Mongolian Buuz: A Perfect TV Snack

Eating in front of the telly is something that happens with some regularity in these parts.

When your partner is a super busy television critic, that tends to happen. And I’m certainly not averse to sitting down to lunch, dinner or brunch in front of the box. (A side of Downton Abbey with any meal? No problem at all.)

So when the Let’s Lunch crew decided on sharing perfect snacks for TV watching in our February posts, I knew I had to jump back in the fray.

What do we eat while watching something? Everything, really: Stews, noodles, omelettes, sandwiches. But I’ve learned that the ideal item is something compact — bite-sized and easy to pop in your mouth for a quick chew.

Which is what makes dumplings pretty much the perfect TV food …

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Chana Masala: Art You Can Eat

It is inevitable that any time at an artists colony will be plump with the exchange of ideas.

When you toss artists from disparate backgrounds into a small cauldron and essentially seal it for a month, art, words, music and and more will certainly be shared. And so it was for me at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, Calif., earlier this year, where I spent a month isolated on a mountain ranch with a tiny crew of colony mates that included talented artists from Mongolia, India and Austria, a wonderful choreographer and composer and writers who inspired me every day.

In addition to art, however, we ended up having some rich exchanges over something surprising: Cooking.

As you may have read before on this blog, colony chef Dan Tosh fed us tremendously well on weekdays. But on weekends, left to our own devices, we ended up taking to the stove to teach one other a little about the dishes that fueled us in our own homes. Which is how I came to learn to make out-of-this-world chana masala …

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Chicken Satay: BBQ, Singapore Style

Among the things I miss the most about my native Singapore is one simple activity: Sitting by the beach on a steamy summer evening and looking out at the water as I reach for stick after greasy stick of freshly grilled satay.

The satay expeditions of my girlhood were frequent — few things beat the smoky smells of chicken, beef and mutton marinated in a potent cocktail of lemongrass, garlic, galangal, and turmeric getting barbecued in open-air food stalls, after all.

And my family, being hyper competitive as it is, always made a sport of it. Dad would order satay by the dozens and the race would begin to see whose pile of sticks, stripped of meat, would be the largest at the end. (You would think my father, being the oldest and the only male, would always win. Well, not in this cutthroat family, he didn’t.)

So when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on BBQ for our monthly virtual lunch date, satay seemed a must. I’ve only made it a few times in New York — never in Singapore, where it’s so easy to find and cheap (30 to 50 cents Singapore per stick, or 23 to 40 cents U.S.) that it makes little sense to go to the trouble of making it.

But I had just made it recently — at a little dinner one night at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program

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Djerassi Resident Artists Program: A Man Named Dan

It’s not often that I am so taken with a person that I find myself immediately professing my adoration at every turn.

Recently, however, I met one such someone — a man named Dan, a chef who fed me well for a month in the mountains of California and who wowed me each day with the meals he set on the table.

For those who don’t follow me on Twitter, I just spent a month in Northern California at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, an artists colony that offers the gift of time and space to create. The program invites artists from various disciplines (musical composition, fiction, poetry, choreography, visual arts) to spend a month on the property — close to 600 acres of some of the most beautiful hills and forests I’ve seen — with nothing to do except wake up every morning, have a cup of coffee and start working.

Such colonies have been a lifesaver for me — I wrote the bulk of “A Tiger in the Kitchen” over seven weeks at Yaddo in 2010. (My book never would have made it out on time had it not been for my time there.) As many artists will testify, you can often accomplish in weeks at a colony what would likely take you months or more at home.

And this certainly was true for me at Djerassi …

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