Sesame-Peanut Bars

For those of you who told me I would love Portland, Maine, you were right! For those of you who haven’t been there yet, go ahead and go. You’ll love it.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon after taking a red eye from Los Angeles (that connected in Chicago where we missed our connection by 15 minutes), and instead of crashing in our hotel room when we finally got there, we decided to eat lunch. It was a good decision. Matt’s sister and then fiancé, now husband (Hi, Jonny!) took us to Miyake, a beautiful sushi restaurant in downtown Portland. And though Miyake isn’t exactly kid-friendly, the staff was very kind to us anyway. (Also, Teddy loved the miso soup, the blueberries in their house salad, and the pork belly Matt ordered.) (Don’t worry. Teddy’s not a total food snob, yet. A lot of his dinners are two string cheeses and fruit.)

Afterward, on our walk back to the hotel, we picked up something I eternally crave in the summer and something that is borderline impossible to find here in Los Angeles: a soft-serve chocolate and vanilla twist cone. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we swung by Standard Baking Co. and picked up some pastries—just, you know, to have in our room in case we got hungry. One of the items we picked up was their granola bar. It would be the first of many granola bars that I purchased from them during our five days in Portland. These granola bars are also what I wanted to eat this Sunday back in Los Angeles though the craving wasn’t strong enough to get me to go to the store for the missing ingredients to actually make them. Instead, I decided to settle for the above sesame-peanut bars—the ingredients for which I did have on hand. And honestly, these managed to fit the bill…for now.
Other highlights of the trip, apart from spending time with family at the rehearsal (lobster) dinner and gorgeous wedding right there on the water, were our lunches at Eventide and Central Provisions
Also, while we were away, mom.me aired the first two videos we did with them. Both feature simple recipes (and Teddy), which is kind of the Bon Appétempt normal these days, wouldn’t you say? (You may recognize the famous plum cake.) Point being, I’m obsessed with simple recipes, e.g., these sesame-peanut bars. And if you have any you want to share with me, please do! I’ve recently realized that most of my go-to simple recipes revolve around starch, cheese, and sauce. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think we could stand to mix it up a little.

In the mean time, I’ll be bringing the pasta water to boil.

Sesame-Peanut Bars via Bon Appétit

unsalted butter (for pan)
1¼ cups white and/or black sesame seeds
¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts (I used cashews.)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8x8" glass baking dish; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on all sides. Mix sesame seeds, coconut, peanuts, and salt in a large bowl. Mix honey, peanut butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add to sesame seed mixture and mix well. 

Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish; press firmly into an even layer. Bake until golden brown around the edges, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until firm, 30–40 minutes. Lift out of baking dish (if it starts to crumble, let cool longer) and cut into 16 bars. Let cool completely. 

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Today we leave for Portland, Maine for a family wedding, but before we go, I thought I’d let you know what we’ve been up to. In the best moments, hair-wise, it has looked like the above.

In the worst moments, it has looked different. But I don't have any pictures to show you. Sorry! That’s just how the Internet works.

Or, put another way by writer Eva Saulitis in her fantastic essay, "When No One is Watching" from the August issue of The Sun magazine:

"This morning someone posted a video on Facebook of two young women salsa dancing. They were sexy and completely at home in their bodies. Before I saw those dancers, I'd thought I was over being called "sir," had added it to my collection of peculiar cancer anecdotes. But the video unsettled me. I'm a self-conscious dancer. I've never inhabited my body in that fashion. I wouldn't say I'm nostalgic for my twenties—I like being fifty-two—but I was envious of those women's relationships to their bodies, of the easy way they moved together, of the way their dance communicated a message people want to hear: life, not death."

This is also why our Teddy Ages 0-1 video now has over 1 million views. (This is also why we're having another baby!) (And maybe explains why, on a whim, I checked out a Danielle Steele novel from the library?) (It's a digital copy, which makes it somewhat less embarrassing, I think.)

Though I don't have any new recipes to share today, the good news is that I have been doing some cooking. In fact, Matt and I are now working with the website mom.me. In the next few weeks, I hope to share with you the inaugural episode of our new cooking show: "In the Kitchen with Amelia and Teddy." A goal of the show is to highlight recipes that we actually make on a regular basis. Thus, the first episode is pizza. I would also love to do an episode on picking up takeout from Pine & Crane, the most delicious Taiwanese-Chinese food you will ever eat—ever!
The last thing we've been up to is taking Teddy to the zoo. Well, Matt has been doing this. (Every Sunday morning, I teach a writing class in our living room and Matt and Teddy go to the zoo.) Teddy is 19-months-old now and his language is exploding, so it's been a lot of fun/ amazing to hear all about the animals he saw. (He's mostly obsessed with the lions.) (Matt is showing his true colors as a complete and total softy, purchasing Teddy both a stuffed lion and a stuffed monkey at the zoo's gift shop.)

OK, time to pack. See you soon!
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Video: Two-Minute Chocolate Cake

Yes, you absolutely can make a cake in the microwave and it doesn't taste that bad! 

Two-Minute Chocolate Cake via Lucky Peach
serves 1 to 2

1 egg
3 T milk
3 T neutral oil
3 T flour
4 T sugar
2 T cocoa powder
3 T semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 small splash vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

Add wet ingredients (including the egg) to a small or medium MicroSafe coffee mug and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, mix again.

Put your mug in a 1000-watt microwave (I just assumed our microwave was 1000-watt.) for 2 minutes. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. Allow to cool and, if desired, tip out onto a plate. (I tried this and it didn't look half as appetizing on the plate as it did in the mug.) Eat! 
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Chicken Wings and Hot Sauce / Burying the Lead

Hi Friends and happy mid-summer!

We actually made these chicken thighs, which Nigel Slater refers to as wings (seemingly for the fun of it?) over two weeks ago, but I haven’t had the chance to write about them until now. This isn’t the chicken’s fault. The chicken was delicious.

It’s the fault of summer. Matt’s parents came to visit and we spent the Fourth of July weekend in Santa Ynez, which was really amazing. There was a pool and a giant front yard where Matt and his dad played soccer with such intensity that we’re pretty sure he went home to Pittsburgh with a broken toe. We picked raspberries in the hot sun and watched movies at night. But my favorite part by far was not being in charge of meals and cooking and/or cleaning up after them.
The other reason things have slowed down over here is because I’m almost four months pregnant. This sentence should be followed by an exclamation point I know, and it definitely did ten weeks ago when we first found out we were pregnant. But then I got nauseous and stayed nauseous for about seven weeks. And then I got happy once I could eat things that weren’t a baked potato or a French fry or potato latke with sour cream. But then I stopped sleeping well. And well, that’s where I’m at currently. Excited but tired and overwhelmed; Matt and I have a lot to do in the next six months. (And hopefully some of that time will be spent sleeping. Maybe?)

They say that just like every baby is different, so is every pregnancy. And following this pattern: so is every pregnancy announcement on one’s blog. Specifically, I’m thinking about the big way we unveiled the news about Teddy and it’s making me laugh. We were so young and quick with the video camera back then!

And now we’re announcing this major news with chicken thighs.
Speaking of: Nigel Slater has you baking the thighs in the oven. However, he does mention that you could grill them. Since we wanted to get a really nice char on them, we went for the grilled option. And then we served them with some short-grain brown rice and a salad with a soy sauce/rice vinegar/grapeseed oil dressing. 

Like so many things, it was messy but well worth it. 
Chicken Wings and Hot Sauce from Nigel Slater's Notes from the Larder
serves 4

For the marinade:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 clove of garlic
1 stalk of lemongrass
1 teaspoon sugar

8 to 12 chicken thighs, depending on their size

For the dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
a thumb-size lump (Oh, Nigel!) of fresh ginger
2 large hot chiles
the juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon light soy sauce

Make the marinade: put the oil, soy sauce, lime juice, and fish sauce in a small to medium-sized bowl. Peel and crush the garlic, thinly slice the lemongrass (removing any tough outer layers as you go), and add both to the bowl along with the sugar. Mix thoroughly. And then pour into a shallow bowl. Add the chicken pieces and set aside for at least an hour. Overnight is great.

For the dipping sauce, put the fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Peel the ginger and chop it finely with a heavy knife, then crush it to a pulp with the flat of the blade. Add the ginger to the pan and let the mixture boil till it has started to thicken slightly. Leave to cool. Remove the stems from the chiles, halve the flesh, and chop it finely. Don't discard the seeds; you need their heat for this. Stir them into the sauce with the lime juice and soy sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the marinated chicken pieces in a roasting pan or baking dish and roast for twenty-five to thirty minutes, till their skin has become lightly golden and their flesh is cooked through. (The only directions Nigel gives about grilling these is to make sure the heat is low enough for the meat to cook right through to the bone. SO, that's what we/Matt did.)

Serve with the chile dipping sauce, spooning it over the sizzling chicken.

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Video: Squash Blossom Pizza

You should make this pizza for the same people you had over for the rice-cooker pancake. They will think you are a really special cook/host/individual.

Squash Blossom Pizza adapted from The Mozza Cookbook
makes two 10-inch pizzas

20-24 fresh squash blossoms (see NOTE)
1 lb. of pizza dough, room temperature
handful of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil plus more to finish the pizzas with
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
8 oz. of burrata that you've let hang out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes though it's even better if the cheese is at room temperature
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

NOTE: The Mozza Cookbook doesn't specify whether to use male or female blossoms, BUT according to Marcella Hazan: "Only the male, those on a stem, are good to eat. The female blossoms, attached to the zucchini, are mushy and don't taste good." Therefore, I was sure to buy only the male blossoms. (Here's a picture for you. The top one is male.) (p.s. Can anyone refute this information?)

Preheat your oven to 500F.

Trim and discard the stems from the squash blossoms. Cut a slit down the side of the blossoms, open them up with your fingers, and cut out and discard the stamens. Here is where you want to check for bugs and give the blossoms a good rinse. Then you'll want to pat them dry.

Using your hands and a floured work surface, split your dough in half as evenly as you can. And then stretch one portion of it into a flat, roughly ten-inch disk. (I like to lay my finished disk on a piece of parchment paper and then  slide the parchment onto my baking sheet.)

Brush the rim of the dough with olive oil and season the entire surface with salt. Ladle or spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce onto the center of the dough and use the back of the ladle or soon in a circular motion to spread the sauce over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch rim without any sauce.

Working from the outside of the pizza toward the center, and still leaving space for the crust, lay the squash blossoms in two concentric circles, plus two blossoms in the very center, covering the pizza in a single layer.

(Before you slide it into the oven, prepare your second pizza. That way, you can pull the first one out and put the second one in straight away. Or, if you have two baking sheets that can fit in your oven at the same time, cook them both at once!)

Slide the pizza(s) into the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown and crispy, 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the oven. Cut the burrata into four equal segments, placing one segment on each quadrant of the pizza. Finish with olive oil, a bit more sea salt and some black pepper. Serve.
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