Printed word rituals + sandwich contemplation

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Little by little, shelf by shelf, my house is filling up with magazines. Piles of dogeared, coffee-stained New Yorkers and Atlantics, whole shelves crammed with food and fashion magazines of varying age and condition, and the prized bookbound Kinfolk issues neatly stacked under the coffee table.

There are plenty of books, too, though their numbers have leveled off considerably since I caved and got a Kindle.

My true printed love has always been magazines. Less fleeting than daily news with feature stories that can live far beyond the day or week of their release, though most are easily enough consumed in several minutes. Some stay with you–reflections from the survivor of a strange or cruel trial imbue a weird funk that you can’t shake. A powerful descriptor thrusts an everyday city street, meal or facial feature into the spotlight of an otherwise mundane routine.

Words can of course be as powerful on a screen, but print comes with a mini ritual that forces the reader to engage in a way that dragging a finger over a screen can’t replicate. Turning a page or creasing a newspaper, slipping an old train stub in between pages to serve as a makeshift bookmark. Such printed word rituals were on my mind this week after I watched an older man methodically read his newspaper on the crowded subway. Deft folds between spreads to keep the paper’s real estate to a minimum. A quick, clean rrrrip to remove the stock numbers page of the business section, which he then folded and tucked in his jacket pocket for later. Surpassing the entire “life” section with a “flip” after pinching the snubbed portion between his fingers and thumb.

As everyone else on the train stared down at their smartphones, it was impossible to tell who was reading something aside from that man with his paper.

All this print nostalgia has very little to do with this chicken sandwich, which I made for Sean one evening before meeting a friend for dinner. But like a New Yorker review I just read of Tina Fey’s new Netflix sitcom, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” I contemplated each layer of this sandwich probably way longer than I should have.

To be fair, it is pretty damn complex for a chicken sandwich. The chicken is laced with citrus and warming Indian spices; blistered shishito peppers lend a grassy, smoky flavor brightened by a squirt of fresh lemon juice; the feta adds sharp saltiness; and fresh cilantro heightens the grassy, citrus flavors that permeate this dinner-worthy sandwich.


Blistered shishito and chicken sandwich
serves 1


    1 chicken breast
    1 lemon, divided
    Extra virgin olive oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Salt and pepper
    3 or 4 whole shishito peppers
    1 small shallot
    8-inch piece of crusty bread (ciabatta or a bolillo roll works well)
    2 ounces feta cheese
    1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Method: Put the chicken breast in a quart-size freezer bag with the juice of half the lemon, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the garam masala, cayenne, garlic and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Close the bag and massage the marinade into the chicken until evenly coated. Marinate for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, the shishitos, shallot and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until the peppers are blistered on all sides and the shallots are caramelized, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the juice of the other half of the lemon over the vegetables, remove them from the heat and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.


Remove the chicken from the marinade bag, and slice it into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss it with a bit more salt and pepper. (As you can see, I marinaded three chicken breasts at once–so tripled the marinade amount–because this chicken is effing good in/on everything.)


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the chicken when the oil slides easily around the pan. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes until just done. Remove, and set aside.


To build the sandwich, slice the bread in half, and tear out a little of the inside if it seems too bready. Spread each side with a bit of mayo.

Slice the shishitos in half and remove the stems if you prefer. Layer on the chicken, feta, shishitos, shallots, spinach and cilantro leaves.



Close and shovel in mouth immediately.

Gambas al ajillo


Last weekend, my dear friend Maggie and I got together to cook, eat, drink wine and reminisce about our recent trip to Spain and Portugal. Last September, the two of us rented a Smart car and drove from Madrid to Rioja, San Sebastian and Leon before heading due west to Guimaeres and Porto, Portugal, and then finishing the trip in Salamanca and our beloved Madrid.

Maggie, muy jovial (como siempre), at the Mercado de San Miguel

Maggie, muy jovial (como siempre), at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain

Looking down on beautiful San Sebastian

Looking down on bella San Sebastian, Spain

The perfect lunch in an overcast Salamanca

The perfect lunch in an overcast Salamanca, Spain

Tasting porto at Ferreira port cellar, Porto, Portugal

Tasting porto at Ferreira port cellar, Porto, Portugal

Pinxos de anchoa, San Sebastian

Pinxos de anchoa, San Sebastian

Dinner outside on the streets of Leon, Spain

Dinner outside on the streets of Leon, Spain

Rainy Porto, Portugal

Rainy Porto, Portugal

Vinas de la Rioja, Spain

Vinas de la Rioja, Spain

Jamon the Smart car ready to leave rainy Guimaeres, Portugal

Jamon the Smart car ready to leave rainy Guimaeres, Portugal

Sunset, Querida Madrid

Sunset, Querida Madrid

As the wine flowed, more and more Spanish snuck into the conversation while we pored over photos, snacked on pan con tomate (crusty bread smeared with tomato), and made tortilla espanola (Spanish omelet) and quick gambas al ajillo (garlicky shrimp in olive oil).

Mira! Cut the potatoes in little, bite-sized cubes asi.”



“Hee-MAHR-es? Guee-mare-es? Dios mio, we visited the damn town and still don’t know how to pronounce it?” (Full disclosure: We never really learned much Portuguese aside from desculpe, which means “sorry.”)

Pues, anchoas are NOT boquerones, right? Isn’t that what Judith (pronounced Hoo-DEET, the name of the friend we made at a corner bar in Madrid) said?” (We think boquerones refers only to vinegar-cured, Spanish white anchovies.)

“Remember how Madre (the nickname we gave the brusque, pushy proprietor of our crappy San Sebastian hotel) eventually warmed to us because we are so jovial y amable?”

Pues, si, we are.”

Later joined by the Mister, who initiated a marvelous game of Scattergories, the three of us sat up eating, drinking y charlando till probably 3 am, but Maggie and I never achieved our original goal of making a photo album.

Oh well. La proxima vez, no?

This beautiful dish of shrimp, sliced garlic, parsley and olive oil cooks in the time it takes you to open a bottle of rose, which is great if you look up and realize it is 10 pm, you’re a couple bottles of wine in, and the Mister is threatening to order a pizza because all you’ve served so far is lots of pan con tomate.


Gambas al ajillo


    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    3 large cloves garlic, sliced
    1/4 cup torn fresh parsley leaves (plus a handful more for garnish)
    1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I left the tails on for easy grabbing)
    Salt, to taste
    Crusty bread, for serving

Method: Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until it slides easily around the pan. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic and parsley and cook for about 10 seconds.


Crank the heat to high and add the shrimp and a sprinkling of salt.


Cook, tossing a few times, until they’re pink and starting to curl, about 3 minutes. Spoon the shrimp and garlicky oil into a big shallow bowl, top with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread for sopping.