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What the Art World Is Cooking

Every week, Hyperallergic is asking artists and art workers what they’re cooking. This week’s recipes include artist Lisa Blas’s special Italian spaghetti, and artist Hakan Topal walks us through making pizza dough in a New York City kitchen (“absolutely no pineapple”).

Bread leading the people. (image by Valentina Di Liscia)

Shelter-in-place orders may be lifting in some states, but many of us are still at home, where our kitchens have become sanctuaries offering an escape from reality (or, at least, from family members we’ve spent a little too much time with). Those with the time and means might lose themselves for hours in the  unparalleled joy of an elaborate puff pastry, or perhaps find a few minutes to make lunchtime a tiny bit fancier.

That’s why every week, we’re asking artists, writers, curators, and other art workers to share what they’ve been cooking. This week’s dishes include kimchi fried rice by Hyperallergic contributor Monica Uszerowicz and her partner, Edward Oh; curator Kari Conte’s favorite smoothie; and one Tribeca gallery owner’s fish stew (it’s “like a food hug,” in his words). Artist Lisa Blas shares a spaghetti recipe and a cooking tip she learned from her cousins in Maiori, Italy; and curator Laura Phipps, who is spending the lockdown in Texas, muses on the poetics of “chiliness.”

And one very special treat: artist Hakan Topal walks us step-by-step through making homemade pizza within the spatial constraints of a New York City kitchen. He has one rule, though, which I could not endorse more fervently: “Absolutely no pineapple on pizza.”

Monica Uszerowicz, Writer & Artist, and Edward Oh, Artist & Art Handler: Kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice)

Monica and Edward’s kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice) (photo by Edward Oh)
The heavy-belly feeling reminds Monica of Puerto Rican dishes her maternal grandma made. (photo by Edward Oh)

“What’s the fastest and cheapest way to nourish someone? Anything with rice reminds us of grandmothers — not just our grandmothers, but all grandmothers; mothers, too. Edward’s grandma taught him how to cook rice when he was little. Later, his mom showed him how to make kimchi bokkeumbap, or kimchi fried rice.

Made with ingredients found in every Korean household, kimchi bokkeumbap is comforting and restorative, good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The heavy-belly feeling reminds Monica of Puerto Rican dishes her maternal grandma made. Kimchi, like all fermented foods, is good for you, so you should just eat it anyway.

We’re lucky to get kimchi from Edward’s mom — the sauce is deliciously sour and sweetened with apples and pears, for their natural sugars — but lots of grocery stores sell kimchi these days. Sometimes little-kid Edward would add slices of spam to his kimchi bokkeumbap, but we just add lots of seaweed and a fried egg. You can substitute the white rice with any kind.

The recipe below serves two or three people, and we have no idea how to measure it exactly. We tried our best below. Have it with some soju.

Serves two (or three?):

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked white rice (or rice of your choice)
2 cups kimchi and kimchi juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil (for sautéing)
More sesame oil (you’ll go with your gut on how much to use)

Bonus:

Sliced green onion
Seaweed
Fried egg — one for as many people you’re serving
Sautéed spam

On medium heat, pour about two tablespoons of sesame oil into a large pan. Add kimchi. Sautee kimchi for a few minutes, or until the edges start to look cooked and a little browned. Add rice, kimchi juice, and more sesame oil. Continue sautéing and mixing, raising the heat between medium and high for another five minutes or so, or until the rice is a little crispy. This is crucial! Crispy rice is the best.

For your bonus ingredients: Top the rice with sliced green onion, a whole fried egg, sautéed slices of spam, and/or pieces of seaweed. You can use the seaweed to scoop up big chunks of the rice and eat it with your hands, too.”

Lisa Blas, Artist: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, With Dandelion

Lisa’s recipe calls for about three cups of loosely chopped dandelion, but another bitter green can be substituted. (photo by Lisa Blas)

“This recipe combines two dishes that my Italian-American mother made for my siblings and myself, while we were growing up in suburban Los Angeles. Both are culinary traditions from her childhood in the Bronx, and have become my version of comfort food! This dish makes a light and fresh springtime meal, as the days grow warmer and longer. 

I have adapted this recipe from the Food Network’s recipe of ‘Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic.’

Ingredients:

Serving: two people (if making this dish for four people, use 1 pound spaghetti and ½ cup olive oil)

½ pound spaghetti
3–4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Two pinches of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ lemon, zested, using a Littlepiano zester (this produces fragrant strings of zest)
About 3 cups of loosely chopped dandelion (or substitute another bitter green in season)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

(Note: The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, however, I learned from my cousins in Maiori, Italy, that cooking without salt is better. One can add salt afterward if needed. Also, the Littlepiano zester was a tool I added to my kitchen after watching them cook with it last summer.)

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat. Add a bit of salt to the water. Place the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 minutes, depending on the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes in a large skillet. Warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic softens and turns golden, about eight minutes. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure the garlic does not burn.

Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink and reserve a fourth cup of the cooking water.

Add the pasta and the reserved water to the garlic mixture in the skillet. Mix well. Add the parsley. Add the dandelion greens.

Transfer one serving to each dish, immediately grate the cheese over the pasta and zest the lemon directly on top. If you wish, adjust the seasoning by adding a few more red pepper flakes.

Voilà!”

Charles Moffet, Gallery Owner: Martha’s Vineyard Fisherman Stew

Stews and soups: “They’re like food hugs.” (photo by Charles Moffet)

“Stews and soups are so comforting, I feel like we’ve relied on them quite a bit these last few months. They’re like food hugs. This recipe is actually one that appeared in a cookbook my wife co-authored, which I’ve made some adjustments to. I have been riffing on different fish stews and cioppino recipes; this one has been the best.

Serves four.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion or shallot, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, whole or diced
2 tablespoons or 1 knob of fresh ginger (1–2 inches in length)
2 peeled carrots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
2/3 cup white wine
1 can of coconut milk (14 oz)
2 cups of vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
3-6 bunches of baby bok choy, washed and trimmed
1 to 1 1/2 lbs cod or similar white fish cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lime, juiced
(Rice Optional)

Directions:

In a wide heavy-bottomed pot that can be covered, heat the oil on medium/medium-low. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger until softened, then add the carrots.

Add the curry powder and cayenne pepper, stirring it into the mixture, followed by the white wine. Add salt to taste (roughly two teaspoons) then bring the liquid to a boil before returning it to a simmer, letting it reduce for three to five minutes. Add the coconut milk and water/stock, then return it to a boil.

Add the potatoes and bring the liquid back to a boil (increasing the heat). Then turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the potatoes simmer in the liquid until they have softened, but not breaking apart. You should be able to pierce them with a fork (10–15 minutes). Once the potatoes are cooked mix in the bok choy.

Add the fish, submerging it in the liquid to ensure the pieces cook evenly. Cover the pot for two to four minutes as the liquid simmers. The fish should be cooked through, but not breaking apart. Check the fish frequently if needed. Once the fish has cooked add the lime juice and turn off the heat to not overcook.

Using a ladle, serve the stew in bowls. If you have made rice to accompany this dish you can serve the stew over a bed of rice.”

Laura Phipps, Curator: A Very Basic Chili

“Chiliness”: “the essence of chili in the chili.” (photo by Laura Phipps)

“For years a group of friends have hosted semi-annual Chili Cook-offs and one category for the judging is ‘chiliness’ — the essence of chili in the chili. I’ll admit this particular recipe has never won the title (too basic), but it does get top marks for ‘chiliness.’ (Unless you’re a no-bean purist — but that chili has never won, either!)

My family and I have been staying in Texas for the past two months and maybe the Lone Star State inspired my chili cooking — but more likely, it’s the fact that many of the ingredients are pantry staples and almost everything can be substituted. And this dish (even in 90-degree weather) always tastes good. Especially if you have it over Fritos and make it “fancy” with yogurt and avocado (none of that is pictured, sadly)!

Ingredients:

1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
2 medium onions (white/yellow)
1 jalapeño (some seeds)
6 cloves of garlic
1 TBSP cumin
2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP hot-pepper sauce (have used the green El Yucateco, but anything probably works — I also add balsamic vinegar sometimes)
30 oz crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 15 oz. can of red kidney beans (really whatever beans you like or have)
1 package of ground turkey (or any meat or no meat)

Directions:

Sauté onions in olive oil in a large pot. Once translucent, add peppers/garlic, and saute until soft. Add dry spices. Add crushed tomatoes, jalapeño (and seeds), beans, hot-pepper sauce, and salt and pepper. While sautéing onions, cook/brown turkey on skillet. Drain, then season the turkey. Then add to the final mixture above. Simmer for however long you have and serve with whatever you like.”

Hakan Topal, Artist: Hakan’s Homemade Pizza Recipe

You may not be able to duplicate the wood-burning oven flavor in your NYC kitchen, but there are a few ways to get close. (photo by Hakan Topal)

“This procedure is based on the New York Times‘s famous Roberta’s Pizza recipe, but over time I ‘perfected’ it to be suitable for my NYC kitchen. Pizza has been the most comforting food during the quarantine.

Before you start: Unlike 1,000-degree professional pizza ovens, home ovens can only go up to ~525 Fahrenheit degrees. Perhaps you cannot duplicate the wood-burning oven flavor profile and charred goodness, but home ovens work, and you can get those leopard patterns with a blow torch if you need to.

Pizza Stone: get the biggest one that can fit in your oven. You can also make one with firebricks, or simply use a large steel plate. The idea is to store the heat so that the pizza cooks evenly and all at once.

Pizza Peel: I use my large cutting board. You can also use a large tray.

I follow some basic rules.

  • I do experiment, i.e. no strict regional guidelines apply here. 
  • I use common sense and I try to be resourceful with ingredients. You may not always have the most expensive parmigiana, but you may have some good feta cheese. 
  • Absolutely no pineapple on a pizza.
  • As a Park Slope Food Coop member, I use organic when possible. Yes, clichés are correct. Happy ingredients make a jubilant meal.
Experiment with your toppings. (photo by Hakan Topal)

Dough Preparation

I prefer a thin crust, and also, I realized that a thin crust is more suitable for home ovens, and of course healthier. This recipe makes eight pizzas or calzones. 

Ingredients

920 grams of all-purpose flour (alternatively, mix 50% all-purpose with 50% 00-flour, or use 50% wheat)
20 grams of fine sea salt
1 bag of dry yeast (~8 grams)
5 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
One teaspoon of Maple Syrup (syrup feeds the yeast and gives a slightly darker color and taste profile, use honey if you prefer)

Mix 600 ml of lukewarm water with the yeast, olive oil, and maple syrup. Stir them up so there are no lumps. Put the bowl aside and wait five to 10 minutes. You will see that yeast gets activated and the mixture gets bubbly.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt, combine well. While combining with a wooden spoon, slowly pour the yeast mixture into the flour. Once all content is incorporated, you can start kneading the dough for about three minutes. (Check YouTube videos if you haven’t done it before.) Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and wait 30 minutes.

On a nicely floured surface, knee the dough for three to four minutes. You will feel that the dough getting stretchy. Perfect. Roll the dough into a tube shape. Now, cut it into eight pieces and shape them into cute little balls. Put the dough balls into olive oil coated bowls and cover them with clothes, or Saran wrap.

After four hours in room temperature, your dough will double in size and will be ready to use. You can also store it in the fridge for up to five days. 

Pizza Time

Preheat the oven to the max (525 °F) for least 30 minutes so that the stone absorbs all that energy.

Gently take the dough, put it on a pizza peel sprinkled with semolina flour (semolina flour provides a perfect crust, if you do not have it, all-purpose flour is fine). Only use your fingers — no rollers — you don’t want to kill the dough, but lightly massage it. Spread the dough with your fingertips. Now take it with your hands and stretch it as thin as possible. Do not rush, take your time, be gentle. Once the dough is stretched, put it on the peel and lightly spread your tomato sauce. If you do not have pizza sauce, you can make one by mixing tomato puree with olive oil, lots of garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Spread the parmigiana evenly. 

The base is there, now you can be creative, and add your favorite ingredients. 

Smoothly slide the pizza into oven. It will take around four minutes. Check and wait 30 seconds more if needed. Enjoy.”

Kari Conte, Curator: Spinach Dirt Smoothie

Kari has “optimized the recipe” for spinach and fruit smoothies. (photo by Kari Conte)

“I’ve lived in New York City nearly my entire life — a place with 24/7 access to excellent food — and so I never learned how to cook. Luckily my partner, artist Hakan Topal, makes all my meals in quarantine. [See Hakan’s recipe for pizza above.] But there is one thing I make every day just for myself: a spinach and fruit smoothie. Over the years, I’ve optimized the recipe for efficiency and nutrition.

Combine the following in a blender:

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Half a banana
½ cup spinach (sometimes with a hint of leftover dirt that is impossible to wash off from the farmer’s market)
½ cup frozen blueberries or strawberries (I prefer Wyman’s Wild Blueberries)
A teaspoon of Probiotic powder
A combined teaspoon of ground chia seeds and flaxseeds (I premix these)
A teaspoon of collagen peptides
2 teaspoons of homemade almond butter (I make this by blending heated almonds, olive oil, and a pinch of cinnamon.)”

Abby Lloyd, Artist: Taco Lasagna

“Just the right combination of tasty and weird.” (photo by Abby Lloyd)

“In the past several weeks I’ve never spent more time in the kitchen or in front of a computer! This Taco Lasagna is just the right combination of tasty and weird, and this dish can also be enjoyed for a couple of days, which means you can spend less time in the kitchen!

In addition to cooking a number of meals I’ve been working on a digital cookbook around the clock. Artists and Recipes is a free PDF featuring original recipes, artworks, and anecdotes from over 40 emerging and established artists.

You’ll need: a cooking dish, a 9-by-13-inch one works great. 

Ingredients:

Taco Seasoning:
1 teaspoon cumin
1 heaping tbsp of chili powder
1 heaping tbsp of paprika
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of onion powder
Salt and pepper 

Other:

Precooked lasagna noodles
2 lbs of ground beef
1/2 cup of chopped olives
1/2 jar of chunky salsa
1-2 cups of cheddar or slices of cheddar cold cuts (I like a lot of cheese)
1 bag small bag crushed tortilla chips (optional) 

Topping:

Sour cream
Guacamole
Hot sauce
Jalapenos 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and salt ground beef. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a skillet, cook beef until it browns, drain water from the pain, add taco seasoning, then add salsa and simmer for a few minutes. 

Assemble the lasagna in a pan: 

First Layer: Brush the bottom of the pain with salsa, lay enough noodles down to cover pan and overlap noodles slightly, add mixed beef, olives, crushed up tortilla chips, and cover with cheddar.

Second Layer: Add another layer of noodles, the remaining beef mixture — you want enough to wet the noodles — and the rest of the cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil for the last five minutes to crisp up the top! 

Let sit for about 10 minutes, top with sour cream and guacamole, and enjoy!”

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