Recipes). In the Introduction to the former, Felicity writes, “Treats were an essential part of Roald’s life — never too many, never too few, and always perfectly timed. He made you feel like a king receiving the finest gift in the land.”

I believe that, for me, being a Dahl addict at a young age instilled an early fascination with food as well. Or perhaps brought what was already there to a new level of wonder and silliness. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a sensory overload for my overactive imagination. And to this day, I can still imagine exactly what Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake would taste like. (This is also the reason why I can never, ever make the recipe for it that appears in RDRR. I contemplated it for a few minutes, but ultimately decided that there was no way anything on earth was going to taste as good as what my little 8-year-old brain had dreamed up.) But these crispy wasp-stings on buttered toast are far better than I’d imagined (and they’re actually quite good, too).

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