This post was sponsored
by Safeway. I was compensated for this post and
for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
For me, the sign that we are FIRMLY into Spring season isn’t
the warmer weather or the flowers blooming. It’s the appearance of rhubarb in
the stores! I’m a fan of the long vibrant red stalks that are often paired with
strawberries. But strawberry rhubarb isn’t the only ingredient combination out
there and pies aren’t the only thing you can make with rhubarb. Rhubarb Ginger
chutney is my new favorite thing!
A few weeks ago I went up to J Vineyard and Winery with the
Safeway team to learn all about their sparkling wine making processing, eat an
extraordinary 5-course meal paired with their wines, as well as learn more
about Columbus Craft Meats (one of my favorite charcuteries brands) and Triscuits
(which has a new line of seasoned crackers that I’m a bit obsessed with).
I teamed up with Safeway to learn more about some of the
products that they sell in their stores. I’ve been looking forward to visiting
J Vineyard and Wineries for awhile since sparkling wines one of my favorites to
celebrate and enjoy. The tour did not disappoint, starting with a history of
the winery that was founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan (at the age of 25!) to the
current owners of E & J Gallo who took over the winery in 2015. The tour
continued and showed us the entire process of how they made sparkling wine which
involved some cool looking machines that turned and twisted the bottles to make
sure the sparkling wine yeast continued to ferment the wine. In the old days,
this process was actually done by hand!
The tour ended with a 5-course meal in the Bubble Room that continued to get better and better after each course. From a white asparagus, morel and duck egg dish (paired with pinot gris, a signature wine that they started making after they expanded beyond sparkling) to the rainbow trout (paired with Chardonnay), and lamb three ways (paired with Pinot Noir) I was pretty stuffed. But not so much that I couldn’t fit in the chevre cheese course with a sparkling Brut Rosé and the final Meyer Lemon Crémeaux dessert served with a Vintage Brut sparkling wine. All in all, it was a hard day of eating and drinking!
Afterwards we went up to learn more about Columbus Craft
Meats and Triscuits. I didn’t think I could eat any more, and neither did the Safeway
folks, which is why they had us make snack filled bento boxes-to-go with both
of them. Of course, despite being full, I had to sample all the various charcuterie,
including their Italian Dry Salame (with Burgundy wine and a hint of garlic) as
well as zesty Calabrese with red pepper flakes that Columbus Craft Meats
brought. Of course, I already buy their products to snack and make sandwiches
with as it tastes like actual charcuterie and meat, not like some weird Frankenstein
But what I didn’t know much about was the new Triscuit flavors, that included my favorite, a basil and garlic cracker that had quinoa seeds woven into it. What! I swear I could eat the box of them all by themselves. And I almost did too, despite being crazy full from the lunch. I’ve always had a soft spot for Triscuits and their simple three ingredient crackers (wheat, oil and salt). But their new flavors like their rosemary and jalapeno cracker had chia seeds woven into them as well!
In the end, as I came up with a “goodie bag” full of products, to inspire me in the kitchen. With spring here and rhubarb appearing, I knew that I wanted to make something that would be easy to make and bring to a picnic or serve on a charcuterie platter. I tend to hibernate a bit in the wintertime, but once Spring comes around, I start thinking of picnics and entertaining! And this spicy, sweet and savory rhubarb chutney would pair well with the richness of the Columbus charcuterie and the salty crunch of the triscuit crackers. Sharp and acidic, with a mix of savory and spicy, the chutney is perfect on top of the charcuterie and salty flavorful cracker. Plus the touch of pinot noir wine that I used from J Wineries added a level of complexity that brought the chutney to the next level. Spring is here! Grab a picnic basket and throw in some J Winery bubbly, a packet of Columbus Crafted charcuterie, some Triscuits crackers, a little cheese and wine and this easy to make rhubarb chutney. It’s finally time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather!
What is Chutney
Chutney is a sauce that originated in Indian and was used as
a garnish or dip. The British adapted it by adding a tart fruit like green
apples or rhubarb, adding sugar to mellow the tartness, as an acidic element to
it, often cider vinegar. I’ve adapted my rhubarb chutney further, adding garlic
and onion, as well as balsamic vinegar and ginger to give it a punchy kick of robust
flavor. The strong combination of sweet, tart, acidic and spicy balances out
and compliments charcuterie and strong cheeses, and holds up well on a
How to make a Charcuterie and Cheese board
I love to entertain by making a large charcuterie and cheese
board. Mix up the charcuterie, making sure to use two or three types of meat,
some thicker and spicier, some more mellow in flavor. Columbus Crafted Meats offers
a wide range of cured meats for you to select! Add in a selection of cheese, soft,
medium and hard, as well as some that are more pungent than others. Then
include a robust chutney or jam that will work well with the cheese and cured
meats, along with crackers (like Triscuits, which come in a wide range of flavors)
and/or bread. Finally include some fruit (dried and fresh) and salty nuts and
olives to help balance it all out! Try to pick items that are easy to eat with
your fingers, as opposed to something that requires you to use a utensil. Serve
the board with your choice of wine (white or red) or sparkling bubbly!
This rhubarb chutney has both sugar and a little bit of balsamic
vinegar in it, which will help preserve it. You can make and keep the chutney in
the refrigerator for up to 5 days before serving it.
If you like this recipe, check out these other rhubarb recipes:
You can get all the ingredients, including J Vineyard Wines, Triscuit crackers and Columbus Craft Meats from your local Safeway store. And if you haven’t had a chance, you can also get the ingredients delivered for free, with $20 off on your 1st online order when you spend $75 or more. Enter the promo code: SAVE20 at the online checkout. Offer valid through 7/31/2019.
This complex flavored chutney is sophisticated but easy to make. This spicy, salty, sweet and savory sauce makes a great addition to any charcuterie and cheese platter or served on the side with a rich meat dish like pork chops or roasted pork tenderloin. Make it ahead and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Keyword charcuterie, cheese, chutney, entertaining, rhubarb, sauce, side
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions about 1/2 a medium sized one
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger about a 2-inch piece
1/4 cup dried cherries 45 g
1/4 cup golden raisins 45 g
1/3 cup dry pinot noir wine like J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Noir
1/2 cup white sugar 100 g
3 cups chopped 1/2-inch chunk rhubarb about 12 ounces or 3 to 4 medium sized stalks, divided
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Place the olive oil, garlic, onions and ginger in a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat until the onions are soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. If the ginger starts to dry out and scorch, add 2 tablespoons of water and continue to cook, adding more water if necessary.
Once the onions are cooked, add the dried cherries and golden raisins and wine and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature so the wine is at a simmer for 1 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium and stir in the sugar, half rhubarb (1 1/2 cups), the pepper, coriander and cloves. Cook for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened and is just starting to break down. Add the remaining rhubarb and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until the just added rhubarb has just started to soften. Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Let cool to room temperature and store in a refrigerator, covered for up to 5 days. Bring the chutney back to room temperature before serving.
This post was sponsored by Safeway. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
Recently there was one of those HILARIOUS lists on one of
those viral websites (BuzzWorthyUpNowFeed or something like that) that talks
about random things that Americans do in movies/tv shows that the rest of the
world do not. This includes that fact that every American family not only has a
baseball in their house (not in their garage, but in their house) and will
immediately grab it when they hear a sound and go investigate (why don’t they
just call the police instead?), how Americans always have a bag of frozen peas
in the freezer ready to put on a bruised or injured body part (but apparently
it is actually never used for food) and how all American family moms and dads
eat full plated breakfasts in the morning before work, and they are often
interrupted by their scantily clad daughters walking out to work, which results
in an indignant fatherly talk about appropriate school attire as they drop
their toast into their scrambled eggs.
Let the record show, I rarely eat a full breakfast in the
BUT in those rare occasions that I do make a hot breakfast
for myself, I find I’m super happy. And I swear to myself that I’m going to do
it more often. And one of those breakfasts that I want to make more often is a
mushroom and egg breakfast taco.
I had never had breakfast tacos until I moved out to
California. Though I’m sure you can find them now in St. Louis, my old
hometown, the food scene when I was growing up, especially in terms of
breakfast, was more bacon and eggs and some sort of griddle-made carb (French
toast, pancakes, or waffles if you were being super fancypants). But these
breakfast tacos are a revelation to me. And since I’m often looking to eat less
meat, the mushrooms pack a nice umami punch that satisfy the carnivore in me.
And the fact that I can whip up these breakfast tacos super-fast, means I don’t
really have an excuse not to eat a decent hot breakfast in the morning. Even if
I do not have a sassy teenage daughter living in our house.
Why use mushrooms in the breakfast taco
The classic white or brown mushroom is probably the easiest
mushroom for these breakfast tacos. When quartered, they are thick and chunky
enough that they give a “meaty” kick of umami (the savory flavor that meat has)
is often missing in plant-based meals. I actually add a dash or two of soy
sauce to the mushrooms to not only season them, but also kick up the umami in
them, making them more meaty and satisfying. Don’t worry that the tacos will
taste “Asian” though. The soy sauce is blends in and isn’t assertive in flavor
You can make most of these components ahead of time if you
want to save time in the morning! Chop the tomatoes and chives ahead of time
and store them in an air tight container in the fridge overnight. Saute the
garlic and mushrooms and save them in a bowl in the fridge, covered with
plastic wrap. Then, in the morning, warm up the tortillas and scramble the
eggs. Toss the mushrooms with the eggs in the last 30 seconds to warm them up
and you’re good to go!
What sort of toppings can you use in your breakfast tacos?
I like to use tomatoes and chives on my breakfast,
especially since they work well with the garlic mushrooms. But if you want to
add a little richness, you can add a dollop of sour cream or chopped avocados.
If you like hot and spicy, try adding a dash of tabasco or hot sauce to the
breakfast tacos or a sprinkle of cayenne in the sautéed mushrooms. A little bit
of homemade or store-bought salsa is also always great on breakfast tacos! Breakfast
tacos are super customizable to whatever you have in the fridge or pantry.
Corn vs Flour Tortillas
I love the flavor of corn tortillas but I find them tend to
break when I try to bend them. Flour tortillas are more flexible but lack the
flavor. Some companies actually have a flour and corn hybrid tortilla to fix
this issue but they can be difficult to find. If you pick corn tortillas, you
might want to double the tortilla to keep them from splitting. But whatever
tortilla you use, warm them up either in a microwave under a damp paper towel,
or on a dry skillet on the stovetop for 10 seconds. The warmth will improve
Other Vegetarian Breakfast Recipes on Eat the Love
If you like these vegetarian breakfast tacos, check out these other vegetarian breakfast recipes:
Vegetarian Breakfast Tacos with Mushrooms and Eggs
A quick and easy hot breakfast is ready for you whenever you want! You can make and prep components ahead of time if you want the tacos even faster in the morning. But even if you make them in the morning from scratch, they’re ready in about 20 minutes.
2 tablespoons milk whatever you have in the fridge
4 to rtillas corn or flour
1 medium tomato chopped
1/2 cup shredded Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese
2 teaspoon chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 20 to 30 seconds or until the garlic starts to smell fragrant, then add the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms start to soften and look a bit translucent (about 2 minutes), sprinkle the soy sauce over them and continue to cook until mushrooms are done, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
Pour hot mushrooms into a heatproof bowl and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Don’t bother cleaning the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the four eggs and milk. Slowly cook the eggs, stirring constantly until the eggs have come to a soft scramble with limp wet curdles. Add the mushrooms, garlic, any residual liquid in the bowl, and the cheese to the skillet and continue to cook, heating the mushrooms back up and fully scrambling the eggs with the cheese.
While the eggs are scrambling, warm up the tortillas by either wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving them on high for 30 seconds or individually warming them up on a dry skillet for about 10 seconds per side on high heat. If warming them on a skillet, move them to a plate and cover with a damp towel to keep warm.
Once the eggs are done, divide them on to the tortillas and sprinkle the tomatoes and chives over them. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
These stunning Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs use both Mediterranean Za’atar spice blend and tahini in the filling for an unforgettable standout dish! (Jump directly to the Recipe)
Year before I started my blog I catered a co-worker’s baby
shower. It was my gift to her, though, in retrospect, I had bitten off more
than I could chew. I made everything out of my tiny kitchen, feeding a party of
50+ people. I made mac and cheese, deviled eggs and cupcakes along with a
number of other dishes that I can’t even remember. I’m not really made out for
catering, and though I survived the experience, I can’t say I really enjoyed it
or wanted to revisit it.
But one of the dishes, a beet-pickled deviled egg stuck in
my head. I found the recipe online years ago and I can’t remember what the
filling consisted of, though I think it had caraway seeds which I am not a huge
fan of. But ever since then I’ve been wanting to revisit the egg because it’s
really quite stunning, with its vibrant pink color from the beet juice.
So, when I opened up the kiln at my ceramic studio recently
and pulled out a baby-blue textured plate that I had recently made, I knew that
I wanted to make those eggs again. I’ve been spending more and more time in the
ceramic studio, and it in turn has inspired me to spend more and more time in
the kitchen. Each piece I pull out of the kiln makes me think of the food I
want to make to put in them. It’s so funny how all my interests overlap and
feed into each other (pun intended).
Once I figured out that I wanted to make those beet-pickled
deviled eggs, it was just a matter of revisiting the filling. The sweet acidic
beet juice not only turns the eggs a beautiful vibrant pink color but adds a
distinct flavor that I wanted to highlight. I landed on both tahini and zaatar
spice in the filling as a perfect compliment. This is the sort of vivid flavored
deviled eggs that matched the stunning color, perfect for Springtime and
You can make components of these deviled eggs ahead of time
if you want! Pickled beets will last up to 1 month in the fridge. Feel free to
pickle them and eat them in whatever dish you want, saving the pickling brine
for the eggs. If, at any point, the brine starts to look cloudy or smell off,
toss and make some fresh pickling brine.
You do need to pickle the eggs at least 8 hours (overnight)
and up to 48 hours (2 days) to infuse the eggs with flavor and color. The
longer you pickle the eggs the more flavor and color the eggs will have. I
pickled my eggs for 24 hours because I wanted to keep an inner white part of
the egg and I didn’t want the pickled beet flavor to overpower my deviled eggs.
You can make the filling of the deviled eggs up to 24 hours ahead of time. Just combine all the ingredients and save them in the resealable freezer plastic bag or an airtight container. You can even just snip off a corner of the bag with a scissors and pipe the eggs right before serving making it super easy! The eggs, once assembled, are best eaten the day of.
What are watermelon radishes?
I use watermelon radishes as a garnish on these deviled eggs. Watermelon radishes are a mild flavored radish with a stunning pink center and green white edge (which is what gives them their name). You can find them seasonally at Farmers markets or at upscale and well-stocked grocery stores. If you can’t find them, any radish will do for a garnish for these eggs. You can even omit them as a garnish, though I think they not only look great on the egg, but add a crisp peppery bite that helps compliment the tahini za’atar filling and the pickled beet eggs.
Easy Shortcut for Pickled Beets
If you don’t making your own pickled beet, feel free to use
the brine from a store-bought jarred or canned pickled beet of your choice!
Just make sure you have enough brine for the eggs. You need at least 2 cup of
brine to pickle the eggs.
What is a good substitute for Za’atar?
Za’atar (sometimes spelled zaatar) spice blend is a middle eastern spice blend that can be found in well-stocked grocery stores or online. You can even make your own version of it if you want or just substitute another spice blend like dukkah (and Egyptian spice blend), harissa (a Tunisian spice blend) or your favorite Italian spice blend. To make a simplified homemade version of za’atar, just blend equal parts dried thyme, sesame seeds, and mix in half the amount of fresh lemon zest together, then add salt and pepper to your taste. Keep in mind the homemade version won’t taste quite like actual za’atar spice blend, which often uses wild thyme and other herbs and seasonings.
What is good substitute for Tahini?
Tahini is a ground sesame seed puree, a vital ingredient in hummus. I adore it in this deviled egg and don’t really recommend any other substitutions, though some folks say you can try peanut butter or another nut butter in its place. If you try that, leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you think of it!
What’s the best way to hard boil eggs?
I like using the pressure cooker to make my hard-boiled eggs because the eggshells practically slide off. You can use a pressure cooker like the Crock Pot Multi-Cooker or the Instant Pot for easy hard-boiled eggs. I pressure cook on high for 4 minutes, then do a natural pressure release for 5 minutes then quick release and move the eggs to a cold water bath to stop the cooking. Or you can steam them, which also makes them easier to peel than traditional boiling. I have directions on steaming eggs for soft-cooked eggs in this post. Just steam them for 12 minutes total instead of the recommended 7 minutes for soft-cooked.
Other Egg Recipes on Eat the Love
If you like these beet pickled deviled eggs, check out these other egg recipes:
Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs with Za’atar and Tahini
These Mediterranean-spiced filled deviled eggs have a stunning vibrant pink color because of they are first pickled in beet juice. You must pickle them in the juice for 8 hours minimum to get color and flavor so keep that in mind if you are making them for an event or special occasion.
Make the beet pickling juice by placing the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Turn the heat on high, until the solids dissolve, then add the beet. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the beet is tender and cooked. Remove the beet and save for another use. Let the brine cool. Place the hard-boiled eggs in a large bowl, then pour enough of the brine to cover the eggs. Then cover and refrigerate overnight (8 hours) up to 2 days (48 hours).
Once the eggs are done marinating in the brine, remove them and slice them in half. Place the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Add the chives, yogurt, mustard, za’atar, tahini, salt and pepper into the bowl as well. Mash all the fillings ingredients together until smooth,
Spoon the filling into the egg white shells.
Garnish each deviled egg with a radish slice, a sprinkling of chives, and some additional za’atar spice blend on top.
These easy-to-make roasted radishes and Brussels sprouts side dish is drizzled with lemon brown butter and screams springtime! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Our apartment smells like Spring. I’m not talking about a
wafting smell of rhubarb or early strawberries or fresh cooked sugar snap peas.
I’m talking about the fact that we finally were able to open our windows, after
a miserably rainy season of wintertime cold, and breath the fresh air. We
haven’t turned on the heat in a few days, and as I worked away in the kitchen,
I opened the door to let in a little bit of Springtime light. And that’s when
it hit me, Spring is here, at least in San Francisco, and I’m embracing it head
It’s funny how much weather can drastically impact your
mood. I’m not one to severely suffer from seasonal affective disorder; at least
not more than that average person. But there’s something to be said about the
bright sunlight and outdoor air that will put me in a good mood. And with the
fresh air (as fresh as you can get in a major metropolitan city like San
Francisco) I found myself heading to the grocery store to pick up some Spring
Radishes aren’t my usual go-to Spring vegetable. I tend to
gravitate toward asparagus or sugar snap peas (or rhubarb if I can find it,
though it’s still a little too early for me to find here). But when I saw the
various different types of radishes at the store, including Watermelon, purple
and Easter egg, I knew I had to pick up a bunch. Their sharp peppery bite is
great in salads and as a vehicle for my hummus.
But when you roast radishes, that peppery bite mellows and
softens into an earthy rich buttery treat. Paired with a nutty roasted Brussels
sprouts and a drizzle of lemony brown butter, one bite had me realizing that
Springtime was truly here. Longer days, shorter nights, and short sleeve
t-shirts. I’m ready.
What the differences between the radishes at the store?
Like all vegetables, radishes come in all shapes and sizes. The
most common ones are the red radishes, with a peppery bite, the French breakfast
radish which sounds and looks fancy with their cylindrical shape and crisp texture
and Easter Egg radishes. Easter egg radishes bunch, which are basically the “rainbow
carrots” of radishes, are actually a mix of pink, white, purple, and red varieties
which lend a bright mix of colors to any dish. I also have a fondness for
watermelon radishes, which, like their namesake, is colored white-ish green on
the outside and pink on the inside and are less peppery and milder in flavor
than the traditional red radish. You can find them at upscale grocery stores and
farmer’s markets when they are in season.
Whatever radish you choose to use, be sure to cut them into roughly
the same size for roasting. This will keep help them cook at the same time. I
try to cut the Easter egg radishes in half, while quartering and even cutting
the larger radishes (like the watermelon one) into 6 pieces.
How to make brown butter
After roasting the radishes and the brussel sprouts, you can
drizzle lemony brown butter over the vegetables. Brown butter is easy to make,
but can run the risk of burning. If you have never made brown butter before,
pick a silver or light-colored skillet so you can see the color of the butter
fat as it browns. Cook the butter in the skillet, and remove the pan from the
heat the moment you see the butter fat start to brown and smell the nuttiness.
The residual heat will continue to cook and brown the butter. If the butter isn’t
brown enough for your taste, you can always return the pan to the stove and put
it on a low heat, nudging the butter to a toasty golden brown. But if you take
it too far you’ll have to start over again, as the butter will taste burnt.
What if you hate brussels sprouts?
We can’t be friends. Just kidding! No problem. You can
always just double the amount of radishes in this dish and still have a great
dish. Or try cutting the same amount of carrots or another root vegetable and using
that in its place of Brussels. But if you’ve never had roasted brussels sprouts,
give them a chance before dismissing them. The high heat roasting gives them a
nuttiness while the brown butter brings out the sweetness in them. Also consider
buying smaller sprouts, as they tend to be younger and sweeter than the larger
Roasted Radishes and Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter
Radishes melt into buttery goodness when roasted in the oven. Paired with nutty Brussels sprouts the combination is a quick and easy side dish for a weeknight meal. Brown the butter on the stovetop while the vegetables are roasting. And don’t discard the radish tops if the radishes come with the still attached. The edible greens can be used to add a garnish for the dish adding a brightness to the dish.
Course Side Dish
Keyword brussels sprouts, radish, roasting, root vegetables, side dish, spring
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
1 pound radishes any kind, (about one bunch)
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice fresh squeezed
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wash and remove the greens from the radishes (if they are still attached). Cut the radishes into roughly uniform size. Cut the Brussels sprouts into roughly the same size as the radishes. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl.
Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and then sprinkle the salt and pepper over them. Toss to coat.
Pour the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 18 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender, and the Brussels sprouts start to brown and char a bit.
While the vegetables are roasting, place the butter in a medium size skillet. Cook the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter fat particles just start to brown and it smells nutty. Remove from heat and continue to stir to let the residual heat continue to cook the butter until it is golden brown. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the butter and stir in.
Once the vegetables are done roasting, plate them on a shallow dish. Drizzle the lemony brown butter over the vegetables, add more salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle some chopped radish greens over the entire dish if you have them. Serve immediately.
If you’re looking for a great ground lamb dish, try this shepherd’s pie recipe, made with cheddar garlic mashed potatoes on top! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Spring is nearly here, but the weather has been a bit schizophrenic. It’s crazy cold in the morning with a misty rain and with me regretting not bringing a scarf with me. Then, in the afternoon, it turns warm and sunny, with me shedding my coat and wondering why I’m wearing such a heavy sweater. It’s been messing with my meal planning as well. I have every intention of eating a lighter meal, but then I find myself shopping for comfort food ingredients.
That’s what happened when I found ground lamb for sale at the store. I’m not quite ready to give up on warm rich comfort food just yet. I grabbed a package and decided on classic shepherd’s pie! It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. I love the rich meaty dish in a casserole dish with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes on top. And though my version looks a bit fancy pants because I piped the mashed potatoes over the filling, I promise there’s a method to the madness. The piped edges of the mashed potatoes have more surface area, meaning more surface to crisp up in the oven. Crispy means flavor!
So while the Spring time is just around the corner, I’m not ready to put away my heavy sweaters, despite the warmer weather. I know it’s just mother nature playing tricks with me. I’m going to stick with my heavier clothes for the moment and make dishes like this Shepherd’s Pie for a little bit longer.
You can make any of the components of this dish ahead of time if you’d like. The mashed potatoes can be made up to 2 days ahead. Just cover and store them in the fridge. The filling can also be made ahead. Brown the ground meat and cook the vegetables as directed and store them in the fridge up to 24 hours. You can even make and assemble the entire casserole ahead of time, again up to 24 hours, and store covered in the refrigerator. Just bake as directed, allowing for an additional 10 minutes cook time in the oven.
Substituting ground lamb or make it vegetarian
Ground lamb is the traditional meat for Shepard’s pie. But if you don’t like lamb, or can’t source, you can use an equal amounts of ground beef (a dish commonly called Cottage Pie), ground bison (which I love) or even ground turkey or chicken. Keep in mind turkey or chicken will lead to a more dry filling, so you might want add a tablespoon or two of melted butter to the filling.
You can even make this vegetarian, which is sometimes called Shepherdess Pie! Omit the ground meat and increase the mushrooms to 2 pound. Or use a mix of wild mushrooms in place of the meat! You can even use a ground meatless substitute, like Beyond Meat Beefy Meatless Crumbles or Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Ground.
How to make the filling extra tasty! And what is umami?
I used ground thyme as a seasoning but you can substitute 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves if you wish. I also use mushrooms in the filling, which add an extra layer of texture and umami flavor. Umami is an savory flavor that adds to the meatiness. Think tomato paste, parmesan cheese, and mushrooms. Not only does the mushrooms boost the rich savory flavor in the filling, I add a secret weapon, Marmite to the filling! Marmite is a British yeast extract that can be found at upscale grocery stores and online. Vegemite is a popular Australian version of it. A little bit goes a long way but it really adds depth and dimension to stews and fillings in casseroles. But if you don’t feel like getting another specialty ingredient, you can leave it out, or substitute 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to help boost the umami!
No you don’t need to pipe the mashed potatoes!
Yeah, I got all fancy and piped the mashed potatoes because it’s pretty and because I wanted to get the extra crispy top. But if you don’t feel like getting a pastry bag out (or you’re like IRVIN, NO ONE HAS TIME FOR THAT) feel free to just spoon the mashed potatoes on top. I’d go the extra step though, and maybe swirl or indent the mashed potatoes with the back of the spoon. It gives the top a little more texture and surface to help with the crispy topping. But that’s totally up to you!
Shepherd’s Pie, a savory ground lamb casserole with cheddar garlic mashed potatoes
This classic casserole dish is made with rich filling of ground lamb, chopped vegetables and a thick tomato-based sauce all topped with a cheesy mashed potato crust and baked in the oven. It’s easy comfort food at its best. I added a chopped mushrooms to up the deep meaty flavor of the filling, as well as a teaspoon of marmite, which is a trick that punches up the umami (savory flavor) of the dish. If you don’t have marmite and don’t feel like buying it for this dish, try substituting 1 teaspoon of soy sauce in place. It won’t add as much depth to the filling but it will boost the umami flavor. Finally you can substitute ground lamb with ground beef or another ground meat of your choice or make it vegetarian by increasing the mushrooms to 2 pounds or using a meatless ground crumble.
Mashed Potato Topping
2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes (or another yellow potato)
6 large cloves garlic (peeled)
1 cup grated white cheddar (or regular medium yellow cheddar)
6 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (otherwise known as Italian parsley)
1 3/4 pounds ground lamb (see note above)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound cremini mushrooms (quartered)
1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
4 large carrots (chopped)
4 large cloves garlic (chopped)
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Marmite (see headnote above)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried ground thyme
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 cup frozen peas
Make the mashed potato topping by peeling and chopping the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Add the potatoes and garlic to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until a fork inserted into a potato cube enters easily.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, and then return them to the still warm pot. This will help dry them out. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Add the melted butter and mix until incorporated. Add the cheese and repeat. Mix in the salt and pepper, then add the parsley and cream. Mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make the filling by placing the ground lamb in a large saute pan. Brown the meat, stirring frequently, until cooked fully, about 10 minutes on medium heat. Pour the meat and any pan juices into a heatproof bowl.
Do not wipe out the pan. Place the oil, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and garlic in the pan. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently until the onions start to look translucent and the mushrooms start to soften. Add back the cooked ground meat, along with any juices that have accumulated at the bottom of the bowl back into the pan.
Pour in the chicken stock then add the tomato paste and sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Add the marmite and the salt, pepper, ground thyme and corn. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until the filling has thickened. Stir in the frozen peas to the hot filling.
Pour the entire filling into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish or an oval 3-quart capacity dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, then pipe the mashed potatoes over the filling in strips. Or spoon the mashed potatoes over the filling and then use the back of the spoon to indent and create ridges in the mashed potatoes. You want to create as much surface area as possible so the mashed potatoes can crisp.
Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills) and then place in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling up around the edges and the top of the mashed potatoes are golden brown.
These fried char-siu chicken dumplings (Chinese BBQ chicken dumplings) are an incredibly tasty appetizer recipe that is a fun weekend project to make. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Some people just casually say to their significantly others “I think I’ll make some dumplings today!” I’m sure of it. Because in their minds, dumplings are something you can just whip up at a moment’s notice. I’m not one of those folks.
I don’t make dumplings very often so when I do, I get myself ready for a weekend project. The truth is, dumplings aren’t that difficult to make but I’m not a pro, so I need to give myself plenty of time to make them. And I also have to give myself permission that they won’t look picture perfect Instagram worthy. I know dumplings are IG gold…but only if they look amazing. Mine never do. But I’ve come to terms with my mediocre pleating skills.
All that said, I came across a recipe for char siu chicken dumplings while flipping through a cookbook by Donna Hay that came out a few years ago and I knew I had to make them. Especially when I saw Andrea Nguyen’s recipe for char-siu chicken on Simply Recipes. I’m a huge fan of both Andrea and Simply Recipes (though I’m a little bias as I’m a contributor to Simply Recipes and have met Andrea a few times at various food events) so I knew a mashup of their recipes would be a winning combination. One taste, and I knew my instincts were right.
The meaning of Char Siu
Char siu is a style of Chinese barbecue, literally translated to “fork roasted” or “fork burn”. Cha means fork (named after the long forks that the meat is often skewered on) while siu means roasted or burned. Most associated with boneless pork, the char siu sauce is also often colored with red food coloring (as red is the color of good luck). I skipped the red coloring in this recipe (as does Andrea Nguyen) and went with chicken thighs, which are equally juicy and moist, but don’t require the long marinade time. Though you can grill these thighs if you want the smoky charred flavor, I opted to roast them in the oven for convenience, as they’re going to be used as a filling for the dumplings
Make it ahead of time
There a number of ways you can make components ahead of time. Consider making the marinade by itself a day or two beforehand. Just store it in the fridge covered or in a jar. It should last up to 48 hours covered and chilled. You can also marinade the chicken thighs ahead of time if you’d like, up to 8 hours or overnight. The meat will be more flavorful with a longer marinade time. But don’t worry, 30 minutes is plenty of time for the marinade to give the thighs flavor. You can also marinade and cook the thighs ahead of time. Chop the cooked chicken and toss with the sauce. Cover and refrigerate. Then the next day all you need to do is make the dough, assemble the dumplings and fry!
Where to find the Asian ingredients
Five spice, hoisin sauce and sesame oil are probably the most difficult ingredients to find. But they can be found at an Asian grocery store or online. Increasing common grocery stores across the country are stocking more and more ethnic ingredients. Look in the Asian/Ethnic section in your grocery store.
Shortcut these dumplings by using store-bought char siu sauce or wonton wrappers
If you really don’t feel like making the sauce from scratch you can use 1/2 cup of store bought bottled char siu sauce if you’d like. You can even go the semi-homemade route and doctor the char siu sauce by adding 1 tablespoon of honey, 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of five spice, some grated ginger and/or green onions. Adding the additional ginger and green onions in particular will definitely perk up the commercial sauce.
You can also buy homemade wonton wrappers if you don’t feel like making your own from scratch. But I really recommend the homemade ones. Not only do they taste better but they have a “stretchy” quality that make filling the dumplings easier! The store-bought wonton wrappers tear more easily and can be a little frustrating to use as they are made thinner. If you do go the store-bought wonton wrapper route, try using less filling in the beginning to make sure they don’t tear and fry them a shorter amount of time (try 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown) as the thin wrapper cooks fast.
Fried Char Siu Chicken Dumplings
These fried dumplings are a nice weekend project that can be streamlined if you make the filling ahead of time. Marinade and cook the chicken thighs one day, chop and store in the fridge and then make the dumpling wrappers, assemble and fry them up the next day! You can also shortcut the recipe by using store-bought char siu sauce or wonton wrappers. Just adjust the fry time to be 1 to 2 minutes long as the wrappers are thinner. But if you can, I highly recommend making the sauce and the wrapper from scratch. The end result is worth it! Any leftover char siu chicken be saved and served as the main protein on a grain bowl or over rice for a quick meal. Or just snack on it, which is what I do!
3 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce (see note below)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoon sesame oil (see note below)
3/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (see note below)
2 green onions/scallions, trimmed and chopped
1- inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 large garlic clove, minced or forced through a press
4 medium boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (245 g (plus more for rolling out the dough))
3/4 cup warm water
Sambal oelek sauce, sriracha sauce or a hot Asian chili sauce of your choice
Make the filling marinade by combining all the ingredients for the filling except for the chicken things together in a large bowl. Stir with a fork until blended.
Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours, overnight.
Meanwhile preheat an oven to 425°F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking oil. Once the thighs have finished marinating, remove them from the bowl, letting any excess marinade drip back into the bowl, and place chicken flat on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the thighs are cooked fully and there is no signs of pink on the inside. If you have an instant read thermometer, the temperature should read 165°F at the thickest part.
While the chicken is cooking, pour the marinade into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute at full boil to make sure it’s safe to use in the filling, then set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken.
Once the thighs are done cooking, pull them from the oven and let them cool slightly. Pull them off the pan and cut them into 1/2-inch chunks. Add the chopped chicken into the pan with the cooked sauce. Scrape any juice and drippings from the baking pan into the saucepan with the sauce and chicken chunks as well and stir to coat and mix completely. Set aside to cool completely. You can refrigerate the filling at this point overnight if you want.
While the filling is cooling, making the wrapper dough by combining the flour and water together in a large bowl. Stir with a fork until a dough gathers.
Dust a clean surface and place the dough on it. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand, adding flour as it gets a little sticky. You want to knead the dough until it is smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Don’t worry if the dough is still a little sticky once you are done.
Once done, divide the dough into 24 pieces. I do this by first dividing the dough in half, then each half into half again (turning them into 1/4 pieces of the whole). Then I divide each quarter into 6 pieces. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap as you work to keep it from drying out. Dust the surface with flour and roll one small lump into a rough 4-inch circle.
Place 2 teaspoons of the filling into the center of the circle. Dip your finger into some water and wet the edge of the wrapper circle all the way around. Gather the dough together, pinching the edges together
Twist the top until the filling is completely enclosed in the dough. Set aside and repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Cover the dumplings with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap as you work to keep it from drying out.
Once all the dumplings are made, pour vegetable oil into a deep saute pan or Dutch oven up to 1 1/2-inches deep. Turn the heat to high and bring the oil to 350°F. Once the temperature is reached, pick up a dumpling and place it in the oil, releasing the dumpling after it has been placed in the oil. Do not drop the dumpling in the oil. If you drop the dumpling in the oil, it will splatter and you have a great chance of burning yourself. If you place the dumpling in the oil, then release it, it will slide into the oil without splashing.
Fry the dumpling in batches, trying not to add too many dumplings at once into the oil, as that will crowd the oil and drop the temperature too fast. Fry until golden brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack with a rimmed baking sheet underneath, or a large platter with paper towels to absorb any oil.
Serve with your choice of hot chili sauce or Asian hot sauce.
These spiced lamb and beef kebabs have a complex flavor that comes from a wide range of spices that can be found at most grocery stores! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Like all popular things, I am often late to the party. It took me years to finally get around to watching Games of Thrones. I only recently started making avocado toast at home. And though it came out last year to much critical acclaim, I finally got my hands on my friend Nik Sharma’s book Season.
Nik had told me about his book a few years ago, in a car ride at a food event in Chicago. We were both heading to the airport to fly back to the San Francisco bay area (he lives in Oakland, I live in San Francisco). Along the way, we chatted about writing cookbooks and how the landscape of food writing and blogging has drastically changed since we both started.
Since then, Nik has forged a remarkable food career, making beautiful signature images and never compromising his vision. He has a weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle now. And his debut cookbook Season has made numerous “best of” lists for 2018. I loved watching him grow into the food writer and photographer that he has become, and Season is a beautiful example of his voice and work.
I’ve been meaning to write about his book for ages, but I’ve been preoccupied with so many other things in my life (like catching up on 7 years of Game of Thrones). But the first thing I knew I wanted to make from his book was his Spiced Beef Kebabs. Though I altered the recipe a bit, adding ground lamb and adjusting some of the spices to my own palate, his recipe didn’t disappoint. This one will be going into my rotation of recipes that I’ll be making often.
What spices are in the spiced kebabs?
The ingredient list seems rather long but most of the dried herbs and spices, like coriander, cayenne, sage and dill are already in your pantry or easily available at the grocery. The one that might be the most difficult to source is dried mint! It’s a popular ingredient in South Asian cuisine so you can find it at an Asian grocery store. However if you don’t have an Asian market near you, just walk one or two aisles over from the spices in your store and pick up a box of mint tea! Just turn the box over and check to make sure there aren’t any other herbs or tea mixed in. If the ingredients for tea just say “mint” or “dried mint” then it’s perfect for this recipe. There’s about 2 teaspoons of dried mint in most tea bags, so half a tea bag works for this recipe.
How spicy are these kebabs?
The recipe calls for 2 fresh Thai chilis and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne so there’s a bit of kick but it’s not so hot that it feels like you ate the sun! If you like heat, increase the cayenne to 1 teaspoon and/or add an extra Thai chili. But if you are spice averse, reduce or omit the cayenne, and substitute 1 Serrano or half a Jalapeño pepper in place of the Thai chilis. You can even just omit the peppers completely! That said, most of the heat resides in the membrane and seeds inside the the peppers. So cutting that out of the peppers will remove most of the heat.
What is Chickpea Flour
Chickpea flour or Garbanzo bean flour is dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans that have been ground into a powder. It’s the main ingredient in falafel, and can be found at middle eastern and Indian grocery stores. It’s also sometimes labeled as gram or besan flour. Nowadays, you can also find it in well-stock grocery stores. Look for it in the baking aisle, or in the section where you might find gluten-free and whole grain flours. It adds an earthy nutty flavor to these kebabs and helps binds the kebabs together.
Yes! You can make these ahead of time. Just cook and fry them like directed, and then let them cool and store them covered in the fridge. Warm them up in a toaster oven for 10 minutes at 350°F. Or make the patties ahead of time, keep them wrapped in the fridge, then pan fry them before serving, directly from the fridge. The raw mixture should keep up to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator. Just fry them as a medium low temperature for an extra couple of minutes to make sure they are fully cooked all the way through.
These kebabs have a bit of kick with the addition of the cayenne and Thai chili in them. Nik’s recipe calls for 1 pound of beef, but I did a mix of lamb and beef because I like the flavor that ground lamb adds to the recipe. Feel free to use 1 pound of ground beef if you prefer. These kebabs are great appetizers or can be served as a main course with a vegetables over a starch of your choice. They are panfried by themselves, not on a skewer on the stovetop in a skillet.
Though the ingredient list seems long, most the spices are probably in your pantry already. The few that aren’t including the chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (sometimes called gram flour or besan flour), can be found at online, at an ethnic grocery store (try one that sells Asian and/or Middle Eastern groceries) or at a well-stocked grocery store (look for it near other gluten free and whole grain flours). Fresh Thai chilis can also be found at Asian grocery stores, but you can substitute 2 small serrano pepper in place of the Thai chilis though it won’t be quite as spicy nor will it have the same sort of “fruity” flavor that Thai chilis have.
Finally, Nik’s original recipe calls for dried mint which is surprisingly hard to find in most grocery stores. If you can’t source dried mint, pick up a box of mint tea (flip over the box and make sure the ingredients are JUST mint, and not a blend of other herbs or teas) and use that in place of the dried mint. I used peppermint tea for this recipe, but because you only use 1 teaspoon (roughly half a tea bag) and it blends with all the other spices, any mint will do.
1/2 pound ground beef (15% fat recommended)
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 cup diced yellow onions (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (see headnote above)
1 large egg
2 fresh Thai chilis, minced (see headnote above)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1- inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon lime juice
Zest of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried mint (about 1/2 bag of mint tea) (see headnote above)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Thinly sliced red onions
Place all the ingredients for the kebab except for the olive oil in large bowl. Mix first with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are all evenly distributed.
Dampen your hands and then form 1 1/2-inch wide patties that are 1/2-inch thick with the mixture. You should have about 14 or 15 patties once you are done.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook half the kebabs over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the side of the kebab is a deep golden brown and a crust has formed. Flip the kebab over and continue to cook until the kebab is cooked through.
Serve the kebabs with cilantro leaves and thinly sliced red onions.
These luscious and easy to make white chocolate green tea brownies, made with matcha, were inspired by a Japanese Craft Beer tasting I went to recently. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This sponsored post is part of the Drink in a New Language campaign for Japanese Craft Beer. I was compensated for this post. However, all opinions below are completely my own and not endorsed by Japanese Craft Beer. You can learn more about Japanese Craft Beer on their Instagram account or Facebook page.
“Irvin! I wasn’t expecting to see you here!” said my friend Amy. She’s a food writer and any time I go to a food event (which is more and more rare as I’m finding myself busy doing other non-food related things) she’s there. But I told her that I’m trying to go to more things, thus my presence at the tasting and workshop on Japanese Craft Beer. In fact, I know little to nothing about beer or craft beer, much less Japanese Craft Beer. Other than taking a swig or two of AJ’s major Japanese beer when we get ramen, I’m clueless about Japanese beer. But 2019 is the year I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone more so here I was, ready to learn.
It turns out Japanese beer is pretty fascinating. Japan is one of the largest producers of beer, even if they are one of the lowest per capita drinkers. Beer is part of their culture and they don’t have open container laws. That’s why you hear about beer vending machines in the streets of Tokyo (though those are as getting harder and harder to find from what I hear) and they often push a beer cart on the bullet train.
Unlike the US, it’s illegal (even to this day) to home brew beer. But in 1994 Japanese law changed, allowing small beer producers to actually start brewing. The folks that had the most experience brewing alcohol were sake producers, so most of the smaller craft beers initially came from sake companies. Since sake is brewed in the winter, this allowed the companies to brew alcohol all year round.
Even though the Japanese were greatly influenced by the German (a large number of sake companies initially hired Germans to come over and help them start brewing beer as they had no idea where to start) I noticed that a lot of the beers I sampled seem much more subtle and nuanced in flavor than German beers that I’m familiar with. Japanese beers is often drunk before and with food, and so it makes sense that the beer would pair so well with the subtle delicate flavors of Japanese cuisine.
In the end, I realized that as much as I don’t drink beer, I really enjoyed the Japanese craft beers I sampled. The Cyonmage “Pale Ale” was an example of beer that I was expecting to be bitter but it was less so than some of the other Pale Ales I’ve had. The Weiss beer by KARUIZAWA Brewery Ltd. came in a cool frosted green bottle and has a clean crisp fruity flavor, while the two Coedo beers were fairly different, the Coedo Ruri being slightly bitter and light, I could imagine it pairing with sushi, while heavier Coedo Beniaka was brewed with roasted sweet potatoes which I found fascinating. There was subtle caramel notes but totally dry, not sweet at all. I could see drinking it with Japanese yakitori skewers, or even American-style BBQ ribs. It was super smooth. The adorably cute Hitachino Nest White Ale by Kiuchi Brewery had some subtle and crisp baking spice notes in it, which makes sense as it was brewed with coriander, orange peel and nutmeg. And some of the beers used Japanese cuisine and ingredients in their brewing, like the Sorry! Umami IPA by YOHO Brewing which uses bonita flakes (a dried fermented smoked tuna that is full of umami – I use it in my ramen eggs marinade) but the flavor was subtle with almost a tropical note. I thought it paired really well with pizza! I was also into the Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale which used green tea and wasabi in the brewing. I was expecting a wallop of flavor but instead I got a subtle herbal note with a slight undertone of spice.
In the end I was really inspired by the Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale to make these green tea and white chocolate brownies. The white chocolate caramelizes slightly in the oven as you bake these brownies, making these brownies a great thing to eat while drinking the Coedo Beniaka or Hitachino Nest White Ale or the Wabi Sabi Japan Pale Ale. But even by themselves, these swirled brownies are great all on their own. But with Japanese craft beer getting wider and wider distribution here in the US, you’ll be able to get some of these beers and try them yourself. Do it! I know I’m sold and will be tracking them down some more soon.
White Chocolate Green Tea Brownies
These brownies are made with white chocolate that caramelizes slightly in the brownie. The swirl of green tea is slightly herbal and bitter, balancing with the sweet butterscotch tones of the brownie. The brownie bar itself has a lovely chew and bite, like a soft dense cookie that will have you swoon with love. Pair with a Japanese craft beer or with a glass of green tea or coffee.
1 2/3 cups chopped white chocolate (10 ounces or 285 g (see note below about quality))
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 170 g)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar (150 g)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (165 g)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (315 g)
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder ((see note below about quality))
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking oil, then line with parchment paper, making sure 1-inch of paper hangs over the edges
Melt the white chocolate in a microwave, cooking on high for 30 second increments, stirring thoroughly with a fork between intervals. Alternatively you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a metal bowl over a simmer pot of water).
Place the butter, both sugars, vanilla, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until the mixture starts to look like a paste, then increase to medium speed until the mixture starts to cling to the side of the bowl about 2 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each into the mixture first, then scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding the next egg.
Add the olive oil to the mixture and beat to incorporate. Add the melted white chocolate and mix until the mixture thickens and start to look a bit like frosting. At this point some of the chocolate might solidify back into tiny chunks. Don’t worry about that. Add the flour and mix. Once all the flour has been absorbed into the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated, mixing a little more if necessary.
Spoon all but 1/2 cup of the batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread evenly across the pan. Mix the matcha green tea powder into the remaining 1/2 cup of batter.
Drop small heaping teaspoons of green tea batter over the batter then swirl with a knife or chopstick decoratively. Don’t overmix.
Bake in the oven for 23 to 25 minutes long, or until the edges of the brownie pan start to look golden brown. Let cool completely in the pan before lifting the entire brownies sheet out of the pan with the overhanging parchment paper and moving it to a cutting board. Peel away the paper and cut into squares.
Matcha is a powdered green tea that you can get at Japanese or Asian grocery stores, well stocked grocery stores (look in the tea section) or online. Don’t bother getting the higher quality matcha, you can usually find culinary grade matcha at a lower price point.
When selecting white chocolate, I usually recommend looking at the ingredient list for the bar or bag and making sure that one of the first ingredients is cocoa butter. If it’s vegetable oil, its subpar white chocolate and you’ll be able to tell with the end product.
These grilled strawberry and chocolate sandwiches on crusty sourdough are a quick and impressive dessert for dinner dates or casual weeknight meals! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Valentine’s day is around the corner and though I try to not take my relationship with my partner AJ for granted, we’re often times don’t do anything special for it. We’ve been together for nearly 20 years and at this point in our relationship we still celebrate our birthdays, our anniversary and Christmas. But other holidays tend to be footnotes in our everyday life, the sort of thing that we kind of forget about, and then notice when we sign on to Facebook. Oh wait, it’s Valentine’s day today? Huh. Maybe I should run out and grab some flowers or something.
This year though, I have a plan. I’m making AJ these grilled chocolate and strawberry sandwiches. They’re a special little genius dessert that I adapted from the brilliant Alice Medrich’s book Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. It’s the sort of cookbook that I reach for when I want to whip up something fast and easy. Which is a bit off-brand for me, because I’m known for my complicated multi-component dishes. It’s a blessing and a curse.
But I bookmarked her grilled chocolate sandwiches ages ago because they’re the best sort of back-of-your-pocket dessert that anyone can whip up super-fast and taste utterly divine. The trick is to use quality ingredients. And though strawberries really aren’t in season, when they’re covered in gooey melted dark chocolate and a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt, no one will care. Valentine’s day, I’ve got you this year!
Grilled Chocolate and Strawberry Sandwiches
These grilled sandwiches are a super easy, super indulgent dessert that can be made in a flash. You can make them for yourself or impress your loved ones or a dinner party by just whipping them up in the late evening, early afternoon, or basically anytime you want. Make sure to use quality ingredients (crusty sourdough bread, dark bittersweet chocolate, strawberries and quality butter) as there as only a few ingredients and you want them all to shine! I like to add a sprinkling of flaky sea salt for sophistication but that’s strictly optional.
6 small thick slices of crusty sourdough bread (or 4 big pieces)
Take the slices of bread and butter one side generously. Place half the bread, butter side down, on a large heavy skillet (cast iron preferred). Turn the heat to medium.
Let the bread brown a bit. Then sprinkle half the chocolate over the bread and lower the heat to make sure the chocolate has time to melt without scorching the bread. Once the chocolate has started to melt, cover the chocolate with strawberries.
Using a spatula, move the toasted bread to a plate. Place the remaining bread, butter side down, on the still hot skillet and toast, repeating by adding the remaining chocolate onto the bread once warm.
Once the chocolate has started to melt, pick up each bread slice with tongs and quickly flip over onto the strawberries, creating the sandwich. Cut in half and sprinkle generously with flaky salt. Cut in half and serve.
This take on Italian Wedding Soup uses Swiss Chard instead of celery and other greens for a comforting soup perfect for cold weather or anytime of the year. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Folks often ask me if I have any formal training in cooking. I don’t. I have been baking since I was 8 years old and it’s been a passion of mine ever since. But I occasionally take professional cooking and baking classes here and there to learn new things, and to stretch myself. Several years ago I took a cooking classes for a week, which had me fine tuning my knife skills, making homemade pasta and tea smoking shrimp. But one of my favorite things that I made that week was an Italian Wedding Soup. It’s stuck in the back of my head ever since, even though I haven’t really made it since.
All that changed this past week. While the Midwest is undergoing a polar vortex with insanely cold temperatures, here in San Francisco we’re in the cool mid-50s. This is not to brag, as anything under 72°F is cause for alarm here in San Francisco and an immediate donning of thick sweaters and scarves. But in solidarity for those who are truly living in cold weather (and because I’ve grown soft living here in our moderate temperate climate bubble for the past 20 years) I thought soup would be a good idea.
And that’s when I realized I hadn’t made Italian Wedding Soup since that class. It’s a fairly easy soup to make, though the meatballs that go in the soup require a bit of prepping. Nevertheless AJ was pretty happy with the final product, so much so that he had another bowl the following day and finished off the pot of before I knew it. Next time I may make a double batch of the meatballs, and freeze half of them, allowing me to make this soup even faster for a weeknight meal. But as it is, this from scratch soup, comes together pretty quickly and is the perfect anecdote from the blizzard that may or may not be outside your door.
Italian Wedding Soup
Italian wedding soup has nothing to do with weddings, but instead gets it’s name because of the “marriage” of greens and meat in the soup. My go to greens for this soup is Swiss chard, because the leafy greens are especially sweet during the winter and the thicker stems can be cut out and sautéed in place of celery, meaning the entire green can be used. My partner AJ actually hates the bitterness that celery imparts, so the thick chard stems is a great colorful substitute. Pick any sort of chard available at the store, though my favorite is “rainbow”, which is a mix of various chard, most commonly red, yellow, pink and green.
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (bulk or removed from the casing)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 large egg
3 tablespoons chopped chives
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion (chopped)
3 large carrots (diced to 1/2-inch chunks)
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine (or substitute 1 additional cup of chicken stock)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup orzo pasta (about 8 ounces or another small pasta)
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese
Make the meatballs by combining the beef, sausage, parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, chives, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Massage ingredients together with your hands until they are uniformly blended. Run your hands under water to dampen them, then roll 1-inch meatballs. The mixture should make about 40 to 50 meatballs.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot. Add half the meatballs and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the sides of the meatball are golden brown. Don’t worry if the inside of the meatballs aren’t cooked fully. You’ll cook them further in the soup. You just want to brown the outside to give them a crust and flavor. Move the brown meatballs to a large heatproof bowl and add the additional oil to the pot and repeat with the remaining meatballs. Do not clean out the pot.
Cut the thick stems out from the chard. Slice the chard leaves thin 1-inch strips and set aside. Chop the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
Add the olive oil the pot that you browned the meatballs. Add the chard stems, onion, carrots to the pot and cook until the carrots have softened and the onions are starting to turn transparent, about 8 minutes on medium heat.
Add the chicken stock, white wine (if using), bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and any juices in the bottom of the bowl to the pot. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for the suggested time on the package. About 2 minutes before the pasta is al dente, add the chard leaves to the pot and stir in to wilt.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese to garnish on top.