Nik Sharma’s Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

A few days ago I woke up with a splitting headache and an achy kind of nausea. I say “woke up” loosely, because I laid in bed for several hours just trying to figure out what’s what. Even though it is July in the South, and plenty hot, and plenty humid, I knew what I needed. The answer? Hot, nourishing soup with plenty of collard greens, which happen to be the state vegetable of South Carolina.

You may be thinking, “You crazy woman. It’s 1000 degrees outside where you live and 900% humidity. A walk halfway ’round the block is enough to get you sweating. Why are you making hot soup?”

And reader, I must say: valid point…

However, the body needs what the body needs, and sometimes silver-green bunches of bitter collards and turmeric-coated chickpeas can work some of the profoundest miracles.

I leafed my way through the picture-rich Flavor Equation gluttonously, lingering over pages that contained ingredients I’d never heard of. If you need some magic injected into your culinary life, consider this beautiful book by Nik Sharma. He breaks down some of the science of what makes ingredients big players in the kitchen and throws in some really interesting recipes for adventurous eaters intent on culinary play.

I saw the picture of this chili-spiced soup and just knew it would cure me.

What’s not to love about stewed greens in bright tomato and tamarind, with spiced chili, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper seasoning two kinds of legumes?

I ate not one, but two bowls of this for early dinner and was back on track by 8.

Health Benefits of Collard Greens

These broad, leafy greens have more to offer than meets the eye. Here are some of the top nutritional benefits to eating collard greens regularly:

  1. Liver Detox: Collard greens are rich in glucosinolates, which cleanse cells of toxins and gradually purify the body over time.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in vitamins A, C, K, and B-6 as well as iron, magnesium, and calcium, collard greens offer your body the building blocks to do everything from producing hemoglobin in your red blood cells, to boosting the immune system, to improving skin health.
  3. Fiber: High in both water content and fiber, collard greens are very beneficial to your gut in “keeping regular.” Fiber not only cleans out your lower intestine but also slows down your liver’s processing of sugars, lowering the chance that sugar will be converted to fat. Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels and may even have associations with bolstering mental health.

In South Carolina, it’s standard to purchase collard greens in giant bunches, too large to fit in the average grocery bag. Most folks cut the tough rib out of the center of the leaf, chop the greens into forkable chunks and stew them in a deliciously seasoned liquid. Here is a recipe for classic Southern Collard Greens from Grandbaby Cakes.

The Recipe

Collards aren’t all this dish has to offer. From the healing punch of warming spices to the healthy protein contributed by the chickpeas and lentils, this soup will have you going back for another bowl.

First, I prepped all of the ingredients. I thawed my homemade stock…diced the onion…soaked the red lentils…peeled and chopped the ginger and garlic…washed and cut the collards….etc. It was my day off and I had all day to make magical soup, as far as I was concerned. A mini “vacation,” if you will.

(If you are looking for other ways to use up your gorgeous red lentils, check out this recipe for dal from one of my previous posts!)

Once the ingredients were prepped, it became a matter of bringing out the best in all of them. Sauteeing the onions until translucent, just cooking through the ginger and garlic, caramelizing the tomato paste and blooming the spices, stewing the tomato and collards…then adding the beans and stock to simmer until everything married together.

Serve yourself a bowl, add a healthy amount of fresh herbs on top, and you’ve got yourself a wellness boost:

Bet you can’t eat just one bowl.

Nik Sharma's Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

Nik Sharma
This collard-packed soup is doubled down on legume-y goodness with both red lentils and chickpeas. With warming spices and brightness from fresh tomato and tamarind, this vegetable stew will leave you both refreshed and comforted!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Comfort Food, Intuitive
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 7 oz collard greens, rinsed, midribs removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste
  • salt, to taste
  • chopped parsley, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, rinse your lentils in a fine mesh colander and pick out any impurities. Cover lentils in a bowl with 1 cup of water and let soak for 30 minutes.
  • While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomato and set aside. Remove the midribs from the rinsed collards and roughly chop.
  • Heat oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add cinnamon stick, pepper, chili, and turmeric followed by the tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Drop in the diced tomato and collard greens and stir until the leaves are bright green and begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Drain the soaked lentils and add to the pot along with chickpeas and stock.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Season to taste with salt.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and serve immediately.
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Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With the passing of Memorial Day came a swift–if not entirely unpredictable–craving for sugar. Coupled with the knowledge that I had four or five lemons which were on the precipice of going bad, I knew there could only be one delightful conclusion: lemon dessert.

While most of us are familiar with lemon bars and lemon meringue pie, perhaps not all of us have had the great pleasure of sinking our teeth into these beauties. Gooey, sticky, lemony, and slightly tart, these bars make an excellent BBQ dessert. While they are fun to share, I ate nearly an entire pan to myself over the course of five days before finally demanding that my boyfriend take them away to share.

Y’know, for science. So for the record, they keep surprisingly well in the fridge.

While one could hypothetically eat these pie bars with ones’ hands (and I’ve definitely stuffed a bite-sized morsel into my mouth while running out the door on my way to work) they are an INCREDIBLY sticky mess and are best eaten with a plate and a fork. This way, you know how to prepare for that potluck dessert you were puzzling over. (Gatherings are beginning to happen again, thank everything good.)

Another bonus of finding this winner of a recipe? Trying my hand at another kind of meringue. This recipe calls for Swiss meringue in order to add a silky smooth finish to your lemon pie bars.

Different Kinds of Meringue

There are three basic kinds of meringue. Chances are, you’ve been exposed to them at some point in your life–maybe even eaten and enjoyed them–without knowing just what they are. From meringue cookies to pie toppings to Baked Alaska, mastering meringue is a pivotal step for any baker or home cook.

French Meringue

French meringue is created by whipping egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually adding sugar while beating until firm peaks appear. For this process, it is best to use fine sugar or confectioner’s sugar for easier absorption and maximum dissolvability. This particular kind of meringue is often folded into desserts like Julia Child’s chocolate mousse in order to create a fluffy, airy quality.

Italian Meringue

While this touted as the most stable of the three meringues, it can also be the trickiest to get right. It is undoubtedly the least forgiving of the meringues, but the results are versatile and have been used in everything from macarons to buttercream. First, egg whites are beaten until soft peaks form. Then, sugar syrup (simple syrup) is heated to 236°F-240°F. Gradually, the syrup is added to beaten egg whites as you continue to whisk. When all the sugar is incorporated, you will have glossy, firm peaks that will set quickly unless incorporated into another ingredient.

Swiss Meringue

For this meringue, sugar and egg whites are whisked together over a simmering pot of water until they are very warm to the touch. The heated mixture is then beaten until smooth, firm, glossy peaks form. Adding the sugar to the egg whites in this way makes for a less voluminous result, but improves the overall texture, especially when compared to French meringue. (Hint: THIS is the meringue used for lemon meringue pie!)

Ways to Use Meringue

One of the great qualities of meringue is that it is essentially sticky, edible play-dough; once it’s met with time and/or heat, it holds its shape forever. Torch your meringue when you want it to set, and you’ve made an edible creation. Because of this aspect of meringues, they make a fun addition to nearly any dessert. Improvise, and have fun!

Okay, Now You’re Ready To Play With Meringue

Roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get to work!

We start with the graham cracker crust. Who doesn’t love a graham cracker crust?

You’ll need two sleeves, butter, sugar, and salt for this sweet step. A food processor makes the procedure more enjoyable, unless you love smashing things in zip top bags until they are a fine powder. Sometimes this can be cathartic?

Once par baked, it’s time to make the lemon filling. I love this lemon filling because juice, flesh, and rind are all blended together, creating a complex and robust lemon flavor. Yum!

Once blitzed together, it gets baked. It WILL look bizarre and even unevenly browned. But trust me (and the recipe!), once you slather some of that sweet, sweet Swiss meringue on top, nobody will bat an eye.

 

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)!

Chill that sucker! While it’s cooling, whip up your Swiss meringue.

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)! Put it over heat until it is very warm, whisking throughout.

It won’t look very “meringue-y” at first (I confess I had a brief moment where I wondered if I was doing it right) but once you put the warm mixture under a whisk, magical things happen. Spread the finished meringue over your cooled lemon bars and torch.

Before!

After! Serve immediately. If you can’t eat them all in one sitting, don’t worry. They are still just as delicious five days later, and I have to say they were even better on day two.

Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With a buttery graham cracker crust, blitzed sugar and whole lemon filling and a sweet Swiss meringue topping, this crowd-pleasing dessert makes an excellent addition to any gathering. Keeps up to five days in the fridge. This recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, traditional

Equipment

  • Blow torch or oven broiler
  • Stand mixer or electric hand beater

Ingredients
  

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 2 sleeves graham crackers, original
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches fine salt
  • 10 Tbs cold butter, cut into cubes

Whole Lemon Filling

  • 2 whole lemons, scrubbed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 egg yolks, with whites reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Swiss Meringue Topping

  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Crust

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13 pan with two pieces of parchment paper large enough to overhang on the sides of the pan. (This is to remove the lemon bars after they've cooled.)
  • Place graham crackers, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the parchment papered baking pan and press the crumbs down into it in an even layer, taking care to send crumbs all the way to the corners. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Allow to cool.

Filling

  • Trim the ends off of your lemons and slice two lengthwise. Cut into thin half moons (about 1/8th of an inch thick) and remove the seeds from the slices. Wipe out the food processor and place lemon slices, juice of one lemon, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and butter and blend until smooth. (Alternatively a blender works well for this.) Pour the mixture over the par baked crust and return to the oven, baking for 30 minutes more. (Don't worry of the graham crust is still warm when you pour the lemon filling into it.)
  • Pull the lemon bars from the oven after 30 minutes and allow to cool completely in the fridge at least 2 hours or freezer at least 1 hour. Don't worry if the top looks unevenly browned or unsightly as it's going to get covered with meringue swirls!

Meringue Topping

  • Once the bars have cooled completely, pull from the fridge. Using the parchment paper handles, pull the bars in one mass from the baking pan and discard the paper. Return the bars to the baking pan.
  • Add egg whites, vanilla, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or other heat safe bowl, if using electric hand mixer) and place over a pot of simmering water (even 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot is enough. Whisk continuously until the mixture is homogenous and very warm to the touch.
  • Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and beat until firm, glossy peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Plop the meringue over the cooled lemon bars and swirl using an offset spatula until desired effect is achieved.
  • Using a torch or your oven's broiler, heat meringue until golden and toasted, around 1 minute. Keep a close eye on the meringue so it does not burn.
  • Serve immediately. Keeps well up to five days in the fridge.
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Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

I know what you’re thinking.

How did it get to be nearly June already? How has this year been simultaneously so fast and so slow?

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Maybe it’s…just me??

So, maybe you were wondering what in the lord’s name a “clafoutis” is. Y’know, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what on earth it could be either. It sounded French and according to the internet, it is made of a few simple ingredients. I decided to give it the ol’ college try. If you’ve ever made and/or enjoyed a dutch baby, chances are you will probably enjoy a clafoutis. If you did a DNA test, I’m sure it would tell you they are siblings; or, at the very least, first cousins. And tasty too!

What’s a Clafoutis and How Do I Pronounce It?

According to the dictionary, a clafoutis (klah-foo-TEE) is a tart made of fruit baked into a sweet batter. A traditional version of this is made with cherries, so stone fruits are a natural choice. The spongey batter is higher in eggs and milk than it is in flour, which makes for a springy forkful. What’s not to love about this simple confection?

Tell Me More…

So, your typical cherry clafoutis as it would be made in France (after all, it IS a French word) would be served warm and dusted with powdered sugar. Fun fact: the French traditionally leave the pits in the cherries to impart an almond character to the sponge. (If you, like me, feel that you already spend enough time and money at the dentists’ office, adding a kiss of almond extract is a safe substitute for the pits.)

Originally from Limousin, France, “clafoutis” comes from the root “clafir,” meaning “to fill.” Thus, it is a baked dessert “filled” with fruit. However, while the simple nature of the recipe makes for easy substitutions, the French have dubbed any version containing a fruit other than cherries a “flaugnarde.” Being a little more–erm–progressive, I personally am willing to call this plum version a clafoutis. One can only keep so many French words in ones head, after all.

Not All of Us Live in South Carolina…

If I am going to tout myself as a seasonally-minded blogger and eater, I have to address the fact that the plums I found at the farmer’s market are not available everywhere in the U.S. Strictly speaking, it is a little early for plums. The good news? Strawberries are starting to emerge, and rhubarb has been in full force for some time now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t make yourself a strawberry rhubarb clafoutis, and enjoy every minute of it. (If using strawberry rhubarb, replace vanilla bean with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.)

However You “Clafoutis,” Here’s How It Goes:

Assemble your ingredients. Chop your plums into chunks, macerate in sugar. Scrape vanilla bean into milk, and throw the pod in with the plums to hang out and impart flavor.

Whip up your batter and arrange plums in the bottom of a cast iron or oven-safe pan; no need to go overboard arranging your fruit. Chances are, the batter will cause the plums to float off the bottom of the pan.

Before pic, featuring floating plum wedges and aromatic batter. Make sure not to overbake your clafoutis to prevent it from becoming rubbery. This recipe calls for a high egg/milk: flour ratio, which should further prevent a rubbery dessert. If, however, you encounter a clafoutis quandary, consider adding another egg and/or more milk in the future.

After! Feel free to dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Or, add a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or full-fat yogurt and enjoy!

This dessert is light, so feel free to dish yourself a hearty slice.

Serves 8 people, keeps in the fridge up to four days, and reheats well. Who’s ready for summer?!

Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

Fruit studs a custardy sponge in this simple and rustic dessert. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or with a dusting of powdered sugar!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French, Intuitive, Seasonal
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • butter, for buttering the cast iron or oven-safe dish
  • 6 plums (mine were small so I used 7)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped (alternatively, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)
  • vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking dish and set aside.
  • Remove pits from plums and cut into thin slices. Place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean husk and toss. Set aside, allowing the fruit to macerate at least 10 minutes.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and salt. Add eggs, milk, vanilla bean seeds and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
  • Arrange macerated plums in the bottom of your baking dish. (You can add the vanilla bean husk if you want, but keep in mind you will have to remove it after it bakes as it is inedible.) Pour batter into the skillet and place on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until set, between an hour and an hour and 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and puffy.
  • Allow to cool before slicing into wedges. Dust with powdered sugar and/or add a dollop of ice cream or vanilla yogurt and serve immediately. May be frozen up to one week, and keeps well up to four days in the fridge.
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Pasta Carbonara

If you, like me, have been hoarding boxes of pasta over the course of the pandemic, you may be getting tired of your same old noodle routines. We all have the recipe rotations we keep in our back pocket for those nights following long days during which we haven’t had much bandwidth to think about dinner. Part of the beauty of a recipe like pasta carbonara is that the scratch-made sauce that takes moments to come together; even better, it maximizes flavor with only a few simple ingredients. This is a great one for everything from fancy date nights to “Oh my gosh I am so tired but can’t do canned red sauce even one more time this week” dinners!

A Brief History of Pasta

The origins of pasta as we know it are somewhat in dispute: there are those who claim it dates as far back as 3000 B.C. in China, and those who attest it had a parallel birthplace in 1100s Sicily. Regardless of origin, pasta has always held global appeal and been a cheap, reliable, appealing way to fill a belly.

According to “Italics Magazine,” an Italian magazine written in English, pasta as we know it was originally closer to lasagne than spaghetti. In the 1st century A.D, Horace, the Roman poet, wrote of “lagana,” a dish made of sheets of fried dough which may or may not have been stuffed with layers of meat.

Writings from 3rd century Palestine describe “itriyya,” a semolina-based dough cut into strips, dried, and then boiled. An Arab lexicographer and physician named Isho bar Ali described this ancient cousin of pasta in detail, and wrote of the industry surrounding it–ships sent the itriyya to “Calabria, to Muslim and Christian countries,” noting “very many shiploads are sent.”

As a result of extensive trading in the Middle Ages, food historians estimate pasta began to take on different shapes. Sicily may be credited with couscous; by the 13th century, pasta shapes like gnocchi, ravioli, vermicelli, and macaroni spread across the Italian peninsula.

Naples emerged as the leading producer and consumer of pasta in the 17th century. Pasta’s increasing popularity may have been due to the fact that it was a dish accessible to those who did not have the means to purchase meat for their meals. The Industrial Revolution saw the advent of machines like the torchio, which was a mechanical press designed to cut dough into thin pieces. The first license for a pasta factory was written in Venice in 1740.

In 1877, in the town of Parma, Italy, Pietro Barilla began one of the most successful pasta businesses still in production today.

Pasta’s Story Isn’t Over

Some pasta shape traditionalists attest that the record for existing pasta shapes is set in stone. Pasta-curious podcast host Dan Pashman challenged the status quo this year by setting out to create the “perfect” pasta shape: able to be speared by a fork and retain sauce, and toothsome enough to have a decent chew.

According to the New York Times, he worked with Sfoglini, a pasta company based in New York, to put the wheels in motion and create a riff on tradition. After nearly three years of research, they made the bronze casting capable of bringing Pashman’s dream to fruition and a new shape was born!

Enter cascatelli, a word derived from the Italian “cascata,” meaning waterfall. This new noodle is available for purchase online and was even recommended by the NYT article to be paired with–you guessed it–carbonara sauce!

Photo from the New York Times

So What About Carbonara?

If you, like me, impulsively purchased every available box of bucatini after the great bucatini shortage of 2020, a more traditional pasta shape would lend itself just as well to carbonara, a dish which may have origins reaching back to Italian coal miners, as it was colloquially called “coal miner’s spaghetti.” (“Carbonaro” is the Italian word for charcoal burner.)

While it is possible, of course, to eat whatever shape of pasta you like, it is recommended that you choose a shape with a large ratio of surface area to volume, like spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine in order to cook the eggs in the sauce properly. Let your heart be your guide!

You gotta love a tasty dish with simple ingredients…and how can you go wrong with that much cheese??

Gather the ingredients. Grate the cheese, whisk the eggs with salt and heavy pepper, cook the bacon…

Whisk cheese into the eggs and place in a large bowl while the pasta is cooking. Enjoy a little mental “vacation” while all you have to do is stare into a pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally…

When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the egg and cheese mixture, tossing vigorously. Serve immediately topped with more cheese if desired, or grated salt cured egg yolk.

Or, if you are hedonistic like me, add both cheese and yolks!

Note: the pasta will loose a lot of heat when transferred from colander to cold bowl with cold sauce. Have whoever you are feeding on call and ready to eat! 🙂

Pasta Carbonara

Al dente pasta cooked bacon or guanciale is tossed in raw eggs, cheese, and salt and pepper, cooking the eggs and turning them into a delicious, creamy sauce.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz pasta (bucatini, spaghetti, or fettuccine are traditional)
  • 5 pieces thick cut bacon (guanciale or pancetta are more traditional, so feel free to sub)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil if using guanciale or pancetta (otherwise, omit)

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Lay bacon on a metal rack over a sheet track with a lip, and cook bacon in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked but not crispy. Chop or snip bacon into 1/2" pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and both cheeses. Season with a small pinch of salt (bearing in mind the pasta water is salted and the bacon contributes a significant amount of salt) and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Set aside.
  • Cook pasta until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a serving bowl with hot water to preheat.
  • Drain pasta when al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Dump hot water from serving bowl, patting dry with a towel. Add pasta to the warmed bowl, followed by the egg and cheese mixture, tossing continuously. If desired, add some pasta water for additional creaminess.
  • Serve immediately with more cheese, fresh pepper, or salt-cured egg yolks if desired.
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Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

Have you ever bit into something so delicious it was nearly impossible not to crave another bite? Snapped into the perfectly-seasoned chip, slurped some savory ramen, chewed through mouthfuls of crusty, tomato-y pizza?

Have you ever wondered just what it is about these dishes that makes them so hard to pass up?

The answer is “umami,” a Japanese word which literally translates to “pleasant savory taste.”

Umami has roots as far back as 1908, when it was discovered by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist. This flavor sensation is often described as “brothy” or “meat-like” with a lingering, mouth-watering effect which coats the tongue. This phenomenon correlates to the presence of glutamates and certain ribonucleotides in food, which can be made even more pronounced by adding salt.

Fermented fish sauces and soy sauce are some of our most ancient representations of umami, which have been traced back as far as the third century in China. Dried bonito flakes, kombu seaweed, tomato paste, parmesan cheese, shrimp, nutritional yeast, shiitake mushrooms, and leeks are some examples of ingredients which are rich in umami. One easy “cheat” for enhancing umami is created by adding MSG powder, short for monosodium glutimate*–this is a powdered combination of salt and glutamic acid, otherwise known as sodium salt; this provides a great savory boost to whatever you are seasoning.

Glutamates make up approximately half of the ingredients in breast milk, so you may be even more familiar with umami than you thought! Interestingly, some studies suggest that umami both stimulates appetite and contributes to satiety, making it an ideal addition to nearly any dish.

I am always looking for more ways to sneak umami into dishes. Salt-cured egg yolks are an easy way to add a flavorful boost to your meal, and could even be used to replace parmesan cheese for those who are sensitive to dairy or are simply trying to cut back. What’s more, they keep almost indefinitely in an airtight container in the fridge!

All you need for this recipe are high quality egg yolks, preferably from local hens, fine kosher salt, cheesecloth, and time.

Here I’ve separated my yolks and poured my salt into a bowl.

The yolks are then nestled into depressions, then completely covered with salt. These sit this way undisturbed for one week in the fridge. Here’s what they look like after seven days:

At this stage, the yolks are wrapped loosely in cheesecloth and hung in the fridge to air cure one to two more weeks, or until they are completely dry. (Note, they will still be a little tacky to the touch, but should be generally firm.)

Gloriously lumpy, these yolks have already graced the top of my pasta carbonara and may even find their way onto my popcorn later…recipe for carbonara coming next week!

*Some have drawn correlations between MSG consumption and asthma, migraines, and brain damage–however, the FDA still regulates MSG as safe. Glutamates are abundant in nature (as I mentioned earlier, they make up over 50% of the ingredients naturally occurring in breast milk), and glutamic acid works as an excitatory neurotransmitter. This means that in order to relay a message, it stimulates nerve cells. Some folks argue this can be done to excess, which is why MSG has been labeled an excitotoxin. A study was completed in 1969 during which mice were given large injections of MSG, which caused harmful neurological effects. However, when consumed in normal amounts, dietary glutamate should have imperceptible effects on the brain as it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Of course, there are those who are more sensitive to MSG than others; symptoms of this include flushing, muscle tightness, tingling, numbness, and headaches or migraines.

Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

Using the simple ingredients of high-quality eggs and fine kosher salt, these hardened egg yolks make for an easy burst of flavor to grate over anything from pizza and pasta to popcorn.
Prep Time 5 mins
Curing Time 21 d
Total Time 21 d 5 mins
Course Seasoning, Side Dish, Spice
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • cheese cloth

Ingredients
  

  • 4 high quality eggs, preferably local
  • 1 box fine kosher salt or pickling salt

Instructions
 

  • Crack the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Reserve the whites for later use.
  • Pour about 1/2"-3/4" of salt into a bowl or tupperware large enough to fit all four yolks widthwise with at least 1/2" space in between. Using your finger, create little impressions in the salt for the yolks, making sure to leave some salt at the bottom of the depression and not scratching the bowl bare. Carefully place the yolks into their depressions, then cover completely with salt. Seal or wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge undisturbed for one week.
  • After one week, remove yolks from fridge. Carefully comb through the salt and brush the yolks free from the majority of the salt.
  • Wrap yolks loosely in cheese cloth and allow to air dry or "cure" in the fridge 1 to 2 more weeks, or until thoroughly hardened. (Note: They may be a little tacky but should be completely firm.) These keep almost indefinitely in an airtight container, and can be grated over a dish to accentuate umami flavors.
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Red Lentil and Yam Dal

If you love Indian food but often feel daunted by the idea of making it yourself, dal (sometimes spelled “daal” or “dahl”) is a great entry point. With simple ingredients and minimal effort, dal requires basic knife skills and a little patience. To boot, this recipe also happens to be vegan; but while it is free of animal products, it is no way lacking in flavor. When I first sampled a bite to make sure the lentils were cooked through, I ended up standing for several minutes over the stove, eating spoonful after spoonful and groaning over just how delicious this dish actually is.

What’s more, it’s arguably even better the day after you make it, after the ingredients have had more time to meld in the fridge. I love making a big pot of dal and nursing it over the course of the week; you can doctor it several ways to add some variety, and eat it for literally any meal. (I had it for breakfast the morning after I made it!) Add some fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, coconut cream, crispy fried onion slivers, or some raita or yogurt. Eat it with naan, roti, on toast, or with brown or basmati rice. This dish is complex and balanced enough to stand up to a little tweaking, but really is remarkably good straight out of the pan.

What Is Dal?

Usually including onions and/or tomatoes and a host of spices, dal is essentially savory lentil porridge.

The word “dal” comes from the similarly named Sanskrit root verb, meaning “to split,” and is commonly used to refer to lentils of all colors and sizes. (In this case, however, we are talking specifically about the dish.) Made from either lentils, peas, or beans which do not require soaking (also called “pulses”), dal comes in three primary forms: made from unhulled pulses, split pulses, or hulled and split. When a pulse is hulled, its outer shell is removed, thereby making it easier to digest; in turn, however, it looses some of its inherent nutritional value in the process, such as dietary fiber.

According to Wikipedia, India is the leading producer and consumer of pulses in the world, no doubt why lentils and other legumes contribute so much to Indian cuisine. Most Indian households eat lentils in some form at least once throughout the day (either sweet or savory), no matter where they fall on the financial or class spectrum. In this way, pulses are a great equalizer in Indian cuisine.

One popular way of finishing a bowl of dal is to pour “chaunk” over the top of the bowl. Chaunk is generally whole spices fried in a neutral tasting oil, such as fenugreek, red pepper seeds, or cumin or mustard seeds. However, chaunk varies regionally and comes in a wide variety of forms.

India’s Legume History

Tracing back well before the Christian era, a baked, sweetened lentil paste dessert known as “mande” or “mandaka” reaches back to the Buddhist era. Two legumes which show up in India’s historical texts are chickpeas and horse gram, both of which are still eaten in India to this day.

In texts dating back to 1130 AD, pulses are mentioned as the main ingredient in common dishes, with dals made from cereal grains also present. Pulses can be cooked with or without soaking, but can also be ground into a flour and used to make traditional Indian breads such as papadum, or moong dal paratha.

Lentils are also considered the first meal of someone in mourning, because they are round and sorrow (like a wheel) is thought to come around and touch everyone in their turn. Additionally, the lentils’ smooth shape is thought to symbolize the silence indicative of the mourning period in Indian culture.

It is said in lore that during King Avadh’s reign, a cook was hired exclusively to cook lentils. He took the job on the condition that the king eat the lentils while they were good and hot, never allowing them to grow cold. This worked for a while, until the king was unable to come as planned for dinner one day.

In frustration, the cook threw the whole dish away and walked out, saying “yeh mooh aur masoor ki daal” or “you are not worth this lentil!”

Health Benefits of Dal

Aside from being a low fat, low cholesterol dish due to being pulse-centric rather than meat-centric, dal also contains hearty doses of ground spices like cumin, coriander, and ginger. Thought to contain healing properties in India’s Ayurvedic medicine tradition, dal nourishes on a cellular level and promotes overall wellness in several ways.

Lentils are high in

  • B vitamins
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • folate
  • manganese
  • phosphorus
  • phytochemicals, which prevent diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • fiber
  • iron
  • and are 25% protein

They have been linked to heart health, blood sugar management, lower blood pressure, and general fitness, as they increase satiety and discourage overeating.

Fresh cilantro has been linked to reduced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, reduced anxiety, and blood sugar management.

In this recipe, ground cumin, coriander, ginger, and turmeric are all used; each of these spices is thought to host a litany of health properties, essentially adding up to reduced inflammation, blood sugar management, improved heart health, weight loss facilitation, and improved brain health and digestion.

(If you are curious about learning more about yam nutrition facts for this dal, please refer to my previous blog post for Sweet Baked Yam With Tahini, Cilantro, and Pepitas.)

It’s hard to have a bad day eating such colorful food…perhaps this is why golden turmeric is linked with depression relief.

Onions sauté in a little oil followed by yams, ginger, garlic, and red pepper. In go the lentils, spices, salt, tomatoes, and some water…

Everything simmers for about 35 minutes. Stir in some coconut cream for some richness and just try not to immediately scoop yourself a bowl! And don’t worry–dal freezes beautifully!

Red Lentil and Yam Dal

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's NYT recipe.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course healthy, Main Course, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Tbs neutral flavored oil, such as canola
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups sweet potato, finely diced
  • 1 inch peeled ginger, finely minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp aleppo chili flakes
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • cilantro, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sautuntil translucent, about 5 minutes. Add yam and sautee for another 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and add ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes, and stir. Add lentils and ground spices to the pot, and stir until fully incorporated. Add tomatoes and 3 1/2 cups water, and raise heat to high until the mixture boils.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat until mixture is at a rapid simmer and cook about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lentils are fully cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt.
  • Remove from heat once liquid is absorbed and lentils are cooked, add coconut cream and stir. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
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Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

I will never forget the first time I had mushrooms and cream sauce: the tang of white wine tempered the silken nature of the heavy cream, creating a luxurious blanket for the simmering creminis. It’s hard to argue with the allure of heavy cream, even when we are trying to be eco- or animal-conscious.

I don’t buy it often, and my fridge almost always has milk alternatives in it such as oat or almond–but every now and then, ya just want something so creamy it’s basically liquid butter.

This flavorful sauce beautifully coats tender poached chicken breasts and cooks fresh spinach in a matter of minutes. Grounded in earthy greens and brightened by white wine and a splash of lemon juice, this truly is a decadent, simple dish that makes enjoying dinner a no-brainer. Plus, it comes together in under an hour and utilizes only one skillet, which makes clean up a breeze.

While I would be hard pressed to label this a “healthy” dish, there are certain benefits to eating lean protein like chicken breasts (low cholesterol, high protein) and spinach.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Aside from containing vital nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, spinach is also high in vitamin A and folate.

Vitamin A has been linked to eyesight, skin, and hair health, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers like cervical, lung, and bladder cancers.

Vitamin A also helps to fight acne and is an essential micronutrient necessary in collagen production, responsible for keeping us looking young and healthy, as well as boosting bone health and nutrient absorption.

Folate plays a key role in red blood cell formation and general cell health and function.

Isn’t it fun to know that, on a cellular level, our foods are working to keep the machinations of our amazing bodies in order?

What’s even more fun is knowing that folate is a nutrient that requires fat in order to be absorbed by the body, thus making this rich cream sauce the perfect vehicle for your leafy greens. How’s that for a justification? 😉

Simple ingredients means minimal effort, but it also often means crystal-clear flavor that is easier to balance.

What do I mean by “balance?”

Fat vs. acid is a great place to start. In this dish, the cream is obviously the major contributor in the “fat” column, while white wine plays heavily into the “acid.” The reason these two ingredients come together in this straightforward sauce is the fact that they play off each other nicely, making for a surprisingly complex, savory relationship. Add some garlic for pungency and shallot for character and you’ve got an excellent backdrop for whatever you like, whether that be chicken, fish, mushrooms, or vegetables.

Part of what keeps the chicken in this recipe so moist is the fact that it poaches after it sears. This has the double benefit of cooking off some of the alcohol in the white wine and further thickening the sauce.

Add some parsley for color and a squeeze of lemon for a burst of freshness. What this dish lacks in color it makes up for in flavor. Serve with rice or over a bed of fresh spinach, and enjoy!

Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

This simple dish comes together in minutes and makes and excellent date-night or special week-end meal!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Intuitive, traditional
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • cast iron pan or heavy bottomed skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • salt, for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 small shallots or one large
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, packed
  • fresh parsley, to taste
  • fresh lemon wedges, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Season chicken breasts to taste with salt and pepper. Coat (dredge) in flour and set aside.
  • Grate shallot(s) and press garlic and set aside.
  • Heat oil over medium-high in a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes each turn. The chicken should read 165°F on an instant read thermometer. If using high-quality, organic chicken, feel free to heat chicken to the "chef's temperature" of 155°F, if you are comfortable. Keep in mind the chicken will continue to poach in the white wine in the following steps.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add butter, garlic, and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Flip the chicken breasts after 5 minutes, then remove using tongs. Place on a cutting board and cover with tin foil, allowing the meat to rest for several minutes while you finish the sauce.
  • Once the wine mixture has reduced significantly, add the cream and cook until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon, between 5 and 10 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn off the heat and add fresh spinach, stirring until incorporated and fully cooked, about 1 minute.
  • Cut chicken against the grain into 1/2" strips. Plate with spinach and cream sauce, ideally over a bed of rice. Serve hot with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
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Braised Short Ribs (Based on Alison Roman’s Recipe)

Spring has sprung! (Yay, daffodils! Yay, tulips! Yay, every other form of emerging life!!) For some people, this means lamb or rabbit; for others, it means welcoming in the coming year’s harvest via sprouts, spring vegetables, kale, and the like. Whether you eat meat or not, spring is an undeniably exciting time of year–the world around you begins to stir and life resumes its cycle of defying death in beautiful and surprising ways.

Speaking of beautiful and death-defying, there is truly nothing like sinking your teeth into a skillfully-prepared piece of meat. Flavorful, tender, juicy and decadent, meat is a luxury consumed quite casually in modern American culture. If I were to wet my finger and stick it to the air, however, I might be inclined to say this attitude is changing…but I think there will always be something primal in us that is hardwired towards calorie-rich foods, meat being no exception to this rule. Wherever you choose to guide your diet, from vegan to carnivorous paleo, we must nod to our ancient brain development and growth as being linked, at first, to hunting and cooking. (Edit: This is still debated in the scientific community; here is an example of a counterpoint which posits that bone marrow and fatty brain tissue, not flesh, were the key players in brain development.)

Today, of course, there’s no strict need to kill for calories; if you look for it, you can find frozen cauliflower crust pizza at the grocery store. We’ve come a long way since crafting stone tools and crudely practicing butchery as early as 3.4 million years ago. But who knows, maybe there were those among us who opted instead to find essential amino acids in ways other than animal-based proteins…

For me, meat is an indulgence, so I tend to choose when and how I eat it deliberately. While shouldering the climate crisis responsibility (specifically as it relates to deforestation, water pollution, and methane gas emissions, all associated with overconsumption of meat) is a heavy cross to bear, chances are we could all afford to eat a little less, and a little more “cleanly.” Soap box aside, these short ribs are incredibly simple, elegant, and decadent–and very rich and filling. Do your part and support a local butcher, if you can; splurging here on high quality meat is really worth it. Make this a special occasion meal, and you will not be disappointed.

What Are Short Ribs?

Short ribs are a cut of meat typically taken from the chuck or brisket areas of a cow and are formed from the shortest portion of the rib cage where the bones are not quite long enough to be considered “ribs.”

Short ribs are typically cut into two ways: either in individual pieces with meat around the bone (English style) or in one long piece of meat holding three cross sections of rib together (“plate” style).

On the left is plate style short ribs, and on the right is English style. (from Google images)

What’s Great About Short Ribs?

Short ribs have a naturally high fat content and therefore, if cooked properly, they can be incredibly flavorful and tender. They are also very rich and filling, so less meat “goes further” when it comes time to eat.

Where Can I Purchase Short Ribs?

This is a great excuse to head to your local butcher and strike up a conversation! Supporting local always feels good. If this option is not accessible to you, I recommend checking out delivery services such as Moink Box or Porter Road.

Ok, I’m Hungry…Show Me The Recipe!

First, gather your ingredients.

For this recipe, I used Kettle & Fire brand bone broth–and no, they are not paying me to say this. I find it is readily available in most grocery stores and is a good quality for the price. Of course, you can always substitute regular stock or broth, but low-sodium is good here, unless you factor that in as you season the dish.

What I love about this recipe is how straightforward it is. Brown the seasoned meat, flavor the remaining oil with two heads of garlic, then add your chopped vegetables and tomato paste (also known as mirepoix).

Garlic flavored rendered fat and canola oil coats the vegetables as they removed all the crispy browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your liquids and thyme…

Then in go the browned short ribs so that the meat is submerged (bone up).

Then cover and bake at a low temperature for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Serve with rice or potatoes, and don’t forget to enjoy it with your sauce, fresh herbs, and Alison Roman’s recommended lemon zest!

…did I mention the knife is optional? And don’t miss out on all that flavorful fat–after all it is good for your brain 🙂

Braised Short Ribs (Adapted from Alison Roman)

Deeply flavorful, these garlicky short ribs fall off the bone after 4 hours of braising.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, meat
Cuisine American, traditional
Servings 3 people

Equipment

  • 6.2 liter heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 3-4 lbs short ribs, at least 2 per person but no more than 5 lbs
  • diamond kosher salt, for seasoning
  • finely ground pepper, for seasoning
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 heads garlic, halved crosswise through the bulbs
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 bottle dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth, preferably bone broth, or one package Kettle & Fire bone broth
  • 4 grams fresh thyme, tied in a small bundle if you have the baker's twine
  • chopped parsley, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving
  • freshly grated lemon zest, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Generously season dry ribs on all sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside 15-30 minutes before browning to allow the meat to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 275°F.
  • Chop celery, carrots, and onion into large chunks and set aside. Uncork wine.
  • Heat canola oil over medium-high flame in a heavy bottomed dutch oven. Working in batches if necessary, brown the meat on all sides until golden, about 10 minutes. Place on a wide plate, then pour rendered fat into a liquid measuring cup. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the fat back into the dutch oven, then add the chopped vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the browned bits from the bottom of the pan have been lifted from the moisture from the vegetables.
  • Add tomato paste and stir. Cook about 3 minutes, or until the paste has begun to caramelize, become fragrant, and turned a rusty color.
  • Add wine to the pot, slowly at first so you can scrape up any remaining brown bits. Add the remainder and simmer about 2 minutes. Add the broth and thyme and stir. Add browned ribs, meat side down, into the liquid and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with a lid and bake in the oven 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The short ribs should be falling off the bone and very tender.
  • Gingerly remove short ribs from the dutch oven using tongs. Place on a serving platter and cover with tin foil, allowing them to rest about 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, skim as much fat as possible from the liquid in the dutch oven. Drain over a bowl using a fine mesh seive and discard the vegetables and garlic. Return the liquid to the dutch oven and cook over medium heat, until the mixture has reduced noticeably, about 10 minutes.
  • As the sauce is reducing, chop parsley and chives and zest the lemon. Uncover short ribs and garnish with herbs and zest, and plenty of sauce. Enjoy with rice or potatoes, and the last 1/4 bottle of wine.
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Pad Thai For Dummies

If you’re anything like me, Thai food is a friendly constant in your takeout rotation. While I am a sucker for anything curry, or chicken with cashews, or tom kha gai soup (but that’s another blog post), I invariably end up coming back to pad thai. When you crave it, nothing else will do, perhaps due to its tangy umami blast of flavor and the supreme satisfaction that comes with eating a bowl full of noodles; maybe you added the bean sprouts and maybe, this is the moment where you gloriously abandon vegetation of any kind and head straight for the scrumptious rice noodles and protein.

This pad thai recipe attempts to come as close to the “authentic” flavor one might find at a Thai restaurant as possible.

The only ingredient I had to go out of my way to purchase was tamarind purée, which one can certainly find at a local Asian Market.

Ways to Spruce Up Your Pad Thai

  • tofu, shrimp, chicken, beef, or other protein
  • bean sprouts
  • cilantro, garlic scapes, scallions, or other pungent, herby greens
  • chopped peanuts or cashews
  • chili oil, chili crunch, chili flakes

By and large, this is at its core a simple dish–remember, in Thailand this is often served as street food–so keeping it simple is a great way to honor pad thai’s distinct flavor.

Tamarind Paste–Do I Really Need It?

While a quick google search has proved that there are a plethora of pad thai recipes on the internet which skip this ingredient in favor of more…shall we say, “western”?…ingredients, I find that the tamarind paste not only is a key player in pad thai’s trademark tangy flavor, but it also contributes to the overall color of the dish as well. I have made this dish with and without tamarind paste and, I have to say, that certain je ne sais quoi is really present WITH the paste. Fortunately, you can find tamarind purée for as little as $4 and use it in both sweet and savory dishes…plus, who doesn’t love expanding their flavor dictionary?

What Is Tamarind?

Also called tamarindo or Indian date, tamarind is a fruit in the legume family which grows in tropical places. The brown, sticky pulp is harvested from around the seeds growing in crescent-shaped pods hanging from the tamarind tree, then is pulverized and sold as a paste. Tamarind’s distinctive flavor comes from its high tartaric acid content, which is most commonly connoted with grapes. (Cream of tartar is the powdered form of this acid, and is the ingredient which gives snickerdoodle cookies their familiar tang.)

Other Uses for Tamarind Purée

  • Meat tenderizer–tamarind and beef are a classic combination, as tamarind is one of the primary ingredients in Worcestershire sauce
  • Blended with spices and coconut milk (think: garam masala, curry, turmeric, ginger…)
  • Tempered with sugar in sweets or baked goods anywhere you might use lemon juice
  • Blended into shrubs or cocktails
  • Check out this recipe for agua fresca, a sort of tropical “lemonade” !

But back to pad thai…

First, gather your ingredients.

Here I’ve featured a block of extra firm tofu as my main source of protein, accompanied by two eggs; of course, choose whatever protein is going to make your pad thai dreams come true. Shrimp or prawns are an excellent choice.

Dredge the tofu in cornstarch and fry, rotating until golden; scramble the eggs; make the sauce; grate the ginger, garlic, and onion; cook the noodles…then assemble in a hot pan or wok!

Finish with herbs, any chili products, bean sprouts, and chopped nuts. Enjoy immediately, and restart the clock for “when it’s time to eat pad thai again”…but don’t wait too long! 😉

Pad Thai

Sauce-drenched noodles mix with roasted nuts, herbs, scrambled eggs, and protein come together on one happy plate. As close to "authentic" pad thai as can be!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • wok (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • 4 oz dry rice noodles
  • boiling water (enough to cover noodles)
  • 2 eggs, lightly scrambled
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated finely into a pulp
  • 3 garlic cloves, medium
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs coconut oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbs peanut oil
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 3 Tbs tamarind water, (Note: If your tamarind comes in a thick paste, dilute with water until it is the consistency of orange juice.)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • fresh bean sprouts, chili flakes or paste, chopped scallions or cilantro, roasted peanuts and/or cashews, optional

Instructions
 

  • Prepare any toppings you might like to add to your pad thai like herbs or scallions, roasted nuts, lime, or chili products and set aside.
  • Scramble the two eggs in a small bowl with a splash of room temperature water and set aside.
  • Grate onion, garlic, and ginger on the second-finest side of a box grater and set aside.
  • Whisk fish sauce, tamarind, brown sugar, and soy sauce in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and set aside.
  • Cook your protein. If using tofu like featured above, drain and dry the tofu and cut it into one inch cubes. Dredge in cornstarch and salt. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat and sautee the tofu cubes until golden brown on all sides, rotating as necessary, about 15 minutes. Drain over paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, place your rice noodles in a wide, shallow bowl. Boil enough water to completely cover the noodles, and let them soak undisturbed for 7 minutes.
  • While the noodles are soaking, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok, if using. Add the ginger, garlic, and onion "paste" and sautee until the onion becomes aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs to the pan and mix with a spatula until incorporated and cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat down to medium and add the drained, slightly stiff noodles to the pan and stir. Cook, stirring constantly for another 3 minutes.
  • Add pad thai sauce (fish sauce mixture) and cook for another minute.
  • If using, toss in any bean sprouts and turn off the heat. Finish with a generous squeeze of lime and the sauteed tofu and stir.
  • Top with herbs, nuts, or chili flakes and serve immediately with lime wedges on the side.
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Hearty McQueen Family Scones

In the wide world of baked goods, maybe one sweet treat in every twenty is worth baking (or eating!) again. Oftentimes, we bakers cover our “sins” in sugar, which easily becomes the dominant flavor in whatever we are creating. While it is true that this often has crowd-pleasing results, what we gain in popularity we often lose in nuance. Have you ever taken a bite of a buttercream frosted cupcake which instantly made your teeth hurt? We’ve all been there. And while the point of frosting is to be a sweet addition to a cake or cookie or whoopee pie, nowhere in the rules does it say it must be only sweet. The challenge then becomes: how can I bring out the positive flavors in the butter? Can I add some salt for increased complexity, and to balance the sugar? Are there any flavored extracts I might use? What if I sweetened with honey instead of powdered sugar? Et cetera.

Impassioned feelings about frosting quality aside, these scones are anything but basic sugary fluff. Fortified with oats and moistened with buttermilk, these barely-sweet scones offer tart cherries where others might offer chocolate chips. This is not your average baked good, people. This scone is the stuff of legends, and makes for a breakfast of similarly epic proportions. There’s really no word for them better than “hearty;” so if that’s not your bag (and I get it, it’s not everyone’s bag) then you may want to check out this recipe for decadent chocolate cake instead!

soak your cherries ! 🙂

I find I have best results when I soak my cherries in water before baking. That’s them relaxing in a jar full of water in the upper right corner.

Why Soak?

Those who fail to soak may end up with a drier overall baked good, as the cherry will draw moisture from the dough during the baking process. If you want your scones around for more than one day, moisture becomes even more precious–not to mention the cherries have a much more enjoyable texture when still plump and juicy after baking. So, soak your cherries anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight.

Are These Scones Good For Me? If So, Are They Boring?

The short answer to the first part is, all things considered, for a sweet treat yes, they are relatively healthy. There’s no shortage of butter, but hey, these scones have lasting power that may save you some calories down the road. Plus they’ve got fiber from the oats and vitamins C, A, and K, antioxidants, and several minerals from cherries to boot. It’s not as good for you as taking a supplement, but is, perhaps, tastier, and, perhaps, more comforting.

Which brings us to the “are they healthy and therefore uninteresting” part of the posited question. If you like textural juxtaposition in your mouthfeel experience when eating, feeling nourished and also like you’re getting away with something at the same time, and eating cherries in any capacity, then chances are these scones probably won’t bore you. I have probably made these scones dozens of times and still reliably crave them. But if, being a reasonable and sophisticated adult, you already think healthy and delicious don’t have to be mortal enemies, then you probably won’t take much convincing about these scones…fiber content aside.

use a pastry cutter or your fingers to incorporate butter <3

If you have a pastry cutter at home, now is its moment! But if you are one of those who takes pleasure in the tactile, you may enjoy incorporating the cold butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Somewhere, I have a pastry cutter which is feeling neglected…

dough disc

Flatten your dough into a disc about an inch and a half thick, slice into eight relatively uniform triangles, and bake until golden brown. Something to consider: the more you incorporate your ingredients, the tougher your scones will be. Every time you push and pull on your dough, you are participating in forming a gluten network. While this is great for breads, most folks tend to prefer a tender scone. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until everything just comes together.

Best when shared (but you already knew that)! These scones last, at best, for two full days but really are best when eaten the day you decide to bake them. You can always freeze them in a freezer-safe bag if you think eight scones is too much to enjoy or distribute.

Hearty McQueen Scones

Soaked tart cherries and wholesome oats mean this buttermilk-moistened scone has some serious lasting power! Makes a great breakfast.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine baking, Healthy, traditional
Servings 8 scones

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbs butter, (salted is fine)
  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, soaked in water at least 30 minutes to overnight
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together. Add butter in small cubes, and combine using a pastry cutter or fork.
  • Add oats, cherries, and buttermilk, mixing after each individual addition. After adding the buttermilk, mix until just combined.
  • Shape dough into a disc about an inch and a half thick, using a floured surface and your hands.
  • Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut the dough into eight triangular pieces. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Keep in an airtight container up to two days.
Keyword cherries, cherry scones, oat scones, scones, sour cherries, tart cherries