'Tis the season to be fancypants. Our Top Pick in Cookbooks for December, Sweet by Valerie Gordon, is the ideal guide to the most gorgeous and delicious sweet treats of the season. Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, "Sophisticated, grown-up winners, all; you can’t go wrong."
Gelée sounds so much more sophisticated and elegant than the word “gelatin.” We all grew up with the packaged variety in those electric colors with flavors like orange and lime. Dispel that notion of gelatin; this version is far more delicious and impressive. Use your favorite Champagne or sparkling wine.
2. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup water and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.
3. Add the gelatin to the sugar syrup, stirring until it has dissolved. Pour into a large pitcher. Pour the Champagne into the pitcher and stir with a long spoon.
4. Pour the gelée into glasses or small glass bowls and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, until set.
The gelée can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Adding strawberries, sliced if large, and raspberries, is a delicious way to vary this recipe. Add the berries to the glasses before refrigerating the gelée. If you add berries, it is best to serve the gelées the day they are made, as the berries can darken and break down, and the effect will not be as pretty.
Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt wasn't kidding when she said Suzanne Goin's gorgeous The A.O.C. Cookbook "is serious, challenging cooking, not dumbed-down, not simplified." But for the courageous cook, these recipes are worth it.
Combine the cream, milk, and fig leaves in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes, allowing the fig leaves to steep in the hot liquid. Strain the leaves from cream mixture, discard them, and return the liquid to the saucepan. Heat this cream mixture over medium heat to a scald, add the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the bloomed gelatin until completely incorporated. Chill the cream mixture over an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until it’s at room temperature or slightly cool.
Prepare six 3-inch ring molds (or individual ramekins) by lightly brushing vegetable oil on the inside surfaces. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into a bowl, and whisk in the crème fraîche or yogurt. Then whisk that thickened cream–crème-fraîche mixture back into the cream. (Tempering the cream this way creates a very smooth and silky panna cotta.) Pour the panna- cotta cream into the prepared molds, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, until set. When ready to serve, cut the remaining three fig leaves in half and place them on each of six dessert plates. Cut six 3-inch circles of walnut pain de Gênes and place one in the middle of each fig leaf. Center one walnut lace cookie atop each cake. Carefully unmold the panna cottas on top of each cake- cookie stack. (To unmold, gently press your finger down on the panna cotta close to the edge, pulling lightly inward, to the center, and then moving your finger along the perimeter of the panna cotta. When f ipped upside down, it should pop right out.) Trim the stems of the figs, and cut each one in half. Place one fig half on top and one fig half on either side of each panna cotta. Thinly shave the melon with a vegetable peeler; weave the slices around the plates, and place scoops of melon sorbet nestled among the fruit.
Oretta Zanini De Vita, a renowned Italian food historian and pasta authority, and Maureen B. Fant, an American who’s lived and cooked in Rome for more than 30 years, teamed up to create the ultimate Italian cookbook, Sauces & Shapes, which Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt calls "glorious."
Don't judge me, but I might spend the rest of the fall season eating this soup and only this soup. Yum!
As for what pasta to use, fresh quadrucci or dried cannolicchi are good, but pasta grattata (see below) is great. Spaghetti spezzati (broken spaghetti) hark back to the bad old days in Naples, when the fragments of pasta used to be scooped up from the bottom of the madia, where the pasta was stored, and tossed in the soup. Sister Attilia, Oretta’s childhood mentor in Bologna, used the odd cuttings she had put aside from making her famous tagliatelle.
For the soup:
Bring the broth to a boil in a 6-quart (6-liter) pot and add the onion mixture and potatoes. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely falling apart. Taste for salt. The amount will depend on how salty your broth is.
Add the pasta and cook al dente.
Transfer to a heated tureen, stir in the cheese, grind on some pepper, and serve piping hot.
To make pasta grattata (“grated pasta”): Make egg dough using your favorite recipe, but if possible use durum-wheat flour, and add a pinch of salt to the dough. When the dough has rested and is quite firm, cut it into manageable pieces and grate it like cheese on a large-holed cheese grater or the grating blade of the food processor.
Spread the pasta grattata on a kitchen towel to dry, about an hour for immediate use or 3–4 hours if you plan to store it.
Fans of Mollie Katzen's trailblazing Moosewood Cookbook (1977) will love her newest, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation. Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt calls it "a latter-day Moosewood, livelier and lighter, sharper and spicier, showcasing her expanded repertoire and simplified approach." Looks yummy!
Roasted eggplant readily soaks up a quietly exotic (but not difficult) vinaigrette, elevating this salad to focal-point status for a light summer lunch.
Taste the cucumber before it goes in, to be sure it is very sweet.
2. Meanwhile, place ¼ cup of the vinaigrette in a shallow dish large enough to hold the eggplant.
3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, sprinkle the eggplant very lightly with salt, then transfer the still-hot eggplant directly to the vinaigrette in the dish. Let it sit and absorb as it cools to room temperature.
4. Stir in the cucumber, bell pepper, and tomatoes, along with another 2 tablespoons or so of the vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Serve cold or at cool room temperature, stirring the mint leaves in immediately before serving, and topping with a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper, if desired.
Stir in a touch of minced jalapeño and/or lime zest; Top with an Herb Tangle (page 76) of minced scallions, cilantro, Thai basil, and mint; Toss on some peanuts for garnish; Top with Tofu “Noodles”
• • • • • • • •
Makes about ¾ cup (Vegan)
The vinaigrette can be made ahead of time and stored for up to a week in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature and stir from the bottom or just shake it before using.
After you’ve used the mere 3 tablespoons of coconut milk for this recipe, preserve the remainder of the can by freezing it in an ice cube tray. Once firm, transfer the cubes to a heavy zipstyle plastic bag (label it!) for longer storage. Pull out what you need, when you need it, and you will have wasted not.
2. Drizzle in the oil, whisking as you go, until it is fully incorporated.
3. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Shake and/or stir from the bottom before use.
Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt gives some extremely high praise to Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, promising the recipes here will produce pasta dishes just as good as what you'll find in Italy. It sounds too good to be true—until you see delicious recipes like this one.
The name zite means brides, ziti, more common in America, means grooms, but the shape is the same, long and tubular. In Italy they are also called candele and are as long as spaghetti. If you have those, break them into three or four pieces each. Otherwise, use ordinary ziti, sedani, penne, or any other slim tubular pasta.
This recipe gives about six normal servings. Double the quantities for the party version. The leftovers are good too. It’s delicious at room temperature and also freezes well.
For the condimento:
Chop the capers and olives together. Cut the peppers into thin strips.
Heat the garlic in a skillet, with the oil, until it is golden, then discard. Add the peppers, breadcrumbs, capers, and olives to the flavored oil.
Add a few grinds of black pepper and, stirring often, let the flavors blend over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the oregano and parsley. Taste for salt and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Bring 9 quarts (9 liters) of water to a boil in an 8-quart (8 liter) pot over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until only half cooked.
Drain and transfer the pasta to a bowl or return it to the pot, and mix in a few tablespoons of the peppers (technically sauce, but not very saucy).
Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 20 minutes, or until a nice brown crust has formed on top. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before unmolding and slicing like a cake.
The timballo can be reheated successfully.
For me, a former child of the Midwest, the recipes in Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table are like culinary flashbacks to being an 8-year-old, so blogging about this recipe feels a lot like sharing a favorite children's book. Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, "Believing that the best, most iconic dishes are passed down hand to hand, generation to generation, she’s collected 200 recipes that celebrate the regional traditions that waves of immigrants have brought, and still bring, to the American heartland."
Makes 25 small bars
For the base, mix together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly until you have a soft dough. Break the dough into small pebbles and spread it evenly in the bottom of the lined baking pan, then gently press the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake until it turns a shake darker, 15 minutes.
Let base cool a bit. Meanwhile, make the chocolate layer: Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the peanut butter and heat gently until melted and combined, stirring occasionally.
Pour ½ cup of the warm melted chocolate mixture over the baked base, and spread it out evenly. Refrigerate until set.
Reserve the remaining chocolate mixture on top of the stove while you prepare the maple filling.
For the maple filling, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweetened condensed milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Boil softly, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage, or 245ºF on a candy thermometer. (Gauge the doneness using the cold-water test: Fill a bowl with very cold water and drop about ½ teaspoon of the mixture into it. If it forms a soft ball that you can easily pick up, it’s ready.)
Fill a sink with at least 6 inches of cold water, and set the saucepan into it (making sure not to slosh water into the fudge).
Stir constantly with a sharp-edged wooden spoon, scraping down the sides of the pot, until the mixture starts to turn granular, about 5 minutes. When it starts to look like beach sand and becomes increasingly hard to stir, remove the pan from the water and add the cream cheese. Stir, scraping the sides, until the mixture is smooth and light.
Immediately spread the maple filling in an even layer over the cooled chocolate layer. Scatter the peanuts on top and press them very lightly into the maple filling. Gently heat the remaining chocolate mixture to return it to a liquid state. Drop the chocolate from the side of a rubber spatula onto the maple layer, making wide swipes across the peanuts, taking care to cover them completely.
Return the baking pan to the refrigerator and chill until completely set, about 4 hours. Cut into small bars.
If you're dreading the school year's hundreds of packed lunches—or simply want to add a little punch to the lunch box—check out Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch. Give PB&J and Lunchables the boot with these super easy, fresh lunchtime combos.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients. This recipe comes together effortlessly in minutes.
In a large sauté pan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the ground turkey and brown, breaking up any chunks, for 10 minutes. Add the tomato-red pepper mixture, stir well, then bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sloppy Joes onto the buns and top with cheese.
Yvette van Boven’s cookbook Home Made Winter was a hit, so we're excited to see she's followed it with the seasonal opposite, Home Made Summer. This book is as lighthearted and sunshine-filled as the season at its best, and you'll love making meals that "don’t take too much effort, and celebrate summer and the inherently fabulous flavors of so many fresh fruits and vegetables." Enjoy!
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Add all the fruit except the strawberries and boil for 3 minutes tops, stirring, until the berries are soft and release their juices.
Place a sieve over a bowl and pour in the fruit. Reserve the fruit and the juices.
Line a 2-cup (500-ml) pudding mold with plastic wrap, letting the plastic overhang the sides. Remove the crust from 5 of the bread slices. Halve them lengthwise. Cut out a circle from the sixth slice to match the size of the bottom of the pudding mold.
Dip each cut slice of bread for 1 second in the fruit juice you collected in the bowl and use the slices to line the mold, the rectangular slices for the sides, the circle for the bottom.
Stir the strawberries into the rest of the fruit and fill the mold with the fruit.
Cut out a circle from the last slice of bread to match the size of the open top of the mold, dip it into the fruit juice, and use it to cover the pudding. Pull the plastic wrap over the top of the pudding and place something heavy directly onto the pudding. (I have a saucer that fits perfectly and I put a can of beans on top of that.)
Place in the fridge overnight, or for at least 6 or 7 hours.
Before serving, open up the plastic and place a large plate on top of the mold.
Holding the plate onto the mold, invert the pudding onto the plate. Lift off the mold and remove the plastic wrap.
Serve summer pudding in wedges, with crème fraîche or sour cream and some of the fruit syrup.
Veggie lover Clotilde Dusoulier (Chocolate & Zucchini) offers a "variety of vegetarian meals with a French accent and that sought-after Gallic je ne sais quoi" in her new cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. This summery salad is a perfect example of Dusoulier's masterful mixing of flavors.
2. In a large salad bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt.
3. Add the cooked beans and turn them gently in the dressing to coat. Stir in the rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The salad may be made a few hours in advance up to this point. Cover and refrigerate.
4. Just before serving, add the chopped almonds and parsley, sprinkle with black pepper, and toss to combine.
Look for slender haricots verts that feel firm to the touch and have no dark or discolored spots. The wispy little tail can be left on; only the stem end needs trimming and it should break off with a snap. Once trimmed, rinsed, and thoroughly dried, green beans can be packed in an airtight bag and placed in the freezer for later use. They can then be boiled or steamed directly, without thawing.
The flavor of nuts is significantly bolstered when they’re toasted. Preheat your oven to 350°F. / 175°C. Spread the nuts (shelled, but whole) on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the nuts in the oven, keeping a close eye on them, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Exact timing depends on the size and moisture content of the nuts. Alternatively, nuts can be toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan regularly; this is more convenient for a small amount of nuts, but the result is less even.
Kevin West teaches us how to "capture the fabulous essence of each season by preserving it" with Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving. Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt also loves this book for West's storytelling talents, as the 200+ recipes are accompanied by entertaining, educational stories and essays.
2. Scrub the cucumbers well, rubbing off any spines. Cut away a thin round from the stem and blossom ends, and slice lengthwise into quarters. Put the spears in a large bowl, and cover with the brine. Weight the cucumbers with a plate, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 24 hours. If the bowl won’t fit in your refrigerator, it’s fine to leave it out at room temperature.
3. The next day, pack the cucumber spears into two scalded quart jars, saving the brine. Measure out 2 cups of the brine and reserve. Strain the remaining brine through a fine sieve to capture the aromatics, and divide them between the jars. Tuck a dill head and two cloves of garlic into each jar.
4. Mix the vinegar and the 2 cups reserved brine, and bring to a boil. Pour it over the pickles to cover. Seal the jars, and store in the refrigerator for a week before using. For long-term shelf storage, leave ½ inch headspace when filling the jars, then seal. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes, or in a hot-water bath, between 180 and 185 degrees, for 30 minutes.
[Note] Instead of spears, you could slice your cucumbers into round coins, lengthwise “slabs,” or bias-cut ovals. Make the slices 3?8 inch thick and soak them in the brine for 12 hours instead of 24.