Cooking on the Road: Eighth Edition

Pasta with creamy carrot miso sauce and carrot top gremolata

One of my frequent goals in cooking is to use up items before they expire or that are taking up space in my pantry, and this recipe accomplished both.  I had half a box of bowtie pasta and a few tablespoons of white miso paste, and this vegan recipe was a creative way to use up both and incorporate nuts and vegetables.  

For the gremolata, which is similar to a pesto, I blitzed the ingredients for longer than the recipe called for to improve the texture, making it less gritty.  The results packed a punch between the greens, lemon zest and juice, but also balanced out the creamy richness of the carrot miso sauce. For the sauce, I cut the water by 1/2 cup, making the sauce thicker so it would coat the pasta better.  Since I have been fermenting shallots and garlic, which uses salt in the process, and my cashews were salted, and miso is plenty of salty as well, I did not add even more salt to this dish.  

After cooking the pasta, I added a few serving spoonfuls of the sauce to coat it.  Finally, I added a few chopped cashews for some additional crunch.  The result was a creamy, zesty, nutty pasta and what I think was a successful spring dish that celebrates carrots, using all parts of this lovely vegetable.  🥕👍😋

Strawberry shortcake

One of my all-time favorite desserts from childhood is strawberry shortcake, but not with angel food or sponge cake.  Where I grew up we used biscuits with a hint of sugar, and I still prefer it texturally to the light cakes that get too soggy too quickly.  The Best Recipe still has my favorite take on this classic, but on the road I don’t have access to this gigantic cookbook, so I used Sally’s version instead.

While visiting Boone, North Carolina we were walking down their main street and happened upon a farmer selling strawberries.  They smelled so good that I couldn’t resist getting some, and they were a steal at $5 per quart.  Because newfound friends Mike and Carrie in Sylva, North Carolina had been ever so gracious, putting us up twice during our time in Asheville, I wanted to express our gratitude by baking this favorite of mine to share with them.  

This has never happened to me before…these strawberries were absolutely perfect.  None were under ripe or over ripe, so every berry in the bunch was used. 🍓😍 The macerated berries and whipped cream were easy, but baking biscuits in the trailer turned out to be tricky, especially on a hot day. I had to scrap the first batch because they turned into puddles, so I relied on the 3:2:1 ratios of flour, liquid, and butter for the second batch, kept everything cool, and worked quickly.

I cubed butter and stuck it in the freezer along with my sheet pans, while I prepped the dry ingredients.  Once the dry ingredients were in the food processor, I pulled the butter out of the freezer and incorporated it, then plopped the mixture in a wide bowl and added cold buttermilk from the refrigerator immediately.  Using a floured pastry cloth, I turned the loose mixture out and pressed it together with the cloth.  With my cookie cutter and a metal spatula handy, I put the biscuits on the cooled baking sheets and pushed them together in the center of the pan.  

Some of the biscuits were barely together, but that was ok as long as I got them into the oven before the butter got too warm.  I also brushed some heavy cream and sprinkled sugar on top to create a golden crust.  Because I had two batches, I stuck the second one in the freezer while the other batch was baking and increased the baking time by just 2 minutes (22 minutes instead of 20).  The biscuits turned out fabulous!

The results were a slightly sweet, but mostly refreshing spring/summer dessert that put me right back to my childhood memory of my mom making me a large, layered shortcake for my birthday.  It is still my favorite birthday cake I’ve ever had.  If you happen upon a bunch of fresh strawberries, this is a way to showcase those beautiful, juicy berries and share dessert with loved ones. 😍

Salmon with bean ragù

Beans and lentils are an important part of our diet, being high in folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and a great source of fiber.  As such, I thought I’d try this salmon and bean ragù recipe.  Using canned beans also means this meals can be done in less than 30 minutes.  I chose to use 3 oz of prosciutto instead of 2 oz, crisp it up in the pan ahead of time, and then save 1/3 of the crumbled results to garnish with at the end.  That little bit of crisp texture worked great in this dish.  I couldn’t find escarole either, so used a mixture of dark leafy greens instead.  We loved how this turned out and think you will too.

Chicken and freekeh with lemon feta relish

I have been trying to incorporate more whole grains into our diet, and it has been a long time since I tried freekeh, which is roasted cracked wheat.  The last time I tried freekeh, the dish seemed cloying, so I have been hesitant to try it again.  Whole Foods carries small bags of several different whole grains, so it wasn’t a huge commitment to buy a few and experiment. 

This dish from Food and Wine turned out better than expected.  I finished off our dried currents in place of the golden raisins, but left the rest of the recipe the same.  The freekeh took a lot longer to cook than the recipe indicated…more like 30-40 minutes, despite soaking the grain for an hour beforehand.  Otherwise, everything turned out great.  The feta lemon relish gave this dish the finishing zip that it needed to balance the sweet and smoky flavors of the freekeh and currants.  I loved it and will be making this again.

Cassoulet

You’d think a dish made up of meat, beans and bread crumbs wouldn’t be anything to write home about, but this one featured duck, one of my favorites, and soon became a go-to comfort food.  I’ll never forget the first time I had this classic Provincial French dish at the Ledford House.  That night will forever be solidified in my memory, so not only do I recommend the Ledford House, but trying this recipe.  The Ledford House is located on the cliffs of Albion in northern California, about 7 miles south of Mendocino.  They have delicious food, an excellent wine selection from vineyards down the road in the Anderson Valley, feature live Jazz music nightly, and breathtaking views of the ocean. 

Cassoulet can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, from curing the meat 2 days ahead, then cooking the meats and soaking beans 1 day ahead, and then assembling everything on the final day.  Conversely, this simplified version of cassoulet can be done in a hour.  I didn’t want to waste a lot of propane cooking for hours, so I opted for the simpler version.  If you love duck like I do, I highly recommend incorporating that into this dish and allowing for any extra cooking time, but chicken thighs are also a tasty and a very forgiving meat that can easily stay juicy and tender.  I had a couple of Andouille sausages left over from another recipe that also worked well in this dish, and two cans of northern beans.  

The other ingredients are so simple, but really round out the flavors, including your aromatics (onion, garlic), thyme, tomato paste, and a little bit of white wine for deglazing the pot.  The white wine is essential in this dish as it adds depth that you simply cannot achieve without it.  Finally, the breadcrumbs on top are also important.  When you pull this out of the oven, having that bit of crunch in contrast with the soft, bubbling mess of meat and beans underneath is heavenly.  We made this on a stormy day in which a warm comfort food was just what was needed.  The next time you want something to warm you up on a cold day, give this recipe a chance. 

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