Tag: Spring

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I have never really liked lentils. When I was young, lentils and beans both had this texture (I think from cooking them into oblivion until they became mushy and grainy) that I just couldn’t stand. And so I stopped eating them, simple as that. Mexican food became a slight challenge (back then, it was because I didn’t like beans, now it’s because I can’t eat corn), but I mostly got away with it. Beans re-entered my life when I started living with my friend Carmelle and she made the most amazing refried beans and vegetarian chili. But lentils… I still couldn’t get behind. I hadn’t ever had them and thought, “Now those are good lentils!”

Recently though, my sister has been on a microbiome and gut-health kick, telling us all that we should be eating this or that, sending us articles and books to read. And when she sent along a recipe for lentils on our family WhatsApp thread, I told her I didn’t really eat lentils. She proceeded to yell at me (as much as one can yell via text) and tell me that lentils are good for you and that I should be eating them. It also happens that around this time, I was in the thick of cooking my way through many recipes in Alison Roman’s Dining In. From it, I made a recipe for spiced lentils (used in a rendition of a salad nicoise) that I found to be incredibly delicious. So delicious in fact, that I told the checkout guy at the grocery store that he had to make it immediately, and I let him take a picture of the recipe I had on my phone.

So I was working on liking lentils, and I was off to a really good start. Now I’ve become a person that, instead of cooking a batch of rice or farro on Sunday afternoon for lunches that week, will cook a batch of lentils to be used in salads and bowls or seasoned with oil and herbs for a side. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.

As I’ve been looking for other ways to use this batch of lentils, a recipe slowly started formulating in my brain. The warmer weather has got me itching for all food that is representative of spring, and a warm salad with lentils and crispy lamb sprang to mind (pun very much intended). With a little heat from the onion, some creaminess from the yogurt, bites of juiciness from tomatoes, and a little tang from the feta, this recipe became a quick favorite. It’s easy enough to throw together, makes great leftovers, and doesn’t make too many dirty dishes. I think you’ll like it.

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Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom

Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Rhubarb Galette with Ginger and Cardamom | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

There is something about home that is indescribable. We haven’t finished purchasing all the things we need for our new apartment yet, like shoe racks and lamps and soap dispensers. But still, this place feels more like home than any place I’ve lived in a long time. We picked the curtains and the plants, our art is hanging on all the walls, and I have all of my kitchen appliances in one place – no boxes, no storage, no knowing that one day I’m going to have to go through all these cookbooks to figure out what belongs to whom. Nope – it’s all ours.

And now that we have a table and enough chairs for a few extra bums to sit in, all I want is to have people over all the time. We’ve been pretty successful so far – having people over almost twice a week since we’ve moved in. It has reinforced my love of cooking for people, of making an excuse to get together. But why should we need an excuse? Isn’t good company enough? Add to that a home cooked meal and a bottle of wine and how could anyone turn you down? I feel lucky that we’ve gathered a little community who feels the same way, that there’s no better reason to be together other than it’s been a few days since we’ve last seen each other.

It helps that it’s spring – dusk drags its feet a little more each day, the tulips on our walkway have come and mostly gone at this point, and they’ve put up the annual rosé wine display at the local grocery store. It’s the time of year when people come out of hibernation, itching to wear their short sleeves and dig out their sunglasses, ready to get their hands dirty in the garden (we’re hoping to plant ours this weekend), antsy to go on evening strolls. For me spring means always having a pound of rhubarb in the fridge, ready to roast into a compote for topping ice cream or simmer into a syrup for mixing into cocktails or slice and bake into a galette. I would do the same if I were you.

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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

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Shaved Asparagus Salad // Serious Crust

Sometimes,  you make a meal, thinking one dish will be the star. Especially when you lay down a hefty chunk of change on a cut of meat. But things happen – you run out of time and you don’t season the meat properly or sear it the way you’d like, and then maybe you leave it in the slow cooker a little bit longer than you should have. And when that happens, there are side dishes that sneak up and surprise you. Like this shaved asparagus salad did.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew this salad would be good. I love asparagus, and there are seemingly a million shaved asparagus salad recipes out there (like this one, and this one, and this one). And yeah, they’re all relatively the same. But man, something about the freshness of this salad – crunchy, sour, salty – just got me. It was exactly what I needed after a long day of work. And it certainly was better than an underseasoned, overcooked (only slightly) piece of meat.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch of asparagus
juice from half of a lemon
olive oil
salt (course is good, if you’ve got it)
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup, roughly, of toasted pine nuts, sliced and toasted almonds, or shelled pistachios
parmesan cheese, though crumbled feta would work nicely too

Instructions

Don’t snap the tough ends off your asparagus just yet! Leave them on and use them as a handle. Lay the asparagus on a cutting board, and use a peeler to shave off wide strips, shaving away from you. You’ll have some thick pieces at the end, but do the best you can. Apparently the consensus is that y-shaped peelers are better for this, but I don’t have one of those. Make do with what you’ve got. Discard the woody ends. Put the peeled pieces into a bowl or on a platter or whatever you’re planning on serving on/in. Pour the lemon juice over top of the asparagus, and drizzle with olive oil. I can’t tell you how much olive oil, because I didn’t measure. A good glug should suffice. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top, as well as the toasted nuts. Rinse your peeler and use it to shave some thin pieces of parmesan to top the salad (or use a fork and crumble the feta over top). We’re big cheese fans, so we did more cheese instead of less.

Enjoy on a spring or summer day, preferably with a glass of refreshing white or rosé wine. I think this salad would be perfect alongside some grilled fish or chicken for a summer soirée.