Noodle Soup in Anchovy Broth

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On a scale of one to infinity, how ridiculous is it to be excited at the prospect of soup weather? Rainy season is here and with it comes an excuse to cook soup and after soup after soup. I’ve been craving this simple, umami-laden, and slightly spicy Korean noodle soup to warm me up as I adjust to foggy mornings and freezing nights. (Well, freezing for California. Don’t judge.)

Noodle soup in anchovy broth

Ingredients:

8 ounces Korean radish or daikon, cut into 1-2 inch slices
1 onion, sliced
20 large dried anchovies, heads and guts removed
1 7×10 inch piece dried kelp
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 pieces packaged fried tofu, sliced into strips
salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
8 ounces somen (somyeon) noodles
2 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean hot pepper)
2 sheets nori seaweed, toasted and crushed

1. Make the anchovy broth: combine 3 quarts water, radish, and onion in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. Add the anchovies and kelp and cook for 20 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, strain the stock into another saucepan, and stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Set aside.

2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil, garlic, fried tofu strips, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the garlic is crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and sesame oil and stir for another minute to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, stirring so that they don’t stick to each other. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

4. Divide the noodles between two soup bowls.

5. Heat the anchovy broth until hot, then pour over the noodles. Add half the tofu strips, green onions, gochugaru, crushed nori, and a few drops of sesame oil to each bowl. Serve hot.

Buttery Dal

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Until last year, I didn’t really know how to cook South Asian food. I mean, I’d try, and it’d end horrifically in memorable encounters such as That Time I Attempted A Dubious Fish Curry or In Which We Attempt A Fusiony Chicken Karahi Recipe from Bon Appetit. Needless to say, I thought I was completely incapable of pulling off decent biryani or a passable samosa.

That is, until I tried out this buttery dal. This dal, ladies and gentlemen, was my gateway dish into finally learning how to cook South Asian food, and deliciously at that. There are countless iterations of dal, but this was the first I mastered, and my favorite to date. This is comfort food at its finest.

Buttery Dal

Ingredients:

1 cup lentils (ideally Indian black lentils)
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
salt
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Rinse the lentils and pick out any foreign objects. Put in a bowl, add water to cover by 1 inch, and soak for at least six hours.

2. Drain the lentils and put in a medium saucepan with the bay leaf and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and lower to a simmer. Cook, skimming the foam periodically, until the lentils are tender and beginning to disintegrate, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds; when fragrant (about 1 minute), add the onion, garlic, chile, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato and another 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to cook, stirring for 1 minute longer.

4. Add the tomato-onion mixture to the lentils and return to a simmer. Cover the pot partially, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour to blend the flavors. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Carefully puree half of the dal in a blender (in batches, if necessary) and add it back to the pot.

5. If the dal is runnier than you like, continue to simmer uncovered until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the lemon juice, then taste and season with more lemon juice or salt if necessary.

Spicy Beef Chili

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Tomorrow marks the first day of fall, and while every cafe and restaurant has you convinced that pumpkin spice-flavored everything is the answer to all our problems, I’m leaning in a different direction. No disrespect to squash-flavored caffeine, but I’d rather go for a warm, comforting bowl of chili to herald the changing season.

This spicy beef chili is time consuming but oh so worth it. Bonus: the heated leftovers taste even better.

Spicy beef chili

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds chuck steak, cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt and pepper
1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed and meat broken into small pieces
1 small white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and sour cream, for serving

1. In a large pot, heat the oil. Season the chuck with salt and pepper. Add half of the chuck and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chuck. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage to the diced chuck.

2. Add the chopped onion to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin and the chuck, sausage and any accumulated juices. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the water. Cover and sim-mer over moderately low heat for 1 hour.

3. Stir in the beans and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt. Serve the chili in deep bowls, passing the cheese, scallions, and sour cream on the side.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

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I make these light and healthy spring rolls all the time, especially when the weather begins to warm up. (Or when it never cools down, as is this case with this year’s endless Bay Area summer.)

Even though I usually make them with shrimp, you can substitute with shredded chicken, fresh crab, or any kind of protein. The herbs are interchangeable too: I prefer a mix of romaine lettuce, mint, and basil, but anything goes. Sometimes I substitute shredded carrots with cucumbers or avocado instead. You get the picture.

Don’t make these too ahead of time, as I’ve learned the hard way that refrigerating fresh spring rolls results in a stale wrapper. Don’t worry, though. These are so good you won’t have any left over.

Shrimp spring rolls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled (or shredded chicken)
4 ounces dried bean thread (glass) noodles
16 round rice paper wrappers
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 bunch mint leaves, removed from stems
1 bunch basil leaves, removed froms tems
1 Persian cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 bunch romaine lettuce, ribs removed

1. To make the peanut sauce, whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. To make the spring rolls, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Set aside.

3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over bean thread noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
Working quickly, tear off a piece of lettuce that is roughly half the size of the wrapper and place in the center of the wrapper. Add 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer 1/4 cup of the noodles over the shrimp, followed by a spoon of carrot, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves. Place 2 of the cucumber sticks on either side of the noodle pile.

5. Fold the bottom and top halves of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top. Slice in half.

6. If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.

Truffled Mashed Potatoes

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Truffle oil is so misunderstood. I know, I know, it’s not even made with real truffles. Fair enough, Internet, but it’s delicious and there’s no denying it. I drank the truffle oil Kool-Aid and I’m putting it in everything: pasta, popcorn, and my favorite: mashed potatoes.

With (American) Thanksgiving right around the corner, this mascarpone-flecked dish is one of my favorite holiday sides. Just be sure to go heavy on the truffle oil. And for a decadent treat, add a few shavings of the real thing on top.

Truffled mashed potatoes

Ingredients:

3 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
whole milk
3 teaspoons truffle oil

1. Cook potatoes in pot of boiling water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, cool slightly, and peel potatoes. Return potatoes to same pot. Add butter and mascarpone cheese; mash until smooth. Mix in enough milk to thin to desired consistency. Mix in truffle oil and season with salt and pepper.