thai beef stir-fry with chiles and basil

dishes like these are magic. when you’re uncomfortably wedged between a pressing to-do list and an ominous tummy-rumble, recipes that come together this quickly are a lifesaver. just like this one and this one, they prove that fresh, wholesome, delicious food is possible even on a deadline. it’s fast food, no drive-through window necessary. 

the list of ingredients is mighty short but still somehow creates a bowlful of savory, flavorful comfort food. like i said: magic.

Thai Beef Stir-Fry with Chiles and Basil
Adapted from Orangette
Makes 2-3 servings 

4 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 to 5 Thai (aka bird’s eye) or serrano chiles, sliced
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. oil
6 to 8 oz. ground beef
1 Tbsp. fish sauce, or more to taste
pinch of sugar
¼ cup chicken stock or water
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
jasmine rice, fried eggs, and lime wedges, to serve

  1. Stir together the garlic, chiles, and salt. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and add the garlic, chiles, and salt. Stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant; then add the beef. Continue to cook, stirring, until the beef is cooked through and just starting to brown. Add 1 tablespoon fish sauce and the sugar. Add the basil and stock or water, and stir just until the basil is wilted. Remove from the heat. 
  2. Scoop the rice into bowls, and then divide the beef and its juices over the top. Crown with the fried eggs. Serve immediately, with a good squeeze of lime.

tea time and a blackberry cake

when i spent a semester in australia, i loved that i found myself in a country that was part of the british commonwealth — and therefore took its snack time seriously. afternoon tea wasn’t just the cup of tea itself, but a chance to sit down for an allotted rest time, and have a bite of something light and sweet with it: maybe some lamingtons, like we had that first day at university orientation; or a small stack of biscuits, as they offered every afternoon at the hostels we traveled around to.

afternoon tea is not a ritual here in the states (our closest equivalent is something i believe is called “3 o’clock slump”), but i think it should be. 

i can’t change my country’s food culture, but there’s no reason i can’t pick a social custom to import into my own life. and this blackberry cake is a perfect way to induct afternoon teatime into my day-to-day. it’s a light, springy cake and not too sweet, but plenty fruity in flavor thanks to just a few drops of raspberry extract

our days — and life in general — have a tendency to go by so fast and furious. it’s nice to pick a time to pause, and enjoy a little something sweet and soothing.

Blackberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet

1 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar, divided
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
¼ tsp. raspberry extract
about 1 ¼ c. blackberries 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; then butter the paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Reserve 1 ½ tablespoon of the sugar and set aside. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with the remaining amount of sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  4. At low speed, beat in the buttermilk and dry ingredients in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; do not overbeat. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  5. Scatter the 1 ¼ cups of blackberries over the batter; lightly press them in. Sprinkle the reserved 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar over the cake. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out the cake and remove the paper. Turn the cake right side up and let cool completely. 

fresh watermelon juice

one thing i love about mixing up drinks is seeing the beautiful hue that ends up filling the glass… the honey amber of a whiskey sour, the candy-bright red of strawberry lemonade.

if there’s a color i’d like to tint this summer with, i think it’d be the gentle coral of freshly juiced watermelon.

perfectly cooling, just the barest bit of sweet — it’s the best kind of drink to pair with a light summer meal, especially on one of those days when it’s too hot to move, and all you can do is shimmy up as close as you can to the window to catch the day’s last elusive breezes. (we’ve been having lots of those days around here.)

watermelon juice is cinch to make and pretty practical, too. how many times do you find yourself at the end of a summer bbq with leftover watermelon? that’s actually how we came into ownership of this little baby. instead of eating watermelon cubes til we got sick of them, i decided to whir the fruit up into a juice we could gulp down easy.

stored in the fridge in a beverage dispenser — you know, the kind with the spigoty spout, preferably decaled on the outside with cartoon-y watermelon slices — it’s the easiest thing to fill yourself a chilled glass and get that much closer to some fruit-fueled late-summer zen.

Watermelon Juice
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Makes at least 4 servings, depending on the size of watermelon
1 small  seedless watermelon, cut or spooned into chunks
juice from 1 small lime, or to taste

  1. Working in batches, blend the watermelon until liquefied.
  2. Stir in lime juice, taste, and adjust as needed. Strain out pulp, if desired, and chill.