Tuesday, April 13, 2010

weeknight menu

Given my aforementioned menu hang-ups—a kitchen mentality that is equal parts wayward and micro-managing—it would be reasonable to assume that I don't cook well with others. And yes, that may be true, but only up to a point.

I am much more amenable, for instance, if they come bearing a picnic basket full of Kerrygold products. Such was the case with Mollie, a relatively new guest to our kitchen, but one who quickly endeared herself—first with her spoon cookies, and more recently with the aforementioned Kerrygold products.

Of course, it also helps that she and I seem to dog-ear the exact same recipes, whether they be from the latest issue of Saveur (Moroccan Chicken with Carrot Puree), or a new cookbook. So it didn’t surprise me when, in planning a weeknight dinner, we both immediately thought of Mark Bittman’s pan-fried chickpeas with chorizo. Or that she would propose a dessert from David Lebovitz’s still-unpublished (at the time) cookbook—the same one I’ve been coveting for months.

The resulting menu went off entirely without a hitch—a feat that was celebrated with many wedges of Kerrygold cheddar.


Fried Chickpeas With Chorizo and Spinach

At the time, the fact that Mollie and I were craving the exact same dish struck me as further evidence of our culinary kindred spirit-hood. But objectively, it’s hard to imagine someone who saw the NY Times photograph accompanying this recipe and wouldn’t want to make it. And rightly so—it’s very tasty, with the chickpeas and spinach absorbing the brininess of the chorizo. But next time I will experiment more—perhaps substituting ramps for the spinach, or seasoning the oil with garlic (see below). I’ve also ditched Bittman’s broiler method in favor of toasted breadcrumbs, as our broiler was a bit too petit for the task.

Serves 4

1 cup breadcrumbs (homemade or panko)
6-7 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and dried
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces chorizo, diced
1/2 pound spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sherry

In a small sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown, seasoning to taste. Set aside.

Heat 3 of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves, if desired. (If not, proceed to next step.) Once the garlic has turned golden brown, remove from the pan and discard.

Add the chickpeas (they should fit in one layer) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown, about 10 minutes, then add chorizo. Continue cooking for another 5 to 8 minutes or until chickpeas are crisp; use a slotted spoon to remove chickpeas and chorizo from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan; when it’s hot, add spinach and sherry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook spinach over medium-low heat until very soft and the liquid has evaporated. Add chickpeas and chorizo back to the pan and toss quickly to combine; top with bread crumbs. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Black Bass with Sicilian-Style Pesto
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini

While it doesn’t have the same country of origin as Bittman’s pan-fried chickpeas, this Sicilian-style pesto shares a Mediterranean sensibility. The sauce is reminiscent of a romesco, with a bright flavor that's amplified by sun-dried tomatoes and basil.

Serves 4

For the bass:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless black bass fillets (about 2 pounds total)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 scallions, whites only, chopped very fine
1/4 cup white vermouth or white wine
1 tablespoon butter

For the pesto:
3/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1/2 cup fresh basil (about 15 leaves), chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup celery leaf, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the olive oil into a baking dish.

Using a sharp knife, make 4 shallow diagonal incisions in the skin side of each fillet. (This keeps the fish from curling up and getting tough.) Season the fillets with salt, pepper, oregano, and citrus zest and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Lay them in the baking dish skin-side up.

Pour the vermouth or wine over the fish. Break up the butter with your fingers and place little bits across the fish. Bake the fish, uncovered, until the flesh turns just white and is semi-firm to the touch, about 5 to 8 minutes. When you cut into the fish, the center should be just opaque.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and put them in the blender with the olive oil, garlic, almonds, and 1 cup of hot tap water. Blend on high until the ingredients have combined into a chunky sauce, about 1 minute.

Transfer the fish from the baking dish to a plate but do not discard the juices in the bottom of the pan. Add half the pesto to the juices in the baking dish and mix together over low heat until everything is combined. Add the chopped basil, parsley, and celery leaf, and mix to combine all the ingredients.

Spoon a portion of the pesto onto the bottom of each serving plate and place a fish fillet on top. Drizzle more extra-virgin olive oil over the top. Serve immediately.


Maple-Walnut Pear Cake

Adapted from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

I have a particular affection for upside down cakes, especially those baked in a cast iron skillet—and those that lend themselves to morning-after snacking. (Pears and maple syrup? You had to see that coming.) This cake comes from David Lebovitz’s just-released Ready for Dessert, a compendium of his all-time favorite recipes that I’ve been waiting for all winter.

For the topping:
1/3 cup (80 ml) maple syrup
1/4 cup (60 g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, quartered and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices

For the cake:
1½ cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/4 cup (60g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the topping: combine the maple syrup and brown sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan or cast iron skillet over low heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, simmer gently for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the walnuts evenly over the mixture and lightly press them in. Arrange the pear slices over the walnuts in an overlapping pinwheel pattern.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Gradually mix in half the dry ingredients, then the milk, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Carefully scrape the batter onto the pears and smooth it into an even layer. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan, then invert onto a serving platter. (Any walnuts that are stuck to the pan can nestled back into the cake.) Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. The cake will keep for 2 days at room temperature. Reheat before serving.

1 comment:

  1. An hors d'oeuvres of chickpeas with spinach the other night at Restaurant Chez Jackson reminded me again of the spectacular combo of greens and garbanzo beans. The chorizo in this dish, though, added a smokiness that was clutch.