Vegetarian

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Kale & Sweet Potato Soup | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Tomato and Ricotta Galette

Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tomato and Ricotta Galette | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts

Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Disney dinner | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Disney dinner | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Deeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Deeper ‘n Ever Pie

Deeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Deeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Deeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Deeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerDeeper 'n Ever Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles

Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerAsian Slaw with Ramen Noodles | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerAsian Slaw with Ramen Noodles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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

Ingredients

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.

Instructions

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.

Asian Slaw with Ramen Noodles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A little taste of the beach house for you, clockwise from from top left: Carolyn, Branden, and their puppy Lily on the beach; Walt slaves over the smoked pork shoulder; Of course there had to be birthday cake; Kylie and their dog Darwin.
Mariam's Salad Rolls // Serious Crust

Mariam’s Salad Rolls

Mariam's Salad Rolls // Serious Crust

Mariam's Salad Rolls // Serious Crust
Mariam's Salad Rolls // Serious Crust

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

Grilled Romaine Hearts (with a 9-minute egg) // Serious Crust

Grilled Romaine Salad (with 9 minute eggs)

Grilled Romaine Hearts (with a 9-minute egg) // Serious Crust

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

Ingredients

Romaine Salad

1 romaine heart per person
1-2 9-minute eggs per person (details below)
toasted bread crumbs to garnish

Dressing

2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 Tbl olive oil

Instructions

Romaine Salad

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.)

Dressing

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.

Summer Vegetable Tacos with Mariam Foods Lentil Dip // Serious Crust

Summer Vegetable Tacos

Summer Vegetable Tacos with Mariam Foods Lentil Dip // Serious Crust
Summer Vegetable Tacos with Mariam Foods Lentil Dip // Serious Crust
Summer Vegetable Tacos with Mariam Foods Lentil Dip // Serious Crust
Summer Vegetable Tacos with Mariam Foods Lentil Dip // Serious Crust

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

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

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

Cilantro Cream

1 cup sour cream
¼ – 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of ½ lime

Taco Assembly

Mariam Black Lentil and Jalapeño Dip
Small tortillas (corn or flour)
Optional: grated cheddar cheese, queso fresco, salsa, additional cilantro, lime wedges

Instructions

Roasted Vegetables

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.

Cilantro Cream

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.

Taco Assembly

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 with Summer Squash and Mango // Serious Crust

Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango

Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango // Serious Crust
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango // Serious Crust
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango // Serious Crust
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango // Serious Crust

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

Ingredients

2 zucchini, julienned
2 summer squash, julienned
olive oil
salt
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

Instructions

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.

Shaved Asparagus Salad // Serious Crust

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Shaved Asparagus Salad // Serious Crust

Sometimes,  you make a meal, thinking one dish will be the star. Especially when you lay down a hefty chunk of change on a cut of meat. But things happen – you run out of time and you don’t season the meat properly or sear it the way you’d like, and then maybe you leave it in the slow cooker a little bit longer than you should have. And when that happens, there are side dishes that sneak up and surprise you. Like this shaved asparagus salad did.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew this salad would be good. I love asparagus, and there are seemingly a million shaved asparagus salad recipes out there (like this one, and this one, and this one). And yeah, they’re all relatively the same. But man, something about the freshness of this salad – crunchy, sour, salty – just got me. It was exactly what I needed after a long day of work. And it certainly was better than an underseasoned, overcooked (only slightly) piece of meat.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch of asparagus
juice from half of a lemon
olive oil
salt (course is good, if you’ve got it)
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup, roughly, of toasted pine nuts, sliced and toasted almonds, or shelled pistachios
parmesan cheese, though crumbled feta would work nicely too

Instructions

Don’t snap the tough ends off your asparagus just yet! Leave them on and use them as a handle. Lay the asparagus on a cutting board, and use a peeler to shave off wide strips, shaving away from you. You’ll have some thick pieces at the end, but do the best you can. Apparently the consensus is that y-shaped peelers are better for this, but I don’t have one of those. Make do with what you’ve got. Discard the woody ends. Put the peeled pieces into a bowl or on a platter or whatever you’re planning on serving on/in. Pour the lemon juice over top of the asparagus, and drizzle with olive oil. I can’t tell you how much olive oil, because I didn’t measure. A good glug should suffice. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top, as well as the toasted nuts. Rinse your peeler and use it to shave some thin pieces of parmesan to top the salad (or use a fork and crumble the feta over top). We’re big cheese fans, so we did more cheese instead of less.

Enjoy on a spring or summer day, preferably with a glass of refreshing white or rosé wine. I think this salad would be perfect alongside some grilled fish or chicken for a summer soirée.

Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes

Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

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).