Monday, August 14, 2017

Soft-Boiled Eggs

When I was a little girl, my English mother would take me home every other year to see my grandparents.

My Mother
We would sail from New York Harbor to Liverpool on a Cunard White Star liner, the M.V. Britannic, a ship that took eight days instead of five to cross the Atlantic, and it was on that well-remembered ship I first became aware of how much I liked food.

M.V. Britannic
We had breakfast in the dining room; then steaming cups of consommé on deck at 11:00 a.m. Next, back to the dining room, was luncheon, followed by the 8:00 p.m. evening meal. We ate freshly-baked hard rolls with sweet butter, fried eggs and rashers of Irish bacon, leg of lamb with peas cooked with mint. The stewards wore white gloves and served in the French manner, using two spoons to plate the food we requested.

On Board Ship
I ate caviar for the first time when I ordered it off the menu for myself while sailing home after having learned to read - and I mean really read, not Dick and Jane - while I was enrolled at The Rock Ferry Convent School during my stay in England. I was five years old.

The steward got a funny look on his face, and my young and beautiful mother looked at him and said in her most English of English accents, "As she eats olives and anchovies, I imagine she will eat caviar. Please bring it to her as she requested." It came on a plate with little pieces of toast and tiny cubes of aspic, which, thankfully, turned out to be only a decoration. My mother was right. I happily ate the salty caviar on the dry crunchy toast.

My Grandfather's House
At my grandfather's house the food was good too. We ate crumbly, pale orange Cheshire cheese, Hovis wheat bread sliced thin and buttered, eggs boiled softly after being plucked from under the bottom of a reluctant hen, green onions on their stems, red radishes cut in half through the root end, and, sometimes, creamy chicken pies. Sweets were only presented at the end of tea when there was company, but in the kitchen there was always a Victoria sponge cake (with a taste so elusive the closest I have ever come is when I make David Leibovitz's Financiers on Page 258 of My Paris Kitchen), and a plate of triangular current scones, not too sweet and a good companion to a big cup of tea when I got home from school.

Scones
I am sometimes able to get Mrs. Appleby's Cheshire Cheese, and I always get it when I see it, but mostly what I crave and eat from those days are soft-boiled eggs, always good but even better when I am able to get them from local hens. In the afternoon I eat them, as at my grandfather's, with buttered bread; in the early morning, with toast soldiers - pieces of toast buttered and cut into strips to dip into the soft yolks.

After trying many recipes and different methods, this is the one I like best.

Soft-Boiled Eggs
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Special equipment: An egg cup is my preferred way of eating soft-boiled eggs, and I use an egg topper to take the top off. If you don't have an egg topper, you can tap the top of the egg with a knife and cut the top off with it..

I store my eggs in the refrigerator in the carton they came in, pointy side up. For this recipe, use large eggs that are straight from the refrigerator and still cold. Make sure they have no cracks. I don't prick a hole in the egg. I always wash eggs before I use them as I often have local eggs from a farm, and it's a habit I have gotten into.

I have found this recipe to be fool-proof. I usually make 1 egg at a time for myself, but this recipe works just as well for up to 4. The eggs are essentially steamed, not boiled, but you get the idea.

Instructions

Put an inch of water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully put the egg (or eggs) into the saucepan, and cover. Cook for exactly 6-½ minutes. Using a digital timer is the best way to ensure you have the time right.

When the 6-1/2 minutes are up, remove the cover, put the pan in the sink, and run cold water into it for 30 seconds.  Remove the egg or eggs from the pan and place in an egg cup. Take the top of the egg, and dig in. I put a little mound of salt and pepper on my plate to dip my spoon in between mouthfuls.

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Egg Toppers

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Aunt Rita's Manicotti


My Aunt Rita always made manicotti for Christmas Eve, and my cousin Barbara continues the tradition today. The family recipe came from my grandmother, who got it from her mother-in-law, a great-grandmother I never knew. When Nanny made manicotti, she used a black iron skillet so smooth and slick from years of use that the pancakes - called crespelle in Italian and crepes in French - slid right out onto a plate. I can picture her standing at the stove, effortlessly turning them out, so it was with no trepidation that I decided to make them for the first time.

I was 24 years old and as fearless in the kitchen as I was inexperienced. On my lunch hour, off I went to Woolworth’s to buy an 8-inch iron skillet. It wasn’t black; it was disappointingly gray, but it came with instructions how to season it, which I presumed would quickly turn it black and non-stick. Ha.  Following the directions more than once – many times more than once - did nothing to make it smooth and slick enough to make the crespelle. No how, no way. After going through eggs and flour at a rapid rate with no success, I picked up the phone in my Kansas City kitchen and called my mother in New Jersey to ask her to post-haste mail me Nanny’s skillet.  “Hi, Mom, will you send me Nanny’s manicotti skillet, please?”

“I can’t.  I got rid of it.” 

WHAT? She just, without thinking or asking anyone (specifically me), tossed out something that today is the kind of skillet articles are being written about and people are scouring backyard sales in search of and, if found, plan to leave to their children. In fact, that very skillet probably – hopefully – found its way into somebody’s kitchen.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, next up was Aunt Rita. Keep in mind, this was a time when long-distance phone calls were punishingly expensive, and random long-distance calls were not in my secretary’s salary bracket. I usually reserved any questions I had for the weekly phone call from my mother on Sunday morning, so my Aunt, who lived in Illinois, was a little surprised to hear from her slightly frantic niece. It turned out she used a non-stick skillet, the kind of skillet most of us wouldn’t have in our kitchens today. The one I got at Woolworth’s was ugly and flimsy - orange with a gray non-stick interior - but it did the trick, and soon enough, I too was standing at the stove effortlessly turning out crespelle one after another onto a plate.


To this day manicotti is the only dish I make using a non-stick skillet; now it is a sturdy 8.5-inch Anolon number.  Someday I will get around to seasoning the carbon steel crepe pan I have, but so far I’m sticking with the easy way out with no apologies. 

Aunt Rita's Manicotti

This recipe makes about 13 manicotti. 

Three to four manicotti are usually enough for one serving.  (Except for one Christmas Eve in Atlanta when my cousin Gene ate eleven!)

Crespelle

The crespelle ratio, which can be increased, is 2 eggs, ¾ cup flour, 1 cup water.

For filling made with one 15-ounce container of ricotta, which usually makes enough for four people, I use the above ratio and make the batter out of

2 large eggs
¾ cup flour
1 cup water

Whir the ingredients above in a blender or food processor, and let sit for one hour before making the crespelle.

Put a small amount of a neutral oil (I use peanut) in a small dish or saucer.

Dip a paper towel into the oil, and swipe it over the bottom of an 8-inch non-stick skillet.  Heat the pan over medium heat until hot.

Make crespelle using approximately 2 tablespoons of batter per crespelle.  The exact amount depends on the diameter of the bottom of the pan you are cooking them in, which can differ from 8-inch pan to 8-inch pan.  (If you have a pitcher with a good pouring spout, you can pour the amount of batter you need into the pan once you get the hang of it.)

Put the 2 tablespoons of batter in the hot pan, and immediately swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the crespelle is cooked on one side, turn it onto a plate with the cooked side up.  (I just turn the skillet upside down, and it plops right out.)  I don't cook the second side.  The crespelle can be stacked one on top of another.  Keep working until all the batter is used up.

Filling

1 15-ounce container of whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Parmesan cheese grated by hand (You can use a regular Microplane or a Microplane medium-ribbon grater, which grates in both directions and makes larger pieces of cheese.)
¼- to ½-pound shredded mozzarella  (You can use packaged "dry" mozzarella for this or "fresh" and grate it by hand on the large holes of a box grater.)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste - be generous
A tiny amount of grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon
A little salt to taste, keeping in mind that the Parmesan cheese is salty

Mix the filling ingredients together.  Start with the ¼ pound of mozzarella, and only add more if the filling is too wet.  

Prepare the Baking Pan

Lightly butter a half sheet pan.  Coat the pan with a thin coat of whatever tomato sauce you will be using.  

Manicotti

Take a crespelle with the cooked side up.  You will put the filling on the cooked side.  Put about 2-½ tablespoons of the filling onto the crepe, and roll it up loosely like a cigar - definitely not tight as it will puff up when it cooks.  Place it seam side down in the prepared half sheet pan. 

When the pan is filled with stuffed crespelle - now manicotti - put a thin coating of tomato sauce over everything, and place it in a 325 degree oven, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.  You want the manicotti hot enough so the cheese inside melts.  You will see it puff up.  Serve as is or with a little more sauce on top. 

Obviously, the recipe can be easily doubled for six to eight people.  My aunt used to put the filled unsauced manicotti on top of cornmeal-strewen sheet pans to freeze.  Once frozen she would pop the manicotti into freezer bags for easy storage.  

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Beet Borscht Salad

Adapted from Fruit and Vegetable Stand by Barry Baluster

I adapted this recipe from a 1987 edition of the book Fruit and Vegetable Stand by Barry Baluster.  The first time I made it, I read the recipe wrong, but I liked it so much that I have been making it that way ever since.  It doesn't sound like much, but it's very good and very pretty - definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  

Cold Beet Borscht Salad
Adapted from Fruit and Vegetable Stand by Barry Baluster

Serves 4 - 6 depending on whether you're using it as a salad or a condiment

4 to 6 medium beets

Sour cream (I use full fat and prefer the brands Breakstone, Daisy, and Organic Valley)

Cut off the long stringy top of the beet, trim the root end, but leave it intact.  Wash the beets well. Wrap the beets tightly in aluminum foil (I wrap them twice), and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for one hour.


Remove beets from the oven. Open the foil carefully so you don't burn youself. Let the beets cool a little, then slip off the skins. It is easy to do this under cold running water while they are still warm.


Slice, dice, or quarter the beets depending on your preference. I usually leave them in largish pieces.  Chill.


Serve with dollops of sour cream. Alternatively, toss diced, chilled beets with sour cream. 


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Friday, October 2, 2015

Boneless Pork Loin Roast

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman




Driving home in a heavy rainstorm yesterday, we stopped in Manchester at The Vermont Butcher so we could just squirrel in with good books when we got home instead of making our weekly food-shopping trek.  Among other meats, including the hard-to-find-around-here fresh chicken livers, we got a beautiful boneless heritage pork loin roast with a thick covering of creamy white fat.

All of a sudden, the weather has changed.  The temperature has dropped.  The heat was on when I got out of bed this morning. The leaves have turned color and are falling at a rapid rate.  We're sashaying into winter with an autumn cozy and beautiful enough to take our minds off what it will be like in February when the holidays are over, the ground is covered in snow, and the thermometer reads MINUS 14°F.  I love summer.  Who doesn't?  And, as my friend Sharyn says, what passes faster than a summer?  Nothing.  But I am always happy on the first day I get out my gloves, look for my favorite sweater, and think it might be time to pull on a pair of tights.  That day was two days ago, and my thoughts turned to a change in the kind of food I've been cooking for almost four months, which is why I was so happy last night to have that pork roast waiting to be cooked.

When Tom makes his constantly-requested bone-in pork rib roast with the chine removed, he seasons it with Herbes de Provence and salt and pepper.  That's it.  Not even garlic.  Since I didn't have a jar of Herbes de Provence, I looked up what that is and found the recipe on marthastewart.com.  I didn't make a whole batch, just a pinch of each of the ingredients, going a little heavier on what I like best, leaving out lavender, an ingredient I didn't have.  I took the pork roast out of the refrigerator, patted it dry, added my little Martha Stewart mixture, kosher salt, and black pepper, and let it sit for about an hour until it got to room temperature.



I preheated the oven the 450°F, put a round cake rack in my 12-inch cast iron skillet, set the roast on it, and put it in the oven.  When it was done and had rested for a few minutes, I had fabulous drippings, and juices, and glorious goo in the bottom of the skillet, which I used, after defatting, to bathe some homemade cavatelli.  With some garlicky sautéed spinach, this dinner was a perfect beginning to the meals of autumn. 

Boneless Pork Loin Roast
Adapted from How to Cook Everything, Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition, by Mark Bittman

This is my pared-down version of Mark Bittman's basic roast pork, Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary in How to Cook Everything, Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition.

Note:  The USA Guidelines for safe minimum internal temperature temperature, last modified on January 15, 2015 (which may have been updated since I am writing this, so double-check this information to be sure), state that beef, pork, veal, and lamb (steaks, chopped, roasts) and ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked) are safe to eat cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F with a three-minute resting time.

Ingredients
A 2-to3-pound boneless pork loin roast (not a pork tenderloin)  Try to find one with a good cap of fat on it.
1 tablespoon (or up to 2 tablespoons if you want to be more aggressive with the seasoning) Herbes de Provence*
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ cups of white wine or chicken broth
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)

*If you don't have Herbes de Provence, you can use a pinch of each of these dried herbs:

Thyme Savory
Oregano 
Rosemary
Marjoram

Instructions

Take the roast out of the refrigerator, dry it, pat on the Herbes de Provence, and add salt and pepper to taste. You want the roast to come to room temperature before you start to cook it. This will take about one hour. 

Preheat your oven to 450°F. 

Put the roast on a rack in a pan. Place in the preheated oven, and cook for 15 minutes at 450°F.  

Open the oven door, and very carefully, watching out for steam, pour ½ cup of white wine or chicken broth over the roast. Reduce the heat to 325°F. Continue to cook at 325°F, checking every 15 minutes to see if the bottom of the pan is dry. If it is, add a little more liquid. If the meat does not have a luxurious covering of fat on it, baste it.

Depending on its size, the roast will take anywhere from 1¼ to 2 hours to reach an internal temperature of 145°F. To avoid overcooking, start checking it with an instant-read thermometer at 1¼ hours. I use a Thermapen.

Once the meat reaches the right temperature, remove it from the oven, and let it rest for about ten minutes before carving into thin slices.

You can use the pan juices to make a gravy with more of the wine or chicken broth if you like. To do this, remove the roast from the pan, place the pan on a burner on top of the stove over medium-high heat, and either reduce the juices in the pan to ¾ cup or add enough liquid to make ¾ cup. Stir to incorporate any drippings in the bottom of the pan, reduce the sauce to the thickness you like and, if you want to make it a little richer, stir in the optional tablespoon of butter. I usually find that the roast is so juicy, it doesn't need any gravy or jus at all.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Chocolate Cake

Adapted from More Home Cooking by Laurie Cowin




This is my adaptation of the Elizabeth David Chocolate Cake that was Laurie Colwin's chocolate cake of choice for a few years.  She found it in French Provincial Cooking and said

To make it takes a little bit of time, but it is time well spent. People simply moan at the taste.  It is perhaps the king and queen of all chocolate cakes.      

If you have More Home Cooking (and I hope you do) and want to check out Laurie Colwin's recipe, see Page 158.   

The Chocolate Cake
Elizabeth David's Chocolate Cake adapted from More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Serves 6


4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I like Guittard Bittersweet 70% Cacao, which comes in a pink package with three 2-ounce bars in it.)
Cut 6 tablespoons unsalted butter into 6 pieces, and let come to room temperature
⅛ teaspoon salt (I use fine sea salt.)
¼ cup sugar (The original recipe calls for ½ cup, but I reduced it to ¼.)
½ cup ground almonds (I use raw, unblanched almonds blitzed in a food processor.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon strong coffee 
Elizabeth David recommends adding 1 tablespoon brandy or rum; Laurie Colwin recommends adding 1 tablespoon brandy.  I omit the spirits completely.  You choose.
3 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 300 (not a typo, three hundred) degrees.  Butter an 8-inch springform pan.


Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, checking at 30-second intervals to avoid scorching.   
(See Alice Medrich's Water Bath Method for melting chocolate below.*)  Remove from the microwave, and add the butter. Stir until the butter melts from the heat of the chocolate.  Stir in the sugar first to completely incorporate it, then add the ground almonds, vanilla, and coffee, and stir again.  Transfer the mixture to another bowl, which will be cool, large enough to hold all the batter.

In a separate clean bowl, beat 3 large egg yolks with a wire whisk until they are well mixed and turn a bright lemon color.  Stir into the chocolate mixture.


In another clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.  (I do this by hand in a copper bowl with a large whisk.)  This can be done using a stand or hand mixture.  Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

  
Turn the batter into the prepared pan, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.  A cake tester will not come out clean.  Remove from the oven, and place the cake pan on a rack.  The cake may slump, and the top may crack.  This is okay.  Cool completely before removing the sides of the pan.

Best served with lightly whipped cream.


*Alice Medrich, who is the author of my favorite dessert book, Pure Dessert, shared a tip for melting chocolate with thekitchn:

Melting Chocolate: Alice Medrich's Water Bath Method

Chop or break your chocolate into pieces and place the pieces in a heatproof bowl; stainless steel is good; tempered glass will also work. Place a wide skillet with about an inch of water on the stove, and put the bowl with the chocolate in the skillet.  Watching carefully, bring the water in the skillet to a simmer, turn off the flame, and wait until the chocolate melts.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Eggplant Parmesan





Melissa Clark wrote a piece for the NYTimes last winter, Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls.   It's definitely worth your time to read it.  If you do, be sure to watch the video of her making cauliflower parmesan; you will get a good idea of her technique.  She uses panko when she makes Parmesan; I use plain dried breadcrumbs, 4C brand preferred.



This is not the Eggplant Parmesan you would make if you were using Marcella Hazan's recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or eating in Italy.  It is a version of Eggplant Parmesan attributable to the Italian-American immigrants who arrived in America in large numbers between the 1880's and the 1920's.  My own grandmother was born in 1897 in her family's apartment at 193 Mott Street, New York City.  She was the youngest of eight children, and the first to be born here, making her the first natural-born American in my family as my mother was from England.  "Nanny" was a good cook and made fried eggplant often, but I don't remember her ever making eggplant parmesan. Homemade manicotti, yes; eggplant parmesan, no.


In my opinion the best place to get Parmesan cheese in New York City is DiPalo Fine Foods at 200 Grand Street, two blocks south from where my grandmother was born.  It's often packed with customers, so be sure to arrive with your patience intact, and don't forget to take a number as you enter the store.  The quality products and personal service are worth the wait.  (While you are there, you might want to get a box of DiPalo's round cheese ravioli, made with their own creamy ricotta.)

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from Melissa Clark, NYTimes

Serves 4 with leftovers

A little butter
1 recipe of NYTimes Cooking Simple Tomato Sauce
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella
1 to ½ cups of grated Parmesan cheese (Get the really good stuff; don’t skimp here.  The amount you use will depend on how fluffy you grate it.  I use a classic Microplane so it is very light and fluffy.) 
6 large eggs
Wondra Flour (Use Wondra, not all-purpose flour; it is granular, which helps keep the breading from being too heavy.)
Plain dried breadcrumbs (Do not use seasoned breadcrumbs)
Vegetable oil (I use peanut oil)

Either make the Simple Tomato Sauce and let it cool before proceeding with layering the ingredients, or make it ahead.  Put the sauce into a bowl.

Beat 6 eggs and put them through a strainer into a small bowl.  Don’t skip this step; it makes the breadcrumbs adhere smoothly to the eggplant.   It's a small thing that makes a big difference. 

Wash and dry the eggplant; don't peel it.  Cut the eggplant into slices about ⅓-inch thick or a little thicker.

Set up your station to bread the eggplant - one plate with Wondra, one plate with the beaten and strained eggs, one plate with plain dried breadcrumbs.  

Liberally season the flour with salt and pepper, and stir with a fork to mix thoroughly.

Coat the eggplant first with the Wondra, then with the eggs, and finally with the breadcrumbs, setting the breaded pieces of eggplant on a platter as you go along.

When the eggplant pieces are all coated, shallow fry them in vegetable oil (I use peanut oil) until golden-brown on each side.  Be careful not to burn them.  Place each piece of browned eggplant on another platter as you go along until all of the eggplant is done.

While the eggplant cools a little:  

Grate the mozzarella on the large holes of a hand-held box grater.  I use a Microplane Box Grater; the large holes are "cupped," and make easy work of grating the cheese.  Put the grated cheese on a plate.

Grate the Parmesan cheese on a classic Microplane.  Put it on another plate.

Assemble everything within easy reach - the sauce, the two cheeses, and the platter of eggplant. 

Take a casserole 3-inches deep - I use a Pyrex 11-cup casserole (easy to find in the grocery store) - and butter it.  Then add in this order (1) a thin layer of sauce, (2) a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, (3) slices of eggplant, (4) grated mozzarella, and start over again.

The order is:

Sauce
Parmesan cheese
Eggplant
Mozzarella
Sauce 
Parmesan cheese
Eggplant
Mozzarella
Sauce
Parmesan cheese
And so on.....

Do as many layers as will fit in the casserole, ending with sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Do not end with mozzarella.  By the time I am done, I have used all of the sauce and all of the mozzarella.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until the eggplant is bubbling all the way through.  Let rest at room temperature for ten minutes before cutting to serve.


Before Going into the Oven - Parmesan Cheese on Top
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce

Adapted from NYTimes Cooking




NYTimes Cooking is available at this time without charge to anyone who wants to use it.  As a reader of the NYTimes who looks forward every Wednesday to the food section, I find NYTimes Cooking to be a treasure trove of recipes, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone willing to listen.  The site is user-friendly; it's easy to save recipes, print recipes, share recipes, and email recipes.  Poke around and see if you like it too.

When I make tomato sauce for pasta, it's usually very plain with few ingredients, and I don't use tomatoes packed in puree.  My favorite tomato sauce (and I am not alone in this) is Marcella's Sauce with Tomato and Onion.  I also like Luisa's Pasta with Ricotta, which she hid in plain sight here.  (I'm not alone liking this one either.)  But when I was perfecting a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan based on Melissa Clark's Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls, I decided to try the tomato sauce she recommended, Simple Tomato Sauce.  This is now the sauce I use for Eggplant Parmesan, which is a great recipe, especially for a dinner party as you can do all the work ahead.

For Simple Tomato Sauce I like to use two 28-ounce cans of Italian tomatoes in puree with the letters DOP on the label, which in English means Protected Designation of Origin.  There is some controversy about whether or not this designation indicates superior tomatoes or not; I find them to be good, but you might want to read what Serious Eats has to say on the matter.




Simple Tomato Sauce
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 28-ounce can Italian Tomatoes packed in puree (I use tomatoes with the label DOP)
2 sprigs basil (optional - If you have them, use them, but if you don't, do not substitute dried basil.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them using your fingers.  Do not do this in a blender or food processor as it will make them too fine.  If the tomatoes have been packed with basil leaves, remove and discard them.

Warm the oil in a 4-quart non-reactive sauté pan, and add the garlic slices.  Cook until the slices turn slightly/barely gold; watch carefully, don't let them color too much or burn.  If you do, you have to start over. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the contents of the bowl with the crushed tomatoes, add the basil if you are using it and the salt and pepper.

Bring sauce to a simmer, and taste to check the seasoning.  Add a little more salt if necessary.  Cook at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the tomatoes have thickened into a sauce that is not at all watery, but not jammy either.  This will take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the basil if you used it.

If you are using this sauce to make Eggplant Parmesan, let it cool to room temperature before proceeding with layering the ingredients.

Print recipe.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic and Parsley

Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten



As I was waiting for the elevator, a new tenant came into the building, picked up her mail, and came to stand by me.  She was holding a small cardboard package from Amazon.  I introduced myself and said, “It’s so much fun to get a new book.”  “Yes,” she said.  “I’m sure it’s Ina Garten’s newest.”  I replied that I had already received mine as it was pre-ordered.

She looked at me and said “I used to work for her.”

I have now made two recipes from the book, Garlic & Herb Roasted Shrimp and Make-Ahead Zabaglione with Amaretii, and both of them are really good recipes, definitely keepers.  Two for two means there must be a lot more in the book that I am going to like.

Ina Garten’s recipes have, for me, always been so reliable that I would be willing to make them for a dinner party untested.  If I had a daughter who liked to cook, I would give her one book for every occasion that came along until she had a complete set.  And this book, Make It Ahead, would certainly be included.

Shrimp Before It Goes Into the Oven

Shrimp After It Comes Out of the Oven
With my thanks to the always-reliable Ina Garten, here is my adaptation of the shrimp recipe I made last night, which will replace the shrimp scampi recipe I have used for years.  There are so many side dishes that would go well with this dish, but I do highly recommended crusty French bread to dip into the delicious sauce you end up with.

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic and Parsley
Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Serves 2

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon (3 cloves) minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
A few generous grindings of black pepper (or to taste)
1 pound large shrimp (I only buy shrimp from the USA)
1 large lemon
½ teaspoon of Maldon Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the shrimp, rinse in a small colander, and set aside.  (Personally, I don’t devein it.)

In a 10-inch black iron skillet, melt the butter.  Turn off the heat, and add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes (crushing them a little with your fingers as you put them in).  Turn the heat back on, and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  Do not let the garlic even color. 

Remove the pan from the burner, and zest the entire lemon directly into the pan.  Slice three  ¼-inch slices from one half of the lemon, and set them aside with the other unsliced half. 

Next, stir the parsley into the sauce, and add the shrimp in a single layer.  Stir to coat it well with the sauce, and season with the kosher salt and black pepper.  Stir one more time, making sure the shrimp stays in a single layer.  Tuck the 3 slices of lemon among the shrimp.

Put the skillet into the hot oven, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, to pink and just firm. I don’t brown them at all.  The amount of time this takes will depend on the size of the shrimp and the accuracy of your oven temperature.  The size shrimp I use are normally cooked in a hot oven in 8 to 10 minutes, but it could take even longer if the shrimp are really big, so keep checking. You don’t want to overcook them because they will get rubbery. The deliciousness of this dish depends on the quality of the shrimp and not overcooking it.

Crush the Maldon Salt over the shrimp right before serving.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Beef Stew



Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Jennifer and Amy
When Amy was visiting recently, her friend Jennifer came to dinner. As she was leaving, she looked at my bookshelf and noticed that I had all of Laurie Colwin's books sitting there, side by side.

I discovered Laurie Colwin back in 1989 when I picked up a copy of Home Cooking at the (then) tiny Barnes & Noble on East 86th Street. Once I found her, I read everything of hers I could get my hands on and was stunned - and saddened - when she died in her sleep from an aortic aneurysm in October 1992.  She was 48 years old; three years and two days older than I.

When I worked in Chelsea, I used to walk down the street from the General Theological Seminary and wonder which was the house she had lived in.  Where had she lived with her husband Juris, played with her daughter Rosa, cooked for friends?

There are so many quotes of hers I remember at odd times of the day and night, but this is my favorite:
I love to eat out, but even more, I love to eat in.  The best dinner party I ever went to was a black-tie affair to celebrate a book, catered by the author's sister...
When the food appeared at this party I could scarcely contain my delight.  It was home food!  The most delicious kind:  a savory beef stew with olives and buttered noodles, a plain green salad with a wonderful dressing, and some runny cheese and chocolate mousse for dessert.  Heaven!
From Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin 
If you have yet to discover Laurie Colwin, you're in for a treat.  All her books are still in print, and Open Road Media has published them in e-book format.   In addition to Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, which are the collected columns she wrote for Gourmet magazine, she wrote stories and novels.  Every two years or so I re-read the novels I like best, Happy All the Time and Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object.

The Kitchn adapted this recipe from Home Cooking, and I have adapted it further.

The Kitchn's recipe and Laurie Colwin's recipe calls for 1-inch cubes of russet potatoes to be added with the other vegetables; however, I don't add potatoes.  I feel they thicken the stew too much, and crumble into leftovers when reheating.  If I wanted to eat this with potatoes, I would steam red or white creamer potatoes cut in half, and toss them with butter to serve with the stew, not in the stew.

This stew is delicious served with - not over - polenta or, my favorite, Quaker Old Fashioned Grits (not quick-cooking) mounted with lots of butter and heavy cream.  Good sides are buttered green beans and watercress and radish salad dressed with a vinaigrette.  I like Julia Moskin's French Vinaigrette.

Mutti Polpo and Passata


Simple Beef Stew
Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika (Make sure it's not stale, and use the best you can find.)
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds beef chuck, grass-fed if you can get it, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
About 1/2 cup olive oil
1 scant tablespoon Wondra Flour
2 cups red wine (whatever you will drink with the stew)
14.5 ounces tomato puree or passata, which is the same thing.  (I like Mutti Passata)
1/4 cup tomato paste
14-ounce can of Italian tomatoes (I like Mutti Polpo* - finely chopped tomatoes.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Maldon Salt

*If you do not have Mutti Polpo, I suggest you use the dependable Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes with their juice, which you finely smush/chop in a bowl, using your fingers and/or kitchen shears.  Also, note that tomato puree/passata is not the same thing as canned tomato sauce.  Canned tomato sauce often has flavoring added to the tomatoes; for instance, Muir Glen adds onion powder and garlic powder.  If that's okay with you, go ahead and use it.  

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine the flour, paprika, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl.  Toss in the beef cubes, a few at a time, and keep turning them over and over until they are completely and thickly covered in flour.  Set the cubes aside on a plate as you go along.  Keep each cube separate, not one on top of another.

Heat 2 to 3 glugs of olive oil in a black iron skillet.  Make sure the olive oil coats the bottom of the skillet evenly, and get it hot over medium heat.  Brown the cubes all over, and remove them one by one to another clean plate as you go along until they are all browned.  If the flour in the bottom of the skillet starts to burn at any time, clean it out, and start with fresh olive oil.  See Note.

Add enough olive oil to a large Dutch oven -  I use a 7-1/4 quart Le Creuset Round French Oven for this - and sprinkle in a little Wondra Flour - a scant tablespoon.  Cook, stirring; it does not have to brown.  You are not making roux; you just want to eliminate the taste of uncooked flour.

Add the red wine, tomato puree/passata, tomato paste, Italian tomatoes, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Sitr, and cook until the sauce warms up and amalgamates, about 5 minutes.

Place half of the meat into the pot, followed by half of the smashed garlic cloves, half of the carrots, and half of the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients in the same order.  Top with the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover the pot, and place it in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Remove the cover, and cook for 20 minutes more.  When done, sprinkle with a little Maldon Salt to finish.

Serve with grits, polenta, buttered noodles, or steamed and buttered halved creamer potatoes.

Note

I deliberately do not brown the meat in the Dutch oven I am going to cook the stew in because I don't want to keep cleaning a heavy pot as the meat browns, and the flour on it burns in the bottom of the pot.  It's much easier to clean a skillet, if necessary, as I go along, and I usually do clean it out halfway through the browning of the meat.  If you decide to brown the meat directly in the Dutch oven to preserve the fond, 
instead of thickly coating it with all-purpose flour, lightly coat the beef with Wondra Flour,  and eliminate the step where you add Wondra Flour to olive oil in the pot.  That way there won't be as much flour to burn in the bottom of the pot .

Print recipe.

Browned Pieces of Beef