Heidi Swanson takes readers on a vegetarian-focused tour of the world's best dishes in our September Top Pick in Cookbooks, Near & Far. This Almond Cake has just the right hint of amaro, a popular spirit regularly found in Italian cafes and sipped as an aperitivo.
Herbal, sweet, and bitter; some versions weak, others strong—not everyone loves amaro, the widely varied Italian digestif originally sold as a health tonic in the early 19th century. You still see bottles lining enoteca shelves. I love it, and often sip it straight or over a cube or two of ice. It’s invigorating like an alcoholic wheatgrass shot. On the culinary front, I use it for flavor, primarily in sweet preparations—sometimes with creams or granitas, and other times in baking: this cake, for example, where amaro’s green herbaceousness melds beautifully with a thick almond paste batter and glaze accent.
Makes one 8-inch / 20 cm cake or multiple smaller ones
Preheat the oven to 350°F | 180°C. Butter an 8-inch | 20cm pan, generously and evenly sprinkle with flour, and tap out any excess. (Alternatively, you can use multiple smaller pans for a cluster of tiny cakes; see Notes, page 230.)
Break the almond paste into a food processor and give a few quick pulses; you’re looking for medium-size, pebbly pieces. Add the eggs and process until very smooth. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and salt and pulse a few times, then add the butter and amaro. Blend once more before transferring to the prepared pan(s). Bake until deeply golden and set in the center; you’re going to want to test this cake—a toothpick should come out clean before pulling it from the oven—for tiny cakes, this is usually 40 to 45 minutes, longer for larger cakes. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes (very small cakes can be turned out after about 5 minutes), then transfer directly to the cooling rack. Let cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and amaro. Keep whisking until the glaze is free of lumps. Flood the top(s) of the cake(s), allowing the glaze to run over the sides. Alternatively, you can top each slice of cake with berries that have been tossed with a splash of amaro and sprinkled with brown sugar.
Be sure to buy almond paste, not marzipan. There is a difference.
This recipe makes about 3 cups | 710 ml of cake batter. You can bake one 8-inch | 20cm cake or multiple smaller ones. Adjust your baking time accordingly and use a cake tester to decide when to pull the cake(s) from the oven—smaller cakes take less time to bake.
Meera Sodha shares her family's most treasured staple recipes in her charming new cookbook, Made in India. Here, she lets you in on the secrets of her mother's comforting Chicken Curry.
MUM’S CHICKEN CURRY
I left Lincolnshire at the age of 18 to go to university in London. Secretly homesick, I would stop in Indian-owned newsstands on the way back from class, lingering over the magazines and quietly listening to the owners speaking in Gujarati, just for comfort.
When it came to food, I was at the mercy of the dorm chef, a Jamaican with an adventurous streak who would create delights such as corn and strawberry salad, indiscriminately seasoning everything with pepper. With every bite, I’d be thinking about home and my ultimate comfort food, my mum’s chicken curry.
Put the ghee and oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat and, when it’s hot, add the cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks. Let them infuse in the oil for a minute, and then add the onions. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, put the ginger, garlic and green chilis into a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and bash to a coarse paste.
Add the paste to the pan and cook gently for 2 minutes, then pour in the strained tomatoes and stir. Cook the strained tomatoes for a few minutes until the mixture resembles a thick paste, then add the tomato paste, ground cumin, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste).
Whisk the yogurt and add it slowly to the curry. Cook it through until it starts to bubble, then add the chicken. Pop the lid on the pan and continue to cook on a gentle heat for around 30 minutes. Add the ground almonds and the garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with a tower of chapatis, hot fluffy naan, or rice, and offer yogurt at the table.
Reprinted from Made in India. Copyright © 2015 by Meera Sodha. Published by Flatiron, an imprint of Macmillan.
Our cooking columnist Sybil Pratt has deemed Alice Waters "one of our national culinary treasures." Her new cookbook, My Pantry, is filled with the recipes for the staples she stocks her own pantry with, such as this simple and nourishing Superfood Granola.
Fanny’s Superfood Granola
Makes about 7 cups (1¾ pounds)
Part of what encouraged my transition to whole grains was having my daughter, Fanny, a whole-grain and superfood enthusiast, back home from time to time. When Fanny was in college, she came up with the recipe for this granola, which she claims gave her the long-lasting energy she needed to get through a morning of classes. Making granola is not at all complicated and you can easily customize the recipe. The only time-consuming part is stirring it while it bakes to ensure it doesn’t burn around the edges. Serve it with homemade yogurt for a delicious and healthy start to the day, or eat it by itself as an afternoon snack.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, buckwheat, quinoa, almonds, chopped nuts, sesame seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla and salt.
Measure the coconut oil and honey into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Warm over low heat, stirring until combined. Pour half the mixture into the dry ingredients and toss to distribute. Add the remaining oil and honey mixture and toss again until the granola is evenly moistened. Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or jelly-roll pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then take the pan out of the oven and toss the granola with a spatula. Return to the oven, removing the pan and stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even toasting, until lightly browned, about 30 minutes in total. Add the raisins and coconut and bake for a final 5 minutes to lightly toast the coconut. The mixture should be golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
The summer heat is (thankfully) on its way out, and warm and comforting dishes are coming back around. Let Heidi Swanson's recipe for Baked Oatmeal ease you into the fall season. Her vegetarian, whole foods-focused cookbook, Near & Far is our Top Pick for September.
pluots ° kefir ° almonds
I suspect the baked oatmeal recipe in my last book made it into more kitchens than any other recipe I’ve ever written. It’s still a regular here at home, in various guises, and this is a version worth celebrating. Made with crimson-fleshed Dapple Dandy pluots, it rides the line beautifully between the sweetness of the summer fruit and the tanginess of the kefir or buttermilk. Other stone fruit can be substituted.
Preheat the oven to 375°F | 190°C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch / 20cm square baking dish (or equivalent), then sprinkle with lemon zest.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, kefir, water, egg, half of the butter and the vanilla. Arrange the pluots in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the kefir mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple of raps on the countertop to make sure the liquid moves through the oats.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve. Finish with a bit more maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter, and a thread of cream to bring it all together.
Masterful home cook Katie Workman's new cookbook Dinner Solved! makes it simple and easy to accommodate kids and picky eaters with tweaks to a single meal. Try this super customizable recipe for Simple One-Skillet Chicken Alfredo Pasta, which can be served as-is, or tweaked with add-ins like sun-dried tomatoes or broccoli florets.
Fork in the Road: Slightly decadent, more than a little comforting, and with some great add-in options to elevate it above the usual.
Serves 6 to 8
What the Kids Can Do
Measure ingredients, pick add-ins, stir with supervision.
While it’s certainly reasonable to thrill over a meal of reheated leftover Alfredo pasta, either warmed on the stovetop or in the microwave, this dish is best when it’s made just before serving.
Note: What does rigate mean? Ridges. And those ridges are what lets the pasta grab onto that sauce and hold it tight. Tighter than a preschooler hangs on to his mom who is about leave him at school for the first time, or maybe even a month or so into the school year, even though he knows she is coming back, because when has she ever not? (Can you tell I still have scars?)
One of the reasons I like to cook mostly healthy food is so I can justify the occasional dish like this one. In between an evening featuring Kale and Quinoa Salad (page 78), and another dinner starring Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia (page 147), I can rationalize this warm hug of a meal. Plus, any one-skillet meal where the pasta cooks right in the sauce is a gift with purchase, in my book.
1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the butter in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, in batches if necessary, and sauté until nicely browned on the outside, but still a bit pink inside, about 4 minutes (the pieces don’t have to be browned on all sides; two sides is fine). Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate.
3. Do not clean the pan! Those brown bits on the bottom of the pan are going to add flavor to the sauce. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté over medium heat until you can smell it, 30 seconds. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken broth, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up all of those delicious caramelized bits. Bring to a simmer, lower to medium heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pasta, stir well and simmer until the pasta starts to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the warm cream and the browned chicken with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes more.
4. Stir in the Parmesan until well incorporated, and adjust the seasonings.
5. You can continue with Step 6 or see the Fork in the Road for add-in suggestions.
6. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the parsley, if desired. Serve hot and pass extra Parmesan at the table.
When you add the Parmesan in Step 4, you can add any of the following to the pot, alone or in combination; stir over medium heat for another minute or two.
Or, you can serve up portions of Chicken Alfredo Pasta for those who like it plain and simple, and add proportionate amounts of any of the add-ins to the pot.
Looking for the perfect side to complement any grilled dish? Try these Grilled Fingerling Potatoes (ready in just 10 minutes!) from Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald's new cookbook, Feeding the Fire.
Grilled Fingerling Potatoes
Makes 4 servings
This simple side dish can be served alongside any meat or other main course you’re throwing on the grill. A hot grill crisps up the exterior of the fingerlings so they are like fat steak fries, making them the perfect starch accompaniment.
1. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then cut lengthwise in half.
2. Prepare a hot single-level fire in a grill (see page 149).
3. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the potatoes, cut side down, until charred on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and grill until the skin is crispy, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and toss with the garlic butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the parsley, and toss again. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Looking to spice up your weeknight dinner routine? Try this recipe for Moroccan Chicken with Apricot and Pistachio Couscous from grilling gurus Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, and check out their new French-infused cookbook, BBQ Bistro.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricot and Pistachio Couscous
We have the French Foreign Legion to thank for the Moroccan influence in bistro cuisine. Honey-sweet and savory with spice, this chicken dish is a meal in minutes. Just add a Green Salad (page 70). The marinade is multifunctional: One half flavors the chicken; the other half dresses the couscous. Here’s looking at you, kid. It’s always good to oil the grill rack well before heating up the grill, but it’s especially important when you’re grilling foods that have been marinated in a sweet mixture, so they don’t stick.
Apricot and Pistachio Couscous
For the marinade, whisk together garlic, green onions, wine, honey, olive oil, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
Place the chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in half the marinade. Seal, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours, tossing occasionally. Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade until ready to use. Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill.
For the Apricot and Pistachio Couscous, place the apricots in a small bowl, pour in hot water, and let soften for about 5 minutes. Prepare the couscous according to package directions. Drain the apricots. Toss the couscous with the reserved marinade, apricots, and pistachios. Set aside.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken for
18 to 20 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes, until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of thigh registers 160°F (75°C). Serve the chicken on a bed of Apricot and Pistachio Couscous.
Looking for a great cut of steak that's easy to grill at home and won't break the bank? Grill masters Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald make a compelling case for the traditional working-class cut in their recipe for Butcher's Steaks with Garlic Butter from their new cookbook (and our August Top Pick!), Feeding the Fire.
Butcher’s Steaks with Garlic Butter
Makes 4 servings
The hanger steak (aka butcher’s steak) is one of the most underrated cuts of beef. It’s silky and fairly tender, thanks to the fact that the muscle, like the tenderloin, does very little work; its primary function is to support the diaphragm. It literally hangs there, from the cow’s last rib, unprotected by the bones and fat that surround other cuts. Once the animal is processed, this extra air exposure helps the hanger develop its extra-beefy, almost liver-y flavor. Each cow yields only one (two halves separated by a vein), which means that butchers—back when every neighborhood had one—wouldn’t have more than one or two of these steaks on hand at a time, so they’d either grind them into hamburger meat or keep these meat orphans for themselves (hence the name). Its working-class status also makes it the best inexpensive steak around, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
On the grill, treat this long, irregularly shaped cut like a sausage, turning it frequently to get a good char on all sides. I prefer mine cooked to medium, which makes it a bit more tender than medium-rare while retaining its gamey flavor and silky texture.
1. Prepare a hot single-level fire in a grill.
2. Generously season the steaks with kosher salt and pepper. Grill the steaks, turning frequently, for about 8 minutes for medium-rare or 10 minutes for medium. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
3. Cut the steaks across the grain on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. Divide among four plates, drizzle with the garlic butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve.
Makes about 1 cup
1. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes; the butter should simmer gently but not brown. Remove from the heat.
2. Skim the foam from the top of the butter and slowly pour the butter through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the milky solids and garlic. The butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
Looking for a no-cook snack for these dog days of summer? Sarah Leah Chase's Seaside Guacamole is refreshing, simple and boasts some in-season vegetables as a bonus.
Once my son’s Little League schedule began taking me over to Martha’s Vineyard for baseball games, I quickly discovered Nantucket’s rival island had much to offer and it was there that I came across the idea of adding grilled local corn to my guacamole during the summer months. To heighten the smoky flavor of the corn kernels, I season this guacamole with smoked sea salt. My husband’s seasoning company, Coastal Goods, markets a smoked salt under the name of Sea Smoke and the Maine Sea Salt Company sells two smoked Maine sea salts, apple smoked and hickory smoked. Go with regular sea salt if you can’t get your hands on a jar of smoked, but do be sure to make this seasonal guacamole because it is just the thing to tide you and lots of hungry friends over until dinner after a summer day lazed away at the beach. And, it also pairs nicely with any number of New England’s microbrewed beers, the frostier the better. If you really want to gild the coastal lily, scoop some Seaside Guacamole onto tortilla chips and top each off with a whole cooked shrimp or a spoonful of fresh crab or lobster meat. Makes 5 cups; serves 8 to 10
1. Set up a charcoal or gas grill and preheat it to high.
2. To grill the corn: Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn and brush the kernels lightly all over with olive oil. Arrange the ears on the grate a few inches above the heat. Grill the corn, turning the ears, until the kernels are all nicely browned and slightly blistered, 5 to 7 minutes. Baste the corn with additional olive oil if the kernels appear to be getting too dry. Remove the corn from the grill and, when cool enough to handle, cut the grilled kernels off the cobs and set aside briefly. Discard the cobs.
3. Peel and pit the avocados and coarsely mash the pulp in a mixing bowl or molcajete. (If you don’t own a molcajete, a potato masher or wire whisk will work well to produce a coarse mash.) Add the grilled corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, and jalapeños and gently mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in enough lime juice and smoked salt to suit your palate. Fold in the cilantro and serve the guacamole at once with tortilla chips.
Reprinted from New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Workman Publishing. Photography credit: Matthew Benson. Photography © Workman Publishing 2015. Read our review of this book.
As a forensic anthropologist, New York Times best-selling mystery author Kathy Reichs knows a thing or two about the grizzly details of a crime scene, but she's also an accomplished home cook, to boot. Try her recipe for Shrimp Scampi—excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook—to fuel your marathon reading sessions throughout the rest of Private Eye July.
I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and own a beach home on a barrier island outside Charleston, South Carolina. Like my character, Temperance Brennan, I constantly shift between the two locations. Whether in the piedmont or the low country, one thing remains constant. My family and I eat a lot of seafood. Especially shrimp.
Shrimp is plentiful year round in my neck of the woods. And versatile. I am always scouting new ways to prepare it. At times, I feel like Forrest Gump’s pal, Bubba. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it, deep-fry, pan-fry or stir-fry it. There’s shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich . . . You get the idea.
Point of information: Though I love eating, I hold no fondness for chopping and slicing and dicing. Quick and easy, that’s my kind of cooking.
This recipe for shrimp scampi has been one of my favorites for decades. The only labor intensive part is peeling the little crustaceans. Even that can be skipped, if you prefer.
YIELD: 4 SERVINGS
1. Set the broiler to high.
2. Peel and devein the shrimp, and either leave the tails attached or remove them (I leave them on). Rinse and pat dry.
3. Mix the remaining ingredients and toss with the shrimp to coat evenly.
4. Line a baking dish or cookie sheet with foil and arrange the shrimp on it in one layer.
5. Place the shrimp 3 to 4 inches under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes. It is not necessary to turn them as they cook.
6. Baste the shrimp and serve hot over rice.
KATHY REICHS’s first novel Déjà Dead was an international sensation. Her seventeen other Temperance Brennan novels include Fatal Voyage, Monday Mourning, Devil Bones, Spider Bones, Bones of the Lost, and Bones Never Lie. She is a producer of the TV series Bones and coauthor of the young adult Virals books.
It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.