Saturday, January 30, 2010

butternut squash bruschetta

You would be justified in puzzling (or in K's case, grimacing) at this list of ingredients. Squash, honey, caperberries, walnut oil—these are unnatural-sounding bedfellows. But, as 'inoteca fans will attest, Jason Denton know his way around a bruschetta. And here he's come up with autumnal riff on caponata that gives butternut squash the same sweet-salty treatment that Sicilian eggplants have been enjoying for years. This version is earthier and without the vinegary punch, which means it's delicious on a piece of grilled bread (let's face it, most things are) or as a rustic winter side like you see here.

Butternut Squash Bruschetta
Adapted from Jason Denton

Denton recommends serving the squash topping at room temperature, but it's delicious warm, too. I would recommend cutting the squash into 1/2- or 3/4-inch cubes to reduce the baking time—otherwise, the honey-caper-walnut mixture can char.

2 cups squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons honey

1⁄2 teaspoon chili flakes

10 caperberries, roughly chopped

10 walnuts, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch of pepper

1 baguette, cut on a bias into twelve 1½-inch-thick slices

6 teaspoons walnut oil

4 teaspoons asiago cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Gently fold the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl. Spread mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, gently stir ingredients, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and adjust seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices until slightly crisp. Scoop a generous tablespoon of the squash mixture onto each piece of baguette. Garnish with a drizzle of walnut oil and grated asiago.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

chicken fricassee with red cabbage

This dish lends itself to didacticism. One could easily preach on the transformative power of simple ingredients, the deceptive nature of appearances, the unimpeachable wisdom of Marcella Hazan, the tragic neglect of red cabbage…

But I’d rather celebrate this chicken on hedonistic terms. Because, it’s so tasty—one of those perfect Italian inventions that combines a few humble ingredients (chicken, cabbage, onion, red wine) to profoundly pleasurable effect.

Sliced red cabbage and onion cook down until rich and caramelized—a delicious, sweet-sour nest for the braising chicken. Yes, the meat acquires a slightly off-putting purple hue—but once you see how well it's absorbed those wine-infused juices, you’ll quickly forgive the inelegance. Death by cabbage smothering isn’t such a bad way to go.

Chicken Fricassee With Red Cabbage

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

Serves 4

1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
4 cups red cabbage, shredded fine (about 1 pound)
one 3-4 pound chicken, cleaned and cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup dry red wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the sliced onion, the 1/4 cup olive oil, and the garlic in a sauté pan. Turn the heat on to medium, and cook the garlic until it turns a deep gold color. Add the cabbage, sprinkle with salt, and stir thoroughly until well coated. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook cabbage for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until it becomes tender and has reduced. [The dish can be prepared up to this point even 2 or 3 days in advance. Reheat completely in a covered pan before proceeding to the next step.]

In a separate pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once oil is heated add chicken skin-side down. Brown on both sides, then transfer the pieces, except for the breasts, to the cabbage pan. Turn the chicken over in the cabbage, add the wine and a few grindings of pepper. Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly askew, and continue cooking at a slow simmer. Turn the chicken occasionally, sprinkling once more with salt. After 40 minutes add the breasts. Cook for about 15 minutes more until the chicken is tender and the meat comes easily off the bone. Transfer everything to a warm platter and serve immediately.

Monday, January 25, 2010

tipsy chocolate date nut gems

I fear these cookies are going to be a hard sell (and not just because of the title). For those who don't share my fanatical love of dates, I don't know how to convince you that "Tipsy Date Nut Gems" are anything more than a glorified fruitcake.

But they are more—so much more—somehow marrying the richness of a chocolate brownie with the winy chew of a Fig Newton center.

The dark, date-studded interior is moist and fudge-like, with crushed pecans and sweet traces of vanilla and almond. And then there's the (tipsy) rum glaze, a delicious adherent for the confectioners' sugar.

In one bite, Tipsy Chocolate Date Nut Gems were at once elusive and familiar—adult and wonderfully elementary—and for me, completely new. Even better, they were the perfect solution to the small surplus of dates we had left over from Christmas—provisions from the holiday party that never was.


Tipsy Chocolate Date Nut Gems

From Great Cookies, by Carole Walter

The recipe makes 36 little gems, or, if you're like me and lack a miniature cupcake pan, 12 medium gems.

For the rum syrup:
1½ cups water
3/4 cup sugar
3-4 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum

For the batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 cup strained cocoa powder, spooned in and leveled
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup hand-pitted dates (1/4 inch dice)
1 cup medium chopped pecans
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, spooned in and leveled, divided, for dusting

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Coat the mini-muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for one minute. Off the heat, stir in the rum and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed, about one minute. Add the dark brown sugar, the dark brown corn syrup, melted butter and extracts. Mix until well blended, about one minute. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Using an over-size rubber spatula, fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a teaspoon, spoon the batter into the mini-muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just set on top.

Remove the muffin tins from the oven and let the cookies rest in the pans for five minutes, or until the cookies pull away from the sides of the pans. Invert the pans onto waxed paper, tapping firmly against the countertop to release the cookies.

While the cookies are still warm, using a slotted spoon, dip each cookie into the warm syrup and place on a thin wire cooling rack. The cookies should only be moistened with the syrup, not soaked. (Discard any leftover syrup.) Let the cookies air-dry for 25 to 30 minutes.

Place one cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a large shallow baking dish, such as a pie plate. Working with one cookie at a time, roll in the sugar, coating thoroughly. While still in the dish, use the heel of your hand to gently flatten the cookie to approximately ½-inch thickness. Return to the rack and air-dry for 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

When ready to serve, roll the cookies in the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar. Serve at room temperature. [Store the cookies in and airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper, and refrigerate until ready to use. The cookies will keep for up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

roast beef tenderloin with port sauce

When K. and I received carte blanche to plan our family’s Christmas menu, it was with the explicit caveat that the end result be sufficiently stately. (Serious Turtle, the source of this directive, was no doubt envisioning a lacquered show goose carved tableside.)

My preferences don’t often tend toward the red meat and potatoes family, but in this case, beef tenderloin came to mind as an appealing alternative to Christmas goose—one that would simultaneously honor holiday convention and Serious Turtle’s desire for a culinary tour de force.

The problem with tenderloin, of course, is that you pay a price for the smooth-as-butter texture—beyond the obvious price, that is. Lacking the fat content of other (less refined) animal parts, the meat is notoriously bland. The trick is to find a recipe that extracts maximum flavor while locking in moisture.

In the past two years, I have come to trust Molly Stevens in all things (her book, All About Braising, is a winter essential), so when I discovered her tenderloin recipe, which called for both a dry brine (read: generous salting in advance—perfect for intensifying flavor) and a ruby port sauce, all the stars seemed to align. And, as is invariably the case, she delivered brilliantly.

Our Christmas tenderloin—served classically, with buttery fingerlings and roasted brussels sprouts—was perfectly cooked, delicious and handsome in equal measure.


Roast Beef Tenderloin with Port Sauce

Adapted from Bon Appétit

We opted to brown the meat before roasting, which yielded a tasty crust, but perhaps counteracted the dry-brining process? (I don’t know the science of these things.) Next time, for the sake of experiment, I would probably adhere to the original recipe. Heeding the numerous Epicurious complaints of a “thin sauce,” we reduced the sauce for an extra 10 minutes and stirred in a bit of Wondra flour—and still, it remained more a jus than a gravy. But the flavor is all there.

Serves 10

For the beef:
One 4- to 5-pound trimmed whole beef tenderloin, tail end tucked under, tied every 3 inches
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, coarsely cracked in mortar with pestle

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 cup ruby or tawny Port
Beef stock, preferably homemade

Sprinkle entire surface of beef tenderloin with 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt. Place beef on rack set over large rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours.

Make the sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots; sauté until soft, 3 minutes. Add Cognac, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper and cook until liquid evaporates, 1 minute. Add Port; bring to simmer. Add all of beef stock. Boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes, or more if desired. Strain into medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer. [Can be made 24 to 36 hours ahead. Cool slightly, then cover and chill.]

Let beef stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Rub beef all over with two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns, pressing to adhere. Return beef to rack on baking sheet and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125 degrees for medium-rare (135 to 140 degrees in thinnest part), about 30 minutes. Remove roast from oven and let rest 15 minutes.

Bring sauce to boil; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut off string from roast. Cut roast crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on platter. Serve with sauce.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

miso salmon

This dish has long been a secret weapon – served as easily at one of my first dinner parties, the meeting of my dad and now father-in-law, and on a spring Sunday night dinner for two. The dirty secret is just how simple it is. Coated in white miso overnight, roasted at high heat, and then smothered in a mix of citrus juices, cilantro, and chives – it is wonderful straight out of the oven, at room temperature, or for leftovers. The original recipe is from Gourmet and recommends a more formal garnish of shitakes with citrus zest, but I don’t think the salmon needs it.

While I tend to eschew recommended marinating times – heed this one. For best flavor, marinate the night before, and, if you are serving for dinner, the latest I would push it is early that morning.


Miso Salmon with Citrus Juice and Fresh Herbs
Adapted from Gourmet

This recipe is for 16 – I have only ever made one whole fillet. The recipe scales easily.

2 whole salmon fillets with skin, 3 pounds each
2 cups white miso
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup snipped chives
½ cup fresh orange juice, mixed with juice of 1 whole lemon

To marinate the salmon: Combine miso and mirin. Spread mixture over the flesh and skin sides of the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the miso from all sides of the salmon and discard. Don’t worry if some miso remains.

Grease baking pan that will fit salmon fillet. Place fillet skin-side down, and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until edges brown.

Transfer the salmon to a serving platter, leaving the skin on the baking sheet. If the fillets break, not to worry – just reassemble on the plate. Any breaks will be covered when you pour juices over the top.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

beets with tahini

There’s a lesson here: you should never underestimate my penchant for beets, dips, or new ways to marry the two. This one, more in the meze family, is made sweet and nutty with the addition of tahini paste. It’s similar to a version we had at Zahav (the source of last year’s cauliflower epiphany), only that one comes with crushed walnuts on top.


Beets with Tahini
Adapted from Moro East, by Samuel and Samantha Clark

I nearly declared this superior to Sortun’s beet tzatziki until A. wisely reminded me that there is room enough on a competent meze platter for both of them.

1 1/4 pounds beets
4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed with salt
2 tablespoons tahini
2-4 tablespoons fresh mint
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, 60 to 90 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and chop coarsely.

Place the beets in a food processor with the garlic, tahini and olive oil and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the vinegar, mint, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

breakfast cakes and breads

This post is perhaps ill-timed. After all, these items were made in the spirit of holidays, back when cakes and leftover pumpkin pie qualified as acceptable breakfast fare, when it felt perfectly natural—indeed, necessary—to bake things on a whim. Come January, the international month of culinary penitence, it can all seem so foolish. And yet, je ne regrette rien.

***


Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Dates and Walnuts

Adapted almost beyond recognition from Bon Appétit

This was my answer to the leftover can of Libby's pumpkin (not to mention the 3 pounds of Medjool dates) sitting in our pantry. If you wanted to push it further into the dessert category, you could add cream-cheese frosting or sweetened whipped cream.

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (you can also roll the pieces into small balls)
Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour one 10-cup bundt pan or two 9" x 5" loaf pans.

Beat sugars and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Add walnuts and chopped dates.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of pan(s). Turn out onto racks and cool completely.

***

Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake
Adapted from Gourmet

I am not going to lie to you: this was a pain to make. The dough is thick and gummy [read: impossible to spread], and at one point I lost all hope of a coherent cranberry ribbon. But all was forgiven in the end. The cake made for beautiful and appropriately festive Christmas morning fare, with a surprising citrusy bite from the cranberries. I loved the method for incorporating the vanilla bean (instant vanilla sugar!) and will be borrowing it for future recipes.

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Position baking rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not puree).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up. Coffeecake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

***



Persimmon Cake
Adapted from Room for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

Alas, this was more bread than cake, on account of minor overbaking. (We were too busy with Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque sledding antics to heed the oven timer.) But the flavor—and, for M and A, an extra pat of butter—compensated for any dryness. Ultimately, I think I prefer my persimmons in pudding form (specifically, Ana Sortun's persimmon pudding cake with maple sugar crème brûlée), but this is still an excellent way to make use of spare Hachiyas.

1 cup persimmon puree, from about 2 to 3 medium Hachiya persimmons
1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup dried currants, soaked in 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy (optional)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Sweetened whipped cream

Position baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar and spices until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. add the vanilla and bean it the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Stir half the persimmon puree into the creamed butter mixture, then thoroughly mix in the dry ingredients. stir in the remaining puree. fold in the walnuts and the currants with their liquor. pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the pan. dust with powdered sugar and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Friday, January 8, 2010

ebelskivers!

It took us approximately 20 hours to put Serious Turtle's Christmas gift to work. (You may call it a Williams-Sonoma-catalog-induced extravagance, I call it a home kitchen necessity.) Ebelskivers, a Danish invention preferably pronounced in the voice of Beaker, are pancake, popover and Italian bombolino all rolled into one.

Ebelskivers
Adapted from the LA Times

We experimented with several fillings: apricot jam, spiced pear butter, bittersweet chocolate and yes, morning-after pumpkin pie. But I can imagine variations involving lemon curd, jam + cream cheese, caramel, nutella, peanut butter, roasted apples, blueberries, bananas, maple syrup, mascarpone, marshmallow, coconut—even Mac 'n' cheese. (I'm pretty much reciting the Shopsin's pancake menu.) Alternatively, you need not fill them at all. The LA Times recommends serving ebelskivers plain, alongside tart berry jam.

Yield: About 2 dozen (depending on the pan)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus more for buttering the pan
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup desired filling (optional)
Confectioners' sugar or maple syrup, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and sugar. Slowly drizzle the buttermilk into the mixture while whisking. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine and form a batter. Whisk in the butter and vanilla extract, if using.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the batter. Set the batter aside at room temperature for 15 minutes to rest.

Heat the ebelskivers pan over medium heat, then brush each mold lightly with melted butter. When the butter just begins to brown, pour the batter so each mold is filled halfway. (Start with the middle mold as it receives the least amount of heat and remember the sequence in which you fill each mold in the pan, as the ebelskivers will need to be turned in that order.) Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each pancake and top with 1 tablespoon of batter.

When a solid crust has formed on the bottom of each mold, reduce the heat slightly and flip the pancakes using two wooden skewers. Cook until golden. Transfer the ebelskivers to a pan and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

whipped ricotta redux

Huzzah! At last, experimentation and liberal adaptation has allowed me to replicate Andrew Carmellini's Whipped Ricotta without a hitch. Below, the revised recipe, which promises delicious, un-soupy results.

Whipped Ricotta with Thyme and Oregano
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini

2 cups Sardinian sheep’s milk ricotta (or regular cow's milk ricotta)
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano, on the branch if possible
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a deep bowl. Place the ricotta in the strainer and allow to drain in the refrigerator. Squeeze the cheesecloth to drain as much liquid as possible from the mixture.

Using a whisk or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta and milk together until light and fluffy. [You can add more milk as required.] Add the table salt and mix well. Place the mixture in a serving bowl; sprinkle generously with other seasonings. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with grilled country bread.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

beet caviar

In college, Slavic Department gatherings were the site of many memorable revelations: the perils of multiple vodka flights, the inevitability of the Tolstoy vs. Dostoevsky divide and, most importantly, this beet caviar. Six years later, it is still my go-to holiday party hors d’œuvre.

It turns out, the recipe is not an invention of my Russian professor, but rather an adaptation from Please To the Table, by Anya von Bremzen. Were the name of that cookbook any less amazing, I may find this disheartening.


Beet Caviar with Walnuts and Prunes

Adapted from Please To the Table, by Anya von Bremzen

Though you can serve this dip immediately (I certainly have), it's best made several hours in advance. These days, I add most of the ingredients to taste.

Yield: about 2 1/2 cups

3 large beets
1/3 cup brandy
7 pitted prunes
2-3 medium-size garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s (I’ve also substituted yogurt)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, 60 to 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the brandy to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the prunes and let soak for 30 minutes. Remove the prunes and chop finely, reserving the excess brandy.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and chop coarsely. Puree the beets and the garlic in a food processor until finely minced. [I usually start with one clove of garlic, and add more to taste.]

Transfer the beets to a bowl and add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of reserved brandy, the chopped prunes, and the walnuts. Toss thoroughly with mayonnaise and season to taste. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

fettuccine with peas and parmesan

My history with this pasta has already been well documented in the blogosphere—needless to say, I believe it to be worth a tiny bit of Internet stalking.

Yes, it’s January, and therefore about five months early for peas. But here I’ll make a brief exception to the “for every food, there is a season” mandate and say that, yes, while this dish would be incalculably improved with the addition of freshly picked and shucked peas, the experience of petrous, starchy, many-days-past-their-prime peas in June has taught me to appreciate the art of flash freezing. In other words, I eat frozen peas sometimes. Not often. Please don’t judge me.

Fettuccine with Peas and Parmesan
Adapted from Mario Batali via The Wednesday Chef

If you can get past the seasonal dissonance, I promise this pasta will bring a bit of springtime into your cold, daylight-deprived kitchens. New Yorkers can try the original version at restaurant, where its made with homemade pappardelle (and where I first fell in love with it).

Serves 4

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon wildflower honey
3 cups shucked peas (fresh or frozen)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound dried fettuccine or fresh pappardelle
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn in half

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it is just smoking. Add the onion, honey, and 2 cups of the peas, and sauté until softened and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place peas in a food processor and pulse until coarsely pureed. Season generously with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta.

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the remaining peas, and cook slowly until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pea puree to the whole peas and keep warm. Just before the pasta is done, pour a ladle of the cooking water into the pan with the pea puree and stir to loosen the sauce.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Immediately toss the pasta into the pan with the pea mixture. Stir gently to mix well, adding more pasta water if necessary. Add the cheese and fresh mint, and toss to combine. Serve immediately in heated bowls.