Raise a Toast to Dinner

Say cheers with a Bee’s Knees, and cook up a pot of something warming.

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By Melissa Clark

February is firmly upon us, and if, like me, you’d like to raise a toast to the end of Dry January, the writer Robert Simonson has just the thing: the Bee’s Knees. The cocktail, that is. This classic quaff, possibly born in Jazz Age Paris, softens a standard gin sour, with honey swapping in for sugar. You can shake one up tonight or, for a spirit-free option, try a nonalcoholic French 75. Either way, a weeknight drink is the cat’s meow.

The family bartender, my husband, recently mixed a nice round of Bee’s Kneeses, which we enjoyed as our soup bubbled gently on the stove. You could do the same, perhaps letting Ali Slagle’s hearty new one-pot stew of broccoli and farro (above) simmer while you sip. She spikes the mix with white wine and capers, giving this meatless main course highly sophisticated flavors. Or, maybe you could whip up Vallery Lomas’s savory grits and greens, ready in 40 minutes and full of sharp Cheddar and soft collard greens.

I’ve been leaning into sheet-pan meals this past week as the temperatures plunged in New York City. There’s nothing as warming as sitting near a hot stove breathing in the scents of your fragrant dinner-to-be. You could make that dinner-to-be Yewande Komolafe’s coconut fish and tomato bake with turmeric and lime, or maybe her sheet-pan chicken with sweet potatoes and fennel. And I love the look of Zainab Shah’s sheet-pan paneer tikka, which, she notes, also works well with tofu.

While not necessarily a full meal, Dawn Perry’s crunchy, cheesy French bread pizzas, baked on a sheet-pan, are a perennial crowd-pleaser, with or without the pepperoni topping. (Anchovies make an excellent substitute). Serve with a Caesar salad (classic or vegan). Or you could go full-on pizza and try David Tanis’s California-style pizza with sweet and hot peppers, sans tomato sauce but with a simple homemade crust. (You can use purchased dough. I won’t tell.)

For dessert on a weeknight, an air-fryer cheesecake is easy enough, though it will need to sit overnight before you can dig in for creamy slices. Then, over the weekend, you can bake something else, like Ebinger’s blackout cake, a fudgy, pudding-filled blast from my childhood.

You do need a subscription for the recipes, and if you haven’t yet joined our merry band, won’t you consider subscribing today? You can also find us on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, where Yossy Arefi’s puffy homemade marshmallows get their own engrossing demonstration. If you run into any technical pitfalls, the clever team at [email protected] is there to help.

Back to bees: Out of all the insects, bees might be the most relatable. Science has shown that they play ball, dance, groom regularly, and scream when freaked out . Moreover, bees do indeed have knees.

One thing bees do not have, however, are ears. So some found it quaint last September when Queen Elizabeth’s royal beekeeper whispered to the royal hives the news of her death. But “telling the bees” is a centuries-old tradition that is deeply rooted, as the writer Will Hunt shows in a moving piece in Pioneer Works’s Broadcast. He takes us through a mock hive funeral staged by French beekeepers protesting pesticides and into sacred apiary caverns. He introduces us to ancient beelike priestesses called Melissae (no relation) and relates his own grandmother’s death to trace the relationship between bees and mourning. “In cultures all over the world, bees were regarded as the winged couriers to the otherworld — to send a message to the dead, one told the bees.”

I think many of us have a thing or two to whisper to the bees. See you on Wednesday.

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