Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy

It's officially fall! My favorite time of year :) I'm one of those strange people who loves and craves change, so the transition seasons (fall and spring) bring me great joy. I also grew up in Vermont, so the brilliant display of red, gold, and fiery orange leaves that dazzle the Northeast from September through November may have biased me a bit. Washington maples just aren't the same.... 

Other things that I like about fall are:
- Cozy afternoons sipping tea and knitting up wool Christmas presents
- Not having the kitchen turn into a sweatbox every time I turn on the oven
- ALL the fall flavors and foods (particularly pumpkin spice and butternut squash)
- The crisp, fresh air, especially in the early mornings

What are your favorite things about fall?

This dumpling recipe isn't specifically fall-inspired, but it is more of a chilly weather comfort dish. And if you make the dumpling wrappers yourself (which I hope you do), plan on spending a few hours in the kitchen. This is a great recipe for a rainy fall or an especially dark winter day

A few months ago (maybe closer to a year!) Noah and I took a dumpling making class at a Korean restaurant down the street. I wish I could remember all the dumplings we made, but alas, I lost the recipe packet :( It was super fun, though, and I promptly filled our freezer with all sorts of different dumplings in the following weeks. This one - a Chinese 5 spice pork dumpling - is one of our favorites. The pork is lightly spiced with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, sichuan pepper, and fennel and the wrappers are speckled with ground up black sesame seeds, which are more for visual appeal than taste. Once you get the hang of rolling out the dough, filling the wrappers, and folding them, this production goes surprisingly fast. Or you could enlist some friends and have a dumpling making party! To speed things up a bit, use pre-made wonton wrappers, but only if you absolutely need to. The braised bok choy is super easy to throw together and a great side dish for these flavorful dumplings 

// Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy // makes about 30 dumplings
Homemade dumplings do take time to make, but they are 100% worth it. I like to freeze extra on a baking sheet and then stash them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for nights that I don't have time (or want) to cook. You can save time by using pre-made wonton wrappers, but I highly encourage you to try making your own wrappers at least once :) 

For the dough:
2 cups (9 oz) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, ground (optional)
3/4 c (6 oz) hot water

For the filling:
1 pound ground pork
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded napa cabbage
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest

For dipping sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the bok choy:
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 thin rounds fresh ginger
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in 1 cup hot water (save water)
6 baby bok choy, thoroughly rinsed to remove dirt and sand from crevices. If bok choy is super sandy you can cut them in half and reduce cooking time
2 tablespoon sliced green onions to serve

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and black sesame seeds (if using) and mix until well combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the hot water. Mix water into flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Knead the dough with your hands several times in the bowl, then transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Kneed dough 8-10 times then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let sit on counter for at least 20 minutes

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and mix well. Test seasoning by cooking about 1 teaspoon of filling in a skillet. Adjust seasoning as needed

3. After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, it's time to make the dumplings. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Divide the dough into quarters using a knife or bench scraper. Keep extra dough pieces covered with plastic wrap while working. Roll dough out using a hand-crank pasta machine or Kitchenaid pasta attachment. You could also use a good old rolling pin. I used a Kitchenaid attachment and rolled my dough out to the #4 setting, but use your judgment on how thin you want to go. Err on the thicker side or else your dumplings will fall apart. Also make sure you flour your dough and surface liberally to prevent dough from sticking together. Once you have four long sheets of dough, use a circular biscuit cutter or rim of a drinking glass to cut dough into circles. I used a 3-inch wide biscuit cutter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of pork filling (more or less depending on side of circles) into center of wrapper and gently flatten filling, leaving space along edges to seal. Dap water along edges of wrapper, then fold dough in desired dumpling shape. I used the pyramid method found in this video, bit feel free to be creative! Place completed dumplings on parchment-lined baking sheet until ready to steam

4. Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve

5. For the bok choy, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, and ginger in a large heavy-bottomed dutch oven or pot. Drain shiitake mushrooms and add to pot along with two tablespoons reserved shiitake water. Bring broth to a low simmer over medium-low heat then add bok choy. Cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes or until boy choy are tender. Remove bok choy from pot and place on a plate. Turn heat up to medium-high and reduce broth for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened and intensely flavored. You can add a bit of cornstarch at this point if you want a thicker sauce

6. While broth is reducing, steam dumplings for 8 minutes. You may need to oil the surface of your bamboo or metal steamer to prevent dumplings from sticking

7. Pour reduced sauce over bok choy and top with green onions. Serve dumplings with dipping sauce. Eat!

Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy - Traveling Fork

Loaded Salmon Nicoise Salad

Salmon Nicoise salad may be my favorite salad ever. And that's saying a lot because I eat a lot of salads (check some of them out here, here, and here). But in order for a Nicoise salad to be worthy of this fame, it has to be loaded. Like in I-can't-fit-anymore-on-this-plate loaded (just look at these pictures!). For me, the fun and flavor of Nicoise salads comes from its toppings. Lots of toppings. My personal favorites are roasted potatoes, dilly bean, cornichons (aka gherkins), hard-boiled eggs, olives, feta, avocado, and of course, wild salmon. You can really let your creativity shine when it comes to toppings, though. Fresh or canned tuna is traditional, I think, but any other protein would work just as well and don't limit yourself on the veggie opportunities. Great creative!

Speaking of creativity, I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book - Big Magic - on tape and loving it. It's about finding and embracing your creativity (whatever that means to you) and living life to the fullest. It's not cliche, I promise. I have always thought of myself as an adventurous person willing to take measured risks and not one to really go along with the crowd or bow down to authority. After college I bought a one-way ticket to Maui, lived there for a few months, and then traveled the world for six years while working on a small cruise ship. I definitely haven't walked the typical path. But over the last few years, I feel life has been a become a bit boring and monotonous. Grad school will do that to you. Don't get me wrong, though, I love what I'm doing for work and I couldn't ask for a better partner, but I also feel like the adventurous side has taken a bit of a backseat. Noah and I talk about it all the time and we have some plans in the works for breaking out of this rut that I'm super excited about (more to come soon, hopefully!). But if you're like me, and need some inspiration to help you take hold of your creativity again, I highly recommend checking out Big Magic.     

Ok, that was a tangent, back to the salad. I really don't feel like I need to say much more about this salad other than it's crazy good and incredibly filling and satisfying. Please do use wild salmon if you can to help support the fishermen. Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon. That's it. Enjoy! 

// Salmon Nicoise Salad // makes 4 large or 6 small salads
You can either plate these salads on individual plates or make one huge platter to share. If you're sharing just be sure your guest don't steal all the goodies. Also, as I mentioned above, the toppings are totally customizable. Pickled and roasted veggies work great. I've also done goat cheese and herb-marinated feta.  

For the potatoes:
1 pound baby potatoes, any kind will do
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced red onion or shallot
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the fish:
2 lbs salmon fillets, bones removed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for the pan

For the lemon, butter, caper sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup capers
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt

Salad and Toppings:
2 heads red bibb lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 avocado cut into slices or formed into roses
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup cornichons
8 tomato wedges or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup mixed olives
24 dilly beans
Lemon wedges
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°. If using larger baby potatoes, cut in half. If using smaller ones, leave whole. Toss potatoes will olive oil, garlic, and salt and place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside until needed

2. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Set aside until needed. Prep toppings as needed until potatoes are done

3. Reduce oven heat to 250°. Place salmon filets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and season evenly with salt. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake for ~40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135-140°. Remove from oven and let cool slightly

4. When fish is almost done, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in lemon juice, capers, and salt. Remove from heat

5. To assemble salad, divide lettuce among number of plates you're using. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of dressing over lettuce. Top salads evenly with potatoes, eggs, red onions, avocado, feta, cornichons, tomatoes, olives, and dilly beans (I like to make small piles of each ingredient). Place salmon on top and spoon 1 tablespoon lemon, butter, dill sauce over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Dig in! 

The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben

The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben - Traveling Fork

I feel like there's no middle ground when it comes to sandwiches - you either have a really good sandwich that is full of flavorful ingredients that complement each other in just the right way or you have a really disappointing sandwich that fails to satisfy and leaves you feeling very underwhelmed. Sandwiches can make or break a day. This sandwich definitely falls into former category - a really good sandwich. While I love the traditional rueben layered with corned beef or pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and 1000 island dressing in between two slices of grilled rye bread, this tempeh version is arguably just as delicious, if not more. If you're a meat-lover, you just need to keep an open mind ;) 

Tempeh is one of my favorite 'alternative' protein sources to eat because it has a great texture and just like tofu it absorbs whatever flavors you marinate it in. The marinade is the key to success when working with tempeh or tofu, as I found out during my 15-year stint as a vegetarian. But back to the sandwich. In between these layers of fresh rye bread, I piled in thick slices of maple-mustard tempeh, slow-cooked red wine onions, avocado mayo, swiss cheese, arugula, and homemade sauerkraut. Each component is super easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time for easy sandwich making on busy week days. I also highly recommend serving these tempeh reubens for a delicious weekend brunch feast. Serve with crunchy pickles and some good quality salt and vinegar potatoes chips.  

// The Ultimate Tempeh Reuban // Makes 2-3 sandwiches
As mentioned above, all of these components can be made ahead of time if you're short on time or want to prep lunches for the week. I wouldn't recommend making the sandwiches beforehand as they'll get soggy and soggy sandwiches are a no-go in my book. Also, if you have a panini grill, by all means use it! We don't have one, so we simply 'grill' our reuben's in a frying pan

For the marinade:
8 oz tempeh
1/3 cup safflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds

For the red wine onions:
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup red wine, divided

For the avocado mayo:
1 large avocado
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
Black pepper to taste

To assemble sandwiches:
4 slices rye bread (6 if you're making 3 sandwiches). Good quality makes a difference!
4 teaspoons butter, more if needed
4 slices swiss cheese
2-4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/3 cup arugula
1/3 cup Sauerkraut

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the tempeh into 1/4-inch slices (you should end up with 20-24 slices) and arrange slices in a single layer in a baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt, and mustard seeds. Pour marinade over tempeh and marinate for at least 30 minutes, flipping slices once or twice. Bake tempeh for 20 minutes. Flip slices and bake for another 18-20 minutes or until all marinate is absorbed and slices are browned

2. While tempeh is baking, make the red onions. Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add red onions and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. When onions are soft add 1/4 cup red wine, caraway seeds, and salt. Continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes or until red wine has been reduced. Add another 1/4 cup of red wine and continue cooking. Repeat until 1 cup of red wine has been used and onions are fully cooked. Transfer to a bowl

3. To make the avocado mayo, mash together the avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, horseradish, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside until needed

4. To assemble sandwiches, butter one side of each piece of bread with 1/2-1 teaspoon butter. On the other side of two pieces of bread (not the buttered side) spread about 2-3 tablespoons of avocado mayo. On the other two pieces of bread (again, not the buttered side) spread 1-2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. On the avocado mayo half, layer 2 slices of swiss cheese, 6-8 slices of tempeh, some red onions, small handful of arugula, and about 2 tablespoons or more of sauerkraut. Top with second piece of bread, mustard side down

5. Heat a large skilled over medium heat. Cook sandwiches one at a time, buttered sides down, for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Bread should be deep golden brown and crispy and cheese melted. Enjoy immediately

Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza

Ever since Noah took up sourdough bread baking about a year ago, homemade pizza has become a serious addiction and not something that we take lightly anymore. He has delved deep into the pages of Tartine’s self-named book to learn the art of making a perfect sourdough pizza crust and when we need a quick overnight version he follows the recipe found in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Both crusts are delicious, but I have to say that the sourdough one wins out because of its complex flavors developed over days of natural fermentation.

Whichever crust we use, our pizza nights have grown to involve at least 5 or 6 mounds of soft, pillowy pizza dough waiting to be stretched out (not rolled) on our limited counter space. The rest of the counter space is scattered with various toppings. Very rarely do two pizzas get the same topping treatment because that's boring and we like to be creative. One of our favorite pizza concoctions is this Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, toasted walnuts, and freshly made basil pesto. It’s not the most traditional Margherita pizza, but it’s arguably just as delicious. 

// Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza // makes 2 pizzas
As mentioned above, we like to use homemade pizza doughs, but if you don't have the time (or energy) feel free to use store-bought ones. The heirloom tomatoes are non-negotiable, though.  

For the Walnut Pesto:
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups packed basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

~ 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, depending on how big pizza crusts are, sliced into 1/4" rounds
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (not toasted)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, julienned
2 homemade or store-bought pizza crusts

1. Preheat oven to 550 with pizza stone inside. Let preheat for at least 30 minutes

2. To make the pesto, place the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, basil, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute or until ingredients are roughly chopped, scraping down sides as you go. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil in a thin stream. Process for 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides again, until pesto is smooth. Transfer pesto to a bowl and fold in parmesan

3. To assemble pizzas, roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness and place on a lightly floured pizza peel. Spread about 1/4 cup of pesto over dough (amount depends on size of pizza crust). Top with half of the tomato slices, goat cheese, and walnuts. Slide pizza onto baking stone in oven and bake for 6-7 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Turn oven to high broil and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and repeat for second pizza. Garnish with basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Eat! 

Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce

Hello! How is your summer going? We've been (finally) enjoying some warm weather here in Seattle and it feels like we're packing a lot into our days. A few weeks ago Noah and I spent some much needed time out in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula. We visited the Enchanted Valley, which was my first actual overnight backpacking trip ever! Kind of embarrassed to say that seeing that I've traveled all over the globe and camped at least a million times... But now I'm hooked and can't wait to strap a 40lb pack on my back again and go on some more deep woods adventures! If you want to read more about our trip, check back in a week or two - we're planning a post about it. 

This week, though, we're talking about fresh shrimp summer rolls with a coconut-lemongrass dripping sauce. So good!! We make fresh rolls quite often in the summer because they're relatively easy to make once you get the hang of rolling them up (my job, not Noah's ;). And they don't require turning on the oven, which is a big plus on hot summer nights. These shrimp came straight down from Alaska gratis from Noah's parents (thanks!) and they are so sweet and delicious. If you decide to make this recipe (which I hope you do), please go for the good quality and sustainably caught shrimp because they're totally worth it - both for your taste buds and for the environment. Much of the frozen shrimp that are in the grocery store have been washed with chlorine to kill bacteria or treated with other chemicals. This leaves a definite chlorine or bleach taste on the shrimp that - to me - is unacceptable. Furthermore, shrimp harvesting practices range from sustainable to downright destructive. So please - do your research and care about where your food comes from. 

// Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce // makes 6 large rolls
Summer rolls are one of my favorite summer meals because they are fresh and light for hot days. Not to mention delicious! But, they are kind of time consuming to make... Totally worth it, though, in my opinion! You can even use up random ingredients in the fridge or garden without having to run to the store. Try different protein, veggie, and dip combinations. If this is your first time rolling rice paper wrappers, the first few rolls that you make probably won't look too pretty, but keep at it! They'll get better with practice :)

For the Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Noodles:
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bean thread noodles
4 cups boiling water

Summer Roll Fillings:
12 large, frozen and thawed shrimp, uncooked and unshelled - about 1 pound
1 small ripe mango, sliced into strips
1 small avocado, sliced into strips
1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
12 long strips of red bell pepper
12 large butter lettuce leaves, more if needed
~1/4 cup each of fresh thai basil, mint, and cilantro
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
12 summer roll wrappers

1. To make the coconut-lemongrass dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high-speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl and refrigerate until needed

2. To make the noodles, place dry noodles in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring 4 cups water (roughly - no need to measure) to a boil. Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Let drain again until all water has been removed. Toss noodles with sauce and let sit until ready to make rolls

3. To cook the shrimp, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, salt heavily and turn heat down to medium-high. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are red and tails have curled under slightly. Drain and rinse with cool water. Remove shells

4. To make rolls, lay out all filling ingredients on plates and platters so they are accessible. Fill a pie dish or large bowl with warm water for rehydrating rice wrappers (you will need to keep replenishing the warm water as it cools). Place one wrapper in warm water and let sit for 1 minute. When soft, lay wrapper flat on a dish towel. Place 1 butter lettuce leaf in the center followed by ~2 tablespoons noodles, 1 slice mango, 1 slice avocado, 1 strip bell pepper, 2 shrimp, 1 teaspoon peanuts, 1 teaspoon scallions, and 2 leaves each of basil, mint, and cilantro. Fold the left and right sides of the wrapper toward the center over the ingredients. Then fold the bottom side of the wrapper up over the center. Using your fingers to hold the ingredients in place, start to roll up from the bottom, making sure the sides stay folded in and the ingredients aren't pushed out the top. Continue to roll until you have reached the top and the 'package' is complete

Spain part 2: Basque Country + A Spanish Tortilla

Welcome to Spain part 2! After exploring Barcelona by foot and bike for a few days, we rented a car and headed west toward wine and Basque Country. Our first stop was Logrono where we got our first taste of real Spanish (or Basque) tapas called pintxos. We sampled them according to tradition - hopping from bar to bar (each bar is known for its special pintxos) and with copious amounts of red wine. If you aren't familiar with pintxos, they're basically little bites of food skewered on top of crusty baguette slices with a toothpick. Bars display plates loaded with a wide variety of colorful pintxos on their countertops and patrons choose the ones that they want. You pay for the toothpicks later. The great thing about pintxos is that wine is basically free. Seriously! Single pintxos cost anywhere between 2-6 euros and you usually get a half glass of wine with that :) Truthfully, though, Noah and I were a bit disappointed with our pintxos experience in Logrono. There were only a few amazing standouts - freshly grilled fish and turkey and buttery mushrooms with a tiny shrimp on top. The rest of the pintxos were ok, but that was probably because they sat out on countertops for hours to accommodate the tourists who eat between 5-7pm and the locals who eat any time after 9pm. Definitely go for the pintxos that are grilled or sautéed to order! Another pintxo peculiarity that dismayed us was that after ordering, the pintxos get zapped in a microwave. We'd point to a tasty looking one that had beautiful ribbons of Iberico ham on top and before we could say "no microwave" into the microwave it went for 60 long seconds. The ham (or whatever else was on top) would come out sad looking and defeated. Sigh. Again, go for the pintxos that are fresh. 

After Logrono, we made a pit stop in the medieval defense-turned-wine town of Laguardia. No cars are allowed in the walled area, so we spent the rainy, chilly afternoon walking the narrow stone streets and ducking into little bodegas for snacks and wine. A bodega is basically a wine cellar that serves pintxos and local - often made-in-house - wine. Underneath Laguardia is a honeycomb of wine cellars and we decided to visit the caves of Carlos San Pedro Perez de Vinaspre for a wine tour. Unfortunately, the next tour wasn't in English, but it was really cool to see the musty, moldy old cellar where their wine is made and aged. Coming from a country where almost everything food-related is sterile and stainless steel, it was striking to see the balls of mold on the walls and bottles caked in grime. These people know the benefits of good bacteria! 

After leaving Laguardia, we headed north to the heart of beautiful Basque country. We passed epic landscapes of vibrant green hills, abandoned stone villages, and densely wooded forests. Basque country is easily one of the prettiest places I've visited yet and that's just from seeing it during early spring. We'd love to go back in summer! Our stop for the next three nights was in a tiny, tiny town called Elortza. We had booked an airbnb there mainly because the host has two donkeys and I have a huge soft spot the furry beasts. This stop turned out to be one of our favorite highlights from the trip. Phil - our host - took us on a day hike with the donkeys (Momo and Django) into the surrounding hills and we explored the depths of a crystal-studded limestone cave. Amazing! Hiking with donkeys is not a rushed affair, so we took our time and enjoyed the fresh air and Basque countryside. The recipe inspired by this leg of our trip is a Spanish tortilla that Momo made every effort to eat when we stopped for lunch atop a steep bluff overlooking the valley. Who knew donkeys liked eggs and potatoes?! 

The last leg of our journey through Basque country was along the northern Bay of Biscay coast from Elantxobe - a tiny fishing town built into steep coastal hills that slide into the ocean - to Zarautz, one of our favorite towns that we visited in Spain. The road between the two towns is rugged and beautiful, dotted with small villages with names like Ea and Lekeitio. Zarautz is a mid-size town right on the coast with a great, laid back feel and a gigantic sandy beach. We didn't spend much time in the popular San Sebastion, but I got the feeling that Zarautz was sort of like its lesser known cousin with amazing boutique shops and great restaurants. Our airbnb host sent us on a great walk from the town center of Zarautz along backroads to the neighboring town of Getaria. We passed an abandoned and graffitied coliseum that definitely looked out of place amid the vineyards and sheep pastures, but would be a perfect venue for a music or skateboarding video. I practiced my handstands. In Getaria, we spent a few hours walking around, had a fantastic lunch, then walked back along the coastal footpath to Zarautz, taking some time to sit on the rocks and watch the ocean splash at our feet 

Next up: Southern France and a decadent breakfast

// Spanish Tortilla // serves 6-8
A Spanish tortilla isn't what you normally think of when you hear 'tortilla'. Most people think of Latin American tortillas made out of flour or corn and food like quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, etc... But a Spanish tortilla has neither flour or corn - it's made almost entirely of potatoes, eggs, onion, and olive oil. It's kind of like a frittata, but better. A note about the olive oil: this recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of olive oil. Don't freak out, you don't actually consume all that oil, it's just used to fry the potatoes and onions and the rest is saved for another use (like salad dressings). I added kale to this recipe because I'm a greens fanatic, but feel free to leave it out for a more traditional version. Oh, and watch out for donkeys - they like Spanish tortillas.

1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, about 1 1/2 cups sliced
2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt (2 teaspoons if you're sensitive to salt)
8 eggs
1/2 cup packed parsley, chopped
6 large lacinato kale leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Gently heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed deep frying pan or skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion slices and cook for 8-10 minutes or until they're translucent, but not super soft. Stir often

2. While the onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4" thick rounds. Add the potatoes and salt to the onions and oil. Try to submerge the potatoes as best you can under the oil for even cooking. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, checking on the potatoes every so often to make sure they're all cooking evenly (i.e. stir and flip as needed). The potatoes are done when they can be easily pierced with a  fork or knife. With a slotted spoon, transfer onions and potatoes into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the extra oil. Pour out remaining oil from pan and save for another use

3. Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in most of the parsley and all of the kale if using (reserve some parsley for garnish). Add 3 tablespoons of oil back into the frying pan and turn heat on low. Layer onions and potatoes in the skillet, flattening them out as best you can. Pour eggs over onions and potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Gently pull away the sides of the tortilla from the pan with a spatula to allow eggs to run over the side and cook. When eggs are mostly done, place tortilla in oven to finish cooking for 3-5 minutes. Turn oven on to broil and broil top for 1-2 minutes. Remove tortilla from oven, let cool 5 minutes then either flip tortilla upside down onto a plate or slide it out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature 

Spain part 1: Barcelona + Artichoke, Sausage and Pine nut Sauté

This post is long overdo. Last time we posted on Traveling Fork was over two months ago and we said the next time you'd hear from us we'd be in Spain. Well Spain has come and gone and now it's the middle of June. Where does time go! It seems like our trip was just yesterday but also a lifetime ago. Not sure how that works... But we're back and excited to get started on posting recipes and travel stories again. We have lots of exciting ideas in the works! First, though, let's talk about Spain (and then France)...

We started our trip in Barcelona. After traveling for 16 hours from Seattle, we arrived at the city center at about 9am, wondering what we were going to do - jet-lagged and toting our bags - until 2pm when we could check into our airbnb. We found a little cafe that sat beneath a gigantic medieval stone church (one of the many in Barcelona) and sipped on small coffees that we would later learn to order as cortados. After caffeinating, we decided to jump onto a double decker hop-on-hop-off sight-seeing tour bus that whisked us to the different neighborhoods of Barcelona. We're not typically keen on doing these types of tours, but the bus was perfect for our jet-lagged situation. We didn't actually get off the bus (expect to switch to the second line) because we were too exhausted to even think about figuring out a plan. 

Neither Noah or I are big city people (yet we live in a big city...) so our plan was to spend a couple of nights in the gothic quarter, explore the sights, then book it west toward Basque country. The following days were filled with delicious tapas, €2 glasses of wine, lots of walking and exploring, window shopping, and of course, siestas. Despite not loving big cities, Noah and I found Barcelona to be extremely charming and livable. The pace of life was laid back, everyone was super friendly, and there were no mega box stores; everyone had their own little cute boutique shop .We both agreed that we could spend several months blending into the city. Maybe that's just the €2 glasses of wine and siestas talking, though... 

Highlights of Barcelona:
- Renting bikes and cruising through the narrow alleyways of the Gothic and Born neighborhoods then down the waterfront esplanade. This is probably our favorite memory of Barcelona
- The markets! I loved wandering through the stalls and crowded aisles of Santa Catarina market and La Boqueria. So many amazing smells, textures, colors, tastes, and varieties of cheeses, sausages, and olives. Try the yayas - they're amazing!   
- Cafe Bar Centric restaurant. We ate here twice because it's that good. The artichoke and sausage sauté recipe in this post is inspired by a dish we had there
- Parc Guell. The park was ok - we're not really into tourist attractions like this. My favorite part of that experience was listening to a busker play guitar under a stone colonnade while waiting out a downpour
- Our epic walk up to Parc del Laberint d'Horta, a beautiful and lightly visited park north of the city. From there we came back through north Barcelona and climbed up Parc del Carmel (behind Parc Guell) to get a widespread view of the city
- Sit-down coffee in tiny glass cups. Seriously. We loved taking 10 minutes in the morning to sit down in a small coffee shop to enjoy our cortados and watch the city move around us. This is one habit we've tried to maintain back home: no to-go cups and 10 minutes to just enjoy the coffee
- Quiche at The Pan's Club (strange name, but the quiche's are amazing!)
- Dumplings at Mosquito in the Gothic Quarter. Not exactly Spanish cuisine, but some of the best dumplings we've ever had

Market in Spain

// Artichoke, Sausage + Pine Nut Saute // serves 4-6
The inspiration for this recipe came from a dish that we had at Cafe Bar Centric in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona. Their dish was just artichoke hearts, sausage, and lots of olive oil. It was so good that we ordered it twice! I found that I needed to add more variety and flavors to make this recipe work, though. Use the highest quality sausage you can get your hands on. It's worth it! 

6 small artichokes
1 lemon, halved and juiced
4 chorizo sausages, about 6" in length  
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
black pepper to taste
Lemon slice to serve

1. Fill a large bowl with cool water and add lemon juice and lemon halves. Cut the stems off the artichokes and remove the outer 2-3 layers of tough leaves. Discard leaves and stems. Continue to remove the outer leaves of the artichokes, placing the leaves in the lemon water as you go, until you get to the tender inner leaves. The tender part will be mostly yellow or bright green. Once all the outer leaves are removed, cut off the pointy, sharp tips of the inner artichokes and discard tips. You need to cut off more than you think, about 1/2 inch, or else they'll be too tough to chew. Working quickly to prevent browning, quarter artichoke hearts, roughly scoop our fuzz if there is any, and place in lemon water

2. Prepare a large bowl filled with ice water to blanch artichokes. Bring a big pot of water to boil and salt heavily. Add artichoke leaves and hearts and boil for 3-4 minutes. Add sausage links and boil for another 4 minutes. Drain and immediately add artichokes to ice water. Set sausages aside and slice into rounds when cool

3. Gently heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot or frying pan. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and leaves, white wine, and salt. Saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently then add sausages. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. When artichokes are soft and sausages are cooked all the way through, turn off heat and add pines nuts, parmesan, most of the parsley (reserve some for garnish), and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with lemon slices

Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad

Is it just me, or is anyone else ready for spring? I feel like we're getting teased here in Seattle with a handful of beautiful sunny, warm days followed by a week of blustery, rainy  ones that leave me feeling antsy. Cabin fever! Noah and I did brave the shifty weather this past weekend by going on an overnight bike ride to Woodinville. It's about a 25 mile ride one-way on a rails-to-trails path. We rented a really cute Airbnb and did some wine tasting once we got out there. It was  a great quick break from the normal routine. This year Noah and I have both decided that we want to do more traveling and go on more adventures. It's scary how easily you can fall into a routine and not noticed how fast the weeks and months go by! 

Speaking of travel, we'll be getting on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to Spain. I can't wait! We're planning on posting lots of photos and adventure stories and maybe even some recipes if we ever getting around to cooking amidst all the delicious food we are sure to encounter. I'm so excited for tapas :) This week, while housesitting for friends, we want to sit down and plan out some fun things to do over there. Anybody have any suggestions or ideas?  Our only itinerary right now is spending a few days in Barcelona before renting a car and heading north toward the coast. We'll have three weeks to go where we want and do as we please :)

Now on to the recipe. I came up with this mozzarella and pomegranate salad this winter because I cannot get enough of pomegranates when they're in season. I love the meditative task of taking out the seeds, I love their bright red color, I love their tart-sweet juiciness, and I love the burst of  flavor as you bite into them. (Ok, I don't love the stain they leave on the cutting board and my fingers, but I'm willing to overlook that because their season is so short). I was also ready for some spring flavors, so I threw in some chopped up mint, basil, and fresh lemon to liven things up.  The soft, sweet mozzarella balls are a nice contrast to the firm, tangy pomegranate seeds. I'm hoping someday that I'll be able to master making these at home, but that has not happened yet... 

// Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad // serves 4-6
This salad comes together super quick and is a great  easy lunch or light appetizer. Pomegranates are only in season during the winter months  (October - February), but substitutions could be make for a refreshing summer salad.  I'd probably swap out the pomegranates for strawberries or raspberries. Melon balls might be interesting to try as well. Use full-fat mozzarella for best results

 16 oz small mozzarella balls (2 oz containers)
1 small bunch of lacinato kale, about 2 cups packed and cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup packed basil, chiffonaded
Scant 1/4 cup mint, chiffonaded
1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds, about 1 medium-large pomegranate
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

1. Drain mozzarella balls in a colendar and set aside

2. In a medium bowl, combine the kale and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Gently massage kale with fingers until kale turns dark green, about 1-2 minutes

3. Add basil, mint, pomegranate seeds, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss in mozzarella balls. Taste and season with more salt if needed and black pepper

Lemony Quinoa Dolmas

I looove dolmas. They're my go-to snack when I'm out grocery-shopping or running errands and need a snack stat. I get hangry pretty quick.... They're also great on mediterranean platters, which Noah and I have at least once a month - olives, sliced bell peppers, hummus, cucumbers, crackers, cheese, dolmas, etc... In fact, we ate our last dolmas on a plate such as this while watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday. Definitely not your typical Super Bowl fare! 

I've made dolmas from scratch a couple of times before, and while they're a bit time consuming, the pay off is huge. The store bought kind are good, but can be somewhat mushy on the inside, you know what I mean? Homemade dolmas retain their texture and flavor and are much cheaper than buying them pre-made. Plus, they store really well in the fridge so big batches go a long way. 

I made these dolmas with somewhat unconventional ingredients. Traditional dolmas are basically rice, onion, garlic, lemon, and maybe dried fruit or even meat. I used quinoa (rice could be substituted), lots of parsley, mint, lemon, and almonds. The insides are totally adjustable to your liking, but the outside grape leaf is what really makes the dolma. I made the mistake of not reading the instructions on the grape leaf jar (rookie move) and just used them straight from their soaking juices. Apparently you're supposed to rinse them first and them steam the leaves to make them more tender... Next time :)  

// Lemony Quinoa Dolmas // Makes a lot... Maybe about  5-6 dozen?
These dolmas are time consuming, so only attempt them if you have a few hours to spare. But, once they're made you have a  delicious, healthy snack ready to go. I used quinoa here, but you can also use brown rice or other whole grain if you prefer. Also adjust the seasonings and flavors to your liking. I think next time I'd add chopped raisins or currents for a touch of sweetness or maybe some crumbled feta

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 cups water

2 lemons, zested
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup packed parsley, chopped
1/4 cup packed mint, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 jar of grape leaves
Olive oil for storing in fridge
Sea salt

1. Place the quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat down to low. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool

2. In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, mint, almonds, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Stir well then add cooled quinoa. Toss to combine and adjust seasonings as needed

3. Remove grape leaves from jar and rinse under cool water, separate each leaf as much as possible. Place leaves in a steamer and steam for 3-5 minutes. Depending on how many leaves you have, you may need to do this in batches to make sure all leaves get steamed evenly. Remove leaves from steamer and let cool on a clean towel

4. To make the dolmas, lay out a few grape leaves on a clean, flat surface. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon into the middle of each leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll them up from bottom to top. This is probably going take practice, so don't get discouraged when your first few don't turn out ;) 

5. Place finished dolmas in a glass baking dish or storage container. When all dolmas are made, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt to help them soften and marinade. Store in fridge

2016-0126 - Dolmas_0267.jpg

Tempeh-Wakame Salad

We've been kind of quiet around here lately, enjoying some much needed downtime after our busy holiday travels. I haven't been doing much cooking (!), instead relying on easy things like beans and grains and roasted whole chicken (we've vowed never to buy chicken breasts again - whole chickens are so much better). It's also been rainy and grey, which doesn't help with motivation or inspiration...

During my traveling days I remember seeing women steaming big blocks of temeph in banana leaves in Indonesia. It was an eye-opening moment because while I had eaten tempeh numerous times before, I always assumed it originated from Japan or China or Korea (it is soybeans after all). But nope, it's from Indonesia. And it's delicious. This salad is a perfect combination of tempeh, wakame seaweed, sunflower seeds, and veggies. I hope you try it!

// Tempeh-Wakame Salad // Serves 4-6
Like tofu, tempeh needs to be marinated to take on the flavors on the dish. I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but  a few hours is the best. Also,  2 tablespoons of wakame may not seem like a lot, but it expands quite extensively!

For the marinade:
2 8-oz packages of tempeh
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

For the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon mellow miso
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons wakame
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, ~3/4 cup
5 stalks celery, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

1. Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a shallow oven-safe dish. The tempeh should fit snugly. In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce through ginger). Pour marinade over tempeh, making sure all sides of tempeh are coated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours, flipping tempeh occasionally to make sure all sides get marinated

2. Preheat over to 350 °. Bake tempeh for 15 minutes. Flip tempeh then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

3. In a bowl or measuring cup whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through salt). Set aside

4. Place wakame in a medium bowl and steep in 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside

5. In a large bowl combine the tempeh, wakame, onion, celery, carrot, sesame seed, and sunflower seeds. Toss well. Pour the dressing over the tempeh and stir until everything is well coated. Season with salt as needed