Archive for June 2006

Pasta with Shredded Beets

This is delicious, easy to make ahead, and beautiful. Even if the kids think they don’t like beets, they might like the strikingly pink noodles!
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (packed) peeled and coarsely grated uncooked beets (about 3 large beets)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
12 oz tagliatelle, fettucine, or other long pasta
8 oz sour cream (yogurt or goat cheese work, too)
6 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Melt butter with oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add the shredded beets and cayenne; reduce heat to medium-low and saute until beets are just tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. (At this point, you can set the beets aside till you’re ready to boil pasta for dinner)

Cook your pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender.

Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Stir in sour cream and 4 tbsp of parsley, then the beet mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowls, garnishing with remaining parsley and chopped walnuts.

Almond Shortcakes

I found this recipe in a recent Saveur, a magazine I’d about given up on. The writing was seeming pretentious, the recipes nothing I was interested in making… But these cookies are simple and delicious.

12 tbsp butter, softened

1/3 c sugar

zest of one orange

1 c flour

3/4 c ground, unblanched almonds

2/3 c toasted white bread crumbs

Beat butter and sugar until pale and well combined. Add orange zest and beat again briefly. Add flour, almonds, and bread crumbs and beat again until a soft dough forms (I did this all — from grinding the almonds and bread crumbs to mixing the dough– in the food processor).

Transfer dough to a piece of plastic, shape into a 3″-wide log, wrap with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 300. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Unwrap chilled dough and slice into 1/4″-thick circles. Arrange circles on baking sheets, about 1″ apart, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.
Serve with whipped cream and berries or nutella.

A Fancy Lemon Tart

Tony’s aunt and uncle have been staying with us, having stopped for a couple nights on their way up from Newport Beach (fancy) here (fancy, fancy). So I felt compelled to make them a little something special for dessert their first night. Normally, I would have researched a bit (ok, a lot) pulling four or five cookbooks off the shelf, comparing recipes, reading up on the techniques I’m unfamiliar with. But we’d only just gotten home from our (fabulous, wonderful) beach vacation, I was jetlagged and stressed out, and so I just went with the first recipe I found in The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook.

Honestly, I like the idea of this cookbook — written by a group of baker friends like Marion Cunningham, Flo Braker and Lindsey Shere — as much as the book itself. I like thinking of these men and women gathering occasionally to hold egg white workshops and ganache seminars. And I’m glad I don’t have to attend, just benefit from what they’ve discovered. And, when I’m in a rush to make a fancy dessert, in fact ignore that they’ve discovered room temperature egg whites make a fuller meringue. I’m not going for perfection here, just impressive. There’s a difference, and I succeeded. It looked beautiful, tasted great, and we had leftovers — what more do you want in a dessert, really?

I’ll give you the recipe as written, and note where I deviated…

Raspberry Lemon Meringue Tart

First make the pastry:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into small cubes (mine was straight from the fridge, so I nuked it for 20 seconds)
2 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature (or not)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 c all purpose flour

In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Break the egg into a small cup, beat it thoroughly with a fork, measure out 2 1/2 tbsp and discard the rest (I did do this, though the measurement was totally imprecise). Beat it into the butter with the vanilla and salt until just blended. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour all at once, beating in on low speed until the ingrediants are just moistened. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough out on to an unfloured work surface. Finish combining ingrediants by smearing small amounts away from you with a rubber scraper (this is a French technique called fraisage. I used a technique called less messy, by doing the smearing in the mixing bowl.)

Gather the dough up into a flat disk, about 1/2″ thick, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour. (You can prepare the dough a day ahead).

Now make the filling:

5 large egg yolks

1/3 c lemon juice (from 1 big lemon)

grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 c sugar

4 tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small cubes

1 c raspberries or blueberries

To make the filling, whisk together the yolks, lemon juice, zest, and sugar in the top of a double boiler or a small metal mixing bowl. Add the butter and place over simmering water to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon lightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface (poke a couple holes in the plastic to let the steam escape) and refrigerate until chilled, about an hour. This, too, can be prepared in advance.

Now back to the crust.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into an 11″ circle, about 1/8″ thick. Lift the dough and center it in a 9″ fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Ease the dough into the corners and press it gently into the pan. Trim the dough flush with the top of the pan. Prick the bottom well with a fork. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake the tart shell about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue baking until the pastry is golden brown, about 10 more minutes. If the dough bubbles up at any time, pierce the bubble with the tip of a fork. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool completely (or not).

Spread the lemon curd evenly in the tart shell. Sprinkle the berries on top and press them gently into the filling. Bake until the filling seems set when you gently shake the pan, 20 minutes or so.

While the filled tart is baking, make the meringue topping:

1/4c water

1 tbsp corn starch

1/2 c granulated or superfine sugar

1/2 tsp cream of tartar (didn’t use it, and didn’t notice a difference)

1/2 c egg whites (4-5) at room temperature

In a small saucepan, whisk together the water and corn starch and heat, whisking, until it forms a thick, opaque paste. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cream of tartar (if using). In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy with a hand mixer on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and start adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time until soft peaks form. Add the cooled cornstarch mixture and whip to form stiff, shiny peaks.

Heap the meringue onto the baked tart and return to the oven until meringue is lightly browned, 5-10 minutes.

Cool and serve.

Devil’s Food Cake

This is a fabulous cake. It’s light and yet still richly chocolatey.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 c sour cream or yogurt
1 c brown sugar
2 c flour
a bit of salt
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c white sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c water, at room temperature

3 8″ cake pans, or 2 9″ cake pans, buttered and the bottoms lined with parchment

Put the chopped chocolate, sour cream and brown sugar into a heavy saucepan and set over very low heat. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Sift the flour, salt, cocoa, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside.

Put the butter into a bowl and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the white sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Mix in the flour mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, alternately with the water. When thoroughly blended, work in the melted chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pans, then bake at 350 for 25 minutes (for 8″ cakes) or 30 minutes (for 9″ cakes). Let cool for 5 minutes, then invert on a wire rack, remove the parchment, and cool completely before frosting.

Tony used cream cheese frosting (because he knows how I feel about cream cheese frosting), but this is what the recipe calls for, which sounds pretty good, too:

Frosting & Filling
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
5 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 c sour cream

Melt chocolates together in top of a double boiler or in the microwave, then beat in the sour cream. Leave until very thick and spreadable.

Fried Egg Pasta

Tony and I found this recipe in the Sunday Times magazine a few years ago; the first time we made it, we realized halfway through that neither of us really knew how to fry eggs. A quick consult with Irma rectified that situation, and now this is a standard part of the dinner repertoire. It’s particularly quick if you happen to have roasted red peppers and capers in your pantry.

2 red bell peppers
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1/4 c finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp bread crumbs
1 lb spaghetti
5 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
grated parmesan

Roast the peppers, peel and slice into thin strips.
In a small baking dish, combine peppers, capers, garlic and parsley. Season with salt &pepper.; Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Set aside until you’re ready to finish the dish (ie, this can sit all day…)
Bring pasta water to boil and preheat oven to 350.
Drizzle pepper mixture with 2tbsp olive oil and bake 10 minutes, while pasta cooks.
While pasta’s boiling and pepper mixture is heating, fry 2 eggs, sunny side up, until whites are set but yolks are still runny.
Drain pasta and pour it into large serving bowl. Toss in baked peppers & eggs, using a couple forks to break up the egg.