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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.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious CrustMiso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust

Almost a year ago, there was a piece in the New York Times. I’m not sure where I found it – most likely someone posted it on Facebook – but it struck a chord. It’s called “When a Food Writer Can’t Taste,” by Marlena Spieler, a James Beard Award winning food writer. In the article, she writes about how a car accident, in which she broke both arms and sustained a concussion, completely demolished her ability to taste and smell.

Now, that sounds horrible no matter who you are. But when a food writer loses the senses that bring her the most joy and allow her to work, it’s devastating. Her descriptions of tasting what had once been some of her favorite foods are heartbreaking: “Cinnamon drops, a childhood favorite, were bitter, horrible.” “Bananas tasted like parsnips and smelled like nail polish remover.” “Gently sautéed mushrooms seemed like scorched bits of sponge.” Luckily, the nerves were only damaged, not severed, meaning that she would, in time, recover. She created her own rehabilitation plan, eating and tasting a huge range of foods, forcing herself to taste things like chocolate over and over again, starting with milk chocolate and slowly upping the cocoa content. Things she hadn’t particularly loved before – fish, especially – became a daily craving.

In the end, she recovered most of the way, and though her senses still occasionally go haywire, she can enjoy food to an incredible extent. But I’d like to focus on a specific part of this story: about halfway through the article, she tells us how, though she used to “lack a sweet tooth,” her sweet tooth now couldn’t be ignored. She lists a few things she baked, and they all sound delicious, but one jumped out at me: miso sticky toffee pudding.

When I studied abroad in London, I became a fan of sticky toffee pudding. It’s not pudding like we think of in the states. It’s a cake that is sweet but not too sweet, drenched in a warm toffee sauce that seeps into the cake, resulting in a moist, warm, absolutely fantastic dessert. Now I have looked for a recipe for Spieler’s mystical dish, and I am not the only one. The day after the article was published, someone tweeted at Spieler asking for the recipe. There’s a Chowhound thread asking if the recipe can be found anywhere (yes, I commented). But I couldn’t find it, and it seems, neither could anyone else. There are recipes for miso toffee, and for sticky toffee pudding with miso ice cream, but not this exact dessert. So, after talking with my baker friend Caitlyn, we decided to make one ourselves.

We decided to adapt David Lebovitz’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, and really, there were only a couple simple changes to be made. (In retrospect, I should’ve used Spieler’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, but I never happened upon it until I was sitting down to write this.) The resulting dessert is sweet, salty, caramelized, strong, and unique. Its flavors are perhaps a bit confusing at first, but I think the way they swirl around your tongue, combining to create a balance of sweet and savory is a fun adventure.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Note: I have made this recipe now with both red and white miso paste. While I personally liked the white miso better, Caitlyn, Jonah, and Caitlyn’s boyfriend Dylan liked the red. On one hand, I think the deeper, more caramelized flavor of the red miso was nice, and on the other, the white provided a little more brightness, while bringing the same level of saltiness. Both are good, so it’s up to you which you use.

Ingredients

Toffee Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup muscovado sugar (if you don’t have that, demerera or dark brown sugar will do)
2 1/2 Tbl molasses (we used Blackstrap)
2-3 tsp miso paste (start with two teaspoons, and add up to another teaspoon to taste)
1-2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds

Pudding

6 ounces pitted dates, snipped into small pieces
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt, preferably fine
4 Tbl unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Instructions

Toffee Sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and butter an 8 1/2 inch porcelain soufflé dish, or something of a similar size.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cream, muscovado sugar (or other dark brown sugar), molasses, and miso to a boil, stirring often to melt the sugar, and keeping a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn. Lower the heat and let simmer for about five minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and coats the spoon. Try your best to break up any chunks of miso. Pour roughly half the sauce into your buttered baking dish, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the toffee sauce, and place the dish in the freezer. Set the pan with the rest of the sauce aside for serving.

Pudding

In another medium saucepan, bring the dates and water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and ginger. Set aside, but keep slightly warm – leaving it on low heat isn’t a terrible idea.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl (you can use an electric mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla, stirring to combine. Add half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, and then add the rest of the flour mixture, stirring between each addition. Be careful not to over-mix the batter.

Remove the baking dish from the freezer and pour the batter in over the toffee and sesame seeds. Bake for 50 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow it to cool slightly before serving. To serve, warm the toffee sauce, spoon portions of the pudding onto plates or bowls, and top with the warm toffee sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream will make a nice topping. I’ve also topped mine with some homemade anise-cardamom ice cream (based on the anise ice cream from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop).

According to Lebovitz, if you’re making the pudding in advance of serving, bake it without the toffee in the bottom of the dish. Close to serving time, poke the cake about 15 times with a chopstick or skewer, and distribute half the toffee sauce over the top. Cover with foil, warm in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes, and then follow the serving instructions above.

Soba Noodles with Shrimp // Serious Crust

Soba Noodles with Shrimp, Lime, and Crispy Shallots

Soba Noodles with Shrimp // Serious Crust

Yes, yes, at this point, we all know that I have a thing for soba noodles. They are healthier than normal wheat pasta, and when you’re more into Asian food than Italian, they make a great alternative. They serve as a fantastic base for lots of sauces, from heavy (like peanut sauce) to light (like this sauce made of sesame oil, tamari, and agave), and are great to toss with seasonal ingredients (mango and zucchini in the summerkale in the winter) and a range of proteins (shredded teriyaki chicken or seared tofu).

More than anything, for me, they’re easy. It’s easy to add lots of healthy vegetables, they make great leftovers, and I know that I can whip up a sauce for them in 10 minutes or less. Throw in some sautéed vegetables or shrimp and you’ve got a dinner. Can it get easier than that? No. So on a busy night a couple weeks ago, Jonah and I made this delicious simple soba noodles with shrimp. This recipe served Jonah and I, with no leftovers (keep in mind, we were hungry). Go ahead and double it if you’re feeding more than two.

Soba Noodles with Shrimp, Lime, and Crispy Shallots

Ingredients

6-8 oz soba noodles
2 Tbl sesame oil
3 Tbl tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
zest and juice of one lime
1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
salt
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
~1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste
lime wedges for serving

Instructions

Boil a large pot of water, cook your soba noodles until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbl of the sesame oil with the tamari or soy sauce, and agave or honey. Add the soba noodles and toss to evenly coat them with the sauce.

In a heavy bottomed pan (cast iron works great here), heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they’re golden and crisp. Remove the shallots to a plate covered with some paper towels. Lower the heat and add the garlic, cooking until it too is golden and crisp. Transfer to the paper towels too, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 Tbl of sesame oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt, making sure the shrimp are evenly coated. Empty the contents of this bowl into the pan (the same one you cooked the shallots and garlic in), and cook them until they’re nice and glazed and just white throughout, about three minutes. Don’t walk away from the stove at this point – overcooked shrimp are not great.

Add the scallions, cilantro, and whatever amount of spicy ingredients you want to the noodles, and top with the shrimp. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over the top. Enjoy.

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious Crust

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious CrustBanana Bread with Miso and Ginger // Serious Crust

I heard people were getting worried. In the week before I posted the recap of Feast last week, at least two people said to me, “I was looking at your blog, and noticed you haven’t posted in a month! Is everything ok?” Which at least means they hopefully like coming over to this little corner of the internet. Mostly though, it has just been a wildly busy month. But hopefully things are calming down a little bit, and as we settle into fall, I can get back to more cooking and writing.

A few weeks ago we cleaned out our freezer to make room for a giant tub of Salt & Straw ice cream, and discovered that we had so many frozen bananas. You know, every time a banana or two gets overripe, you throw it in the freezer, thinking “Oh, I’ll use it soon.” But you always forget. Anyway, I saw this pile of bananas and thought to myself, ok, the time has come. But of course I didn’t want to make just a traditional banana bread. So I took a standard banana bread recipe from Food52 and added a couple things: miso and crystallized ginger.

If you’ve never baked with crystallized ginger before, I highly recommend it. My family likes to put it in apple pie at Thanksgiving. It lends a nice bit of spiciness, and makes you feel a little bit healthy about whatever baked good you’re eating. What is it about ginger that makes everything it’s in seem healthy? How misleading. In this bread, you’ll find little zings of it as you munch on this moist quick bread, a perfect combination of sweet and savory (thanks to the miso).

Banana Bread with Miso and Ginger

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 large or 4 small ripe bananas
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbl butter, melted and cooled
4 tsp white miso (optional)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan (5×9 inches).

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the egg and sugar, stir to combine, then add the butter and miso. Mix until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. In two additions, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix. Gently fold in the crystallized ginger. Pour into loaf pan.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick (or wooden skewer, which is what I had on hand) inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for ~5 minutes in the pan, then remove onto a cooling rack. This bread is best served warm and fresh. If you’ve got some leftover, store in the fridge for best second-day results.

Easy Energy Bites // Serious Crust

Easy Energy Bites

Easy Energy Bites // Serious Crust

So these energy bite things have been popping up in my life for a while now. I’ve seen them everywhere: favorite foodie websites, blogs, Pinterest (duh, everything is on Pinterest), and on my sister’s Facebook. I tried a batch inspired by Sprouted Kitchen that was peanut butter heavy, but they weren’t really my jam (but maybe peanut butter is your jam, or jelly, as it were). After talking to my sister, she inspired me to try her version. And they were great. They were fruity, jammy, chewy, and a little nutty, similar to Larabars.

The beauty of these is that they could not be easier to make. Also, people have found them really impressive, even though they took a mere pressing of buttons to make. The other beauty of these is that you can make them using whatever you’re in the mood for. On this particular day, dried apricots and cherries were calling my name. But I also wanted a little decadence, so I threw in some semi-sweet chocolate chips. The possibilities are endless. And I like that.

Easy Energy Bites

Note: you will need a food processor to make these. You could try them in a blender, but I’m not making any promises about what might happen.

Ingredients

1 cup nuts (I used almond) – toasting optional
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup dried fruit (I went for half apricots, half sour cherries)
Optional: 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate, or cocoa nibs

Instructions

Get out a large piece of wax or parchment paper.

Combine the nuts, dates, whatever dried fruit, and chocolate (if you’re using it) in a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the ingredients, stopping to separate the dates if they clump together. Now, turn the food processor on for 30 seconds or so. Everything should break down every more to crumbly pieces. Scrape down the edges of the bowl. Process again for 1-2 minutes until a paste starts to form and the ingredients clump together into a ball. Dump the paste/dough onto the piece of parchment or wax paper, and press it with your hands until it forms a square, roughly 8×8. Wrap up the dough, and let cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

Once the dough is chilled, unwrap it, slice it into bars of whatever size. You can individually wrap the bars if you’d like, but I stacked mine in a tupperware and stored them in the fridge. Note that they don’t necessarily need to be kept in the fridge, but doing so will help them maintain their shape and firmness. Room temperature bars will be softer and pastier.