Good morning. I was in Omaha over the weekend, talking food and culture with the good folks of Lauritzen Gardens and driving around town with Sarah Baker Hansen, the food critic for the Omaha World-Herald. We drank tall lattes from Archetype and ate ridiculously good focaccia at Farine and Four, then woofed down fried chicken for elevenses at Time Out Foods in advance of lunch at Block 16, downtown. Later there were slabs of Flintstone’s-style beef from Omaha Steaks.
It was a wild day of eating, and if I remain haunted by the Time Out chicken and the size-large T-bones, it’s the food of Paul and Jessica Urban at Block 16 that I’ll be messing around with in my kitchen at home, no-recipe cooking to recall their sly, joyful takes on late-night Midwestern restaurant food. First up, their Three Happiness burger, named for a local Chinese restaurant known for its crab Rangoon — fried won ton dumplings filled with crab-flecked cream cheese.
The Urbans cover a griddled burger with that filling, top it with a stir-fried coleslaw and chile sauce, and serve it on a soft sesame-seed bun. This is shockingly delicious even if you are not inebriated — even if you’ve never heard of crab Rangoon! — and you ought to make a version yourself, at home.
For the sauce: Flake a can of supermarket crab meat into a bowl with a brick of softened cream cheese, then thin it out with a little Worcestershire and soy sauces, maybe a dash of mayonnaise, and mix until it tastes just right. Then use it as a generous topping for a diner burger adorned with pickleback slaw.
Soundtrack: Bright Eyes, “First Day of My Life.”
I am deadly serious about the Three Happiness burger, because it made me laugh with delight. But if a burger covered in crab-flavored cream cheese isn’t quite your thing, I get it. As they say about Nebraska itself, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”
If that’s the case, cook this Sri Lankan dal (above) instead, which Tejal Rao learned to make from Meera Sodha, the British cookbook author, the red lentils brightened with garlic and ginger and plenty of chiles, then topped with coconut-flecked kale and plenty of lime juice. With rice and a little yogurt, that is an amazing meal.
Make broccoli and Cheddar soup. Or linguine with crisp chickpeas and rosemary. Or mushrooms on toast. (I may flex for that burger, but I’m eating more vegetarian food than ever before. On which subject, please read Julia Moskin on what omnivores get wrong about vegetarian cooking.)
Above all, as Emily Weinstein points out in her smart article leading The Times’s food section this week, about the joys and challenges of weeknight cooking, try to keep what you make simple, flavorful and “pantry-based.” (For example: Creamy white beans with herb oil. An excellent tuna salad. Pizza chicken. Eggs kejriwal!)
Thousands more possibilities for what to cook tonight and in coming days are on NYT Cooking. (You could learn to make yogurt with us. You could learn to make soup.) Yes, you do need a subscription to access them. That’s what allows us to keep doing this every day. We work for you!
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Now, go see what you think of Tad Friend on Impossible Burger and climate change, in The New Yorker.
Vanity Fair got the skinny on some new recruits to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
Finally, do read Vann R. Newkirk II in The Atlantic, on the land grab that left a million black families in America without their farms. I’ll be back on Friday.