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Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)

When you think of Thai food, do you think of pad thai? Of rice noodles with a slightly ketchup-y sauce topped with too many bean sprouts? Or mild curries, full of almost mushy vegetables? Or do you think of fresh noodles with a tart and savory flavor, created by a mixture of tamarind and oyster sauce? Or curry paste pounded by hand, spicy and complex?

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Since I have been in Thailand, I have mostly enjoyed the latter kind of Thai food. Food that is packed with flavor, that has depth to it, layers of ingredients that have been combined with care, with knowledge. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to take a cooking class, to learn these recipes and techniques. And, in the end, they aren’t as time consuming or confusing as you might think. The ingredients may be hard to find back home, but I can make do.

The day before Thanksgiving, I booked a cooking class for us and our visitors. There were eight of us total, and I thought it would be a good way to all spend a day together, doing something that we really enjoyed. Plus, it would almost be like Thanksgiving what with the hours in the kitchen and the overeating. We went with a company called AsiaScenic, and (after a little confusion) they picked us all up in a van and drove us to a market on the way to their farm north of the city.

Continue reading “Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)”

24 Hour Pickled Green Beans | Serious Crust

24 Hour Pickled Green Beans

24 Hour Pickled Green Beans | Serious Crust

Some time ago, maybe last fall, my older sister introduced me to Mama Lil’s pickled green beans. I have a love for good pickles, especially ones that are still crispy and super tart, and these green beans were just that. They don’t carry them at my grocery store, so when Jonah and I spotted them at Boda’s Kitchen in Hood River, we bought a jar, and finished them within the week.

These green beans are one of those things that you eat and figure, “Ok, I can make these.” So the research began, and after a couple of batches I can confidently say that these are really REALLY good. Everyone I’ve fed them to has found themselves reach back into the jar for more. They are crunchy, tangy, and perfectly spicy. And they take about 20 minutes to make. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes?

24 Hour Pickled Green Beans

Ingredients

3-4 tsp red chili flakes
6-8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
1.5 lbs green beans, trimmed and rinsed
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
3 Tbsp salt

Instructions

In the bottom of each of 3 or 4 16-oz wide mouth jars, sprinkle a teaspoon of chili flakes and 2 quartered cloves of garlic. On top of the chili flakes and garlic, pack as many green beans as you can fit vertically.

In a large saucepan combine the white vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and pour over the green beans. You want to completely cover the beans, so you’ll need to fill the jars right to the edge.

Put the lids loosely on the jars and leave them on the counter to cool down. Once the jars are cool enough to handle, screw the lids on all the way and put them in the fridge to store overnight. They’re ready to eat in 24 hours and will keep for a month in the fridge!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerStrawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

My sister recently made me aware that my strawberry rhubarb pie recipe – the one that really inspired me to start this blog in the first place – wasn’t on this website. How could that be?! The time is right to tell you the story behind it, seeing as this weekend is Father’s Day and it’s rhubarb season.

Growing up, my father was a produce aficionado. He snacked on radishes like they were popcorn, and his perfect dessert was a bowl of the ripest berries. My dad’s love of fresh ingredients got me excited about food at a young age, and cooking became a pillar in our relationship. It still is – every time we talk we brag about dishes we’ve made, the latest cookbooks we’re itching to buy, and restaurants we’ve tried lately.

When I was in high school, we decided to spend a summer on a quest for the perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. We read probably a hundred recipes, and baked a pie a week. For the crust we experimented with vodka and leaf lard. To perfect the filling we adjusted our rhubarb to strawberry ratios and tried different spices like ground ginger and orange zest. We refined our technique for rolling out the dough, and watched through the oven door as juices bubbled through cracks in the crust. After cooling on the counter for hours, the first bite was always exhilarating. When we finally landed on the recipe, it was obvious as soon as we tasted it – the crust was tender and flaky, the filling was a soft rosy pink dotted with strawberry seeds, and there was a perfect balance between sweet and tart.

Five years later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We went through a trying year of chemotherapy and surgery. It was hard to see someone who loves food barely able to eat, much less enjoy eating. I’ll always remember when I was with him while he was getting a blood transfusion, and I went to the vending machine for a snack. I came back with a bag of Wheat Thins. He tried one and said it tasted good, so I gathered up all of my loose change and bought every bag in the vending machine so he could eat them. His recovery took place mostly in the late spring – the beginning of rhubarb season. The day he asked me to make him our strawberry-rhubarb pie, I knew he was back.

These days, I like to think that strawberry-rhubarb pie is my specialty. I’ve found a new dough recipe (the one you see below) that I like even better than the one my dad and I decided on twelve years ago. Making this pie is relaxing, almost therapeutic. Slicing up the fruit, rolling out the dough – all of it is a ritual that I treasure returning to each summer. Not only do I love making this pie, but it’s representative of my relationship with my dad and the things we both value: sharing delicious food with the people we love the most. It will always remind me of him, and the time we spent on the hunt for the perfect pie. Happy Father’s Day, dad. Here’s to many more rhubarb seasons.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Note: As is often the case with pastry type dough, the colder it is and the less you handle it, the better. I like to keep my shortening in the freezer so it is very cold, and the butter in the fridge.

Another Note: This pie is JUICY. It tastes delicious as ever, but I have never made a strawberry rhubarb pie that actually firmed up without tasting too much like flour or corn starch. I’d rather have a juicy pie that packs a punch rather than being muted by various starchy ingredients. The amount of cornstarch you add will be based on how juicy your fruit is – for example, if you bought your strawberries at the farmer’s market in the height of strawberry season, you’ll want to add more, whereas if you bought them at a big box grocery store in December, you won’t need as much.

Ingredients

Pie Dough

2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
12 Tbps (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
½ cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into chunks
3-8 Tbsp ice water

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling

4 cups rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 cup sugar
3-5 Tbl cornstarch

Instructions

Pie Dough

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse to distribute. Add the butter, pulse until evenly combined. Add the vegetable shortening, and do the same, pulsing until evenly combined. Your dough will start to clump together, but you will still have loose flour. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse. If your dough isn’t coming together quite yet, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. You want the dough to just start to come together. Dump the dough out onto floured surface and form a ball, cut it in half, and form two discs (roughly 1-1 ½ inch thick). Wrap discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. You can also freeze the dough for later use.

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.

Preheat your oven to 450° F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with butter and dust with flour. Roll out your pie dough until it’s a circle about 12 inches wide. I like to set the plastic wrap that the dough was wrapped in underneath when I roll it out, as it helps lift it into the pie dish. Transfer your dough to the pie dish and ease it into the corners of the dish. Fill with the strawberry-rhubarb filling. Roll out the second disc of dough, and cover the pie. Trim off excess dough, pinch together the edges, and cut vents in the top of the pie. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, and then into the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 50-70 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quick Pickled Rhubarb | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Quick Pickled Rhubarb

Quick Pickled Rhubarb | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A couple weeks ago, Jonah and I went to a Timbers game, and before the game started, it started to rain. It rained on and off for the whole game (which we lost) and when we left the stadium it was really pouring. We quickly decided to wait out the crowds and the downpour by ducking into a bar near the stadium called Shift Drinks. We got some tasty drinks and then decided to get a snack. I have a serious weakness for chicken liver pâté, so when I saw some on the menu, accompanied by pickled rhubarb, I knew I’d be ordering that.

Their pâté was creamy and sweet, and contrasted beautifully with the crunchy, sour rhubarb. I always love finding a new use for rhubarb, especially if it’s savory, so when I had that pickled rhubarb at Shift Drinks I knew I wanted to try making my own (and pairing it with my own chicken liver pâté, for which I use this recipe). This recipe is so ridiculously easy, and it makes a great snack either on it’s own or accompanying meats and cheeses on a homemade charcuterie board.

Quick Pickled Rhubarb

Ingredients

3 large stalks rhubarb
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
3 mint sprigs

Instructions

Slice the rhubarb into roughly half inch slices. Put the slices into a heat proof jar or bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the red wine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, fennel seeds, and mint. Bring to a simmer, remove the mint sprigs, and pour the liquid over the rhubarb. Cover and let stand overnight. In the morning, you’ve got quick pickled rhubarb!

Passover 2016 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

What I Wanna Make: Passover 2016

Passover 2016 | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerPassover 2016 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

That’s right y’all. It’s about to be Passover. Bring on the matzo ball soup, the flourless desserts, and the brisket! I know, I know, this charoset is not the most photogenic food. And I realized while making it that to most people, it may not even taste that great. But man, does this stuff bring me back to my childhood.

I only buy Maneschewitz wine once a year because, well, it’s awful. But then again, so is most matzo (cardboard anyone?) and we all know that gefilte fish is possibly the least loved dish on the Passover table. But I love it all. And possibly my favorite thing at Passover, and the thing that I somehow made even when I couldn’t go home for the holiday, is charoset: at its simplest, a paste of chopped apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon. This recipe is one that I found and tinkered with a few years ago, and I like it slathered on a matzo cracker and topped with a heavy dollop of horseradish.

Here’s what else I want to make this year:

Date and Apple Charoset

Ingredients

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups pitted dates (I like Medjool), about 15
1/3 cup sweet wine (Manischewitz is the only authentic way to go)
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Horseradish and matzo for serving

Instructions

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pecans and walnuts a few times until you’ve got a coarse meal. Add the apples, pulse a few more times, then add the dates, wine, honey, and cinnamon. Blend until mostly smooth. Add salt and lemon to taste. Chill to serve.

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious Crust

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious CrustBrown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines | Serious Crust

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a batch of baked goods disappear so quickly. I just wanted to warn you right off the bat. Whether you’re making these buckwheat madeleines for you and your honey at home or to take to a fête, you should know either way that they won’t be around for long. I think it’s because they dance on the edge of sweetness and toe the line between a soft, cakey middle and crunchy browned edges. The outside is a tiny bit sticky from a spoonful of honey, and so when you finish eating one you have to lick your fingers, which only reminds you of the comforting flavors swirling around your tastebuds.

I spotted the recipe for these madeleines in my dad’s copy of My Paris Kitchen, which, yes I’ve been pining over and no I don’t have yet (but I may have just ordered). David Lebovitz has long had a home in my kitchen. I believe his lemon curd was the first one I ever made, and I’ve churned plenty of his ice cream recipes. When my dad got his cookbook, he almost immediately sent me the recipe for the leeks with mustard-bacon vinaigrette, which are delicious and you should definitely make them. I think I love his writing so much because I used to dream of packing up my life and moving to Paris, where I would use my 6 years of French lessons to make French friends and shop at French markets and cook French meals and it would all be so perfectly French.

But sometimes that isn’t quite how real life goes. You do sensible things like go to college and have roommates and get a job (or a few) instead of living the dream life in Paris. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have French inspired food and toss little French phrases around with other French speakers. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t brown butter in your kitchen so the house smells like nutty, toasty heaven, whisk that brown butter in with buckwheat flour and honey, and fill the molds of a madeleine pan with the batter. And it doesn’t mean you can’t break one of the madeleines in two while it’s still warm, the inside springy and spongey and the edges perfectly crispy. And it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t eat three (or four…) in the span of 10 minutes.

Brown Butter Buckwheat Madeleines

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, equaling about 1/2 cup (hint: keep the remaining yolks to make a citrus curd later)
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional – I didn’t use these)

Instructions

In a pan over medium heat, cook the butter until it’s the color of a perfectly cooked marshmallow or toast. The butter will foam and spit, don’t be afraid. When it’s brown, pour into a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg whites and honey and whisk until combined. Add about a third of the brown butter, and mix until combined, then slowly add the rest of the butter while mixing. If you’re using the cocoa nibs, add them now and mix until they’re evenly distributed.

Brush your madeleine pan with butter, and fill the molds about 3/4 of the way full with batter – about one tablespoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the madeleines spring back lightly when you touch them in the middle. Thanks to the buckwheat flour, you can’t really rely on color here too much, but you’ll kind of be able to tell when the edges are looking a little on the golden side. Allow to cool in the pan for about a minute before popping them out onto a cooling rack. I recommend eating them warm (or at least the same day) with a cup of coffee or tea.

Cheese Crackers | Serious Crust

Cheese Crackers

Cheese Crackers | Serious CrustCheese Crackers | Serious Crust

A while back, I went to the Oregon coast, which obviously meant a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a few trips through the tasting line and being entranced by the packaging of cheese. You wouldn’t think it would be so interesting, but I totally zone out on those machines trimming, wrapping, vacuuming, and sending off a zillion pounds of cheese.

The other great thing about the cheese factory is that not only do they have EVERY kind of Tillamook Cheese you could want, but they also have basically half-priced packages of the little ends and bits that they trim when they’re packaging the cheese. So when I saw a pound of Garlic White Cheddar for cheap, I said, “Yes, please,” and brought it home with me. I used almost all of it for some macaroni and cheese, and the rest went into these very (cheesy) crackers.

I’ve had a weakness for Cheez-its ever since I was a young child (seriously, if you every need to bribe me for any reason, Cheez-its will do the trick), and I love baking my own at home every once in a while. I figured the garlic in this cheese would add a great flavor to these cheese crackers, and it did. If you can, I highly recommend getting your hands on some garlic cheddar for these bad boys, but if you can’t, any sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar will do.

Cheese Crackers

Ingredients

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 oz Tillamook garlic white cheddar (or any other garlic cheddar), finely grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder, optional (if you’re down to have your crackers on the slightly spicier side, I recommend it)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup AP flour
1-4 Tbsp cold milk
salt for dusting

Instructions

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and grated cheese. While that is mixing, in a small bowl sift together the flour, salt, chili powder, and paprika. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and cheese mixture and mix until combined. Yes, it’ll be crumbly!

A tablespoon at a time, add the milk, mixing after each addition, until the dough comes together. Form the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 of an inch (or slightly thinner). Cut into squares, and using the tine of a fork or end of a skewer, make a hole in the center of each square. Sprinkle with salt, and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown (they can burn quickly, so if you want to go darker, keep a close eye on them). Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes before enjoying.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious Crust

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious CrustGraham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting | Serious Crust

I know, it’s fall. Or basically winter. It’s cold and blustery here in Portland. The gray and rain have settled in, and I personally am loving it. There’s lots of tea and squash in my life and that’s just my favorite. And yes, probably most blogs are (sensibly) posting all those rich fall recipes that you’ll make for Thanksgiving. This is not one of those recipes. It could be, I suppose, but then your family might get mad that there’s not apple pie AND pumpkin pie AND pecan pie. But they wouldn’t be too mad, because they’d be eating these graham cracker cupcakes. With lime buttercream frosting. How could you be mad?

My friend Mac’s birthday was on Monday, and when I asked him what kind of birthday treat he wanted, he gave me three options: coffee, peanut butter, or lime. What with all the rich, sweet treats that around this time of year, I wanted to go with something bright, something that got me excited about all the winter citrus that my grocery store will soon be carrying. So after a little digging around, these are what I made. You should think about making them too.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

Makes 12-14 cupcakes | Adapted from Bon Appetit + My Recipes

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 graham crackers, pulsed in a food processor), plus 2-3 Tbsp for dusting
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lime
3/4 cup whole milk

Lime Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp lime zest (or the zest of one lime)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 16 oz package of powdered sugar
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1-2 Tbsp whole milk

Instructions

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a small bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and lime zest, mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk (which you’ll add in two additions), mixing to combine after each addition.

Put roughly 1/4 cup batter in each cupcake liner. Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, rotating halfway through. Allow to cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish.

Lime Buttercream Frosting

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, lime zest, vanilla, and salt until creamy. Alternate adding the powdered sugar and lime juice in three additions (so you’ll add roughly 1/3 of the box of powdered sugar, mix to combine, then add a tablespoon of lime juice, mix to combine, x3). Then add 1 Tbsp of milk and mix to combine. If the frosting is still too thick, add milk a teaspoon at a time, beating after each addition, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Frost your cupcakes, and sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs.

Strawberry Margaritas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Strawberry Margaritas

Strawberry Margaritas | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

You know what I haven’t quite been doing enough of this summer? Making cocktails at home. I always feel so accomplished when I whip up a delicious drink in my own kitchen, especially on a hot summer day, which lord knows we’ve been having in Portland. And I have never actually made a blended cocktail at home. Until now, that is. You see, when I got a bottle of Oregon Fruit Products pourable fruit in the mail, I decided it was time to change that.

Oregon Fruit Products has been around for a long time – eighty years in fact. And they’ve just come out with pourable fruit, a syrupy diced fruit sauce that’s easy to add to dishes, desserts, and drinks. They pick their fruit at the peak ripeness, so it really does capture that taste of Oregon summer. The convenience of this is great – you store it in the freezer, and then thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready to use. It’d be great on your waffles on a Sunday morning or in a power smoothie. (Keep in mind that since it’s a new product, you may see it with the old “Berrst” label until they update all the packaging. But it’s the same stuff. I promise.)

I decided to whip up a batch of strawberry margaritas for me and Jonah. After my discovery that no, you don’t have to have triple sec to make a margarita, I’ve enjoyed a simple shaken version a couple times this summer. But let’s be honest, blended just feels fancier, no?

Strawberry Margaritas

Makes 2 cocktails

Ingredients

4 oz tequila
Juice of 3 limes
10 dashes of orange bitters (or roughly 1/2 tsp)
1 cup Oregon Fruit Products’ Pourable Fruit Strawberry
1 1/2 cups ice
Optional: lime wedges and margarita or kosher salt for glass

Instructions

Combine tequila, lime juice, orange bitters, and fruit in a blender, and blend to combine. Add ice, and blend until smooth.

If you’re going for a salted glass, pour plenty of salt onto a plate or shallow bowl. Run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass. Press the rim of the glass into the salt.

Fill with margarita and enjoy!

This is a sponsored post. Oregon Fruit Products sent a me a sample of Strawberry Pourable Fruit, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

Chai Truffles

Chai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerChai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Let’s talk about chocolate. Everyone likes it. Everyone. If you don’t like chocolate, I think you might not be a human with feelings. And there is nothing quite like biting into a piece of chocolate that is fudgy, a little melty, and dark enough that it’s got that hint of sharpness to it.

Some of my favorite chocolate to eat is Theo Chocolate, based in Seattle. Jonah and I went on a factory tour a couple summers ago, and man was it a) interesting thanks to our awesome guide and b) delicious thanks to lots of samples. They have a chai flavored bar that is crazy good (so are all of their flavors, really), which I think is subconsciously why I chose to try these chai truffles. Well, that and I had been really wanting to make some easy truffles, and of course I can’t just have a plain chocolate flavor, can I? So with the advice of baker friend Caitlyn and a little research I got to work.

Chai Truffles

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tbl chai blend tea (I used Highland Chai from Tea Chai Te here in Portland)
9 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, ~70% (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt
~1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

In a small pan on the stove, bring the cream and chai blend to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  While tea is steeping, roughly chop chocolate and put it in a heat proof bowl. After 10-15 minutes, uncover the cream and put it over low heat again, bringing it to a simmer.

Strain the cream into the bowl with chocolate, discarding steeped tea. Let sit for about 3 minutes, allowing the hot cream to start melting the chocolate. Add spices and a pinch of salt, and whisk together until chocolate is melted and thoroughly combined with the cream. Taste, and add a touch more spice or salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight, until the ganache is firm.

When ganache is firm, prepare to get covered in chocolate. Gloves are not a bad idea. Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Put the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Scoop rough 1/2 tablespoons of the ganache and roll into balls, then roll the ball in the cocoa powder, and set on lined plate. Repeat until the ganache is all rolled into beautiful little truffles, and refrigerate again for at least an hour. Enjoy.

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust
Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes // Serious Crust

During the holiday season, all I want to do is make cookies. All of the cookie recipes I’ve been eyeing throughout the year, this seems like the time to make them. I want chocolate cookies, I want mint crinkles, I want pecan shortbreads, I want soft sugar cookies decorated with frosting designs, I want ginger snaps. Maybe this is why I always add a layer this time of year? Maybe.

I recently bought a bottle of rosewater (mostly because there’s this dish in Jerusalem (the cookbook)- swordfish with harissa and rose – that I had once and I’ve been wanting to make it again), and it had been sitting on my pantry shelf, looking pretty but also lonely. And then I came across this recipe for “Pistachio Rosewater Snowball Cookies” in the latest issue of Kinfolk Magazine. They sounded like a beautiful twist on what some people call Mexican wedding cookies or Russian Tea Cakes or any other number of cookies: nutty with pistachio, and aromatic and floral from the cardamom and rose.

After making the recipe from Kinfolk, I made a few small changes to the recipe, and I wanted to share them with you. I thought the original was a little heavy on the rosewater, and a little light on the cardamom (though my roommates and Jonah really enjoyed them as they were). They’re buttery and crumbly. They’re sweet but with a unique flavor with them. And they smell beautiful.

Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes

Note: I found rosewater with the cocktail mixers at my local grocery store. It might also be in with the extracts in the baking aisle. If not, you can find it online.

Second note: Before you invest in making this recipe, you should definitely read through this recipe, and know that 1) pistachios are pricey, especially if you buy them already shelled and 2) there is a lot of kind of annoying pistachio prep. You’ve been warned.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups plus 2 Tbl all purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp rosewater

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment, or butter them.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and blanch the pistachios for 1 minute. Drain them, and place them on a clean dish towel. Fold the dish towel over the pistachios and rub off the skins. (There may be some stubborn ones that you need to peel off.) Spread them in a small baking dish and roast them in the oven until they’re just dry, about 8 minutes. Set them aside and allow them to cool. When they are cool, pulse in a food processor or blender until they’re finely ground, but definitely not a paste. Transfer them to a small mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, cardamom, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the rosewater, and mix it in. With the mixer on low, add in the pistachio flour mixture and mix just until a dough forms, scarping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Roll the dough into 1-1.5 inch balls. Arrange at least 1 inch apart on the pan, and bake until they’re just golden on the bottom, ~20 minutes (mine took a little less). While the cookies are baking, pour the remaining cup of powdered sugar into a wide bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool from a minute or two, and when they’re cool enough to handle, roll them in the powdered sugar. Allow to cool the rest of the way on a wire race.