Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese

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This recipe shouldn’t make any sense, but it does. It’s Bolognese, but it’s vegetarian. Oh, and there’s miso. And a loooot of vegetables. But the resulting sauce is so umami-laden that you won’t miss the meat, I promise. (Even Nishan, who counts a traditional spaghetti Bolognese among his favorite foods of all time, couldn’t get enough of this.)

Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, I’ve played around with the vegetable proportions to my preference. Feel free to do the same.

Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small eggplant (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound cremini mushrooms, 1/4 sliced, the rest cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt
Pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
One 2-inch chunk of Parmesan cheese, plus grated cheese for serving
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1 thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. In a small bowl, cover the porcini with 1 cup of boiling water; soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Finely chop the porcini. Pour off and reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.

2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the eggplant and 2 tablespoons of the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Stir in the cremini, shiitake, chopped porcini and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and miso and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chunk of cheese, the tomatoes and their juices, the thyme, sugar and reserved mushroom soaking liquid and bring to a simmer.


3. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 1 hour. Discard the thyme sprig; season the sauce with salt and pepper. 


4. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

5. Add the pasta, pasta water, and parsley to the sauce; toss to coat. Serve topped with grated cheese.

Rye Tagliatelle with Yeast Butter and Truffles

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I’m warning you now: this recipe is really difficult to pull off, but it also produces one of the most delicious pastas things I’ve ever tasted. In other words, it’s totally worth the hours you’ll spend in the kitchen wondering why you listened to me, cursing me under your breath while attempting to make this dish. Patience, my friend.

Adapted from a recipe by Noah Sandoval, the original version calls for handmade capellini. But, you know, I’m not a magician and producing hair-thin strands of pasta with rye flour (which is quite coarse), was beyond my skillset. I enlisted Nishan to help with the pasta-making (he’s handy with a KitchenAid) and the resulting tagliatelle was perfect.

I don’t recommend substituting regular pasta to accompany the sauce here. There’s something about that earthy rye flavor and the yeasty sauce that results in a vaguely Nordic umami bomb beyond your wildest dreams. Enjoy.

Rye Tagliatelle with Yeast Butter and Truffles

Ingredients:

2 cups 00 flour, plus more for dusting

3/4 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, ground to a powder
Kosher salt
Pepper

10 egg yolks

3 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1/2 cup black truffle butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Shaved black truffle (optional) and snipped chives, for garnish


1. Sift both flours with the caraway and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, whole eggs, olive oil and 
1 tablespoon of water. Using a fork, gradually whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until stiff but smooth, about 
15 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature until softened and relaxed, about 2 hours.


2. Divide the dough into 
12 pieces and work with 1 piece at a time; keep the rest covered. Press the dough to flatten. Set up a pasta machine to roll flat pasta. Starting at the widest setting, run the dough through successively narrower settings until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the sheet to a lightly floured work surface and dust with 00 flour. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.


3. Set up a pasta machine with a tagliatelle cutter. Working with 1 sheet of dough at a time, gradually feed the dough through the cutter. Gently toss with 00 flour and transfer the tagliatelle pile to a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pasta to form 12 piles.


4. In a small saucepan, whisk the cream with 2 tablespoons of water and the yeast and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the yeast is dissolved and the mixture is very thick, 
3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the unsalted butter 1 tablespoon at a time until emulsified, then season with salt and pepper. 


5. In a large saucepan of 
salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 
2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Wipe out the saucepan.


6. In the large saucepan, melt the yeast butter with the truffle butter over moderately high heat. Add the pasta, the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss until hot and evenly coated with the butter, about 2 minutes. Add a little more of the cooking water if necessary. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Top with grated Parmesan and garnish with shaved black truffle, if desired, and snipped chives. Serve immediately.

Halvah-Stuffed Challah

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Growing up, one of my favorite after-school snacks was halvah rolled up with lavash flatbread: simple, sweet, and satisfying. Called halvardeh in Persian, Middle Eastern halvah is ubiquitous these days in well-stocked American grocery stores. But when I was a kid, halvah was precious: we’d make semi-monthly drives from Santa Rosa to San Jose to stock up on Iranian favorites, including halvah, sour cherry jam, lavashak (sour fruit roll ups), and spices and herbs for days.

This halvah-stuffed challah is a grown-up version of my childhood snack and make no mistake about it: this is a weekend project. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this takes the better part of an afternoon to make, and the results are well worth it. This recipe makes two loaves so make like me and freeze one for eating later, when the craving strikes.

Halvah-stuffed challah

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup tahini
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
Salt
1 1/2 cups chopped halvah
Sesame seeds and more sugar, for sprinkling

1. Make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk the water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 of the eggs with the oil and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Mix to blend. Add the egg and yeast mixtures and knead until the dough comes together, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and slightly sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled large bowl and cover with wax paper and a towel on top.

3. Make the filling and topping: In a medium bowl, stir the tahini with 1/3 cup of the honey, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of water.

4. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Transfer 1 piece to a lightly floured work surface and keep the other piece covered with a damp kitchen towel. Divide the dough on the work surface into 3 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 piece into a 
14-by-6-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of the tahini mixture on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the halvah over the tahini in an even layer. With a long side facing you, tightly roll up the dough into a log, pressing the seam and ends together to seal in the filling. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough, 1/2 cup of the tahini mixture and 1/2 cup of the halvah. Arrange the 3 logs on one of the prepared sheets and braid them together. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling, egg wash and toppings. Bake the challahs for about 25-30 minutes on the middle and bottom racks of the oven, shifting and rotating halfway through, until deep golden. Transfer to racks to cool.


Turkish-Style Poached Eggs

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What surprised me most about Turkish cuisine when I visited Istanbul several years ago was how spicy it could be. I thought the food would be more like its Iranian counterpart: herbaceous and drizzled with saffron and turmeric at every turn. And while Turkish cuisine incorporates similar flavors, it’s also laden with peppers, both mild and hot. I loved it. Redolent with fresh vegetables, flatbreads, yogurt, lamb, and ingredients similar to the Iranian palate I’d grown up with, Turkish food was at the same time familiar but not.

One of my favorite dishes were these poached eggs. No one does breakfast like the Turks. The silky sauce is garlicy, yogurty, and has just enough heat so that you can’t stop sopping it up with bread, yolks and all. You can serve this with any flatbread, but I prefer this with some good-quality slices of toasted sourdough. Iranian barbari is delicious too.

Turkish-style poached eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain whole-milk Turkish or Greek yogurt

1 small garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon olive oil 

1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper or Turkish red chile flakes 

2 large cold eggs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided

2 thick sourdough 
slices or pieces of barbari bread, toasted


1. Fill a large skillet with water to a depth of 2 inches. Bring to a simmer over medium.

2. Place yogurt in a small saucepan and slowly warm over low heat. Stir in garlic and salt. Cook, stirring, until yogurt mixture is the consistency of lightly whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.


3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to turn brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oil and Aleppo pepper. 


4. Crack 1 egg into a ramekin or small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Repeat with remaining egg and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in another ramekin or small bowl.


5. Gently slide eggs, 1 on each side of the large skillet, into the simmering water. Reduce heat so there is no movement in the water, and poach eggs until whites are set and yolks are still runny, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs to a plate.


6. Divide the warm creamy yogurt mixture between 2 
shallow bowls. Top each with 
a poached egg, and pour the peppery butter around and slightly over the yogurt. Serve with bread.

Apple and Pear Old Fashioned

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I grew up in Santa Rosa, ground zero for California’s 2017 historic fire season that wiped out so much of the city, county, and region last year. The neighborhood I grew up in was one of the worst hit. Months later, neighbors are coming back and there is no sound sweeter than that of rebuilding. Shout out to a resilient community.

By chance, I’d visited Santa Rosa the day before the fires, and my parents had sent me home with a huge haul of produce from their garden, as they always do. Apples, blood oranges, Asian pears, pomegranates, figs, Meyer lemons, persimmons, muscat grapes, Persian mulberries, Persian cucumbers, San Marzano tomatoes, sun gold tomatoes, Santa Rosa plums — I could go on and on. I’ve been very lucky to be eating farm to table well before the phrase ever entered the popular vernacular.

With the fire went the beautiful garden that my parents had lovingly built over the decades, and in the haze of the days that followed, I found myself with a bag of fruit that I didn’t want to eat. If I ate the fruit, the last vestiges of the garden I grew up in would vanish forever. But if I didn’t eat the fruit, it would, of course, go bad.

So I infused the fruit in bourbon. A year later, I realize that sounds strange, but in the moment, it felt like the right thing do to. And you know what? That infused bourbon made the best old fashioned I’ve ever had. It was bittersweet, but in a sense, it allowed the fruit to be frozen in time.

The apple and lemon and pear trees may be gone forever, but they can be replanted. They’ll grow and thrive again. And until they do, I have this recipe to remind me that there is joy to be found in all places, no matter the circumstance.

Apple and Pear Old Fashioned

Ingredients for the infused bourbon:

Peel from 1 whole grapefruit
Peels from 2 Meyer lemons
2 pear cores
2 apple cores
One 750-ml bottle bourbon

Ingredients for 1 old fashioned:

1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 dashes of Angostura bitters
Ice
2 ounces infused bourbon
1/2 ounce water
Orange twist, for garnish

1. Make the infused bourbon: Combine all of the ingredients in a jar; cover. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. Strain the bourbon through 
a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve.

2. Make the old fashioned: In a rocks glass, muddle the sugar with the bitters. Fill the glass with ice and stir in the infused bourbon and water. Garnish the drink with an orange twist.