While cooking, listen to this: Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin, the original diva

Three times a year, my company offers a free book drop. They send out a list of about 75 titles and you get to pick seven that will magically appear on your desk 3-5 business days later. Granted, you can always email publicists and editors around the company to ask for a specific book, but there's something extra-special about the free book drop. 

I almost always opt for the most expensive books. Yeah, I'll be that jerk who sorts the books by price. But usually I have all the trade books I could possibly read in two lifetimes on my bookshelf, so why not. Most of the time, they're giant coffee table books, sometimes they're cookbooks, but every so often you get a giant DK encyclopedia from the Smithsonian or somewhere that shouts SPORTS or ART or FASHION on the front cover. These books are heavy enough to get a pretty solid pilates workout in, but I absolutely love them. And lately, I got blessed with a DK book on my favorite topic, MUSIC. 

The book was filled with the entire history of music, starting before humans were civilized and ending in the modern era. Everything I'd ever learned from years of classical training and college-level musicology courses came back to me with the ebb and flow of something truly beautiful. Mozart and the classics, Bach and the Baroques, my favorite, Chopin and the romantics. Whenever I get a brain blast from staring at my work inbox for too long, I'll turn on some of the classical greats and flip through MUSIC for some not-so-light reading.

You may or may not notice that Rina and I recommend a song in every post. Of course, music is incredibly subjective, but Rina and I tend to be on the same page, when it comes to tunes. Every so often we differ on music (I'm not Beyonce's biggest fan, there I said it. Rina, is a proud member of the Beyhive), but for the most part, we both love jazzy/folksy rooted songs, or maybe some R&B style old-school tunes. I, myself, tend to veer more down the rock 'n' roll path, and Rina likes going the hip-hop route. All in all, we very much enjoy each other's song recommendations, and I know I can count on Rina for some reliable tunes. And believe you me, when it comes to music I'm picky.  

So, I thought it'd be fun to collect all of our song recommendations in one place. Be sure to check out our homepage, where I've added a widget of every While Cooking, Listen to This song (minus two songs from Beyonce's Lemonade, because apparently she's anti-Spotify? unclear.) We'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Oh yeah, and one more thing. These pea shoots. Like music, Rina and I agree on recipes we make 99% of the time, but sometimes certain food items are just too weird and we agree to disagree. While Rina loved the garlic and ginger flavor of these shoots, there was something about the woodsy crunch she just couldn't get past. I found them refreshingly delicious, but if pea shoots aren't your thing (or your local store or farmer's market is out), this can certainly be done with kale, bok choy, sugar snap peas, broccoli rabe, you name it. Extra tasty with rice, but just as delicious by itself, this recipe is extremely versatile and the ultimate lazy weeknight meal. 

So, toss a bunch of stuff into a wok or frying pan, turn up the tunes and enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Probably won't miss the miserable subway stations and the sky high A/C bills, but something about NYC in the summer is magical, and I'm going to soak up every last bit of it.

xo, Alyssa


Yield: 6 servings

Total Cook Time: 5-10m

Category: Sides, Vegan

Source: Food Network


2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

2 pounds pea shoots

1 Tablespoon neutral oil

2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons soy sauce/tamari

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Toast the sesame seeds: in a small, dry saute pan, add the sesame seeds and turn heat to medium. Toast for a few minutes until lightly golden and fragrant. Keep your eye on them, they'll turn on you in an instant.

Prepare the pea shoots: wash and dry the shoots and cut them into 2-inch pieces.

Heat the aromatics: in a large saute pan or wok heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly golden and fragrant - do NOT let the garlic burn, it will taste awful. Add the pea shoots, turn the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add in the soy sauce and pepper and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

To keep: these will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, but are best eaten right off the heat.