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. And get 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, sign up here to receive the occasional update.

With love,



black-eyed peas with bacon (for Isaac)

Simone White

My five-year old son is a picky eater. He likes complex flavors (will eat a curry but not a burger, red pepper but not cheese). He will also eat almost any kind of bean. This is a recipe for black-eyed peas that he calls "bacon beans." Black-eyed peas are sacred in the cooking of Southern black people. My grandmother grew a variety known as "purple hulled peas" in Scott County, Mississippi, the flavor of which cannot be replicated as far as I know. Any canned or dry black-eyed pea will work. Not for the calorie conscious, but this is rich and delicious, can be served over any kind of rice, with an egg on top, or with a side of sauteed greens.  

3 slices of thick cut (preferably uncured) bacon (diced into 1/2 in squares)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 can or about
2 cups of fresh black-eyed peas*
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Using a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until crispy (careful not to burn). Pour off all but about a teaspoon of the bacon fat. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onions and olive oil, cooking the onions with the bacon until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, cinnamon and tomato paste and cook another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. You'll have a paste that is in danger of burning. To this, add the black-eyed peas, salt, pepper, brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil and then barely simmer until a thick gravy starts to form. You might have to add a more water, like a 1/4 cup at a time to get it to the consistency you want. Should take 20 minutes for canned beans to cook down, less for dried. 

*dried black eyed peas should be pre-cooked! 

rinse and pick through about 1/2 pound of dried peas. cover with 4 cups of water or so that all the peas are covered by about 2 inches of water. bring to a boil, then remove from heat and soak 1-2 hours. drain and cover with 5-6 cups of fresh water. bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender but not mushy (about an hour)

Korean Okra Kimchi

Sueyeun Juliette Lee

I love kimchi and I love okra, so I decided to try out an okra kimchi. This is enough for 2 16oz jars.

2lbs okra
8 cloves garlic
1 small yellow onion
3 stalks scallions
8 stalks Asian chives (optional)
1 inch knob fresh ginger (optional)
1 Tbsp sea salt
1-2 Tbsp Korean red pepper flakes (or more if you wanna get wild and hot!)
1 Tbsp Korean salted fermented shrimp **
half cup, consistency like a runny yogurt
3 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp refined sugar

** Can’t find salted fermented shrimp? Make a paste from 1 cup water simmered with approx. 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour [you can substitute wheat flour if you don’t have sweet rice flour] to make a paste—should yield about a quarter to half cup, which will be plenty for this. If you’re using this paste and not the salted shrimp, you’ll need to add sea salt to your kimchi paste til its salty—if it’s not salted enough it might not pickle and just rot. Salt level should be enjoyable, like your kimchi!

Btw all measurements are estimates. Mix things til they taste good for you.

Rinse the okra well and let it sit in cold water with sea salt for an hour, then rinse and let dry

CHOP the garlic, ginger, scallions, and chives into small julienned size pieces
SLICE the onion thinly into strips
MIX all these ingredients with the salted shrimp (or flour paste), fish sauce, and
sugar til you have a thick fragrant kimchi paste
CUT the okra in half, toss with this kimchi paste and mix well, making sure all
surfaces of the okra are well covered

STORE in a SEALED GLASS container on your kitchen counter for 2-3 days. Pack it in! Press that okra down hard and try to eliminate spaces/gaps in the container. Turn it over a few times each morning and burp it (fermentation will release gas). After 2-3 days you can put it in your fridge to stop the pickling process. You can keep it out longer if you want them to be very sharp, but I don’t recommend going past 4 days, otherwise you’ll start to get a weird spicy okra beer slop that won’t be yummy.


Baked Mackerel with Herbs for Two (adapted from Anissa Helou’s Mediterranean Street Food)

Claudia La Rocco

2 mackerel (rubbed with salt if you like)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1½ lemons
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
Several leaves of fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, place fish in baking pan just large enough to easily hold them, mix all other ingredients and pour over fish. Cook for 15-18 minutes.

Serve over baby arugula, drizzled in cooking juices, s&p, etc. Goes nicely with roasted potatoes and veggies, which you can place in the oven 20-35 minutes before the fish goes in, depending how well done you like them.

Recipe is forgiving and easily adapted to serve more people, play with different herbs and seasonings, etc. The only important thing is not to overcook fish.


Weird / Everything Rice II Adventure Geaux Sinangag

Jerika Marchan

Ingredients (req.):
• rice (pref: long grain jasmine, old but not bad, & cold frm the fridge)
• garlic cloves (I use 7 or 10, but use as many as you like || as many as you can
stand, crushed, minced, chopped, thinly sliced—however u like && using sliced
fried garlic as garnish if you want)
• salt
• oil (drizzle)
Extra (xxextra):
• soy sauce
• mirin || sugar cane vinegar || coconut vinegar || vinegar
• egg(s)

1. heat oil in pan: medium-high heat. fry the thin garlic slicies until golden brown
&& set aside for garnish.
2. lower heat to medium, add minced (or w/e) garlics, stirring 2 prevent burn 4 1
min until smells nice && cute—then add rice, breaking up clumps and
letting a lil crisp happen. Season w/ salt &&|| soy sauce (a glug glug), mirin ||
vinegar (sloosh). (black pepper for always) (even smoked paprika?)) You can
serve & eat immediately but also go on diff xxadventures such as:

a.) fry an egg(s)(s)(s) in hot oil until lovely deep crisp lacey edges occur but is
still runny on top mmmm
b.) hit w/ fresh dill or another tender herb (or tough herb).
c.) leftover beans. (roasted chickpeas—curried? even better) any leftover
proteins, rly. gotta loose hotdog? chop it up & do it!
d.) w/e pickles are around for some brightness—I like pickled Fresno peppers
&&|| radishes &&|| carrots
e.) quickly sauté some kale or frozen veg are delightful. nice!
f.) once when xxsad, I topped w/ a can of tuna. Good quality ( || not, w/e)
sardines or herring are much better than that.

Yogurt Sauce (and Yogurt Soup)

Marcella Durand

I like to make yogurt sauce because it is almost infinitely adjustable using different spices, herbs or vegetables to add protein and probiotics to just about everything (but especially rice and especially leftover rice). So here are some of my favorite combinations:

Mix yogurt with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a dash of salt, spoon over cooked rice. Add a handful of mango chunks (can be frozen, especially if you're 12). 

Mix yogurt with turmeric, salt and mustard seeds, add to cooked rice with whatever chutneys or pickles you currently have in the fridge (I have cilantro chutney and green mango chutney). 

Mix yogurt with olive oil and za'atar (or fresh dill, finely chopped, if you have it), spoon over sliced lightly salted cucumbers with some good bread on the side. Or spoon over fish (baked or panfried). Roasted cauliflower is also delicious with yogurt sauce and some tahini. 

Dice cucumbers finely and mix into yogurt with olive oil and za'atar; serve with pita, humus, olives, feta cheese, other mezze.

Yogurt sauce can also easily be turned into yogurt soup! Dilute yogurt with water, add cucumbers, a touch of garlic (I'm of the wave-the-garlic-gently-over-the-bowl school myself), salt, some chopped parsley on top. Sumac, if you have it, is also very pretty on the top. Or cilantro. Or dill. Or oregano. Whatever you have on hand. 

As a lagniappe, I'm going to throw in my recipe for mustard vinaigrette: about a tablespoon of mustard, two tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (these measurements are all approximate--adjust to how much acidity and bite you like in your vinaigrette). Some black pepper. Whisk briskly with a fork until emulsified. Excellent with freshly foraged dandelion leaves, one hard-boiled egg and anchovy filets. 

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