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.
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.
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.
We are back. Back in the U.S. Back on the west coast. Back in gray and rainy Portland. This past weekend we had a taste of spring, but otherwise it has been wet. And between the weather and having a bit more time on my hands and a fully functional kitchen again, I have been cooking some of my favorite warming meals. (Big shout out to friends Mac and Carmelle who are letting us room with them while we look for a place to live!) This recipe is one of those dishes. You may have heard of this pie, or at least the book series it is inspired by, Redwall. When I was younger, my older sister Emily was obsessed with the series, which focuses on a series of woodland creatures who live in mostly an abbey. If I recall correctly, there are castles and ghosts, banquets and wizards. I think of it as Camelot meets the Borrowers. My mother, being the amazing woman she is, somehow found a recipe for this pie, Deeper ‘n Ever Turnip ‘n Tater ‘n Beetroot Pie, and would make it for us, making us feel as if we were at the table during those banquets, eating alongside otters, squirrels, and birds.
This pie screams cozy to me. You start with a buttery, savory pie dough, layer the filling with cheese, mashed vegetables, beets, caramelized onions, and more cheese, and bake until the crust is golden. As an adult, I realize the amount of work that goes into this, and how long my mom must have spent in the kitchen making it: caramelizing onions, mashing potatoes and turnips, boiling beets, shredding cheese. It also is a great base for something that is easy to riff on – you could add squash, greens, mushrooms, peppers.
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.
I should be working. You see, in about 10 hours I’ll be getting on a plane to Bangkok, sleeping in a hotel, and then getting on a 12 hour flight to Cologne, Germany. And I have a few items to cross of my checklist before I hop that flight. Instead, I want to tell you about Wee.
We discovered Wee’s Restaurant thanks to friends Zita and Jeremy, who found it via Trip Advisor (oh man do I have a love/hate relationship with that site, but that is for another time). We first ate at Wee’s in early November, and then we kept returning, and returning. My dad was the one who observed that she had a cooking class, and so I handed Wee my phone, she found herself on Facebook for me, and we started messaging about when we could do the class and what dishes to make. A few days later, we ate our Thanksgiving dinner at her place, and then a couple of days later Kylie, Walt, Jonah, and I spent 9 hours in her kitchen cranking out her amazing dishes.
What won me over was Wee’s wing bean salad with shrimp. But as I tried more and more of her dishes, I fell deeper and deeper. They were unique, unlike dishes that we had at other restaurants in Chiang Mai. They tasted more complex, more interesting. You know when you can taste that something has been made with care and, dare I say it, love? That’s how Wee’s food tasted to me. Between that and Wee’s sense of humor and her infectious smile, I knew we would get along.
It felt like we made a majority of Wee’s menu in the kitchen that day, but we truly only scratched the surface. This pumpkin soup that we had on Thanksgiving was one dish that kept me coming back. The pumpkin is sweet, the coconut broth a little spicy from the curry paste, and herby from the kaffir lime and lemongrass. And the best thing about it that just as I was eating it in warm Chiang Mai, I could imagine my friends back at home making it to warm themselves up.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
~1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
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.