All Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Dinner

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sunday brunch: tina’s favorite breakfast sandwich.

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GUYS. Guys. Big news over here at Plumber’s Daughter. It took 35 long years, but I think I’ve finally landed on a favorite food. Say what?! Yes, it’s true. This may be an easy choice for you; for me, it’s a constant struggle. Do I choose a cuisine? A dish? A piece of meat or a vegetable? OH, THE STRUGGLE.

But. I had a good think about it, put on my big girl pants, and made a decision. And my decision is that I am hopelessly in love with the classic that is a perfect breakfast sandwich. It brings me a level of joy rarely achieved by other things, and I savor every single bite anytime this business lands on my plate.

So now I’m committed. I’ve chosen. I’m ready to get serious. Me and my breakfast sandwich can live happily ever after in favorite food harmony. Can I get a YUM and a HECK YES and a WOOOOO.

If you, too, would like to experience the level of joy I feel digging into this little ditty, I suggest you follow this lovely little recipe. It’s a traditional take on a breakfast sandwich — the rich, buttery flavor of over easy eggs, the salty, chewiness of thick cut bacon, the crunch of a perfectly toasted English muffin. Add in a little sharp cheddar for a kick and some dressed greens for a little tang and you’re in business. Serve with a small salad, some sliced fruit or your fave breakfast potatoes and you’ve got a banner meal to start your day.

It’s my favorite, and I can’t wait to dig in. Shall we?

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Tina’s Breakfast Sandwich
Serves: 2 (makes 2 sandwiches)

You will need:

2 English muffins, split in half
4 strips thick-cut bacon
2 eggs
4 thin slices sharp cheddar or 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus more for spreading
½ cup greens, such as arugula, mache, or spinach
lemon juice & olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette
garlic salt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: small nonstick sauté pan, medium sauté pan, metal spatula, tongs

Fry the bacon. Starting with a cold medium sauté pan, add bacon strips in a single layer. Turn the heat on medium-low. As the pan heats, the bacon will begin to sizzle and the fat will render. Once the bacon begins to curl and shrink, you can flip the pieces using your tongs and continue to cook. Everyone has their favorite way to serve bacon, so it’s really up to you how much longer you cook it. Obviously the longer you cook it, the crispier it will be, and don’t forget that it will continue to cook a bit longer after you pull it from the pan. Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Toast the English muffins. One of my favorite elements of a good breakfast sandwich is the crunch of the bread, whatever bread you may be using. You want the bread to be appropriately crispy as a nice texture contrast to the egg and bacon, but you don’t want it to be so crispy that it becomes difficult to eat. To get the perfect crunch, you can either toast the English muffins in your toaster on a light setting, or my preferred method, which is to spread a bit of butter on the muffins, season with salt and pepper, then place under the broiler in your oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven or toaster and set aside. You’ll toast these again when you melt the cheese, so don’t worry if they’re not quite crunchy enough yet.

Cook the eggs. This step is by far the trickiest. Cooking a perfect egg is still something I’m working on myself, but if you master the right technique, you’ll at least produce something delicious. You may have to practice a bit before it’s actually delicious AND pretty.

To get started, heat your small nonstick sauté pan over low heat and add one tablespoon butter. Crack your eggs into a small bowl or ramekin. Once the butter is fully melted and has stopped foaming, add the eggs to the pan and immediately lift the handle of the pan about an inch off the stove so the eggs pool in the far end of the pan. Hold for about 30 seconds, then slowly lower the pan. This simple step will ensure that the whites of the egg don’t spread all over the pan and will allow for easier flipping later.

Season the eggs with salt and pepper, and cook until the whites turn opaque, shaking every once in awhile to ensure they don’t stick. And now comes the flipping. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and maybe give yourself a little pep talk. You can do this, I promise. When you’re ready, raise the pan about a foot off the stove, and in a confident motion, push the pan away from you and then pull back towards you as the eggs flip. If you don’t get it the first time, try again. If all else fails, take your metal spatula and give the eggs a little push.

After successfully flipping the egg, count slowly to 10 then flip again for an over easy egg, more like 30-45 for an over medium. I don’t mess with eggs that are more than over easy, but if you prefer a firmer egg, just continue to cook until it’s to your liking.

Once you’ve flipped the egg back to its original size, it’s basically done, so you can slide it out of the pan onto a plate. Set aside and turn your attention back to the muffins.

Melt the cheese. Turn on the broiler in your oven if it’s not on already. Take your pre-toasted English muffins and add one slice or a good pinch of shredded cheddar to each. Place under the broiler, and watching closely, melt the cheese until it is bubbling and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a pinch of garlic salt.

Dress the greens. Wash and pat dry your greens, then add them to a small bowl. If you’re using lemon and olive oil, add about a teaspoon of each, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently until coated evenly.

Bring it all together. OK, game time. Take your melty, cheese muffins and place them on your serving plate. Place an egg on two of them. Top each egg with two slices of bacon and a small handful of greens. Top the sandwich with the spare muffins.

Consume immediately. Get messy with it. Let the egg run all down your arm and don’t even worry about it. The mess it worth the experience of this salty, cheesy, rich and tangy wonder.

There are a million ways to make a breakfast sandwich, and I’m sure about 956,874 of those ways are fantastic. But this one is mine. It’s simple, it’s traditional, and it’s crazy delicious. You do you, I’m stickin’ with mine. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: sausage & green garlic flatbread with seasoned ricotta.

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Real talk: I didn’t want to move to Portland.

When I think back to the moment I chose to uproot my life and relocate back to the West Coast, I would be lying if I said it was a moment of excitement. Mostly it felt stressful and uncertain and my heart was heavy. I knew it was the right decision — hell, it was an easy one once the reality of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis sunk in — but it wasn’t a happy one. I dragged my feet when it came to planning the details of the move, and I had to completely fake a smile when others asked me to ‘share the exciting details’. I was all smiles on the outside, all ho hum on the inside. The morning I left New York, I sobbed all the way to the airport; in such dramatic fashion that at one point my Uber driver handed me a tissue and turned the radio up to drown out the sound of my crying.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love Portland when I lived here before, I truly did. My time in Portland is the reason my life since that time has been so incredible. But still, the entire venture, even with an incredible job and an instant set of friends who were more like family and the close proximity of my actual family; it all felt like one giant step backwards. I had lived all over the world, accomplished amazing things, and my next big thing was a move…to Portland? I was heartbroken in a number of ways, not the least of which was feeling like my life was headed in a direction I didn’t want.

Flash forward five months and I’m standing in the middle of the farmers’ market at Portland State University. It’s an overcast but warm Saturday morning, and the market is a-buzz with locals hunting for the freshest the farm can offer. And it was there, standing over a basket bursting with green garlic and microgreens that I realized, I. LOVE. IT. HERE. I’m so goddamn happy I could scream.

Is my life different than it was in New York? Absolutely. But that’s OK. My job is incredible. My friendships are strong and mature and even better than they were before (that goes for my friends in Portland AND my friends in New York). I’m closer (physically and emotionally) to my family, which brings me peace of mind. And I have completely fallen back in love with the city of Portland. It has given me the balance I so dearly needed, and I’ve been able to slow down a bit and really enjoy life. Turns out, all of the anxiety was complete rubbish, but it took moving across the country and making a go of it to figure that out. I still miss New York; I always will, it’s in my bones. But the idea that I made the wrong decision or that I have any shred of regret is completely out of my head. This is my home, and I am gloriously happy to be here.

So. In a bit of a tribute to my farmers’ market revelation, this recipe is made up of only ingredients from the market (except the pizza dough and the cheese). It’s something I’ve been tossing around in my head for awhile, and I’m excited to finally put in on the plate. And it’s seasonal as all get out and a perfect meal to celebrate all the beauty of Spring. Salty, spicy, herby, delicious.

I’ll be enjoying this on the balcony of my new Portland abode (I can afford a balcony now! Take that, NYC.), relishing the fact that it all worked out and I’ll be OK. Moving to Portland certainly wasn’t the step forward I had imagined, but it definitely wasn’t a step backward either.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Sausage & Green Garlic Flatbread with Seasoned Ricotta
Serves: 2

You will need:

2 links fresh, uncooked sausage, removed from the casing
3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, white & green parts separated (you can substitute 3-4 green onions if you can’t find green garlic)
5 spears asparagus, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pound pizza dough, divided in two
1 small ball fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
3 tablespoons grated parmesan or pecorino romano
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 meyer lemon, zested and cut into 4 wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bunch microgreens or baby arugula

Kitchen equipment: large baking sheet or pizza stone, sauté pan, zester, parchment paper

Prep the dough. First things first, remove your pizza dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. I typically do this about an hour before I start cooking. By bringing to room temp, the dough will be much easier to work with, will stretch nicely, and won’t seize up in the oven and create a weird thick, doughy center. Nobody wants that.

OK, now that’s taken care of, place your baking sheet or pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 475 degrees. It’s getting hot in herrrrre…

Prep the toppings. While the oven is preheating, prep your veggies and set aside. Cook the sausage in a sauté pan over medium heat until nicely browned, breaking up into small pieces with a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Wipe out the pan, add a touch of olive oil, then add the white parts of the green garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes, then add them to the plate with the sausage.

Prep the flatbread. Next, lay down a piece of parchment paper on your countertop and stretch each of the pizza dough halves to about 1/4 inch thick, drizzling each with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Toppings are next, but a word of warning first: less is more when it comes to flatbread. You want to distribute toppings in thin layers — this will ensure everything cooks evenly, and it will allow the flatbread to cook crisply all the way through. Too many toppings equals soggy middle crust, not a desirable outcome in my book. OK, you’ve been warned, on with the show!

Distribute the mozzarella, parmesan, and asparagus slices evenly over both pizzas, leaving about a 1 inch border on all sides. Top with the sausage and green garlic mixture, the green garlic tops, and another dusting of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Now the tricky part. Once your oven is fully preheated and your baking sheet or pizza stone is nice and toasty, remove it from the oven and transfer (carefully please, safety first!) the flatbread onto the hot surface. This shouldn’t be too difficult to do with the aid of the parchment, but still, look alive.

Cook the flatbread. Cook the flatbread for about 10 minutes, rotating once and watching semi-closely to ensure nothing is burning. At the 10-minute mark, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Move the pizza to the top shelf and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

Prep the garnish. While the flatbread is cooking, combine the ricotta, the lemon zest and juice from 2 lemon wedges. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place the microgreens in a large bowl and add juice of one lemon wedge and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Bring it all together. When the pizza is finished cooking, remove from the oven, and set aside to rest for a few minutes. Just before serving, top the pizza with the seasoned ricotta in whatever way suits your fancy, a smattering of the red pepper flakes if you’re using them, and garnish with the dressed microgreens.

This little ditty is best eaten immediately (let’s be honest, I won’t actually make it all the way to my fancy balcony because I can’t wait to sit down to eat), and pairs beautifully with whatever is your favorite wine of the moment (mine’s a toss up between Elk Cove Pinot Gris or Mandrarossa Nero D’avola).

It’s salty and cheesy and herby with just the right amount of spice, and it allows the farmers’ market ingredients to really shine. Delicious all around, a perfect celebration of Spring, and for me, a perfect celebration of Portland. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: thai beef with basil over coconut rice.

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Sometimes, you get to the end of a rough week, and you just want something easy and satisfying, you know? This week was especially that for me, mostly because I spent the last 6 days laid up on the couch with a badly sprained ankle (hint: don’t fall down stairs; also, I’m fine, just a clumsy idiot) and was going completely stir crazy. I wanted the opportunity to get out of the house, both for fresh air and for contact with other humans, but I still don’t have the stamina or the stability to stand on my foot for more than 30 minutes, so if I was going to make a special trip, it needed to be for something that packed a big punch of flavor without a huge amount of effort to get there.

So what I’m saying is, this thai beef with basil served over coconut rice is the perfect dish for those with minor injuries, those who haven’t left their homes in a week, and those looking for a quick, deliciously flavorful meal any ol’ day of the week. I’m guessing most of you fall into that last category, but I thought I’d lay it all out there just in case. This dish is also very accommodating where substitutions are concerned, so if you’re not a beef person, feel free to sub in ground pork, ground turkey, or even some finely chopped extra-firm tofu.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Thai Beef with Basil over Coconut Rice
Serves: 4

For the Beef:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 lb ground beef
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 small chiles, such as red thai, serrano or jalapeño, 1 chopped, 1 thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cups fresh basil leaves (I used a mix of regular basil and thai basil)
½ cup chicken broth
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Coconut Rice:
2 cups jasmine rice
2 ½ cups boiling water
1 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Zest from one lime

Kitchen equipment: 2-quart pot, large skillet

Cook the rice. Rinse the rice thoroughly with cold water until water runs clear, then set aside. Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat in your 2 quart pot. Once boiling, add the coconut milk, sugar, salt and lime zest, stirring to incorporate. The coconut milk might look a little wonky at this stage, but don’t fret, it will all come together as it heats. Once the mixture is simmering nicely, add the rice and stir. Bring the rice and liquid back to a low simmer, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes undisturbed, then turn off heat and allow rice to steam for an additional 5-10 minutes. Lift the lid and fluff the rice just before serving.

Prep the slaw and sauce. In a medium size bowl, mix the shredded carrot, the thinly sliced chile, the green parts of the scallions, and one cup of basil leaves. Add one tablespoon lime juice and one tablespoon oil and toss to incorporate. Set aside and turn your attention to the beef.

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and remaining lime juice. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved and set aside.

Cook the beef. Place your large skillet on the stove and add one tablespoon oil, the garlic, the chopped chile and the white parts of the scallion. Set your burner to high and cook the aromatics just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute, stirring frequently. Add the beef to the pan and season with salt and pepper, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for about 10 minutes over high heat until beef is cooked through and nicely browned. Finally, add the chicken broth and the remaining two cups basil, cooking for another two minutes or so, until the broth has reduced and the basil is wilted.

Bring it all together. Spoon a bit of rice into the bottom of a bowl, then top with your desired amount of beef. Top with slaw, then drizzle the sauce over all.

An easy dinner that comes together quickly and is a real crowd pleaser, no matter your malady. Enjoy!

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A look back — 2015 in review.

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A week late because that’s how life works.

2015. What a year. Truth be told, it was a doozy. I got to stroll through Paris on a perfect summer’s night and I got to relish the view from atop Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai. I also experienced the absolute punch in the gut of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and have spent much of the year coming to terms with what that means for him, for me, and for our family. I left an old job, I got a new job, I left New York! I laughed (a lot), I cried (a lot, mostly behind closed doors but occasionally in the middle of dinner with friends because they are wonderful and they care about me immensely), I cooked and ate a lot a lot (some healthy, some not so healthy, some downright indulgent). The highs were really high and the lows were really low, and I end the year on a different coast than I started. And through it all, this little blog o’ mine was a constant source of comfort and a creative outlet and a way to connect with all of my people (all 35 of you).

So in celebration of all that was, here are a few highlights of the culinary variety that I will cherish from 2015.

Favorite Things I Ate in 2015
Dumplings with Black Vinegar & Chili Sauce in Flushing, NY: Do yourself a favor the next time you find yourself in the New York City metropolitan area: take the 7 train all the way to the Flushing Main Street stop, head across the street to the New World Mall and take the escalator down to the basement food court (just go with me on this one). Look for the two little ladies in the corner making dumplings by hand. Run to them as if they are your long lost surrogate Chinese grandmothers. Order one of each kind of dumpling (the pork and chive are my faves) and dive right in (don’t forget the black vinegar. Never forget the black vinegar). They’re cheap, authentic and crazy delicious. You’ll work up an appetite on the commute out, but your efforts will be handsomely rewarded.

Brillat Savarin Cheese in Paris, France: How can you go wrong with French cheese? The answer is you cannot. But when I laid my hands on this creamy slice of heaven for the first time (shout out to the cheesemonger in Montmartre who steered me in this glorious direction), it was like I had never eaten cheese before. Rich, creamy, perfect for slathering on a freshly baked french baguette. Did my cholesterol suffer as a result? Definitely. Was it worth it? Hoooooo boy was it ever. (P.S. they sell this cheese at Whole Foods so get thee some toute suite).

Kauai Waffle with Mango & Bananas and Coconut Syrup at Hanalei Coffee Roasters on Kauai, HI: Hi, my name is Tina and I don’t like sweet breakfast foods (Hi, Tina). I know, I’m a weirdo but give me bacon and eggs over pancakes any day of the week. Except Saturday, June 20th, 2015, when I first experienced the Kauai waffle. This tiny coffee shop on the North Shore of Kauai churns out these bad boys for locals and tourists alike, and you’d be a fool to pass on them. They’re light and fluffy and I swear the fruit gets picked off of a tree out back, sliced up and placed directly on the waffle because it is the freshest fruit I’ve ever tasted. Also, coconut syrup. Who knew? A revelation.

Sushi from Shoga in Sandpoint, ID: Yes, that’s right, the best sushi I had all year was from a sushi bar in Idaho. Deal with it, snobs. The fish was crazy fresh, the sushi rice was on point, and I’ve never had better spicy tuna. Look ‘em up the next time you’re in North Idaho (because I know that’s a regular destination for all of you); their sister restaurant, 41 South, is also a treat.

Pan Roasted Cauliflower at Imperial in Portland, OR: My first truly great meal after my return to Portland! This city knows what it’s doing when it comes to food (see here please), so I wasn’t at all surprised that my meal at Imperial was fantastic. But the star of the show was the pan-roasted cauliflower with hummus and cara cara oranges. You know when cauliflower gets nice and brown and crispy and caramelized and it’s just the best? This was that x 1000. The rich earthiness of the cauliflower was perfectly paired with the brightness of the oranges and the hummus just rounded everything out in the best, creamiest way possible. Had I not been in a public setting, I definitely would have licked the bowl. But maybe I also did lick the bowl anyway? #sogood

Favorite Things I Cooked in 2015
Ricotta Toast w/ Lemon & Honey: Simple, easy, can be done a thousand different ways. Toast had a moment in 2015 and I was right there to try ‘em all. This one, however, came out on top for me (closely followed by OG Avocado Toast), due to its simple, fresh flavors of Spring.

Cacio e Pepe: This was the dish I came back to most in 2015. There really is nothing more satisfying than a simple bowl of pasta and cheese, and it’s so easy to throw together and so easy to jazz up, I will eat cacio e pepe for many years to come.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake: Showstopper! This was a fun one. One of those recipes that you try on a whim and you probably don’t make very often because it’s, shall we say, rather labor intensive. But it was equally as delicious and was a big hit among my rhubarb-loving coworkers. Plus, it’s real pretty.

Chicken Tortilla Stew: My favorite Fall/Winter dish, this one got a lot of people talking. It’s spicy and tangy and it warms your insides, perfect for an afternoon of football or a Saturday night dinner party or reheated on a chilly Tuesday. It’s all things to all people, the everyman’s stew. And it’s just crazy good.

Cinnamon Rolls & Bacon on Christmas Morning: OK, I’ll amend my ‘no sweet breakfast foods’ to include one item — I LOVE cinnamon rolls. So this year I thought I’d make them from scratch for Christmas morning (these ones, if you’re curious). And they were great! They aren’t beginner’s baker territory (any recipe that spans over multiple days is not for a beginner in my book), but they were worth the effort. Fry up a little bacon along side and you’re all set. Heart attack! Come at me.

Favorite Food Memories of 2015
Brunch at Russ & Daughters in New York, NY: Such a quintessential New York day. You get out of bed early, throw on about 16 layers of clothing and head out into the sub zero temperatures. Gotta get those bagels, y’all. I met a few favorite friends and we sat around in our cozy sweaters and gobbled up our perfect bagels with perfect lox and perfect cream cheese and it was heaven. Lots of laughter, lots of coffee, endless potato latkes. A cozy respite of warmth from an otherwise chilled to the bone day. I love New York for days like these, they are what makes the city so goddamn special.

Dinner at Bistroy Les Papilles in Paris, France: Bold statement — this was my favorite restaurant meal of 2015. I mean, they had a bit of an advantage going in, seeing that this is a tiny bistro in Paris run by a Michelin-starred chef that is also a wine shop and you choose your dinner wine by grabbing a bottle off the wall. It feels like you’re being invited into the chef’s home to eat, and eat you do, incredibly well. The entire meal was perfection — from the delicious wine to the falling off the bone lamb shank (oh, the lamb shank), to the gorgeous cheese course to the creme brûlée for dessert. My dinner date and I stumbled out of the restaurant as if in a fever dream, not quite sure what we had just experienced was real (also, we were probably drunk). It was insane, I still dream about it, I won’t ever forget it.

Tart night in New York, NY: Bolder statement — this was my favorite home-cooked meal of 2015 (not really a bold statement). My absolute favorite nights are those that come together spontaneously. You go in with no expectations because you’d had no time to build it up in your head, and you end up having the best of times. A roof deck with a perfect view of Manhattan at dusk doesn’t hurt either. What started as a wild experiment in baking ended in a laughter-filled night with favorite friends, gobbling up summer’s bounty and washing it down with endless rosé. Good food, good friends, good wine — what more could a girl ask for?

Clamming on Long Island, West Islip, NY: One of the saddest things I can think of is the potential of a shellfish allergy. I don’t have one, THANK GOD, but if I did, there would be tears. And because I don’t have a shellfish allergy, I was able to fully embrace digging around in the sand of the Great South Bay lookin’ for clams with my favorite LI residents. Clamming is not a graceful exercise; it mostly involves wading around in hip deep water digging your heels into the sand waiting to feel the bump of a shell. Clamming is not a speedy exercise; it takes a few hours at minimum to produce a take large enough for an actual meal. But. BUT. When you take these puppies home, scrub ‘em up, and steam them juuuuust enough to open with a little white wine and garlic and fresh herbs, it is all WORTH IT. Man, is it. Company wasn’t too shabby either.

Lunch at Machine Shed, Davenport, IA: This was a bittersweet memory. There was the joy of having most of my Radeke family together again at one table, something we haven’t done in many years. There was some really, really good fried chicken and biscuits. Maybe the best I’ve ever had. And there was the ultimate realization, through a few simple interactions, that my father is sick, and things will never be the same. I walked away from that meal with two things: One — the belief that family is everything and moments like that are not endless, so you better cherish them while you can. And Two — a butter dish shaped like a cow.

So much good in 2015, and so much good to look forward to in 2016. I hope all of you had memories to cherish from the last year, thank you for sticking with this crazy ride of mine along the way!

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sunday dinner: gnocchi pomodoro with fresh mozzarella.

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Guys. Hi! Guess what? I moved to Portland, Oregon. Say whaaaaat?! Yes, Plumber’s Daughter has gone West. Well, returned to the West is more accurate. My roots are here, my family is here, and now, after a nine year stint away, I’m here.

This was a big move, and one that came about rather quickly. To be honest, I wasn’t ready. New York and I were in a committed, long term relationship. He was about to put a ring on it. But, as Hugh Laurie so astutely observes, ‘It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready,’ so here I am, in a new/old city, writing a new chapter. And you know what? So far so good.

Here are the things that have happened since I moved to Portland:

  1. It’s been raining like a motherfucker. Harsh words, yes, but when Oregon is breaking rain records, you know it’s serious. Where oh where have you gone, my beloved sunshine? Can we please do lunch soon? Call me.
  2. I’ve taken up loom weaving. Hey, if you’re going to move to the hipster capital of America, you should probably take up a super obscure craft. Here’s to many a sexy afternoon spent in a yarn store.
  3. So much has changed, and yet, so little has changed. I drove (drove!) past the Thai restaurant I basically lived in in college and it’s still freaking there. Fried bananas and thai iced tea for life, y’all. At the same time, entire new neighborhoods have sprung up that didn’t exist when I lived here before (did you know that Portland also has a neighborhood named Brooklyn? I sure didn’t).
  4. New city, new chapter, new JOB. Three weeks in and I’ve figured out where my office is and where the cafeteria is. That’s success in my book. #onboarding

I’m on the right track here in the PNW, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss New York. The city will forever live in my heart, and will always be a major player in my kitchen. One of the last dinners I had in NYC was at one of my faves, Frank, a tiny hole in the wall East Village red sauce joint. It’s classic New York. Classic Italian. And you don’t go to Frank without ordering the gnocchi. A straight forward dish, Frank’s gnocchi is simply red sauce and pasta with a little basil. And yet, it’s the most comforting thing you’ll ever eat, and it’s one of the things I miss most about the city that never sleeps.

My version of gnocchi and red sauce has a few ingredients not seen in Frank’s version, namely the welcome addition of fresh mozzarella. It captures the spirit of Frank, and the spirit of New York City, and it will be my go to when I miss the city the most.

This dish is a breeze to bring together — if you can boil water and operate an oven, you can master this business. Enjoy it with some good crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce, a big ol’ glass of red wine, and friends/loved ones who won’t judge you for making weird guttural noises at the table and licking the bowl because it’s just that good.

If I can’t be in NYC, this is certainly the second best option.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Gnocchi Pomodoro with Fresh Mozzarella
Serves: 4 appetizer portions or 2 entree portions

You will need:

¼ cup plus one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh basil plus more for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, diced
1 28-oz can tomatoes, diced or crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup half and half
1 package fresh gnocchi pasta
10 small cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls, halved
½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Kitchen equipment: large oven safe sauté pan, large pot

Ahhhh, just looking at the ingredients of this dish gets me all kinds of excited. So much YUM up in here.

Start the pomodoro sauce. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add all of the fresh herbs (with the exception of the basil to be used for garnish) and toss quickly to coat the herbs in the oil. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the herbs are crisp. The goal here is to infuse the herb flavor into the oil which will bring a brightness to the pomodoro sauce. Once the herbs are crisp, remove them from the oil and discard. Add the garlic and onions to the oil and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, turning the heat down slightly if necessary so you don’t burn the garlic (burnt garlic = bitter = bad).

Add the tomatoes to the garlic/onion mixture, making sure to include all the juices from the can. Stir to incorporate and season with salt, pepper and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.

Cook the pasta. Heat some generously salted water to boiling in a large pot. Add the gnocchi and cook for approximately 3 minutes, until pasta floats to the top of the water. Remove the cooked gnocchi from the water and immediately transfer to the pan with the pomodoro sauce, spreading evenly.

Bring it all together. Set your oven to broil, ensuring you have an oven rack in the top position. Add the halved mozzarella balls to the pasta and sauce, distributing evenly among the gnocchi. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of the pasta and mozzarella and drizzle with the extra tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a bit more pepper and red pepper flakes if you like. Place the pan in the oven on the top rack and broil for 5-7 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese is melted and the gnocchi are crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven, top with basil garnish and serve immediately.

Warm and rich and cozy and bright, all with a little kick. New York City in a bowl. The perfect reminder of my favorite city, and something to cherish in the new place I call home.

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things to remember about sunday dinner: november edition.

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Dear Tina,

It’s November. Hooray! Your favorite month. To start it off right, I want to remind you of a few things as you get settled into a new month.

  1. When daylight savings time ends, it gets dark VERY early. Do not start cooking at 5 if you expect to be able to shoot pretty photos of your food using natural light.
  2. Generally things that have spent 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven will be hot. So, you know, use an oven mitt, not your bare hand.
  3. You’re not as ambidextrous as you think you are (read: you cannot stir with your left hand and your right hand at the same time and expect it to go well).
  4. Multi-tasking while cooking risotto is ill-advised.
  5. Plates break when you drop them on the hard tile floor of your kitchen.
  6. Sausage doesn’t. So pick it up off the floor, wipe it off and you’re good to go. A little dirt never hurt.
  7. If you don’t move your fingers out of the way when slicing shitake mushrooms, your newly sharpened knife will cut you.
  8. It will hurt.
  9. Don’t go to Whole Foods and spend 6.99 on local, organic fresh sage and then forget to use it.
  10. Even when literally everything that can go wrong, does, (I’m looking at you, Murphy’s Law), you can still produce a kickass pot of farro risotto, with delicata squash and kale and Italian sausage and mushrooms to boot. But not sage. You forgot the sage.

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions on any of the above. I’m always here to help you along the way. Hoping you are well!

Sincerely,

Life

P.S. Back at it next week, kids. Kitchen disasters can’t keep me down for long! xx

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sunday dinner: pork ragu with parmesan semolina gnocchi.

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Oooooooh boy. Guys, I am tired. A full day (and I mean FULL) in the kitchen will do that to you, but I am hear to say that the effort was totally worth it. Any day that starts with purchasing a bone-in pork shoulder from my friendly neighborhood butcher and ends with a flavor-packed bowl of pork ragu topped with pillowy light gnocchi laced with parmesan is a good one. HOO-RAH. Two times.

You too can have this kind of fun if you’re willing to dedicate a full day (or two) to this laborious process. Truth be told I’ve been wanting to try a Sunday sauce for a long time now, but I never had the time or the willpower to take on the task. Enter a rainy Sunday morning when I happened to be awake on the north side of 9am (I like to sleep, no judgement). And I was just inspired. Pair that with finding the perfect recipe to try and I was off to the market, canvas totes in tow.

The quality of ingredients is key here — splurge a bit for some really great quality pork and DO NOT go for boneless pork shoulder because ‘it’s easier’ or ‘bones, ewww, gross’. You’ll lose out on major flavor and that is a no no where ragu is concerned. Grab the veggies (local, organic pretty please) and a good bottle of dry red (I used Cab) and get to cookin’.

I can guarantee you’ll feel mighty accomplished when you sit down to enjoy your labor of love in 8-ish (OK, maybe 10-ish) hours time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pork Ragu with Parmesan Semolina Gnocchi
Serves: 6
(inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn)

For the pork ragu:
canola oil
4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finally chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice (I like San Marzano)
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

For the gnocchi:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt

Kitchen equipment: large oven-safe pot or dutch oven, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, baking sheet, wooden spoon or spatula, cutting board, large kitchen knife

OK, I was not lying/exaggerating, this recipe really does take ALL DAY. Like so much of your day that it’s actually better to do this over two days. However you choose to get it done, just know that you will be spending some major time in the kitchen, so cancel the rest of your weekend plans. Okie dokie, we’re good to go now, yes?

Make the gnocchi dough. Were you looking for a little arm workout for your Sunday? Well, you’ve got one. Making this gnocchi dough requires constant stirring for what feels like 4 lifetimes, so you’ll come away with a gorgeous dish and some sweet guns. Bonus points all around.

Grab your sauce pan and heat the milk over medium heat until a ring of bubbles forms around the edges. Using your wooden spoon, gradually stir the semolina flour into the milk and set a timer for 15 minutes. Now, stir. And stir and stir and stir and stir. The mixture will thicken quickly and you will keep stirring. Don’t forget to clear the corners and the sides of the pan every once in awhile to prevent the semolina from burning. Keep stirring constantly until your alarm goes off, then stir for 2-3 minutes longer. The dough should be dense and very thick. Remove from the heat and pour the dough into a large bowl. Mix in 2/3 cup of the parmesan and stir to incorporate. Add the eggs and the salt and stir vigorously to incorporate (and to prevent the eggs from scrambling). Let cool slightly, then place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough. Stick the dough in the refrigerator and cool completely. Alternatively, you can make this the night before and refrigerate overnight to save time on sauce day.

Prep the pork. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place your pork shoulder on a large cutting board and trim off the excess skin and fat. Pat the pork dry and season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat your large pot over high heat and add a few tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork shoulder to the pot and sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside.

Build the sauce. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the chopped bacon to the pot you used to cook the pork. Render the bacon for about five minutes, then add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.

Toss in the tablespoon of tomato paste and stir the mixture constantly to incorporate, about two minutes. Pour in the wine and cider vinegar and turn the heat up a bit. The goal is to reduce the sauce slightly and pick up all those gorgeous brown bits on the bottom. Add the tomatoes and all of their juice and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook the pork. Add the pork shoulder back to the pot, and using your tongs, situate the pork so it’s nearly submerged in the sauce. Add a liberal pinch of red pepper flakes and a big ol’ pinch of sugar plus a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

Bring the pork and sauce to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook about three hours, turning the pork once, until the meat is falling off the bone and easily shreddable.

Finish the sauce. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pork shoulder from the pot to your cutting board. Shred the pork while still hot using two forks. Add the shredded pork back to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Cover and place in the refrigerator to cool. You don’t want to skip this step, as this allows the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken.

Cook the gnocchi. When the sauce is completely cooled and you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take the gnocchi dough from the refrigerator and grab your baking sheet. Grease the sheet with a little canola oil and a paper towel, then using a spoon, form tablespoon-sized dumplings and place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Sprinkle a little parmesan on each dumpling, then place in the oven on the top rack and cook for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

Bring it all together. Take the cooled pork ragu out of the refrigerator and reheat over medium-low heat until warm. Ladle the sauce into bowls and top with the gnocchi, a little sprinkle of parmesan and some freshly chopped basil.

Enjoy your work with a nice glass of bold red and a group of loved ones. Or with a bold red and your couch and some trashy reality TV. Also for lunch tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. You get the idea.

This is blow-your-mind good food and well worth the effort. Hearty and rich and filling and everything a good Sunday sauce should be.

Enjoy! xx