What's Cookin NewsletterCheck me out on the What's Cookin' Newsletter this week!
Tune in tomorrow (Saturday, April 21st) to Fox 5’s Good Day Street Talk starting at 6am to watch me make this recipe!
For the Pesto: (Yields about 3 cups)
2 bunches ramps, roots trimmed, roughly chopped
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine ramps, spinach, cheese, and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse until combined, and while continuing to pulse, add oil in a slow steady stream. Scrape down sides as needed, and continue to mix until the mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
To store, cover the surface with a layer of olive oil, and seal in an airtight container. Refrigerate for about 3 weeks, or freeze in ice cube trays, and enjoy all year round.
To Complete the Dish:
1 lb spaghetti
1 lb asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1/4-1/2 cup Ramp Pesto
Parmesan cheese, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
Cook spagetti according to package instructions. Just before draining, reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, and add asparagus. Drain, return to pot, and toss with prepared pesto. Add pasta water as necessary until the sauce coats the pasta. Serve with cheese and lemon.
If the gorgeous weather we have been enjoying in New York isn’t enough of a sign that Spring is finally here– for chefs and foodies alike– a trip to the local farmer’s market will make it obvious.
The vibrant greens of asparagus, spinach, fiddleheads, and of course, the ever elusive ramp are an exciting awakening. It’s not just the colors– the tastes and textures of the season are worlds away from the comforting, but heavy foods we eat during the cold days of Winter. The crunch of a fresh radish and it’s refreshing bite, the tenderness of a young stalk of asparagus, the mild sweetness of tiny snap peas. For those of us in the kitchen these things are also signals the arrival of even more amazing local produce on it’s way in the coming weeks and months.
So stay tuned! It was a busy Winter, but there are lots of great recipes, and plenty of information to come! Tune into Fox 5’s Good Day Street Talk this Saturday, April 21st, starting at 6am to see me demonstrate a delicious spring recipe with ingredients from the Greenmarket!
Thanksgiving this year went by without a hitch. The menu was simple, and easy to prepare. The most difficult part was getting all the ingredients from the farmer’s market to Connecticut on the train! While my younger cousins were a bit suspicious of some of the dishes, I heard one remark “there is something weird in this stuffing!”– the rest of the family enjoyed it, and I got out of the kitchen for long enough to spend some time with all of them. Sharing meals with my family like this one reminds me why I love to cook so much, and reminded me of all I have to be thankful for, this year, and every year.
Deciding what to do for Thanksgiving this year was more difficult than usual. Having already cooked three other Thanksgiving meals so far at work, I was feeling less enthusiastic about my own families meal. Since I have the whole week off, I decided not to spend it whining about having to cook, (although if someone wanted to bring something… I wouldn’t complain…) and try to have some fun in the kitchen doing a few creative things. I always like to focus on keeping my meal full of local ingredients, and put new twists on New England classics. Not surprising to anyone who knows me, a lot of bourbon has seemed to creep it’s way onto the menu. But also, I really can’t say enough good things about our menu in the November issue of Everyday Food. The recipes are quick, delicious, and made for three stress-free Thanksgiving dinners for me so far, so check it out if you’re still planning out your menu. And have a look at mine here, Thanksgiving Menu 2011.
The process, or maybe I should call it the art, of making meatballs is one that brings back some of the strongest food memories I have from my childhood. I remember coming home from school, and opening the door to a house full of the warming scents of tomato sauce cooking on the stove top– dominant would be the simmering garlic and onions, and fresh herbs from my mom’s garden. And if I had already missed mixing the meat with my hands, there would be the mouthwatering smell of the meat frying in olive oil. After I took in all of this, I would notice the Andrea Boccelli or Pavoratti blaring from the speakers in the living room. Other than Christmas Eve it is one of the few times I remember feeling really Italian. Meatball night was always an experience.
My Grandpa Pat took his meatball making quite seriously too. He jarred his own tomatoes for sauce, and kept his pork meatballs braising until they absorbed all their perfect balance of sweet and tanginess. He used milk soaked bread, which I have carried on in my recipe, to get the perfect light texture.
Meatballs are easy to make, and can be really inexpensive. You can also make a big batch and freeze them for later on, if there are any leftover. No longer just a vehicle for a good sauce, meatballs have become quite trendy here in New York City, with restaurants like The Meatball Shop (one of my favorites), and its new competitor The Meatball Factory. Different varieties from the classic flavors to buffalo chicken, and curried lamb, are appearing on menus all over the city. But no matter what, my favorite meatballs are still made at home.
For meat, I have always used a blend of pork, veal, and beef for the best flavor, texture, and the right amount of moisture– but any one or combination of these will work. For cheese, I usually both pecorino romano and Parmesan, but again, just Parmesan is fine if that’s all you have on hand. For a really special version, add 1/4 cup pine nuts, and 1/4 raisins, like one of my favorite restaurants and (closest to home Italian food I’ve had in the city), Frankie’s Spuntino does.
Gervasi Family Meatballs– makes about 20
2 cups white bread (1/2 of a 10oz rustic loaf, just scoop out the inside)
1 cup whole milk
2 pounds ground pork, veal, beef blend
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil if frying
4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, of course homemade is best.
To bake meatballs, a little quicker and healthier, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Soak white bread in milk until fully soaked, about 1 minute. Squeeze out and discard liquid, rip bread into small pieces and add to a large bowl. Combine all other ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix throughly with your hands. Form into roughly 20 balls that are in between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball.
Either bake the balls for 25 minutes, or fry in batches until all sides are nicely browned. They should be just cooked through. Once cooked, add to a large pot with tomato sauce, and cook for an additional 30 minutes so that some of the sauce can be absorbed. Because the meatballs are already cooked through there is no need to cook them longer than this.
If freezing, do not add to sauce, and instead store room temperature meatballs in a plastic ziplock bag for months in your freezer. Cooled sauce also freezes well in plastic bags.
I like a pickle that is crisp, garlicky, and tangy, or one that has a bite. The great thing about pickles, is there are so many different kinds, and they are all really easy to make. While kirby cucumbers (these are the little guys that are perfect for pickling) are in peak season at the farmer’s market, buy a few (they are SO cheap) and experiment in your kitchen. With “gourmet” pickles costing about $10 a jar, canning your own is worth the investment of a few ball jars, cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and any herbs or spices you might want to add. They are also great to bring to barbeques and dinner parties, after all, what is a good summertime burger without a delicious pickle! You won’t believe how easy they are to make, and guests will be really impressed, and of course you’ll never go back to store-bought again. Use some of the brine in bloody marys, especially delicious if your pickles are spicy!
*Use pickling salt (Morton’s sells it in a big green box) for pickles that will stay greener, regular or kosher salt will also work, and taste fine, your pickles just won’t stay as bright because of additives.
For the basic brine:
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons pickling salt
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 tablespoon black peppercorn
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Bring all ingredients to a boil, and pour over pickles into heatproof containers (if canning, make sure jars and lids are sterilized). Refrigerate, and store for a few months, not that they will last that long!
For Garlic/Dill Pickles:
add 4 cloves garlic
and either 1 head of fresh dill per jar, or 1 tablespoon dill seed
For Spicy Pickles:
Add one whole hot pepper of your choice, poked all over with a fork, to each jar.
For a Sweet Pickle:
Add 2 tablespoons, or more, of sugar to the brine, and leave out the other spices.
Crisp white wine, sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes of different shapes, sizes, and vibrant hues, savory and salty baked clams– the flavors of summer in themselves are an escape from the city during these especially hot days and nights. Sunday dinner after a beautiful weekend in the Hamptons is always a bittersweet event. Fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market, friends, and family, always make for an amazing meal, but supper is always the last thing I can fit in before boarding the bus headed back to Manhattan.
Tonight I was a guest at my friend Stephen’s house in Sag Harbor for dinner. After a completely kitchen-free weekend, I was happy to throw together a few no-fuss sides to add to an already impressive spread. I had been talking so much about my watermelon and arugula salad the day before at the beach, I decided to make it again this evening with some ingredients from the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, along with some quick pickled red onions and cherry tomatoes.
The produce at the Amagansett Farmer’s Market is amazing, and my friends, despite being foodies, still could not quite understand my excitement over my salad supplies. The baby arugula was the most tender, peppery, absolutely perfect green I have ever tasted, I have to say, it was probably worth it’s $6.99 per 1/4 of a pound price I failed to notice.
For my watermelon salad I mixed the arugula with some frisee to bulk it up enough to serve the group of 10. I cubed half of a sweet seedless watermelon, and about 6 ounces of salty ricotta salata cheese. I tossed in a bunch of salted pepitas (sunflower seeds are delicious too) for a little crunch, and I usually dress it with a simple lemony champagne vinaigrette (1 shallot, minced, juice of 1 lemon, 2 T champagne vinegar, 1 T dijon mustard, 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper). This salad is incredibly light and refreshing, easy, and goes well with almost any summer meal.
Stephen’s dad grilled a steak and burgers, and whipped up a batch of baked clams in the backyard (which deserve much more attention than my vegetable side-dishes) while we enjoyed the pool, some Southampton Double White Ales, and the company of three very funny little dogs. We ate under the vine-covered pergola, and Stephen’s mom set the table with blue checkered cloth and wildflower bouquets, my favorite combination for any summertime spread.
Before we could see sun setting, or the paper lanterns illuminated in the trees of the yard, we were having our last laughs, sips, and bites and running out to the car. Now, typing this and only seeing the red glow of brake lights out the window of the bus, it seems much more than 100 miles away from that special tranquility, comfort, and certain contentedness that can be found in the summer at home.
With it’s smooth vanilla and caramel flavors, and hint of sweetness, Bourbon makes the perfect addition to any treat. While it’s warming quality makes it a favorite drink choice in the Fall and Winter months, it pairs exceptionally well with some of Summer’s seasonal produce, and makes a fantastic ice cream flavor. While I am always experimenting with new ways to sneak Bourbon into my recipes, this Bourbon Vanilla Cherry Pie, Brown Butter, Bourbon, and Pecan Blondies, and Peanut-Bacon Brittle Bourbon Ice-Cream are my favorites for any time of the year.
Bourbon Vanilla Cherry Pie
Pie Crust (use your favorite recipe, or see here)
1 lb Fresh Cherries, pitted.
2 T Bourbon, I like to use Maker’s Mark
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar
2 t lemon zest
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, halved, and scraped with knife
3 T cornstarch or tapioca
1 T heavy cream
1.Heat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2.Roll out one pie crust to a 10-inch round, line a pie pan, and fill with cherry mixture, refrigerate while rolling out top crust.
3. For a lattice-topped pie like the one pictured, roll out the second piece of pie dough, and cut into 10 strips of equal length. Lay 5 down vertically across the pie, and fold every other strip half way down.
Place one strip down horizontally, replace vertical strips. Then repeat the process with the two strips that you did not fold over last time, and continue with this process until you have used all the strips of dough.
4. Mix the egg and cream, and gently brush the top of the pie. Sprinkle generously with sanding sugar, and bake for at least 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
This recipe was borrowed and modified from Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything.
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups + 2 T AP flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 t good vanilla
1/2 c bourbon
1 c chopped pecans
1. Heat oven to 350. Cut butter into small cubes, and cook in a small sauce pan over medium high heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes, swirling occasionally. Remove from heat.
2. Whisk flour and baking powder together in a large bowl.
3. Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs, beat to combine. Add vanilla and bourbon. Change to low-speed, and add dry ingredients. Place batter in a buttered 9X13 inch pan. Bake 35 minutes.
Peanut-Bacon Brittle Bourbon Ice-Cream