Walnut-Pecan Maple Bars

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The two best pies I’ve ever had are my sister’s infamous pecan pie and San Francisco’s now-shuttered Mission Pie’s walnut pie. Sadly, I’m a little baking-challenged and my attempts to make pie always leave something to be desired, but these easy bars deliver all the satisfaction of pie without the fuss. A little bit walnut, a little bit pecan, these maple bars are the best of both worlds.

If you don’t have a square baking pan, you can substitute a 9-inch cake pan instead. Also, good luck getting these to last more than a day.

Walnut-pecan maple bars

Ingredients:

Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter 9x9x2-inch metal cake pan. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and egg yolk in bowl to blend. Add flour and salt; beat until moist clumps form. Gather dough together. Press dough over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool.

2. Make the filling: Combine maple syrup, brown sugar, whipping cream, and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat; mix in vanilla and nuts.

3. Pour filling into crust. Bake bars until filling is bubbling in center, about 15 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack (filling will become firm). Chill 1-2 hours. Cut into 16 bars.

Laotian-Style Khao Soi

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“Anytime I’m eating spicy noodles in a bowl, I’m happy.” – the late, great Anthony Bourdain.

He was right, of course. I can’t think of much that’s more satisfying than a bowl of noodles. This Laotian-style khao soi is a lot different than its richer, northern Thai-style counterpart, down to the zucchini ribbons that are served alongside rice noodles for a lighter bowl. It’s perfect on a sweltering summer day.

Laotian-Style Khao Soi

Ingredients:

3 dried Thai chiles
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons avocado oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound ground turkey
1 plum tomatoe, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup soybean paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 bunch cilantro
8 cups chicken broth
14 ounces dried thin rice stick noodles
3 cups zucchini ribbons
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Black pepper
Lime wedges

1. Crumble Thai chiles into a medium heatproof bowl. Add 1 cup hot water; let stand 15 minutes. Drain chiles; discard liquid. Process chiles, oil, and garlic in a mini food processor until chiles are very finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add chile mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add turkey; cook, stirring occasionally to break pork into small pieces, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, soybean paste, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, sugar, and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced and turkey is coated with sauce, about 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, separate cilantro stems from leaves. Chop leaves to yield about 1/2 cup; set aside for garnish. Stir together chicken broth, cilantro stems, and remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium. Uncover; strain and discard cilantro stems. Cover broth; keep warm over medium-low.

4. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles, and divide evenly among 8 serving bowls. Add zucchini ribbons to hot broth; cook over medium-low until just tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a spider, remove zucchini from broth and divide evenly among serving bowls. Top each bowl with about 1/4 cup turkey mixture and 1 cup hot broth. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and reserved chopped cilantro. Garnish with black pepper and serve with lime wedges.

Three-Cheese Sausage Lasagna

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You probably already have a favorite classic lasagna recipe. I do too. But also, now I have two. I mean, there’s no such thing as too much lasagna.

This lasagna is straightforward but does take some time to put together. It’s worth it, because you’ll have leftovers for days. Delicious, cheesy, leftovers.

Three-cheese sausage lasagna

Ingredients:

Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 ounces ground beef
6 ounces Italian sausages, casings removed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Lasagna:
1 package lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 eggs
4 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound)

1. Make the sauce: Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; saute until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 7 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Cover and simmer until sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and let sauce cool.

2. Make the lasagna: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water.

3. Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

4. Drain pasta. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

Congee with Soft Boiled Egg

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I’ve waxed poetic a ton about my love of congee before. It doesn’t matter if it’s Taiwanese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, or Singaporean — I’m always game for a comforting bowl of rice porridge adorned with all kinds of salty-spicy-sour-herby toppings. This version, one of my favorites, is Thai and is adapted from Kris Yenbamroong’s Night + Market.

Congee with soft boiled egg

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup minced garlic
Vegetable oil
2 inches ginger, peeled and cut into short matchsticks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup sliced green onions
Fish sauce
Pepper
Chile oil

1. Make the fried garlic: Pour 1 inch of oil into a saucepan. Heat the oil over medium-low. Add the garlic and fry until golden and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally, especially towards the end of cooking when the garlic has taken on a golden color. Remove the garlic using a slotted spoon and cool on a paper towel-lined plate.

2. In a large pot, bring 3 1/2 quarts water to a boil. Add the rice, bouillon cubes, and salt and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the grains have mostly dissolved and the rice has broken down into a porridge, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Boil the eggs for 5 to 6 minutes and remove from the pot. Cool eggs slightly and peel.

4. Once the congee is done, divide it onto serving bowls and garnish each with a soft-boiled egg, fried garlic, ginger, cilantro, green onions, and fish sauce, pepper, and chile oil to taste.

Swiss Chard and Gruyere Tart

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I love baking savory tarts and frittatas as the weather starts to warm up. Eggs! Greens! Herbs! All the lovely things that springtime brings. This tart is endlessly riffable — you can substitute the Swiss chard with other leafy greens and use other cheeses instead of Gruyere if you wish.

Swiss Chard and Gruyere Tart

Ingredients:

Salt
2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stemmed and washed
1 pie shell
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the Swiss chard. Blanch for 1 minute, until just tender, and drain in a colander. Squeeze out water, chop coarsely, and set aside.

2. Heat the oven to 375F degrees.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat and add the green onions. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped Swiss chard and stir together. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and set aside.

4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then stir in the greens and onions. Season with pepper and stir in the cheeses. Transfer filling into the pie shell. Bake for 35 minutes, until firm and beginning to brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.