Beatjack – or, my baby got sauce

Don’t forget to tell us about the thing you always make strictly by-the-recipe for a chance to win an amazing Vietnamese cookbook! Entries will be closed Sunday night at midnight …

Our long weekend in Oregon was wonderful – family, friends, food, and of course the mind-blowing highlight, baby Gabe graduated! Wow. Those were the best parts. But another really great part was Saturday – we spent the day at the Multnomah County Fair – small, relatively low-key, and perfect for our assorted toddlers and preschoolers. Jacob and Sonia rode a ferris wheel for the first time, Lucas got a first taste of sugary kettle corn, and all the cousins shared real-cream, Oregon dairy soft serve … parents too.

We had a fantastic dinner at Screen Door (I will be attempting to recreate a couple of those dishes for sure!) and then we got to go to Dan’s poetry reading, where I was introduced to Phoebe Wayne, who was terrific.

Now. Let me put a great big reminder about something here: I am not hip. Oh, I can hang with the hipsters, as evidenced by Saturday night in Portland – but I will never have the perfect vintage lace dress to wear, my hair is pretty much always pony-tail bound, I prefer yoga pants to skinny jeans, and the only 80s retro items I own are two faded No Nukes! t-shirts of my mom’s.  I don’t want you all to get the wrong idea, since this post talks about poetry readings in Portland, and the meter of rap songs, and off-the-grid awesome restaurants in warehouse districts. None of this is coming from me, friends: it is my brother Dan all the way.

And Dan, though he would be loathe to admit it, is wonderfully hip. He gets some of this hipness from his beautiful and quietly stylish wife, Kate. But he might also have reverse-inherited it from my niece Sonia, with her Amelie bangs and self-selected pattern-catastrophe outfits. If you knew him in high school, you may recall him more as hipness-in-waiting than as actually hip … but now he is as hip as our family gets (Melissa being an outlier, obviously).

Dan was reading from his new work, The Great American Beatjack Volume I, which is being published by Perfect Lovers Press in Cincinnati. This is one of those very cool projects that (for us non-hipsters anyway) requires a bit of explanation. A beatjack, then, is when a rapper takes another rapper’s beat, but puts his own rap over it. Per Dan (and definitely not me) “a famous example is Lil Wayne’s DOA, which “jacks” the beat from Jay Z’s D.O.A.

Right. So, how are Dan’s new poems beatjacks, exactly? Here is part of the explanation from the liner note:

To write this project, I picked fifty poems from various parts of the canon of American poetry & hip hop. I was looking for a few things especially—poems that referenced or rewrote older poems, poems having to do with domesticity & family, & poems that made some gesture toward an idea of national identity. I ordered the poems more or less chronologically, then paired the first & fiftieth, second & 49th, & so on.  I then rewrote the poems while more or less maintaining the original meter, & also crossfading the content with the poem’s pair. … I often kept the original opening line; I tried to bring a complete line from each poem into its pair; I often kept one original line intact in each poem. I wrote large sections of these poems longhand on damp blue paper while in Tulum, Mexico.

And Hannah, you say, confused, Tulum Mexico is beautiful, and so hip, and I totally love and/or hate Lil Wayne – but how on earth does any of this relate to that delicious-looking sauce pictured up top? Oh right. You’re here for the sauce. Well, I’m getting there …

If a beatjack of a song is taking someone else’s beat and rapping over it, and a beatjack of a poem means taking someone else’s meter and writing your own words to it,  I decided that a beatjack of a recipe would be to take someone else’s idea, and put my own ingredients to it.

And one of the ideas I have been obsessed with lately is this one, from the inimitable Ottolenghi (and doesn’t he just fit in a post so hip?!) and his delectable book Plenty:

I have a terrible habit of adding yogurt or sour cream to almost anything that has been cooking a long time, has got a lot of heat, is slightly greasy, or just seems heavy. Terrible because I know not everyone is keen on adding dairy products left, right and center, particularly not to a perfectly nice dish of pulses, a spicy vegetable stew, or a roasted cut of lean meat. So here’s a perfect alternative …

He goes on to make a cucumber and cilantro relish with sesame seeds and garlic and ginger, which looks really delicious. And I loved this idea – this idea of something that would freshen and brighten without also creaming, if that makes sense. I had fresh baby onions in the CSA, lemon-thyme in the garden, and some baby artichokes that I had breaded and pan-fried that were just crying out for something bright and acidic … so I beatjacked Ottolenghi’s recipe, and here we are.

Oh, and it was good. Dan tells me that part of the beatjack spirit is one of one-ups-manship. I would never claim to have bested Ottolenghi, who is a hero of mine – but I will say this sauce was so amazing, that versions have graced our table as salad dressing, dipping sauce, even dessert … every night since. We’ll talk more about that next time. For now, I leave you with a photo of our happy grad, and a sauce that your baby (and you) should love.

This is a public service announcement from Kyle: he believes that the next iteration of this sauce should be strained, mixed with tequila, and served margarita style, on the rocks. So there’s that, for your weekend. Cheers!

The graduate.

The sauce.

Baby Onion Sauce with lemon thyme and white balsamic
Beatjacked from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Cucumber salad with smashed garlic and ginger recipe in the awe-inspiring book Plenty

Ottolenghi went surprisingly heavy on the sugar in his salad, especially given that he uses rice wine vinegar. The thing is this: the sweetness actually makes the tang and zip of the other ingredients stand out. I’m no flavor chemist, but I think that having a steady background note helps unify the flavors and also helps them zing. So it might seem like a lot, but give it a try – if you need to tone down the sweetness, just add a bit more vinegar or oil, and adjust seasonings like you would with a salad dressing (which, in truth, is more or less what you have here).

1 baby onion, sliced very thin, plus an inch or so of the green stems sliced thin (like you would green onions)
1 large lemon, zest and juice (plus more to taste – we made it rather lemony)
1 small lime, zest and juice
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 springs lemon thyme, leaves pulled off and chopped once or twice through
1-2 tablespoons canola oil

Mix the ingredients in the order they are listed, combining well. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. It should be thick enough to spoon on top of a pan-fried artichoke, vegetable stew, grilled piece of fish, or whatever your heart desires. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

4 thoughts on “Beatjack – or, my baby got sauce

  1. Hip? Sometimes geeky weird can be seen as hip… so at times the old man maybe counts? And for sure your old lady was hip… so Dan, and you, come by your own special hipness honestly. This beatjack sauce sounds delicious, and so simple, that even I can jack it and submit it to my usual non-recipe machinations. But with tequila? Come on Kyle, you’re making excuses to throw down another shot….

    • Kyle will throw down with the best of them … but there actually is something really margarita like here! Lime, sugar, salt … and the onion adds something. I’ll bet there is actually a hip bar in Portland somewhere that uses this exact mix in a margarita. It is surely made with fancy tequila and has a name paying homage to some obscure Mexican beach.

  2. Your protests notwithstanding, this all sounds rather hip to me. (Also delicious, although I’ll let Kyle report back on the salad-dressing margarita before I try it.)

    • When we’re with Dan we can’t help it :) Also hip: your blog’s new name ;) I should have some news on the margarita front come Monday! We’ll keep you posted.

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