A delicious, hearty way to eat your veggies in the winter!
A delicious, hearty way to eat your veggies in the winter!
Burger Week is kind of a big deal in Portland. It’s this one week in August where about 20 local restaurants feature one crazy-ass burger, like this or this or this, for only $5, and it lasts for exactly one week. Last year, we only made it to one of the spots, Foster Burger, on the very last night (also the day our little Tuckaluck was born!). This year we had grand plans to hit up at least three or four — and I had made my shortlist of the ones I was the most excited about.
Alas, this happened to be the third week in a row that Jesse was pulling double headers at work — finishing up at his regular job site around 5, and then heading over to a second house in Southeast to put in an extra 3 hours fixing up a new house for one of his longstanding clients. I rode the coattails of his work stamina and stayed at the shop until 7 or 8 each night myself, finally catching up on all the multitudes of postponed projects on my own list from this busy summer.
Needless to say, the last thing either of us wanted to do at the end of our day was go wait in line and fight over the last of one of these burgers as they were about to sell out — which apparently was happening left and right this go-round, as Burger Week has gained such an insane following.
But, that’s not to say burgers weren’t on our brains. In my regular routine (that is to say, when we’re not in summer crazy-town mode of camping every weekend, barbecuing and bluegrassing every night, biking home along the Springwater Corridor at 3:30 in the morning blasting the playlist from my recent half-marathon), I like to read Sunset and Bon Appetit whenever I’m eating alone, take photos of whatever recipes I want to try, and then each Sunday, go through this foodie to-do list and plan my menu for the week.
Usually, it’s heavily influenced by what I know we already have in the freezer, or the perfect way to use up that leftover half-can of plum tomatoes that’s about to go bad, or the fact that this week’s produce run was at Fubonn, the gigantic Asian market, instead of at our nearby farm stand. Mondays are reserved for errands and appointments, and that’s when I can always swing by Safeway and pick up anything random or extra that might make or break that recipe I really want to make. Like pistachios.
So it was no surprise that, during this week’s rifling through of recipes, these pistachio-lamb-beef burgers caught my eye.
I’ve never actually made burgers before, but these seemed different enough to warrant an attempt. The recipe called for some Arabic spices I didn’t have, but I’ve cooked enough Mediterranean food to figure out some good substitutions. So, into the Cuisinart:
That one egg white killed me though — what am I going to do with a single remaining yolk?? Well, as it turns out, I’m going to try making my first ever mayonnaise, as that was all that this simple recipe, discovered through a quick Google search, called for in the egg department.
But, to this recipe I also added a pressed clove of garlic, chopped fresh mint from the garden, and a dash of sumac powder, yielding a complex and Middle Eastern-inspired aioli.
That was totally the right call.
I wanted my burgers bunless, but I knew Jesse would want some sort of bread to make it a true burger, so I had grabbed some whole wheat buns from TJ’s and toasted them up for him.
Jesse didn’t get home from work that night until about 8:45, which seemed a little late to fire up the grill, but he convinced me that these would be better in our brand new hand-forged Blu Skillet from the recent Urban Craft Uprising.
And so that’s what we did.
Chopped up some veggies to dress it with…
And made a super simple salad: a 50/50 mix of two bagged greens I’d picked up the other day (cruciferous greens and arugula) and coated them with a splash each of olive oil, orange muscat champagne vinegar, and my favorite Friends Forever salt.
Oh, and to top it off, we’d gone out to eat at the Hawthorne Hophouse the other night, and I took home almost an entire serving of their garlic parmesan fries when their happy hour grilled chicken caesar proved filling enough. So I reheated those in the convection oven (which does a surprisingly good job with fries) and split them between us.
And all of a sudden we had ourselves some serious burgers.
Jesse loved them the night of, but what really made my heart melt was the next day when he texted me from his lunch break and, while eating them as leftovers (he even brought a miniature Tupperware of the aioli with him to work), he disclosed to me over text that “This may be my new favorite burger! :D” That is high praise, coming from this guy.
Sometimes, leaving the house for a day at work is like preparing for a backpacking trip, and coordinating the logistics is like one of those logic problems where you are trying to get 3 people across a river with nothing but a horse, a sandwich, and a raft.
My car is out of commission and being fixed up on Burnside, I have to be at work by 11, Jesse needs to be at work by 9:30, and we both have plans after work. Which means, the pup needs to come to work with me, because that’s way too long to leave him at home by himself. Luckily, my plans are pet-flexible (meeting an old friend for drinks at the Landmark Saloon, just down the street from Yarnia, and with a wonderful outdoor patio that I plan on taking advantage of, as it’s supposed to remarkably hit 85 degrees this afternoon). And no, Tucker and I can’t just score a ride to work with Jesse, because his departure time of 9:00 a.m. is far too early for me to pull off my morning work AND a 6 mile run, which wouldn’t be so anal about if I weren’t training for a half marathon and feeling very serious at this point about sticking to my schedule.
There’s nothing I love more than a good logic problem!
I leave my Yarnia key for Jesse and go for a run. Jesse leaves for work, stopping at Yarnia on the way to drop off Tucker, gets him all cozy in his bed, locks him in from the outside, hides the key for me in a predetermined location, then continues on to work. I come home from my run, get ready for work, and walk to the bus which gets me to Yarnia right at 11:00 when we open. I locate the key, Tucker’s here waiting for me, happily snoozing, and we spend the day at work together. At 6, I close up shop, Tucker and I walk down the street to the Landmark where he joins me for his first patio beer (hello, summer!) and I get to catch up with my long lost friend. Then, whenever we decide we’re done, Tucker and I walk the 3 miles home, and we call it a day.
This is just a day in the life, but here’s what it requires me remembering to pack in my trusty messenger bag before I walk out the door:
We have good teamwork, me and Jesse, and I owe half of our well-adjusted, happy puppy to his compliance with my carefully scheduled plans. But I also love the times when we barely have to plan at all, and it just comes together. Like yesterday, when I got this text mid-day while working from home.
That’s a picture of some delicious looking kebabs, in case you can’t tell, that Jesse spotted while checking out a new meat market for lunch. True to his word, he arrived home with a delicious selection (teriyaki beef, and spicy pork!), I whipped up some easy drop biscuits in the Cuisinart and threw together a salad with Greek dressing I had made last week and already had sitting on the counter, he oiled and seasoned some asparagus and threw it on the grill with the meat, and without even trying, we had collaborated an insanely delicious Tuesday evening summertime meal.
I remember the first time I ever made carbonara. I was living in Montreal, and my boyfriend at the time had invited me over for dinner. The menu was his inspiration, and this was in the early days of Internet recipes. (He also insisted on pronouncing béchamel as “bockamell” for the duration of our relationship, so I was already a little suspect.) I have a vague memory of an open laptop on the table, a bit of erotic panic at the idea that we were about to mix raw eggs into our meal, and a frenzied moment where it all came together and we stirred like there was no tomorrow to prevent the threatened scrambling. And, I remember both of us taking a few token bites, congratulating ourselves for thinking outside of the box of the typical college-age go-tos of quesedillas and tofu curries, and then admitting that we were totally disgusted, no doubt moving on to an equally exciting dinner down the street at any of the 24-hour eateries that surrounded both of our glamorously bohemian apartments. Le sigh.
My relationship with raw eggs has come a long way since then. I still won’t order eggs sunnyside-up for brunch, or drink an egg white cocktail, but I WILL make an over-easy egg at home and enjoy how a runny yolk with salt and pepper can be the perfect complement to some fluffy artisan toast; I will slowly beat an egg into hot Asian noodle soup and watch the wispy strands curdle with delight; and I will poach an egg and put it over nearly-any-vegetable-and-brown-rice and call it a meal.
I have 12 more years of experience watching ingredients transform since that night on Boulevard René Lévesque, and now, I feel fully supportive of pasta carbonara being a legit meal, and serving it to my family for dinner. It’s good, guys. Don’t worry about the eggs. If you eat pho — and everyone should eat pho — then you can make and eat this meal.
So, let’s go. Pasta carbonara. Even though it sounds (and tastes!) fancy, it’s a supremely simple dish — the crux of which is some really delicious bacon.
So first things first, I chopped up 8 oz. of some applewood smoked bacon I’d bought earlier, and fried it up in my smaller cast iron skillet. I poured the extra fat into a dish to use for future cooking oil, drained the bacon chips on a paper towel, and then cooked up 2 handfuls of frozen peas in the same skillet, transferring them to another bowl once they were cooked.
In a separate mixing bowl, I beat together 4 eggs and 1 cup of shredded cheeses (Romano, and garlic pepper jack that was on sale at Grocery Outlet this week), and chose a bag of pasta from the pasta shelf in our pantry. I didn’t even plan this, but we had a full pound of Campanelle in there, which is a totally wonderful pasta to use for carbonara.
While I boiled a big pot of water for the pasta, I split a bunch of skinny asparagus in half — saving the rest for another meal — and put it in that same skillet, along with 3 pressed cloves of garlic and some salt. I sauteed this in the remaining bacon fat for just a minute or two, enough to coat all the spears, and then popped the whole skillet into a 350-degree oven to finish them off. I adore any piece of kitchenware that can double as a stovetop champion, and then weather a hot oven unscathed.
So the water boils, pasta is added, and once it’s done cooking, I reserved some of the pasta water before draining it. Once it was drained, it went back into the pot with some of the reserved water to loosen it, the peas and bacon were stirred in, and then came the egg/cheese mixture — poured in with one hand while the other hand vigorously mixed it all together to prevent the eggs from scrambling while the hot pasta cooked them.
The result — and the beauty of carbonara — is a deliciously silky, creamy texture that tastes cheesy without all the rigamarole and heaviness of a roux-based cheese sauce.
A little more salt and cracked pepper on top, pull the asparagus out of the oven (this could be any vegetable you enjoy, obviously), and you’ve got a perfect meal, with only two dishes to clean.
This was a meal that was born out of my perusing my Pinterest to-cook list and choosing two seemingly unrelated dishes, but once I cooked them on the same night, realized they form a perfect symbiosis, and that these two dishes must always be made at the same time, from hereon out. Here’s why:
I started by dredging the chicken breasts in a simple mixture of flour, salt, and herbs on a big plate. (I went with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts instead of thighs because we’ve been doing a lot of the drums-and-thighs lately and Jesse’s not so into picking meat off of bones), and browning them in coconut oil in the skillet. Once both sides had been nicely browned, I transferred the breasts to a separate skillet, leaving the drippings in the original skillet, off the heat.
In the meantime, I prepped the domino potatoes, which — beautifully complicated as they look — really only require about two steps. First, I made some clarified butter by melting a stick of butter in a small saucepan, and cooking it down until it had turned a nice rich brown and the milk solids had separated, at which point I strained it into a little dish for brushing on the potatoes later. Then, our mandoline finally got to make its debut appearance!
I have always been wary of the mandoline; it inevitably feels like so much more effort to set up, take apart, and clean than it is ever worth, and when faced with this task, I always find myself willing to settle for uneven matchstick carrots. But, for the record, this mandoline is super easy to both set up and clean, and really made this dish what it was. In no other universe could I have done this by hand in only five minutes:
All you have to do is slice off the round ends of 4 Russet potatoes so that they’re rectangular, then slice them into these perfectly thin little “dominoes” which you then fan out on a baking sheet, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then baste with the clarified butter and sprinkle with salt — in this case, Magic Unicorn salt — before popping them in to bake for 40 minutes.
Here’s what Tucker thinks about Magic Unicorn salt:
Okay, so those guys are baking in the oven, and if you’re more efficient than I was on this evening you’ll pop that waiting skillet of browned chicken in there at the same time so it will finish cooking (if you used thighs you may not need to do this? It definitely took the large chicken breasts at least another 30 minutes to cook all the way through, which I hadn’t considered until the potatoes were just about done).
While the oven is taking care of both of those, I reheated the skillet that had the leftover chicken fat from earlier, and sauteed half an onion, a few cloves of minced garlic, and a few giant handfuls of chopped mushrooms with some salt. On a whim, I also threw in the leftover flour/salt/spice mixture that I had used for the chicken, coating the veggies so that once I added the liquid, this gravy would be nice and thick.
Once everything started to sizzle I poured in some white wine to deglaze the pan, let that simmer for a bit, and then added a few splashes of this, which had played a starring role in some scalloped potatoes I made last week.
According to my slapdash label — milk, dijon, spice, and salt — this seemed like a perfectly complementary savory liquid to add to the mushroom gravy while the chicken continued to cook. And trust me, it was. (This is why our fridge is half-full with random jars and tubs of marinades and sauces; if it’s already been used to infuse one fantastic meal, chances are it can only be better the second time around. I can only guess that the starch from the scalloped potatoes had something to do with the wonderful finished texture of this sauce…)
Be patient, use a meat thermometer, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have just enough time left to throw together a quick salad, so that everything comes out of the oven and off of the stove looking like this.
This meal was born out of good fortune. Monday afternoon, my friend-and-interior-designer Claire and I were having coffee at Little T Bakery, discussing design plans for Yarnia‘s new location. When we got up to leave, the barista asked if we wanted to take any bread home, since they were closing up for the end of the day. I said sure (now that I’m running a half marathon, I’m guiltlessly back on the gluten bandwagon) and he loaded us up with gigantic shopping bags full of artisan loaves.
I had a whole plan for a more elaborate dinner for that night, but with so much fresh, delicious bread now taking up counter space in my kitchen, and the fact that Jesse was still getting over being sick, grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup (mostly based off of this recipe) seemed like the only logical option.
But, to be fair, I also made this wild rice casserole that I’d had in the back of my mind as a good way to use up the head of broccoli that had been dwelling in our crisper for almost-too-long; those potatoes you see dotting the top are the tail end of the scalloped potatoes I’d made last week, and with almost the exact same sauce holding this dish together, they seemed like the perfect layer to spread on top. Delish, to be sure, but would have benefited greatly from the addition of sauteed mushrooms.
Ambiance augmented by beautiful flowers that Jesse brought home last Friday afternoon. Just ‘cuz.
I got the most intense craving on Monday night — sitting on the couch around dinnertime with my laptop, on Round 3 of 3 of my work for that day (with the Yarn Crawl coming up and big things in the works for my businesses, my days tend to consist of work-before-work, work-during-work, and work-after-work) — for pancakes. Not, like, I want to eat pancakes in the morning and I can’t wait, but I want to eat pancakes right now, for dinner.
You probably know by now that I am a slave to my cravings, and so, that’s what I had for dinner on Monday night. So weird! I didn’t even want anything else…just pancakes. So, I whipped up my go-to recipe, adapted from Alice Waters’ Art of Simple Cooking (adapted mostly meaning that I don’t do any extra steps like separating eggs, mixing ingredients separately…it just all goes into the same bowl, whisked together. They still turn out great).
This obviously makes enough batter for tons and tons of pancakes, and I only wanted, like, three. So I funneled the rest into an old Santa Cruz juice jar, which as it turns out is the perfect vessel for pouring perfect little pancakes out of without any mess at all.
This is now nestled in our fridge and I’ve been eating delicious, nearly-instant pancakes all week long — with eggs and bacon (indulgent weekend breakfast), with cottage cheese (healthy weekday breakfast), and with homemade lemon curd and more of that honey-lemon Greek yogurt (dessert)!
I set out this week to make this recipe for gnocchi with mushroom ragu — the meal was actually inspired by a package of gnocchi I got a killer deal on last week, so I used store-bought instead of the homemade version in that recipe. Homemade gnocchi always seems like an unnecessary pain. If I’m going to waste some calories on empty potato starch, it had better be becasue it makes for an easy weeknight meal and only takes 5 minutes to cook! I’ll save labor-intensive for if I ever decide to make my own fettucine.
The recipe for the mushroom ragu is so dang simple I don’t really know what I can say about it. I bought a pound of delicious mushrooms at the Portland Fruit Company, sauteed them with butter and garlic and a teaspoon of homemade rub that was a Christmas gift from one of our friends this year, then added wine and stock (didn’t have any thyme), and a few teaspoons of corn starch to thicken it up. Then topped it off with some fresh lemon juice and cream!
A pound of mushrooms really doesn’t make a whole lot of sauce once it cooks down — just enough to liberally cover two small servings of gnocchi, which was only about half the package — the rest will get turned into something else later in the week! Oh, but after cooking the gnocchi in boiling water and straining them, I did fry them up in some coconut oil on the stovetop so they were nice and toothy.
This would never have been enough food for Jesse “I’m a growing boy” Hanson’s dinner, so fortunately I had pulled this recipe for chickpea crepes from my Pinterest to try out for this week. I would never think of crepes as being particularly filling, but since these are made entirely with chickpea flour, they actually packed a pretty filling punch and made for great little handheld shells in which to make mini DIY salad tacos.
The crepes are super easy. You just mix up all the following ingredients in a bowl, and let it sit while you prep the rest of the meal:
After whisking those together and letting it sit, I added more water until it was the consistency I wanted — like pancake batter. I heated up some coconut oil in our skillet and made these pancakes one ladle-ful at a time, letting them cook most of the way through on one side, then flipping them momentarily to finish them off. Our skillet has a pretty nice patina at this point so I didn’t have to re-oil the pan more than once or twice.
By the end, I had a big plate full of these protein-y, filling, spicy, savory crepes, which were served DIY-style, each of us adding our own ratio of salad greens, leftover black beans, green onions, and dressing (choices were lemon-tahini-yogurt, or garlic-dijon-vinaigrette) as the filling and eating them taco-style with our hands. Delish!
This was a perfect Monday night meal, inspired by this post on the Kitchn. I love how, despite the four multiple components to this meal (which totally goes against my propensity for one-pot dinners!), everything cooks in the right order and gives you time to prep the next thing while you leave the current one to boil/simmer/saute, and it really does come together perfectly at the end.
The real shining star that made this meal so healthy and delish was the black beans, which I subbed in for the chicken sausage. I had a long meeting on Monday morning and came home afterwards to finish up my work for the day at home, which meant I was home early enough to get this started — a luxury that most probably don’t have, but that’s the small biz owner tradeoff for late nights, early mornings, and unbridled stress.
Jesse had dutifully cleaned up after a little Super Bowl party that he threw here the day before, so our Dutch oven was sparkling clean and in perfect shape for the job. I started by sauteeing an entire chopped onion in some leftover bacon fat in the bottom of the Dutch oven, along with 4 cloves of smashed garlic. After a few minutes I added 2 cups of dried black beans, covered with water, and brought that all to a boil with a bay leaf, a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, and some chopped up leftover charred poblano peppers that I had in the fridge from last week when I made us cheesy shrimp-stuffed peppers for dinner. After bringing this all to a boil, I then turned everything off and let it all sit on the stove for the rest of the afternoon, not touching it again until later that night when I came home from a long run, when I brought it back to a boil and then let it simmer for about 40 minutes, with the lid slightly ajar. (The sitting all afternoon effectively was me soaking the beans, just in a more complicated water.)
While the beans were simmering, I started the polenta, bringing 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk to a boil together in a pot on the stove. Once it started boiling, I whisked in 1 cup of polenta and 1 teaspoon of salt, covered, and simmered — whisking every few minutes to prevent clumping. Once it had thickened, I added a big handful of shredded cheddar to the pot and stirred it in until it had incorporated. I usually save polenta for nights like these, when Jesse does his own thing for dinner and I can experiment with foods I don’t think he’ll particularly like. But after making polenta like this, I kind of feel like I need to force him to give it another go. When you make polenta with this much cheese and milk, I kind of feel like anyone who loves macaroni and cheese, has to love this, too.
While that polenta was in its last stages of thickening, I got started on the spinach — but we also had a yam that’s been sitting around for awhile, so I chopped half of that up into little cubes and pan fried them first. Once the yam was pretty well cooked, I added a chopped shallot, 3 cloves of pressed garlic, and a giant bunch of fresh spinach, chopped, to the skillet. Once the spinach was perfectly wilted, I removed it from the heat.
Right about when I threw in the spinach, shallot and garlic, I also brought a small little saucepan of water toa boil on the adjacent burner with a spoonful of vinegar, to poach this egg. Once the water was at a low simmering boil, I cracked the egg into the water, careful not to break the yolk, and set my timer for 4 minutes. I think 4.5 minutes is perfect for a poached egg, so once I hear the timer go off, this gives me just enough time to find a spoon to fish it out with, assemble my bowl with all the components (polenta, beans, and spinach), and head back to the stove to place the egg on top as the crowning jewel.
I’m into it.