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Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

Ingredients

Pulled Pork

2 inch piece of ginger
1 jalapeño
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

Tacos

Small corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Cilantro
Slices of jalapeño (if you like heat)
Sauces: sweet chili sauce, Sriracha, plum sauce…

Instructions

Pulled Pork

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.

Tacos

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.

Poppa Herb and I at the Oregon coast, many years ago.
Poppa Herb and I at the Oregon coast, many years ago.
Easy Year-Round Tomato Sauce // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Easy Year-Round Tomato Sauce

Easy Year-Round Tomato Sauce // Serious Crust by Annie FasslerEasy Year-Round Tomato Sauce // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Over Christmas, my sister Emily was raving about this tomato sauce on Smitten Kitchen that I’d seen several times. For some reason, it never really stuck out to me. It’s almost too easy.

But for New Year’s Eve we were having some friends over, and I decided to make fresh pasta with homemade sauce. Knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to find incredible fresh tomatoes, I decided to give the recipe a shot. And you know what? It was awesome.

I did a few things differently. Firstly, I doubled the recipe. I probably could have still only used one onion, but I used two. Instead of just mashing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, after removing the onion I used an immersion blender to slightly puree the sauce. I’m not a huge fan of chunks in my tomato sauce, so it was a personal taste thing. I also added some chili flakes for a bit of heat.

Easy Year-Round Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (yes, you can taste the difference)
5 Tbl unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
Red chili flakes
Salt

Instructions

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine butter, tomatoes, onion, and a pinch of red chili flakes. Choose a pan bigger than you might think. The onions can be a little unwieldy while stirring as they’re in such big chunks. Over medium heat, bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain that simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, and smashing the tomatoes against the sides of the pot (be careful not to squirt all over yourself here). Remove onions from sauce, turn off heat, and, if you’d like, use an immersion blender to lightly purée the sauce. If not, that’s ok too. Season to taste. Use sauce to dress your favorite pasta (homemade or otherwise), or in a lasagna or on pizza.

Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Mexican Feast: Chile Relleno with Shrimp

Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Chile Relleno with Shrimp // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

At the end of October, we took a trip to Mexico. My mom rented a house in Sayulita for a couple of weeks (we were only there for 1 week), and we spent our days swimming in the ocean, reading, swimming in the pool, and eating a lot of incredibly delicious Mexican food. Perhaps my favorite thing about our trip was all of the seafood, particularly shrimp. I am a big fan of shrimp, especially when they’re cooked to perfection and slathered in butter and garlic. Another amazing preparation that we ate (at least 3 times in a week) was chile relleno stuffed with shrimp.

Knowing that I love to cook, my mom asked one of the housekeepers from the complex to come over one night to do a kind of cooking lesson with us. Maria was fantastic – funny, smart, and an incredible cook. I think she was surprised that we a) wanted to help so much with the cooking and b) that, amongst us, we knew a fair amount of Spanish! She said that many of people she cooks for say they want to practice their Spanish, but don’t actually end up talking with her that much. But Jonah is fluent in Spanish, and my mom and sister aren’t half bad either.

Maria showed up to our house at 5 o’clock, and immediately got to work boiling tomatoes and peppers, roasting poblanos, and chopping away. I’m going to focus on the recipe for Chile Relleno stuffed with shrimp, but she also made us Mahi Mahi with garlic, 3 different salsas (one mild, one hot, and one pico de gallo, or salsa Mexicana, as she called it), beans, rice, guacamole, tortillas, and flan.

And thankfully, after cooking for us in the very hot kitchen, she joined us at the table. Maria made 6 peppers, so I’ll give you roughly that recipe. She didn’t measure a single thing, so a lot of this is my own guess work.

Chile Relleno with Shrimp

Ingredients

1 poblano pepper per person you’re feeding. 6 people? 6 peppers.
1/4 lb shrimp per pepper
~3/4 cup all purpose flour (for coating the peppers)
4 eggs, separated
Vegetable oil
Salt

Instructions

First things first. Roast the peppers. If you’ve got a gas stove, you can do this right on top of the burner. If you don’t have a gas stove, turn on your broiler, and put the peppers on a pan in the oven. Keep a close eye on them. Either way, you’ll want to turn them (with tongs) every minute or so. You want the skin to char and blister. Once they’re charred, you can either put them in a bowl and cover it, or use Maria’s fantastic technique: tie them up in a plastic bag. You want the peppers to steam up, which will help soften them and loosen the charred skin. After allowing them to sit for about 10 minutes, peel and seed the peppers. Seed them by making a lengthwise cut along one side, and cutting out the seeds with a small knife. You want to leave the stem in tact.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp, and boil until pink, but still tender. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Gently stuff the peppers with the shrimp. Put the flour on a large plate, and coat each pepper in flour. Set aside.

In a bowl, whip egg whites until foamy, but not quite till peaks form. Add the yolks, whip some more. Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a (preferably non-stick) pan over medium heat. You’re going to cook your peppers one at a time, so it may not be a bad idea to set your oven to 200 degrees and put a pan in there to put the finished peppers on, so they’ll still be warm. When the oil is hot, coat a pepper in egg mixture, and place it in the pan. Now you’re going to kind of baste the pepper with oil. Using a spoon or a spatula, gently splash the hot oil up onto the pepper, so that even the part not touching the oil cooks a bit. Continue to turn the pepper and “baste” until the egg is nice and browned. Place in the oven, and repeat with the rest of the peppers.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream!

Lasagna // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Lasagna, of the cheesiest variety

Lasagna // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Lasagna // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Lasagna // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Sometimes you need to make those meals that yield a million servings so you can eat it all week. The week before the CD release concert we had for Jonah’s new album was absolutely one of those weeks.

We had a few guests staying with us, band practice almost every night, and I had work on the nights I wasn’t rehearsing. It was a busy time, to say the least. So the night of our Kickstarter team meeting, to discuss merch and social media, etc. I made this lasagna, so that we could eat it throughout the week. It was high up on the list of best lasagna I’ve ever made. What made it so good? The homemade sauce, the homemade noodles, and some absurd amounts of cheese.

I’ll admit, however, that this uses a lot of dishes, and has a fair amount of ingredients. But when you’ve got some time and you’re making a meal that will carry you through the week, it’s worth it. I like to think of it as an entire week’s worth of mess (and cleanup).

Cheesy Meat Lasagna

Note: I used a 13×9 inch baking dish, and filled it right up to the brim. I put a baking sheet underneath it to catch any overflow (which was minimal), but still, if you’ve got a slightly bigger baking dish, it might be a good idea to use it.

Ingredients

Noodles

3 eggs
2 cups flour

Meat Sauce

Olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt, pepper, other Italian seasoning (parsley, basil, oregano, to your liking)
1 12 oz can tomato paste
1 28 oz can crushed (or diced) San Marzano tomatoes (yes, these are expensive, but I found it to be terribly worth it, and they weren’t THAT MUCH more than the other brands)

Ricotta Filling

3 cups ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 cup freshly grated parmesan
2-3 cups (preferably freshly) grated mozzarella

Instructions

Noodles

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a bowl and whisk, or a bowl and fork, mix up the eggs and flour into a dough. If it’s too wet, add more flour 1 tsp at a time. If it’s too dry, add water 1 tsp at a time. Dump the dough out onto floured surface, knead a few times, and wrap in plastic (or put in a bowl and cover with dishtowel) and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Meat Sauce

In a large pot, heat 2 Tbl olive oil over medium heat, and add the onion and carrot. Cook until starting to soften. Add the garlic, beef, and Italian sausage, and cook until the meat has browned. Add 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, and whatever other spices you’d like (I did 1/2 tsp dried basil and 1/2 tsp dried parsley). Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes to the pot (no need to drain them!) and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and cover, letting it simmer for ~30 minutes.

Ricotta Filling

While your dough is resting and your sauce is simmering you can whip up the ricotta filling. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, pepper, and 1/2 cup of both the grated mozzarella and parmesan. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your lasagna.

Roll out your pasta into sheets for lasagna and set aside, covering so that the noodles don’t dry out. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat your baking dish with oil. Spread ~1 cup sauce in the bottom of the dish. Here’s how you’re going to do this: noodles, ricotta, sauce, cheese. That’s your order. On top of the sauce in the bottom of the dish, arrange a layer of noodles; spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top, then 1 cup sauce, and sprinkle with cheese (a mixture of the mozzarella and parmesan). Do that twice (now we’ve got sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, cheese, noodles, ricotta, sauce, cheese), and in the next layer, leave out the cheese (so just noodles, ricotta, sauce). Put another layer of noodles on top, spread the rest of the sauce on top, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Phew! If you don’t feel like following my layering instructions, just do whatever you want. It’ll probably work, and you’ve probably eaten enough lasagna in your life to figure out how it works.

Bake the lasagna for 30-40 minutes, rotating it half way through, until the cheese on top is melted and turning golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool/set for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Risotto with Fava Beans and Corn // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Risotto with Fava Beans and Corn

Fresh corn and fava beans ready to go into the risotto // Serious Crust by Annie FasslerRisotto with Fava Beans and Corn // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Wowee! What a whirlwind it has been lately. A few weeks ago, Jonah and I were in Chicago for the 4th of July holiday, and it seems like from there, things got crazy. The night we left for Chicago, we applied to rent a house, and the night we got back we found out we got it! We are now living in NE Portland, within walking distance to Porque No?, Tasty n’ Sons, and countless other places. Mississippi and Alberta neighborhoods are a stone’s throw away, and I’m discovering a part of the city of which I had only scratched the surface. It’s pretty sweet. Be on the lookout for reviews of some spots in our new hood.

It has been a while since I gave you guys a recipe. This is one I made a while back, but it is just as perfect for right now. This past weekend, we went out to Sauvie Island to go berry picking – we have blueberries coming out of our ears! As well as raspberries, peaches, and a few ears of corn. The corn reminded me that I STILL hadn’t posted this risotto recipe! I’ve discovered that risotto is such an easy meal to make and you can really throw in anything you have around. Saffron? Sure. Squash? Yup. Mushrooms? Why not. But this was a great spring & summer risotto with fava beans and fresh corn.

Risotto with Fava Beans and Corn

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs of fava beans, shelled and shelled again (to learn more about shelling favas, go here)
2-3 ears of sweet corn, the kernels cut from the cob
~4 cups of chicken broth (can easily be replaced with vegetable broth to be made a vegetarian dish)
1/2 cup white wine (Alice Waters told me (in her book) that if you don’t have any white wine, you can also use a light beer – I didn’t have any wine or nice beer around, so I used PBR… it worked just fine)
2 Tbl olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Instructions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low.

In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook them until the onions are soft but not browned, about three minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat it in olive oil. Add the wine (or in my case, beer, because I’m classy like that) and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and evaporated, stirring constantly.

Now add the broth, one cup at a time (or one ladle full at a time). Stir the rice frequently after each addition, and only add more broth when the previous broth has been absorbed. When you have added half the broth (after about 15 minutes), add the fava beans and corn. Continue adding broth and letting the rice cook and absorb, until the rice is tender but still has some bite to it. You may not need all of the broth. When the texture seems good to you, add about 1/4 cup of broth, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Stale Bread Soup // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Stale Bread Soup (Ribollita)

Stale Bread Soup // Serious Crust by Annie FasslerStale Bread Soup // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I realize that at this point you might be sick and tired of hearing us harp about how great Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal is. But hear me out one more time. Everyone has stale bread. Or at least everyone who has bread at some point and does not eat it all eventually has stale bread lying around. And most of the time it gets thrown away, or responsibly composted. If you are culinarily educated, dear reader, you may already have known of stale bread soup; but as I read Tamar’s book, I was astounded to find out that not only does such a thing exist, but there is a long and ancient tradition of creating soup from leftover bread (Ribollita in Italian).

There are a few things that should be said about stale bread soup. First, it is not a soup in the same way that chicken noodle is a soup; stale bread soup is usually much thicker and feels more like a hearty chili. Second, stale bread soup is more of a general idea and a starting point than a recipe. It is meant to be made with whatever is around, provided you have some stale bread (otherwise, you will be making whatever-is-around soup – which could turn out to be vegetables-in-water “soup” if you don’t have any broth lying around).

The recipe below is adapted slightly from Tamar’s recipe for Ribollita in An Everlasting Meal. In usual Tamar fashion, you will use A LOT of olive oil in this recipe. We have made stale bread soup twice now, so I’ve noted the different things we used.

Stale Bread Soup (Ribollita)

Ingredients

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
Celery, if you have it (I did not)
salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley or rosemary or thyme (if you don’t have fresh, maybe do 1/4 cup dried?)
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
Tomatoes in some form, if you want (3 peeled fresh tomatoes, or I used 1 can diced. Made it once without tomatoes as well)
1 bunch leafy greens (I used kale once and cauliflower greens once; other ideas are swiss chard, collard greens, radish greens, etc)
1/4 cup water
2 cups cooked beans (I used a can of black beans both times, Tamar suggests chickpeas or cannellini beans)
2 cups broth from beans or chicken/veggie stock or cans of tomatoes (I used a combo of all three, and you can make up any shortfall with water)
1 piece of Parmesan rind (Do this if you can, because it makes the soup soooo tasty and rich. Also, what else are you going to do with your Parmesan rind?)
2 cups stale bread, crusts removed, torn/cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Instructions

Heat 1/4 inch olive oil (this is just the beginning) in a big-ish soup pot. Cook the onion and garlic (and celery if you have it) until they soften. Add the herbs and chile flakes and a little bit of salt. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes over medium heat.

Chop the greens (and remove from the stems) then add to the pot, and add the water. Cover and cook over low heat until the greens are wilted. Put in all your broths/waters/juices and the beans, plus the Parmesan rind.

(If you have a bunch of Parmesan left, make sure to cut the rind from the rest of the Parmesan. Otherwise, just save the Parmesan rind for when you will next make bread soup. Make sure your Parmesan is big enough that you can keep track of it, because you’re going to take it out later.)

Bring to a simmer, then add the bread and more olive oil (Tamar says to add 1/2 cup, but I was not brave enough and probably added about a 1/4 cup at this point). Cover and cook for 1/2 hour on low, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. The bread will soak up the soup and then liquify into it.  Taste it, add more broth or salt or whatever you want, and then take it off the heat.

Add in another 1/2 cup olive oil (Tamar, are you crazy!?!? I probably added 3 tablespoons here) and take out the Parmesan rind. You can grate Parmesan on top and add some pepper to serve.

This soup is perfect for a windy, rainy, cold, or dark winter/fall night.

Fresh Pasta with Breadcrumbs, Leeks, and Pancetta // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Fresh Pasta with Pancetta, Leeks, & Breadcrumbs with Porcini Powder

Fresh Pasta with Breadcrumbs, Leeks, and Pancetta // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Fresh Pasta with Breadcrumbs, Leeks, and Pancetta // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fresh Pasta with Breadcrumbs, Leeks, and Pancetta // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Fresh Pasta with Breadcrumbs, Leeks, and Pancetta // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Porcini powder. Porcini powder? Yes. From the farmers market. I was told it was wonderful, and was given a little bag as a gift. But what to do with the stuff, that’s the question. I’m not sure I made the right choice… This pasta dish had so much going on in it that the porcini flavor was hiding. It was hiding behind the sourdough breadcrumbs and butter it had been sprinkled into, and under the pancetta it had been tossed with, and between the fresh pasta noodles it had been swirled around with.

All that being said, this dish was dang good, if I do say so myself. There were a few elements, and it took a few pans to get it all prepped. So no, this is not one of those magical one pot meals. Certainly not.

My dear friend Elsa was staying with us, and my friend Dylan came over for dinner, as well as Elsa’s friend Sarah, so we had help in manning all the pans. Tamar Adler said in The Everlasting Meal that there is value in, when a guest asks “is there anything I can do to help?” being able to say, “yes.” I have found that to be very true.

Think of this recipe as a guideline. Or a lightly painted upon canvas. You can remove, add, flavor, sprinkle, drizzle anything you like. I must say, though, that I used a different pasta recipe this time, and I liked it much better than the one I had been using. There’s something to be said for trying something new.

Fresh Pasta with Pancetta, Leeks, & Breadcrumbs with Porcini Powder

Ingredients

Fresh Pasta

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs

Toppings

Olive oil
1 large or 2 small leek(s), sliced and rinsed
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pancetta – the amount is up to you. I like the pancetta that is thin, almost like prosciutto, though that isn’t what we used here. I think if we’d used the thinner kind, it would’ve clung to the noodles better.
Fresh breadcrumbs
Butter
Porcini powder
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Fresh Pasta

To make the pasta, pulse the flour alone in a food processor a few times. In a bowl, beat the eggs and then add them to flour, and process until the dough forms a ball. If your dough is dry and looks like little pea sized pieces of dough, you can add water 1/2 tsp at a time. If it sticks to the bowl of the processor, add flour 1 Tbl at a time. When the dough has formed a ball, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and set it aside for up to 2 hours to relax (at least 15 minutes). Then roll out the pasta as you usually do and cut it as you normally would.

Toppings

In a pan over medium (or medium low), cook your pancetta, then set aside on a plate with a paper towel on it. Once the pancetta is removed, you can use that same pan to sautée the leeks, onion, and garlic, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. You may want to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan to help keep things from sticking. But then again, maybe you won’t.

In another pan, melt some butter, then add the breadcrumbs and as much porcini powder as you feel like adding. Toast the breadcrumbs on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

As things are moving along, get out a big pot, fill it with water and a healthy serving of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta (I like to cook fresh pasta in batches, as it makes it less likely to stick together). If you’re cooking fresh pasta, it really only needs to cook for a few minutes. I like to remove it when all the noodles are floating. Do you have a better method? I’d like to know it. If you’re cooking your pasta in batches, you can remove it with tongs into a colander to keep the water boiling on your stovetop.

Strain the pasta, put it in a bowl, and toss with all the various bits and pieces. Enjoy with a glass of buttery, nutty white wine and friends, around a table, on a sunny evening.

Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms

Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Jonah and I recently purchased The Family Meal by Ferran Adria. As soon as we got it in the mail, Jonah proceeded to look at the whole book, page by page, cover to cover. Which was really adorable. He was pretty excited. Anyway, a couple days later, I finally got it out and flipped through it, and I too got really excited. There are so many awesome recipes in this book, and the layout is great. It tells you the timeline of your meal (2 hours before, you can start doing task #1, 1 hour before, you can start doing tasks #2 and 3, 40 minutes before… you get the idea), it tells you how much of each ingredient you will need to make the meal for 2 people, 6 people, 20 people, and 75 people. So we can perfectly cook for just the two of us, or we can cook for us and a bunch of friends. Lastly, the recipe itself is in photograph form, so you know exactly what each step looks like, which is such a big thing for a lot of people. And it has super specific instructions, i.e. instead of saying “cook until lightly browned” it says “cook for 16 minutes.” Which is so nice.

Anyway, while flipping through it for the first time, we marked a bunch of the recipes we wanted to try first, and then went to the store to pick up ingredients for a couple meals this week. The coolest thing was that because we had bought a chicken at the farmers market a couple weeks ago, cut it into pieces, frozen the pieces, and made broth out of the carcass, we had almost all of the ingredients we needed for these meals. First up was saffron risotto with mushrooms. I have never made risotto before, and was a bit nervous about it, because it’s one of those things that seems like it might be easy to mess up – overcook, undercook, underseason, overseason… etc. But because the instructions for these recipes are so specific, I had no fear!

Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chicken stock (can be replaced with vegetable stock)
1 pinch saffron strands
1 1/2 Tbl olive oil
1/4 white onion, finely chopped
2 Tbl white wine
1 cup risotto rice, also called arborio rice
2-6 white mushrooms (it all depends on how big your mushrooms are and how many you want on your risotto)
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp (maybe more) fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Put all of the stock into a sauce pan, cover, and bring to a simmer.

This is the weird part, where I wish you could see the cookbook so you could see the photos. Make a little envelope out of tinfoil, put the saffron threads in it, and toast them in a pan over medium heat for one minute. Don’t le it burn! Remove from the pan and let it cool.

In a large pan or pot, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onions. Once they’re soft, but not browned, add the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When most of the wine has cooked off, add the rice and let it cook for 3 minutes, stirring all the while. Add one ladle-full of stock, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to keep it from sticking. Pour the rest of the stock into the pot. Quickly chop the saffron and add it to the pot. Cook the rice for 16 minutes (what precision!), stirring frequently.

While the rice is cooking away, wipe the mushrooms clean with a paper towel, and slice them as thin as you can. You can use a mandolin if you’ve got one, or just a sharp knife. Put them in a bowl and set aside.

When the rice has absorbed the majority of the liquid and is a little al dente, add the butter, and then the parmesan. Stir until the rice is nice and creamy, and season it with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Spoon the risotto onto plates and top with mushroom slices, and enjoy!

Rice Cakes

Rice Cakes (using rice gone wrong)

Rice Cakes
Rice Cakes

Rice Cakes

Sometimes you’re in the kitchen and you have a lot going on and you miss something going wrong. Maybe you accidentally over-salt your pasta or you burn your veggies. There’s a whole (albeit little) chapter in Tamar Adler’s book all about how to save your mistakes. For example, turn those burned veggies into a smoky veggie salad. Or take that over-salted pasta, mix it with some herbs and butter, and make a frittata. The possibilities are endless.

A while ago, Jonah and I made these rice bowls. We doubled the rice recipe, and I must’ve done some math wrong and put in way too much liquid. So, while the rice tasted good, it was definitely a little mushy. After sitting in the fridge sadly for a week, I was thinking of using it to make rice cakes. Jonah reminded me about the “Further Fixes” chapter in An Everlasting Meal, so to the book I went. It kind of told me what I was already thinking of doing, so on I went.

Rice Cakes

Ingredients

roughly 3 cups of overcooked rice
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 leek (if I’d had a whole one, I’d have used it), thinly sliced
salt, pepper
garlic powder
parmesan cheese
olive oil for cooking

Instructions

I heated up the rice in the microwave, drizzling it with water to kind of re-steam it. If your rice won’t stick together (perhaps it’s not quite as mushy as mine was), feel free to stir an egg into the mix. Stir together the rice, shallot, and leek, and add any seasoning you like. I added a few shakes of garlic powder, probably 1/2-1 tsp salt, and probably 1/4 cup grated parmesan. But none of this has to be exact. Put a bunch of stuff you like in there. I bet chopped sage would’ve been good, as would onion and garlic.

Heat some olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, form the rice mixture into patties, and cook on each side until golden brown, roughly 3-5 minutes. Add more oil as you need it. You want them to have a nice crispiness on the outside to add some texture.

We ate them alongside some delicious panko-crusted tilapia and roasted broccoli. They would make a great appetizer for a fancier dinner. Also, they would make a delicious breakfast had I put a fried egg on top. Or melted a slice of cheddar. With some breakfast sausage on the side. See, there are so many uses for botched food! Now go mess up some rice.

beet tart

Beet Tart

beet tart

OK people – I know we read a lot of food books and talk about them all the time, but if there is ONE book you are going to read from our suggestions, let it be An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler.  It is amazing book that changed my life, and is sure to make you think and act differently around food.  If you have not read it yet, go read our blog post on her book, and then continue below.

This beet tart is a perfect example of Tamar’s philosophy and grace: if you attacked this beet tart recipe from start to finish in one cooking session alone – it would take most of your day; first you would have to roast the beets (which takes a long time anyway), then make tart dough and chill it for an hour, then bake the tart dough, then put together the filling, bake some more, add the sliced beets, and bake once again.  Sounds daunting! I would never have done this recipe if it wasn’t spread out over many days and incorporated in the general meal preparations for the week.  However, the manner in which it was made made it feel like I was just throwing leftovers together in a very creative way, rather than a labor intensive ordeal.

Here’s what happened: A few days before, Annie and I roasted a whole bunch of veggies for dinner (or was it lunch?).  We filled the whole oven and roasted lots of different veggies with olive oil and salt.  I fit the beets in a small pan with a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom, covered them with foil, and let them roast for a long time (probably too long, I may have forgotten about them).  We ate the other roasted veggies as part of our dinner that night, but we had no intention of eating the beets that day, so we didn’t have to wait around for them to roast.  We let them cool and then peeled them and put them in the fridge before bed.  Now we had roasted beets peeled beets in the fridge.  We had no plan but we had ideas: beet salad, beet pasta, or beet anything; they were simply a nice starting point.

A few days before roasting the veggies, we had made a different veggie tart using the Olive Oil Tart dough recipe that can be found in Tamar’s book, so we had some leftover in the fridge.  A few days later, I looked in the fridge and saw that a perfect storm had brewed for a beet tart.  There, sitting in the fridge waiting to be used, were roasted peeled beets, tart dough, and some leftover ricotta cheese.

If you want to make this recipe from start to finish, more power to you.  However, I would suggest at least making the tart dough a day ahead, and then looking through your fridge to find any vegetables that would work, roast them, and put them on top of the tart in place of beets.

Beet Tart

Note: You’ll want to roast your beets or other vegetables before you make the tart dough.

Ingredients

Olive Oil Tart Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon salt

Beet Tart Filling

1 1/2 cups ricotta (fresh)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tb. cream (I think I just used leftover creme fraiche)
1/2 t. salt
2 egg yolks
a pinch of fresh thym or rosemary

Instructions

Olive Oil Tart Dough

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If its too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough in half and roll into balls, then put them in the fridge to chill.

Take out one dough ball (you get to save the rest for another day!) and roll it out on a floured counter until its about 1/4 inch thick. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and dust with a bit of flour. Lay the crust in the pan and trim the edges. Prick the bottom a few times (this dissuades bubbles from appearing in your tart dough). Cover the crust in aluminum foil and put some dried beans or pie weights in to fill the tart and hold down the dough. Bake for 20 minutes.

Beet Tart Filling

Whisk together filling ingredients. Pour into the pre-baked tart dough (remember to take out the dried beans and aluminum foil!) and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Now lay your beet slices (I cut mine into half-moons) on top of the ricotta filling in a single layer and bake for another 10 minutes.  Let it cool and eat at room temperature.

It is very filling and great for lunch the next day and many days after!

Soba Noodles with Mango and Eggplant

Soba noodles, eggplant, onion, mango, cilantro, basil, and dressing all tossed into a bowl.

Jonah slices and dices all the colorful ingredients for the soba noodles.
It feels very weird to spread a pile of noodles on a dish towel to dry... But I'll do pretty much anything Ottolenghi tell me to.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jonah and I made dinner for my mom and her boyfriend back in December. Now I believe I have told you of my love for Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty,” yes? This meal was no exception. The meal was all vegetarian, and 2/3 dishes were from that cookbook. The meal was light, refreshing, and packed with flavor. Not to mention the great company.

I fear that I am reaching a point where I cannot keep posting variations of these recipes, I just need to tell you to please, please, please go buy this cookbook. Even if vegetarian food isn’t your thing, even if the photos don’t make your stomach growl, even if the lists of ingredients leave you with questions swirling around in your hear. I beg you. Just go buy it. And then, please proceed to make everything in it, even if it doesn’t jump off the page. Every single dish I have made from this book (as well as his other book, “Jerusalem”) has been so lovely and flavorful that I wish I had tripled them all so I could enjoy the leftovers or share with a bunch of my friends.

Back to the dinner. These room temperature soba noodles are one of the few recipes in the book that did jump off the page for me. But somehow, I still hadn’t made it. While it’s a little prep-heavy, trust me, it’s worth it. Packing a lot of flavor and lots of little bites with different tastes (onion, eggplant, peppers, mango, the list goes on…), this recipe is bound to be a crowd pleaser. I can see it being especially good for kids. What kids don’t love noodles and mango? That’s what I thought: none.

Soba Noodles with Mango and Eggplant

Ingredients

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 of a red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
zest and juice of a lime
1 cup sunflower oil (we used canola)
2 eggplants, cut into ~1 inch cubes
a bag of soba noodles
1 large ripe mango (let’s be honest, more than one probably couldn’t hurt…), cut into ~3/4 inch cubes or thin strips
1 2/3 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (think paper thin, if you can)

Instructions

In small pot, warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt until the sugar just dissolves. Remove from heat, then add the garlic, chile, and sesame oil, and, once it’s cool, the lime zest and juice.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and fry up the eggplant. You’ll probably need to do this in a few batches. But you want the eggplant to be nice and golden brown. After all the eggplant is cooked, put it in a colander in the sink, sprinkle (“liberally”) with salt, and leave to drain.

While cooking the eggplant, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles in the boiling water – you want them to be soft, but still a little al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to stop them cooking. Spread them on a dish towel to dry.

Now the fun part: throw the noodles, dressing, mango, eggplant, onion, and half the basil and cilantro in a bowl and toss to coat/combine everything. You can make this a couple hours ahead of serving, and stop here, letting it sit to absorb flavors and come to room temperature. When you’re ready to serve it, add the rest of the herbs. Enjoy!

Mom's dinner prep activities: playing tug-of-war with Lulu while Jonah and I chopped and sauteed in the kitchen a few feet away.

Lamb & Love

Look! We did it! The lamb out of the oven, ready for a little rest.

Yes, this is what arrived to my office. It was very exciting and bizarre.
Prepping the baking dish while the lamb gets rolled

Clockwise starting at the top: brussels sprouts cooked in lamb fat/oil, salad, fingerling potatoes gremolata, and the star of the meal, the roasted lamb!

Did you know that February is Lamb Lover’s Month? Neither did I, until I was contacted by the American Lamb Board to participate in a lamb cooking contest (you can vote here, starting February 14th: www.lambloversmonth.com). Yes, that’s right folks. How could I possibly say no? So I filled out my registration, and got a boneless leg of lamb in the mail last Friday.

I immediately started researching lamb cooking techniques, and ended up kind of combining a few recipes. Because lamb is often used in Greek/Mediterranean cuisine, most recipes have lots of rosemary, lemon, mint, and even some yogurt sauces. I didn’t want to get too fancy because I wanted it to be something that we all could easily pull off. I wanted to do some kind of spice rub or marinade where I could leave the lamb overnight to really absorb the flavors of whatever I ended up going with.

So after some research, I decided to go with an adapted version of a recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook. I used varied amounts of all of the ingredients to go for a little more of the taste I wanted (more lavender, thyme, adding lemon, etc.) and was very happy with the result: a strongly herb-flavored (but not overpowering), perfectly cooked piece of lamb.

For our sides, we cooked brussels sprouts in a combination of melted lamb fat and oil: slice each sprout, top to bottom, into 3-4 pieces, heat the fat/oil, toss in a layer of sprouts (careful, it will spit and it will hurt – long sleeves are your friend), and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the bottoms are nice and dark, tossing occasionally if desired. We also made a rough version of fingerling potatoes gremolata: slice up your potatoes, toss in oil and salt, sprinkle with some chopped garlic, roast them until tender, and then when you’ve removed them, top them with some melted butter and chopped parsley. And salad. We had salad too. If you like this recipe, the blog post, even just the pictures, head over to www.lambloversmonth.com to vote for our little blog to win the Lamb Lover’s Month cooking contest! It would be super awesome, and maybe I’d even invite you over to enjoy some free lamb…

Hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s day, featuring some kind of delicious food! (A latte with your loved one? A sexy seafood dinner? Roasted lamb? The possibilities are endless – get out there and try something new and adventurous!)

Herb Rubbed Lamb

Ingredients

Lamb

1/2 cup fresh rosemary pines
4 tsp fresh or 2 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
zest of one meyer lemon
6 Tbl olive oil
1 boneless leg of lamb (about 3 pounds, though more also definitely works)
6 woody branches of rosemary
1 meyer lemon, sliced into thin rounds (and seeded, if necessary)
optional: a few more cloves of garlic, number is dependent on your passion for the garlic

Sauce

1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Lamb

Start by processing all the herb paste ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor until the herbs (particularly the rosemary leaves) are chopped. Now, with the machine running, slowly pour in the oil. Most machines have a spout type thing at the top you can remove so that you can pour ingredients in while blending. Continue to blend until it has reached a thick sauce consistency, scraping down the sides when necessary. There will still be little chunks of rosemary and garlic, you can’t make a complete paste out of it, but do the best you can.

If the lamb is tied, untie it. Spread the lamb out, and with a sharp knife, trim as much fat as you can from both sides of the meat. Think that fat is gross and that you’re going to toss it in the trash? Don’t! Fat can be used for lots of things. Melt it down and use it to cook veggies in or make a broth (I think? I’m not sure how well that would actually work if you haven’t got ANY meat attached, but it’s worth a shot.) Find a baking dish where the lamb will fit snugly. Rub the top of the lamb with about half of the herb paste, flip it over, and rub the other side. Set it in the dish, cover with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for 8-24 hours (the longer the better). Now, I am not particularly a fan of recipes where you have to refrigerate anything for more than an hour – planning ahead is not my forte. But you know what I’m learning? It’s so worth it. When you let anything (particularly meat) absorb the flavors of your marinade or rub for a long time, it makes such a big, flavorful difference.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Remove your lamb from the dish and, attempting to remove as little of the herb rub as possible, roll the lamb back into it’s original shape. If this seems relatively impossible (as it did for Jonah when he was rolling it), just roll it into whatever shape makes sense – you just want it to be kind of spiraled and uniform in size. Hopefully that makes sense. We also took some whole cloves of garlic and stuck them in little crevices in the lamb before rolling it up. They got gently cooked, and made for a nice look when the lamb was sliced for serving. Take a few pieces of kitchen twine and tie the lamb snugly in three places (or more, whatever you need to do to make it work – just as few as possible, mostly). Put the rosemary branches and lemon slices in the bottom of the baking dish and gently set the lamb on top. Roast the lamb at 425 for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 degrees. Roast for about an hour and a half, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers 130-135 degrees. Note: ours DID NOT take an hour and a half. It was done a little over an hour at 350. Take the temperature in a few places and use the lowest . Remove the roast from the oven, transfer it to a board (preferably one with those grooves around the edges as it will be releasing lots of juices), cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Sauce

While the meat is resting, whip up the sauce. Take the rosemary branches and lemon slices out of the baking dish, and tilt the dish so the drippings all run into one corner. Skim off as much fat as you can, transfer the remaining juices to a little saucepan. Add the wine and put it over low heat. Use a whisk to stir in the mustard and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper if you’d like. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thinly. Arrange on a platter (or just throw a couple slices on each plate) and pour the sauce over. Voila! A delicious dinner.