Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale [and learning to sit in the dark]

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

I scroll through my social media feeds, read articles about the latest news, and listen while a friend shares her heartache. It all feels so heavy. It is so heavy, the corporate hurts and the individual heartaches, the mundane struggles and worldwide crises. Some griefs are deeper than others, and I have the luxury of walking away from the news or giving up social media for a while before the weight crushes me. But the world is a hard, dark place, and I’m trying to learn what it means to mourn with those who mourn, to sit in the darkness without the darkness swallowing me whole.

I believe God will one day make all things new. He will fully bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, he will put everything right, he will bring justice and restoration and glory and joy. But we’re not there yet. We’re in this strange “already but not yet” place, a place still speaking the language of lament. My brothers and sisters throughout the world speak it fluently, but I easily forget. It’s a language that’s not easy to listen to, one I want to silence and ignore.

Frederick Buechner writes, “But if (the preacher) does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.”

I so often look for a solution. I look to speak a word that will fix what is wrong or at least attempt to silence such uncomfortable sorrow. But the Gospel we preach must be big enough for the nights when solution seems far off, sure enough to sustain us when our God seems absent. It must be clear enough to speak to tongue-tied souls that can barely mutter a prayer. Because even when we can’t bring ourselves to preach, the Gospel remains true in our silence.

We hold up our heroes in the faith, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and more. But we gloss over what Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.”

Is our Gospel strong enough to hold us if we die without receiving?

The same Gospel for which so many are killed is the same Gospel that sustains in the day-to-day. It’s not a gospel of easy solutions, quick fixes, or temporary comfort—that’s no Gospel at all. If that’s what I preach to myself and others, we’ll all too quickly find that gospel will crash with even the smallest storm. Superficial solutions make a feeble gospel.

Those heroes of the faith died before receiving. Jesus wept before raising Lazarus. He was crucified before he rose from the dead. But the Gospel—the true, sure, life-altering Gospel—says that his promises will come to pass. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing. The dead will be raised. The same Spirit who raised Jesus will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). And so we live according to that Spirit with enduring faith, come what may. That is a Gospel to cling to—and it will hold us.

As we wait in this “not yet” place, we weep and mourn, wrestle and plead. We learn to speak the language of lament knowing that one day our God will turn those cries into rejoicing. We work for change, justice, growth, and renewal, standing not on the shaky ground of cursory solutions but on the sure foundation of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that can never be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Whether in seasons of deep grief or ordinary heartache, we all need encouragement. But sometimes when we long to speak life-giving words and give comfort, our mouths get dry. We say something stupid. Suddenly we realize we have no idea what to do with our hands. (All these things happen to me all the time. Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

When you need to fill the silence or process sorrow by putting your hands to work, food is a great place to start. This recipe is a hearty, comforting dish that travels well so it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family who need a little encouragement.


Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale
Yields 6-8 servings

1 pound orecchiette pasta (other types of pasta work, too!)
12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chopped kale
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 2 ½ cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until some of the fat renders out and it just starts to get crisp. Add the diced onion and cook for another minute until the onions begin to soften.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the bacon is fully cooked, the onions translucent, and the mushrooms soft, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and mushrooms to take on a darker color and get a little caramelized. This should take about 12-15 minutes.

Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked pasta, kale, and 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring everything together, until the kale wilts and the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Stir in the shredded parm. Add additional pasta water, a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta has the consistency you like. (I end up using another cup, for a total of 2 cups of pasta water.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. The Parmesan and bacon give this dish a decent amount of salty flavor, so you shouldn’t need a ton of salt, but I do like to add in plenty of black pepper. Top with red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.

Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad if you like, or enjoy the dish on its own! Pair it with a crisp, dry white wine like Pinot Grigio. The wine balances out the richness of the pasta perfectly. Enjoy!


Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a weird season for cooking, in my opinion. I’m all cooked out after Thanksgiving but not quite ready to gear up for Christmas recipes. Okay, I may have already made my first batch of Christmas cookies—and it’s not even December. But apparently I can’t live off that batch of Double Chocolate Sea Salt cookies for the next few weeks (recipe coming soon!).

In these weeks in between feasts, I’m trying to keep it simple. We’re eating leftovers, soups I made a while back and stored in the freezer, and sandwiches. It’s so easy for me to go overboard in the kitchen during the holidays, and that only adds to the stress and overwhelm this time of year. But I’m learning to be realistic, simplify, and still eat food that’s really good.

Paninis are a perfect weeknight dinner. We’ve done panini nights in the past with friends and family, too. We provide an array or ingredients, or people bring something to share. Then everyone assembles their own and savors their creations alongside soup, salad, or a good glass of wine. (If you do this, I suggest borrowing multiple panini presses from others to make the cooking process go faster. We learned that the hard way!) It’s a great way to get a meal on the table, gather with others, and enjoy good food without spending a ton of time prepping. And to make things even easier? Go ahead and pull out those paper plates. You can use the good dishes at Christmas.

What are you cooking this week? Are you ready for the next big holiday meal, or craving something a little more simple?

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser
Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices bread (I prefer a crusty white bread)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
A few slices of deli ham (I used Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh ham)
Thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
Thinly sliced apples
Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat a panini press or grill pan. Brush both sides of the two pieces of bread generously with olive oil. Season both sides with black pepper. 

Layer the ham, Parmesan cheese, sliced apples, and fresh thyme leaves in between the slices of bread. Warm it all in a panini press and enjoy! It also taste great alongside your favorite soup (like this Butternut Squash Soup)!

Note: I didn’t give exact ingredient amounts because you can layer on the ingredients as you like! You can also try changing up the recipe to fit what you have on hand. Try using Asiago instead of Parmesan or sage instead of thyme. Enjoy!


This recipe was created in partnership with Oscar Mayer. All opinions are 100% my own.


Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sometime the best recipes are the ones that require no recipe at all. You throw together a soup with leftover produce or create a pasta dish with whatever's in the pantry. Creativity in the kitchen often comes when there are restraints. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, right? 

Lately, I've been in a rut in the kitchen. I don't know if it's because I don't feel like grocery shopping, I don't want to turn the oven on in 90+ degree heat, or I'm tired of trying to convince my toddlers to try new dishes. But whatever the reason, no-cook meals sound pretty much perfect right now. You can change them up to use whatever you have on hand (toast, other cheese, cured meats, etc.) or whatever your family will eat! And while these no-cook brunch boards were originally created for, well, brunch, there's no reason you can't take the same idea and tweak it for a weeknight dinner. 

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a compilation of ideas. I created two different variations of brunch boards - one with more sweet ingredients and one that leans savory. Play around and use whatever you like! Add a few different types of cheese if you want that to be the star, or serve charcuterie, fruit, and nuts for a paleo option. Make it all about bagel toppings with different cream cheeses, jams, and smoked salmon, or use this as an excuse to clean out your refrigerator and pantry (don’t worry, I won’t tell!).

Every dish in the ferial cuisine, however, provides a double or treble delight: Not only is the body nourished and the palate pleased, the mind is intrigued by the triumph of ingenuity over scarcity - by the making of slight materials into a considerable matter.
— Robert Farrar Capon

I (loosely) stick to two rules when I create a board. 

1. Make sure everything is convenient to eat. For example, slicing hard cheeses in advance makes it easier for guests to grab a piece. (I don’t slice soft cheeses ahead of time because that gets messy.) Prepare fruits and vegetables by cutting peels from citrus, remove pits from dates, etc. (I didn’t hull the strawberries on my “sweet” board because I like the look of unhulled ones, but I probably should have.)

2. Pick all your ingredients, then leave out a couple. If you’re like me, you can easily go crazy and include every possible combination. Less is more sometimes, so err on the side of simplicity. I bought quite a few more ingredients than I ended up using for these boards, and it would have been overkill if I tried to incorporate them all. In the end, I stuck with 9 different items for each board. 

Scroll down to see what I used for my sweet and savory versions. I also included other ideas I hope will help spark your creativity as you make your own. Have fun with it!

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

Sweet: 

Croissants, Brie, raspberry jam, green grapes, dried apricots, walnuts, Medjool dates, white cheddar cheese (to balance out all the sweet items), strawberries

Savory: 

Toasted bagels, chive and onion cream cheese, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, almonds, smoked salmon, Manchego cheese, hard-boiled eggs*, fresh parsley for garnish

*Okay, this isn’t entirely no-cook, but if you’re feeding a crowd, buy eggs that are already hard-boiled so you’re not peeling eggs all day!

Other Ideas:

Prosciutto or other cured meats, crackers, toast, baguette slices, butter or compound butters, cream cheese varieties, chutney, marmalade, lemon curd, other types of cheese, strawberries, apples, pears, sliced oranges, dried apricots, dried cherries, candied pecans, sliced radishes, olives, marinated artichokes, fresh basil or other herbs


Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale

Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

I peruse cookbooks, watch Netflix documentaries, and read food memoirs. I often find myself audibly saying, or writing in the margins, “Amen!” when I read something about food that I deeply resonate with. It’s usually because the words go much deeper than mere descriptions of ingredients, although those descriptions can be quite rich in and of themselves (see Robert Farrar Capon's chapter about an onion). It would be impossible to plumb the depths of all there is to know about food...but I intend to give it a shot anyway. 

Man invented cooking before he thought of nutrition. To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.
— Robert Farrar Capon

When my husband and I sit down for a meal at night, especially if it’s a recipe I’ve toyed around with or an ingredient I haven’t cooked before, I drive him crazy with over-analyzing. I think through every bite. Was it marinated long enough? What would I do differently next time? How come it took longer to cook than what the recipe recommended? Does this need a little more spice? I’m sure it’s very annoying, I know, and I’m learning better how and when to express my thoughts about my obsession. 

But there’s something about food that intrigues me so deeply. Maybe it’s the fact that it involves all the senses - taste, smell, feel, sight, and even sound. You don’t get that in every creative outlet. You smell the familiar sweetness of sauteed onions. You taste the saltiness of smoked sausage and the slight bitterness of kale. You hear a soft crunch with every bite, see the pop of color from cherry tomatoes, and feel creamy melted cheese on your tongue. 

Maybe I’m a little too obsessive (or crazy). But when the perfect combination of flavors comes together to ignite all the senses, I get excited. We need food to live, but God didn't create merely for the sake of sustenance. God supplied Adam and Eve with variety in the garden, a feast of taste they could enjoy.

God in his grace does not bind us to mere necessity. He gives us nourishment, and he also gives us creativity, delight, and refreshment at the table.

Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale
Yields about 8 servings

1 pound bowtie pasta
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more if needed)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound smoked turkey sausage, cut into ½-inch slices*
1 ½ pounds cherry tomatoes
8 ounces chopped kale (remove any hard stems)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Parmesan (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving a ½ cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven set to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Make sure you stir often to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the turkey sausage and cook for another couple minutes to brown the sausage. If the pot seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of oil.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot. Cook until the tomatoes soften and pop. Stir in the kale, chicken stock, kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Simmer 2-3 minutes, until the kale wilts and the liquid reduces a bit.

Add the cooked pasta to the pot. Stir everything together, and cook for a few more minutes until all the ingredients are fully incorporated and the liquid reduces to your liking. Alternatively, if you need to add more liquid, add the reserved pasta water 2-3 tablespoons at a time. (Pasta water is best to because it helps the sauce adhere to the pasta and adds additional flavor. Plain water will not achieve the same result!)

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Parmesan shavings and red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

*You can use any type of sausage you like, but note that for this recipe, I used smoked turkey sausage that was fully cooked to begin with. If you use a different type of sausage that’s not fully cooked, be sure to adjust accordingly. 


This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.