Pappardelle with Mascarpone-Porcini Sauce

Posted on

I’ve been cooking with dried porcini mushrooms a lot lately. I used them liberally in two Thanksgiving dishes: baked pasta shells with cheese, porcini, pancetta and radicchio; and porcini-potato gratin.

But we’ll get to those later. One of my favorite uses of this super-flavorful mushroom is in a pasta sauce, made even richer with the addition of creamy mascarpone cheese. Stirring in a classic tomato sauce at the end helps balance things out with a bit of acidity, making for a wholly satsifying dish.

Pappardelle with mascarpone-porcini sauce


2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans whole plum tomoates (preferably San Marzano)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 handful basil, coarsely chopped
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 package pappardelle pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In medium pot, gently saute the garlic with one tablespoon olive oil, and then add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Mix gently, taking care to not break up the tomatoes (this makes the sauce slightly bitter).

2. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for an hour. Add the vinegar, then stir and break up the tomatoes in the sauce with the back of a stirring spoon. Add basil, season well to taste, and add one tablespoon olive oil. Cover and set aside.

3. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil and garlic in a medium pan and saute over low heat for 5 minutes. 

4. Pick out the soaked porcini, reserving the porcini broth, and add porcini to the pan. Saute for 5 minutes. Pour in half a cup of the reserved porcini broth and discard the remainder. Simmer the mushroom mixture until the liquid is absorbed and then add the tomato sauce. Add the mascarpone and season to taste.

5. Meanwhile, cook the papardelle in salted wated until al dente and drain. Add pasta to sauce and toss. Serve warm.

Endive Salad with Anchovy and Caper Dressing

Posted on

It can be hard to get enough greens in my diet during the winter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t stop craving them. Endives are in season at this time of year though, and this anchovy and caper dressing stand up perfectly to offset the endives’ mild bitterness.

This easy recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef, which I adore, even though I feel like I shouldn’t, because Anthony Bourdain doesn’t. But hey, the man can cook!

Endive salad with anchovy and caper dressing


4 endives, cut into eighths
8 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained and minced
1 tablespoon capers, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Black pepper

1. In a bowl, whisk minced anchovies, capers, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper to taste.

2. Add endives to bowl and toss with dressing.


Posted on

A16 is San Francisco’s darling of an Italian restaurant. It is doted upon by magazines, bloggers and eaters eager to dine at the city’s hippest establishments. The restaurant’s meatballs night on Mondays is its most popular draw, but it was a Friday evening when a friend and I arrived for dinner to celebrate my birthday. (Uh, last January. Since I’m catching up on reviews and all.)

We started with the mozzarella burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini.

Mozzarella burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini

I don’t know if this was intentional, but the crostini were a bit too crisp, or dare I say, burned. The mozzarella burrata was good, though it wasn’t out of this world. Still, it was a satisfying compliment to our bottle of G&K Grillo Sicilia.

For my entree I chose the casareccia with baccala, tomato, green olives, garlic, chiles, basil and breadcrumbs.

Casareccia with baccala, tomato, green olives, garlic, chiles, basil and breadcrumbs

It was all right, but I couldn’t help but feel dissapointed. I expected something more exciting, something more flavorful. Maybe it’s me, I kept thinking. I mean, isn’t A16 where all the cool kids eat?

I hate to compare restaurants, but I couldn’t help but think of the Italian restaurant that I had eaten at a month earlier. I won’t name names, but I’ll just say that I love offal. And Chris Cosentino.

I’m more than willing to give A16 another chance. Maybe they were having an off night. After all, an entire city can’t be wrong. Right?

Lentil Salad with Browned Sausages

Posted on

Lentils have always been a comfort food for me. Adas polo, an Iranian lentil and rice pilaf topped with fried onions, was a dish frequently requested by my sister and I when we were kids. Adasi, or soupy lentils served with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with golpar, is one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling under the weather.

A dish of lentil salad with browned sausages that I made recently is French-inspired rather than Iranian, but the comfort factor is still there. With the days getting shorter, darker and rainier, a bowl of well-seasoned lentils couldn’t be a better antidote to the autumn blues.

Lentil salad with browned sausages


2-3 cups cooked brown lentils
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and saute, turning ocassionally until browned, about 10 minutes.

2. In another saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.

3. While the sausages cook, make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk one tablespoon vinegar with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk in two tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

4. If lentils are not warm, reheat them. In a large bowl, toss the lentils with a little salt and remaining vinegar and olive oil. Drain the sausages and add sausages and vinaigrette to the lentils, tossing to coat. Stir in the parsley, onions and carrots and add salt and pepper to taste.

Day 18: Istanbul

Posted on

It was our last full day in Turkey and my family and I wanted to make the best of it by checking off the last few things we still hadn’t had the chance to see. We got up early to catch the ferry from Eminonu to Uskudar. Uskudar is on the Asian side of Istanbul, and only a 20-minute ferry ride from the European side.


Right off the dock was a large park with several kiosks selling kabab sandwiches and snacks for hungry commuters. We bought several doner kabab sandwiches and containers of ayran and sat down to enjoy the view of the Bosphorous.

Ayran and doner kabab

Üsküdar ferry dock

We explored the neighborhood for a bit and then took the next ferry back to Eminonu. At Eminonu’s Golden Horn, we peeked into Yeni Mosque for a few minutes, exploring the courtyard and busy area outside full of hawkers selling grilled corn and freshly-baked bread.

Yeni Mosque

Yeni Mosque

A few steps away lies Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, which you can smell before you see. The aroma of coffee, cinnamon, olives, peppers, and saffron all blend into a heady scent that draws a steady stream of Istanbullus and travellers alike.

Dried fruits, nuts and spices at the Spice Bazaar

Olives at the Spice Bazaar

Fruits at the Spice Bazaar

We bought coffee at the renowned Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi and a cezve, or Turkish coffee pot at a stall nearby. On our way out, we purchased some eggplant, okra and tomatoes for that evening’s dinner.

The next morning we got up early to say goodbye my uncle and his wife, who were heading back to Tehran. My family and I took the metro to Ataturk Airport, where we awaited our flight to London, with a quick stopover in Munich.

I had caught a cold during my last few days in Turkey and by the time we reached London, it had developed into full-fledged pneumonia. The overnight stay we were to have in our hotel ended up being an overnight trip to the emergency room (thanks for being free, NHS!). Suffice to say the transatlantic flight back to the states was excruciating. But aside from that little snafu, the trip was an amazing experience. It’s been three months and I’m still dreaming of Istanbul. And Paris. And London.