May 2010 Archives

Asparagus & Prosciutto

SPRING DINNER MENU: Seared Salmon with Green Sauce; Asparagus Spears with Burrata & Prosciutto; Warm Blue Potato & Green Onion Salad; Lemon Tart with Cream

It’s rare that I splurge on expensive ingredients like proscuitto and buffalo mozzarella. But when I lived in Rome, it was easy enough to make a meal out of a few slices of high quality cured meat, combined with a few bites of silky cheese, rounded out some crusty bread dipped in olive oil. Meals like this don’t really need recipes. When the quality of these items is so high, as they are in the standard supermarket in Italy, nothing else really matters.

Needless to say, we usually don’t rely on ingredients like $26/lb Serrano Ham to round out our recipes. But the other day I had dinner at Piadina, a cute little Italian restaurant in the West Village, and when it came time to order, I was craving prosciutto. My appetizer was the simplest creation of homemade ricotta, blanched thick asparagus spears, and thinly sliced prosciutto, beautifully arranged to allow me to orchestrate each bite just so.

I recreated the dish for lunch the other day, and was surprised how far I could stretch the ingredients and how affordable they ended up for only one or two servings.

Every now and then, it’s nice to pamper yourself.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK


**Recipe**


Asparagus Spears with Burrata & Prosciutto
Makes 1-2 serving


I found domestic prosciutto at the deli counter for $15/lb, which ended up being very cheap when only buying a quarter pound. Just see what kind of specials your supermarket has. Sometimes, burrata can be surprisingly cheap as well.
Ingredients
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed
1/4 lb prosciutto
1/4 lb burrata
olive oil
coarse sea saltBring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. With a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus stalks. Blanch in the boiling water for 1 minutes. Seriously, this will not take long. Remove to an ice bath or colander in the sink under running very cold water.Arrange the prosciutto on one side of the plate. Coarsely tear the burrata and arrange on the other side of the plate. Dry the asparagus stalks and pile them in the middle. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Baking For Others: Lemon-Almond Cake

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SPRING DINNER PARTY MENU: Coconut Curry Mussels; Crusty Bread; Mixed Greens with Creamy Mango Vinaigrette; Lemon-Almond Cake

This is my new favorite cake. It has so few ingredients and such a fresh, clean taste, I can’t help but want to make it for every dinner party, every box of treats, every day.

One of its best traits is having no butter in it whatsoever. This is good for a few reasons, none of which is health. The main reason is Alex, because he can’t eat dairy, and because I, as the baker, prefer recipes that have no dairy to begin with than those that require substitutions like margarine or oil.

But the secondary reason–which may in fact be the more interesting reason, and the reason all of you should make this–is that I currently believe that, when eating dessert after dinner, lighter and more flavorful treats trump heavy, buttery, and chocolate-y ones. (Desserts like bread pudding, chocolate layer cake, and chocolate mousse cake are often things I’d rather eat as an afternoon snack, a small meal where they get all my attention and stomach space.) After a meal, a slice of this cake, which is sweet and tangy with lemon, won’t weigh you down, or so overwhelm you that you forget what you ate for dinner. The egg whites and almonds give the cake its texture, somehow airy and dense all at once. I have a crazy idea to make it with pistachios and orange zest…I just can’t stop imagining how good and green that cake would be.

As an aside, I have a 7-inch cake pan, which makes a really nice-sized dessert for small dinners. It’s what’s pictured above–I guess I think there’s something dainty and cute about it. But if you’re baking in a 9-inch pan, I’ve included the recipe with larger proportions.

From my kitchen, where light desserts win (at least for now), to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**

Lemon Almond Cake

Adapted from Marcella Hazan

While this cake is good enough to stand alone, it’s great with strawberries and cream–or, I hear, strawberry ice cream. Note that I make this recipe in a smaller-than-usual pan. Scroll to the bottom for ingredients for a 9-inch pan.

Ingredients
6 ounces, shelled, unpeeled almonds (about 1 ¼ cups)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
5 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons flour
butter or oil for greasing the pan

7-inch round springform pan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease the pan.

Put almonds and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse to grind to a fine consistency.

Beat the egg whites with the salt and cream of tarter until they form stiff peaks.

Sprinkle the ground almonds and the grated lemon peel over the egg whites, a little bit at a time, folding them in gently but thoroughly. The whites may deflate a bit, but fold carefully so as to keep as much volume as possible.

When the almonds are nearly incorporated, gradually shake the flour through a strainer over the mixture, continuing to fold it in as you go. Stop as soon as all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Pour the batter into the pan, and gently spread it evenly around. Bake for 25-30 minutes Test the center of the cake by piercing it with a toothpick: if it comes out dry, the cake is done. If it does not, bake a little longer.

Let cool on a rack. After about 20 minutes, unlock the pan and loosen the cake from he bottom. Cool completely. Enjoy!

For an 8 or 9 inch pan, which is more standard, these are the proportions you should use:

10 oz., shelled, unpeeled almonds, about 2 cups
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
8 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter (optional)
zest of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons flour
Butter or oil for greasing the pan

9-inch springform pan

Follow the same directions for making the cake, but bake for 45-50 minutes.

Cooking For One: Single-Serving Frittata

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WEEKEND BRUNCH MENU: Zucchini-Shallot Frittata; Panzanella Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette;White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

My mom makes the best frittatas. As it turns out, it was the first dish she ever cooked for my dad. And while eggs are a sure way to any man’s heart, she must have done something very right with that particular frittata.

When I was growing up, the frittata was the only breakfast item that we consistently ate for dinner. It often made an appearance when there was some sort of miscommunication as to whether we would all be around on a given evening, or when my mother was too tired to make Shepherd’s Pie, run out for a beautiful piece of fish to sear, or think of something more involved that she wanted to make instead.

On nights like these, she’d get started sautéing onions in a heavy cast-iron skillet, add some slivered potatoes to the bottom of the pan, pour in the egg with any other fresh veggies or herbs she had on hand, and finish it off in the oven. Until I started eating frittatas out at restaurants, I was under the impression that the crusted potato bottom was an obligatory part of a classic frittata, and I was sorely disappointed at the variations I was given later in life, which, if they didn’t have enough crispy-brown melted cheese on top, would just taste like an single-layer overcooked omelet.

So frittatas and I tried our hand at a long-distance open relationship when I left for college. I started playing the field a little bit, working my way through a variety of omelets and scrambles, expertly fixed by Lefty, my dining hall’s one-armed egg man (short-order cook by day, Providence’s finest DJ by night). Eggs were really the only safe option at lunchtime, the line sometimes stretching all the way around the circular room. But at dinnertime, the university couldn’t really justify offering an omelet stand, and, anyway, Lefty had more important things to do around town. When night hit, I really found myself missing my frittata.


Fast forward four years—we’ll skip my return to breakfast-for-dinner monogamy when I moved back in with my parents—and let’s take a look at where frittatas and I stand today. I make a lot of them for company since my only oven-proof cast-iron pan is very large. But I still have days when I don’t want to share my frittata love with anyone else. For these low key occasions, when I want to pamper myself with something extra comforting and delicious, I’ve developed a method for single-serving stove-top frittatas that can be made in a small nonstick pan. In this latest version, I layer thin slices of zucchini in place of the old potato, slowly wait for the egg to set over low heat, and cover the pan with a plate so that the top begins to cook as well. When the bottom has set up nicely, I carefully flip the whole thing. The result is a very beautiful, zucchini-studded frittata, one that I will happily keep in my life, and enjoy all to myself.

From my kitchen, where spring frittata fever is back, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipe**


Zucchini-Shallot Frittata
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
You can easily triple this recipe and serve it to company. Use a cast iron pan and instead of flipping the frittata stovetop, finish it in a hot oven and then invert onto a plate to serve.
Ingredients
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack (or any mild white cheese)
Instructions
  1. In a small non-stick skillet, sauté the shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. When they begin to become tender, add the zucchini. Sauté the veggies until they are cooked through and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. With your spatula, spread the zucchini and shallots evenly across the base of the pan. Season the egg with salt and pepper and pour it over the veggies.
  2. Cook until the bottom of the frittata has set and the top is nearly cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, loosen the bottom of the pancake. Peel back one side, and tilt the pan so that the remaining uncooked egg slides to the open surface area. Using a second spatula, gently flip the frittata. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, and cover the pan with a plate to lock in the heat. Cook for another minute or so until the cheese is melted and the underside of the frittata has set. Slide the frittata onto a round plate and serve immediately.

 

Recipe Flash: Pulled Brisket Sandwiches

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BBQ DINNER MENU: Five Spice Pulled Brisket Sandwiches; Cilantro Slaw; Warm Blue Potato & Green Onion Salad; Chocolate Bark with Cinnamon-Coated Nuts and Cherries
When I made my Passover Brisket this year, I accidentally cooked it a little longer than usual. This wasn’t a disastrous mistake. It just meant that the meat ended up being too tender to slice into long, neat pieces. But when the filling of a sandwich, this tenderness is really something to strive for. Since the glop of stringy meat wouldn’t have looked so gorgeous alone on a plate next to someGreen Beans and Kugel, I decided to stuff it inside challah rolls (don’t worry, this was actually pre-passover), and serve it to friends. When the 4 pounds of meat disappeared even quicker than the sliced version from past years, I knew I was onto something.

Recently, I tried out the recipe again, this time giving the brisket sauce a sweet and spicy Asian kick with the use of some Chinese Five Spice Powder. I made sure to cook the brisket for an extra half hour so the texture would be perfectly tender and shredable, like Pulled Pork. Serve this piled on sandwiches with a little siracha and scallions, and you’ll be in brisket heaven.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipe**

Five Spice Pulled Brisket Sandwiches
Makes 8 servings

For this dish to be doable, you really need a stocked spice cabinet. Most below are staples of mine. The one wild card is the spice for which this dish is named: Chinese Five Spice Powder. Luckily, you can work around this by adding a little bit more of the other spices and adding a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix as well.

Ingredients
4 lbs brisket
6 garlic cloves, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
3 cups beef stock
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tsp salt
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves

8 onion or challah rolls
scallions, seperated into strands length-wise, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Using a paring knife, cut small incisions in the meat and shove the pieces of garlic into them. Do this until the meat is stuffed with garlic all over. Place the brisket in a rimmed baking dish (preferably metal) and brown it in the oven, about 10 minutes per side.

Remove the meat, and pour in the beef stock (NOTE: if you are using a pyrex dish, wait a few minutes for the pan to acclimate to room temperature so it does not shatter. For more on this, see my disaster here). Turn the oven down to 350 degrees, cover the dish with foil, and cook in the oven for 1 hour.

In the meantime, saute the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat until soft and caramelized, about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the meat from the oven, and add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Using a fork, whisk them all together with the beef stock. When the onions have finished cooking, arrange them on top of the meat. Cover the pan again with foil, and return it to the oven for 3 hours.

Remove the meat from the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board. Using a fork, pull the brisket apart into sinewy chunks. Return the meat to the sauce and serve, or store in the fridge over night–the brisket can be made a day or two in advance.

From My Mother’s Kitchen: Hot Raisin Bread

OTHER MOM-INSPIRED FAVORITES: Fried Noodles; Green Goddess Soup with Zucchini, Chard, and Cilantro; Seared Salmon with Green Sauce; Rich Chocolate Celebration Cake

My mom made us breakfast every single day while we were growing up, before we piled into the car and she dropped us off at school on her way to work. When I say I don’t understand people who don’t eat breakfast, I say this with the perspective of someone who ate scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, corn muffins, and hot raisin bread every morning, not just someone who ate, you know, a bowl of cereal. Later, in middle and high school, we did sometimes eat just cereal or yogurt and fruit, but even then there were occasions when we’d get the full breakfast treatment.

On one of these days late in high school, my mom made hot raisin bread. She took it out of the oven, I cut myself a wedge, and when I drove my fork down through the cinnamon-sugar crust on top into the biscuit-like interior, I remembered why this was always one of my favorites. It’s decadent in the way that Frosted Mini Wheats are decadent–a layer of sugar, in this case cinnamon-sugar and butter, bursts in your mouth, distinguishing the relative plainness of the inside. I was a junior or senior, and we had a field hockey game that afternoon against one of our rivals. The tradition was to dress up in funny outfits on game days, and I can only imagine what Phoebe and I and the rest of our teammates were wearing. Whether it was my breakfast or my outfit, I played one of my best games ever as forward, scoring a hat trick. Three goals. These days, that kind of athleticism feels like it belonged to another person completely.

Anyway, some other parent came up to my mom and was like, “What do you feed her for breakfast?!”

And my mom, I think, answered truthfully, “Well, it’s this dish called hot raisin bread.”

I wasn’t eating my Wheaties. I was eating my mom’s home-cooked food and apparently it did me better than that.

When I baked this recently, I ate it as an afternoon snack. The cinnamon-y scent filled my apartment. I cut a wedge, poured some some tea, and waited for something to happen. Sure I wasn’t playing hockey, but wouldn’t mom’s magic breakfast work in my Brooklyn apartment too? I did some work on the book, researched my summer vacation, and kept on waiting. And waiting. I haven’t found out yet if the Hat Trick Raisin Bread still makes me super athletic, but it definitely still tastes really good.

From my kitchen, where I’m wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day, to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipe**

Hot Raisin Bread
Makes 1 bread, serves 6-8

from Quickbreads by Beatrice Ojakangas

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted or soft
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine the flour, powder, salt, raisins, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the oil and milk and mix into a soft dough.
Transfer it to the baking sheet and pat the dough into a rough 8-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick.

Spread with the butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just golden. Cut into squares and serve hot–this doesn’t really weather well, so make it when you plan to eat.

Giveaway: Roasting Pan Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Mother’s Day Roasting Pan Giveaway courtesy of LeCreuset. We so loved reading about all of your favorite childhood dishes, and the love they continue to bring into your adult lives.

We chose a winner randomly from the list of commenters. Congrats to reader Laura!
Here’s what Laura had to say about her mother’s dish–we can’t wait to beg her for the recipe so we can make it ourselves:
My mom made the best stroganoff growing up, it was my favorite meal! Now I make it for my friends and myself all the time–it’s a huge hit with everyone. I’ve even experimented with it to make it healthier, but keep the amazing flavor. Thanks mom for your inspiration…and original recipe :)

Thank you again for all your heart-warming words about mom. It made us wish we had sat at each and every one of your family tables.

We’ll have more questions, and more exciting kitchen toys to give away, soon–so keep coming back for seconds! In the meantime, don’t forget that it’s not too late to order your mother a special batch of BGSK Blondies in support of pediatric cancer–please visit our Virtual Bake Sale before Sunday!

From our kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS