As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.
I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.
Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces:
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 summer, kale 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
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
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
~1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste
lime wedges for serving
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.
This edition of weekend finds is full of seriously useful articles and tips. Not just fun restaurants to try, but things that are actually good to know. Also, the polar vortex has hit Portland. Let’s get to it.
I don’t know that I’ve ever sent back a dish at a restaurant. Members of my family, who will go unnamed, definitely have. I honestly don’t know if I could have the gumption to do it! But now that I work at a restaurant, I realize how often it happens, simply via miscommunications and misunderstandings. Let me tell you, your server will be way nicer, and is way more likely to comp you a dessert or something, if you are kind about sending a dish back.
I have long been looking for a good resource for Indian food. I’ve been hurt (only emotionally) by internet recipes many times in my search for a Murgh Makhani recipe that mildly resembles the heaven that Swagat makes (if you haven’t been, I recommend it). Not only does this Butter Chicken recipe look good, but a lot of her recipes look good. Maybe it’s time for another try?
5. What wine to bring to a dinner party when you have no idea what’s for dinner
This is a serious issue. Very serious. Everyone experiences it. You’re going over to a friend’s house for dinner, you ask what you can bring, and they say, “Oh, just bring a bottle of wine!” And then you want to text or call and say “What are we having?” “Red or white?” “Do you like Riesling? Dry or sweet?” But then you’re pestering them while they’re slaving away making you dinner. I don’t know that I would ever bring sparkling wine over for dinner, unless it’s a special occasion, but I love these recommendations for what wines go with most things. And as far as lighter reds go, this Underwood Pinot Noir from Union Wine Co. in Oregon is one of my (very affordable) favorites right now.
Porcini powder. Porcini powder? Yes. From the farmers market. I was told it was wonderful, and was given a little bag as a gift. But what to do with the stuff, that’s the question. I’m not sure I made the right choice… This pasta dish had so much going on in it that the porcini flavor was hiding. It was hiding behind the sourdough breadcrumbs and butter it had been sprinkled into, and under the pancetta it had been tossed with, and between the fresh pasta noodles it had been swirled around with.
All that being said, this dish was dang good, if I do say so myself. There were a few elements, and it took a few pans to get it all prepped. So no, this is not one of those magical one pot meals. Certainly not.
My dear friend Elsa was staying with us, and my friend Dylan came over for dinner, as well as Elsa’s friend Sarah, so we had help in manning all the pans. Tamar Adler said in The Everlasting Meal that there is value in, when a guest asks “is there anything I can do to help?” being able to say, “yes.” I have found that to be very true.
Think of this recipe as a guideline. Or a lightly painted upon canvas. You can remove, add, flavor, sprinkle, drizzle anything you like. I must say, though, that I used a different pasta recipe this time, and I liked it much better than the one I had been using. There’s something to be said for trying something new.
Fresh Pasta with Pancetta, Leeks, & Breadcrumbs with Porcini Powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large or 2 small leek(s), sliced and rinsed
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pancetta – the amount is up to you. I like the pancetta that is thin, almost like prosciutto, though that isn’t what we used here. I think if we’d used the thinner kind, it would’ve clung to the noodles better.
Salt and pepper
To make the pasta, pulse the flour alone in a food processor a few times. In a bowl, beat the eggs and then add them to flour, and process until the dough forms a ball. If your dough is dry and looks like little pea sized pieces of dough, you can add water 1/2 tsp at a time. If it sticks to the bowl of the processor, add flour 1 Tbl at a time. When the dough has formed a ball, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and set it aside for up to 2 hours to relax (at least 15 minutes). Then roll out the pasta as you usually do and cut it as you normally would.
In a pan over medium (or medium low), cook your pancetta, then set aside on a plate with a paper towel on it. Once the pancetta is removed, you can use that same pan to sautée the leeks, onion, and garlic, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. You may want to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan to help keep things from sticking. But then again, maybe you won’t.
In another pan, melt some butter, then add the breadcrumbs and as much porcini powder as you feel like adding. Toast the breadcrumbs on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
As things are moving along, get out a big pot, fill it with water and a healthy serving of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta (I like to cook fresh pasta in batches, as it makes it less likely to stick together). If you’re cooking fresh pasta, it really only needs to cook for a few minutes. I like to remove it when all the noodles are floating. Do you have a better method? I’d like to know it. If you’re cooking your pasta in batches, you can remove it with tongs into a colander to keep the water boiling on your stovetop.
Strain the pasta, put it in a bowl, and toss with all the various bits and pieces. Enjoy with a glass of buttery, nutty white wine and friends, around a table, on a sunny evening.