Hollywood Farmers French Market Carrots

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French Market Carrots

I went to the Hollywood Farmers Market this morning in search of French Market Carrots. As I mentioned in my last post carrots are a holiday “must have” for me. If you aren’t familiar with this particular type of carrot then I should let you in on its most unusual attribute. This is a round carrot. It’s also a nineteenth-century French heirloom variety whose round shape and small size were developed to be grown in the shallow window boxes sur les rues et les avenues de Paris”. I’m pleased to say I got 3 of the last 4 bunches. I guess other folks consider special little carrots a Thanksgiving “must have” as well.

Of course, I could have made do with some other type of carrot. I spied bunches and heaps of the most unusually colored carrots you can imagine – red, yellow, white, and even two-toned varieties. I could certainly impress my guests with Technicolor carrots. Still, as much as the color appealed to me, it’s Thanksgiving. I felt the need for something a bit more traditional. Because purple carrots may catch the eye but they’re not like the carrots my mommy used to make. Nope, my mommy served orange carrots on Thanksgiving, so I chose orange. I may have wanted orange carrots, but I required round carrots.

How could anyone require a round carrot? Isn’t that a little too persnickety? Maybe. But you see, I also got elongated little yams about the size of a fat Cuban stogie. I was hoping to roast them and serve them on the plate whole and unpeeled. Round carrots are the perfect visual counterpoint. I could hardly have had two tube-shaped vegetables on the plate.

So, with round carrots in hand, it’s time to think about what to do with these French Market Carrots. They taste spectacular raw and have a very intensified carroty flavor. They’re just the right size to pop into your mouth too. No recipe. No cooking. No need to peel these babies. So I could just end my post here and serve them raw, pas de problem, oui?

Well, non.

This is Thanksgiving and I plan to put a little more effort into these carrots than simply: Wash well and dry thoroughly.

But I can still keep it simple. I’ve chosen Glazed French Market Carrots with Quatre Épices.

Glazing is a very traditional way to cook carrots in France. French cuisine is also well known for traditional mixtures of herbs and spices that are so beloved they’ve become known as a single ingredient. Herbes de Provence, Fines herbes, and in this case, Quatre épices– a holiday-appropriate blend of ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. It’s like a savory version of pumpkin spice. GREG

French Market Carrots

Glazed French Market Carrots with Quatre Épices

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Published

You can make these several hours ahead, but do not refrigerate them. Serve them at room temperature or reheated gently in their own glaze.

Glazed French Market Carrots with Quatre Épices

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pound small, round (trimmed then quartered, halved, or left whole so they are all of uniform size)
  • water (as needed)
  • 2-3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Place the carrots into a sloped sided pan large enough to just hold the carrots in a single layer. Use multiple pans if necessary. Add enough cold water to cover them a bit less than half. Add the butter, ginger, nutmeg, clove, sugar and a big pinch or two of salt and pepper. Bring the water to a very low boil then adjust the heat to keep the boil gentle.

Simmer quietly, turning occasionally, for 8 or 10 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced by half and begins to thicken test them for doneness. They should be beginning to get tender somewhat, but not yet finished cooking.

Continue to cook, 6 to 8 more minutes depending on size of carrots, rolling the carrots around in the pan from time to time. As they get nearly cooked and the glaze gets quite thick you will need to roll them more and more. Give them your undivided attention. You want to remove them from the heat at just the right time when most of the liquid will have evaporated and you will be left with glossy little gems. They should be cooked through but not be mushy. If the carrots cook before the glaze is thick and glossy remove the carrots adding them back to the pan at the last minute if necessary.

Taste glaze and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper before serving while still warm.

The Thanksgiving Brown Butter Cauliflower I Would Have Made

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Brown Butter Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds

Deeply roasted, drizzled with butter, and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. This is the Brown Butter Cauliflower recipe from Bon Appétit food editor Chris Morocco I would have made if cauliflower would have made the list. Yep, it’s that time of year when we cooks start making lists. These lists will get argued and altered before they’re cinched. At least at my house. Because everyone’s got an opinion when it comes to Thanksgiving lists. Your list may look daunting at this point but never fear. This is part of the process. Before you know it these lists will be menus. Our Thanksgiving menus.

Some folks make the exact same thing every year. Which is great, but I’m not like that. I almost never make the same thing two Thanksgivings in a row. But I do have “must haves” for my holiday celebration. They’re usually the things my mother made. But my “must haves” are usually just a broad category. Like turkey. Turkey is a “must have”. I almost never do it the same way twice. Roasted. Fried. Dry-brined. Spatchcocked. I’ll usually try something new each year even when it comes to the turkey. I’m considering serving only the turkey drumsticks this year. I don’t know, we’ll see. But drumsticks are on the list.

Besides turkey, in my house stuffing is a “must have”.  Some sort of greens always makes an appearance on my Thanksgiving table too. There’s a Southern boy lurking inside me. We Southern boys always eat greens on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, greens have made a resurgence. The healthy qualities of leafy greens have made them almost trendy. Which means finding new and exciting ways to prepare all kinds of greens is easier than it has ever been before. So yeah, greens are on the list.

Brown Butter Cauliflower was on the list… for a while.  Cauliflower is on plenty of people’s Thanksgiving lists. Its got lots of Holiday cred in my opinion. My mom may have even made Thanksgiving cauliflower a time or two. This Brown Butter version could provide some lime and chile zing to the menu I’m considering. I think every holiday plate should have some zing.

There’s only one problem. Lists have to have endings. They can’t go on forever and there’s one item at the top of my list I forgot to mention. It’s not turkey, cranberries or even sweet potatoes. It’s carrots. My mother always made carrots on Thanksgiving.

So I’m sorry to say that there’s no room on my list for Brown Butter Cauliflower this year. So, if you are sitting in front of your computer with your hands balled up into little fists, holding your breath because Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without cauliflower you can just exhale. I knew you’d be like that, and I came prepared. Here’s the recipe for the Brown Butter Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds I would have made if cauliflower would have made the list. GREG

Cauliflower on sheet panBrown Butter Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds Brown Butter Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds

Brown Butter Cauliflower with Chile-Lime Pumpkin Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Chris MoroccoPublished

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • 2 whole cauliflowers
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • ¼ cup ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus whole leaves with tender stems for serving)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

Place oven racks in top and center positions. Preheat oven to 450° F.

Coat 2 large parchment-lined baking sheets with 1 tablespoon oil each. Trim cauliflower stalks and place one head stalk side down on a cutting board. Slice cauliflower lengthwise into ½” slices. Repeat with second cauliflower. Arrange slices and any stray pieces in a single layer on equally divided between prepared baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with another with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until underside is deeply browned, about 20 minutes. Turn cauliflower over, season with salt and pepper, rotate pans between racks and continue to roast until other side is dark brown and crisp, 10 or 15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, bring to a simmer, and cook, swirling pan often, until pumpkin seeds are toasted and butter is browned and smells nutty, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add red chile flakes; let cool 10 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Arrange warm cauliflower on a serving platter and drizzle with dressing. Serve topped with whole cilantro leaves.

My Boozy Birthday Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate Toffee Glaze

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Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate Toffee Glaze

It’s November 11, 2017. I’ve grown accustomed to presenting a whiskey cocktail on this day most every year of this blog. But this year I’ve got a cake. A Chocolate-Apricot Cake. Rather I should say I’ve got a Chocolate-Apricot Birthday Cake. Because November 11 is my birthday. Which is great. And I’ll certainly be celebrating with great friends and a great whiskey cocktail. But sometimes you just need cake. A Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate-Toffee Glaze. Cake helps when you get the birthday blues. You know, the feeling that maybe, as David Sedaris said, you “peaked in 1988.” He’s joking (I think). Though 1988 was indeed a very good year.

Not that I’m complaining. Afterall, 2017 has plenty going for it. It’s a cake kind of year. A boozy (whiskey-laced) Chocolate-Apricot Cake kind of year. GREG

Lindt ChocolateChocolate-Apricot Cake Batter Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate Toffee Glaze

Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate Toffee Glaze

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source Inspired by Martha Stewart LivingPublished

The fruit puree in this cake keeps it very moist. It can also be made one day ahead and stored covered at room temperature.

Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Chocolate Toffee Glaze

Ingredients

  • cooking spray (as needed)
  • 1 ¼ cup (plus 1 tablespoon) water (divided)
  • 15 ounce dried apricots (chopped)
  • 5 tablespoon bourbon (divided, plus lots more for optional brushing)
  • 3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a pinch for the glaze)
  • 2 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 16 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided, at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 9 ounce chopped bittersweet chocolate (divided)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • whole dried apricots (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment, then spray parchment. Set aside.

Make the apricot puree: Combine 1 ¼ cups water, chopped dried apricots, 3 tablespoons bourbon, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally. Puree cooled apricot mixture in a blender or food processor (you should have about 2 ½ cups). Set aside 3/4 cup puree in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Place remaining apricot puree in a large bowl.

Make the cake: Whisk flour, 1 teaspoon salt, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat 12 tablespoons room temperature butter and dark-brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition (batter will look curdled).

Stir baking soda into the large uncovered bowl of apricot puree (there will be a slight chemical reaction from the baking soda and the lemon juice). On low speed, beat flour mixture into egg mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the apricot-baking soda mixture. Beat in 5 ounces chopped chocolate. Transfer batter to prepared pan, and smooth top.

Bake in the heated oven for 60 to 70 minutes (depending on pan) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, using a serrated knife, trim the rounded top of the cake so it is flat all the way across.

Run a knife around edge of pan to loosen, and invert cake onto rack. Remove parchment, and brush the cake all over with bourbon in several applications, allowing it to soak in completely between applications, for as many applications as you like (optional), then let it cool completely.

Make the glaze: Meanwhile bring remaining 4 tablespoons butter, light-brown sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1 tablespoon water, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cream. Add remaining 4 ounces chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Let cool until thickened but still pourable about 10 minutes.

Assemble the cake: Place cooled cake, smooth side up, on a cake plate or stand. Spread remaining 3/4 cup apricot puree over top of cake taking care to slope the edges cleanly for best presentation. Pour glaze over top, letting some decoratively drip down the sides and onto the plate. Garnish with whole dried apricots (if using).

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Mapping Out Dinner: Scallops with Saffron Broth and Sautéed Fennel

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Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

I’m rather proud of these Seared Sea Scallops with Saffron Broth and Sautéed Fennel but I really can’t take all the credit. My partner Ken had a lot to do with the flavors you see on this plate. He returned from a recent wine media tasting event excited about the wines of New Zealand. One particular winery defied all his notions about the land next door to the land down under. The explosive flavors of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are well-known, but Greywacke is creating wines with a complexity he had not expected. Especially the 2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon. He immediately got on the phone and bought a bottle, then asked me to pair this wine with dinner – tonight.

I enjoy cooking, but a short-order cook I am not!

Fortunately, I had already had a lead on some well-priced scallops. Their clean flavor plays nicely against the luxury of crisp wine. Searing the scallops until caramelized at the edges brings out a sweetness that can soften the sharp finish often found in sauvignon blanc. So I figured I had a plan that got me halfway there.

But what about the rest of the way? Would I need a map?

Wine Pairing

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015

Ken Eskenazi

Price $22

Pairs well with seafood, fish, oysters, goat cheese, asparagus, artichoke

Usually, when we match food and wine we ask ourselves the question, “what wine would go best with these Scallops with Saffron Broth?”

In fact, it’s questions like these that justify Ken’s rather deep home wine collection. It’s the same reason restaurants maintain long and varied wine lists.

However, in the case of these scallops, Ken had the wine in mind and I had to build the recipe to match the wine. Which seems like a daunting challenge. After all, pairing food and wine is very mysterious, right? But in truth, we make choices of what we want to eat and drink all the time. So why do we give wine so much baggage? The simple trick is to make simple variations, with the wine in mind, to whatever recipe you’ve already chosen.

Sauvignon blanc is an aromatic white wine. It’s an easy choice for food that screams for white wine. Scallops (almost always) scream for white wine. So (as I said) I had a place to start.

However, I was a little thrown by a comment to Ken from the Greywacke winemaker Kevin Judd that the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon would work nicely with seafood in a red wine sauce. While I wasn’t quite ready to slather my delicate scallops in red wine sauce this hint did convince me to go bold.

Scallops with Saffron Broth

I may not be a wine guy in quite the way my guy Ken is. But I do know that you can’t go wrong when it comes to wine if you let your nose be the boss. The Greywacke Wild Sauvignon has a nose that includes what wine geeks call anise. That’s fennel to us food geeks. So fennel was where I started. But another whiff revealed a dried floral hint of saffron. Saffron is always best when it’s just a hint. So that’s how I got to Scallops with Saffron Broth and Sautéed Fennel.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking whatever you like with whatever you’re eating. Because if you follow your own tastes you will intuitively feel that the wine and food were made for each other. And that’s precisely the map I followed here. GREG

GreywackeSauteed Fennel Saffron BrothSeared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published

The proper term for an STP and additive free scallop is “dry”. Ask your fishmonger if you are unsure.

Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 peeled and chopped onion
  • 3 thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only, well washed and divided in half)
  • 1 peeled and chopped carrot
  • 2 cored and thinly sliced fennel bulb (divided in half)
  • ¼ teaspoon safron threads
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel pollen (can substitute ground fennel seeds)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cup fish stock (or clam juice)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4-8 jumbo "dry" sea scallops (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • ½ cup fennel-orange gremolata (optional, see recipe)

Directions

Make the broth: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, half the leeks, carrot, and half the fennel and cook, stirring often, until translucent. Add the saffron, fennel pollen, crushed red pepper flakes, and white wine. Continue cooking until the wine has almost evaporated. Add stock and bring to a simmer.

Add bay leaf and a pinch each salt and white pepper. Reduce the heat and let the broth simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, then strain the broth. Keep warm or set aside to bring back to a simmer before serving.

Make the sautéed fennel: Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add remaining fennel and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add remaining leeks, season with salt and pepper, cook 5 minutes more. Stir in butter and lemon zest, adjust seasoning. Keep warm or set aside to bring back to warm before serving.

Sear the scallops: Season the scallops generously with salt and white pepper. Place a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the scallops and sear for 2 ½ minutes, without moving them around. When the bottoms of the scallops look nicely browned and they release themselves from the pan turn them over and sear the other side for 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the scallops to a platter lined with paper towels to blot some of the oil.

To serve: Finish the warm broth by stirring in Pernod. Place a quarter of the warm sautéed fennel in the center of each of 4 warm shallow soup bowls. Place 1 or 2 seared scallops on top of each then pour in the broth, dividing it equally between each serving. Garnish with gremolata (if using) and serve immediately.

Fennel-Orange Gremolata

Print This Recipe Total time Yield ½ cupSource Chef Steven SatterfieldPublished

The gremolata can be refrigerated for up to 3 hours.

Fennel-Orange Gremolata

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt (to taste)

Directions

Mix fennel, parsley, and orange zest in a small bowl. Stir in olive oil and season to taste with salt.

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Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015

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New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, generally speaking, is a grassy, citrusy, mouth-quenching warm weather quaff. I say “generally” because I was recently introduced to alternative styles of NZSB at a seminar featuring renowned winemaker Kevin Judd. Mr. Judd, a pioneering winemaker at Cloudy Bay now heads his own label, Greywacke (pronounced grey-wacky). His Greywacke Wild Sauvignon floored me. Never assume.

Complex. Lush. Savory? The nose offers the citrus, gooseberry and slightly grassy aromas you might expect, but these notes sing in harmony with stone fruit, herbs and even a sweet vanilla tone from the wine’s time spent on the lees in old French oak barriques. I think this aromatic symphony also has something to do with the spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation. Hence the “wild” in the wine’s name.

It could also have something to do with terroir. Greywacke’s vineyards are in Marlborough, New Zealand’s preeminent location for high quality (and high quantity) Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough SBs are appreciated for their intense flavor and crispness. Long hours of moderate sunshine and large variations between day and nighttime temperatures allow the grapes to ripen slowly and the flavors to build.

Let’s get to the tasting. Yes, the acid is forthright, crisp and quenching but not overpowering. A strong acidic backbone also lends itself to an ability to age the wine. As a matter of fact, the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon we tasted at the event was a 2013– rich, almost waxy mouthfeel with an amazing depth of flavor. The 2015 offers its own balance of sweet and sour fruit – did I really get apricot jam as well as lime? – along with herbal and anise impressions. Beautiful weight and texture increase your enjoyment through a long finish.

Oh, and the 2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon pairs wonderfully with the chewy rich texture of Greg’s scallops in their fennel and saffron broth. Flavors and textures are in synch, contrasted by bright acidity. To be honest, I stopped taking notes at this point, I was enjoying the experience too much. Fortunately, I’ll have an opportunity to analyze further in a couple of years– I bought a second bottle to lay down. KEN

I discovered this wine at a media event hosted by New Zealand Wines. All opinions are my own.

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Pairs With Mapping Out Dinner: Scallops with Saffron Broth and Sautéed Fennel

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015

“All Beef” Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

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Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

I recently came across a recipe for Beef-Ricotta Meatballs from Bestia Chef Ori Menashe. Instead of being served on top of pasta his delicious looking meatballs come with a pile of tender Braised Beet Greens. Which intrigued me because I make a lot of meatballs and I rarely serve them with pasta. American-style Spaghetti and Meatballs is the obvious exception but I never fool myself into believing that pasta is the most traditional Italian accompaniment to meatballs. In fact, my very first blog post on for Sippity Sup was a recipe (and pompous dissertation) on what I call Neapolitan Meatballs. There was even a cheeky video featuring a much younger me. That post was almost 10 years ago!

Since then I’ve made a lot of meatballs. Lamb, chicken, even bean. Proving that the meatball is a little more versatile than my proclamation on the subject all those years ago. Still, there’s a part of me that rigidly believes everything I wrote in that long forgotten post. Things like meat: a traditional Italian meatball must be made using 2 maybe 3 types of ground meat, right? It should also be browned in a pan and then finished cooking in the sauce, right? Well, I shouldn’t say “finished” because I’d always heard that the best meatballs are allowed to cool in the sauce completely and are not served until they’ve been reheated. It has something to do with osmosis. These are all true statements, right?

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

I say this because Chef Menashe is known in Los Angeles for Italian food that tastes like it comes straight out of a grandmother’s kitchen. I would expect that his methods and recipes would be nothing but traditional. So, as I was silently approving the fact that Chef Menashe’s Beef-Ricotta Meatballs are not served with pasta I also started to note a few less expected elements. First, he kicks osmosis out the door. These meatballs don’t touch sauce until they hit the plate. Second (and most surprising to me) his meatballs are made with a mixture of ricotta and 100% beef. No veal, no pork, and certainly no turkey. Instead of relying on added ground pork for fatty flavor this recipe suggests beef at a ratio of 25% fat (the same ratio I prefer for burgers). I make juicy burgers so I’ll admit this fact got me rethinking the very premise of the very first post I made to this blog. Which means any and/or all of my other posts could be meaningless too. Or, more drastically, could there be more than one way to roll a meatball? Anyone have an Italian grandmother they could ask? GREG

meatballs Beef-Ricotta Meatballs with Braised Beet Greens

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Food & Wine MagazinePublished

Try serving these meatballs with braised greens for a healthy alternative to pasta.

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 ounce crustless rustic bread (slightly stale, torn into 1-inch chunks)
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 25% fat)
  • ½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste, but be bold)
  • 2-3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 teaspoon fennel pollen (may also use ground fennel seed)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 4 tablespoon canola oil (divided)
  • fresh oregano leaves (as garnish)
  • sea salt (as garnish)

Directions

In a bowl, soak the bread in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, parsley, fennel pollen, kosher salt and black pepper. Squeeze any excess milk from the bread and spread the bread around the bowl. Mix the meat mixture well, then roll it into eighteen 1 ½-inch balls; transfer to a baking sheet.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Cook half of the meatballs over moderate heat, turning, until golden brown and no longer pink within, about 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and meatballs.

Serve garnished with Parmigiano, chopped oregano and sea salt.

Braised Beet Greens

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Food & Wine MagazinePublished

Can be made several hours ahead and gently reheated before serving.

Braised Beet Greens served with Meatballs

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1-2 ½-inch diced carrots (about 1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery (about ½ cup)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 pound beet greens (cut into 1-inch pieces, thick stems discarded)
  • water (optional)

Directions

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables have softened. Add the anchovies and tomato paste, stirring often, until the anchovies dissolve and the tomato paste is deep red about 5 minutes. Add the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Adjust consistency with a little water if necessary. Serve warm.

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Seasonal Pear Upside-Down Cake with Maple and Cardamom

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Pear Upside-Down Cake with Maple and Cardamom

Maple-Cardamom Pear Upside-Down Cake. Is that legit? When I was growing up an upside down cake was made with pineapple from a can – usually with a Day-Glo maraschino cherry adorning the center of each sunny ring. To a kid like me, it was a marvel of a cake – full of magic and mystery. How could it be possible to get that glistening yellow and red design embedded into a cake? I’ll admit the whole concept still holds allure. But, as an adult I crave something that’s reminiscent of all that magic and mystery, but with a bit more seasonality and sophistication.

The season is set by the calendar, true, but the sophistication is up to me.

Well, it’s October. Would you like to slip into your favorite flannels, order a dozen apple cider donuts, then sit back and enjoy the glory of autumnal splendor? Are you ready to be dazzled by the changing palette of deciduous trees in blazing bloom? Yeah. Me too.

However, it may be autumn but I’m not likely to see any of that full fall color. I live in Los Angeles. That show just doesn’t play here. When we talk about fall color in Southern California we mean the bluest of the blue skies we see all year. So when it comes to something warm and familiar as a favorite pair of flannels I turn to seasonal fruit. We may not rake leaves but we do get excited by the apples, pears, and pumpkins that define the season.

Pear Upside-Down Cake

This is a blog, pumpkins have been covered. And though apples are quite interesting – I’m happy with my apple cider donuts. So let’s consider the pear for this post. It’s hard to resist a pear’s delicate fragrance: a mix of fruit and blossom. Like an apple, a pear is plump and round enough to sit in the palm of your hand. But it’s got a curvy seductiveness that separates it from most other fruit. We’ve all picked one up to eat out of hand – each tender bite melting into another. Pears have a subtlety that verges on sensuality.

However, when fruit is the only thing (besides a clear blue sky) that defines the season in your weatherless October – you find ways to make it special. As I said, an upside-down cake is full of magic and mystery. A Maple-Cardamom Pear Upside-Down Cake takes that magic and makes it miraculous. GREG

Baking Notes: This recipe was inspired by a technique from Martha Stewart. You’ll notice that the sugar and spice butter is not melted and caramelized as with most upside-down cakes. It’s whipped into a paste. This is partly because caramelized sugar would overpower the subtle flavors of pear and cardamom. However, it has an added benefit. The butter acts as a glue for the fruit. So my pear topping easily stayed in place while I added the batter.

Seasonal Pear Upside-Down Cake with Maple and Cardamom Pear Upside-Down Cake with Maple and Cardamom

Maple-Cardamom Pear Upside Down Cake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Maple-Cardamom Pear Upside Down Cake

Ingredients

  • cooking spray
  • 2-3 small pears (small pears will be more decorative)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract tab
  • 2-3 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (or to taste)
  • ice cream (for serving, optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square or round cake pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper, and set aside.

Peel pears. Carefully cut pears lengthwise and/or crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices and/or rounds using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. Remove any seeds or you can choose to remove the whole core on some of the slices if you see fit. Set aside.

Put butter, ¼ cup sugar, maple syrup, and cardamom into a bowl, Use an electric mixer on medium-high or beat well by hand until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Then using a small offset spatula, spread mixture into prepared pan.

Arrange the most attractive of the pears decoratively in a single layer on top of thee maple-cardamom butter mixture. You won’t use all the slices. Keep it simple or get creative. It’s up to you.

Whisk together flour, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking. Stir in crystallized ginger. Gently pour the batter and over the pears, then carefully make the surface smooth with the offset spatula.

Bake in the heated oven until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

Run a small spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a rimmed serving plate, leaving the pan on the cake for 5 another minutes. Carefully remove the pan. Peel off parchment. Check the arrangement of the pears and make adjustments if needed while the cake is still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream (if using).

 

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Mushrooms Baked in a Pouch: Bitter Greens and Broken Bread Salad

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Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad with Bitter Greens

I love bold tasting greens. From peppery arugula to bitter radicchio. I often use these greens as a base for a main course salad. In which case I’m likely to toss these greens with something warm. It helps soften the boldest of greens, creating a delicious dichotomy of texture. Chicken Liver Salad is a classic example. Lately, I’ve been making a lighter version using mushrooms baked in foil pouches. I call it Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad. In the Agrigento region of Sicily, mushrooms are wrapped in butcher’s paper then buried in hot ashes. I’ve simplified this traditional preparation (known as funci ‘ncartati or sometimes funghi al cartoccio) to make this broken bread salad.

Baked Mushrooms

Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad with Bitter Greens

But the success of this salad relies on more than just warm mushrooms. It also calls for toasted broken bread pieces and a big pile of bitter greens. The warm peppery bread is easy to love. In fact, it’s practically comfort food all on its own. But when it comes to the greens, well, a lot of people have trouble with their bold, bitter flavor. But like everything else worth eating this broken bread salad with bitter greens is just really a matter of harmony. Using a variety of greens with varying flavors can help soften the bite. But there are other ways to balance the bitter too. The sweetness of balsamic vinegar is a popular choice. But it’s not always the perfect answer, in my view. The best antidote for a bitter bite is a salty kick. Think of how often naturally bitter mushroom beg for a few grains of sea salt to mellow the flavor. Anchovies work well too. This salad features just enough anchovy to bring all the conflicting tastes and textures together. GREG

Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad with Bitter Greens

Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Guy Mirabella and Judy RodgersPublished
Baked Mushroom and Broken Bread Salad with Bitter Greens

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cup grated pecorino Romano
  • ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets (chopped)
  • ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (separated)
  • 1½ pound small to medium cremini mushrooms (large mushrooms should be halved)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • ½ loaf ciabatta bread
  • 3 ounce hearty mixed greens (such as arugula, dandelion, frisee, and/or watercress)
  • ⅓ cup anchovy vinaigrette (plus more for serving, see recipe)
  • 1 ounce toasted pine nuts

Directions

Place the oven racks in the middle and top positions. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine pecorino, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and lemon zest. In a separate large bowl combine lemon juice, anchovies, ⅓ cup olive oil, and mushrooms; toss to coat. Season well with salt and pepper, sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture and toss again.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. There should be no gaps.

Bake on the middle rack in the heated oven for 30 minutes then remove the foil and continue to cook another 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size and water content of the mushrooms. Use your judgment.

Meanwhile, tear the ciabatta bread into bite-sized chunks and put onto a separate parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and lots of black pepper. Place in the oven on the top rack for the last 12 to 15 minutes of the mushroom cooking time, or until the bread is golden and crisp on the edges but still chewy on the inside.

To serve: Toss the greens with the vinaigrette in a large bowl to coat. Add the warm mushroom mixture with all the crunchy bits of cheesy breadcrumbs and the pine nuts; toss again.

Divide the bread chunks between four plates, top with the mushroom and greens mixture, dividing any accumulated juices between each plate evenly. Serve warm with additional vinaigrette on the side.

Anchovy Vinaigrette

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Mark BittmanPublished

This vinaigrette is best made fresh but will keep refrigerated for a few days. Before using, bring it back to room temperature, and whisk briefly.

Anchovy Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon good red or white wine vinegar (or more to taste)
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 anchovy fillets (or more to taste, with some of their oil)
  • 1 shallot (about 1 ounce, peeled and cut into chunks)

Directions

Combine all ingredients except shallot in a blender, and turn the machine on. A creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste, and add more vinegar if necessary, about a teaspoon at a time, until the balance tastes right.

Add shallot, and turn the machine on and off a few times, until shallot is minced within the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

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Savory Cake: Carrot, Feta, and Cumin

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Savory Cake: Carrot, Feta, and Cumin

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Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

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Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Caprese Stacks are an appetizer so sincerely simple that you may wonder how the heck I’m going to squeeze 500 words out on the subject. I mean Caprese salad is nothing more than tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on a plate, right? Caprese Stacks are simply vertical versions of the same thing, right? Of course, there’s a definitive argument to be made about simplicity demanding quality. But I could peck that idea out in fewer than two dozen syllables. Besides, I know you know how important quality ingredients are. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know.

Still, I feel like there’s a little room for my voice to be heard on this subject. Because if you look out there in blogland you’ll basically see two kinds of Caprese. Simple and silly. I have plenty of respect for the simple versions but most of the silly salads leave me smirking. There’s no room for mango in Caprese. Ancient grains belong in another recipe. And don’t let kale anywhere near the plate. Come on, don’t try so hard. Remember my argument about simplicity and quality. Still, I can’t help but feel there’s a tiny bit of wiggle room between simple and silly. I’m talking about pork, of course.

Behold! Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta. As simple and glorious as it should be yet topped with a serious burst of umami. Sweet and savory. Creamy and crunchy. And as fresh as it can possibly be.

Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

When I first conceived of a pork topper for these Caprese Stacks my brain went straight to bacon. Candied bacon is a thing these days. So I decided some sweet sticky heat was just daring enough to get a little notice from my guests. But I couldn’t quite envision the finished stack. Would the bacon be crumbled, or set to the side in meaty strips? I wanted to stack a rasher on top but it’s not structurally suited for that. I needed something round.

How about Canadian bacon? Well, and I mean no offense to Canadians, I don’t really like Canadian bacon. Then again I don’t really like ham either. It’s a texture thing. Still, I often find myself picking up packages of Canadian bacon in the market and admiring it for its round shape and uniform slice. As a cook, I see that consistency of form and I think how nicely Canadian bacon would stack. In other words, I see the presentation possibilities. Which is almost enough to get me to buy a package. Then again I don’t really like Canadian bacon so I always put the package down and go back to the drawing board.

And that’s how I came upon pancetta. Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta. GREG

Candied Pancetta Candied Pancetta

Tomato-Basil Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

Feel free to make these stacks as tall as you like.

Tomato-Basil Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 12 slice ripe tomato (centercut, about 3/4-inch thick)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 6 slice fresh mozzarella (about 3/4-inch thick)
  • basil leaves (as needed)
  • 6 slice candied pancetta (see recipe)
  • balsamic syrup (see recipe)
  • very good extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Place a slice of tomato on each of 6 small plates; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper then lay on a basil leaf or two. Top each with a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf or two. Top each stack with another slice of tomato, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a slice of candied pancetta. Garnish with basil leaves and an artful drizzle of balsamic syrup and very good extra-virgin olive oil.

Candied Pancetta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Candied Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 6 slice pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. One is for baking and one is for cooling.

In a small bowl, combine sugar cayenne. Place pancetta in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets; rub spice mixture evenly on both sides. Bake in the heated oven for 25 minutes or until crisp.

Remove from oven. To avoid sticking, immediately transfer each pancetta slice to the clean, cool parchment-lined baking sheet. These can be made up to 6 hours in advance.

Balsamic Syrup

Print This Recipe Total time Yield ½ cupPublished
Balsamic Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

Place vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally and simmer about 20 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Do not raise the temperature to speed up the process. You’ll get balsamic hard candy. Remove from heat and let the sauce thicken as it cools.

 

 

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