Mushroom Rigatoni Bolognese with Fresh Mozzarella and Truffle

RECIPE: Mushroom Rigatoni Bolognese with Fresh Mozzarella and Truffle
Chunky Mushroom Bolognese

Chunky Mushroom Bolognese–completely vegetarian–tossed with rigatoni, and topped with cool torn fresh mozzarella and truffle oil.

My best friend is going vegan.  And her new husband decidedly is not.  He’s so un-vegan that when I met him, he refused to eat anything that was green.  He has since started including basil.  A big step.

I developed this recipe for the two of them—my very old and dear friends with whom we often share Sunday night dinner (so, in fact, this really benefits Mr. English and myself just as much).  You can keep it vegan by omitting the torn fresh mozzarella, and you can make it even healthier by using whole grain rigatoni.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can look like a kitchen champ even if you can’t handle a knife.  All you have to do is blitz the veggies—carrot, onion, garlic, and the mushrooms, of course—in the food processor.  Cook them simply in a big pan, and then add store-bought tomato sauce and some dried mushrooms you can find in any supermarket.  Because of all the veggies in the sauce, the sauce takes on that thick, dark, chunky texture of beefy Bolognese.  I toss it with al dente rigatoni, so the sauce can get stuck inside the little tunnels of pasta.  I plate it up, and tear cold fresh mozzarella over the top.  If I’m feeling flush, I’ll add a drizzle of truffle oil. Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Working Girl Dinners
 

Cheese Papillons (Savory Puff Pastry Butterflies)

RECIPE: Cheesy Papillons
Cheesy Papillons

Cheesy Papillons

Nothing says party to make like puff pastry.  It sounds kind of retro kitsch, but there’s something about that crisp shatter of salty, flaky puff that is so indulgent, it can’t help but be a special occasion.

Instead of cheese straws, which have sort of been what they are forever, I make cheesy papillons—butterflies, or bowties.  I just press sea salt, grated Gruyère, and piment d’Espelette (for heat and some holiday coloring) into store-bought puff pastry, and use a fluted ravioli cutter to slice them into ribbons.  Then, I just twist in the center, and bake.  They puff up to huge, glorious, crispy, salty, cheesy Everests.  I serve them in baskets down the center of the table instead of bread.

I almost never have any of these leftover.  So I stash one away for myself.  It’s the happiest snack for doing the dishes.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Cheesy Papillons
makes about 20

Cheesy PapillonsINGREDIENTS

  • 2 puff pastry sheets (total: 17 ounces)
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère
  • 1/4 teaspoon piment d’Espelette

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Dust the countertop with some flour.  Unfold the puff pastry, dock lightly with a fork, and season with a generous pinch of sea salt.  Scatter 1 cup of cheese evenly over the top, and use a rolling pin to gently press it into the pastry.  Top with half of the piment d’Espelette.  Repeat with the second sheet of pastry and the remaining ingredients.  Then, use a ravioli cutter to slice the pastry in strips about 1-inch by 3 inches.  Twist each strip in the middle to form a bowtie.  Place, spaced out, on a Silpat-line baking sheet (you may need to do two batches).  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bakery, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

Meatless Monday! Virtuous Veggie Lo Mein

RECIPE: Virtuous Veggie Lo Mein
Veggie Lo Mein

Veggie Lo Mein with carrots, cabbage, snow peas, shitake mushrooms, and green onions.

Mr. English and I really wanted a dinner last week that was vegetarian, that was virtuous.  Every day for lunch we grab a ham sandwich, or we go out for dinner and indulge in a steak.  We were doing far too much of that, and we wanted something that would help us push ‘reset’ on our meal plan for the week.  So I made veggie lo mein.

I’m the first to admit that veggie lo mein, traditionally, doesn’t exactly equate to good health.  It’s one of those greasy foods you order in the day after you stay up too late, and pinch at with chopsticks curled up on the couch watching bad TV.  But there was potential. Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Mock Duck Leg Confit with Root Vegetable Slaw

RECIPE: Mock Duck Leg Confit with Root Vegetable Slaw
Duck Confit and Root Veg Slaw

Crispy duck leg with a celeriac, fennel, carrot, and beet slaw

My old friend had a dinner party last week, and I went over in an Ethel Mertz capacity–an old friend and neighbor, rounding out a party of newer chums.  I liked them, especially when one, Nicky, came up to me and said that she had been making recipes off my blog for herself and her boyfriend.

I was thrilled and nervous, as I am when anyone tells me they make one of my recipes, and so I asked her if she had any requests.  She did:

Can you make some duck?

There is something super autumnal about duck.  It has the false levity of being poultry, but is unmistakably cold-weather decadent.  I decided I would put together the perfect autumn salad out of my mock-confit leg of duck and a light, crunchy root vegetable slaw.

My mock confit of duck is a house favorite.  I just salt duck legs, and put them in a skillet over medium heat, skin down, until the skin begins to crisp.  Then I transfer them to a low oven and cook them for two hours, flipping once.  They come out skin and meat crackling and velvety, just like confit, but without all the fat.  On the side, I made a slaw of thinly sliced celeriac, beets, fennel, carrots, and shallots, tossed with parsley and a cider vinegar-thyme vinaigrette.  I let the slaw sit and marinate in the fridge while the duck roasts so it softens, and everything melds together in a kind of beet and apple cider haze.  The duck side is crisp, salty, indulgent, satisfying, and the slaw is refreshing, snappy, bright, and deep from all those root vegetable flavors that run from sweet to savory.

This one’s for you, Nicky!  I hope you like it.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Mock Duck Leg Confit with Root Vegetable Slaw
serves 6

Duck Confit and Root Veg SlawINGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel
  • 2 cups thinly sliced celery root
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrot
  • 2 cups thinly sliced beet
  • 3 thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 6 duck legs

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, thyme leaves, honey, pepper, and salt.  Use the fine slicer disc of a food processor to thinly slice all the vegetables.  Add them and the parsley to the large bowl, and toss with the vinaigrette.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until later.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  In a wide oven-safe skillet, place the duck legs, skin side down, over medium heat.  Season the duck with salt, and sear until the skin begins to crisp.  Place the whole skillet, with the duck, in the oven.  Roast for 1 hour, then flip the duck legs, and roast for another hour.

To serve, mound the softened vegetable salad on a plate, and top with a crispy, almost-confited duck leg.

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Categories: Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi Edamame

RECIPE: Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi Edamame
Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi Edamame

Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi Edamame

This is one of those dinners for two that you could make for four, because it’s company food.  Perfectly seared crispy salmon with a crunchy golden crust, warm wasabi edamame salad, and rice scented with jasmine green tea.  It sounds high falutin, but it’s so easy, light, and healthy, that you could just as easily make it for yourself.

I start with boil-in-a-bag rice, which comes pre-portioned for two people, and I just follow the package instructions–except I add a jasmine green tea bag to the boiling water, so that I’m effectively cooking the rice in tea.  The rice is stained and scented by the tea, and becomes this unique, subtly floral perfect-every-time rice.  Such a cool trick.

While the rice cooks, I sear salmon simply in a nonstick pan until a dark crunchy crust forms on the fish.  To pour over and flavor the salmon and rice, I whisk up a light wasabi dressing and toss it with warm edamame.  I stack the rice, then the salmon on a plate, and pour the wasabi edamame salad over the top.  The edamame is light and healthy and beautifully jade green.  And the wasabi sauce pours in rivulets into the crevices of the salmon and down into that jasmine-scented rice.  Who knew you could do so much in 15 minutes!

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi Edamame
serves 2

Crispy Salmon with Jasmine Tea Rice and Wasabi EdamameINGREDIENTS

  • Sea salt
  • 3/4 cup shelled frozen edamame
  • 1 jasmine green tea bag
  • 1 4.5-ounce bag boil-in-a-bag white rice
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 5-ounce skinless, boneless fillets of salmon
  • 3/4 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • Wasabi paste to taste
  • Wasabi peas to garnish (optional)

PROCEDURE

Fill a saucepot with water and a pinch of salt.  Add the tea bag and bring to a boil.  Remove the tea bag, and cook the rice in the tea water according to patch directions.  In the last 90 seconds of cooking, plunge the edamame into the boiling water with the bag of rice.  Drain both, keeping the rice and edamame separate.

Season the salmon with salt on both sides.  In a medium-sized nonstick skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Place the fish, presentation side down, in the skillet, and sear until golden and crispy, about 6 minutes.  Use tongs to flip the fish over, and finish cooking for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the rice vinegar, water, sugar, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, and a pinch of salt together in a bowl.  Add the warm edamame, and stir to combine.  To plate the dish, place some jasmine tea rice on a plate.  Top with fish.  Spoon the warm edamame salad on top, and crown with crushed wasabi peas.  Done!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Roasted Beet Soup with Thyme, Lemon, and Crème Fraîche

RECIPE: Roasted Beet Soup with Thyme, Lemon, and Crème Fraîche
Roasted Beet Soup

Roasted Beet Soup with Thyme, Lemon, and Crème Fraîche

Right now, in London, it’s decidedly cold.  In that surprising way, where you wake up and get out of the shower, chilly, and think, is it really late October already?

It’s soup time.  Time to armour myself with something warm and intensely healthy, that will ward off colds and the cold, in one pot.

I think of beets as French probably because my mom has always been a beet devotee, juicing them for me as a kid, slicing them into salads, and roasting them alongside anything that goes in the oven.  So it was with happy nostalgia that I made this simple soup.  Beets, roasted simply with a little olive oil and salt, until they are soft with caramelized edges.  Simply puree them with softened leeks, fresh woodsy thyme, vegetable broth, and the squirt of lemon that balances their sweetness.  The soup is smooth, hot, like intensely, intensely red drinkable velvet.  I stir in a spoon of crème fraîche to calm the heat, color, and intensity of soup, and give it a creamy lushness.  Serve with a torn hunk of baguette, you have the perfect fall soup.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Roasted Beet Soup with Thyme, Lemon, and Crème Fraîche
serves 4

Roasted Beet SoupINGREDIENTS

  • 5 beets
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small leek, white and light green parts sliced
  • The leaves from 4 stems thyme
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Crème fraîche for serving

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Peel and dice the beets, and place them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.

When the beets are roasted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large stockpot.  Add the sliced leeks and season with salt and pepper, and the leaves of thyme.  Sweat on medium-low heat until the leek is tender, but not golden.  Add the beets, vegetable broth, and lemon juice, and bring to a boil.  Use an immersion blender to purée the soup.  Ladle into bowls, and top with a dollop of crème fraîche.  Bon app!

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

Lean Chinese Five Spice Pork with Asian Slaw

RECIPE: Lean Chinese Five Spice Pork with Asian Slaw
Chinese FIve Spice Pork Loin with Asian Slaw, Charred Mushrooms, and Peanuts

Chinese Five Spice Pork Loin with Asian Slaw, Charred Mushrooms, and Peanuts

I find, living in London, that I really, really miss New York takeout.  The exotic options.  Thailand.  Persia.  Ethiopia.  They were, without exaggeration, just around the corner.  So, while I am always encouraging in this column that cooking at home is cheaper, healthier, and faster than takeout, I have to come clean that I have a fourth reason: I miss the flavors that I learned to love from New York delivery.

It was those forlorn Manhattan gastronomic reminiscences that inspired this meal.  Like all Dinners for Two, it’s easy and quick, but I think it’s also probably the most exotic, and consequently one of my favorites.

I start with lean pork loin, and roll it in a crust of sea salt and Chinese five spice powder.  I really am a huge proponent of buying regional spice blends.  It’s a great way to add a kick of China (or India, or Morocco, depending on the recipe), without having to invest in all the separate components.  I find I use up these blends far more quickly then I ever do individual spices.  Five spice consists of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds, so it has a spicy, musky fragrance, and that really powerful sweetly spiced pungency that creates the most fascinating crust on the pork.  I sear that in a pan, and throw in some exotic mushrooms, and they all roast together in the oven without any interference from me until the pork is juicy and the mushrooms are crisp and charred.  They’re done in just 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I toss together cabbage, cilantro, and green onions, with a light sauce of mayonnaise thinned with water, rice vinegar, and sriracha.  It’s crisp and refreshing, but the rice vinegar and sriracha pack so much flavor into all the veggies.  I slice the pork, place it on the slaw, and top it with the charred mushrooms and salted peanuts.

At first, Mr. English and I thought this might be more of a dinner for three than for two, but within fifteen minutes, we’d devoured the whole thing.  It’s light, it’s lean.  But it’s satisfyingly alluring and different.  And for a little while, I didn’t miss New York.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Lean Chinese Five Spice Pork with Asian Slaw
2 servings

Chinese FIve Spice Pork Loin with Asian Slaw, Charred Mushrooms, and PeanutsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1-pound pork loin
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 ounces exotic mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • Up to 1 tablespoon sriracha (to taste)
  • 1 sweetheart, Napa, or green cabbage, shredded
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (about 1 bunch) roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • A handful of salted, roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS

Arrange the oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Season the pork with salt, and coat in the five-spice powder.  Preheat a sauté pan that can go from the stove to the oven over medium-high heat.  Add the oil, and the pork.  Sear about 2 minutes on one side to get a golden crust, then flip the pork over.  Coat the mushrooms in any extra five-spice powder that didn’t stick to the pork, and scatter the mushrooms, left whole, around the sides of the pan, and toss them to coat in oil.  Transfer the pan with the pork and mushrooms to the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pork is cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes while you make the slaw.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, water, rice vinegar, and sriracha.  Season with salt, and toss in the cabbage, green onion, and cilantro.  Toss to coat.

Slice the pork into thick rounds.  To serve, place a mound of the slaw on a plate, and top with the sliced pork.  Scatter the mushrooms on top, and crown with chopped peanuts.  Serve extra sriracha on the side for the pork.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Meat, Recipes, Series