Crispy rice and cannellini beans with charred broccoli, sweet potato and a lemon tahini drizzle; whole smoked cauliflower with lemon tahini, olives and currants; charred green beans with (again) tahini and turmeric fried onions—Brooklynite Hetty McKinnon’s recipes are what so many of us like to eat now.
The Arthur Street Kitchen cookbook author and recipe developer’s dishes first caught my eye on Instagram, where in addition to their sophisticated names and styling, they still seemed approachable and delicious. Trying several salads from her most recent Neighborhood cookbook has proven this to be true and, for the record, her guidance for what to make with leftover salad is ingenious.
McKinnon has a couple books under her belt in fact and has regularly recipe blogged for years. By and large she publishes “everyday food” for vegetable lovers, committed home cooks and moms like herself. Her latest publication goes in a slightly different direction, though. Released last fall, Peddler Journal is her (so far) quarterly recipe driven magazine that resists commercial compromises, allowing her to publish whatever recipes she wants.
The personal is universal
The first issue of Peddler Journal is largely, well, a journal. A cosmopolitan first-generation Chinese-born Australian, McKinnon chose a “Chinatown” theme since, around the world, these neighborhoods have consistently been a sort of home away from home. She weaves her personal anecdotes throughout the recipe-heavy issue that’s organized in five sections: “noodles,” “dumplings,” “salads,” “house specials” and “not too sweet.” Each of these chapters also includes contributions from fellow “everyday cooks” who, although of different Asian descent (Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese), share parallel experiences of being immigrants, mothers, daughters and transmitters of culinary tradition.
One of my favorite sections describes McKinnon’s rite of passage in learning her mother’s Lunar New Year recipes. Her mom grew up in a time when many young women had few opportunities outside of the home and instead came of age in the kitchen. “Without a cookbook in sight, with only her memory as a buttress, she cooks, with aplomb, a myriad of traditional and complex Cantonese dishes, many of which have long been abandoned by even the more senior members of her family,” she writes. McKinnon then describes what it meant to her to learn how to make these intimidating no-recipe, “all instinct” dishes, transcribing her own versions for the first time in print. Her translucent got jai dumplings—stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, black fungus, tofu and pickled daikon—are not meant to be definitive but rather a written record of the kitchen of her childhood home.
DIY chili oil that you’ll want to eat with everything
You can learn how to make these dumpling wrappers in Peddler, but as an easier gateway to Chinese cooking this Lunar New Year, we’re sharing one of the journal’s less labor intensive recipes for an aromatic chili oil. While not exactly the dumpling condiment McKinnon regularly grew up eating (her mom made more of a Southern Chinese-style chili paste that requires grinding and reducing), it stands as a delightful accompaniment.
Peddler‘s second issue is about childhood and due out this spring. You can follow and buy the journal here, and if you’re curious like I was about some of McKinnon’s favorite Manhattan Chinatown shops, look for Chinatown Supermarket of Manhattan, Hong Kong Supermarket, Joe’s Shanghai and those lining Hester Street.
Aromatic chili oil
This chili oil is not at all like the bottled varieties. It is rich and full of flavorful aromatics. Perfect for dumpling dipping.
½ cup grapeseed or sunflower oil
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of ginger, finely sliced
3 scallions, white part only
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
2–3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat, along with the aromatics—star anise, cinnamon stick, ginger, white part of scallions, fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, on a very low heat, allowing it to bubble gently and constantly (don’t let the spices burn).
Allow the oil to cool for about 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the red chili flakes and salt; mix well. While the oil is still warm, remove the spices (star anise, cinnamon, etc.) and VERY CAREFULLY pour the oil over the red chili flakes and salt. Stir well. This chili oil can be stored in a sterilized jar, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 months.
Copyright © Peddler Journal, 2017. Photos courtesy of Peddler Journal.