Monday, August 22, 2016

all for love


Some people have a slice from their wedding cake on their first wedding anniversary. Here, we're starting new traditions, with a blueberry pie, one of the 10 pies I baked in mini glass jars for our wedding reception.


Here's how it went down. Our favorite place to stay in all of Big Sur has rooms with full kitchens - I'm talking full-sized fridge, two-rack oven, counter space for days. 

I condensed all of the recipes into my wedding notebook so I didn't have to lug around cookbooks or click through to Pinned links with flour-dusted hands. The notebook is a bit worse for the wear, but I love that detail of it. 

All pies were broken into two categories:
1. Freeze: These were the ones I could assemble at home, and drag up in the vintage Coleman coolers we bought for beverage holders for the wedding. These were the fruit pies, and they were able to go straight from the freezer into a cold oven - do NOT preheat the oven first or you'll shatter all of your jars. Let the jars and the oven come up to temperature together.
2. There: There were a few custard pies and the like that I had to make there for fear of changing and losing the right consistency. Luckily, these were super easy blender-type of recipes that came together very quickly.



Why do this, you ask? Honestly, I feel this whole process kept me sane in the weeks and days leading up to the wedding. With this to focus on, something I know I'm good at, I didn't worry too much about things that would traditionally make one go Bridezilla.

I'll spare you the recipe re-posts where you've already seen staples and recipe tests here on this blog:
Apple Pie - as you know, not my favorite pie, but you can't deny it's everyone else's favorite
Blueberry Pie - recreated for anniversary dessert today
Chocolate Cream Pie - dug out from the archives for a taste test show down that it handily won
Chocolate Pecan Pie - a Thanksgiving staple
Key Lime Pie - a long-time favorite, easy as all get-out, and equally good as a lemon version
Strawberry Pie - another taste-test winner

And now for the newbies. The recipes below are all for the filling only. Pour it into whatever 9-inch pie crust floats your boat, although I do include the kind of crust I ended up using.

This Banana Cream Pie was shockingly good, but equally shockingly time-consuming. I think I had some drama with the quantities I had brought with me as well, and had to make do with some jerry-rigging, but the fog of a year prevents me from telling you exactly what happened. I'm sure you won't have any issues if you're following the recipe for one standard pie.

Banana Cream Pie

very slightly adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar via Hummingbird High
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 c. plus 3/4 c. heavy cream, divided
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
3 egg yolks
1 T. unflavored gelatin powder
2 T. water
3 T. butter
1/2 t. yellow food coloring
1 c. confectioner's sugar

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

1. Combine 2 ripe bananas, 1/3 c. heavy cream, and 1/4 c. milk in a blender, and puree until totally smooth.

2. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 2 T. cornstarch, 1/2 t. salt, and 3 egg yolks and continue to blend until homogenous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and clean the blender canister.

3. Bloom 1 T. powdered gelatin by sprinkling it evenly across the surface of a small bowl filled with 2 T. of cold water. The gelatin is bloomed when it is soft, about 2 minutes. 

4. Whisk the contents of the pan, and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and, once it's at boiling point, continue to whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match.

5. Transfer the contents of the pan back into your blender. Add the bloomed gelatin and 3 T. butter, and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Add 1/2 t. yellow food coloring until it is a bright, artificial banana yellow. 

6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heatproof container, and let cool in the fridge for as long as it takes to cool completely, about 30 to 60 minutes.

7. When the banana mixture has cooled, make whipped cream by combining 3/4 c. heavy cream with 1 c. confectioner's sugar in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream and sugar combine to create medium-soft peaks.

8. Add the cold banana mixture (from the 6th step) to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogenous — the mixture should turn into a pale yellow. 

9. Once the banana cream is ready, pour the mixture into the pie shell. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a day.

This Cherry Crostata is actually not a newbie at all, but for some reason, it has never been blogged about. It's one of my very favorite cherry pies, and makes a frequent appearance as a gift to any cherry-loving friend.

Cherry Crostata
from Epicurious
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
3 T. butter
5 1/4 c. drained Trader Joe's Morello Cherries
3/4 c. plus 1 T. sugar
2 T. cold water
3 T. cornstarch


1 9-inch pastry shell

1. Heat butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then add the cherries and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer until cherries are tender but not falling apart, about 8 minutes. Stir together water and cornstarch to form a thick paste, then stir into simmering filling and boil, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the filling into the pie shell, and weave a few pastry strips to form a lattice on top. Bake until the pastry is golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. Cool crostata completely in pan on a rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, to allow juices to thicken.

You'll have to forgive my memory again, as I have no recollection (or Pins) to help me remember where this recipe comes from. If it sounds familiar to you, just let me know, and I'll be happy to credit.

Peach Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
6 large peaches, peeled and sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 T. cornstarch

1 9-inch pastry shell

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine all of the filling ingredients, in a large bowl. Spread the filling into the pie shell, and weave a few pastry strips to form a lattice on top. Bake until the pastry is golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie
from Minimalist Baker and Food52
makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. coconut oil, cool enough to be solid
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1/3 - 1/2 c. ice water

For the filling:
2 3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened plain almond milk
1 T. coconut oil
2 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. sea salt

1. Make the crust: Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse to combine. Add the coconut oil and pulse until mixture is crumbly and will stick together when you squeeze it. Pulse in 1/3 c. water, or until the dough holds together well when you make a handful of it, and is visibly starting to come together in the food processor. If necessary, add a little more water until the texture is right. Turn dough onto a clean, dry surface that has been dusted with flour. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, using extra flour to keep things from sticking as you go. Transfer the dough to a pie plate, and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Make the filling: Add all of the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown, and the filling is slightly jiggly. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

just mix it up


I always mix up littleneck clams and Manila clams in my mind, and when I get to the grocery store, I'm always surprised that the littlenecks are the big ol' ones.

Not that that's a problem. I loved the bigger chunks of seafood with the sturdy soba noodles and the powerful red curry broth. Whole Foods was out of the mussels called for in the original recipe, so I added in shrimp and scallops.

I only used one packet of soba noodles (8 oz.), so mine was more of a noodle soup than a pasta dish. In the recipe below, I call for a full pound of noodles in case you're looking for more of a pasta thing.

Coconut Curry Soba with Shellfish + Corn
slightly adapted from Half Baked Harvest
serves 4

1 lb. soba noodles
2 T. coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
2 T. Thai red curry paste
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
12 littleneck clams, cleaned
1/4 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 lb. sea scallops
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the soba until al dente. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat a large high-sided pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once hot, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the bell pepper, corn and Thai red curry paste, and cook another 3 minutes or until the curry paste is fragrant.

3. Slowly pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the clams, shrimp and scallops. Cover the pot with a lid and cook until all the shellfish have opened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened shellfish. Add the cooked soba and cilantro, toss, and cook 2 minutes or until warmed through. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 8, 2016

time well spent


This is an absolute show-stopper in taste as well as presentation.

Should I maybe have saved this for a nice, chilly winter's afternoon - a Sunday when I had all day, and could use the oven heating up all day. Maybe. But no, we had a bit of a cold spell in the summer (only 80 degrees!), and I split the work over two days to make the Monday night dinner party prep manageable after work and traffic home.

There's not a ton of hands-on time in any case, but every bit has its time in both the oven and on the stove-top, so it's a time-consuming process. The reward is well worth the time spent, though.

Start with the cornbread. It needs time to properly cool so you can split it (like you would a layer cake) for the tartine bottom. And please make this cornbread instead of going out and buying boring ciabatta. The sweetness and texture here complement the silky richness of the oxtail and mushrooms. Sure, ciabatta can soak up the sauce, but that's about all it will do.

Then comes the fun of browning the oxtails, and letting them braise in the oven and perfume your whole house for the next several hours. It really smells like the holidays.

And then it all comes together with golden sauteed mushrooms on top of toasted cornbread. There's no loss here. Make sure you have a big, bright salad to balance it all out - I went for a seasonally-appropriate peach-arugula salad to make up for the seasonally-inappropriate braise.

Can we talk more about this cornbread, though? I removed the fresh corn kernels because I wanted something sturdy that I knew I could cut without crumbling, but I'm hopeful to take advantage of the summer corn season and make this again with the fresh corn. I also cut down the sugar this time since I wanted it more bread than cake, and found it plenty sweet. But a little more sugar, and some stone fruit - cherries or peaches - and you'd have a beautiful rustic skillet cake for just about any time of day.

Braised Oxtail + Mushroom Tartine
slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
serves 6-8

5 lbs. oxtail
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. canola oil
3-4 c. beef stock
6 oz. oyster mushrooms
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 T. ghee

Huckleberry cornbread, or your favorite ciabatta
chopped parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven large enough to hold the oxtails in one layer. Add half of the oxtails, and cook until the first side is browned, about 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Flip, and brown the second side, about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a large plate, and repeat with the remaining oxtails.

3. Pour off the fat, and return the oxtails to the pan. Add enough beef stock to come halfway up the oxtails. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the oxtails are tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Turn the oxtails over, and let rest on top of the stove for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

5. Remove the oxtails from the cooking liquid. Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the fat and tough connective tissue, and put the meat in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The meat can now be covered with the cooking liquid and refrigerated overnight.

6. When ready to serve, heat the ghee in a large saute pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the oyster mushrooms and cook, without moving them, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl.

8. Saute the cremini mushrooms until golden brown, and all the liquid has evaporated. Return the oyster mushrooms to the pan. Stir in the oxtail meat and reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid has reduced considerably and glazed the meat and mushrooms, about 8 minutes.

9. Preheat the broiler. Slice off the top half of the cornbread, and reserve for another use. Brush the bread with some of the cooking liquid from the saute pan (oxtail grease, basically), and toast under the broiler. Transfer to a serving platter.

10. Spoon the meat and mushrooms over the bread. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

Huckleberry Cornbread
slightly adapted from Zoe Nathan's Huckleberry
serves 8

6 T. butter
6 T. sugar
1 3/4 t. salt
4 eggs
1 c. cornmeal
3/4 c. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1 T. + 1 t. baking powdr
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. canola oil
2 T. honey

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing until well-combined.

3. Pause the mixing and add the flours, and baking powder. Continue mixing on low speed, and add the buttermilk, canola oil, and honey, and continue mixing until no lumps remain.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

punch it up


This was a lovely and comforting meal. Purely simple - protein and carbs - but punched up with the citrusy, herby marinade on the pork, and the bright, summery shocks of tomato in the rice.

It seems almost like cheating to count the tomatoes in this sauce as your vegetable for the meal, but it seemed superfluous to add anything else. Besides, the 2 lbs. of cherry tomatoes required for this recipe was exactly equal the amount of the bounty I pulled from our vines just today alone. I couldn't be bothered to bend over for any additional rainbow chard or kale.

If you're using regular tomatoes, you really should peel them first. It's super annoying to have tomato peel in your rice. Bless you if you're diligent enough to do the same with cherry tomatoes.

Citrus-Herb Pork Roast
slightly adapted Noshtastic
serves 4

2 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder

For the marinade:
3 cloves garlic
2 T. olive oil
1 c. orange juice
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. mint leaves, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro leaves, chopped

1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Add the pork shoulder, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. Bring the meat to room temperature for abut an hour before cooking.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3. Put the meat into a roasting pan so that the marinade is no more than about an inch deep around the meat. Cook for 20 minutes, uncovered, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees. Cook until the pork reaches your desired consistency, about 3 hours for slice-able pork, and about another hour for pull-able pork.

Tomato Rice
slightly adapted from The A.O.C. Cookbook
serves 4

2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3/4 c. finely diced yellow onion
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. thyme leaves
1 c. vegetable stock
3/4 c. basmati rice
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Chop the tomatoes coarsely and reserve the juice.

2. Heat a medium saucepan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the olive oil, rosemary, and jalapeno. Let them sizzle in the oil for 1 minute, then stir in the onion, garlic, thyme, 1 t. salt, and some pepper. Turn down the heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and their juices, another 1 t. salt, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and looks like a thin marinara sauce.

3. Add the stock to the pot, bring to a boil, and stir in the rice. Return to a boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 12 minutes, until the rice is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

a good start


I have honestly never felt so healthy than I did after having this quiche for breakfast.

I love a good pastry crust as much as anyone, but sometimes, applied to a quiche, you end your morning feeling worse than you started - a little heavier, and a little groggier. No one needs that in the morning.

The brown rice crust is a nice alternative. The bottom is satisfyingly chewy, while the edges crisp up for a welcome texture contrast. The egg custard is light, and brimming with vegetable goodness. I like that it's endlessly adaptable, so you can throw in whatever it is that's left in your crisper or overtaking your garden.

Word to the wise: do grease that pie pan. You don't need to when your pastry crust is full of butter, but the rice crust could use a little help releasing from the pan.

Kale Quiche with Cheddar-Brown Rice Crust
slightly adapted from PureWow
serves 4

For the crust:
2 c. cooked rice
2 egg whites
1 1/2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

For the quiche:
3 large eggs + the 2 yolks left over from the crust
2/3 c. milk
salt and pepper, to taste
3 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 oz. lacinato kale, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate.

2. In a large bowl, mix the rice with the egg whites and shredded cheese until well combined.

3. Press the rice mixture evenly into the pie plate. Bake until the crust begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the green onions, jalapeno, and kale in an even layer in the baked crust and then pour the egg mixture over it.

5. Bake until the egg mixture is set in the center, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

right in front of me


I've seen this recipe Egg Quesadilla recipe on 101 Cookbooks a million times, but for some reason, I've never really read through it. I mean, with a title like "Egg Quesadilla," it's easy to assume that I already know how to make an egg quesadilla. Next.

Then, it was profiled earlier this week in Of A Kind's newsletter, and I was like, fine. People are still talking about this, and I should just look.

Mind. Blown.

So, we all love quesadillas. And we all love the elusive breakfast taco. But when you have a breakfast taco, you have to chase it with a fork - let's be honest, scrambled bits always have a tendency to fall out the other end.

What if I told you you didn't ever have to deal with that problem again, and the answer to all your prayers lay in this recipe here? You put one single beaten egg into a small pan. You put a tortilla over top of that. Then, you flip it to make an egg crepe-tortilla hybrid that becomes hearty with just the tiniest bit of cheese and some avocado if you're feeling crazy. I didn't need anything more than Cholula to gild this lily, but go for it with some sour cream, you hedonist, you.

Egg Quesadillas
serves 2
from 101 Cookbooks

4 eggs
4 8" tortillas
2 oz. shredded cheddar
half of an avocado
2 T. butter
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Beat one egg really well in a small bowl.

2. In an 8-inch skillet, over medium heat, add 1/2 T. butter. Let it heat, then add the beaten egg to the pan. Once the bottom is set, but the top is still runny, place the corn tortilla on top of the egg. Once the edges look set, flip everything. Sprinkle with a fourth of the Parmesan, top with a few avocado slices, and salt and pepper everything. Fold the tortilla in half.

3. Repeat with the remaining for 3 more quesadillas. Serve as they come off the pan, or place in a low oven to keep warm.


Monday, August 1, 2016

chicken fried


One of my favorite memories from tour was a night of wings-eating in Tokyo. Yes, I'm a simple girl. I had heard of this magical place, Yamachan, from several of the crew guys - apparently, it's not only in the States during football season that I talk about chicken wings.

But dear Ngoc, why would you need to go eat chicken wings in Japan? Did you run out of sushi, and ramen, and udon, and tonkatsu? Well, no - but international chicken wings!

It was a momentous event. We ate, literally, countless wings. It was incredibly addicting - a perfect blend of pepper, crispness, and sticky but not cloying sweetness. I am telling you, countless. It's a wonder I made it the whole cab ride home instead of falling asleep and being dragged halfway to Nagoya (that's where this style of wing was born - see what I did there?).

Anyway, on the way to another gig recently, our monitor engineer casually mentioned to me he made tebasaki wings at home the other day. I demanded the recipe immediately.

I'm certainly not brave enough to be frying chicken wings on a school night, much less double-frying them to get the required crispness. So I adapted the sauce to go over my "genius" chicken thighs - my less messy version of fried chicken.

It was awesome. The sauce is just a layer of flavor, not an overwhelming gunky sauce that cancels out all of the crispness you just worked so hard to attain. It's sweet, but still complex. That same addictive quality was there, and you got the extra satisfaction of more chicken on each piece, although some crispy skin-to-meat ratio is sacrificed.

The perfect accompaniment to round out the meal was some fried cauliflower rice - all the flavors of traditional fried rice, without the guilt of the carbs for the girl who just ate her weight in pad see ew for lunch earlier today.

Tebasaki Chicken Thighs
slightly adapted from No Recipes
serves 6

For the chicken:
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:
1 T. brown sugar, packed
1 T. coconut aminos
1 T. mirin
dash garlic powder
dash ground ginger
1 t. rice wine vinegar

1. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, and season with salt and pepper. Go heavy on the pepper. Add them to the skillet, skin side down. Cook them like this, without moving them, until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Fiddle with the heat, and turn the pan a quarter-turn every few minutes for even cooking. Once the skin is well-browned, flip the chicken, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the meat closest to the bone registers 165 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, combine all of the sauce ingredients except the vinegar in a small saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Turn the heat off, and add the rice wine vinegar. Stir to incorporate, and set aside.

3. As the chicken is done, put one thigh in the pan of sauce, and flip it around a couple times. Repeat with the remaining thighs, and serve immediately with the fried cauliflower rice.

Fried Cauliflower Rice
serves 6

1 lb. cauliflower florets
1 t. sesame oil
5 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
3.5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 c. frozen corn
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. coconut aminos

1. Place the cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor, and process to a rice-like consistency. Set aside.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the green onions, and saute until the white parts are just translucent. Add the mushrooms and jalapeno, and saute until the mushrooms are golden. Add the corn and cauliflower, and heat through.

3. Push the cauliflower mixture to the side, and add the beaten eggs. Scramble the eggs, and then mix through. Season to taste with coconut aminos, and serve hot.