I was going to post a pasta dish this week – it’s really good and summery but still creamy and light – but I just couldn’t bring myself to suggest that you turn on both your oven and your stove. I don’t know about you, but we are in the middle of a heat wave. It’s another heat wave, or maybe it’s the heat wave we’ve kind of been having all summer despite a couple days last week. We have established a system of closing our windows around noon when it starts to get really hot outside, turning on the air conditioning when the inside temperature gets unbearable, and then opening the windows in the evening once the outside temperature is lower than inside or maybe if there’s a slight cool breeze blowing by.
On days like this, I can’t imagine eating anything hot. In fact, I would prefer that everything I ate was cold and crunchy, preferably also maybe juicy or with a little tang or spice to it. These toasts almost fit that bill – no juiciness really (unless you include the cucumbers that I GREW IN MY OWN GARDEN – sorry, I’m excited), but lots of crunch from the sliced vegetables and tang from the miso cream cheese. You do have to turn on your toaster, but it’s worth it, I promise.
There is that time of year when all you want to feed yourself is fresh, crunchy, cold (or maybe room temperature) food. The time when you are drinking more cold beverages than you thought possible. And when you are going to backyard gatherings or picnics in the park. That time of the year is now and all I want are things that are stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden, salty, tangy, and maybe a little spicy. Luckily, this simple salad satisfies all of those cravings.
How simple? First, throw a bunch of herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar into a food processor. Toast your couscous until it is golden, then cook it with broth to give it some extra love. Sauté the asparagus and peas for just a few minutes, until they have just a touch of color but are mostly a vibrant green. Top all of this with crumbled feta for a touch of salty briny tang, and enjoy. Don’t worry, you’ll have sauce leftover to drizzle over any thing hot off the grill.
I’m going to be honest folks. It feels a bit challenging to write about summer and my garden and produce when the world is falling apart. But here we are. I know, pea blintzes can feel trivial – they do to me too. I can’t spend 100% of my waking hours reading articles and calling representatives and being depressed about the state of the world, so I am doing my best to act like everything is normal and it’s all going to be fine. Despite the fact that at the moment it’s looking pretty bleak.
Now that we’ve got that depressing shit out of the way, I guess let’s talk about my garden. That sounds fun doesn’t it?
I feel like I’m in produce overdrive! Between our expanded beds and the CSA we have this year I’m having trouble keeping up with the lettuces, greens, peas, and radishes. I’ve been eating salads for every meal and adding sautéed collards or bok choy to everything I make. When shelling peas started coming in from my garden, these blintzes popped into my mind and I wasn’t able to get them out. I don’t recall eating that many blintzes as a child, but I know it happened, and that they were a treat filled with sweet cheese and topped with fruit. But every since eating blintzes stuffed with mushrooms at Malka’s chanukah pop up, I feel like the world of savory blintzes is a whole new world.
My little garden didn’t produce enough shelling peas for a full batch, so I supplemented with some frozen ones, steamed them with some lemon juice, layered them on top a creamy spiced cheese filling, and wrapped it all up in pillowy crepe-like pancakes. The result was just this side of savory, delicate and lovely, a dish that could be eaten at brunch or for a light dinner.
As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.
I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.
Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces:
There are meals that sit in my head for a while. Rolling around, popping up every now and again, asking to be made. Some of them never come to light – either I can’t figure out what it’s missing or what it needs to make it pop, or maybe I think it’s a really original idea only to search the internet and find a handful of recipes just like it already in existence.
There are plenty of stuffed squash recipes out there. You need only do a quick search to be overwhelmed by the various types of squash, fillings, toppings, mix ins. But maybe this one will happen to contain a bunch of things you already in your fridge. That’s how it happened in my kitchen, anyway. I had been thinking about stuffed squash – it had been one of those ideas rolling around in my head, poking at me every time I brought home a squash from the store. And it took a few weeks to really figure out what I wanted to fill it with. And really it came down to necessity – we needed dinner, I’d been saving the squash and we didn’t have much else in the house. So I dug around the pantry and the fridge, rustled up some soyrizo, farro, manchego, dried cherries, and parsley. It sounds like an odd combination of things, but I promise they all fall into place quite nicely – a little bite from the farro, sweetness and creaminess from the squash, a little heat from the soyrizo.
It’s an easy meal that comes together quickly, though I will warn you it uses a handful of dishes. But for a filling, comforting fall meal, it’s worth it.
We’ve turned on the heat. On the afternoons when the cold is seeping into my bones I nudge the thermostat up a couple of degrees. We’ve had four fires in our fireplace. Jonah even acquired one third of a cord of wood (which is a lot). I am drinking tea most mornings. The leaves are fiery red, more neon than I remember them being in years past. I think I’m so excited about all of this because I missed fall last year. I’ve always loved fall for many of the usual reasons: sweaters, tea, cozy gatherings with family and friends. But this year it all seems bigger. Last year we went pretty much straight from summer in Portland to more summer in Thailand, and then straight into winter in Germany. I missed my favorite season and some of my favorite ingredients.
But having more appreciation isn’t the only thing that’s different. There have been little things in our day to day lives that have altered since we started making this home. It seems silly, but I used to be very particular about leftovers, and often didn’t really like eating them very much. These days I am a leftover guru: combining bits from different meals to make something completely new and also really good (if I do say so myself). I am working on going with the flow more, and am getting better every day. And this season I am determined to confront my mediocre feelings toward soup. It’s not that I hate soup at all – I don’t even dislike it. But there is always something I would rather eat (the exception to this is matzoh ball soup). But with a new kitchen, a new dutch oven, and a new perspective on leftovers, I’m going to conquer soup.
I made this decision over a month ago when we arrived in Chicago for our wedding. Once we hauled our suitcases into the living room at Jonah’s parents’ house after a long day of travel, my mother-in-law asked if we wanted something to eat. She scooped rice into a bowl and topped it with this light coconut broth, simmered kale, and sweet potatoes. There was a healthy pinch of cilantro, and she got out the hot sauce for us to liberally drizzle over. I took one bite and was convinced that I needed to re-examine my relationship with soup. I ate this for the next three days for lunch, secretly sneaking into the kitchen for a slightly early lunch so I would get to it before Jonah’s family finished it off. It was selfish, but I couldn’t help myself.
There is a weird thing about being a food blogger. You compose pictures just so that none of the mess in your kitchen shows. You (mostly) never write about all the recipe testing and research. And you definitely don’t write about the failed attempts. And then there’s the stuff like, I made this and took pictures about 2 weeks ago, but am writing the post in Chicago. It all feels a bit weird, you know? Like I’m pretending, or I’m creating this fantasy world where everything is clean, and everything works perfectly the first time I try it. But I want you to know, that’s not true.
Another weird thing is knowing where to draw the line between keeping the writing here light and fun and ooh look tomatoes! Do I talk about my personal life? How far do I go? Last year when I was traveling, I certainly wrote about being homesick, and that got personal. But do you really want potentially heavy, personal stuff amidst pretty pictures of pastries?
The point of all this, I suppose, is that I’d like to be a bit more real. I want to not worry about there being a mess in the background of my pictures. And I’d like you to know some of those things about myself, and I’d like to feel safe writing those things in this place. So in that spirit: I’m getting married in three days! It’s big and exciting and for some reason scary and also very normal at the same time. What is really changing? Nothing. It feels like such a big step, but for now most things will stay the same, except that I’ll wear an extra ring on my finger and my taxes will change. We’ll still eat dinner too late, I’ll still listen to my favorite Pandora station when I bake, he’ll still take me out to dinner where the restaurant is a “surprise” but I’ll actually give him a list of three to choose from. And you’ll still be here, maybe, reading about all of it.
This meal was one of those ideas that was marinating in my head for a while. I’m trying to get better at making a few blog recipes at a time so I have content ready to publish, but it can feel overwhelming. He has been ever supportive, asking while we’re making dinner, “Wait, do you want to photograph this? Go grab your camera!” He waits while I set up the shot, he oohs and ahs over the pictures after I edit them, and he still proofreads almost every post. This galette was the epitome of summer to me, and the last recipe I photographed before we came to Chicago to get married in his parents’ back yard. I made it while he was at soccer, and waiting for him to come home and eat it, I realized how cool this all is, how cool he is: encouraging me to continue to write and cook and photograph, pushing me to try new recipes, offering me a safety net when things don’t go as planned. This tomato galette? It’s my love note to him.
It was a mashup. A mashup of colors: neon orange, sunset purple, creamy yellow. A mashup of recipes: lots of research, a few ideas, a smattering of ingredients already in the fridge. And a mashup of an event: bachelorette party meets Disney princess themed meets actual edible meal. My best friend’s bachelorette weekend was a whirlwind of events and cocktails (coming soon to the blog, don’t worry), celebrating this wonderful woman and her marriage to another one of my best friends. I’ll get all sappy about them in the next post though. I was tasked with throwing a Disney princess themed dinner party at my house – we dressed as Disney princesses, there was a photobooth, lots of Cinderella-blue (her favorite princess), pumpkins, and more. Above you can see the table and some of the princesses with Cinderella herself at the head of the table, plus the wonderful Moana using her oar to keep all the bees off our fish.
In my effort to create a feast that was edible and kind of went together, I fudged a little bit – Arial probably wouldn’t normally eat salmon, she’d be friends with the salmon. So this was my riff on Rapunzel’s carrots and hazelnuts (in the movie she eats parsnip and hazelnut soup) topped with Jasmine’s tahini sauce. It was my favorite dish at the dinner, and I was happy to find some of the tahini sauce leftover in my fridge a few days later. So I recreated it here – there may be less Disney flare, but there is just as much flavor.
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.
A couple weeks ago, we went to the beach. I’ve told you about the beach house before, and this trip was no exception to the perfection that is that little slice of heaven on the Oregon coast. We went for our friend Walt’s birthday: there were three couples, and of course the second order of business was what are we going to be eating ? (The first was “ARE THE PUPPIES COMING?!”) We each decided to tackle one major meal while we were there, which I’ve found is a nice way to plan cooking with friends – no communal google docs full of recipes and grocery lists and confusion about who is bringing what.
For our one dinner together, Walt smoked a pork shoulder and his girlfriend Kylie made this delicious Asian slaw. It was tangy, crunchy, and refreshing, a perfect complement to the smoky rich pork (which we used to make bahn mi). I knew I needed to recreate it at home, and that it would quickly become a staple in our kitchen, since we eat a lot of Asian food.
I loved Kylie’s slaw, but per her suggestion, wanted to jazz it up a bit. I added sliced mango and salted roasted cashews, but the possibilities are endless – grated carrots, mint, cilantro, peanuts, mandarin slices, etc. We paired our slaw with some easy tofu, pressed and marinated in canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, and orange juice, then baked. It was an easy and delicious meal. My favorite kind.
Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles
1 large head of napa cabbage
1 package of instant ramen noodles (flavor doesn’t matter – you won’t be using the flavor pack)
1 ripe mango
1/2 cup cashews, salted & roasted
3 Tbl rice vinegar
3 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl toasted sesame oil
Optional additions: sriracha, mint, mandarin slices, peanuts, cilantro, grated carrots.
Chop cabbage into bite-sized pieces. I cut mine in half lengthwise, then in half again lengthwise, and then sliced it horizontally from there. Rinse and dry, and put in a large bowl.
Crush up the ramen noodles and set aside. Cut the mango into slices or chunks, whichever you prefer, and set that aside as well.
I like to mix my salad dressings in a small jar – no whisking, just shaking – but you can make yours in a bowl if you like. In whatever vessel you choose, combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Whisk or shake until thoroughly mixed. Taste and adjust ingredients as you like.
Add the mango to the cabbage. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mango and toss to coat. Let it sit for a minute. You can add the ramen noodles and cashews now, or top each serving individually. I will warn you though, that if you add the ramen to the salad and you have leftovers, those noodles will lose their crunch.
Serve, dotted with sriracha if you’d like, and 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.
Moms are cute. My mom especially, is very cute. I’ve told you about her, right? Last weekend Jonah and I went out to Cannon Beach with my mom and her boyfriend and my baby sister and my sister’s girlfriend, and we had a lovely weekend, and then my mom proceeded to send us home with two boxes of food. (Because she’s a mom and that’s what moms do, they give you food.) She tried to give us much more. She was going through the kitchen saying things like “Do you want some cream cheese?” (No.) “How about some romaine hearts?” (Yes.)
We got home around 8:30pm on Saturday, and all I wanted was food. And we had food. Lots of it. Thanks, Mom. I’ve had grilled romaine hearts at restaurants, and figured it can’t be that hard to make, can it? You guys, it was so good. Why have I been waiting this long to grill romaine hearts? It was super easy. The grilling softened and warmed the romaine, but retained some of that famous crunch. The eggs were perfectly cooked, if I do say so myself, the dressing was salty and tangy, and the breadcrumbs brought a great crispiness.
Grilled Romaine Salad
1 romaine heart per person
1-2 9-minute eggs per person (details below)
toasted bread crumbs to garnish
Heat your grill. Slice the romaine hearts in half lengthwise. Brush with oil. Grill until slightly charred and wilted, flipping, and repeating on the other side.
To make 9 minute eggs, bring a small pot of water with a sprinkling of baking soda to a boil. Lower in as many eggs as you are making using a spoon, slotted or otherwise. Boil for 9 minutes, drain, and rinse in cold water to cool. (As far as the eggs to, I have come to rely on this article/image from Bon Appetit as a guide for how long I should cook my eggs.)
Make the dressing by combining the ingredients in a jar and shaking until thoroughly combined.
To serve, drizzle the dressing over the romaine hearts, top with sliced 9-minute eggs, and a heavy sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Enjoy.