Meyer Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs by Chelsea Zwieg

I am so so happy to be writing this post right now. Not just because it's about the lemon pasta of my dreams, but because I am typing on my computer (!!!). About 30 seconds after I posted my brownie recipe last week, my computer had the kind of meltdown that could only be rivaled by a really spoiled toddler in the middle of the grocery store. No, actually the toddler would have to burn down the grocery store to even come close. It was bad. So I rushed it to the computer hospital/Apple store and sure enough they also couldn't reign in the tantrum. So they whisked it off to be repaired and said "you'll be fine without it for a few days, right?". HA. Not wanting to come off as the raging macbook addict that I apparently am I said, of course! And 5 seconds after I got home I realized how pathetically dependent I am on my computer. How was I supposed to blog? or edit photos? or waste time when I didn't want to do other stuff? (let me break here to tell you that I know this story is not an actual problem. It might even be too dumb to be called a first world problem. But I'm going to continue anyways. Sorry bout it.) They ended up repairing it faster than they said and we were eventually reunited in a teary eyed homecoming (just kidding. Or am I?). I feel like this is where I should tell you that my computer-less few days took me back to a simpler time. That I rediscovered the joys of letter writing and watching the sunrise and I might just stop using my computer all together. But my handwriting is too messy to write letters and I am up 4 hours before the sun every darn day and also, I need this thing to blog. So welcome home, my sweet little computer. Oh, how I missed you. 

Now, let's talk pasta. 

I was recently working on an article about citrus where I pretty much had every single citrus fruit rolling around my kitchen. But in those few days of eating oranges on lemons on limes, the one thing that stuck out to me most was Meyer lemons. I don't remember ever having them before but seriously what was I waiting for?? They are a sweeter version of the traditional lemon, closer to a cross between an orange and lemon. Which means they can provide all the good parts of lemon flavor but in a much more approachable, not so overpowering way. They blend into the background of a dish better but still make it bright in the way only lemons can. Also, they make for some seriously good pasta.

This is a slightly changed version of a lemon pasta that I started making years ago. It is the simplest ingredient list you could imagine and takes less than 30 minutes to make but delivers unbeatable flavor every single time. The most important thing is to use really good ingredients. Since olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan are the only things going in, you can really taste each one. So make sure you use an oil you like the flavor of, freshly grated parmesan (none of that shaker business) and of course the prettiest, golden skinned Meyer lemons you can find. You can also make this pasta with regular lemons, but I would use about half of the required lemon juice and add from there so you don't end up with too-tart pasta. Finish it all off with some crispy, garlicky breadcrumbs and you have your new go-to weeknight dinner all winter/Meyer lemon season long. 

Meyer Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs 

Serves 4-6

| Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I've done spaghetti, angel hair, etc. This time I used this pasta from Whole Foods) 
  • 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice (2-3 lemons) 
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped 
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons

| Instructions

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions, but stop it 3 minutes short of al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a measuring cup.  
  • While the pasta is boiling, whisk lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside. 
  • Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring often, until they are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs are a deep golden brown. Stir in the lemon zest and transfer the breadcrumbs to a paper towel to drain and dry out.
  • Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and return to the stove on low heat. Add the lemon juice mixture, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and the pasta and toss to coat. Gradually add the parmesan, stirring until it is melted. Add the remaining cooking liquid, a splash at a time, until the pasta is moistened and the sauce is silky and coats each noodle. You might not need to use all of the cooking liquid. If you add a bit too much, just increase the heat and let it cook off. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley. 
  • Divide the pasta into bowls, top with breadcrumbs and serve. 

 

Fudgy Brownies with Cappuccino Frosting by Chelsea Zwieg

Sometimes I don't even know who I am. Not in the what is the meaning of life kind of way, more in the I always thought brownies with frosting was a terrible idea but now I guess I love it kind of way. I have always been really pretty offended by already rich brownies topped with a thick layer of super sweet frosting. It is very rare for me, the lover of all things that contain sugar, to declare anything too sweet, but just looking at that kind of made my teeth hurt. But then the other day, I was looking through a couple of cookbooks and all I wanted was a super chocolatey brownie with a respectable layer of not-too-sweet coffee frosting. It wasn't even in the cookbooks, it just appeared in my mind and settled there like the nagging dessert identity crisis that it was. Which leads me back to the soul searching question: who am I?? A person who can really get on board with some frosted brownies, apparently. But only, only, only if they are done right. 

So let's talk about the key to a non-cavity inducing frosted brownie. COFFEE. You don't need me to tell you that chocolate and coffee is a genius combination in any situation. But coffee also makes for some very not-in-your-face frosting with a creaminess and flavor that is just too good to be true. I also used my all time favorite brownie recipe which uses unsweetened chocolate instead of cocoa powder. I have a favorite cocoa powder brownie as well (gotta have all the bases covered when all you do is bake 24/7), but this one is the fudgiest, densest, most chocolatey brownie I have ever come across. I overbaked mine just slightly, which made them a little crumbly (*TEARS*FOR*DAYS*), but when I have made them in the past, just slightly underbaked, it was like biting into a cross between fudge and brownie and I just want it all over again.

Now don't get the idea in your head that these beautiful pieces of chocolate coffee heaven aren't sweet. It's a brownie covered in frosting, so let's keep things in perspective. I'm just saying that they are manageably sweet. A sweet that I actually want to be happening rather than a level of sweet that knocks you to the floor in a weeping pile of sugar rush aftermath. They also got full approval at book club, so that's obviously very important. Which reminds me, I don't think I've told you about book club yet! Since reading and talking are my two very favorite activities, the idea of book club has always been right up my alley. I just figured I would have to wait 50 more years until I was a bitter old biddy cozying up around the fire with all of the other old ladies who finally want to sit around and talk about books now that they've exhausted all other excitement in their lives. But not so! My sister, her boyfriend and I have apparently all shared this secret desire to be in a book club and so we started our own where we get to sit around, drink wine and talk about Lauren Graham's book all night. We decided to name it Book Buzzed (gotta work the wine angle) and it's the greatest thing ever. Now I just need to find people to start a cookbook club with me (my other secret dream) and all will be right in my world of being the most elderly 24 year old around. But really, someone start a cookbook club with me PRONTO. 

Fudgy Brownies with Cappuccino Frosting

Brownie base adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Makes an 8x8 pan

| Ingredients | 

For the brownies: 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla 
  • 2/3 cup flour

For the frosting: 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 3 tsp. instant coffee

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides. 
  • Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a small spatula to smooth it to the edges. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  • Meanwhile, beat the butter for the frosting in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat to combine, scraping the bowl as you go. Add the heavy cream and mix well. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in a couple tsp. of warm water. Add the coffee to the frosting and mix to combine. 
  • Once the brownies have cooled completely, remove them from the pan using the parchment overhang. Frost the brownies and cut. Store in an airtight container.