clean out the fridge, you’re getting married pasta

Posted on June 5, 2015

Our wedding is just over a week away and everything is falling into place—with the exception of the weather forecast, which hovers stubbornly between 100° and 102°.  The vows are written, my mother’s backyard where we’ll marry is stunning, cases of wine and ten cakes are on order. We are excited.

After the wedding, we’re going on our honeymoon to Spain, France and Belgium. Our plan is see all the art, eat all the foods and walk all over those cities. There might be a shellfish tower, there will most certainly be gooey cheese. I’ve downloaded the Paris Pastry App to my phone detailing cookbook author David Lebovitz’s favorite places to get pastry in Paris, which I think means we’re all set.

Of course, before we head out, there’s the usual business to attend to. Packing, bathing the hound, cleaning all of the food out of our fridge. And that’s where this pasta comes in.

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Clean Out the Fridge, You’re Getting Married Pasta
1 pound dried pasta, preferably a short noodle, but why be picky
2 italian sausages, or any sausage really, or bacon
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 pound of fava beans, shelled
1 onion, diced
2 – 4 cloves of garlic
a splash of red wine
olive oil
parmesan cheese

This pasta comes together especially easily if you have an almost-husband or almost-wife to help you in the kitchen. Of course, there’s nothing really difficult about it, just a fair amount of vegetable prep and sautéing that might take a bit longer if you’re a solo show. 

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Almost wife: Put a pot of salted water to boil. While that is coming up to temperature, shell the favas from their first pod and set aside.

Almost husband: Cut the broccoli into florets and set aside. Dice the onion and the garlic.

Almost husband: In a sauté pan, add some olive oil and warm it over medium heat. Take the sausage out of it’s casing and cook the sausage until browned. Remove from the pan and place in a large bowl.  Add the onions and sauté over medium low heat. Once the onions are warm, add a nice splash of red wine, and continue to sauté for 5 minutes more.

Almost wife: When the water boils, add the favas into the hot water. This will loosen their second skin and you can more easily shell them. After 5 minutes, scoop the favas out. Put them back in the bowl and cover with cold water. Shell the favas and add them into the same bowl with the sausage.

Almost wife: Blanche the broccoli in the pasta water. It should only take a few minutes. Scoop the broccoli out and add it to the same bowl with the sausage and fava beans. Now that all your vegetables are cooked, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Almost husband: Once your onions are translucent, add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes more. Scoop the sausage and veggies and turn the heat to low just to keep everything warm.

Almost husband: Drain the pasta and add into the large bowl, toss with some olive oil. Pour the sausage and veggie mixture over the pasta and toss with some pepper and parmesan.

Almost husband and almost wife: Pour a glass of wine, add more parmesan and enjoy!

And a quick programing note: For obvious reasons, the blog will be silent for a few weeks while we wed and honeymoon (!!!). Rest assured, there will be recipes and photos to come out of it. Many of you who read this blog, we’ll see you on Saturday. We cannot wait to celebrate with you!

Xo,
Emily

oysterfest

Posted on May 19, 2015

This past Sunday we partook in the immense gustatory pleasure that is Oysterfest. Our fourth annual, Oysterfest is a celebration of shellfish, overeating and friendship. We get together with some of our dearest friends to shuck and share upwards of 160 oysters. Throw in a cheese plate, fresh focaccia, cole slaw, pigs in a blanket, homebrew IPA on tap, several well-timed “shuck it” jokes and a view of Sutro Tower perched over the Mission, and it really feels like you’ve made it.

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Now if I was on top of my blogger game, I would have a recipe for homemade pigs in a blanket—I am marrying an aspiring sausage artisan after all. But instead of dutifully obsessing over brioche dough on Saturday, I went sailing. I ate cheese and salami on a boat in the San Francisco Bay while drinking champagne out of a pink dixie cup with a penis-shaped straw. I performed terribly in a series of questions about my betrothed, took the helm for all of 5 minutes before my nerves got the best of me, and basked in the glow of nine beautiful, hilarious ladies. Back-to-back days of great food in picturesque settings with tremendous company, I am a fortunate woman.

And so without further ado, I give you the culinary crowd-pleaser, pigs in a blanket. All of the ingredients are happily waiting at your favorite grocery store, and you can throw these babies together in minutes. Not wanting to be known for a dearth of useful information, there are also directions to purchase raw oysters, if and only if you’re located in the Bay Area.

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Pigs in a Blanket
1 package all beef hot dogs, cut in half
2 packages crescent rolls

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Open your package of hot dogs and cut them in half. Open your crescent rolls. Wrap the rolls around the dogs and place them on a cookie sheet with about an inch between each one. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown.

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Oysters
If you happen to have a group of friends similarly dedicated to the celebration of oysters and live in the Bay Area, it is easy (and surprisingly affordable) to secure a few bushels of oysters for your enjoyment at the Alemany Farmer’s Market from Point Reyes Oyster Company. Throw your bushels of oysters in a cooler, pour a few bags of ice on top, and get ready to shuck.

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Ps. Oysterfest 2014Oysterfest 2013, and how to shuck an oyster (it’s all about that hinge).

-Emily

pizza with prosciutto and peaches

Posted on May 11, 2015

A weekend at home after several busy weekends away really is the loveliest. Sleeping in, wandering around the city, stopping in for a donut, a beer, a coffee, a pupusa, maybe one of each? Then making your way home to cook a pizza and finish out the night with two episodes of Chef’s Table. At least that’s how we spent our gloriously food-filled Saturday. When we weren’t eating, we were walking (or watching Massimo Bottura make the most perfect tortellini you’ve ever laid eyes on).

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The pizza was inspired by the newest cookbook in our collection. The lovely ladies at Short Stack Editions came across our blog while looking for cooks who love pork to check out their newest cookbook, Prosciutto di Parma. Short Stack Editions makes beautiful, single subject cookbooks written by chefs who know the title ingredient intimately. The books are adorable, useful and range in subject matter from apples to honey, broccoli to brown sugar. We’ve enjoyed paging through Prosciutto di Parma and finding new ways to cook with an ingredient we adore but never take much further than a cheese plate.

This prosciutto pizza is a fun one. It’s salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy. It sounds a bit wild when you read the ingredient list, but everything goes together beautifully. And, for one reader out there who also happens to enjoy cured pork products, it’s your lucky day! I’ve got a second copy of Prosciutto di Parma waiting to find it’s new home. Comment on this post, and I’ll pick a winner to receive a copy of this sweet little book.

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Pizza with Prosciutto, Peaches and Burrata, adapted just slightly from Prosciutto di Parma by Sara Jenkins
Makes two pizzas 
1 ball of pizza dough, cut into two pieces
1 ball of burrata cheese, torn into pieces
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup spicy peach jam (recipe below)
a few tablespoons olive oil
flour for rolling out the dough
10 paper-thin slices of prosciutto
chives

Preheat your oven to 475° F. If you have a pizza stone and your oven’s heating element is located at the bottom,  move the stone to the top rack of the oven. We’ve had the best success cooking pizza on the pizza stone at the very top of the oven; the stone cooks the pizza’s bottom, and hottest heat at the top of the oven cooks the toppings and browns the crust.

Dust a ball of dough with flour and roll out your pizza dough; use a rolling pin or your hands,  it’s your choice. Divide the burrata in half, and then tear that half into pieces and scatter on the dough. Between the dollops of cheese, add a bit of the spicy peach jam. Don’t be to heavy with the jam, you don’t want a pizza that verges on dessert. Sprinkle the whole pizza with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake the pizza until the crust is browned and cheese is melty, 15 – 20 minutes. When the hot pizza comes out of the oven, drape it with a few slices of prosciutto and add a sprinkle of chives. Enjoy hot, just as the prosciutto fat melts into the molten cheese and jam. Heavenly.

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Spicy Peach Jam
4 ripe peaches, cut into chunks
1 habanero pepper, whole
2 tablespoons sugar
1 lemon, juiced

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the peaches, habanero pepper, sugar and lemon juice. Over low heat, let the fruit cook gently until it is soft and jammy. About 20 minutes. You want to make sure you’ve got a pretty thick sauce so you don’t end up with a soggy pizza.

You will have extra jam, this recipe makes enough for 4 pizzas. It will keep in your fridge for a month or 6 months in your freezer. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it would be transcendent on vanilla ice cream.

-Emily

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a while before

Posted on May 7, 2015

We’ve spent the last two weekends in Sacramento, steadily chipping away at our Google Doc filled with wedding to-dos. I’ve got a few categories to keep me organized—A While Before, Soon Before, Today is the Day Fingers-Crossed—and I think this system is working for me. The wedding countdown websites so favored by Martha Stewart types far too intimidating, I immediately deleted my accounts upon subscribing. I suppose there isn’t really a way to know how well my particular system has worked until the wedding has come and gone, but by then it will be blessedly too late to change anything anyhow. And so, onward, strikethrough font at the ready.

What with all this brain-power devoted to wedding planning and thesis writing (perhaps not the best laid plan, consecutive Masters-degree-earning and marriage-happening), we haven’t had much time to cook anything all that fun. Instead I’m going to share some portraits that our photographer Arturo took a few weeks ago. Being editor in chief has it’s perks. Arturo is quite the talent, and our living room looks positively gigantic. Let the record show that the room is not at all large in real life, though the handsomeness my groom and my hound are accurately reflected in the photographs.

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We’re home this weekend and have a pizza adventure in the works. I hope to have something good for you next week.

Xo,
Em

hardly a salad

Posted on April 23, 2015

Since late January, I’ve been spending time in the pottery studio on the weekends. It’s my newest artistic endeavor, and I’ve gotten pretty caught up in it. It feels so good to make something real with my hands, to practice an art the way it’s been practiced for thousands of years. Especially good after spending the week tethered to my computer pushing pixels around, typing furiously on a keyboard, sending 1s and 0s into the ether. It’s a pleasure to create something you can hold in your hands, to transform a ball of wet dirt into something beautiful. I feel the same satisfaction when I cook. That raw, human pleasure that only comes from making something useful,  nourishing or beautiful with your very own hands.

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I’ve lost hours in the studio. I’ll sit down at the wheel, blink and somehow it’s 3 pm. I think the experts call it flow. And then I’m absolutely starving. If I’m lucky enough to have had the foresight, there’s this salad at home in the fridge waiting to be devoured.  I’m calling this a salad, but I use that term liberally. It’s got more grains and goodies than it does greens, but salad seems to be an acceptable catchall term for this type of dish. I’m going for it.

I like this dish because it really excels at using up bits in your fridge. I hate to see those bits go to waste. Got a bit of cheese leftover from earlier grilled cheese sandwiches? Perfect. Some rotisserie chicken? Throw it in. Greens inching past their prime? Why not! Add in grains and something acidic and you’ve got a perfect, rather substantial salad.

This is a flexible recipe. You can swap things out for whatever you have on had and want to use up, but it’s good to keep this formula in mind: a grain, a protein, a green, something creamy, something acidic, and don’t forget the salt! Why fall victim to wasted food guilt when you can make this.

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Farro Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Arugula and Apple
2 cups farro, cooked according to the package directions
1 apple, sliced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed
1 cup leftover rotisserie chicken, cubed
2 – 3 cups arugula
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
pickled shallot for garnish (1 thinly sliced shallot, mixed with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt)

Cook the farro according to the package directions. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Farro because it cooks in 10 minutes instead of 40. Food science magic right there. You could also use another grain like barley or quinoa or rice if you have it lurking in your pantry, but I prefer the nutty taste of farro.

Cube the apple, cheddar and leftover chicken. If you can find an aged cheddar, all the better. Toss the farro with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add in the apple, cheddar, chicken and arugula. Toss together. To serve, top with pickled shallots. Everything is better with pickled shallots.

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-Emily

pasta with creme fraiche, kale and mushrooms

Posted on April 6, 2015

Each year, we have what we’ve come to call the “pasta of the year”.  The pasta of the year is a pasta dish that we turn to for a reliably tasty and soul-satisfying dinner every other week or so. It quickly becomes part of our regular weeknight dinner repertoire, dominates for nearly a year, and then mysteriously fades away, only to be rediscovered occasionally by browsing our own blog archives. It’s a strange phenomenon, but we’ve come to accept it’s benevolent presence in our lives.

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The pasta that started it all was a marinated tomato and ricotta pasta. You’d let some peak of summer tomatoes hang around with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon juice for 20 minutes or so. Then toss your pasta with an excess of ricotta cheese and top that with the marinated tomatoes. Heaven from June through September.

There was the pasta carbonara kick, which featured an incredibly poetic post from Jordan about his love for the dish. And then there was orzo topped with burrata cheese. My spicy soba noodle salad was certainly a contender in 2014.

And now, though the soba noodle salad is making an honorable attempt to defend the title in 2015, we have our new favorite pasta equation. Pasta + creme fraiche + sautéed shallot + wilted green, and it’s sister pasta, pasta + creme fraiche + shallot + al dente veg. Creme fraiche is a genius way to arrive at a solidly sauced pasta with nearly no effort, and we’ve already established that shallots are good on everything. Toss in whatever green or quick-cooking veggie (mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, favas, peas) you have around and you’ve got yourself a supremely delicious, decently well-balanced meal. If you happen to live at our house in the winter/spring of 2015, you have this pasta every 10 days.

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Pasta with Creme Fraiche, Kale and Mushrooms
1 lb pasta
1 shallot, diced
2 cups (8 oz) cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups kale, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Dice your shallot and slice your kale and mushrooms. Throw your pasta into the pot of boiling water to cook.

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter, and sauté the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are nearly done, add the shallot and sauté just a few minutes more. Taste your mushrooms and season them with salt. Then add the kale. Turn the heat off and just let the kale wilt a bit.

Drain your pasta and add it back into the pot. Throw the mushroom mixture into the pasta pot, along with a generous dollop of creme fraiche. Stir to distribute the creme fraiche. Season with bit more salt and pepper, and serve. Feel free to embellish with parmesan cheese and herbs, though it isn’t necessary.

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-Emily

tom ka

Posted on March 13, 2015

Last weekend, we went to Sacramento to meet our caterer for the wedding and visit our families. It was a quick visit, just for the day, but it was a good one. We began planning our wedding menu, reserved glassware and dishes, ate the culinary perfection that is a Dos Coyotes burrito. We thumbed through Jordan’s family’s old photo albums, finding that nothing has changed about the way Jordan poses for photographs today and the way he did at 4 years old. Once a ham, always a ham. (Thanks to these albums, I now also harbor a not-so-secret hope that one day Jordan will have a mustache as phenomenal as his dad’s in many of the photographs).

We brainstormed our must-play list for the DJ, tossing ideas back and forth around the kitchen island, occasionally (incessantly?) teasing my mom about her taste in music. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much on a visit home. We ate red beans and rice. To close out the night, we looked at a bunch of old photos my mom had brought back from a recent visit to my grandmother’s—my grandparent’s wedding photos, photos of my mom as little girl, photos of my great grandmother. I hadn’t seen many of the photos before, and they were all so beautiful. Beautiful in the very particular way old photographs are always beautiful. And full of the characteristic, big round eyes that will forever remind me of my mother. Strong genes right there.

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Meanwhile, back in SF (insert a more eloquent transition if you’ve got one), we’ve been hitting the crock pot pretty hard. You’ve heard about the chili verde, but there’s also been chicken tinga (recipe forthcoming, thanks Billy for the inspiration), bourbon pulled pork (thanks Liz!), my mom’s red beans and rice, ‘baked’ potato soup, and tom ka. Tom ka is a thai soup, heavy on the coconut milk and just a tad spicy. It’s one of my go-to orders at one of the Thai restaurants in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood has so many Thai restaurants that I’ve got a restaurant for curry, a restaurant for larb and garlic quail, a restaurant for soup. The glory that is San Francisco.

So I decided to see if I could make a half-decent version of tom ka at home. In my crockpot. Dun, dun dunnnn. It really wasn’t half the challenge I though it would be. As it turns out, it’s hard to screw up anything with a can of full fat coconut milk. The revelations of a home cook. They are why you come to this blog.

But this soup is delicious. It’s stupidly simple to make if you have a crockpot, and pretty darn simple even if you don’t. Combine everything and simmer until the chicken is cooked. It calls for some unique ingredients, but most of them have a long shelf life (fish sauce, curry paste), and will happily hang out in your fridge until you want to make the soup again.

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Crockpot Tom Ka (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
6 cups chicken broth
1-14 oz can coconut milk
1-2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 – 3 boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1/2 – 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced (how much do you like mushrooms?)
2 – 3 teaspoons thai red curry paste (or 2 thai chilis, sliced)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 limes, juiced
salt, to taste
bell pepper, cilantro and green onion for serving
rice or rice noodles (optional)

In a crockpot, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chicken, mushrooms, chili paste and fish sauce. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. If serving with rice noodles, add the rice noodles into the soup and let them cook through. Then add the lime juice and season with salt to taste. Garnish with bell pepper, cilantro and green onion.

I really like to dip rice into the broth of my tom ka like the soup is a dipping sauce. This isn’t traditional by any means and causes confusion in Thai restaurants, but that rarely stops me. Take a page from my book and serve your soup with a side of rice and salad. Live on the wild side.

-Emily

PS. Four hams. From an old roll of film, finally developed.

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recipes to carry you through

Welp, February is nearly over. What a sneaky month. I feel like all I’ve said since January (or possibly November) is how busy life is around here lately, and I’m starting to find that a bit tiresome. Jordan and I were talking with our friend Alexa about just this predicament, and she suggested it was time for a mind shift. Simply use the power of our amazing human brain to decide that the way we currently think about something is no longer useful (or possibly more damaging than something that’s merely useless), and think about it differently.

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Well, I happen to like this idea a lot. But I’ll also have you know, I’m not sure if it’s working for me yet. At the outset, my goal was to use this mind shift to better manage how I feel about busyness of my work-life. Things since launch have been hectic for everyone, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I haven’t made a lot of progress here, if we’re honest, but I really do like the work. I show up every day, and give it what I’ve got, and leave each night with a growing to-do list. Half-way mind shift?

I’ve also seemed to amplify my life-life busyness. Got to stay in stride with myself, I suppose. Haphazard wedding planning, obsessive apartment cleaning and rearranging, marathon sessions in the pottery studio, too many podcasts. Cooking, mostly the same old favorites, but a few new ones here and there. Trying to figure out if it is possible to create a baking brioche or jet-puffed marshmallow scented perfume, and turn that into a viable business opportunity. Downloading apps that tell me how much time I spend on my phone each day, deleting social media apps as a result, downloading meditation apps instead. I feel like I’m working towards a clearer mind. But I also feel a little crazy. One-third-of-the-way mind shift?

Why am I telling you this? Maybe putting it out there in the universe means the missing piece of my mind shift connects with the part I’ve already started. Maybe because I’ve got two recipes for you. Simple, solid recipes that have become standbys at our house. Both of these things?

We’ve got a granola, borrowed from one of my favorite blogs Orangette, that is just perfection. Nutty, toasty, just a tad sweet. Great on yogurt, vanilla ice cream or eaten out of the palm of your hand. And avocado toast. The Midwest and South surely don’t consider this a meal, Jordan might not either. But I’m of the belief that avocado on bread is solid, California hippie that I am. Top that with pickled shallot and hot sauce, and it’s heaven, and only takes about 5 minutes to make.

You can eat both at once if you’re feeling especially brunch-y. Or do like I do and insert them into random intervals of your day, alternating granola, toast, granola, toast. One last note, don’t make a half batch of the granola. You’ll regret it in two days.

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Simple Granola, from Orangette
6 cups rolled oats
2 – 3 cups chopped nuts (I used pecans, walnuts and almonds – basically a bit of whatever I have in the freezer)
2 – 3 cups flaked coconut (unsweetened, I find mine at Whole Foods)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup (Or 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup honey)
2/3 cup olive oil

Mix everything together in a large bowl and spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 300° F for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Feel free to use approximate measurements for all of the ingredients to suit whatever you have around. We’ve made it many times with success, and I only measured the first time.

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Avocado Toast with Pickled Shallot and Hot Sauce 
2 – 4 slices of crusty bread (~2 slices per person)
1 avocado, mashed
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
Crystal Hot Sauce or Tapatío, for serving

In a small jar, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir to combine. Add the shallot and let sit for a few minutes (or a few hours, or a few days in the fridge). Lightly toast the bread on both sides. Spread the toast with mashed avocado and top with picked shallot and a generous dose of the hot sauce of your choosing. Makes a perfectly serviceable lunch or dinner, don’t skip the shallot.

-Emily

the indescribable magic that happens when butter and sugar are combined via vigorous mixing

Josh and Erin are good friends. The kind of friends who will happily share a wave with you, help you get a new job when you need one, encourage your best/worst poetic ramblings or punny jokes, refuse to bat an eye when your anxious dog pees on their carpet, and make you a damn good cocktail. Good souls with generous hearts.

This cake is was made to celebrate their marriage, and I’m honored I was asked to make it. I love how special and celebratory a cake feels once you’ve stacked a few layers up, one on top of another, and covered it in buttercream. I also love that Erin is the type of friend who intentionally crafts her emails as to not stifle creative confection expression. The title of this post, that is all Erin, a writer with far more talent than I possess.

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Lately, Erin and I have been jokingly/seriously channeling the vibes of various crystals to improve our attitudes and our surfing, and so I thought it only fitting to decorate their wedding cake with a few crystalline beauties. Who doesn’t want good vibes as they transition from one life phase into the next? Not to mention, the natural geometry of  crystals is just as stunning as that of flowers, but far better suited to this couple.

I doubt anyone will re-create this cake from my recipe, since really, it is cake meant for only two people on this beautiful, mysterious rock, but I’m pretty proud of it from both culinary and artistic standpoints, and so I’m sharing it here. It feels good deep in the soul to make something special for friends, something to celebrate the magic that is finding another person who loves you for all your goodness and all your badness too.

Congratulations Josh and Erin, may your years together be filled with happiness, couples waves, and endless good vibes.

Good Vibes Wedding Cake 
For the cake
This is Jordan’s favorite chocolate cake. It’s the cake that I make on birthdays, and the cake I’ll probably make for our wedding too. It’s an Ina Garten recipe that we’ve adapted slightly over the years.
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Butter the cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter parchment and dust with flour.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir to combine. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the coffee.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

For the vanilla swiss buttercream
Make the buttercream just before you plan to assemble the cake. You can refrigerate the assembled cake for a day or two, just it come to room temperature before serving. 
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons – hell yes it is a lot butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. Add the vanilla. Finally, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and whip, whip, whip.  Don’t freak out if the frosting looks soupy, just keep whipping. It will come together gloriously, it just takes a while. Set the frosting aside, leaving it at room temperature.

For the decorative cookies of a minerally, gemstoney persuasion
This is my Nonnie’s recipe for christmas cookies. They are simply the best. The frosting is a simple royal icing (powdered sugar + milk) colored to varying shades of blue, purple and green with different amounts of food coloring. We used an ice cube tray to create our color pallet, which I must say was a stroke of genius on my part.

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1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour

Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and cream together for a few more minutes. Add the egg. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide into two balls, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

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Roll out into 1/4″ thickness and cut out your gems. To make the crystal shapes, I drew several different crystals on paper, cut out the drawings, laid them out on the dough and cut around them with a sharp paring knife.  Bake at 400° for 6 – 8 minutes.

For the cookie icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
a few tablespoons milk
food coloring

Let the cookies cool and then frost them with the icing, whatever color pallet suits you. Make the cookie decorations the day before you plan to assemble the cake so they have time to set up.

To assemble

josh-erin-cake-gifStore the cake in the freezer before you frost it. This will make the frosting process much simpler. Remove from the freezer and place one round on an appropriately-sized plate. Spread the top with a decent layer of buttercream. Top with the other half of the cake. Spread the entire cake with a thin, but even layer of frosting. It’s ok if it isn’t perfect. This is the crumb coat. Put it back in the freezer.

After 10 minutes, remove your cake from the freezer. Coat with another layer of icing. Dip your spreading knife in a glass of hot water, quickly dry it off and use the hot knife to smooth the frosting, or leave some texture, up to you. Use the remaining buttercream to attach the cookie decorations. Store in the fridge, but let the cake come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy the cake and all the good vibes that flow from it!

And a special thank you to my friend Kelly, who lent both her paintbrushes and her artistic expertise to this endeavor.

Xo, Emily

spicy soba noodle salad

Despite the name of this fine blog, many of the meals we eat are vegetarian. This recipe also happens to be vegan and gluten-free—do you even recognize us!?  We are indeed pro-vegetable here at The Answer is Always Pork and this salad has become one of our weeknight favorites. You can throw it together in about 25 minutes, which is especially handy when you a) are trying to launch a new product at work, b) remember less than an hour before leaving for an event that it is a potluck, or c) that special combination of lazy and impatient that makes ordering take out impossible. It’s also really easy to scale this up for a group, just double or triple everything and it works out fine.

soba-salad-2

What else? We’re gradually making progress planning our wedding, which somehow still feels like the most obvious and the most surprising thing to happen to us. Jordan is back at school for the spring semester, though he is never really *off* anymore these days, masters-shmasters. I’m online shopping for obscure textile art and pottery books from the 70s, purchases include “Far Beyond the Fringe”, undeniably an amazing title for any book. Willow is decapitating toys shaped like Star Wars characters, no wookie left unscathed. There’s a new bakery in the neighborhood that’s pretty mind-blowing. Life is moving right along, and I like that just fine.

Spicy Soba Noodle Salad
For the dressing

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1-1″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey (or agave syrup for you super vegans)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
a small pinch of cayenne pepper or a squirt of siracha chili sauce
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
cilantro, mint or green onion, sliced thinly
2 bunches of soba noodles (japanese buckwheat noodles, they come wrapped in single-serving bunches)
4 oz of extra firm tofu (I like the Trader Joe’s sprouted tofu that comes in two 4oz packages)

soba-salad-1

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Bring a medium pot of water to boil and season it with salt.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, chop the lettuce, herbs and cucumber. Mix them together in two medium bowls. These will become your dinner bowls. Slice the tofu into 1.5″ x  0.5″ slices. Put a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel and then brown the tofu, about 4 minutes per side. When your tofu is cooking on it’s last side, cook the soba. You can also serve the tofu raw, but I like

Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions, somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes. Drain the soba noodles and rinse with cold water. Put back into the pot and pour the dressing over the soba.

Top each salad bowl with soba and then sprinkle with tofu. Serve with siracha and sesame seeds.

-Emily

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