Mini lasagnas are on my mind and in my hands…

Mini Wonton Lasagnas

Like many of my friends, my friend Oliver is really into food. I wouldn’t say he’s as obsessed as I am, but I do know we share a tendency to pour over online menus, planning our meals before we even set foot in the restaurant. We also cook dinner together once a week before settling in to watch a few hours of (usually pretty trashy) TV. It’s one of those random routines that has worked fairly effortlessly for us for years.

The only hard part is deciding what to make each week. While our food preferences can vary a bit (I probably couldn’t pay him to try foie gras), the main issue is actually our timeline — we meet at 7pm and try to be done cooking within thirty minutes so we have ample TV time.

Even working with this limitation, we have put out some damn good food, including this crispy orange chicken and a roasted rack of pork with vegetables. But one of my favorite things we cooked recently were this little mini lasagnas, made by using wonton wrappers.

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Phat Si Ew: With patience and persistence comes perfection

Making Phat Si Ew, Pok Pok Style

Making Phat Si Ew, Pok Pok Style

This is a story about a restaurant empire, an unfulfilling trip to an Asian market, the ensuing trials and tribulations and, finally, a meal worth blogging about.

It all starts with a girl who loves to eat…

I’m usually pretty easy to convince when it comes to dining out. I can be happy eating conveyor-belt sushi or sitting down to a multi-course dinner with wine pairings. However, in a rare show of culinary defiance, I hadn’t been very interested in checking out Sen Yai, Portland’s noodle-based spot by chef/owner Andy Ricker. I have no idea why I wasn’t drawn to it, considering I love his other restaurants immensely, but every time my husband would suggest it, I’d push to go somewhere else.

Finally, last week we joined an out-of-town friend for beers and food industry gossip. After a few pints, it seemed like a perfect time to meander over and eat some Thai food.

In an ironic twist my husband was a bit meh on his entree, but my dinner totally bowled me over. It was nothing crazy or unique, in fact Phat Si Ew is probably right up there with Pad Thai for its ubiquitous placement on all American Thai restaurant menus.

But this rendition was spot-on — it was slightly sweet, smokey from the char on the noodles and the pork was tender and delicious. The thin sprigs of Chinese broccoli added crunch and a touch of bitterness. It was a winner. And that’s not just the beer talking!

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Nothing says spring like lemons & asparagus

Creamy spring pasta with lemon, parsley and asparagus

Creamy spring pasta with lemon, parsley and asparagus

I love lemon pasta — in fact, it’s even made it onto this blog before in the way of a baked lemon pasta. And while it was delicious, it hasn’t stopped me from exploring other renditions of lemony carb-filled goodness.

Which is why I felt the overwhelming need to try out a recipe for Spaghettini with Creamy Lemon Sauce from Liz of My Favourite Pastime. Liz makes all sorts of fabulous looking food but I just couldn’t get this particular pasta dish out of my mind. Maybe it was because she mentioned making it once with coconut milk instead of cream, which really piqued my interest.

Ad while I am still very curious about using coconut milk in this, I thought for my initial attempt I should go straight for the cream. After all, cream plus cheese plus butter must equal delicious. That combination has never steered me wrong before!

I did, however, stray just enough to add in some blanched asparagus. I splurged on a gorgeous organic bunch from the market and their flavor, pumped up by the lemon in the pasta, was divine. This meal, eaten on a surprisingly sunny spring day, was the perfect dinner to make my Monday less painful.

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Farro & Edamame: A new adventure with an ancient grain

Farro Pasta with Edamame, Almond and Mint Pesto

Farro Pasta with Edamame, Almond and Mint Pesto

I am an out-and-proud farro devotee. For the past few years I’ve been borderline obsessed with the ancient grain — utilizing it in as many applications as possible and encouraging other people to give it a try. So I was pretty excited when my husband recently brought me home a pound of farro pasta (which was especially sweet as he is not as enamoured with farro as I am).

Farro Pasta

Farro pasta — love its pretty color!

The pasta had been sitting in my cupboard, patiently waiting, while I investigated online looking for a perfect debut recipe. Finally I decided on a winner, this recipe for Farro Pasta with Edamame Pesto from The Kitchn. Given how well-known this web magazine is, I felt comfortable trusting their opinion and excited to try something new.

And I’m happy I did because this a recipe I’ll be utilizing again and again. I love different forms of pesto — broccoli pesto in particular, yum! — but hadn’t tried this combination before.

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Turkey Tetrazzini: My favorite thing about Thanksgiving!

Turkey Tetrazzini

I know Thanksgiving has long since gone, but since I just finished eating the last of the re-purposed leftovers, I don’t feel like I’m too out of the loop posting a turkey recipe. After all, even though chicken tetrazzini doesn’t have the same ring, it will taste just as good so really this recipe shouldn’t be stuck as a once-a-year indulgence.

If you’re unfamiliar with tetrazzini, it’s a glorious combination of noodles, diced turkey meat and rich cheesy sauce. It would be wrong to simply call it a casserole, though it’s baked to golden perfection in much the same way. I think it’s the ingredients that elevate it — tetrazzini uses a good amount of Parmesan, half-and-half (or heavy cream) and Sherry, making the sauce undeniably delicious.

Since there are tons of recipes for tetrazzini, I always have a hard time remembering each year how I made it the year before. This year I decided to go right to the best source — my mom. Growing up I was fairly obsessed with tetrazzini. I would beg her to to make it and then hoard the leftovers for my school lunches. (And being a good mom I think she let me get away with it.)

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Pâte à choux, I love you: Adventures in Parisian Gnocchi

Gnocchi with nasturtium pesto

Gnocchi with nasturtium pesto

The French pastry dough pâte à choux has a delicious reputation. It’s used to make familiar treats such as profiteroles, éclairs and gougères (yum, cheesy poofs!). But one of its lesser known abilities is to make a pillowy soft gnocchi.

Parisian gnocchi is different from its Italian cousin — instead of potatoes it’s made with a combination of water, flour and eggs. It also doesn’t require any rolling or forming. Once the dough is made it’s simply put into a piping bag and slowly cut into boiling water, forming little dumplings.

I am a sucker for all things gnocchi related, so when my husband asked me if I’d like to learn the art of Parisian gnocchi, I immediately agreed.

His favorite recipe to use is the one from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. You can find links to it all over but here’s a good direct one. We followed it except for the mixture of herbs. Instead we used minced nasturtium leaves, echoing the flavors in the pesto.

The pesto was a simple, off-the-cuff experiment. Using nasturtium leaves from our garden, we pureed them with toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan and minced garlic, drizzling in olive oil until the consistency was right. You can mix in basil if you’d like less kick but I really liked the spice of the leaves — blended with the buttery nuts and the rich cheese, it was a lovely combination.

Here’s our dinner in the making:

Cooking the pâte à choux

Cooking the pâte à choux

Mixing in the eggs and herbs

Mixing in the eggs and herbs

Piping the dough into lightly boiling water

Piping the dough into lightly boiling water

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