Chocolate Pudding Is the Answer

Good morning. How are you? There’s a lot of anger circulating these days, pandemic-weary annoyance, medium-grade depression. I think it’s more important than ever that we try to believe that people are operating mostly from a position of good faith rather than bad, and to respond to the stimuli the pandemic offers us accordingly.

If you can bring that attitude into the kitchen, so much the better. The job there is simple: feed people. And when we do, we can make their lives slightly better, almost every time. That’s you and your family, of course. But it’s also the family that received the bags of beans you put in the take-what-you-need community pantry on the corner, or the neighbors for whom you baked a visiting cake or assembled a lasagna.

I got a letter the other day from a woman who has started leaving bags of cookies for the garbage collectors who service her home. They’ve become pandemic friends, waving at one another between the street and the kitchen window. They’re happier now than they were before that started happening. That’s not nothing.

What to cook? Yossy Arefi’s chocolate pudding with raspberry cream (above) is a dessert of great comfort, especially to follow Pierre Franey’s classic recipe for a macaroni and beef casserole. But you could bring joy to the table just as easily with kimchi fried rice, or with some loaded baked sweet potatoes with black beans and Cheddar.

I like this braised pork all’arrabbiata as well, mapo tofu always, and lately this lovely new dish from Yotam Ottolenghi: brown-butter butter beans with lemon and pesto.

Or you could cook without a recipe. It’s liberating just to jam off a prompt, to see what you come up with in your imagination. I took a walk with my friend Mickey on the beach at Fort Tilden in Queens the other day, and she described a dish she’s been cooking with chicken thighs, lemon and rosemary, roasted in the oven and served with mashed potatoes and candied carrots. I thought that sounded good. I made it that night.

The rough outline: Marinate the chicken thighs with sliced lemons, minced garlic, a sliced small onion, a bunch of rosemary, a glug of olive oil, a spray of salt, a juiced lemon. Then make little mounds of the onions and lemons and garlic on a sheet pan, and nestle the chicken thighs into them. Roast those in a 400-degree oven until the chicken skin is crisp and brown and the meat’s cooked through. I served the chicken with boiled potatoes mashed with a lot of butter, milk and plenty of salt, and some sautéed kale because I didn’t have carrots. I could make that a couple times a month, I think. So good.

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Now, it’s nothing to do with flaxseed or oat milk, and maybe it’s even a little soapy, but there are a few reasons you might enjoy the Danish crime series “Warrior” on Netflix. Chief among them is the actor Dar Salim, whom you may remember from “Borgen.”

I think you’ll like Mason Currey’s delightful interview with our own Tejal Rao, on Substack.

Likewise, Stephanie Burt on Stan Lee, in The New Yorker.

Finally, Jon Pareles put me on to Cherry Glazerr’s “Big Bang,” one of a baker’s dozen of new songs he and the rest of The Times’s pop music department assayed at the end of last week. Listen to that and I’ll be back on Friday.

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