As the upheaval of June receded day-by-day into the past, one word repeatedly popped into my head to taunt me: normal. Epicurious stepped away from publishing for most of June; in July, would we publish again like normal? Would we return to publishing on a daily cadence, go back to our regularly scheduled programming?
I speak for myself but also for the rest of the Epi team when I say that July did not feel anywhere close to normal. The pandemic, the justice movements, the economy, and yes, of course, the aftermath of the internal Bon Appétit/Epi shakeup, prevented us from fooling ourselves that anything is remotely like the way we perceived it to be six months ago. And yet Epicurious did return to publishing on a regular schedule this month. We published new recipes, posted new articles, and even unleashed new initiatives. But in doing so, we kept our promises to you—promises to be a more inclusive publication—top of mind.
So did Epicurious achieve normalcy in July? I’d say we did, but it was not the same normal we aimed for at the beginning of the year. July was our first step towards a new normal. Here’s what it looked like.
We started the month with two new vegetarian recipes for the grill: Open-Face Mushroom Sandwiches With Pecorino Salsa Verde by Christian Reynoso (his first—but not last!—contribution to the site), and Grilled Cauliflower Wedges With Herb Tarator by Hetty McKinnon. These are meatless but meaty dinners that give you the endorphin rush of cooking over live fire, and the smug satisfaction of knowing that you prevented at least one dinner’s worth of cash from getting in the hands of the beef industry.
Later in the month we published Jocelyn Jackson’s Black-Eyed Pea Burgers, which get topped with a smoky barbecue sauce and Chowchow. In an essay that accompanies the recipes, Jackson writes of the histories—both personal and global—that allowed her to develop these dishes. I’m particularly in love with the way she talks about preserves: “The preservation process is a pathway to liberation and love,” Jackson writes. “[It’s] a legacy of resilience.”
Elsewhere on the site, we published a couple salads that could pair with that burger. Alexander Smalls's Creole Caesar packs in every flavor of summer, from the corn to the tomatoes to the okra. Equally as summer-y is Brigid Washington’s fiery, smoky-sweet Jerk Potato Salad. Make it and you’ll end up with extra jerk seasoning to use in other ways. Mashing it into butter “is a gift to yourself and all of the season’s ears of corn,” Washington writes. “It’s also an automatic game changer when slathered on zucchini, eggplant, and meaty portabella mushrooms.” (And yes, you can also use it on chicken.)
What about drinks? Well, yes, what about them? This is the month our resident cocktail expert Maggie Hoffman said that we don’t have to worry about shaking cocktails: all we have to do is open a bottle of vermouth. (It took less than ten minutes for me to place an order for vermouth after reading this piece, so maybe have your wallet handy before clicking.)
Our most popular new recipe this month is Tara O’Brady’s Homestyle Dosas with Tomato Chutney. I’ve personally been keeping myself in dosas all month thanks to this one (and the comprehensive guide to making homestyle dosas that O’Brady wrote to go alongside it).
We’d been talking about doing a dosa primer on Epi for years, and the spring felt like the right time: Seeing everybody take on sourdough, it seemed like our readers were hungry for fermentation projects. When I reached out to O’Brady in April about developing the dosa recipe for us, it was a standard, everyday ask.
But for O’Brady, receiving my email was, as she writes in this beautiful essay, “anything but” straightforward.
“A dosa tutorial would, I knew, highlight my race,” O’Brady writes. “And as a person of color, drawing such attention makes me vulnerable. I had a familiar apprehension that the project could be used to define me in a way from which my white peers would be spared.”
Tara’s essay is one of the most thoughtful pieces of writing Epicurious has ever published; read it while you wait for your homestyle dosa batter to ferment.
A final note about the recipes we worked on in July: Some of the most important work we did involved recipes that were published years ago. Our Archive Repair Project kicked off at the beginning of the month, has been ongoing as the month has progressed, and will continue until the work is complete.
The Smart Cook
Yesterday Americans got the news that the GDP dipped lower in the last three months than it ever had before. The economic slowdown is what initially inspired Epi to launch an affordable cooking initiative, The Smart Cook, in May; stories like yesterday’s are what inspire us to keep that initiative alive.
In July, our most popular Smart Cook story was—as so many Smart Cook stories are—not just a tip about affordable cooking, but a great tip about cooking in general. It’s all about citrus peels: Joe Sevier thinks you should be freezing them. “I started stockpiling citrus peels in earnest near the beginning of the coronavirus quarantine in New York City,” he writes. “[Adding them to sparkling water] is probably the most obvious way to use up citrus peels, but there are other ways I've found myself using them now that I always have a stash on hand.” What are those ways? Click to find out, or let the suspense ruin your weekend. Up to you!
Suspense was all over The Smart Cook this month. In her July installment of her Three Eggs and a Can column, Kendra Vaculin hypes a version of egg salad that is completely mayoless. What takes the place of the mayo? That’s where the suspense comes in.
Another Smart Cook column, Cheap Thrills, was on fire in July: we heard about from Hsiao-Ching Chou, Diala Canelo, and Darra Goldstein about the things they cook when they’re short on time and money. And on Instagram, we posted a photo of Wilson Tang’s Cheap Thrill: hot dogs wrapped in scallion pancakes.
Finally, over at Dinner and Change, our column about recipes that cost $10 or less, we lavished praise on a fish burger that isn’t tuna and the joys of sinangag, which Tiffany Hopkins eats for dinner, not breakfast (but don’t tell her mom that).
If you are going to spend money, Well Equipped, Epi’s shopping vertical, has some advice for how to spend that money wisely. This month the W.E. team unveiled their Cleaning Guide, which has recs on the best robo vacuums, feather dusters, scrub brushes, and solid dish soap (Wilder Davies says it’s better than the liquid stuff). But how clean does your kitchen really need to be, anyway? In his first piece for Epicurious, Eric Kim provides the answer.
If it’s upgrading rather than cleaning that you’re into, Lauren Joseph has recs for big pasta bowls and wares that give off farmhouse vibes. Eating more pizza than pasta? Yossy Arefi knows the pizza stone you should buy.
So many opinions! We’re not in the business of editorials at Epicurious, but then again, maybe we are? This month we put out strong positions about hot dog buns (split-top or don’t even bother), ice cubes (they should be big), hori horis (the only gardening tool you need), and, uh, Urban Outfitters (Kendra says the kitchen section is killer).
Maybe you disagree with these opinions? Maybe you have some opinions of your own you’d like to air? In that case, for you the most important article we published in July is probably our pitching guidelines. Send us your ideas for articles and who knows? Maybe you’ll see that article in the round-up I write for August.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious