Every other week, Bon Appetit associate editor Christina Chaey writes about what she's cooking right now. Pro tip: If you sign up for the newsletter, you'll get the scoop before everyone else.
Dear Healthyish friends,
While summer has never been my season (too sweaty!), summer food has always been some of my favorite. And so I’m sliding into Memorial Day weekend feeling bittersweet, thinking of all the cookout hot dogs, park picnics, and beach hoagies I won’t be enjoying with friends this year. I’ve made halfhearted plans to try to bike to the beach by myself over the long weekend, but I’m not sure what I’ll do once I get there. Wave to it?
One saving grace for me right now is that my apartment has ample porch space for me to safely, distantly host one or two visitors at a time. My building has a small, concrete walkway where my roommates and I have started setting out a rotting old bench we found as seating “for company.” Once or twice a week, we have a friend over, usually to open a bottle of wine to mark the end of a long day.
With the wine, there are always snacks. When we first started hosting these impromptu stoop hangs, I didn’t set out anything too elaborate: a handful of crackers and some olives and a wedge of cheese were novel enough to make it feel special. But now that we’re a few weeks into hosting mode, I’ve slowly upped the ante on my porch spreads. I’ve now graduated to full-on meals, which I bring downstairs on a half-sheet tray with plates, napkins, glasses—basically everything but the tablecloth (though that might be my next step).
One recent such stoop meal featured this brand-new Healthyish Chicken Salad, which is the kind of chicken salad I can eat a big plate of in 80-degree weather and feel great afterward. If you’ve never gently poached a chicken breast in salted water until the meat is juicy and pull-apart tender, let this be the recipe that gets you there. (Although rotisserie or roast chicken would be great here, too.) Crunchy lettuce and cucumber planks keep things super refreshing, scallions add gentle bite, and a crunchy-creamy sesame dressing inspired by Japanese gomae adds texture and richness to every bite.
I made this for my roommate Emma and our friend Belle on one of the first super-hot days of the season, along with iced black sesame milk lattes (from one of my favorite cookbooks, Amy Chaplin’s Whole Food Cooking Every Day). We hung up our masks and ate and drank and talked for hours, and it was so joyous as to feel almost...normal. In the absence of regularly scheduled summer programming, I, like everyone else, am trying to figure out how to socialize in quarantine right now. I’ve written about it here before, but Rachel Khong’s essay about opening a pretend restaurant in her kitchen is inspiring me to think of other little touches I can add to bring our little porch set to life. On my list so far: a Bluetooth speaker, candles, paper umbrellas for piña season. I suppose there’s no rush, though. I have all summer to figure it out.
Waving from my stoop,
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