Persnickety Sour Cherries

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Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart

Sour cherries can be persnickety. First, they’re hard to find. In Los Angeles they seem to be available in most of the Armenian markets near Glendale for about two and a half weeks in June. However, don’t look for them in the produce aisle, go straight to the checkout counter. If you don’t see them ask. Sometimes they hide them. I guess they don’t want you to mistake them for sweet cherries (though, frankly, that would be hard to do – they cost twice as much). They’re also smaller and more “fluorescent”. Their diminutive size can make them hard to pit too. It takes a pretty persnickety cook with a lot of patience to prep a pound of these little buggers.

Once you get them in hand I’m sorry to say that their fussy nature continues because they’re not really great eaten out of hand. Still, in the right cook’s hand, they’re a sweet and sour seasonal marvel, and I always seek them out.

To be good, sour cherries need to be grown in the right environment and they can’t travel too far to market. This difficult dichotomy is why they’re so precious. They should be grown at high altitudes where they can get cool nighttime temperatures and plenty of daytime sunshine. Fortunately, California’s Leona Valley has just the right microclimate for sour cherries. Also, fortunately, the Leona Valley is only an hour and a half drive from many of those small family-owned Armenian markets I mentioned.

Pasta Frolla Tart with Sour Cherries

After getting my hands on a pound of sour cherries, I came home with the intention of making an Italian-style crostata inspired by Domenica Marchetti’s Instagram feed. Italian crostatas at their most traditional are jam-filled, lattice-topped tarts made with a sweet pastry crust known as pasta frolla. I’ve made them plenty of times. But I was intrigued by Marchetti’s version because I’d never seen them made in a fluted tart pan before. However, I have used her pasta frolla recipe for years and it seemed to me that the jammy nature of cooked sour cherries (per Ruth Reichl’s recipe) would be lovely in a Italian crostada. Pasta frolla is richer, silkier, and of course sweeter than the all-butter slightly salty French pastry crust I make by rote. In other words, a perfect partner to persnickety sour cherries.

So I pulled out my fluted tart pan and set my sights on a traditionally jammy Sour Cherry Crostata. However (and I should have known this) a pound of cherries only makes about 2 cups of prepped fruit. That’s not quite enough for a 9-inch crostada, not nearly enough for a 9-inch tart, and you can forget about a 9-inch pie. I use 6 cups of fruit in my cherry pie.

I could have headed back to Glendale to pick up another pound (or five) of sour cherries. But at $10.99 a pound I winced at that option and tossed out the Reichl plan as I chopped up a pound of ripe apricots. I instantly decided to attempt a 9-inch Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart with a crostada-style lattice top.

However, sour cherries aren’t the only persnickety characters in the kitchen. Pasta frolla is so soft that it can be challenging in warm weather. In the summer heat I was having trouble getting the thin lattice strips transferred to the top of the crostata. Sure, I could have rechilled them before constructing the crostata. However, in my rush to the end I opted for these much easier to handle squares of pasta frolla. If you squint your eyes I think you can still call it a lattice top. GREG

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart sour cherries

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • all-purpose flour (as needed for rolling)
  • 1 batch pasta frolla (see recipe)
  • 1 pound sour cherries (pitted)
  • 1 pound ripe apricots (pitted and chopped into 3/4-inch chunks)
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place a 9 or 10 x 1-inch tart pan with a removable bottom on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the larger of the pasta frolla discs into a 12-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Carefully fold dough in half, and slide it onto the rolling pin. Transfer to the tart pan and unfold the dough, easing it gently into pan. Do not stretch the dough and allow the excess to drape over the edge. Transfer the pastry-lined tart pan still on its baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

Line a cutting board that will fit on the shelf of your refrigerator with a piece of parchment. Lightly flour it. Using a lightly floured rolling pin roll the second pasta frolla disc to about an 11-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Use a straight edge and a paring knife to cut the dough into at least sixteen 2-inch squares. Move the entire cutting board to the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the pastry-lined tart pan and the pasta frolla squares from the refrigerator.

In a large bowl combine the pitted sour cherries, chopped apricot, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gently fold the mixture together until the sugar is distributed and the cornstarch is no longer white and clumpy. Scrape the mixture into the pastry-lined tart pan, pressing the fruit gently to fill the gaps, then place the pasta frolla squares over the fruit mixture in a random, patchwork pattern overhanging the edges as needed. Gently press the dough squares into place at the edge of the pan, then run your roller at an angle over the edge of the pan, trimming it flush with the top all the way around. Refrigerate uncovered for 20 minutes.

When ready to bake place the tart on its baking sheet to catch any juices that bubble over in the heated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling; about 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield one 9-inch to 11-inch lattice-top crostataSource Domenica Marchetti via NPRPublished

If you make a 9-inch crostata, you will have some leftover dough, which you can rewrap and freeze for future use, or roll out, cut into shapes and make cookies. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for the work surface)
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into ½-inch cubes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large eggs yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon and orange zests in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into 2 discs (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with.

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Chilled Tomato Soup: Cold and Frothy

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Gazpacho: Chilled Tomato Soup

It’s hot in Los Angeles. It might even get to 100 degrees later this week. It’s not supposed to be hot here. It’s supposed to be 76 and sunny. But, more and more it seems, it gets hot in LA. When that happens a cold soup – full of ripe, summery flavor – is a refreshing relief. This one is a Chilled Tomato Soup with a smooth, frothy texture and a big dollop of savory whipped cream. I could call this cold summer soup gazpacho. Ludo Lefebvre, the chef who inspired this version, did – but I’m not going to. True it’s a Chilled Tomato Soup featuring raw vegetables, but this summer tomato soup is more delicate than its rustic Spanish cousin.

GazpachoStrawberries

Chilled Tomato Soup

In my book, traditional gazpacho has a bit more texture than this Chilled Tomato Soup. The traditional texture usually comes from bread or sometimes even nuts. I realize some claim that a gazpacho with bread is properly known as a salmorejo. Both these cold summer soups are Andalusian peasant dishes designed to stretch summer’s bounty to its absolute limit. However, if you want to get that technical I’d have to say the really proper, old-fashioned way to make gazpacho or salmorejo is to chop everything finely by hand and stir it together in a large, chipped ceramic bowl passed down from la cocina de mamá. Which produces a beautifully rustic texture no machine could ever match.

There are other differences between this Chilled Tomato Soup and a classic gazpacho and many of them are French influenced. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded. It seems the French are mad for peeled tomatoes in any and all instances. I guess it’s a presentation thing, but it’s impossible to go to a fancy French restaurant and find a tomato with its skin intact. Can you imagine the tedium of the person whose job it is to peel all those tomatoes?

Speaking of the presentation I also have to mention the pretty color of this Chilled Tomato Soup because even the reddest of ripe tomatoes will produce a gazpacho that falls somewhere between pink and orange. That’s because of the emulsified olive oil in the mix. Some of the worst gazpacho recipes I’ve seen try to make up for this perceived chromatic deficiency by adding lip-stick red, canned tomato juice. Chef Ludo Lefebvre improves the color presentation of this soup just slightly with a few well-chosen ripe red strawberries.

But I have to get back to the texture. That’s where the difference really shines. This soup should be very smooth and whipped full of air until it’s light and frothy. You need to make this soup at least an hour ahead so that it can properly chill. Don’t forget to give it an extra whirl in the blender at the very moment you serve it for the best frothy effect.

Well, with all that said, the real secret to great gazpacho or Chilled Tomato Soup is to use the very best ingredients and a cold, cold fridge on a hot, hot day. GREG

Peeled Tomatoes

Smooth, Cool, and Frothy Chilled Gazpacho

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Ludo LefebvrePublished
Smooth, Cool, and Frothy Chilled Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 6 very ripe summer tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 5 fresh strawberries (stemmed and halved)
  • ¼ red bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
  • ¼ pound spring onion (white parts only, chopped)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup very good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-3 tablespoon water (if needed)
  • kosher salt and white pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 ½ cup whipping cream
  • Esplette pepper (as needed for garnish, or substitute with paprika if you prefer)
  • fresh basil leaves (as needed for garnish)

Directions

Peel the tomatoes: Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and place it near the stove. Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, using a very sharp paring knife make a shallow cross on the bottom (non-stem) end of the tomatoes. Then, with a slotted spoon drop each tomato into the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until the skins begins to peel back at the cross. Using the slotted spoon transfer them to the ice bath to cool quickly. After the tomato has cooled gently pull on the peel where the scored skin has begun to split. The skin will slip off easily.

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes: Core the stem end and then cut the peeled tomatoes in half. Working over a bowl to catch the seeds and juice squeeze out the seeds. Use your fingers to coax them from the hidden nooks and crevices. Don’t worry if you crush the tomatoes in the process. Place the seeded tomato pulp into a high-powered blender as you work. Once all the tomatoes are finished, strain the seeds from the juice and add the tomato juice to the blender. Discard the seeds.

Make the chilled gazpacho: Peel the cucumber then remove and discard the seeds with a spoon. Roughly chop the remaining flesh. Place in the blender with the tomatoes. Then add the halved strawberries, chopped red bell pepper, chopped onion, chopped garlic, vinegar and Dijon mustard to the blender also. Place the lid on securely and blend the mixture until it’s fairly smooth and uniform. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until the soup is very smooth, well-emulsified and frothy. You may need to drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of water to adjust consistency. Use your judgment. Season with salt and white pepper. Chill the soup at least one hour and up to 12 hours.

Make the whipped cream: In a very cold bowl whisk the cream by hand until it comes to soft peaks. Season with a pinch each salt and white pepper. Chill the soup at least one hour and up to 12 hours.

Serve the chilled gazpacho: Just before serving, remove the soup from the refrigerator and taste it for seasoning. It may need a touch of vinegar or more salt and pepper, use your judgment. Once seasoned blend the soup again on high speed until frothy.

Pour the chilled gazpacho into individual chilled soup bowls. Add a generous dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a sprinkle of Esplette pepper and a few basil leaves. Serve immediately.

 

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Savory Rhubarb with Sweet Sausage

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Savory Rhubarb with Sweet Sausage

According to Melissa Clark, “Sausages have no season… They are as good served with potatoes and cabbage in the dead of winter as they are grilled in the summer, with ripe tomatoes and basil on the side.” With that in mind, she presents a savory rhubarb and sausage recipe in her latest book, Dinner: Changing the Game. It’s a rather simple preparation that nicely dresses up pan-seared, no-season sweet Italian sausage with the springtime darlings Swiss chard and rhubarb. She continues the unexpected combination with ginger, currants and a touch of warm curry spice in the form of garam masala. The result is a bracing, chutney flavored jumble of greens that cuts through the porky richness of sausage.

Savory Rhubarb

Sweet and savory. I love the way this recipe flips those expectations on their heads. First, there’s pork sausage sweetened by a little fennel seed. And then there’s rhubarb. Which is typically seen sweetly paired with another seasonal favorite – strawberries. Most folks, this cook included, associate rhubarb with dessert favorites such as pies, crumbles, and cakes. These sweets are so beloved that it’s easy to forget that rhubarb stalks are actually vegetables.

Vegetables so savory that they’re sour.

Clark recommends serving this savory rhubarb dish with a side of grains such as polenta, barley, or quinoa. I chose crispy little polenta cakes. GREG

I was sent a review copy of Dinner: Changing The Game by Melissa Clark. You can find my review here. Now I’m just cooking from this book because I wanna.

Dinner: Changing The Game by Melissa Clark

Savory Rhubarb with Sweet Sausage

Seared Sausage and Rhubarb with Swiss Chard

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa ClarkPublished
Seared Sausage and Rhubarb with Swiss Chard

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages (pricked with a fork)
  • 1 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 bunch bunch green, red, or rainbow Swiss chard (stems cut into ¼-inch slices, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces)
  • ½ pound rhubarb stems (cut into ¼–inch slices)
  • 2 tablespoon dried currants
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a 12–inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until cooked through and well browned all over. Transfer the sausage to a plate.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Stir in the chard stems and continue to cook until the onion is well browned and chard stems are almost tender. Add the rhubarb, currants, maple syrup, garam masala, salt, ginger, and bay leaf to the skillet. Cook, stirring often until the rhubarb has fallen apart and the chard stems are tender. If the bottom of the pan begins to scorch, stir in some water, a few tablespoons at a time.

Toss in the chard leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until they are wilted. Transfer the chard mixture to a heated serving platter and pluck out the bay leaf.

Return the sausages to the skillet and let them heat through, shaking the pan so they crisp on all sides. Serve the sausage over the rhubarb-chard mixture.

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(Whack Whack) Smashed Cucumber Salad

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Smashed Cucumber Salad

When it comes cucumbers it seems like sliced is the way to go. Peeled maybe, but sliced certainly. I mean what other choice is there? Well, it might surprise you to know that in Beijing, people buy whole chilled cucumbers from street vendors and munch them with a spicy dipping sauce as a sort of salad on the go. But smashing cucumbers is popular too. Known as pai huang gua the smashed cucumber salad is considered the perfect foil for hot weather and is a standard technique in many parts of Asia. The smashing process cracks the skin, making the seeds easy to dispose and splits the flesh into appealingly craggy pieces.

Once smashed, the cucumbers are roughly torn by hand into bite-sized pieces then sprinkled with salt and briefly set aside. The salting process softens the skin, firms the flesh and brightens the peel. It’s important to choose fresh, firm-fleshed cucumbers. Persian or English hothouse cucumbers are ideal thanks to their thin skin and less seedy nature.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Garlic, chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, and sesame oil. Bold flavors are typical of this salad. The simplest versions are smashed and tossed with nothing more than chili oil, but you’ll also find more elaborate combinations like this version I adapted from Melissa Clark.

The smashing of the cucumbers is fun too. Simply lay them on a chopping board and smack them a few times with the flat blade of a cleaver, the bottom of a small skillet or (my personal choice) a rolling pin. At first you’ll feel a little silly abusing your produce this way, but I promise this smashed cucumber salad technique will grow on you. So much so that I feel I need to remind you not to become so enthusiastic that you smash your cucumbers into smithereens. GREG

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Dinner by Melissa ClarkPublished

The smashing process can be a bit messy. I contained the splash by laying my cutting board in the sink.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pound Persian or English hothouse cucmbers
  • 2 pinch kosher salt (plus more for seasoning if needed)
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1-2 fresh red chilies (thinly sliced and seeded)

Directions

Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. If you’re working with Persian cucumbers leave them whole. English hothouse cucumbers should be cut crosswise into pieces about 4 inches long and halved lengthwise.

Arrange several cucumbers on a cutting board. Using a rolling pin, cleaver, or the bottom of a small skillet pound the cucumbers until their skins begin to crack, the flesh breaks into craggy pieces, and the seeds separate. Break into bite-sized chunks. Repeat with remaining cucumbers.

Leaving the seeds behind place the smashed cucumber chunks in a strainer set over a bowl and toss with a couple big pinches of salt. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns (if using), rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili slices. Mix well then toss with the smashed cucumbers. Chill the salad at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning just before serving.

 

 

 

 

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How to Cook Crispy-Skinned Fish

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Seared White Fish with Crispy Skin and Charred Cauliflower

Look up. You’ll see crispy-skinned fish and blistered cauliflower. I do like my char and I spend a lot of time of this blog cooking with high heat. Mastering a controlled char on all sorts of food is the sign of a good cook. I’m not alone in thinking this, Food52 wisely lists competent use of high heat as number 23 in their list of “30 Qualities of a Good Home Cook”. Daniel Boulud writes “The Chef’s job [is] to employ heat to transform ingredients… Whether it is extracting and reabsorbing juice in roasting, or braising and reducing, or sautéeing then caramelizing – you are working the moisture in the food you are preparing; and then concentrating it… This is the  transformational aspect of cuisine.”

A great place to start a master class on cooking with high heat comes in learning to pan-fry fish that’s not steamed but actually seared. Crispy-skinned fish cooked in a blazing hot pan that won’t stick, rip, or fall apart is definitely a skill all home cooks should learn.

How to Cook Crispy-Skinned Fish That Won’t Stick to the Pan

  1. It vital you start with dry fish. Blotting both sides with clean paper towels is a good place to start. But blotting alone is not enough. Afterwards, return the uncovered (and unseasoned) fillets to the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  2. When ready to cook heat a large, dry, cast-iron or heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet until it’s blazing hot. Notice I said dry. Don’t add oil until after the pan gets very hot.
  3. Once heated carefully add oil and swirl it around the skillet. Once coated dump out most of the oil and return the pan to the heat. Don’t worry too much about the oil, all you need is the barest slick across the entire surface of the skillet.
  4. If you plan on seasoning the fish, the time to do it is just before it hits the pan. Once seasoned place the fish, skin side down, into the hot skillet. It should sizzle. You may also notice that it might want to curl up at the edges (depending on thickness). If this happens apply gentle, even pressure to the fillet with a spatula until it relaxes and lies flat. Resist the temptation to move the fillet around the skillet or peek at the underside. Cook, continuing to apply light pressure with a spatula as needed, until the flesh is nearly opaque and cooked through, with just a small raw area on top (though salmon is an exception and should get flipped when cooked halfway through). At this time the skin should have released itself from the skillet.
  5. Flip the fish, remove the skillet from the heat, an let it finish cooking about 1 more minute.
  6. Lastly, don’t crowd the skillet. Work in batches if necessary.

To get you inspired today I’ve included a crispy-skinned fish recipe that features charred cauliflower. I’ll admit, when cooked together this Seared White Fish with Crispy Skin and Charred Cauliflower recipe is rather complex ordeal. So if you’re goal is to perfect a crsipy-skinned fish that doesn’t stick to the pan you don’t have to include the cauliflower in your efforts. That would involve juggling a lot of pans at one time. GREG

How to Cook Crispy-Skinned Fish

Seared White Fish with Crispy Skin and Charred Cauliflower

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Published
Seared White Fish with Crispy Skin and Charred Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided, plus more for seasoning)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 (4 to 6 oz) skin on white fish fillets (or other firsm fleshed fish with skin attached)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • freshly ground black pepper (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil (or other mild flavored oil with high smoking point)
  • ½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • watercress leaves (optional, as garnish)

Directions

Make the spice mixture: Place allspice, cardamom, ½ teaspoon salt, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside. This may be made days ahead of time if you like.

Make the charred cauliflower: One hour before cooking pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and then place them uncovered in the refrigerator to “dry”.

Meanwhile, combine raisins, apple juice, pomegranate molasses, and anchovy paste in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Gently bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Add the minced garlic and set aside.

Place a clean, rimmed baking sheet about six inches under the broiler. Turn the broiler to high and heat the baking sheet to scalding, at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a paring knife to remove and discard most of the cauliflower core in a conical shape then thinly slice the remaining cauliflower. Many of the slices will break apart into variously sized pieces as you work yielding a pile of florets, stems, crumbs, and a few delicate slabs with both florets and stems.

Place the cauliflower in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, fennel seeds, ground turmeric, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and a few big grinds of black pepper.

Using oven mitts carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the broiler. Place the seasoned cauliflower onto the sheet in as close to a single layer as possible. Try not to crowd the cauliflower or it will steam instead of char. If your baking sheet is not large enough work in batches.

Return the baking sheet to the broiler and cook about 15 minutes, tossing and stirring the cauliflower every 5 or 6 minutes to ensure even cooking. The cauliflower is finished when the small pieces are well-charred and the larger pieces are caramelized at the edges.

Once the cauliflower is properly charred add it to the large bowl with the raisin, pomegranate, and garlic mixture. Toss to coat entirely then pour the cauliflower back onto the baking sheet and broil for another 2 or 3 minutes to soften the raw garlic taste. Turn the broiler off, but leave the cauliflower in the oven with the door ajar to stay warm. Watch it while you sear the fish to keep it from burning.

Sear the fish: Remove the fish from the refrigerator and season liberally with the spice mixture on the skin side. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet until it’s blazing hot. Once the skillet is heated carefully add the oil and swirl it around the skillet. Once coated dump out most of the canola oil and return the pan to the heat. All you need is the barest slick across the entire surface of the skillet.

Place the fish, skin-side down, onto the hot skillet. It should sizzle. You may also notice that it might want to curl up at the edges (depending on thickness). If this happens apply firm, even pressure to the fillet with a spatula until it relaxes and lies flat. Resist the temptation to move the fillet around the skillet or peek at the underside. Cook, continuing to apply light pressure with a spatula, until the flesh is nearly opaque and cooked through, with just a small raw area on top. At this time it should also have released itself from the skillet.

Flip the fish, remove the skillet from the heat, a let it finish cooking about 1 more minute then remove the fish from the skillet, setting it aside to rest.

To assemble: Remove the warm cauliflower from the oven and toss it with the toasted breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes. Divide the mixture evenly between plates or shallow bowls. Top with fish fillets, garnish with watercress (if using) and serve immediately.

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Ludo Lefebvre’s Leftover Époisses Tart

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Époisses Tart

With its sticky rind, soft inside made of raw cow’s milk, and the deliciously haunting barnyard fragrance it leaves on the tip of your fingers, Époisses is the most famous of the French “funky” cheeses and a favorite of mine. Whenever I see it on the “buy it now before it stinks out the store” half-price shelf at Murray’s Cheese I pick up a wheel. I love to let it come to room temperature then drag a crusty crust of bread through its gooey goodness. If I have more time I’ll make Époisses Toast. However, this practice sometimes leads to leftovers.

Leftover Époisses? Yikes! Once that rind is broken, you better use that cheese if you plan on using your kitchen anytime soon. It can be that funky.

So what to do with so much delicious stink in a pinch?

Époisses Tart

Well, rather than panic, Los Angeles Chef Ludo Lefebvre uses Époisses to flavor a delicious traditionally-styled savory French egg tart (some might say quiche). He adds ham and apples as well which balances the rich filling. So when I was recently faced with most of a leftover wheel I followed his advice exactly.

Because with cheese this ripe and ready I just didn’t have time to come up with any ideas of my own. GREG

Epoisses cheeseÉpoisses Tart

Époisses, Ham and Apple Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Food & Wine MagazinePublished

The tart can be refrigerated overnight. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Époisses, Ham and Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 9 tablespoon cold unsalted butter (cubed)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup ice cold water
  • 1 (8oz) wheel of chilled Époisses (cut into small pieces with rind)
  • 1 firm red apple (peeled, cored and cut into ⅓-inch dice)
  • Parisian-style or boiled ham (cut into ⅓-inch dice)
  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Make the Pastry: In a food processor, pulse the 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour with the kosher salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and cold water and pulse until the pastry is moistened. Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface, gather any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 13-inch round. Ease the pastry into an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it into the corners and up the side. Trim the pastry ¼ inch above the rim of the tart pan and use the excess to patch any holes or thin parts. Refrigerate the tart shell until chilled, about 15 minutes.

Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the shell for about 30 minutes, just until dry. Remove the parchment and weights and bake the crust for about 15 minutes longer, until golden. Let cool slightly, then transfer the tart pan to a large baking sheet.

Make the Filling: Scatter the cheese, apple and ham evenly in the tart shell. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the heavy cream, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Pour the custard into the tart shell and bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking, until the custard is just set and lightly browned on top. Transfer the tart to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Remove the ring, cut the tart into wedges and serve.

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Cherry Vinaigrette for Simple Greens

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Cherry Vinaigrette for a Simple Salad of Arugula and Manchego

It’s probably an exaggeration to say that the dressing makes the salad. Still, a carefully mixed dressing can turn a simple collaboration of arugula with a few shavings of Manchego into something more than the sum of its parts. The trick, of course, is getting the balance just right. Salad dressings are all about sweet and sour, or agrodolce as the Italians call it. Even the simplest vinaigrette of fruity olive oil and sharp vinegar follows this formula. For me, it’s the most addictive flavor combination and the definition of a good green salad. In the case of this peppery arugula salad, I think that a peppy Cherry Vinaigrette seems a natural pairing.

I bring this up because we’ve all been there. You’ve made a fabulous meal. But you’ve spent all your time on the main event. Suddenly it occurs to you that there’s nothing fresh and green on the plate. Maybe there’s fresh and maybe there’s green. But my metabolism requires fresh and green.

Cherry Vinaigrette for a Simple Salad

Enter the simple green salad. It can be just a handful of fresh arugula leaves, which doesn’t need much more than a vinaigrette to make it special. But what kind of vinaigrette?

Well, for me, the combination of sweet, tart, juicy cherries next to the spicy bite of arugula works really well. After that, all you need is a salty hit of aged Manchego cheese to add that hint of animal funk. GREG

Cherry Vinaigrette for a Simple Salad of Arugula and Manchego

Sweet Cherry Vinaigrette

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Sweet Cherry Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 6 ounce sweet cherries (about 30 cherries, halved and pitted)
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup very good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 pinch granulated sugar (optional)

Directions

Warm the water and honey in a small saucepan set over medium heat until the honey dissolves. Add cherries and poach without boiling for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool in the liquid, then strain the cherries, saving 1 tablespoon of the syrupy poaching liquid.

Place the minced shallot, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, reserved poaching liquid, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in the oil, cover tightly and shake to emulsify. Set aside.

When ready to serve reshake the vinaigrette if necessary then gently stir in the poached cherries. Taste the vinaigrette, it may need a pinch or two of sugar to balance the flavor. Use immediately.

 

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Grilled Treviso and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

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Grilled Treviso and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Radicchio (pronounced ra-DEE-key-o) is the Italian name for a large group of red chicories. You may know radicchio as the red flecks found floating among emaciated lettuce leaves in vacuum-packed bags of salad. That variety is typically Radicchio di Chioggia. Which can be delicious, don’t get me wrong. But sadly, in the salad bag example, the radicchio seems to be there strictly for the color it brings to cellophane. Please, don’t let that color your opinion of radicchio. As I said it’s a varied group of leafy vegetables. It deserves your attention. So, may I direct that attention to my favorite radicchio variety? That would be Radicchio di Treviso. Specifically, grilled Treviso.

And I’m not alone in that opinion. The radicchio that Italians eat most often is Treviso (smell me!).

Radicchio di Treviso is as red as the mini-cabbage doppelganger, Radicchio di Chioggia. However, rather than looking like tight little fists, Treviso is missile-shaped. Sort of like a gawky overgrown adolescent Belgian endive.

As a former gawky adolescent, how could I not love Radicchio di Treviso? Sadly, I don’t come across it very often in the markets in my neighborhood. So when I see it, I grab it and I grill it. Once grilled Treviso loses a little of the bitterness that some people find challenging and becomes a terrific base for a grilled vegetable salad.

TrevisoRoast Cherry Tomatoes

Grilled Treviso with Proven Favorites

Well, when confronted with hard to come by ingredients I tend to gravitate to classic preparations and proven winners. One of my favorite condiments is a tomato “vinaigrette” recipe from Alison Roman. It appeared in Bon Appétit some time ago. Long enough ago that I basically consider this recipe my own. These days I follow the original recipe only loosely and adapt it as my pantry dictates. Sometimes I add capers, sometimes I add or subtract herbs, sometimes I add garlic. You get the idea. I love the texture of this “vinaigrette”. And just so you know those pesky quotation marks are there because it’s the texture that makes this condiment nothing like any vinaigrette you will find in a bottle marked Wishbone. It’s a chunky dressing, more like salsa than sauce.

The only problem I face is this: cherry tomato season comes with warm weather but Treviso peaks well before that. So, without consulting Alison Roman, I roasted off-season cherry tomatoes to use in her familiar vinaigrette to amplify their sugars. You’ve done that too, right?

While on the subject of amplifying flavors I’ve done the same thing with some early season corn. It’s grilled. The cheese gets its own larger than life presence on the plate too. I’ve chosen a 75% butterfat Délice de Bourgogne triple cream. If you’re not familiar with triple cream I’ll say this– most Bries are double cream (60% butterfat) so you get the idea. GREG

Délice de Bourgogne Grilled Treviso and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Grilled Treviso and Corn Salad with Roasted Tomato “Vinaigrette”

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2-4Source Adapted from Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez DentonPublished
Grilled Treviso and Corn Salad with Roasted Tomato “Vinaigrette”

Ingredients

  • 2 heads Treviso (halved lengthwise)
  • 2-3 ears corn (husked and cleaned)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 2-3 cup baby arugula
  • roasted tomato vinaigrette (see recipe https://www.sippitysup.com/recipe/roasted-tomato-vinaigrette/ )
  • 4-6 ounce chilled Deelice de Bourgogne cheese (or similar bloomy washed rind cheese, sliced into thin wedges)

Directions

Prepare the grill to medium-high heat.

Place the Treviso halves and corn on the cob onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil to coat all sides and in between some of the leaves. Season generously in the same manner with salt and black pepper. Transfer the corn to the grill and cook, turning often until the kernels are cooked and charred in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill, let cool slightly, then slice the kernels off. Set aside.

Place the Treviso onto the grill, cut side down, and cook until wilted and charred, about 3 minutes. Turn each piece over and grill another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from grill. Cut out the core, chop the leaves crosswise into large chunks. The corn and Treviso may be grilled several hours in advance or served warm from the grill if you prefer.

To serve arrange the Treviso and arugula on a large serving platter or on individual plates then top with sections of corn kernels. Spoon the vinaigrette over the vegetables, making sure to evenly distribute the tomatoes. Garnish with cheese wedges.

Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published

This vinaigrette is best if used within an hour of adding the tomatoes to the vinegar mixture.

Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 pint whole cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (divided)
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. When well-coated spread them out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in the heated oven until they begin to get a little dimpled and just beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine vinegar, remaining olive oil, the remaining salt, and the black pepper. Add the roasted tomatoes and gently toss to combine. Set aside until ready to use.

Grilled Treviso and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

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Lazy Jerk-Rubbed Rib Eye and Spicy Green Papaya Relish

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Lazy Jerk-Rubbed Rib Eye with Green Papaya Relish

I recently threw together a Spicy Green Papaya Relish. Partly because I had bought shredded green papaya at the Thai market on a whim and needed some way to use it up. But mostly because I can be a lazy cook. You might not think so, considering the hours I spend in the kitchen or the amount of thought I put into planning meals. I’m sure you know this, but eating well requires a cook to be creative and flexible, not to mention seasonal. But being creative in the kitchen day after day can be an exhausting chore if you let it.

Wine Pairing

Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Ken Eskenazi

Price $14-17

Pairs well with beef, lamb, barbecue, pasta with tomato sauce and some chocolate deserts.

So don’t let it. A simple fruit or vegetable relish is very typical of what I consider lazy cooking. It’s straightforward, flavorful and makes a minimal mess. It’s a colorful way to bring a simple splash of creativity to the plate. For the lazy cook (or the cook who’s in a lazy mood) this hot-sweet-sour Green Papaya Relish can lazily transform a simple grilled rib eye into an exotic dinner with complexity.

I say exotic because this Spicy Green Papaya Relish topped steak is rubbed with a homemade Jerk Seasoning– another shortcut all of us lazy cooks should keep in the pantry. This rub, in conjunction with the relish and my backyard grill, makes this lazy dinner a delicious Jamaican-Thai-American cross-cultural mash-up. Anything with that many hyphens has got to be exotic!

Spicy Green Papaya Relish and Wine?

Of course, one man’s lazy mash-up can lead to another man’s dilemma. I asked Ken to pair this grilled steak with a good bottle of wine. Grilled steak and Cabernet Sauvignon should be a lazy no-brainer. However, the sweet and sour, Spicy Green Papaya Relish could make this traditional red wine and red meat pairing problematic. Fortunately, Ken remembered tasting an Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon at a media event. There it was paired with Suzanne Goin’s Chocolate Tart. The nutty sweet tart gave Ken a clue that this wine might work in unexpected combinations. The 100% Austerity Cabernet has a lighter body and is fruit forward and exotically spiced enough to work well with the cocoa-infused rub and bold relish featured in this lazy Sunday Steak Supper at home. GREG

Austerity Cabernet SauvignonSpicy Green Papaya Relish

Spicy Green Papaya Relish

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Spicy Green Papaya Relish

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cup julienned green papaya
  • 1 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • ½ habanero chile (minced, or more to taste)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)

Directions

Stir together vinegar, honey, lime juice, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved in a medium bowl. Add the papaya, red onion, habanero, cilantro and mint and mix until combined, season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. Drain each portion before using. Store leftovers in liquid, sealed in a jar and refrigerated.

jerk rubRaw Rib Eye

Homemade Jerk Seasoning Rub

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 3/4 cupPublished

Store covered at room temperature.

Homemade Jerk Seasoning Rub

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a sealable container. Stir or shake until fully combined.

Jerk-Rubbed Rib Eye with Green Papaya Relish

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Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

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Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Austerity. The word conjures up images of a spare all-white living room, severe haircuts or jam-packed economy seating. The 2014 Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon is quite the opposite. While the price shows quite a bit of restraint, drinking the wine– while enjoying a nicely grilled piece of meat– is quite the opposite. Bright fruit, herbs, spice and oak add up to a colorful, layered and even expansive experience.

Deep garnet with a lively rim in the glass, this “austere” Cab abounds with black raspberry, Luxardo cherry, a hint of varietally correct pencil lead and wet leaves on the nose. A sip delivers decent acidity and smooth tannins (yes the structure is there even at this price point!), a touch of heat, peppery spice, anise and the promised lush red fruit. You are further rewarded with a slightly sweet kiss of vanilla on the finish.

Austere? Not at all. This eminently drinkable wine has some bite from its integrated tannins and moderate acid, but the main attraction is the bouncy red fruit. Paired with Greg’s steak, the spicy sweet melange of ripe cherry and licorice complements the allspice and cocoa elements in the rub. The char, the fat, the juicy, spicy, chewy meatiness of the dish would support a Bordeaux at ten times the price, but in this case Austerity is a good strategy– you could have it nine more times!

As an “everyday” wine, the 2014 Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon is more enjoyable than profound, but this was a Sunday night dinner at home after all. I first tasted Austerity’s Cab, along with other equally balanced and well-priced varieties, at an elegant sponsored dinner a while back. On that occasion, the Cab was paired with a dense yet creamy chocolate caramel sea salt hazelnut tart…which was enjoyable as well (not surprisingly)! Who knew that Cabernet could be so versatile? KEN

I received a sample bottle of Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 so that I might bring this pairing to the blog. All opinions are my own.

Pairs With Lazy Jerk-Rubbed Rib Eye and Spicy Green Papaya Relish

Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon