Sausage and Peppers with Rice Grits


IT’S FINALLY COLD OUTSIDE. Hearty comforting foods are my favorite to both cook and eat, and the time is right for them. This New England meets New Orleans dish is wildly simple yet develops a ton of flavor within a short period of time. Basically, it’s the perfect weeknight meal.

I came up with it on the fly one evening, but next time I plan on doing all the prep work in the morning (steps 1 and 2) then finishing it up at dinner time. The onions and peppers cook down into a sweet jammy kind of relish that perfectly compliments the smokey and savory sausage. I added shrimp for me and leftover chicken for Alex to boost the nutritional value of the meal because we’re workout fiends, but that’s totally optional.

I was first introduced to rice grits at Tom Colicchio’s Craft Bar in NYC a few months ago, and they’ve quickly become a pantry staple. They cook up way faster than regular rice or corn grits, but offer the same starchy base perfect for absorbing flavors and filling your belly. You can buy them on Amazon, but since they’re expensive I opt to grind the rice myself at home. This way I have an endless supply.

You’ll Need:

For the Sausage and Peppers:

  • 1 package of kielbasa (one really long link is how they come at my grocery store)
  • 2 small or 1 large onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper
  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional: Fresh or thawed shelled and de-veined shrimp (I use Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp, high quality and they always smell super fresh). You could also add in leftover or rotisserie chicken if you’re feeling it.
  • Optional: Green onions or parsley for garnish

For the Rice Grits:

  • 2 cups of dry jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Kosher Salt

Method:

  1. We’ll start with the prep work. Lop off both ends of the onion and slice in half from top to bottom. Peel off the skin and turn each half on their side, then slice into thin half moons. For the bell peppers, carefully insert your knife on the top of the pepper and cut a circle around the stem, close to the edge of the bell pepper. Remove the stem and seeds, then cut the peppers in half from top to bottom. From there, remove the white pith with a paring knife and any rogue seeds, then slice longways so you have long strips, like you’re going to make fajitas. For the Kielbasa, remove it from the packaging and slice them into thin oblong pieces. If you’re doing your prep work in the morning, toss the veggies and meat in two separate ziploc bags and throw them in the fridge til you’re read to cook.
  2. For the rice grits, put the uncooked jasmine rice into a freezer bag and squeeze all the excess air out. Spread it in a thin layer across the bag, then put in in the freezer for 30 minutes. This step makes the rice brittle, and is crucial to get the rice to break up in smaller bits. Remove the rice from the freezer and pour into a food processor. Cover the top (seriously, unless you want white powder all over your kitchen) and process on high for about 4-5 minutes, stopping every minute or so to check out the size of the granules. You want the rice to look like it’s been broken into halves or thirds, NOT completely pulverized. Store in Mason jar until you’re ready to use the rice. It’ll keep forever in the pantry, just be sure to store it in a jar or a plastic sealed container to keep out pantry flies.
  3. Put the largest skillet you have over medium heat with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and add the onions and sausage. Let it all brown and cook down for about 5 minutes before you add the bell peppers and a pinch of kosher salt. Turn the heat down to medium low, and let the whole thing cook down for about 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to make sure everything is cooked evenly. The veg will melt into a sweet jammy relish, it’s the best part! But I suppose if you like your veggies to have more body to them, you can take it off the heat after 20 minutes or so. This is a pretty laissez-faire kind of cooking blog. In the last 10 minute of cooking, add in the shrimp, stirring every few minutes to make sure they’re cooked through. If you’re using cooked leftover or rotisserie chicken, add it in the last few minutes to heat it through.
  4. Meanwhile, measure out a cup of the rice grits and pour it into a sieve. Run it under water, swishing it around with your hands to remove all the powdery white starches. This step is important! Too much leftover pulverized rice will make your grits overly gummy. Save the rest of the rice grits for next time.
  5. Bring the rice grits and 2 cups of water to a boil. It’ll happen sooner than you think, so ya know, hang out by the stove. Stir and turn down to low, and stir in about 1/8-1/4 of a cup of water every time the rice absorbs all the water (so probably every few minutes). Cook for about 15 minute, or until the rice grits are soft to taste with no hard center. Remove from the heat, and fold in the butter and a pinch of salt.
  6. To serve, lay a bed of rice grits in a plate or a bowl. Spoon the delicious sausage and peppers on top. Garnish with green onions or parsley.

Remix The Dish: Use the leftover sausage and peppers on a sandwich, on top of scrambled eggs or mixed with potatoes and fried like a hash. The rice grits remind me of congee, a traditional rice porridge, so I like to eat it how my mom would for breakfast with a fried egg, soy sauce, chili oil, and some fresh green onions. It would taste bomb with anything stew-y and rich though, like pot roast, short ribs, or pretty much anything made in the crock pot.



Travelogue: Maison208 in Philadelphia


Real Talk: I visited this place 2 months ago, and have been so slammed I’m just now getting around to writing this. I didn’t take many notes, but it was such a special night, everything’s still seared in my memory.

You don’t have to know me long to know that I’m obsessed with Top Chef. I tweet about it frequently, have a fantasy draft with my husband and our best friend, and all the old seasons are on continuous loop in my house. I’ve taken great pride in the fact that I can list out all cheftestant superlatives at the drop of a hat: the funniest (Fabio and Stefan), the most overrated (Marcel, Hosea, and the jerkface who won New Orleans), the ones who could have won a different season (Dale Talde, Antonia, Greg Gourdet, Jen Carroll), the sexiest (Sam, Casey, Tre), and the ones you’d most want to be best friends with (Sam, Casey, Tre). It should come as no surprise that when I travel, I love to hit up restaurants from Top Chef alumni and judges. While in Philadelphia last July I got to visit Maison208, the brand new restaurant from Sylva Senat.

From the first 10 minutes of last season’s Top Chef, I knew Sylva was going to be a heavy hitter. The way he butchered that chicken in the first scene let me know he had some major culinary chops. He carried himself with a quiet confidence that was warm but also stately. I was surprised to see him in the restaurant, and even more surprised when the host sat us 6 feet away from him. My sister, my friend Sean, and my friend Sara giggled at my bashfulness. The waiter dropped a “so I hear someone’s a big Top Chef fan,” and I had to audibly remind myself to play it cool. We ordered (someone questioned what dorado was out loud and I saw Sylva chuckle to himself) and I was sure to include a few dishes that I recognized from the TV show. The family style menu made it super conducive to tasting lots of dishes, which is ya know, exactly how I like to eat.

When our appetizers came out, Sylva delivered them personally, introduced himself, and started to chat with us about the restaurant and (of course) the show. He was just as classy and kind as he looked like he would be on TV, earnestly engaging with us and sharing some insider knowledge. And when I say “insider knowledge,” I mean he SPILLED THE TEA. It was amazing!

He shared some of his favorite housemates, and told me that the cast normally travels while the show airs to have watch parties and dine in each other’s restaurants. He told us that he had been a longtime fan of Sheldon and Brooke, and expressed how cool it was to get to know and learn from both of them. He told us that during the first episode’s sudden death cook-off, everyone was certain Tesar was going home, but once Tesar pulled out the truffles from his bag, they all knew it was over. He was intrigued by our fantasy snake draft, and wanted to know what order everyone was taken–which by the way, Sylva was actually pick #2, right after Sheldon. (I told you guys, those mad butchery skills!). He thought it was hilarious that we named our cat after Katsuji.

One of our appetizers was the curried beef lollipops you might remember from the charity gala fundraiser challenge. On the show, they told viewers that each attendee paid $500 for their ticket, so they would need to make very upscale food to match that. What they didn’t tell you on Bravo was that they gave each chef a budget of $5,000!! Mind boggling, I know. Sylva said because they all had that credit to burn with Whole Foods, he spend his on premium dry-aged ribeyes…that he promptly took back to the Top Chef kitchen and ran through a meat grinder. Tom Collichio came to check on all the contestants, and abruptly halted and questioned Sylva for this offense. I’ve seen Tom pull his Jedi mind tricks and freak chefs out, but Sylva said that Tom seemed much more startled and appalled than he’d ever seen him before. Certain he was going home but too late in the game to change plans, Sylva continued on and made the curry lollipops…and WON that challenge. Super badass!

For my entree, I ordered the fried whole dorado fish with baby vegetables in a mushroom broth, which was another dish that Sylva won in the Edna Lewis challenge. Sara got a burger, Sean got espresso-dusted duck with fois gras, and my sister got a salmon garnished with corn pudding. Sylva brought us some sharable veggie sides and some desserts on the house, and took time to visit with us between each course. Everything was delicious, clean flavors and modern presentations. The restaurant itself was gorgeous and homey, and had an amazing rooftop bar with a retractable roof. Considering it poured buckets that night, I’m sure they were glad that was an option. The restaurant is situated in the Gayborhood, walking distance from the Liberty Bell, tons of historic buildings, adorable old neighborhoods, biergardens, and even the legendary old taverns where Benjamin Franklin and his friends got that crazy idea to overthrow the British government. Should you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, I highly recommend you pay Maison208 a visit! 

 






 

The one where we talk about air fryers

 

I fall into the Alton Brown school of thought that asserts more appliances aren’t necessarily better. (I mean, do you really need a banana “nice cream” maker, or is it that just a new way to market a food processor with a dull blade?). However, today’s topic is anything BUT a unitasker. Put this badboy at the top of your Christmas list today.

An air fryer is a space orb of a counter appliance that uses a wind chamber of really hot air to cook your food, coaxing out the Maillard reaction, caramelizing and making your food extra crispy and delicious. It’s like a super-charged oven, heating and browning your food until it’s crunchy, but does so quick enough that food retains its moisture. Air Fryers are different than a microwave because it uses dry heat rather than energizing water particles—like I said, its a super-charged oven. They’re expensive ($150-250) but basically a miracle on your counter.

Here’s some things I’ve learned air fryers are great for:

  1. Roasting fresh vegetables and potatoes. Anything that you would drizzle in olive oil and roast in the oven can be done in less than half the time by using an air fryer. I’ve tried cauliflower, broccoli, baby potatoes, okra, green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips so far, and they’ve all turned out delicious, yielding tender vegetables flanked with crispy browned edges. The best part is, you can cook soft vegetable in 10 minutes and starchier veggies in under 25. I’ll share some ideas at the end of the post.
  2. Frozen potato sides. Alexia has an awesome line of French fries, sweet potato fries, roasted potato wedges, sour cream tots, sweet potato tots, truffle fries, and more, and they make perfect easy side dishes on weeknights. The problem is, it takes 15 minutes to preheat the oven, then another 25 minutes to roast them, which lets be real is a lot of time for a weeknight. With an air fryer, preheating isn’t necessary, and frozen foods cook in half the time. What used to take me 40 minutes or more now takes me 15 total.
  3. Frozen snacks. Mozzarella sticks, broccoli and cauliflower tots, shrimp toast, pot stickers, spanikopita, fish sticks, and pretty much every delicious snackie from Trader Joe’s can be made in the air fryer. Instead of soggy like it’d be if you made it in the microwave, they’ll come out crunchy and evenly cooked in minutes. When it comes to cooking foods in the air fryer, the rule of thumb is to reduce the baking time by half and reduce the temperature by 75 degrees F. This is important, don’t forget it!
  4. Toasting bread. Croutons and crostini in a fraction of the time!
  5. Reheating leftover meat. Because it imparts so much even heat, the air fryer is great if you want to reheat rotisserie chicken, pork loin, grilled meats, or whatever you have leftover without it losing all of its juice and texture. It’s also great for reheating breaded items like fried chicken or chicken Parmesan, they’ll re-crisp in the air fryer way better than they would using any other method. You can also cook chicken, steak, fish, pork chops, burgers, sausage, and “faux fry” chicken and fish in the air fryer, but I haven’t experimented much with that yet…

…BUT, I just purchased an air fryer accessories pack, which contains a cake pan for baking, a pizza pan for a super crunch crust in minutes, a double wire rack that helps you “fry” breaded meats and veggies and leave grill marks on meat, a non-stick silicone mat, and a lifted rack to create more surface area in your air fryer, allowing you to cook twice as much food as one. Amazeballs! Can’t wait to try it all out.

Clearly I have a lot more to explore, but I wanted to get you started with some ideas on what to make after your much coveted air fryer arrives. Also (and this probably makes me the dorkiest human being on earth) there are Facebook groups for air fryer enthusiasts that I creep on to get ideas. (Pssst, there’s social media communities for Instant Pot users too…righteous).

*Convert these recipes by roasting in an oven at 425 degrees F and doubling the lowest suggested amount of time*

Duck Fat Fries– Cut a bunch of baby potatoes in quarters and toss with plenty of salt and 2 tablespoons of duck fat (you can pick this up at any specialty grocery store). Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, opening up the drawer and tossing every 7-8 minutes or so. Chicken or bacon fat would taste amazing too, or just use olive oil  and herbs for a more simple taste.

Unfried Okra– I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of fried okra is the okra itself anyway. Toss fresh whole okra with olive oil and kosher salt, and fry at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes (Less if you like them tender-crisp, more if you like them charred).

Harissa Carrots– Peel and slice fresh carrots up into 1 inch oblongs and toss with kosher salt, olive oil, and a heaping tablespoon of harissa paste. Air fry at 330 degrees F for about 18-20 minutes, tossing every 6-7 minutes or so. Harissa is a spicy Tunisian seasoning made from red peppers, with an acidic bite and slowly builds heat as you eat more of it. I found my jar at Trader Joe’s and LOVE cooking with it. Feel free to get super creative with carrots–this same recipe would taste awesome with cajun seasoning, barbecue rub, ras al hanout, gochujang, lemon pepper, or whatever your favorite spice blend is. Just be sure to see if the flavor has salt in it before you season.  You could use this same method for cooking parsnips or rutabagas too!

Curry Cauliflower– Toss fresh cauliflower florets with a couple teaspoons of curry, olive oil, and kosher salt. Fry at 330 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until they have crispy brown charring on their edges. Finish by tossing it with some golden raisins, a splash of red vinegar, and some chopped mint leaves.

Lemon and Red Pepper Broccoli– Toss fresh broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder then fry at 330 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until they have crispy brown charring on its edges. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

Faux Gratin– Toss broccoli or cauliflower florets with salt, olive oil, bread crumbs, and cheese (white cheddar, gruyere, or parmesan) then air fry at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Be sure to grease the fryer basket with PAM for easy clean up.

 Brussels Sprouts with mustard vinaigrette– Cut sprouts in half and toss with olive oil and salt, then fry at 330 for 18-20 minutes, so the edges are frizzled and brown. While its cooking, whisk together some olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, and a big spoonful of course ground mustard. Toss and serve.

Shishito peppers– This might surprise you, but we’re going to start by tossing these badboys in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Fry at 330 for 7-9 minutes. From here, serve with aioli, toss with soy sauce and furikake, or get really crazy and toss with white miso, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, a la Stephanie Izard.

Croutons and Crostini– Toss in butter, animal fat, or olive oil, add a dash of salt, garlic powder, and Italian herbs, then air fry at 330 degrees, checking every minute or so (depending on your volume) until it’s to your liking. Damn that was easy!


Potatoes and okra both done in the air fryer. I did the potatoes first, since they take more time and retain heat. The okra fried in a flash! This kept my oven space free for the filet mignon. 


Hell yeah duck fat fries, fresh out of the drawer.

Mushroom “Cappucino” Soup


Alex and I recently traveled to Playa and stayed at an awesome all inclusive resort called Unico. Guys. This place was clutch! Excursions and spa treatments were included, gorgeous grounds, amazing service, and some of the best resort food I’ve ever had. A stand-out favorite of the week was a delicious mushroom “cappucino,” served in a beautiful glass latte mug at the resort’s upscale Italian restaurant. I’m a sucker for good soup, and this presentation was something I had never seen before.

I’ve cooked my mushroom soup recipe for years now–it’s earthy, creamy, and has this amazing fluffy and velvety texture from it being thickened naturally, making it much lighter than a roux-based soup. The foamed milk adds a fun whimsical element, but if that’s not your scene, just skip it. It’s totally bourgie and over the top, but ya know, so am I.

You’ll Need

  • 5 styrofoam containers of baby bella mushrooms (white button mushrooms are fine too. Whatever is cheaper at your grocery store!)
  • 1/2 a cup of dried porcini mushrooms (This ingredient is actually super important, it’s where all the flavor comes from. At my grocery store, they’re in either the produce or bulk section in a little baggie, ask someone for help. If you can’t find them at the store, they are worth ordering on Amazon, as they impart a ton of flavor and have several other applications. The dried mushrooms in the Asian section of the grocery store would work too, or even a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen porcinis in a pinch)
  • A medium onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 a cup of half and half
  • Truffle oil (optional. Truffle oil is tricky and can really easily ruin a good dish with its strong perfume-y quality. Only use the good stuff from William Sonoma or somewhere fancy like that–if all you have is the kind from Target, leave it out)
  • About 1/2 a cup of milk, for foaming (optional but necessary for a dramatic presentation)

Method

  1. Pour a cup of hot water in a bowl and add the dried porcinis. Let the mushrooms steep and soften in the water while you work on the next two steps.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Put the mushrooms in a colander (you’ll probably have to do this in batches) and spray them down with water, swishing them around until the dirt is cleaned off from the mushrooms. This is important, mushrooms alway have soil and grit on them and that is very unpleasant to eat. Rough chop all the mushrooms.
  3. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and sweat the onions for 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 10-15 more minutes over medium heat. The mushrooms will expel a lot of liquid while they cook down.
  4. Add the dried porcinis and the liquid they steeped in, a couple dashes of salt, and half of the chicken broth to your soup pot. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes
  5. Cut the heat, stir in the tarragon, and let the soup cool down for about 10 minutes. Tarragon has a licorice-like flavor that I absolutely LOVE with tomatoes and mushrooms, but if you don’t like the smell, trade it or for mild parsley instead. Transfer half of the soup to a blender, and blend (use a towel to hold the lid down tight) for about a minute, until the soup is smooth. Pour soup into a clean pot, then repeat with the other half of the soup.
  6. Once all the soup is blended, stir in the half and half, and add your reserved chicken broth, a little at a time until the soup is the consistency that you like. Some days I don’t need any reserved broth, some days I need all of it. Mushrooms man, they have a mind of their own. You can always add broth but it’s much more difficult to fix a too-thin soup, so I always try to err on the side of starting with a conservative amount of liquid. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if you need it.
  7. Use a latte machine to foam your milk. If you don’t have one, warm up the milk for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, then put it in a clean blender and whip for about 30 seconds.
  8. To serve, pour soup in bowls and drizzle with a little bit of truffle oil, a couple tarragon leaves, and the foam spooned on top. Another dramatic presentation is to serve the soup in pretty mugs with a generous helping of foam on top, like they did at Unico. Just ya know, warn people of what they’re about to consume first 🙂

Remix The Dish: I always have dried porcinis on hand because they make a clutch steak rub–blend them in a spice grinder with peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, kosher salt, and a dash of sugar. Instead of foamed milk, fresh whipped cream (no sugar, duh) would be fun too. Or you could just garnish with some creme fraiche….you basic bitch.

Southern Hoppin’ John and Greens Soup


As much as fried chicken tries to steal the show, Southern food is really all about the side dishes. Think about your last trip to a country dive–sure the catfish was good, but how ’bout those green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and pickled beets?

A pot of hoppin’ John (blackeyed peas and rice), and melted greens with pepper sauce and cornbread are two of my favorite meals on earth. This soup combines them into a meal perfect for New Year’s Day (or ya know, a rainy Fall Sunday like today). Plus it’s ridiculously easy, comes together in less than an hour, and totally made up of freezer staples. Get on this like, now.

You’ll Need:

  • 1 package of frozen blackeyed peas
  • 1 package of frozen turnip greens (collards are fine too. My frozen turnip greens had cubed turnips in them, which is totally cool. If you want to use fresh greens, finely julienne Swiss chard, kale, or mustard greens. Spinach will be too mushy)
  • One smoked turkey wing (a ham hock, a diced link of andouille sausage, or 5 diced strips of bacon would work too! Or you could make this a veggie dish and skip the meat–just add some cumin to mimic the deep smokey flavor)
  • A small onion, diced
  • 2 small or one large carrot, diced
  • A stalk of celery, diced
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning
  • Cooking oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • A small splash of vinegar–red, apple cider, or white is fine
  • A dash of Louisiana hot sauce (optional)
  • Garnishes: cooked white rice, cornbread, hot pepper vinegar, raw sliced sweet onions

Method

  1. Toss the diced onions, carrots, and celery into a large soup pot with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Let the veggies sweat and soften for 7-8 minutes. Add in the meat element and let brown for 3-5 minutes more. Toss in the chicken broth, Cajun seasoning, and black eyed peas and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. After 20 minutes has passed, add in the greens and continue to cook for 20 more minutes. Stir in the splash of vinegar and a few shakes of hot sauce. Taste and add salt if needed. If you used a turkey or ham bone, remove the bone and pick the meat from it, then add the meat back to the soup.
  3. Serve the beans, greens, and “pot likker” broth over white rice with plenty of hot pepper vinegar. Or be like me and break up cornbread right on top, and alternate spoonfuls with bites of a fresh slice of onion. Pure southern comfort.

Remix The Dish: there’s obviously a ton of flexibility in this soup, with the variety of greens and meat you can use. The beans and greens would also taste awesome drained over a bed of polenta, or drained and stir fried into a hash with a sunny egg on top.

Aglio e Olio–Lightened Up!


If you haven’t seen the movie Chef, drop what you’re doing and catch it on Netflix STAT. It is definitely in my top 10 all time favorites films, Jon Favreau’s passion project which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Chef is a redemption tale of a man trying to reclaim his voice in the kitchen, and finds his way back to his family in the process.

It’s a road movie filled with plenty of funny and charming moments, but (as I’m sure you can guess) the food is just to die for. Jon Favreau manages to capture the heart behind food, whether it’s whipping up gourmet grilled cheese for a child you love, the creative process that happens in the kitchen, the sensuality of feeding your partner on a sexy date night, or going back to an old recipe from the happiest time in your life. One of the food-porniest moments of the film happens when Jon Favreau makes a skillet full of Aglio e Olio (pasta with olive oil and garlic) for Scarlett Johansson, and holy hell so they make it look delicious. (Trust me, this movie clip is everything).

Celeb chef (and you know, The Godfather of modern day food trucks) Roy Choi wrote all the recipes for this movie, and let’s just say the one for his Aglio e Olio is…indulgent. Like, an entire cup of olive oil kind of generous. Considering it’s a Tuesday night, that kind of richness just isn’t going to fly. My trick is to stretch the olive oil by incorporating the starchy water that the pasta boiled in–it thickens up into a light sauce that evenly coats every noodle. Have it ready on your kitchen table in 20 minutes flat.

You’ll Need

  • About 1/2 a package of pasta (any kind will do but there’s something extra satisfying about slurping angel hair or linguini. Today, I used orrichiette!)
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as you can. Like razor-blade-Goodfellas thin.
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (be sure to zest it first, duh!!
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 fists full of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups of greens, rough chopped (optional, but a great way to  sneak some good nutrition and fiber into this indulgent dish. I used pea tendrils because that’s what I picked up at the farmer’s market, but spinach, arugula, or Swiss chard is good)
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan or pecorino
  • A handful of breadcrumbs (optional, but adds a nice textural element. Don’t use the gross bread crumbs that come from the aisle in a grocery store either–toast up a couple slices of French bread or some rolls, or bust out some crostinis and crunch them up with your fingers)

Method

  1. Cook your pasta in salted water according to the instructions on the package, by subtract a minute from the shortest suggested cooking time. You want this pasta al dente…mushy noodles are gross. Plus, it’s going to cook again in a skillet later, and you don’t want them to overcook.
  2. While waiting on your pasta to cook, slice up your garlic, chop your parsley and greens, and zest your lemon.
  3. Before draining your pasta, pour 1/2-3/4s of a cup of the starchy pasta water into a heat-proof measuring cup or a bowl. Dump the pasta into a colander.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, and add the garlic slices and red pepper flakes. Let cook until aromatic but not scorched, about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it!! As soon as you see the edges of the garlic start to brown, add the pasta water. Let the sauce boil and thicken for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the pasta, greens, parsley, and a dash of salt in the skillet, and toss until the greens have softened. Add the lemon juice and cheese, and toss again, tasting to see if it needs more salt or red pepper.
  6. Serve garnished with bread crumbs. Delish!!

Remix The Dish: this pasta is pretty much a blank canvas, so toss it with anything you have in your fridge. Leftover chicken, steak,  or shrimp, roasted veggies, or leftover diced crudité would all taste great.

Spicy Thai Steak Salad with Crispy Pot Rice


I know I know, it’s been a few. Between work trips, planning my high school reunion, some big life changes, then a super clutch vacation, it’s been a little hectic in the Triniwood house. 

I’m a total kitchen dork though, so most of my time laying by the pool was spent reading Grant Achetz and Eric Ripert’s memoirs, and some cookbooks. I couldn’t wait to get home and do what I love again. 

This recipe was adapted from Food52’s A New Way To Dinner. This cookbook is one of my favorites I’ve read in awhile–all about how to repurpose a big batch of food you make on Sunday throughout the week, which (hello) is the whole thesis of this blog. The PERFECT dish for a hot summer day like today was. A key feature of Thai cuisine is that it incorporates all taste sensations–salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and savory. And this dish more than delivers on all fronts. Alex told me that he would “totally order it from a restaurant,” which was probably the weirdest compliment I’ve ever gotten.

You’ll Need:

Thai Beef Salad

  • Flank steak (also called London Broil, Top Sirloin’s good too)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 red Thai chiles, seeded and stemmed (a habanero or a Serrano would work too)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (I used sugar in the raw)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/3 cup of fish sauce (Don’t be scared. It’s delicious! Find it in the Asian section of the grocery store. Soy sauce would work too)
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • A big handful of cilantro and/or basil, rough chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Arugula, romaine, or spring mix

Crispy Pot Rice

  • 2 1/2 cups of basmati rice, rinsed and drained (the skinny delicious kind you see at India and Mediterranean restaurants. Look in your grocery’s Asian or bulk sections)
  • 1/3 a cup of plain yogurt (ehhh who even has plain yogurt, just use Greek yogurt thinned out with a splash of water)
  • 5 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Method

  1. Pat the steak dry with paper towels and lay it out on the plate on a counter so it comes to room temperature while you cook. This is weird, but we aren’t going to season this steak before cooking (!!!). Flank steaks are relatively thin and usually cook through by the time you get a good crust. Instead of rubbing a bunch of moist flavoring on the steak before we cook (which inhibits browning and carmelization) we’re gonna cook it naked and season after. It’s crazy. You’re gonna have to trust me.
  2. Use a mortar and pestle, a mini food processor, or a spice grinder to turn the garlic, chiles, and sugar into a paste. Place it in a large bowl with the lime juice, fish sauce, and salt. Taste and add more salt if needed or a splash of vinegar if you need more acidity. Toss in the cilantro/basil, scallions, and onions.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil then add the basmati rice. Reduce the temp to where it’s still actively simmering, give it a good stir, and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Drain in a fine colander, then pour in a bowl and mix with the yogurt, 3 tablespoons of oil, and a couple dashes of salt. Taste and add more salt if needed. The rice should be pretty close to tasting “done,” soft and not too toothesome.
  4. While the rice is getting started, turn your oven on a high broil and move your rack to the highest position. If you have a meat thermometer, insert in the thickest part of the steak. Put the steak on a pan and place directly under the broiler, cooking for 3 minutes per side or until the thermometer reads 130 degrees. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice against the grain. This part’s important—the steak will be too chewy if you cut along the muscle. Toss the steak with the salad and let it set on the counter while the rice finishes, so the flavors can meld.
  5. Back to the rice. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven on medium high. Gently swirl the oil around them add the rice–you’ll hear it sizzle, so be careful to be gentle and not splatter oil on yourself! Use a spoon to spread the rice evenly and lightly pack down. Wrap the lid of the Dutch oven on a kitchen towel (this will absorb steam, keeping the rice from getting mushy) and cover the rice, careful to be sure no part of the the towel is touching the burner. Cook on medium high for 5 minutes, then reduce to low. Let cook for about 25 minutes, take off the heat, and let sit for another 5. Use a metal serving spoon or spatula to scrape every bit of the the crunchy brown rice off the bottom of the pot and toss around with the white rice. This is THE BEST part!! A nod to Hugh Acheson’s crispy rice I can’t stop talking about. I can never get enough crunchy rice.
  6. To assemble, plop a big scoop of rice on a plate along with some salad greens and some of the beef salad right on top. The spicy and acidic beef is going to taste so good with the savory rice, and the crunchy rice mixed throughout are just magic.

Remix The Dish: I plan on eating the salad all week as leftovers, on a baguette as a riff on a bahn mi sandwich. The rice goes with anything–it would taste amazing with stews, or maybe some sautéed greens and a fried egg for an easy dinner (or a weird breakfast I’d probably love).