Green Bean and Shiitake Stir Fry

*This post is created in partnership with Rioja Wines. There are two things that get me real excited about these wines. First of all they are only released when they are ready to drink so I don’t have to worry about aging them (something I’ve never been very good at). And secondly they are beautiful with food. As always the words, images and recipes are mine. Thanks for supporting the brands that support the work I do here. Cheers!

 

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

One of the first things I do when I step into the kitchen to make dinner is to pour myself a glass of wine. This simple act goes beyond the wine itself in its significance. I watch the glass as the earthy red tint of the wine hits the bottom then dances up the sides. In that moment I slow down, become mindful of the process of cooking and attempt to shift my often distorted perspective from thinking of cooking dinner for my family as a chore to remembering it’s how I best love them. And what a gift and privilege it is to have the time and resources to do so.

Now of course this mindful moment doesn’t have to be instigated with the pouring of a glass of wine but for me it has become something sacred that pulls me into the present. Something I have been trying to do more and more lately. A moment to arrest the fretting about the past (even the past of 10 minutes ago) and to cease the fear of the future. The same intention can happen in the slicing of an onion, the process of making a cup of tea or plucking fresh herbs of their tender stems. All it requires is a brief moment to remind yourself of where you are and the gratitude to be there.

The older I get the more I realize that our life is lived in the little moments. The moments where we rest in the present.

This dinner takes about a half a glass of wine to prepare. The key to a successful stir fry to have all of your ingredients prepped before you start preheating the wok as the cooking goes quite fast, leaving little time to chop in the in between moments.

Since I’m feeding heat averse children I tend to leave out any chili and play it safe on the Sichuan peppers but you should feel free to add more based on your appreciation of heat. Also, this recipe would work well with ground chicken or pork and that would also be a nice fit with the wine.

Green Bean and Shiitake Stir Fry

Adapted from Melissa Clark via The New York Times

Ingredients

2 tablespoons neutral oil (rice bran, peanut or sunflower)

8 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided

12 ounces trimmed green beans

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon (about 5 cloves) minced garlic

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly cracked in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns, roughly cracked in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

Rice, for serving

Instructions

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat for two minutes. Add the oil then wait another minute.

Add the shiitake mushrooms and half of the salt then sauté until deeply caramelize, about 5 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Add the green beans, red pepper, and the remaining salt and sauté until the green beans have blistered and brightened in color, about two minutes.

Stir in the ginger, garlic, coriander and sichuan peppercorns and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more.

Finally add the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar then cook a few minutes until the liquid has nearly evaporated.

Serve while warm with rice and more soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

Finish with chopped cilantro or toasted sesame seeds if desired.

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Walnut Cake with Milk Chocolate Mousse and Salted Maple Caramel

*This post was created in partnership with California Walnuts, but all opinions are my own.. I’m so excited to be bringing you some of my very favorite walnut recipes in 2019 like these candied and chocolate covered walnuts and a hearty and nutritious soup made creamy with the help of walnuts.

This month we’re celebrating this heart-healthy* nut by making a cake that will warm anybody’s heart. Too much? Wait until you see the cake.

Normally when I crave a cake I stay clear away from those towering numbers that steal the show on everyone’s Instagram feed. Perhaps it was years of making wedding cakes that turned me off of stacking cakes on cakes then frosting to a slick perfection. Or perhaps it’s because for me, when it comes to cake I like it plain and often in loaf form.

It’s no surprise to many of you that I’m more of a snack cake fan (exhibit A, B, C). The sort that slips casually onto a plate tucked next to a cup of coffee in the morning. Or the sort that is perfectly fine served on a napkin at three in the afternoon. I don’t need a show stopper, I just want a simple stunner with a hearty crumb, a tender bite and one that values flavor over beauty.

In this walnut cake, flooded with milk chocolate mousse, covered with maple cream cheese frosting and a cascading river of salted maple caramel I believe we all win. Because in all its glory this cake is indeed a stunner. But strip away the frills and you have a cake that made my Saturday morning coffee time shine.

I will say that the milk chocolate mousse, while lovely, is a step that I may skip the next time I opt for stacking this cake. Just the cake, plentifully studded with walnuts, wrapped in a lightly sweet frosting and the flood of maple caramel is quite right on it’s own. But you know, it’s good to have options.

Stacked or unstacked this cake makes hearts happy.

 

Walnut Cake with Milk Chocolate Mousse and Salted Maple Caramel

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 3/4 cup whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 cups chopped, toasted walnuts (plus more for finishing the cake)

Instructions

Makes two 8-inch cakes

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 3/4 cup whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 cups chopped, toasted walnuts (plus more for finishing the cake)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In another large bowl whisk together the olive oil, milk, eggs and orange zest. Add this to the dry ingredients then mix well to combine. Stir in the walnuts.

Divide among the two prepared cake pans and bake for 50 - 60 minutes. Or until the middle springs back when gently pressed.

Let the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes cool prepare the frosting and mousse.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

Pinch salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium low until creamy and well mixed, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup and a pinch of salt then mix on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium then beat for an addition 5 minutes. Set aside.

Milk Chocolate Mousse

From Epicurious.com

2 tablespoons brewed coffee

5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream, cold

Bring a small pot of water to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Combine the coffee and chocolate in a medium metal bowl that can sit atop the pot of water without touching the water. Place the bowl on the pot and heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring often. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and set aside to cool until no longer warm to the touch.

While the chocolate cools, whip the cream until soft peaks.

Gently fold in about half of the whipped cream into the chocolate. When just combined fold in the remaining whipped cream. Chill until ready to assemble the cake.

Salted Maple Caramel

1 cup maple syrup

Add the maple syrup to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer then reduce to 3/4 cup over low heat, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Keep a close eye on it as it can boil over. Let cool to room temperature.

To assemble the cake:

Once the cakes are completely cooled it’s time to assemble!

Using a piping bag (or if you’re fresh out as I was use a ziplock with a small cut in one corner) pipe a ridge or dam around the top edge of one of the cake layers. Fill the frosting fencing with the chocolate mousse (you may not need all the mousse, consider that the cake baker’s bonus). Top with the remaining cake layer. Then frost the entire cake.

Refrigerate until firm.

Just before serving add 1 cup or so of toasted walnuts to the top of the cake then pour the maple caramel over the top of the walnuts. Sprinkle with flake salt then serve right away.

 

*Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.

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