27 March 2015

conchiglie carbonara with jamón serrano and charred brussels sprouts

Food fads are often just cruel jokes. The people who decide these things are probably having a good laugh after having made kale the darling of the vegetable world.

Well step over kale, there's a new previously-unwanted vegetable taking over: brussels sprouts.

I recently spent a few days in Los Angeles, and I swear, every restaurant I went to featured brussels sprouts as a stand-alone appetizer or small plate item. Gone are the days when your mom just boiled this poor little cabbage wannabe. The creativity of hipster chefs has put the lowly sprout into the spotlight.

Normally I'm not a big fan of creamy, Americanized carbonara dishes, but this recipe stands out and uses brussels sprouts in a way I'd never thought of before.


½ lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated 
12 oz. conchiglie (shells) pasta 
Kosher salt 
2 oz. finely chopped jamón serrano (or other smoked meat such as proscuitto, pancetta or bacon)
½ tsp. red pepper 
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
⅓ cup grated Pecorino cheese
2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add brussels sprout leaves and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add jamón serrano and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to keep pepper from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms.

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Add Pecorino; toss to combine. Remove from heat; mix in egg yolks. Add reserved brussels sprout leaves; toss, adding pasta cooking liquid (or hot water) as needed to thin sauce.

Serve pasta topped with more Pecorino.

17 January 2015

lemon pepper pappardelle with beet and blood orange salad

It's been a while.

Though I still cook, I've lost touch with the original premise on which I created this blog: the idea that cooking is my zen zone. 

Life became really rushed these last two years, with little time to catch up on writing or other hobbies. 

It's also been easy for me to take a backseat to being creative in the kitchen, as I'm lucky to have two other great cooks in the house, one of whom is the star student in culinary school.

Right now, we're on a 30-day vegetarian diet. There are tons of ways my Vietnamese family can make you not miss meat and fish, but for a Westerner like me it's more challenging to come up with meals that don't make you miss the protein.

Fortunately, my love of rustic ItalIan cooking is able to provide inspiration. This meal everyone saying, "I'd eat that again for sure!"

For the salad:


4 medium red beets, tops trimmed
3 blood oranges
1 medium Cara Cara orange
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 1/3 cup)
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Dijon mustard
Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from all oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and Cara Cara orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.

Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Mix reserved citrus juices with Dijon mustard and olive oil, then drizzle salad generously with dressing. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. 

For the pasta:


3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup capers
1 can baby artichokes (Trader Joe's)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 8-ounce package Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta


Slowly cook the garlic and lemon zest in the butter and oil, in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Stir frequently to keep the garlic from browning. When the garlic is soft,  add the broth and turn the heat to high. Simmer until reduced by at least one half, and add the cream and capers. Add the artichoke hearts. Season with pepper and thyme and a bit of salt (watch out; capers may have already been salty). Turn the heat back to medium and simmer until thick and syrupy. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions (2 quarts of salted water, 8-10 minutes). Drain and toss with a dribble of olive oil. Pour the cream sauce over and toss. Serve immediately.