sausage and fennel rigatoni (gluten + dairy-free)


Last night, I spent time with new friends who probably love food more than I do. They’re all about the hunt. Forget the fancy pants, reservations-only eateries, they’re more into the hidden gems–L.A. institutions and incredible Korean BBQ in strip malls. Yesterday, we feasted on Greek food that was full of flavor and low on price.

While we were chowing, my friend’s husband and I talked for a good half hour about chicken. How to make it, the unlimited permutations, and the glory that is homemade stock. I made stock last week from a leftover chicken carcass, and believe me when I say that if my home could smell like chicken soup 24/7, I’d never leave. Anyway, we got to talking about cookbooks and I said that I got really into cooking in 2002 when I started to watch The Food Network. Ina, Giada, Mario, and Nigella–I spent hours learning recipes and technique, and I’d discovered a true passion.

So call me nostalgic, but I tuned into Ina today and she made this pasta recipe that nearly made me fall off my couch. I was hesitant because cream makes me violently ill and then there’s the issue of my fennel fatwa. However, I assure you that faux cream can be made and the fennel flavor is subtle, at best.

Trust me, you will want this pasta in your life.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey, modified.

  • 1 cup cashews + 1 cup water + 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bulb of fennel, chopped
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, divided
First, you want to make the cashew cream. You’re probably thinking…what? Cashew cream? Surely, you jest. However, it’s one of the few nuts that really delivers on the texture of heavy cream. Unlike coconut cream or milk, the flavor of cashews is subtle and it typically takes on the stronger flavors/seasonings of a sauce–kind of like tofu. Anyway, if you have a high-powered blender, soak 1 cup of nuts in water for 2 hours. If you don’t, soak the nuts the night before you make the dish. After you soak the nuts, drain, rinse, and add to your blender along with 1/2 cup of water + 1 tsp of salt, to start. I start with a 1/2 cup because you can make a sauce thinner but it’s challenging to thicken it. Blend for 2 minutes on high, and add water as you go to get the consistency you desire. Set aside.

Now, we’re all about making the sauce. Saute the chopped fennel and shallots in a large pot (I used a Dutch oven) on medium heat for about 7 minutes or until the mixture is translucent and slightly browned. Add the sausage and gently break apart with a wooden spoon. DON’T overwork your meat by continuously stirring. It takes about 8 or so minutes for the pork to cook, so I come back every few minutes, break apart, stir again.

While that’s cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (read the package directions, and cook for a minute or so less). Drain the pasta and set aside.

Once the sausage is cooked through, add the garlic, fennel seed, red pepper, and wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cashew cream and tomato paste and stir until completely combined. I like my sauce super thick and luscious (see Exhibits A and B, above and below), but if you like your sauce on the thinner side, you can add more wine or stock. And if you’re not feeling wine, you can use chicken stock, no big deal.

Add your pasta directly to the meat sauce and stir until completely coated. Remove your pan from the heat and you can add freshly grated parmesan (I used a vegan kind, which is actually pretty decent), and chopped parsley if you’re feeling it. Candidly, I was so into the pasta that I ate it directly from the pot and forgot about the parsley.

Chow down, people.


one-pot chorizo, spinach + lemon risotto


Remember risotto? The simply, yet arduous dish that required you to linger? One false move and invariably you’ll end up torching the rice? Remember the dish that gave you an bicep workout? I certainly do, and never did I think that I can shove a pot in the oven and twenty minutes later, voilà!, creamy, satiny arborio rice.

Today, I’m making dinner for two, and I decided on this simple dish from Australian television show host + cookbook author, Janelle Bloom. Her book is chockfull of simple, delicious dishes that don’t require a laundry list of ingredients. Sticky ribs, pizzas, lasagnes, protein-packed salads, and sumptuous sides and divine desserts, Janelle reminds me of the old Ina Garten, before Ina phoned in her recipes. {heaves sigh} I’ll be making quite a few more savory dishes from this book as the dessert section is a tad light, but for now enjoy this easy-peasy one-pot risotto.

Merry Christmas!

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Janelle Bloom’s Fast Fresh & Fabulous
4 chorizo sausages (approximately 1lb/16oz)
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 cups (400g) arborio rice, rinsed
4 cups (1qt) chicken stock
1 handful spinach, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
zest from one lemon
1/2 cup parmesan (or pecorino romano) cheese
Salt/pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F. Use a knife to split the sausage casings and peel each chorizo sausage. Discard casings. Roughly chop the sausages and set aside.

Heat the oil in an overproof saucepan (I used a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the sausage meat and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes, until lightly golden. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Transfer to the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the stock is almost absorbed. Remove from the oven.

Stir in the spinach and parsley. Cover and stand for 1-2 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Stir in the lemon zest and cheese and season with salt + pepper. Serve pipping hot!


bake this: irish soda bread

Irish Soda Bread out of the oven! One should never abandon their passion. Yesterday, I left a party early to scurry home to feast on a kale salad; I slipped under the covers, giddy, because come morning I would bake my very first Irish Soda Bread. It’s been quite some time since I powered up the stand mixer and cranked the oven, but amidst all the recent work-related frenzy, I’m determined to have work-life balance.

Even as I type I can smell the heady sweetness of cherries, the citrus of orange zest and the flakiness of warm bread. Who wouldn’t want to wake in the morning to this?

This Irish Soda Bread recipe comes courtesy of Ina Garten, but since I couldn’t find currants in my larder, I settled for cherries.

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for cherries
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet and incredibly sticky. Make sure you flour your hands as the dough will instantly cling to them.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread: The Size of Peas
Irish Soda Bread: In the Mixer
Irish Soda Bread: In the Mixer
Irish Soda Bread: Kneading the Dough
Irish Soda Bread: Before the Oven!
Irish Soda Bread out of the oven!
Irish Soda Bread out of the oven!

full frontal poundcake: honey vanilla: eat it now!

full frontal pound cake When the air cools and the days fold in on themselves and the leaves curdle and burn, my heart, and by extension my home, warms. Autumn is my favorite time. Yesterday, a friend of mine and I were having a conversation, wondering if it’s possible to have seasonal sadness in reverse. That’s to say that we’re riddled with sorrow in the hottest months and find ourselves exalted when everything dries and falls. I love fall because of apple groves and pumpkin picking and roasted root vegetables in the oven. I love it for cashmere sweaters and scarves wrapped around and sad music. And I love it because my apartment is heady with vanilla, clover and sugar on the weekends.

Today I finally cracked the spine of Ina Garten’s Back to Basics, fixing a honey vanilla pound cake. True it’s no mousse or Pâté A Choux, but sometimes it’s best to return to the classics, the dishes that comfort you and fragrant your home.

Dry mixtureINGREDIENTS: Honey Vanilla Pound Cake from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at cool room temperature*
1 1/4 cups sugar*
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons mild honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard loaf pan. Add parchment paper to the bottom of the pan and grease/flour the sides.

Do NOT mix the wet mixture Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light. Meanwhile, put the eggs, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest in a glass measuring cup (but do NOT mix). With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl and allowing each egg to become incorporated before adding the next egg. Don’t FREAK OUT as the batter will look like its curdled. As one of my former yoga teachers used to say: FELICIA, IF YOU DON’T START BREATHING YOU WILL DIE. Don’t let egg mixture own you, people. Same situation with making mousses, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, add it very slowly to the butter and egg mixture until just combined. Finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula and pour it into the prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, turn out on a baking rack, and cool completely.

Loaf before it hits the oven! *Recipe notes: I use cane sugar and unbleached flour. Although you would typically bake loaves with room temperature butter, this particular recipe calls for “chilled” room temperature. Leaving the butter out, unwrapped, for an hour will suffice. Also, if you don’t have cake flour (as I don’t and I couldn’t locate the stuff at my local supermarket), substitute with 1 3/4 all-purpose unbleached + 1/4 cup cornstarch.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use room temperature eggs. If you bungled it up and forgot to leave the eggs out, here’s a handy trick I’ve learned. Fill a bowl with warm tap water. Immerse the eggs. The warm water will raise the internal temperature of the eggs. Let sit for ten minutes.

Update: I just received some feedback from reader Kelli on her loaf. Regrettably, it didn’t cook in the center and it was overcooked at the ends. My loaf turned out fine, but I’ve adjusted the temperature to 350 (proper baking temperature) and also, I’m thinking that this recipe could make two loaves. My loaf came to the brim of the baking pan, and perhaps the bulk of batter lead to an uneven distribution in the pan.

guess what I'm baking RIGHT NOW?
the grand unveiling: the LOAF!