We are back. Back in the U.S. Back on the west coast. Back in gray and rainy Portland. This past weekend we had a taste of spring, but otherwise it has been wet. And between the weather and having a bit more time on my hands and a fully functional kitchen again, I have been cooking some of my favorite warming meals. (Big shout out to friends Mac and Carmelle who are letting us room with them while we look for a place to live!) This recipe is one of those dishes. You may have heard of this pie, or at least the book series it is inspired by, Redwall. When I was younger, my older sister Emily was obsessed with the series, which focuses on a series of woodland creatures who live in mostly an abbey. If I recall correctly, there are castles and ghosts, banquets and wizards. I think of it as Camelot meets the Borrowers. My mother, being the amazing woman she is, somehow found a recipe for this pie, Deeper ‘n Ever Turnip ‘n Tater ‘n Beetroot Pie, and would make it for us, making us feel as if we were at the table during those banquets, eating alongside otters, squirrels, and birds.
This pie screams cozy to me. You start with a buttery, savory pie dough, layer the filling with cheese, mashed vegetables, beets, caramelized onions, and more cheese, and bake until the crust is golden. As an adult, I realize the amount of work that goes into this, and how long my mom must have spent in the kitchen making it: caramelizing onions, mashing potatoes and turnips, boiling beets, shredding cheese. It also is a great base for something that is easy to riff on – you could add squash, greens, mushrooms, peppers.
Well friends, this is the last post from my time in Thailand. Although I’ve been gone from the country for a month and a half now, the fact is that after this post I’ll be done writing about it, looking at pictures constantly, revisiting notes, and all that. But in a way I saved the best for last.
As a birthday present for me, Kylie and Walt got the four of us a class at Ton Gluay Thai Culinary Heritage, a cooking school that Kylie found on a blog all about life in Chiang Mai. They contacted Ice, the woman who runs the school, and got us set up for an afternoon class to take place at Ice’s house. The cool thing about this class is that instead of rushing you through making four different dishes, you pick one dish to make from scratch. One of the dishes we hadn’t yet made in any of our cooking classes was the infamous Chiang Mai sausage, or Sai Ua, that we had eaten (and loved) on many occasions. It was spicy and juicy, with strong flavors of cilantro and lemongrass. Now, I’ll admit that making sausage from scratch isn’t necessarily the most appealing thing to me – intestines have never been high on the list of parts I enjoy eating or handling. But I was determined to try something new! So the class was scheduled and we were on.
When Jonah and I pulled up to Ice’s house on our motorbike, she and her boyfriend Eric (from New Jersey) were sitting out front, waving us in. Perhaps the first thing you notice about Ice is her petite but incredibly strong frame – turns out she and Eric are starting a gym in Chiang Mai and do lots of weight training in their yard. But the second thing you quickly notice is her voice. Ice is Thai but studied in Scotland and has also spent some time in the U.S., and because of this her accent is fascinating and hard to place. The way she said “cool” was so great that eventually all four of us started repeating it after her. If you want too hear what I’m talking about, you can check out the podcast that Jonah and I have been making and listen to the episode that features Ice’s class.
I should be working. You see, in about 10 hours I’ll be getting on a plane to Bangkok, sleeping in a hotel, and then getting on a 12 hour flight to Cologne, Germany. And I have a few items to cross of my checklist before I hop that flight. Instead, I want to tell you about Wee.
We discovered Wee’s Restaurant thanks to friends Zita and Jeremy, who found it via Trip Advisor (oh man do I have a love/hate relationship with that site, but that is for another time). We first ate at Wee’s in early November, and then we kept returning, and returning. My dad was the one who observed that she had a cooking class, and so I handed Wee my phone, she found herself on Facebook for me, and we started messaging about when we could do the class and what dishes to make. A few days later, we ate our Thanksgiving dinner at her place, and then a couple of days later Kylie, Walt, Jonah, and I spent 9 hours in her kitchen cranking out her amazing dishes.
What won me over was Wee’s wing bean salad with shrimp. But as I tried more and more of her dishes, I fell deeper and deeper. They were unique, unlike dishes that we had at other restaurants in Chiang Mai. They tasted more complex, more interesting. You know when you can taste that something has been made with care and, dare I say it, love? That’s how Wee’s food tasted to me. Between that and Wee’s sense of humor and her infectious smile, I knew we would get along.
It felt like we made a majority of Wee’s menu in the kitchen that day, but we truly only scratched the surface. This pumpkin soup that we had on Thanksgiving was one dish that kept me coming back. The pumpkin is sweet, the coconut broth a little spicy from the curry paste, and herby from the kaffir lime and lemongrass. And the best thing about it that just as I was eating it in warm Chiang Mai, I could imagine my friends back at home making it to warm themselves up.
When you think of Thai food, do you think of pad thai? Of rice noodles with a slightly ketchup-y sauce topped with too many bean sprouts? Or mild curries, full of almost mushy vegetables? Or do you think of fresh noodles with a tart and savory flavor, created by a mixture of tamarind and oyster sauce? Or curry paste pounded by hand, spicy and complex?
Since I have been in Thailand, I have mostly enjoyed the latter kind of Thai food. Food that is packed with flavor, that has depth to it, layers of ingredients that have been combined with care, with knowledge. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to take a cooking class, to learn these recipes and techniques. And, in the end, they aren’t as time consuming or confusing as you might think. The ingredients may be hard to find back home, but I can make do.
The day before Thanksgiving, I booked a cooking class for us and our visitors. There were eight of us total, and I thought it would be a good way to all spend a day together, doing something that we really enjoyed. Plus, it would almost be like Thanksgiving what with the hours in the kitchen and the overeating. We went with a company called AsiaScenic, and (after a little confusion) they picked us all up in a van and drove us to a market on the way to their farm north of the city.
Yes, yes, at this point, we all know that I have a thing for soba noodles. They are healthier than normal wheat pasta, and when you’re more into Asian food than Italian, they make a great alternative. They serve as a fantastic base for lots of sauces, from heavy (like peanut sauce) to light (like this sauce made of sesame oil, tamari, and agave), and are great to toss with seasonal ingredients (mango and zucchini in the summer, kale in the winter) and a range of proteins (shredded teriyaki chicken or seared tofu).
More than anything, for me, they’re easy. It’s easy to add lots of healthy vegetables, they make great leftovers, and I know that I can whip up a sauce for them in 10 minutes or less. Throw in some sautéed vegetables or shrimp and you’ve got a dinner. Can it get easier than that? No. So on a busy night a couple weeks ago, Jonah and I made this delicious simple soba noodles with shrimp. This recipe served Jonah and I, with no leftovers (keep in mind, we were hungry). Go ahead and double it if you’re feeding more than two.
Soba Noodles with Shrimp, Lime, and Crispy Shallots
6-8 oz soba noodles
2 Tbl sesame oil
3 Tbl tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
zest and juice of one lime
1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
~1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste
lime wedges for serving
Boil a large pot of water, cook your soba noodles until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbl of the sesame oil with the tamari or soy sauce, and agave or honey. Add the soba noodles and toss to evenly coat them with the sauce.
In a heavy bottomed pan (cast iron works great here), heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they’re golden and crisp. Remove the shallots to a plate covered with some paper towels. Lower the heat and add the garlic, cooking until it too is golden and crisp. Transfer to the paper towels too, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 Tbl of sesame oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt, making sure the shrimp are evenly coated. Empty the contents of this bowl into the pan (the same one you cooked the shallots and garlic in), and cook them until they’re nice and glazed and just white throughout, about three minutes. Don’t walk away from the stove at this point – overcooked shrimp are not great.
Add the scallions, cilantro, and whatever amount of spicy ingredients you want to the noodles, and top with the shrimp. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over the top. Enjoy.
It was 100 degrees in Portland yesterday. The sun was not beating down, no. It was a cloudy, muggy day (by Pacific Northwest standards). And so when the time came to cook dinner, the thought of turning on any heating device just felt wrong. So I went to the store and picked up some fresh, crunchy, fruity, flavor packed ingredients to make salad rolls.
I had seen a recipe for salad rolls using lentils, but I didn’t really have time to cook them, so I thought I’d use another flavor of Mariam’s lentil dips (which I’ve written about before here). I went with the curry and green lentil flavor, thinking it would go nicely with the kind of Asian flavor. I’m not sure a few of these rolls would have made enough for dinner without the lentils – they’re packed with protein, and they made the rolls much more filling. They were delicious!
You can fill these rolls with whatever you’d like, really. You can slice up some tofu and put it in raw or cooked. You can grill some shrimp. You can add some vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, red onions, or even shiitake mushrooms. The possibilities are endless!
Mariam’s Salad Rolls
Note: If Mariam’s lentil dip isn’t available where you are, feel free to substitute with some cooked green lentils, tossed with a little sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, salt, etc. Or see above for other recommendations.
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 large ripe mango (or 2 small ripe mangos), thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
Cilantro, picked from stems
Mariam’s Curry and Green Lentil Dip
Spring roll wrappers (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
Sweet chili sauce for dipping
Arrange all of your ingredients in bowls or on plates, so that they are easily accessible. Set out a large bowl of room temperature water, and a damp dishtowel. Follow the instructions on the spring roll wrapper package to prepare, or if they don’t have instructions, prepare like this: soak in room temperature water for 15 seconds, until the wrappers have almost no crinkle left, and spread on a damp dish towel. Arrange a few slices of cucumber, carrot, mango, avocado, a few leaves of cilantro, and a few dollops of Mariam’s Curry and Green Lentil Dip down the center of the wrapper, leaving about an inch on either end. Fold in the short ends over the ingredients, fold the bottom half of the wrapper up over the ingredients, and roll up the rest of the way. Enjoy dipped in sweet chili sauce or other dipping sauces.
This is a sponsored post. All of the opinions below are my own.
I love tacos. I really do. They’re easy to throw together. You can eat one for a snack or three for dinner (or four or five). You can put whatever you want in them, which I think is pretty great. You can make almost a variation from almost any cuisine. When my friend Elaine, who does marketing here in Portland, asked me to do some recipe development for her client Mariam Foods, my first idea was: summer vegetable tacos.
Mariam Foods makes these delicious lentil dips. I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too. At first mention, lentil dip sounds anything but delicious. I am an adventurous eater, by no means picky, but I do not like lentils. Or didn’t, I suppose. I tend to not really like their texture, and while I know they’re great for protein and budget cooking, I can’t get myself to use them. But Elaine invited me over to taste Mariam’s lentil dips, and I was pleasantly surprised. They are similar to the consistency of refried beans, with maybe the occasional whole lentil. And the flavors she was asking me to use, black lentil with jalapeño and black lentil and curry, were really nicely flavored. I started to get excited about the ways I could play with these flavors. While the dips are Ethiopian inspired, I knew I could sneak these dips into other cuisines.
I decided to start with tacos using the most scrumptious of summer produce: zucchini, tomatoes, and corn. Toss them with some Mexican inspired spices and roast them. While they were in the oven, I decided to whip up a cilantro-sour cream with lime. Then, to assemble the tacos, I started with a spoonful of the lentil dip smeared down the center of my tortilla, topped with warm vegetables, topped with the cilantro-sour cream, and another squeeze of lime for good measure. These tacos were so delicious, and really easy to make, and they made truly awesome leftovers. I ate them at least twice more throughout the week.
A little bird also told me that Mariam Foods has two new flavors coming out early this fall: brown lentil and sesame (with garlic and ginger) and brown lentil and sriracha. I know Jonah will love the sriracha, but I’m really excited about the sesame flavor! Mariam lentil dips were created by the Andemariam family, inspired by Afiza, a lentil salad that their Ethiopian and Eritrean grandmothers used to make. They source their ingredients as locally as possible, which I like. The dips can be found at various New Seasons, Whole Foods, and other markets and co-ops in the greater Portland area.
Summer Vegetable Tacos
2 ears corn, kernels sliced from the cob
2 small zucchini, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
½ medium-sized red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sour cream
¼ – 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of ½ lime
Mariam Black Lentil and Jalapeño Dip
Small tortillas (corn or flour)
Optional: grated cheddar cheese, queso fresco, salsa, additional cilantro, lime wedges
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the corn, zucchini, grape tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, olive oil, salt, cumin, and garlic. Toss until all of the vegetables are evenly coated with the spices and oil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Spread vegetables on the baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes. Toss, and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown.
While the vegetables are in the oven, make the cilantro cream. Combine sour cream, cilantro, and lime juice in a bowl, stir well. Feel free to add more cilantro, lime juice, salt, or pepper to your taste.
To assemble the tacos, spread a spoonful of Mariam’s Black Lentil and Jalapeño Dip down the center of a tortilla. Top with roasted vegetables, and a dollop of cilantro cream. Enjoy!
This is a sponsored post. All of the opinions below are my own.
Soba noodles have become a staple in my kitchen. I have always liked them, but as the weather has been slowly getting warmer, and there’s lovely produce all around, they have been appearing more often in my kitchen. I love them with a light sauce made of rice vinegar and lime juice. But the true beauty of soba noodles, to me, is that they are delicious cold. The day after you make them, and they’ve been sitting in whatever sauce you’ve tossed them with, they become ultra flavorful and refreshing. I am a big fan. And I think you should be too.
Jonah came home this week, on Monday actually, and I had a feeling that cooking might not be exactly what he wanted to do the moment he stepped of the plane. So on Sunday night I made a big batch of soba noodles tossed with roasted zucchini, fresh mango, and a light citrus-y sauce. I ate a small bowl, and threw the rest in the fridge, knowing that it would be delicious the next day for dinner with some roasted green beens (also in the fridge).
I love how colorful this dish is, how summery it is, and how packed with flavor. I think it’d make a great cold side dish for a summer party (4th of July, anyone?), and it makes great leftovers to take to the office for lunch. You can add some seared tofu, or maybe even some grilled chicken.
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango
2 zucchini, julienned
2 summer squash, julienned
1 9-oz package buckwheat soba noodles
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (and seeded, if you’re not feeling the heat)
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 ripe mango, peeled and julienned
~1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
~1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
optional but recommended: chopped peanuts to top (I used about 1/4 cup), lime wedges
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the julienned zucchini and squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Cook the soba noodles as instructed on the package. Usually, this means boil them for about 4 minutes, drain them, rinse them with cold water, drain them, and spread them out on a dish towel to try.
While boiling the water for the noodles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic and jalapeño. Allow to cool, then add the lime juice and zest as well as the sesame oil. Whisk to combine. Put the soba noodles in a bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the squash, mango, herbs, and nuts to the noodles, tossing to combine. Garnish with a sprinkle more of chopped peanuts and a lime wedge. Enjoy with a light beer on a hot day.
A couple of weeks ago, my roommates had a problem. I had gone with them to the climbing gym, and on our way home, we decided to stop at the store to get some food for lunch. We were thinking about what we already had in the house that we could use, and they started talking about how they had too much lettuce. See, they’re more spinach eaters (in salads and scrambles and such) than lettuce eaters, and so had a head of lettuce that they didn’t particularly want to eat or know what to do with. I had an idea: Thai larb.
This Thai larb, a chicken dish with lettuce wraps, immediately popped into my head. I quickly looked up a couple recipes on my phone, and grabbed the ingredients at the store. It was a warm day, and this bright, tart, crunchy dish was perfect. Plus, they were impressed that I made lettuce into something so delectable.
Today it was 85 degrees in Portland, and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. In fact, it’s supposed to be beautiful (and hot) until Saturday. My suggestion? Make this Thai larb: it’s so refreshing on a hot day. I’d serve it with maybe a green papaya salad and rice (sticky rice if you can swing it).
Thai Larb with Lettuce Wraps
1/3 cup lime juice
1 Tbl fish sauce
2 Tbl light brown sugar
1/2 tsp Sriracha
2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
1 large shallot, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass , thinly sliced (see this article for instructions on prepping your lemongrass)
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chile, jalapeño, or thai chile, depending on your desired spice level
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbl vegetable oil
1 head romaine or iceberg lettuce, rinsed
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
To make the dressing, stir all of the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the chicken, shallot, lemongrass, garlic, chile pepper, fish sauce, and salt. Add 1 Tbl of oil, and pulse until the chicken is finely chopped, or how you would imagine ground chicken would look. In a large nonstick pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbl of oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan and oil is hot, add the chicken mixture and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon, until the chicken starts to turn golden brown and is cooked through.
To eat your larb, spoon some chicken onto a lettuce leaf, and top with the dressing and a little cilantro if you like. Be sure to eat over a plate – I can guarantee there will be dripping.
There’s this dumpling house near my mom’s old apartment in Bellevue called Din Tai Fung. It’s a chain, but it’s ok because the dumplings are awesome. We always entrusted our ordering to my little sister, who is the guru of Asian cuisine, and she always ordered the best dishes. If you go, I highly recommend the juicy pork dumplings that are filled with pork and a hot broth, the shrimp and pork shao mai, and some variation of the Shanghai rice cake. These rice cakes are small, oval cakes that I assume are made out of ground rice. They’re delicate and chewy at the same time, and they take on the flavor of whatever sauce they’re cooked in.
Recently I went to Fubonn Supermarket, an Asian market in southeast Portland. I love roaming the aisles of international markets, being astounded by some of the things you can find, and excited when you happen upon an ingredient that you love but have never been able to find before.
You can imagine my delight when I happened upon a bag of dried rice cakes, and they were roughly $2 for a pound. So… that’s a thing. I immediately grabbed a bag, and it sat on our shelf for a few days while I tried to figure out what to do with them. (Then they sat on the shelf a couple days longer when I forgot to start soaking them the night before we wanted to make them, so we had to whip up something else for dinner instead.)
I believe you can also get frozen and fresh rice cakes, but with my dried ones, I soaked them overnight before I made them. But they were easy to use, and delicious, and I recommend getting your hands on some as soon as you can to start experimenting! I stir fried mine with some bok choy and shiitakes, and it was delicious.
Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes
3 Tbl canola oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
8 oz rice cakes, soaked overnight if dried, thawed if frozen
2 heads baby bok choy, rinsed
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced into 1/3-inch strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1-3 tsp Sriracha
1-3 tsp brown sugar
More optional additions: bean sprouts, napa cabbage, other mushrooms, fish sauce, pork, beef, shrimp.
In a large wok or nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, and sauté until fragrant and starting to brown, about one minute. Add the rice cakes, bok choy, and mushrooms and cook until the bok choy is wilted. If your rice cakes aren’t quite soft enough (remember though, you want them to be a little chewy), add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and cover for a few minutes to steam a bit. Once the mushrooms are cooked through and the bok choy is wilted, add the soy sauce, sriracha, and brown sugar to taste. Start with less sriracha and brown sugar, and taste a lot! I found that I wanted a larger amount of brown sugar because of the saltiness of the soy sauce, and Jonah wanted more Sriracha (obviously). Cook, stirring, until all the rice cakes and vegetables are thoroughly coated and the liquid of the soy sauce has cooked off. Enjoy with teriyaki salmon or Korean short ribs (like we did).
A couple weeks ago, when Jonah and I made the cleanse chicken, we decided to use the carcass to make some chicken broth. Let me say this: if you own a slow-cooker, and are not using your leftover bones/carcasses to make broth, you are seriously missing out. If you’re going to make chicken breasts, just buy bone in chicken breasts, cook them how you normally would, and then after dinner, throw the bones and scraps into the slow cooker with some onions, carrots, salt, cover it all with water, and cook it on low overnight. You’ll immediately have the beginning of a delicious chicken soup, or in this case, mushroom risotto.
(My roommates made some delicious pork ribs last week, and once they finished eating, Jonah and I told them they should make some broth with the roasted bones. They did, and had about 6-8 cups of broth, and used it to make 2 different dinners post-ribs. Talk about using your ingredients to the fullest!)
Anyway, I knew I had some arborio rice in the cabinet, and was feeling nice and wintry, so I decided to make mushroom risotto. But as I was looking through my cookbooks, I came across a variation on mushroom risotto that included sage and pancetta. I was sold.
Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta and Sage
The Best New Recipe | Serves 4 as a main course
Note: Porcini mushrooms are expensive. If you want to try using some other mushrooms instead, and also using mushroom broth rather than chicken broth to add some of that earthy umami flavor, go for it. You can also easily make this recipe vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with mushroom broth, and eliminating the pancetta.
Note 2: My camera was dead when I cooked this, so I only have some mediocre iPhone photos. I’m sorry.
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed in a strainer under running water
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 3/4 cup water
4 Tbl butter
1 1/4 lbs cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and cut into quarters (or sixths, if larger)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves 2-3 oz pancetta (I went with 3, because I like pancetta)
1 3/4 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh sage leaves
With kitchen twine, tie together the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and parsley sprigs. Put this bouquet in a pot with the porcini mushrooms, broth, soy sauce, and 2 1/2 cups water, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are fully hydrated. Strain the broth, discard the herb bouquet, and set mushrooms aside. Put the broth back into the pot and keep warm over low heat. Mince the porcini mushrooms, and set aside.
In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbl of butter. After the butter stops foaming, add the cremini mushrooms, half of the onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, until the liquid from the mushrooms has cooked off and the mushrooms are browned, and add the garlic, cooking for a minute until fragrant. Put the cooked mushrooms into a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of water to the pan to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then pour this liquid into the pot with the broth.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the pancetta and 1 Tbl of butter for about 5 minutes, until the pancetta has rendered most of its fat. Add the rest of the chopped onions, and cook until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the edges of the rice are transparent. Add the wine or vermouth to the pan, and stir, cooking until the liquid has been absorbed. Add the porcini mushrooms and roughly 2 cups of broth (or about 2 ladles full) and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the broth is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup or a ladle full of broth every 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more broth when the previous broth has been absorbed. The risotto is ready when the rice is cooked but has some bite to it at the center of the grain. You may not end up using all of the broth, so be sure to taste frequently for doneness. When the risotto is cooked to your liking, add the cremini mushrooms, the remaining 1 Tbl of butter, the parmesan, and chopped sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy with a nice glass of wine.
The leftovers are great as they are, but if you’re interested in a little revamp, form little cakes with the leftovers, and fry in some oil over medium heat. Top with a fried or poached egg for best result.
When I was getting ready to make this Asian pulled pork, I knew I wanted to write about it. I didn’t intend to write about it so soon – I knew I had a few posts to be written, the pictures sitting in their appropriate folders on my desktop – but things changed.
As I was putting all of these ingredients together on Monday, the kitchen already started to smell good. The fragrance of the lemongrass and ginger, combined with the rice vinegar and soy sauce, had begun to permeate the kitchen, and when my friend Elsa stopped by while I was making the pickles, she asked, “What smells so good?” as soon as she opened the door. When I left for work a few hours later, the slow cooker was on, the pickles were in the fridge, and mostly I just couldn’t wait to get home and eat the stuff.
After work, I had a message from my mom, asking me to call her. My phone was nearly dead (a morning on the phone with various auto insurance agents will do that to you), so I decided to wait till I could get home and plug my phone in to call. I opened the front door, and I was surrounded by this smell. The Asian flavors swirling around, making my stomach grumble. And then I looked at Jonah, sitting at the kitchen table, and he asked me, “Have you called your mom?” No. “Herby died,” he said.
I immediately called my mom, who was on the other line with my Nana, and said she’d call me back shortly. Herby, or Poppa Herb, is my grandfather. Herby had been sick for a long long time, and I had known for a while that his time was coming to a close. We all knew. And yet, as I said to Jonah moments after he told me, knowing it’s coming doesn’t seem to make it any less sad. Herby suffered for a long time, and so did Nana, really. He was unwell and hard to care for, and he was very ready to go. So after some tears, we couldn’t do much but continue to get dinner ready. The lid came off the slow cooker, and the scrumptious aroma wafted into the air, perfuming our meal. Before we actually sat down to eat, I got to talk to my mom, who let me know that one of the last meals Herb enjoyed was 5 (count them, 5) slices of her french toast. Thank goodness he ate well until the end. And then we ate.
As I started to think about writing this post, I haven’t been able to think about this dish without thinking of Poppa. And while the association could be sad, it really isn’t. It makes me a little more thoughtful, but mostly happy. Happy that I got to have this wonderful extra grandfather, who loved me like I was his own flesh and blood, who believed in me, who used to do little funny dances around the kitchen, who wore all those silly sweatshirts we made for him when we were little, and who made it possible for my family to see each other every year on the Oregon coast. And while I certainly don’t want this recipe to make you sad, I do hope that this post can make you think a little bit more about doing and eating the things we enjoy, and who we enjoy them with.
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork Tacos
Note: You’ll see in my pictures that I minced up the lemongrass with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño, as recommended in the Garden Betty recipe. I would suggest cutting it into coins or large chunks instead – the stalks were too hard for my food processor, and so I ended up with some sharp/pokey pieces of lemongrass amongst the meat.
2 inch piece of ginger
5 large cloves of garlic, or 6 smaller cloves
2 stalks of lemongrass
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbl fish sauce
2 1/2 lbs pork shoulder roast
4-5 large portobello mushrooms (optional, but recommended)
Quick Pickled Daikon and Carrots
2 large carrots
1-2 large daikon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar plus 1/2 cup
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water
Small corn tortillas
Slices of jalapeño (if you like heat)
Sauces: sweet chili sauce, Sriracha, plum sauce…
To prepare the meat, mince the garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and lemongrass (I did mine in the food processor; see note). Combine those four ingredients, as well as the brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and fish sauce in a small pot over low heat. Cook until the brown sugar is dissolved, then pour into your slow cooker. Place the pork shoulder in the sauce, turning to coat, and then cook for 8-14 hours (I did mine for 8… but it definitely could’ve been softer and more fall-apart-tender, so I suggest going for longer). If you are opting to use the portobello mushrooms (which you really should), cut them into large slices and add them to the slow cooker 4 hours before the meat is done.
Quick Pickled Daikon and Carrots
Once the meat is nestled in the slow cooker, ready for the long haul, you can prepare your pickles. Peel and julienne the daikon and carrots, and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle them with the salt and 2 tsp of sugar, and then gently massage/knead them for 3 minutes. When the daikon is very bendy, and a little pool of water has collected at the bottom of the bowl, rinse the vegetables in cold water, and pat or press them dry with paper towels. Put them into a jar (or jars, depending on how big your jars are and how big your carrots and daikon were). Now make the brine by combining the 1/2 cup sugar, rice vinegar, white vinegar, and lukewarm water in a bowl and stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the vegetables in the jar, and allow to sit for at least 1 hour. In a jar, these will last for about 4 weeks in the fridge.
When the meat is cooked, remove the strings, and pull it apart with two forks. Leave the slow cooker on warm while you warm you tortillas, slice your cucumbers and jalapeño, and pick your cilantro. Then, enjoy!
P.S. The meat and sauce and toppings make great leftovers when heaped atop a bowl of fresh rice or soba noodles.