Appetizer

Gougères (Cheese Puffs) by Cynthia Raub

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Pâte à choux, (also referred to as choux pastry,) is a basic French pastry paste made from flour, water/milk, butter and eggs. From the basic ingredients, other ingredients are added to transform the choux pastry into gougères (flavored with cheese), eclairs (sweet, rod-shaped, and filled with pastry cream), profiteroles (similar appearance to gougères but filled with pastry cream or ice cream), and even Parisian gnocchi. Choux pastry does not include a leavening (or rising) agent, such as baking powder or yeast. The piped pastry mounds puff during cooking due to the high moisture content of the soft dough, which evaporates and results in a golden pastry shell. This is a classic, easy to master, and versatile dough that can be used in a multitude of ways. I encourage you to try it and never look back! Not to be dramatic or anything . . . but your life will never be the same once you can make homemade gougères.

Notes: This recipe might seem daunting, but once you make it successfully once, (hopefully the first time,) you will feel like a rockstar. The most important thing to remember when it comes to this recipe, is to have everything prepared and measure before you begin. The steps move quickly, and there should be very little lag time between steps. You can substitute the milk for water and any kind of semi-hard and hard cheese will work, depending on your preference. I have made them with Parmesan, Gruyere, Comte, Emmental and Cheddar. In this instance, I used Dubliner, which I find multi-dimensional: nutty, sweet, sharp and salty. You can also jazz it up with herbs and other seasonings. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs for these cheesy, airy puffs.



Time: 50 minutes
Yield: ~30 puffs

1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup grated cheese
Egg wash (1 well beaten egg, splash of milk or water)
1/4 cup finely grated cheese (for sprinkling)

1. Begin by preheating oven to 425 degrees and lining two sheet trays with parchment paper.

2. Meanwhile, bring milk, butter, salt and pepper to a boil of medium-high heat.

3. Once at a boil, turn heat down to medium and add flour to the pot. Stir vigorously, incorporating the flour into the milk mixture.

4. Continue to cook and stir until a cohesive, soft dough is formed (the dough will pull away from the sides of the pot). Once the dough has taken shape, continue to cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.

5. Add the mixture to a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment (or a mixing bowl, or a food processor) and mix on low for 1 minute to release steam and cool down the dough. Add an egg, one at a time and mix on medium-low until it the egg has been fully incorporated (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). This photo has one egg and has been mixed for 10 seconds. The appearance of the dough is curdled and not cohesive. Continue to mix until it looks like the following photo.

6. Continue adding the remaining eggs until the dough resembles this constancy. 

7. Add shredded cheese and fold in.

8. Scrape dough into a gallon-sized freezer bag or piping bag. (I used a large beer stein to keep my bag open.)

9. Squeeze dough to a bottom corner of the bag and twist and pinch the bag at the top of the dough to create pressure. Snip the corner to approximately the diameter of a dime.

10. Standing directly above your prepared baking sheet, position the tip of the bag to kiss the parchment. Gently squeeze bag from the top, releasing the dough, while simultaneously and slowly drawing the bag upwards.
 

11. Continue piping mounds on the baking sheet with 2" of space between each one.

12. Dip your finger into the egg wash and gently push down each of the unruly tails that formed on your mounds. With a pastry brush, brush the top of each mound with egg wash.

13. Sprinkle finely shredded cheese on top.
 

14. Place baking sheets into the preheated oven, with the racks positioned at 1/3 and 2/3 distance. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Carefully turn the pans in the oven to ensure even cooking. Be gentle! You don't want to bang them around and have any collapse - they are still fragile at this point. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and continue to cook for 10 minutes more, until beautifully golden brown and hollow on the inside.

Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container, and rewarm in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.

Mango-Shrimp Tacos with Honey-Lime Slaw by Amy Cantu

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Sometimes, I close my eyes and try to imagine that I'm stretched out in the sand somewhere warm and tropical with waves lapping at my feet. This is when I'm usually painfully interrupted by, "MOM! Mommmmmm!" and my reverie comes to an abrupt halt. So, I shove a giant bite of Mango-Shrimp Tacos in my mouth, squeeze my eyes closed tight, and suddenly for a few more seconds that vacay is a reality. (I suspect that this island dream might also be why I love coconut so much too.) Oh yeah, and those kiddos yelling for my attention? They just want a bite too. Plump, juicy shrimp tangled together with bits of sweet mango, all heaped over a warm tortilla and topped with mildly spicy and smoky chipotle sour cream and crunchy honey-lime slaw. Excuse me, I need to close my eyes again and take another bite. See you in paradise!

Notes: I heart mangos so much! I usually try to get the smaller manila or Ataulfo mangos if possible, since they are so much sweeter, but I found that even the larger (and more common) Kent mangos work well in this recipe. I removed the seeds from all the peppers to keep this dish mild enough for my kids. (I could barely detect any heat.) Feel free to leave the seeds in or swap the jalapenos for spicier serrano peppers, if you like things spicy! The honey-lime slaw is delicious heaped over the tacos or on the side as a salad. It has enough going on to be it's own side dish without the tacos too!



Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6

1 cup sour cream
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
Kosher salt
2 mangos, small-diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 limes, juiced

Sliced avocados
Corn tortillas
Honey-Lime Slaw (recipe below)

Mince 1 or 2 chipotle peppers, removing the seeds if you don't want it spicy. Stir peppers into the sour cream and set aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add ground cumin and stir frequently for one minute or until it smells fragrant and toasty. Add shrimp, sliced garlic, and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, stirring and flipping the shrimp frequently, until shrimp are mostly pink and opaque (about 4-5 minutes). Add mango, jalapeno, and cilantro to the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through. Turn off the heat and stir in lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

To serve, spoon mango and shrimp over warm tortillas with a couple slices of avocado and a big dollop of chipotle sour cream. Top with Honey-Lime Slaw or serve the slaw on the side. Open up wide and devour!

Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman at NYT Cooking.

Honey-Lime Slaw

2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 tablespoons honey (to taste)
1/2 cup grape seed oil (or vegetable oil)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 jalapeno, seeded, and sliced thin
2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, oil, about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, jalapeno, green onions, and cilantro. Drizzle dressing over the vegetables and toss well. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve heaped over Mango Shrimp Tacos or on the side.

Flatbread with Chicken Shawarma, Eggplant, and Caramelized Onions by Cynthia Raub

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Recently, I got an email from NYT Cooking that was sharing Sam Sifton's Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma. It is one of those invaluable and easy pantry dishes that come together with very little prep and even less hands-on cooking. Throw marinade and chicken into a bag, let sit, dump on a sheet tray and toss it in the oven. And then what emerges is fragrant, multi-dimensional, and tasty chicken. The chicken is highly versatile as it can be served alongside typical Mediterranean sides and dishes like pita, cucumber and tomato, hummus, and rice. Or, I thought, you could throw it on a flatbread (a.k.a. pizza dough) and feel like a real, true and actual genius. Do you know what else is genius? Outsourcing the luscious spread to marry the flatbread and chicken together. You see, I am all too familiar with Amy's love for eggplant and I decided to exploit it. I told her I was planning on making the chicken shawarma, and I thought about putting it on a flatbread but that's where my ideas ended. Dang, shoot, crud - I'm plum out of ideas! Oh what could possibly be irresistibly delicious to spread on the flatbread? Then like a horse out of the gate, Amy threw out a dozen ideas, and it ended with roasted eggplant with caramelized onions. That was it. We are going to make this together, eat it, and be happy.


Notes: I used this recipe for the flatbread and pre-cooked the bread before adding any of the toppings. Like pizza, flatbread can be topped with nearly anything, so in the words of Melania Trump (just kidding, FLOTUS Michelle Obama) about flatbread toppings, "the only limit to your achievement is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them." #foodwisdom



Time: 15 minutes to assemble
Makes 2 flatbreads

2 flatbreads, pre-baked
1 cup Eggplant Dip with Caramelized Onions and Tahini
1 1/2 cups shredded Chicken Shawarma
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup mint, chopped or chiffonade
Olive oil for finishing
Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pre-baked flatbread dough on a full sheet tray. Spread eggplant dip generously over each flatbread and top with shredded chicken shawarma. Split feta between the two flatbreads and sprinkle evenly. Drizzle or brush edges of crust with olive oil.

Put the flatbread in the oven and cook until edges of the bread are golden and crisp and the spread, chicken and cheese are warmed through, about 6-8 minutes. Slice the flatbread and garnish with mint chiffonade and lemon wedges. 

Eggplant Dip with Caramelized Onions and Tahini by Amy Cantu

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It was another one of those harried days - I felt vaguely grumpy from getting too little sleep because I've become so used to waking up at every little sound my kids make that I'm now an insomniac. Also, I'm a worrier. I can't help it. I lay awake at night thinking about nothing and everything - that weird bump I found on the back of one kid's knee, the persistent grumble in my stomach, why American politics is so polarized, and exactly what time do I need to roll out of bed so that I still have enough time to throw together a lunchbox and get to the preschool on time (or maybe just 5 minutes late)? It's possible, I also drink too much caffeine too late in the day. I digress. The previous night, I laid awake distraught over eggplant dip, and now I stood in the kitchen with Cynthia and Christine passing around pieces of flatbread with various versions of eggplant dip, "OK, which do you like better? Bite A or B? Really? Are you sure you like B? What?! And you like A better? Well you're both no help!" In that moment, it felt like world peace depended upon which eggplant dip tasted better, and I was at an impasse. (I know this sounds ridiculous, and that's because it was. This is also a PSA on the importance of sleep. Don't be like me!) My dad would be the tie-breaker. "OK dad, it's down to you. Which one tastes better??? No pressure. Actually, yes, pressure. You're deciding!" My dad looked at me dubiously, as I shoved a bite into his mouth. "Mmmm, yeah this one tastes good. Kind of creamy." And then I pushed the second bite his way. "Mmmm, yeah this one tastes good too." Exasperated, I cried, "Oh, come on! You said almost the same thing twice!" My dad looked at me like he did when I was a teenager, and I was being particularly hormonal and witchy. He grunted, "Mmm. The second one. I can taste that it has eggplant." The tie breaker - because an eggplant dip should also taste like it contains eggplant. Brilliant! So, here is my recipe for Eggplant Dip with Caramelized Onions and Tahini: The roasted eggplant is silky, the caramelized onions adds deep savory sweetness, the tahini coats the tongue in nutty richness, and most importantly, you can still taste the eggplant! Sometimes it takes a village to raise children, and sometimes it takes a village just to make a bowl of eggplant dip. It's darn good eggplant dip.

Notes: This eggplant dip is a delicious and different accompaniment to a crudité platter, especially if you throw in some wedges of pita bread. The texture is already a bit creamy from the roasted eggplant and tahini, but you could extend the dip and make it even creamier by stirring in some plain yogurt. It will be a different kind of delicious. My dilemma as to whether to include the yogurt in the recipe was great (see babble above), because both versions of this dip are delicious with or without the yogurt. However, aside from using this dish as a dip, it also makes an amazing spread for Chicken Shawarma Flatbread or a fancy pizza, if you will. I repeat, AMAZING. And for this use, I say, no yogurt.

I call for aleppo chile flakes in the recipe, which is worth seeking out. I got a bag on Amazon, and it's now my go-to for chile flakes. Aleppo chile is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisines, and adds a little heat (without being over-powering), bright acidity, and an interesting je ne sais quoi to whatever you sprinkle it on!



Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

2 large eggplants
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided use)
1/3 cup tahini, well-stirred
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease lightly with oil or cooking spray. Prick eggplants all over with a small sharp knife, to allow steam to escape while the eggplants roast. (Don't skip this step or beware of exploding eggplants!) Place pricked eggplants on baking sheet and roast in oven for an hour or more, until eggplants are wrinkled, deflated, and scorched in spots. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Using a spoon, split the roasted eggplants open, and scoop up the soft inner-flesh from the charred skin and into a colander. Stir in a sprinkle of salt, and let drain for 5-10 minutes. Press the eggplant with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excess liquid, then scrape into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, trim the ends of the onions. Cut the onions in half from root to tip and remove the papery skins. Place the onions flat-side down, and slice them thinly (1/8" thick) from root to tip. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large wide pan (12") over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat the onions in oil and distribute the onions evenly across the pan. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally (every 5-10 minutes), keeping the heat at medium-low. Continue to cook until the onions are a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. If onions look like they are beginning to burn, lower the heat a bit. Once the onions are caramelized, drizzle 2 tablespoons of water into the pan, scrape up the brown bits (fond) from the bottom of the pan, and stir it into the onions. Remove onions from heat, and let cool.

Stir the eggplant around a bit to loosen it up and make a chunky paste. Add caramelized onions, 1 tablespoon olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, kosher salt, and aleppo pepper flakes or black pepper, to taste. Stir well and taste again to adjust seasoning.

Transfer dip into a serving bowl. Drizzle the final tablespoon of olive oil over the dip, and sprinkle with another pinch of aleppo pepper just before serving with pita bread wedges and sliced vegetables.

Korean Green Onion and Seafood Pancakes (Pa Jun) by Cynthia Raub

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Korean people love their pancakes! Kimchi pancakes, green onion pancakes, sliced fish pancake fritters, mung bean pancakes, chive pancakes with a million jalapeños . . . the list is seemingly endless. If it's a thing, it can be pancaked. I love them all, but I especially like this one because it doesn't require any ingredients you couldn't find in a standard grocery store. I can confidently speak for myself, for you, and every other living being in the world when I say: when you are craving Korean food, it must be satisfied immediately. Mung beans, Asian chives and kimchi can often require a special trip to an Asian market. Ain't nobody got time for that! These green onion pancakes are tender, crisp and beautifully golden. The mild sweetness of the cooked and aromatic green onion is absolutely addictive. If you've never made Korean food before, this is an accessible and tremendously delicious place to start.

Notes: The green onion pancake my mom made at her restaurant was 80% green onion and that's the recipe I'm sharing with you. Some people prefer less green onion and more batter and this recipe is flexible enough for you to suit your own preferences. This is a very hands on cooking process as you can tell by the photos. I use my hands to lay the battered green onions into the pan, to distribute the raw egg, and to press the pancake to create a crunchy crust. Don't be afraid to use your hands - it will be so much easier than a multitude of utensils. To reheat the pancakes, place them in a non-stick pan on medium heat and heat through on both sides to enjoy them again. Please don't put them in the microwave; that will make everyone sad.

The dipping sauce is such a great accompaniment to the pancakes - it's worth the added few steps. The onions and jalapeño impart their flavors into the liquid and the hot liquid quickly pickles the onion and jalapeño to tone down their harshness and heat.



Yield: 3 large pancakes
Time: 40 minutes

2 large bunches green onions
4 eggs, divided
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons grape seed oil (or any other neutral oil), divided
1/2 cup chopped raw shrimp, divided
1/2 cup chopped raw squid, divided

Pancake Dipping Sauce for serving (see recipe below)

Rinse green onions and remove tops. Trim bottoms to make all of the green onions similar in length. Lay them on the cutting board and slice through the entire length of the vegetable - this will make biting through the cooked green onion easier and less stringy. Halve the green onions and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine water and one egg and whisk until foamy. In a shallow pan (I used an 8 x 13 cake pan) combine flour, cornstarch and salt. Start by pouring 1 cup of foamy water/egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir gently until roughly combined - like a standard pancake mixture, wet and dry patches are OK since you don't want to over-mix the batter! From there, add more liquid a few tablespoons at a time until the batter is thick enough to hold together and coat the green onions, but is not gloopy and sticky, nor runny.

Heat a large pan or griddle on medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil. Add 1/3 of the green onions to the batter and toss until fully coated. Turn the heat down and arrange batter covered green onions in the pan in a single row with no space between the green onions. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and press the green onions into the pan to create a cohesive crust. Once the batter begins to brown and the green onions are heating through, scatter 1/3 of the seafood over the top of the pancake. Beware of oil popping at this point!

Press the seafood down into the pancake. Crack an egg into a small bowl and whisk lightly. Pour the egg over the top of the pancake, making sure to cover the seafood (the egg will help to secure the seafood to the pancake). When the seafood begins to warm and 70% of the pancake is cooked through (4-6 minutes), flip the pancake over to finish cooking and brown the second side (about 2 minutes). The pancake is done when the batter throughout the green onions is throughly cooked the edges are deeply browned and crisp. Flip the pancake onto a cutting board with the seafood and egg mixture facing up. Cut into generous bite sized pieces. Repeat two more times for a total of 3 pancakes. Serve immediately with the Pancake Dipping Sauce.

Pancake Dipping Sauce

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 white vinegar
1 jalapeño, halved
1 small onion, sliced thin

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine soy sauce, water, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved. In a medium heat-proof bowl, place sliced onion and halved jalapeño. Pour the simmered soy sauce mixture over the onions and jalapeño and allow to fully cool before serving.

Fresh Egg Pasta by Amy Cantu

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I never fully understood why anyone liked pasta with butter and parmesan. It always just sounded bland and boring to me. I filed it under "picky kid food". This luscious and ethereal fresh egg pasta changed my entire understanding of what pasta with butter and parmesan could actually mean. These wide ribbons were at once delightfully delicate and richly filling. A quick toss with a pat of butter and shower of grated parmesan infused the springy strands with a bit of luxury and saltiness without masking its simple glory. Cynthia and I went mad for it - dancing around the kitchen, swooning, moaning, eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-our-heads, madness. This fresh pasta meets and exceeds any and all expectations you might have for homemade noodles.  If eating a bowl of nothing but plain pasta is too one note for you, (I promise that I struggled to consider eating anything else with it,) Cynthia's spring vegetables are a bright and punchy (if not guilt-appeasing) match to the simple indulgence of homemade pasta.

Notes: Homemade pasta is not terribly difficult to make, even for a novice. It can even be made with no special equipment, except perhaps a rolling pin. I had a pasta machine collecting dust in the closet (I almost forgot I even had it and only used it once 10 years ago), so I pulled it out to see if it still worked. It does, and it's been getting a lot of use ever since we tested this recipe. I pulled inspiration and direction from both Serious Eats, which has yet to fail me, and also a recipe from Melissa Clark in New York Times Cooking. I love the delicate richness of an extra egg yolk and detailed, fool-proof directions from Serious Eats; I also liked the addition of olive oil in Melissa Clark's version, which added flavor and made the dough easier to roll out. My first batch of pasta sported some ragged edges and uneven texture, but it still tasted better than any pasta I'd ever eaten. So, don't toss out any uglies - close your eyes and enjoy the perfect taste!

If the recipe makes more pasta than you need, the strands can be twisted together into a few loose nests and then frozen to cook later. The frozen pasta can be cooked without thawing, adding an extra minute or two to cook through.



Time: 1 hour
Serves: 4-6

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra version olive oil
2 eggs
4 egg yolks

Dump the flour onto a clean work surface, making a large well in the center. Sprinkle the salt and drizzle the olive oil over the flour. Carefully pour the eggs and egg yolks into the well. Use a fork to break up the egg yolks and beat well. With a bench scraper, fold flour into the egg, creating a shaggy dough ball. Scrape the dough from fingers then continue to knead the dough using the heels of your hands until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough feels too dry, or add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough feels too wet. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes on the countertop or overnight in the fridge.

To use a pasta machine:

Cut dough into quarters. Place one quarter on a lightly floured work surface and re-cover the remaining dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick.

Set the pasta machine to the widest setting. Pass the dough through the pasta machine to make a sheet, then repeat 2 more times. 

Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, trying not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Using rolling pin, flatten dough to 1/2-inch thick. Pass through the rollers 3 additional times.

Reduce the setting, and repeat rolling and folding the dough, passing it through the machine 2 or 3 times before going to the next setting. For pappardelle and fettuccine, stop rolling when the dough is about 1 or 2 settings wider than the thinnest one on your roller. For lasagna noodles, and for ravioli and other stuffed or filled pasta, go to the thinnest setting. 

Narrow the setting by 1 notch and repeat the folding and rolling process. Repeat once more (the dough should now have passed through the third widest setting). Continue passing the dough through the rollers, reducing the thickness by 1 setting each time until it reaches the desired thickness. It should now be very delicate and elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.

Place rolled dough onto a work surface or baking sheet lightly dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper, folding the dough over as necessary so that it fits; sprinkle with flour or line with parchment between folds to prevent sticking.

Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to prevent drying, then repeat rolling and folding process with remaining dough quarters. If making noodles, cut dough into 12- to 14-inch segments. Run the dough through the pasta machine again using the cutter attachment, or cut the dough into your desired width using a pizza cutter or chefs knife.

If rolling by hand:

Cut the rested dough into 2 pieces, keeping them covered with plastic wrap or a dish towel when not in use. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough until it is as thin as a penny for fettuccine and pappardelle, or even thinner for lasagna sheets. This will take some time and arm strength, but the process is easy and the results are rewarding! Cut the noodles to the desired width and length using a pizza cutter or chefs knife.

To cook the pasta:

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, add fresh pasta and boil for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on thickness of the pasta. Drain well. 

To enjoy this simple indulgence, toss noodles with butter, a light sprinkling of coarse salt, and a heavy shower of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Perfection!

Tod Mun (Thai Fish Cakes) with Cucumber-Peanut Relish by Amy Cantu

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These crispy, spicy fish cake fritters are so fun to eat! They are perfectly sized for a shared appetizer or for the fingers of little children. We made them less spicy for the preschool-set, but feel free to adjust to your fiery tastebuds' delight. The long beans add a bit of extra texture to the fritters, and the cucumber relish infuses each bite with sweetness, tanginess, spiciness, and crunch!

Notes: Since the heat and saltiness of curry pastes and fish sauce can vary a lot from brand to brand, I recommend frying a little tester patty to see how it tastes and then adjusting the seasonings to your liking. Start with the smaller amounts and then ratchet up from there.

Long beans are found in Asian grocery stores, but you can substitute green beans if you can't find them. Fish paste is found at the seafood counter or frozen section of Asian grocery stores. If you can't source already prepared fish paste, you can make your own at home. Buy any firm white fish fillet - grind it up in a food processor or blender with 1-2 ice cubes until you have a fine paste.



Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer

1 lb fish paste
¾ cup long beans, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons red curry paste, to taste
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
2 teaspoons fish sauce or more to taste
Oil for frying
Cucumber Relish (see recipe below)

Make cucumber relish (see recipe below) and set aside while making the fish cakes

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well until ingredients are evenly distributed.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. You will need about 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop a small amount of fish mixture into the hot oil and fry until brown to do a taste test. Different brands of curry paste and fish sauce can vary in saltiness and intensity. Adjust the seasoning to your liking - more curry paste to make it spicier and more fish sauce to make it saltier.

Set cooling rack over a paper-towel lined baking sheet, and set aside. Set a small bowl of water and fish mixture near the stove. Use the water to wet hands. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the fish mixture into your hands (roughly the size of a golf ball), and flatten into a patty (⅓-½ inch thick). Carefully drop patty into the oil, and repeat, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry the patties until they are puffy and brown. Remove from oil and drain on the prepared rack.

Devour Tod Mun while still hot, topped with Cucumber Relish.

Cucumber Relish

½ lb seedless cucumber (such as English or Persian), peeled, small dice, including watery center
½ cup peanuts, crushed with a rolling pin or finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red jalapeno, seeded, thinly sliced or 1-2 Thai bird chilies, thinly sliced (jalapeno is much less spicy)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup thinly sliced shallot (about ½ of a large shallot)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cucumbers will release a lot of liquid, which creates a sauce for the Tod Mun. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Swiss Chard and Leek Crostata by Cynthia Raub

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I first laid eyes on this beautiful and majestic creature several years ago on Anne Burrell's Secret of a Restaurant Chef on the Food Network. As she effortlessly prepared this beautifully browned and rustic crostata, I vividly remember salivating and wondering when I should make it and for what occasion. This recipe is not for the faint of heart, as it includes MORE than four cups of various cheeses (I refuse to count and acknowledge the true amount of cheese in the recipe). For the sheer volume of cheese alone, this recipe is perfect for sharing with a group of people. I have made it for friends at brunch, for potlucks, and for holidays. It can be the main or it can be a side for a meal. Dreamers like me would consider it a serving of vegetables. It's showy and beautiful, incredibly delicious, and makes a statement on any table for every occasion. 

Notes: Because this recipe yields such a large crostata, I split the recipe to make two smaller crostatas: one to gift to sweet new parents and one to Amy and her family. This recipe is adaptable and you can substitute any vegetables that you love for the leeks and/or swiss chard. Mushrooms! Squash! Roasted TOMATO! Don't get me started on tomatoes in a savory crust . . . Anyway, this recipe is also just perfect as written. So make this one before you start doing your own jazzy riffs. I promise, it's GOOD.




Time: 2 hr 30 min (1 hour inactive)
Serves: 8 to 10

Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup mascarpone
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 stick cold butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
2 eggs

Filling:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch white Swiss Chard, stems removed cut into 1/4-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
2 leeks, tough green tops removed, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch lengths
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Kosher salt
2 cups fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
Pinch cayenne pepper
Egg wash: 
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Combine the flour, Parmesan, mascarpone, salt, cayenne and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined and crumbly in texture. Add the eggs and pulse until the mixture tightens up. Turn mixture over onto a clean and flat work surface, shape into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper. When the garlic has become golden brown and is very aromatic remove it and discard. Add the swiss chard stems, leeks and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water and season with salt. When the water has evaporated and the stems and leeks are soft, add the leaves. Season the leaves with salt and sauté until they are very soft and wilted. Remove from the heat and allow the Swiss chard to cool.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, cayenne and the Swiss chard mixture. Mix to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let warm up for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Dust a large clean work surface with flour and roll the dough into a large circle about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a large sheet try lined with parchment paper. Lay the dough out flat, don't worry about the overhang on the sides. Put the filling in a large circle in the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 3 to 4-inch border of dough along the outside edge. Fold the dough up around the filling to make a "free-form pie". Brush the top of the dough with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the crust is firm, golden brown and shiny, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing, this will allow it to up for easier slicing.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

You're a goddess, Anne Burrell!

Salmon Cakes by Cynthia Raub

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Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 as an appetizer, 5 as a meal

1/2 pound salmon (cooked and cooled)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
3/4 cup small-diced red onion
1 cup small-diced celery
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and pepper
Lemon (optional)

Place 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Scoop into desired size and shape into patties. (I used a 1/4 measuring cup and made 10 good-sized patties)

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Place on paper towel lined plate, sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Recipe adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/salmon-cakes-recipe.html

Pico de Gallo by Amy Cantu

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Fresh Pico de Gallo is simple to make, and so much better than prepackaged stuff! It's the perfect accompaniment to Steak Fajitas or just a bowl of tortilla chips. 

Notes: When tomatoes aren't in season, use grape or cherry tomatoes to get a sweeter, more concentrated tomato flavor. Adjust the amount of jalapeño to your tastebuds - leaving the seeds and ribs in will make the salsa spicer, removing them will make it less spicy. Taking the time to dice the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeño into very small pieces will give you the best flavor. You can also use a food processor to lessen the work, but be careful to only pulse a few times, or you'll end up with a watery mess. Liquid will accumulate as the salsa sits, so feel free to drain off any excess. Lastly, salt makes a big difference in a simple recipe such as this - make sure to taste it just before serving and add additional salt, if needed.



Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 cups

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (use grape or cherry tomatoes during the off-season), seeded and finely diced (3 cups)
3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (white onion is traditional; red, yellow, or green onions also work well)
1-2 small fresh jalapeño or serrano chiles, (seeds removed to make it mild) and finely chopped, or more to taste
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir together. Season to taste with additional chile, lime juice, and salt. 

It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one day. Stir well and drain any excess liquid that has accumulated in the bowl before serving.

Mussels with Tomato and Fennel by Amy Cantu

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Mussels with Tomato and Fennel

Notes: Rinse mussels well under cold water, scrubbing if needed.  Pull out any beards by grabbing them and pulling towards the hinge-end of the mussels. (The beards look like little hairs poking out from between the shells.) Throw out any cracked mussels or open mussels that don't close when tapped with another mussel.



Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed, and finely chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tomato, small dice
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 pounds mussels (see note above)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 baguette, sliced and lightly toasted

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, fennel, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes and continue to cook until all vegetables are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes more.

Increase heat to high and add wine. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add mussels, stir, cover, and cook, shaking pan constantly and peeking every 30 seconds to stir. As soon as all the mussels are open, transfer mussels to a bowl using tongs. Place pan lid over bowl to keep mussels warm.

Remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream. Return mussels to pot, add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest, stir to combine, then transfer to a warm serving bowl. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Three Cheese Fondue by Amy Cantu

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Fondue is so fun to eat! Who can resist crusty bread dipped into a pot of ooey-gooey, unctuous cheese? No one, that’s who. (Unless you hate cheese, in which case, I’m sorry- we can’t be friends. Just kidding . . . maybe.) Twirling bits of food into a pool of melty goodness is somehow therapeutic and it also bonds you with those dipping with you. Added bonus: My 4-year-old got a big kick out of dunking his broccoli and carrots into the cheese sauce, and he probably ate a week’s worth of veggies in this one meal alone.

Notes: This is a fairly classic fondue recipe, but make it your own by using any combination of good melting cheeses, liquid, and flavoring. For example, you could substitute smoked cheddar, hard apple cider, and apple butter for a completely different fondue. Or how about extra-sharp cheddar, beer, and bacon bits? You get the idea!



Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

1 medium clove garlic, cut in half
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, plus more as needed
⅓ pound Gruyère or Comté cheese, grated
⅓ pound Emmentaler cheese, grated
⅓ pound Fontina cheese, grated
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

Ideas for dipping:
Baguette or other rustic bread, large cubes
Small new potatoes, boiled and cooled (can be left whole or halved)
Broccoli or cauliflower florets, blanched
Carrots, bite-size pieces, blanched
Asparagus, blanched
Sausage, cooked and sliced into bite-sized pieces
Salami, diced into bite-sized pieces
Apple slices, Granny Smith or other tart apple

In a medium bowl, evenly coat the cheeses with cornstarch.

Rub the cut sides of garlic around the inside of a double boiler or stainless steel mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water on low heat. The bowl should not touch the water. Pour in the wine and heat until hot. (You should see wisps of steam.)

Gradually stir in the cheese, one handful at a time. Stir each handful of cheese until it is completely melted, before adding another handful. Do not allow the cheese to come to a simmer. Once you have a smooth, glossy cheese sauce, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch, if using. Season with freshly ground pepper. Pour fondue into a fondue pot to keep it warm.

Choose your dippers, dunk and swirl into the cheesy goodness, and enjoy!

Crispy Chicken Wings by Cynthia Raub

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crispychickenwings

Small chicken wings are 33% meat, 33% skin and 33% bone - the best part being the skin. When chicken skin is rendered down from it’s pale, dotted and limp original state, it transforms into a golden and crunchy treat from the heavens. If you are #blessed enough, the fat from the skin might pool at the bottom of your baking pan to produce schmaltz. (Have you ever dipped a bland and dry veggie sandwich in warm schmaltz to make it palatable? I have, and it was glorious.) Chicken wings are a crowd pleaser and can be enjoyed hot and cold, which is why I thought they’d be a wonderful accompaniment to the Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Scallion Sauce. The lacquered and addictive sweet and salty glaze was especially popular with the kids who loved nibbling off of the chicken bone. 

Notes: The chicken wings I bought were smaller than what I normally encounter at the store. But because of my love of chicken skin (see above) this didn’t bother me. The size of your chicken wings will change the amount of time you bake them. The meat on my small chicken wings were a little dry but the skin was incredibly crisp and was not compromised and didn’t get soggy when dressed with the glaze. This was worthwhile to me, but your mileage may vary.



Yield: About 50 wings
Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ginger-soy glaze:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 2 x 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Wings:
5 pounds chicken wings (tips removed, drumettes and flats separated - sometimes you can find "party wings" where this has already been done for you)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For ginger-soy glaze:
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve honey. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, 7–8 minutes. Strain into a small bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes to thicken slightly. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired and squeeze 1 teaspoon of lime juice into sauce, mix and reserve.

For wings:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Set a wire rack inside each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Place all ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Divide wings between prepared racks and spread out in a single layer. Bake wings until cooked through and skin is crispy, 45–50 minutes.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with foil; top with a wire rack. Add wings to ginger-soy glaze and toss to evenly coat. Place wings in a single layer on prepared rack and bake until glaze is glossy and lightly caramelized, 4–6 minutes. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds if desired.

Adapted From: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/crispy-baked-chicken-wings-388693