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.
Posts from the ‘Recipes’ Category
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
Brilliant red, plump– ready to burst with sweet and tangy juices, the sour cherry is certainly a seasonal farmer’s market treasure. Only in season a few short weeks, while these delicious fruits can be used for all kinds of cooking, I wanted to be able to preserve them for later in the year. While pies, tarts, sauces, etc. are great now, come Fall, I can’t wait to savor these homemade Maraschino cherries in an ice cold Manhattan.
Homemade Maraschino cherries are incredibly easy to make, especially when you have a cherry pitter, like the one by OXO pictured here:
A cherry pitter can also be used for olives, and if you have room in your kitchen drawers for one, it really saves a lot of time compared to using a paper clip or pin to remove the pits. Make sure to wear an apron for this task though, sour cherries have a softer, thinner skin than the regular variety, and are extremely juicy– which can easily lead to quite a mess.
Once your cherries are pitted, simply warm Maraschino liqueur to a gentle simmer, and pour them over the cherries in a clean canning jar. Maraschino is made from Marasca cherries, and crushed cherry pits which lends an almond-like flavor to the liqueur. These cherries will be far from the sticky-sweet cherries from your Shirley Temple days, and if the boozy flavor is a bit too strong for your tastes, the liquor can be mixed with a bit of water and sugar to your taste.
Use these cherries to top any ice cream sundae this summer, or come cooler weather use this recipe for the perfect Manhattan cocktail:
2.25 oz Rye Whiskey
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes bitters
In a rocks glass filled with ice, combine all ingredients, stir, and garnish with a cherry. Or, to serve up, stir all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.
Sweet Solutions III: Local Strawberry Tart with Basil-Infused Mascarpone Custard and Cracked Black Pepper
Last Saturday after the farmer’s market Jaime and I decided to walk down to the il laboratorio del gelato on Houston St. We were already in need of a cool refresher, but the walk escalated the effects of the sticky summer afternoon– at least we were heading to the perfect spot. Picking out which flavors we were going to get was probably the most difficult decision of the day. With so many fruity, sweet, and even savory options– the combinations seem endless!
I was immediately drawn towards the honey-lavender, but at the last minute I decided on the basil gelato with raspberry sorbet. The mix of puckering tartness from the raspberry and the mild, creamy, herbal finish of the basil was everything one could hope for on a humid day. Not too sweet, but amazingly refreshing, cooling, and my favorite summer colors– pink and green.
The treat inspired my own take on the flavor combination later that weekend, with my farmer’s market purchase of some tiny (more tart than sweet) local strawberries. I sliced the berries and tossed them in just a bit of sugar and freshly ground black pepper, and let them soak while I made pate brisee tart shells, and the basil-infused mascarpone custard.
For the custard I brought 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil, and then removed it from heat. I added 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil to the cream, covered it, and allowed it to steep until the tart shells were baked-off and cooled. When I was ready to fill the tarts, I strained the basil cream and set it aside. Then, over low heat, I combined 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and whisked them until they were light yellow in color. I slowly added the cream, whisking well until the mixture was thickened, and then I folded in one container of mascarpone cheese. I filled the tarts, and let them chill overnight, before I topped them with the sliced strawberries. The syrup from the strawberries makes a beautiful decorative and delicious sauce for serving with the tart, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.
Martha Stewart also has an excellent strawberry galette recipe in her Pies and Tarts cookbook if you don’t have any tart molds on hand. She pairs the rustic tart with a basil whipped cream. This elegant flavor combination is really something special to share over the summer when fresh ingredients are available.
Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a classic combination, and one of my all-time favorites– but the addition of ginger makes this pie stand out from the crowd. With an ultra-flakey lard and butter crust, and ingredients right from the farmer’s market, this summer treat is one that your friends and family are sure to love. It was difficult not to cut right into this pie as soon as it came out of the oven with it’s delicious red juices bubbling up out of the lattice-top, but I brought it into class to share instead.
Strawberry Rhubarb and Ginger Pie
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 stick cold butter, cubed
1 cup lard (or shortening)
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water
In a food processor, pulse dry ingredients a few times just to mix. Add butter and lard or shortening and pulse until dough begins to come together, adding water as needed. Divide into two, and flatten dough into discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
1 q strawberries, hulled, and cut in half or in quarters if large (small local in-season strawberries are best!)
5 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca
Combine all ingredients.
For the Pie:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough into an 11″ circle, place in a 9″ pie pan, and fill with mixture. Roll our other cylinder of dough, cover pie, and crimp edges with fingers. Brush crust with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 T cream if desired, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown and juices are bubbling.
After deciding on a sorbet flavor to work with from David Lebovitz‘s Ready for Dessert (Watermelon-Sake), Chef Anna and I had to think of what we would serve it with for the dessert special at L’Ecole. Angel-food and sponge cakes are already featured on the menu, so we were originally thinking of a pound or tea cake, but Chef Anna had an even better idea. We used her recipe for the classic Austrian Sachertorte cake— an airy chocolate cake with warm apricot preserves under the frosting– and lightened it up for summer by using white chocolate in place of milk or dark in the batter. I also mixed in lime zest and lime juice, which really complemented the intense sweetness of the watermelon. I served the sorbet on a thin sliver of the cake with candied lime slices. It was light, cool, refreshing, delicious, and very pretty (not to mention my favorite summer color combination– pink and green). As my friend David from class described it, it was really “summer on a plate.” Try this one at home to add an elegant finish to even the most casual summer dinner party, whether by the beach, air-conditioner, balcony, rooftop, or window.
Watermelon-Sake Sorbet (From David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)
Makes 1 quart
4 cups (1 1/14 lbs) seedless watermelon, cut into small chunks
2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups sake
fresh squeezed lime juice
In a food processor or in a blender, puree the watermelon with sugar and sake until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl, add lime juice to adjust the sweetness to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in an in ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also try freezing it in popsicle molds if you do not have an ice cream maker.
White Chocolate Lime Cake
165 g butter, room temperature
130 g sugar, plus another 130 g sugar
9 large eggs, separated
150 g flour
160 g white chocolate, melted and cooled
zest of 4 limes
juice of 1 lime
-Cream butter and 130 g sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. This step is very important in achieving the proper texture of the cake. Especially if the butter is still cool, make sure it is mixed enough.
-Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add chocolate. Mix just until combined. Set mixture aside.
-Beat egg whites with whisk or stand mixer on med-high. When mixture begins to turn white/opaque add 130 g of sugar. Continue to beat until stiff glossy peaks form.
-Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, being careful not to over mix. Sift in flour.
-Spread into a 9×13 cake pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes turning once. Cake will form bubbles, and should be golden brown.