A Centre in a Table

Multiple Contributors

Dear friends,

This will be an ever-updating post, lasting as long as we need it to. It's created with the belief that we must continue to find ways to nourish each other remotely through this crisis. And get to know each other even better.

You can turn here when you need a recipe by your favorite poet, or maybe by an artist you don't know. "A Centre in a Table" is named after a line in Gertrude Stein's poem "Food", from Tender Buttons. Thanks for being here, and sign up here to receive the occasional update from us!

With love,



Cooking by Number: Pot Roast

Charles Bernstein

Written in 1988 for The Sun & Moon Guide to Eating through Literature and Art, ed. Douglas Messerli (Los Angeles,1994). Excerpt.

Why not get a whole brisket cut into two first cuts and one beef stew? I like the second cut but I get complaints at home about it – and if you push that sort of thing all you end up with is ulcers. I recommend using an apron whenever you step into the kitchen – and I mean a full length one, which I think of as being something like those long-riders coats you see in the Westerns, only with brighter colors.  Because the flour that you pour on the beef is bound to get all over you and the floor and the table – no way around it. Before I "flower" the meat, though, I usually put slivers of garlic under the fat and in the cracks. And I peel some onions, cut them in half, stick some cloves in.  The flowered meat needs to be browned on all sides – and there's nothing wrong with doing that in a little olive oil.  I use a big cast iron pan for the cooking.  After browning, I fill up the pan with half wine and half water, up to the level of beef: too much liquid dries the thing out, too little and you've got nothing to pour on your rice for the next few days.  (This last is an issue of almost Talmudic complexity but I don't have the space to adequately address it here.)  I toss the onions in, season with pepper, a tiny drop of salt, fresh parsley and dill, and oregano (yes that is odd but then there is very little else original about this recipe).  After a while – you be the judge – I throw in some cut-up celery, carrots, maybe mushrooms.  The whole thing needs to cook for at least two hours at a low simmer.  It's even better the next day.

Kyuuri no Shiomomi, or Shiomomi for short, or Salt-massaged Cucumber

Sawako Nakayasu

1. Slice cucumber into rounds, as thinly as possible.
2. Place in bowl, add about 1tsp of salt per cucumber.
3. Massage the salt into cucumber, about one minute. Let sit a few minutes.
4. Squeeze. Drain liquids.
5. Serve. Watch the kids fight over it.

ReciPJ's Big Apple Squares

Paolo Javier

350 degrees*, 45 mins

1 stick butter or 1/2 c margarine
1 c sugar, sifted
1 egg, well beaten
2 large apples, pared & chopped (or 3 small apples)
1 c flour sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Mix apples w/ a little sugar & cinnamon
2. Cream together margarine, sugar & eggs
3. Add dry ingredients all together to mixture
4. Pour on pan & sprinkle additional sugar & cinnamon

* cover in foil for a gooey batch

Related Link: https://www.nioneditions.org/catalog/maybe-the-sweet-honey-pours

Sourdough Pancakes

Kay Gabriel

I fucking, fucking love sourdough pancakes. The texture is strange but appealing, somewhere between a bread’s cottony crumb and a cake-like fluff. They’re almost a shortcut to enjoying the pleasures of a really good doughnut: think sweet, tangy, fried bread.

You’ll need an active sourdough starter, and beyond that they’re pretty hard to fuck up.

I begin by pouring off the excess from my sourdough starter—the 100 grams or so that would’ve just gone down the drain otherwise. Weigh the excess, feed it with equivalent weights of flour and water and leave to ferment, you know, 4-6 hours at room temperature, until it’s very bubbly and full of air. Add 1C milk of your choice (I use oat), 2 tbsp sugar, 1tbsp neutral oil, ½ tsp kosher salt, and an egg or equivalent vegan egg replacement (I use a tablespoon of ground hemp hearts), then just enough flour till it forms a loose drop batter. (If you leave out the “egg,” the texture will be much more like a batter bread; when you eat it it’ll almost tear apart. If you put it in, you’re getting closer to traditional pancake territory. I forgot it last week and probably liked them even better.) Leave to ferment overnight, up to 24 hours, out at room temp.

When you’re ready to cook the batter, add 1½ tsp baking powder; if you want a little more leavening, you can also add ½ tsp baking soda. You do need a chemical leavener, cause the yeast in the sourdough won’t be able all on its own to give the batter the rise it needs for heat to penetrate and for the batter to cook through. Heat a neutral oil in a nonstick pan on medium heat until a flick of water spatters just a bit, then ladle about 1/3C of the mixture into the pan at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes a side, depending on the heat in your pan; using a spatula, check the bottom regularly for browning. While you’re cooking pancakes, have a plate with a clean dish towel set to one side of the stove; as pancakes finish, you can set them in a stack wrapped in the towel, and they won’t lose heat till you’re done.

Carbonated Cognac Comfort

Meg Onli

I am a huge fan of bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana. This recipe is his Southern Comfort with a couple changes for my pallet, which favors cognac over bourbon. This drink is made in a soda siphon, but can be adjusted for a non-carbonated drink. This makes several generous glasses.

8 ounces Cognac (I prefer Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac)
9 ounces tea syrup*
1 ounce Peach brandy
1/2 Lemon juice
3 1/2 ounces water (I get generous with the water since this drink is strong)

1. Add all ingredients to a cold iSi soda siphon and charge.
2. Shake the canister vigorously, then place it in the
refrigerator for at least two hours, or preferably, overnight.
3. With the canister upright, very slowly release the pressure
by pressing down the lever.(Do this a little bit at a time over
the course of half an hour or so, storing in the fridge in between.)
4. Carefully open the top of the canister and pour the drink
into a highball glass over crushed ice. Bottle remained of drink.

* Tea Syrup:
1 heaping teaspoon earl grey tea
1 heaping teaspoon mint tea
32 ounces boiling water
2 1/2 cups white sugar

Horseradish Bloody Mary

Charles Theonia

ordinarily they wouldn’t but supposing they did pour their own drink, suppose they did it and very well indeed:

2 oz vodka, or tequila, to be honest
3/4 cup tomato-vegetable juice
2 tablespoons pickle brine
2 teaspoons grated horseradish
juice of 1/2 lemon
dash of liquid smoke
dash of habanero bitters
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
freshly-ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic
smoked salt

and what is bitter, and what does feeling mean
if they did their own feeling and surely they didn’t

shake all ingredients (except pepper, garlic, and salt) with ice

to decorate: cut a slit 3/4 of the way through a clove of garlic, run it around the rim of a cup
pour salt on a plate, roll rim in salt

in the interest of ease, do this before pouring

a lemon wedge is welcome, celery, pickled okra, etc. are welcome

grind pepper over top, drink at least two:

to take again is adorable is to adore is to take again

Spinach Soup

Cat Tyc

- In a heavy bottom soup pot, heat 1 tbs of butter or olive oil.
- When hot, add 1 small onion or shallot ( my personal preference)
- Saute until clear.
- Add 3-4 twists of pepper, 1 pinch of nutmeg, 1 pinch of all spice, and a dab of salt

Add 2-3 potatoes, diced and other veg. Sometimes I add carrots or mushrooms. Stir well, then add 4-6 cups of stock. ( I find veggie to be best but I bet a nice Bone broth could work well.) I also add noodles (usually angel hair or ramen.)

Cover and simmer on low until potatoes are soft (give or take, 20 -30 min)

Then add, 1 lb. of fresh spinach. It will shrink down considerably once cooked but will make soup quite thick.

You might want to add more stock around now.

Cook for about five min. Until spinach is cooked but about bright green.

Let soup cool a bit. Add salt for flavor and top with grated parmesan cheese before serving.

Video at the top: Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen