Summer

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

Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts

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

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

It was a mashup. A mashup of colors: neon orange, sunset purple, creamy yellow. A mashup of recipes: lots of research, a few ideas, a smattering of ingredients already in the fridge. And a mashup of an event: bachelorette party meets Disney princess themed meets actual edible meal. My best friend’s bachelorette weekend was a whirlwind of events and cocktails (coming soon to the blog, don’t worry), celebrating this wonderful woman and her marriage to another one of my best friends. I’ll get all sappy about them in the next post though. I was tasked with throwing a Disney princess themed dinner party at my house – we dressed as Disney princesses, there was a photobooth, lots of Cinderella-blue (her favorite princess), pumpkins, and more. Above you can see the table and some of the princesses with Cinderella herself at the head of the table, plus the wonderful Moana using her oar to keep all the bees off our fish.

In my effort to create a feast that was edible and kind of went together, I fudged a little bit – Arial probably wouldn’t normally eat salmon, she’d be friends with the salmon. So this was my riff on Rapunzel’s carrots and hazelnuts (in the movie she eats parsnip and hazelnut soup) topped with Jasmine’s tahini sauce. It was my favorite dish at the dinner, and I was happy to find some of the tahini sauce leftover in my fridge a few days later. So I recreated it here – there may be less Disney flare, but there is just as much flavor.

Carrots with Tahini Sauce + Hazelnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients

Carrots

1 1/2 lbs carrots, scrubbed and peeled
olive oil
salt
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
optional: 1 Tbsp za’atar

Tahini Sauce

1/4 cup tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, quartered
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup mint
6 Tbsp water
salt

Instructions

Carrots

Preheat oven to 425°F, convection if you can. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the carrots with about 1 Tbsp olive oil and a couple good pinches of salt. Spread on the parchment paper. Roast for 30 minutes or until dark in spots and on edges, tossing and rotating the pan halfway through.

Tahini Sauce

Combine tahini, garlic, lemon juice, mint, and water in a blender. Blend to combine until smooth. Season to taste with salt and maybe more lemon or garlic.

When the carrots come out of the oven, move them to a serving dish. Drizzle the tahini sauce over them, top with toasted hazelnuts, and sprinkle za’atar over if using. Enjoy.

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Strawberry Lemon Verbena Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Shrub Two Ways

Strawberry Lemon Verbena Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Strawberry Lemon Verbena Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Strawberry Lemon Verbena Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Strawberry Lemon Verbena Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb and Fennel Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb and Fennel Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb and Fennel Shrub | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It’s inevitable. This time of year especially. You go to the farmers market and drool over the rainbows of produce. The rhubarb has that perfect blush that begs you to bag up more than you could ever use at once and cart it home. The ruby strawberries glimmer, covering tables, overflowing from their containers. You can just imagine how red they are on the inside, and you take one from the little sample bowl to confirm your suspicion. They taste almost as much like candy as they do like fruit, they are so sweet and perfect in every way.

So you haul it all to your car and then to your kitchen. And then reality strikes. It’s Monday again and no, you’re not going to get around to making that strawberry pistachio pie you’ve been pining after, or pickling that rhubarb to go with the pâté you brought home from the market. You feel guilty, seeing those sad fruits softening by the day every time you open the fridge.

When it comes to fruit that is beginning to turn, I used to turn to compote (the rhubarb) or freeze them smoothies (the strawberries), but this summer that all changes. I started making shrubs, aka drinking vinegars. It’s painfully simple, goes perfectly well with just sparkling water on those long warm days when you want something fruity and tangy and refreshing, and can welcome a taste of your favorite gin or tequila when those long summer days turn into warm evenings and you want a cocktail to sip while you light up the grill.

It seems shrubs are the fancier version of my dad’s old “it’s-too-hot-out” beverage: a Perrier with an entire lemon juiced in. Tart and bubbly and immediately cooling. They take a little forethought, yes, but in all they take about 15 minutes to make and your friends or guests or whomever is lucky enough to partake will be impressed and thankful. I promise.

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Asian Hot Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Asian Hot Sauce

Asian Hot Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Asian Hot Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Asian Hot Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

My cooking these days feels torn. On the one hand, we’ve been having people over for dinner all the time and when we do, I take it as an opportunity to make those dishes that are just a bit too much of a production for any old night with me and Jonah (i.e. anything from my newest and also favorite cookbook Six Seasons). On the other hand, when it is just me and Jonah I tend to turn to what I have in the fridge. This is a great practice, but when I go to the grocery store, I generally buy the same things for weeknight dinner staples: I pick up some tofu, mushrooms, peppers, leafy greens, onions, occasionally some sweet potatoes, and a bulb of fennel if I’m feeling fancy. These ingredients most often turn themselves into a rice or soba noodle bowl because, well, we love Asian flavors, and it’s simple enough that we don’t have to think about it too much before it can become dinner. But the key to any good rice or noodle bowl is the right sauce.

In my recipe box that sits in my spice drawer, I’ve got at least 3 different asian marinades/sauces. They all have roughly the same ingredients, with a couple extras thrown in or substituted. They are ingredients that are used almost daily in my kitchen: soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, garlic, lime juice. Occasionally there will be honey or maple syrup, sesame oil or miso. But this sauce, the one below, it’s different. Instead of being the base sauce for a meal, it’s a sauce that I keep in a small jar in the fridge. I drizzle it on a plate of food when it needs an extra kick, that beloved tingling on the lips, the gentle burning on the edges of your tongue. It’s not too hot – you can still taste all the ingredients in it because the heat is just at the right level where the flavors don’t get lost. I put it on noodles and rice bowls, but I also put it on fried eggs in the morning, orzo salads that need a little jazzing up after a few days in the fridge, and an afternoon snack of avocado. It has gotten to a point where I like to always have a jar on hand, should the need for it arise. And the need does arise. It always comes in handy.

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Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle

Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Hummus Three Ways: Basic, Balsamic, and Chipotle | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

There are some foods that have such a sense of place. For me, scallops take me back to the first time I gathered the courage to taste them – my dad had doused them in a carrot sauce – on the back patio of my childhood home. Deeper n’ ever pie takes me to my mom’s kitchen. Beer bread takes me to my apartment, senior year of college, my friend Rosie and I standing in the kitchen, waiting impatiently for the bread to cool so we could eat a slice. Annie’s mac n’ cheese takes me to the early days of my relationship with Jonah, standing in his college kitchen, scraping the pot of the tangy cheese sauce to procrastinate on our studies.

Hummus was never a food I loved growing up. I never understood why you would purée beans and then dip dry, bland pita chips in it. I would’ve rather eaten broccoli dipped in ranch, or Doritos, or almost anything else you would find hummus next to at the food table at whatever party you were at. It was cold, thick, and grainy, and seemed like a punishment to have to eat. I avoided eating it mostly until the past few years. I remember a hike that my dad and I went on, and we took a little tub of Sabra’s roasted garlic hummus to the top of Little Si outside Seattle and nearly polished the whole thing off. From then on, Sabra was the standard for me: rich, creamy, and smooth. At parties, I stopped avoiding hummus altogether, but I never really sought it out.

When I went to Israel a couple years ago, I knew I was going to eat the best hummus of my life. And I did, four times over. I ate hummus dusted with za’atar, hummus slathered in olive oil, hummus sprinkled with ground lamb and pine nuts, and hummus dolloped with roasted mushrooms. I would go back to Israel just for the hummus, eaten in the Jerusalem heat, watching the city bustle around me as I sat licking my fingers. When I got back from that trip, I started making my own hummus – I have become a snob about it, and I futzed with Ottolenghi’s recipe until it was as close as possible to the plates I scraped in Israel.

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Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage)

Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well friends, this is the last post from my time in Thailand. Although I’ve been gone from the country for a month and a half now, the fact is that after this post I’ll be done writing about it, looking at pictures constantly, revisiting notes, and all that. But in a way I saved the best for last.

As a birthday present for me, Kylie and Walt got the four of us a class at Ton Gluay Thai Culinary Heritage, a cooking school that Kylie found on a blog all about life in Chiang Mai. They contacted Ice, the woman who runs the school, and got us set up for an afternoon class to take place at Ice’s house. The cool thing about this class is that instead of rushing you through making four different dishes, you pick one dish to make from scratch. One of the dishes we hadn’t yet made in any of our cooking classes was the infamous Chiang Mai sausage, or Sai Ua, that we had eaten (and loved) on many occasions. It was spicy and juicy, with strong flavors of cilantro and lemongrass. Now, I’ll admit that making sausage from scratch isn’t necessarily the most appealing thing to me – intestines have never been high on the list of parts I enjoy eating or handling. But I was determined to try something new! So the class was scheduled and we were on.

When Jonah and I pulled up to Ice’s house on our motorbike, she and her boyfriend Eric (from New Jersey) were sitting out front, waving us in. Perhaps the first thing you notice about Ice is her petite but incredibly strong frame – turns out she and Eric are starting a gym in Chiang Mai and do lots of weight training in their yard. But the second thing you quickly notice is her voice. Ice is Thai but studied in Scotland and has also spent some time in the U.S., and because of this her accent is fascinating and hard to place. The way she said “cool” was so great that eventually all four of us started repeating it after her. If you want too hear what I’m talking about, you can check out the podcast that Jonah and I have been making and listen to the episode that features Ice’s class.

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Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce

Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

As I mentioned in my last post, Thailand is seeming more and more like a distant memory, especially now that our friends Kylie and Walt have left Chiang Mai for the next leg of their adventure. But there are some things that have faded less than others, and Wee’s delicious food and her megawatt smile. You can read more about how we met Wee and our cooking class with her in this post (and make some pumpkin curry soup, while you’re at it.)

These fish cakes were a dish that Wee surprised us with at our cooking class. She wanted us to make an appetizer, and one that was a little more challenging and involved than a Thai style omelette, so she picked this. We hadn’t eaten them at any of our previous meals at her restaurant, and I instantly regretted that when we tasted them during our cooking class. The fish is subtle, tender, but the cakes themselves are airy and crispy. But really the star of this dish for me was the dipping sauce. We made our own sweet chili sauce – a simple task that I plan on doing a lot more when I get home – and then poured it over cucumbers and shallots and topped it with ground peanuts. This fruity sauce was light and crunchy, matching so well with the fish cakes. But it also lent a refreshing acidity to the fried fish cakes. I can easily imagine using the dipping sauce at many a summer BBQ to top grilled chicken or salmon. But first, try it with these fish cakes.

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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.

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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!

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.