Baking in service of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a new pistachio Bundt cake and more.
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By Melissa Clark
Yesterday, Jan. 15, was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which the United States celebrates today. Had he not been assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39, he might have celebrated his 94th birthday this year. To commemorate his life’s work, today is a national day of service, the only federal holiday that encourages people to volunteer to help improve their communities. As Dr. King wrote in a letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail on April 16, 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” These words still deeply resonate.
For those who have the day off and the oven on, it could be a good time to bake something sweet to share with a local food pantry or a community fridge. Dr. King was partial to pecan pie, but Samantha Seneviratne’s pecan squares are easier to parcel out and have a similar caramelized nuttiness. For the best kind of baking mash-up, try my pecan pie brownies with gooey, bittersweet undersides.
If you’d rather bake a cake, you could try the chef Joshua Pinsky’s truly magnificent pistachio Bundt cake (above), adapted by Priya Krishna, that he serves at the New York restaurant Claud. The cake’s secret ingredient took me straight to my childhood birthday parties in the 1970s, which always ended with Martian green layer cakes made from boxes of pistachio pudding mix. Mr. Pinsky’s recipe satisfied a craving so deep that I forgot I even had it.
As a responsible adult, I suppose I should recommend you make something for dinner before all that dessert. I have a new recipe for a simple one-pot green curry salmon and coconut rice with sophisticated flavors, thanks to an electrifying dollop of Thai curry paste. Vegetarians might opt for an umami-rich dish of tofu with mixed grains — hearty rice bowls dotted with crunchy quinoa. Or perhaps a comforting plateful of homemade pierogi with potatoes and cheese.
But maybe you’re in the market for a leisurely lunch or brunch. Hetty McKinnon’s miso butter mushrooms with silky eggs — a riff on an Australian cafe-style egg dish with rippled, barely cooked eggs — could be just the thing to set you up for some serious baking.
You need a subscription for the recipes, which we have by the thousands, ready and waiting for your perusal. You can also check us out on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, where I share the finer points of using that new air-fryer you might have gotten for the holidays, along with recipes for sweet potato fries, chicken breasts with a soy sauce marinade, and, my favorite air-fryer hack, a tall and creamy cheesecake. And I’m here at [email protected] I love to read every one of your notes, even if I can’t reply to them all.
Now, back to Dr. King. On April 7, 1968, just three days after he was shot, the singer Nina Simone performed “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)” at the Westbury Music Festival in Long Island, N.Y. Gene Taylor, her bass player, had written the song only the day before. Almost unrehearsed, Simone’s aching performance distills the rawness and rage at Dr. King’s sudden loss, and also captures the visionary love he embodied. In 2023, the recording and the emotions it documents hit as hard as the day it was taped.
I’ll see you Wednesday.
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