Recipes

Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables

Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Cream Cheese Toast with Crunchy Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Snap Peas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Spring Pea Blintzes

Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spring Pea Blintzes | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

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Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rhubarb Blondies

Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Blondies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A little while ago, I went to lunch at one of my favorite cafés (which, disclaimer, is also owned by my dear friend) with Jonah and another friend who was in town. After we finished eating, we were waxing poetic about their brown butter miso cookies. These cookies are quite possibly my favorite cookie of all time, and I do not say that lightly. They are certainly in the top three cookies I’ve ever had in my life. Why? First, when the miso mixes with the brown butter and sugar, it creates this amazingly complex butterscotch flavor. Second, I love anything with miso. You know that, I know that, why even pretend like it’s not true? As we were sitting there, talking about The Cookies, we decided to play a game called “will it miso?” We decided that pretty much all produce will miso (though I’m sure there are exceptions). Will cheese miso? I’m not so sure.

This got me thinking about the bag of rhubarb I had at home in my fridge. I hadn’t decided what to do with it yet – there was talk of ice cream, as well as the previously posted gluten-free rhubarb poppy seed bread – but all this talk of miso in baked goods got me thinking. We got home, I did a little research, and I got cooking.

Don’t be scared by the (optional) miso in this recipe. As I mentioned above, it mostly provides an extra butterscotch flavor, making it a little richer and complex. If you don’t have any miso, head to the store and pick up a small tub. You can use it every which way, and once you learn its magical power of making everything delicious, you won’t be able to stop using it. If you get stuck there are plenty recipes on this very blog that feature it, like this caramel apple cake, this sticky toffee pudding, these roasted vegetables, this roasted squash and tofu, and these vegetable quinoa bowls.

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Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I have never really liked lentils. When I was young, lentils and beans both had this texture (I think from cooking them into oblivion until they became mushy and grainy) that I just couldn’t stand. And so I stopped eating them, simple as that. Mexican food became a slight challenge (back then, it was because I didn’t like beans, now it’s because I can’t eat corn), but I mostly got away with it. Beans re-entered my life when I started living with my friend Carmelle and she made the most amazing refried beans and vegetarian chili. But lentils… I still couldn’t get behind. I hadn’t ever had them and thought, “Now those are good lentils!”

Recently though, my sister has been on a microbiome and gut-health kick, telling us all that we should be eating this or that, sending us articles and books to read. And when she sent along a recipe for lentils on our family WhatsApp thread, I told her I didn’t really eat lentils. She proceeded to yell at me (as much as one can yell via text) and tell me that lentils are good for you and that I should be eating them. It also happens that around this time, I was in the thick of cooking my way through many recipes in Alison Roman’s Dining In. From it, I made a recipe for spiced lentils (used in a rendition of a salad nicoise) that I found to be incredibly delicious. So delicious in fact, that I told the checkout guy at the grocery store that he had to make it immediately, and I let him take a picture of the recipe I had on my phone.

So I was working on liking lentils, and I was off to a really good start. Now I’ve become a person that, instead of cooking a batch of rice or farro on Sunday afternoon for lunches that week, will cook a batch of lentils to be used in salads and bowls or seasoned with oil and herbs for a side. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.

As I’ve been looking for other ways to use this batch of lentils, a recipe slowly started formulating in my brain. The warmer weather has got me itching for all food that is representative of spring, and a warm salad with lentils and crispy lamb sprang to mind (pun very much intended). With a little heat from the onion, some creaminess from the yogurt, bites of juiciness from tomatoes, and a little tang from the feta, this recipe became a quick favorite. It’s easy enough to throw together, makes great leftovers, and doesn’t make too many dirty dishes. I think you’ll like it.

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Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Poppy Seed Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

This spring has been flying by. Every time I think “Those flowers won’t bloom for another few weeks,” it feels like they open up the next day. Baby plants are coming up in our garden already. Can you believe that? The spring rains are dousing Portland, but with that comes the lush greens and bright pastels, the mildly warmer weather, and of course, the rhubarb. I started another ceramics class last Friday, and when our instructor made us share an interesting fact about ourselves, mine was just rhubarb. Simple as that. I am certainly the class weirdo. But the time of year has arrived when I always have some in my fridge.

My sisters, who both have important people in their lives avoiding gluten (as do I), requested that I create a gluten-free version of this poppy seed rhubarb bread (which I really hope to re-photograph soon). I’ve done very little gluten-free (GF) baking in my life, partially because I strongly dislike the anti-gluten movement – the people who avoid it because it’s the trendy thing to avoid – when gluten and the grains that contain it actually provide lots of good, healthy nutrients. But, as I have known more and more people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it seems like it is time to wade into the world of GF baking. Another thing I have found so sad about GF baking is that often the pastries I have seen are simply depressing – soggy, structurally unsound, chalky messes. This all changed, however, when I visited my sister in New York last fall. She had been singing the praises of Alice Medrich’s book Flavor Flours, and when I stayed with her we baked two recipes from it: some linzer cookies and I think some gingerbread. They were delicious. Perhaps my favorite thing about them was that, rather than hiding the lack of traditional AP flour, these recipes embraced the flours they used instead, making the flavors of buckwheat or teff or rice flour an integral part. Instead of being the random flavor of the flour you needed to use for the right texture and structure, the flavors played a role in the ingredients and flavor combinations. It makes perfect sense that the book was called Flavor Flours.

I had been thinking of getting a copy of this book for quite some time, and then I realized that not only would it be fun to cook from, but it would be a good tool for me to learn about GF baking and to create my own recipes that are edible for that many more people. So hopefully this is the first of many. If there’s a recipe here you’d like to see a GF version of, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. In the mean time, enjoy this GF version of what has become a favorite spring recipe.

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Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Vegetables | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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:

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Carrot Ginger Sauce/Dressing | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Carrot Ginger Dressing

Carrot Ginger Sauce/Dressing | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Carrot Ginger Sauce/Dressing | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

When I was younger and we went out to a sushi restaurant, my parents would make us order a salad. This salad was usually mostly iceberg lettuce, topped with a neon-orange clumpy dressing, and I loved it. I loved how crunchy and bright it was. I hadn’t really thought about that dressing until a year or two ago when Saveur‘s recipe for it popped up on my Facebook feed. I made it immediately and was SO HAPPY.

These days there is always a jar of the stuff in my fridge since it can be used for pretty much anything. How do I use it? Most often to top my grain bowls with whatever random assortment of vegetables and proteins I’ve got around. I love using it to dress a simple salad with whatever greens I have in my fridge (romaine, baby kale, and baby spinach are the usual suspects) and topping it with sesame seeds. Or I drizzle it over my lazy breakfast of crisped leftover rice and a fried egg, plus some hot sauce and everything bagel seasoning. The point is, if there is an opportunity to use this dressing, I do.

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Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies

Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Peanut-Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

To say I have been feeling uninspired would be an understatement. Ever since our fridge stopped working 2 months ago (it was finally replaced. That’s correct, we were without a working refrigerator for almost 2 months) I have just not been itching to be in the kitchen like usual. I think of a recipe and start to research, and I feel like I see it in twenty places and it doesn’t seem worth me developing it myself. When I do think of a recipe that I can’t seem to find, I can never quite get myself to actually make it. Other things intrude into my kitchen time. I decide I would rather paint or read or nap.

So I decided to wade back in with someone else’s cookies. Deb Perelman’s cookies, to be exact. I feel like since she started doing press for her most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, she has been on fire. There was a time when I would go to Smitten Kitchen and nothing would quite catch my eye, but these days? These days I feel like everything she posts is just for me. I kid you not, a couple of weeks ago I googled “Korean short ribs instant pot” and the next day – THE NEXT DAY – she posted exactly. what. I. was. looking. for. It was bizarre, I felt like she was a god that had heard my prayers!

Her siren voice was calling and I decided to answer in the form of these peanut butter filled chocolate cookies. I agree, it’s a weird thing when a blogger posts another blogger’s recipe. But I needed to get back in the kitchen, and these were the ticket. I had a sunny afternoon alone in my house, so I turned on my favorite baking Pandora station and enjoyed myself for the first time in a while. Sometimes all it takes are some really good cookies, you know?

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Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rooibos Tahini Ice Cream | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A week before Christmas I almost cut off a large chunk of the tip of my thumb. I won’t get into the gory details, but here’s what I’ll say: don’t rush, and be careful when it comes to the combination of frozen produce and very sharp new knives. Ok? The next day, our refrigerator broke. It took two days to get someone to come look at it, and now we are waiting until January 8th for a part to come which will hopefully (please please please) fix it. In the meantime, we had two coolers outside plus a very mini fridge in our basement, plus a kind-of working refrigerator that our friend graciously gave to us. Did I mention that we were not only hosting Christmas dinner but also had my in-laws staying with us for the week?

Anyway, we got through all of this just fine. We got through it well, in fact. There were no stitches or trips to the emergency room, just lots of gauze and finger cots and trips up and down our basement stairs and re-freezing ice packs. And at the end of all of this (well, technically it’s not the end since our fridge is still busted and my finger is still bandaged up), an ice cream maker appeared on our doorstep. It was one of those times when you rack your brain to remember, “What the heck was my latest Amazon purchase?” But no, it was just my wonderful father-in-law. Maybe it was an additional Christmas present or a very nice host gift. My mother-in-law is one of my only family members who religiously reads this blog, so I’m sure she’ll show this to him, and hopefully, it will make him smile.

Of course, then I had my in-laws in mind when I was thinking of what recipe would be the first in my newest kitchen addition. I was researching and researching recipe ideas, feeling frustrated that I couldn’t quite find what I wanted, and then this one popped into mind. You see, my mother-in-law was the one who got me drinking rooibos tea. I had tried it before, but it wasn’t until my regular trips to Chicago, sitting around sharing a pot, using her cute little strainer, that I started really liking it. It’s now a staple in my tea collection and one that we drank a lot of while they were here. And because I can’t leave anything alone, I decided to add tahini, bringing a sweet nuttiness to the earthy flavor of the tea. You can make this without the tahini, and it would be good. But I recommend trying the combination – I think they suit each other.

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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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Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Miso Caramel Apple Cake

Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Miso Caramel Apple Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We decided not to go to a pumpkin patch this year. I have some regrets, but mostly we wanted to spend our time doing things other than driving half an hour to a patch just to pick a pumpkin, something we easily could have done at our local grocery store. I’ve been really impressed by the homes in our new neighborhood. There’s one down the street that has no fewer than seven of those large inflatable, light up creatures: two spiders on their roof, one weiner dog with a mask, a couple pumpkins, and more. They even hung a little ghost from the telephone wire! There are pumpkins galore, gravestones, lights, and those faux cobwebs everywhere. I like how Halloween has really been embraced and so many people decorate and get in the holiday spirit. I like that it has such a sense of humor about it, a lightheartedness.

What did we do instead of the pumpkin patch? Well, we did get pumpkins, and we carved them. We got a skeleton named Gary who looks like he’s emerging from our garden beds. We threw a murder mystery dinner party. And tomorrow we hope to be handing out a lot of candy (seriously, we have two very large bags) to kiddos dressed up in costume, hauling pillowcases or plastic pumpkins or whatever the kids use these days. And as for the adults? We’ll likely be munching on this cake (if there’s any left by then), sipping mulled wine or mulled cider spiked with rum, maybe watching Stranger Things (if we don’t finish that by then too) or The Nightmare Before Christmas or some other movie that is equal parts Halloween and nostalgia. Sometimes certain holidays can be weird as adults, but I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

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