Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups

Have you ever eaten kataifi? It’s a shredded phyllo dough that’s available frozen in Greek or specialty food stores. Admittedly, it’s not easy to find, so if you can’t locate it near you, use regular phyllo dough instead.

I’ve been wanting to cook with kataifi for a long time and I finally took the plunge when a friend let me pick figs from her tree. The tartlet is stuffed with an almond flavored pastry cream and I served these as dessert at a dinner we attended last night. You could also switch things up and make this a savory appetizer, using a whipped, herbed ricotta or goat cheese instead of the pastry cream.

Kataifi is really simple to use, but slightly messy. Don’t worry about trying to be neat, because they have a certain charm with their little tendrils sticking every which way. Push the dough down into the tartlet tin, then drizzle with melted butter and bake.

They come out a nice golden color and look like pale bird nests.

Before the tartlets went into the oven, I cut the figs in half, drizzled with a little honey and roasted them on parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes, letting the flavors intensify.

The dessert is a cinch to put together before serving. Just place a dollop of the cream into each tartlet and top with a roasted fig. Drizzle a little more honey over each tartlet. You can make everything ahead of time and assemble before serving.

They pop in the mouth like candy, and deliver a great combination of flavors and textures – crunchy and soft. You’ll want to make a big platter of these because they disappear in a flash, if last night’s dinner party was any indication. There were two lonely tartlets left on the platter that nobody had the courage to grab. But the hostess assured me she was going to enjoy them after we had all left.

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Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 box kataifi shredded phyllo
  • melted butter (quantity depends on how much phyllo you use)
  • 3.4 oz. box vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • fresh figs (quantity depends on how many tartlets you make)
  • honey to drizzle
Instructions
  1. Take kataifi from freezer and let thaw in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Bring to room temperature.
  3. Place the figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and drizzle with honey.
  4. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove figs from oven, and lower temperature to 375 degrees.
  6. While figs are roasting, start making the kataifi cups.
  7. Working with a small amount at a time, take kataifi in your fingers and press and swirl to fit into small tartlet tins.
  8. When you're not working with it, keep the rest of the kataifi under a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.
  9. Drizzle a little melted butter on each tartlet.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden.
  11. Remove from oven and let rest on paper towels.
  12. Make the pudding according to package directions, but add 1 teaspoon of almond extract.
  13. Whip the heavy cream and fold into the pudding mixture.
  14. Place a dollop of the cream mixture and a roasted fig atop each tartlet.
  15. Drizzle with a little honey and decorate with a mint leaf, if desired.
 

 

Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

Quick, before fresh corn is no longer available, you must try making this risotto with sweet corn and roasted cherry tomatoes. I know it sounds a little crazy to add carbs to carbs, but it really is a great combination of flavors and textures. The roasted cherry tomatoes on the side add another level of sweetness that you can’t stop eating. I debated whether to add the tomatoes directly into the risotto while cooking it, but decided I didn’t want a pink or red risotto. Besides, they look so pretty whole, clustered on the vine atop the dish.

I grilled the corn, not so much to cook it, but to get grill marks that look nice as garnish. It’s a step you can skip if you want, since the corn will be stripped off the cob and cooked with the rice. But if you’d like to dress up your finished dish, just smear the cob with a little butter and grill for a couple of minutes, on an outdoor grill, or a grill pan.

Strip the corn off the cob, setting aside some of the pieces that have the best grill marks on them. You’ll use them on the top of the finished dish.

Don’t throw out the cobs. Add them to the broth or cooking water. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, any little time simmering with the water helps to impart some flavor.

Meanwhile, drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the skins start to split open.

While the tomatoes are roasting, make the risotto. I’ve blogged about many different types of risottos before, so I won’t detail it here, except to say that you need the broth to be hot when adding it, ladleful by ladleful. Directions for this risotto are in the recipe below.

Serve with the roasted cherry tomatoes on top, and enjoy this taste of summer on a plate.

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Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • about 4 cups liquid - chicken broth, vegetable broth or a combination.
  • I used two cups chicken broth and two cups of water into which I placed the corn cobs and let simmer for a short while.
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 ears of corn, smeared with a little butter
  • 1 small bunch of cherry tomatoes on the vine, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • fresh thyme and chives, minced
  • fresh black pepper
Instructions
  1. Smear the corn with the butter and place on a grill or a grill pan.
  2. Sear the corn a couple of minutes until you get some grill marks.
  3. You can skip this step since the corn will cook in the risotto, but I like the look of the grilled corn as a finishing touch.
  4. Scrape the corn kernels off the cob, saving some of the large pieces with grill marks to use on top.
  5. Set the corn kernels aside, but place the cobs in the pot with the broth or water.
  6. Place the cherry tomatoes on an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  7. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes start to split open.
  8. Remove tomatoes from oven and set aside.
  9. While the tomatoes are in the oven, make the risotto.
  10. Melt the butter in a skillet with the olive oil.
  11. Add the minced onion and saute until softened.
  12. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes.
  13. Add the wine and stir, then add the broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly.
  14. When the risotto is about five minutes from being finished, add the corn kernels, setting aside the larger "planks" that you will use to garnish.
  15. Finish cooking the risotto with the corn addition, adding more liquid if necessary.
  16. Finally, add the black pepper to taste, the herbs, another tablespoon of butter and the parmesan cheese.
  17. Serve with the roasted tomatoes on top.
 

Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta

This dish has got to be my favorite thing that I made all summer. I know it’s a long blog post, and it involves making your own pasta, but the end result is worth it. If you want to eat something divine and be crowned with a halo from your family and friends, you have to make it. But — and this is a big but — only if you live in a place where corn and clams are in season right now. Don’t try this with canned corn or canned clams or I will get the “freshness police” after you. The pancetta is crucial too, but I know some of you may not have access to it. A decent substitute is slab bacon, but it will have a smoky taste, whereas pancetta does not. I’ll give you a pass and say you can use boxed pasta but ONLY if you don’t have a pasta machine. Otherwise, you must, must, must make your own pasta. I’ve made it different ways, from rolling it out by hand, to using the automated KitchenAid attachment, to using my nearly 50 years-old crank machine that you’ll see in the photos below. I’ve made plain pasta many times (tutorial here) and beet-flavored pasta too, but this was my first time making homemade spinach pasta and it was a game changer. What a toothy and delicious texture and flavor, not to mention the vibrant color. I made this dish earlier in the month with store bought pappardelle and everyone loved it, but that’s because they hadn’t yet eaten it with the homemade spinach pasta. Excuse me for tooting my own horn, but it’s no exaggeration to say the homemade pasta version was sublime, compared to just delicious with the store bought pasta. So I may be making spinach pasta on a regular basis. Or at least until my pants zipper gets harder to close. I know my husband won’t complain.

I used a 10-ounce box of frozen spinach. Don’t cook it. Just let it thaw on the counter, and squeeze the bejesus out of it. Using your hands, make sure you squeeze every bit of water from the spinach you can. Then press it between paper towels to get any other moisture out. Place the spinach in the food processor with the eggs and give it a whir. Look at that pretty green color.

Then add the flour and a pinch of salt until it forms a ball. (Your food processor is not going to be happy and will probably start “dancing” on the counter.) Stop it at this point and put it on the counter.

It will still be a bit sticky, so knead in more flour. Use 00 flour from Italy if you can find it (it’s easily available online.)

After a few minutes, it will develop a smoother texture. Cover it with a bowl, or in plastic wrap and let it sit for about a half hour, to let the glutens rest.

Then cut off a piece, squish it with the palm of your hands, flour both sides a little, and pass it through the pasta machine, starting with the largest opening and going down a few notches (but not to the thinnest. I stopped at two numbers before the last on the dial).

Then take the long piece of pasta, flour it a bit on both sides again, and pass it through the linguine cutter (or the smaller spaghetti size if you prefer.)

You could make “nests” with pasta and place them flat on linen or paper towels, or hang the pasta from clothes hangers, as my kitchen helper did for me. (Smile, you’re on Ciao Chow Linda!)

OK, now that the pasta making is out of the way, start on the sauce. Scrape the corn from the cobs, mince the garlic, pancetta and herbs and set aside while you prepare the clams. I used littleneck clams, the smallest available where I live. If this were Italy, I’d be using the even smaller vongole. If only!

After rinsing and scrubbing the clams, place them in a pan, turn the heat to high and cover.

If you don’t have a cover large enough, use another pan that’s the same size to cover the bottom pan.

Steam the clams in their own juices and remove immediately when they start to open. It will take only a minute or two once the pan is hot. The clams won’t be fully cooked and that’s fine. You’ll finish cooking them later. The reason to cook them partially is to open them up and pluck some of the clams out of the shell to mix with the pasta, and you also want to strain the liquid from the clams to use in the sauce. There was still a lot of sandy sediment, even after scrubbing the clams before cooking. Use a coffee filter, or a paper napkin on top of a sieve to strain out the sediment. I cooked the clams in two batches to give them enough room to open. Don’t worry that they’ll get cold. You’re going to heat them and cook them further with the pasta later.

After removing the clams, and straining the liquid, I used the same saucepan to cook the pancetta (you can see the splatter from the clams on the sides).

When the pancetta is nearly crispy, add the garlic and the clams (both the ones you plucked out of the shell and the ones in the shell.)  Cook for a minute or two to soften the garlic. Add the olive oil, the white wine, the reserved clam juice (it should be about 1/2 cup) and season with salt and pepper. I also added a tablespoon of butter (because butter always makes everything taste better.)

Meanwhile cook the pasta. If it’s freshly homemade, it won’t take longer than two or three minutes. Save about a cup of that pasta water before you drain the pasta.

After draining the pasta and getting rid of the water (except for that cup you saved), put the pasta back in the pot and dump all the clams, pancetta and raw corn into the pot. Mix everything really well, adding some of the pasta water, and a bit more olive oil to make sure you have a bit of  “sauce.”

It shouldn’t be drowning in the sauce, but just enough to moisten the pasta and keep it from sticking to itself. Add in the minced parsley and basil just before turning into a platter or bowl.

Serve immediately and receive your kudos. This recipe makes enough for four to six people, depending on appetites. My husband and I each had two servings, and the family of three living next door to us were happy to consume the rest.

Buon Appetito!

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Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 people
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 3-4 dozen clams
  • ¼ pound pancetta, cut into small bits
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup reserved clam juice
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, stripped off the cob
  • pasta water
  • black pepper
  • a generous handful of minced parsley
  • a generous handful of minced basil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Drain the spinach thoroughly, squeezing out all the water you can with your hands.
  3. Then press it with paper towels to get out any remaining water.
  4. Place the spinach and the two eggs into the food processor to break down the spinach.
  5. Start adding the flour.
  6. You may need as little as a cup and a quarter of flour.
  7. It's easy to add more flour later, but much harder to work the dough if you place too much flour into the food processor.
  8. Add just enough flour and process until the dough comes together into a ball.
  9. It will be sticky.
  10. Place the dough onto a wooden work surface, add more flour until the stickiness disappears and the dough seems more "homogenized" and softer.
  11. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a bowl and let it sit for at least ½ hour.
  12. FOR THE SAUCE:
  13. Place the clams in one layer a pan over high heat and cover.
  14. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the clams have opened.
  15. Once open, set aside on a plate and repeat with remaining clams, draining the liquid from the clams.
  16. Strain the liquid from the clams to remove any sediment.
  17. Remove half the clams from the shells but leave the rest in the shell.
  18. Set the clams aside and the liquid aside.
  19. In the same pan, saute the pancetta until nearly crisp.
  20. Add the garlic and cook until softened.
  21. Place the clams (the ones in the shell and the ones out of the shell) in the pan and add the white wine, butter, olive oil, clam juice and black pepper.
  22. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, but reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
  23. Put the pasta back into the large pot and dump the clams and pancetta over the pasta, adding the raw corn as well.
  24. Add the parsley and basil and mix all together.
  25. If it seems too dry, add some of the pasta water and swirl around a bit more.
  26. If the liquid seems too thin, add a bit more butter or olive oil.
  27. Serve immediately,.
 

Cherry Almond Skillet Cake

Quick, before cherries are still in season (not much longer here in the northeastern U.S.), run out and buy some to make this cake. It’s easy to put together, assuming you don’t mind spending 10 minutes pitting cherries.

Maybe you already own a cherry pitter, and in that case, go ahead and use it. But you don’t need one. I owned one many moons ago, given to me by my son after he spent a week helping a friend’s grandmother harvest and pit cherries from her orchard in upstate New York. But I didn’t use it often, so I gave it away. Now when I pit cherries, I just use the “smush-them-under-a-can” method. Just make sure you have a flat surface you don’t mind getting soiled, and place a cherry on the surface. Press down with a can (I used a can of baked beans) but don’t bang on it, or you’ll get juice splattered all over you too. Lift the can and remove the stem and the pit with your hands. The cherry will come apart in two pieces with a little tug. You’ll want it to come apart in two pieces for this recipe, because if left whole, they’re heavier and more likely to sink to the bottom of the cake.

This recipe comes to you via fellow blogger and friend, Stacey, who made it with pistachios instead of almonds. I love pistachios but had more almonds in the house, so decided to use them both times I made it this week (yes, I made it both Monday and Tuesday!). I ramped up the almond flavor a little with more almond extract, but you can use vanilla extract if you prefer. After you’ve spread the batter in the skillet, lightly press the cherry halves into the batter, and sprinkle with the almonds.

Let it cool slightly, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

It’s got a delicious almond flavor and a very tender crumb, punctuated with those delicious cherries.

As one of my grandsons said as I was serving the cake earlier this week – “I want a grandpop-size slice.” After trying this cake, I think you will too.

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Cherry Almond Skillet Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of almond flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (I USED ½ TSP.)
  • 1 cup sugar (I USED ¾ CUP)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice)
  • ½ tsp almond extract (I USED 1 TEASPOON)
  • 1 pound cherries, pitted (I USED ABOUT 2 DOZEN CHERRIES, PITTED AND CUT IN HALF)
  • slivered almonds to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10" cast iron skillet (You could use a cake pan too.)
  2. Cream together the butter, extract, lemon zest, sugar and egg until nice and light.
  3. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and almond flour.
  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and dot with the cherries, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter.
  6. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream, or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.
 

 

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Here’s another one of those no-cook recipes when the summer heat has you fleeing your stove. It also is timely for those of you gardeners who have more an abundance of cucumbers. I’m not growing any in my small plot, but my niece Keri gave me a couple from her garden, and I think I put them to good use in this recipe, from Melissa Clark of The New York Times.

You’ll note there are anchovies in the recipe and they are listed as optional. But DON’T leave them out, even if you hate anchovies (are you listening, Marie?) You absolutely cannot taste them in this recipe, but I guarantee you, the soup won’t be as flavorful without them. Cucumbers are so mild that this soup needs the jalapeño, the herbs, the garlic, the vinegar and yes, the anchovies, to give it the umph it needs, lest it turn out as a bland bowl of puréed cucumbers. Trust me on this one, please. And don’t leave out the corn garnish. The extra texture and taste really lends it a nice finishing touch.

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Chilled Cucumber Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I USED 1½ cups plain yogurt plus ¼ cup water)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro - I USED DILL AND PARSLEY)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt.
  2. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Let the soup sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours to blend all the flavors.
  4. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil.
 

Shrimp and Corn Salad

Corn is at its peak right now where I live so it was a perfect time to make this delicious salad, using shrimp caught wild in the U.S.  I tried duplicating this dish at home that I ate last week at a new restaurant in town and I think I got pretty close. The weather’s been a scorcher too, so something cold for dinner just felt right. The corn is scraped off the cobs and eaten raw, and I didn’t even have to cook the shrimp since my fish market sold it already cooked. Just toss everything together in a bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, some herbs and seasonings.

The recipe makes enough for four people with normal appetites (or two ravenous adults) so I had enough for myself and to take to a friend who’s been diagnosed with a serious health problem, and her partner.

If you’re in the Princeton, N.J., please do stop by the restaurant for either breakfast or lunch – The Blue Bears. Not only did I love my meal, but the restaurant’s mission also captured my heart – “to sell diverse, freshly made meals everyday and to provide sustainable and meaningful jobs for adults with intellectual and development disabilities.”

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Shrimp and Corn Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ pound boiled shrimp, chilled
  • 2 ears of corn, raw and stripped of the kernels
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 stalks of celery, minced
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.
  2. Place all ingredients, including shrimp in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until everything is combined.
  3. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to help blend flavors.
  4. Serve over lettuce.
 

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms

 

Who would have thought you could stuff and fry sage leaves? Not I, until a few months ago, when I ate them at a restaurant in London. Since then, I’ve been counting the days until the leaves on our sage plants were large enough to pick. With the plants now at their peak, the timing was perfect. They’re so easy to make, it’s not really much of a recipe, but I’ll take you through the steps.

First, smush some anchovies over  one leaf.  Please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies – this is so darn delicious and addictive it will make you a convert.

Then cover with another leaf of the same size and press down hard.

Hold the sage leaf “sandwich” by the stem and swipe each side of the leaf in a batter. The batter is made with only flour and sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my water of choice). There’s no need for baking powder or eggs. Just mix the flour and water until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter.

Have some vegetable oil heating in a skillet while you prepare the leaves, then when it’s good and hot, place the leaves carefully into the hot oil. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and do the same with the other side of the leaf.

While I was at it, I also stuffed and fried some zucchini blossoms I got from my son and daughter-in-law’s garden. I posted the “recipe” online way back in the early months of this blog, more than a decade ago. But why not repeat it now since you may have access to some of these lovely, edible flowers. It’s best to pick them first thing in the morning, when the blossoms are wide open and you can pull out the stamen (and any critters that may be inside).

Cut a piece of mozzarella cheese and push it down into the center of the flower, along with a small piece of anchovy. Press the flower shut and twist it a little near the end of the flower. It won’t be completely sealed, but don’t worry because after you dip it into the batter (the same one you use for the sage leaves), the batter will form a seal and keep the stuffing from oozing out.

Fry in some hot, deep vegetable oil, turning once, until they’re golden all around.

Dig In. These are so crunchy and delicious, it’s a good thing we didn’t pick more sage leaves or blossoms, or we’d have eaten ourselves sick!

For other ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms, click here.

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Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • sage leaves
  • anchovies (salted, in oil)
  • zucchini blossoms
  • mozzarella cheese
  • flour
  • sparkling water
  • a pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. BATTER:
  2. Just mix enough flour and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that’s the consistency of pancake batter. It’s best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother.
  3. FOR THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS:
  4. Pull the stamen from the inside of the zucchini blossoms.
  5. Cut a piece of mozzarella into a small strip and place it inside the zucchini blossom, along with a salted anchovy.
  6. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil.
  7. FOR THE SAGE LEAVES:
  8. Smush some anchovies onto one side of a sage leaf.
  9. Cover with a sage leaf of a similar size and press down.
  10. Holding the leaves by the stem, swish it in the batter, covering both sides of the leaves.
  11. Fry in hot, deep oil.
 

Swordfish alla Bagnarese

My kitchen shelves are bursting with cookbooks, many of which seldom get used after the initial purchase. Are you like me, in falling back on dishes you’ve made over and over again, rather than trying some of those recipes in those forgotten cookbooks? I have a new resolve to open those cookbooks more often, since there is such a wealth of good recipes still to be explored. I have loved Rosetta Costantino’s “My Calabria” since it first came out several years ago, especially since my father’s family is from Calabria. I’ve probably made only about three or four of the recipes from this book, but there are dozens I still want to try. I recently made this swordfish recipe from Rosetta’s book for the first time, and I know it’s going to be one of those that I’ll make over and over again. It’s easy, it’s quick to cook, it’s healthy and it’s delicious.

The hardest part is finding a heatproof shallow bowl that’s just big enough for your swordfish piece and a lidded pot that can hold the bowl. My swordfish weighed a little less than one pound, enough for the two of us. For larger amounts, it might be tricky to find appropriate size container, but I’ve got another solution below. Season with salt and pepper, then add the shaved garlic, a little olive oil, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil, then place it the bowl inside a larger saucepan with water that comes up halfway on the outside of the bowl. Place a lid on the saucepan and turn the heat up fairly high. It will need to cook anywhere from 8 minutes to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Remove the foil and check to see if the fish is cooked through. If too much water has gathered in the bowl, drain some off and add another drizzle of olive oil and some fresh parsley. I like extra lemon squirted over it too.

OK, if you’re still with me and want to make more than two portions, make this recipe using parchment paper and your oven. I placed the swordfish on a piece of parchment paper resting on a cookie tin, then added all the rest of the ingredients (actually I had fresh garlic scapes so I used those instead of garlic slivers.) I also added a couple of slices of fresh lemon in addition to the lemon juice.

Close the parchment package, crimping all along the edges. I should state that the parchment paper should be cut to a kind of heart shape that’s a lot bigger than the fish. You’ll place the fish on one half of the heart shape.

I wasn’t sure how long to roast it (my fish was about 3/4 inch thick), but I cooked it for 15 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. It was perfect. I suspect that 12 minutes might work for thinner cuts, and because of the liquids surrounding the fish, it stayed beautifully moist.

Sprinkle with more fresh herbs before serving to give it a “greener” look.

Serve with rice or potatoes to scoop up those delicious liquids from the fish, and a green vegetable of your choice for a low-cal, but delicious meal.

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swordfish
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 skinless fresh swordfish steaks, about ⅜ inch thick and 5 to 6 ounces each
  • (I made it with one swordfish steak that was about ¾ inch thick and weighed slightly less than a pound.)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large garlic cove, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used more)
Instructions
  1. Season the swordfish on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Using the 1 tablespoon olive oil, coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the swordfish.
  3. Put the swordfish in the baking dish and scatter the garlic around it.
  4. Sprinkle the surface of the fish with capers and parsley.
  5. Spoon the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water over the fish.
  6. Cover the baking dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
  7. Choose a large roasting pan or other deep pan that can take stovetop heat and accommodate the baking dish.
  8. Set the pan on a burner and put the baking dish in it.
  9. In a separate pan or teakettle bring several cups of water to a boil for pouring into the roasting pan.
  10. Turn the heat to high under the roasting pan and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  11. After the water returns to a boil, cook the fish for 8 minutes (It took closer to 14 minutes to cook my fish, but it was thicker than Rosetta's.)
  12. Uncover and check for doneness; the fish should be cooked through but still moist and surrounded with flavorful juices.
  13. Taste the juices and add more salt if necessary.
  14. Serve the swordfish in shallow bowls, spooning the garlicky broth over the fish.
  15. Drizzle each portion with additional olive oil.
 

 

Chocolate-Filled Paris Brest

Have you eaten a Paris Brest? It’s a delectable cream puff pastry commemorating a bicycle race that took place in 1891 between Paris and Brest, a city in Northwest France (hence the circular shape.) I ate individual ones recently at a great bakery not in Paris, but in Prague, Czech Republic. (shout out to Pekárna Nostress Bakery on Vezenská 8, Prague – a place that became a daily obsession.) One was made with a vanilla pastry cream and berries, the other with the traditional praline filling. Both were sensational.

I knew I had to make this dessert for my book group, who met this week for a French dinner and discussion of “Babette’s Feast” (actually a short story) by Isak Dineson. I wanted to make it filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, but since I seem to have missed strawberry season in New Jersey, I decided on this chocolate and whipped cream version by well-known French chef Jacques Pepin. Like all his recipes, this one did not disappoint, although it is a bit tricky to make if you’re a novice in the kitchen. I’ll take you through the various steps.

First you have to make the pate a choux – or cream puff pastry. You cook the milk, flour and butter until it starts to pull away from the pan. It’s kind of hard to keep stirring because it really gets dry and lumpy. But that’s ok. It will smooth out later in the food processor.

Let it cool for 1/2 hour, then break it into bits and put it in the food processor and add the eggs one at a time. The recipe says to whir it for about 20 to 30 seconds, but that wasn’t long enough to attain a smooth dough. I’m sure I processed it for at least a couple of minutes.

Here’s what it looked like after the eggs were incorporated. It’s a very smooth, sticky dough.

Next you’ll want to pipe it, using a piping bag. I always fill the bag after placing it into a tall glass. It’s much easier than trying to hold it in one hand, while filling with the other.

I didn’t even use a piping tip. You don’t need one. Just cut a hole at the bottom of the bag that’s about 3/4 inch wide in circumference.

Pipe a circle onto the silicone mat about 8 inches in diameter, as shown below. You can use parchment paper if you don’t have a silicone mat. Then pipe another circle inside the first one, and a third circle on the top of the first two (sorry I forgot to take a photo of all three circles).

Before you pipe the second circle and the third circle, press the filling in the bag toward the tip so it doesn’t squirt out the top. The recipe makes EXACTLY the right amount of dough with no extra, so if you lose some out the top, you’ll come up short when piping the circles.

Brush the circles with beaten egg, then sprinkle slivered almonds over everything. Brush off the excess almonds.

While the dough is baking, make the chocolate filling. No need to buy expensive chocolate. Hershey’s Special Dark works great, and came out number one in a blind taste-testing on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago. It’s what I always use in baking. Whip the cream and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Here’s what the ring looks like right out of the oven. It rose a bit, but isn’t as huge as you’d expect. But that’s ok because the filling increases the height at least double!

Slice it in half and separate the two halves.

Here’s a great tip from Jacques Pepin to avoid a mess when you serve it. Take the top part and slice it into 8 to 10 pieces. Keep them in order for when you assemble, and they will give you a good guide when slicing through with a knife, without crushing your beautiful concoction.

Spread the chocolate filling evenly over the ring.

Then pipe the whipped cream over the chocolate (or just spread it with a spoon but the piping does give it a more polished look).

Place the sliced top pieces over the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

All that’s left to do is to serve it and eat it. Best served within two or three hours of making it, but be prepared for no leftovers.

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Paris Brest
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 people
Ingredients
  • DOUGH
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • CHOCOLATE CREAM
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • GARNISH
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. FOR THE DOUGH: Combine the milk, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the flour in one stroke, and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Then place back over the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 to 20 seconds, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
  5. Transfer the dough to a food processor and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  7. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg for use as a glaze.
  8. Pour the remaining eggs into the processor bowl and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the eggs are well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  9. Line a cookie sheet with a nonstick baking mat, or use a nonstick cookie sheet.
  10. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a ¾-inch plain tip.
  11. Pipe a ring with an outside circumference of 8 to 8½ inches on the cookie sheet.
  12. Pipe another circle of dough inside and another on top of the rings until you have used all the dough and have a circle that is 1½ to 1¾ inches high with a hole in the center that measures about 5 inches across.
  13. Do not start and end the dough circles in the same spot, since this can cause the pastry to open at the seam during baking.
  14. Brush the dough with the reserved tablespoon of egg.
  15. Using a fork, mark the surface and sides of the dough, running the tines of the fork gently around the circle to create a crosshatch effect.
  16. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for 20 minutes.
  17. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes, or until browned. (If the pastry begins to brown excessively, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.)
  18. Turn the oven off and let the pastry remain in the oven for 30 minutes with the door partially open to evaporate some of the moisture.
  19. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before removing from the cookie
  20. sheet.
  21. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CREAM: Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  22. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a bowl, mixing them with a whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the 1½ tablespoons flour and mix it in with the whisk.
  23. Pour the boiling milk in on top of the egg yolk mixture and mix it in well with a whisk.
  24. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil, mixing constantly with the whisk.
  25. Boil for about 10 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate.
  26. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and is incorporated into the pastry cream.
  27. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
  28. FOR THE GARNISH: Whip the cream, rum, and sugar in a bowl until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  29. TO FINISH THE CAKE: Use a sharp knife to remove a ½-inch-thick horizontal slice, or “lid,” from the top; set it aside.
  30. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate cream in the bottom of the pastry round, pushing it gently into the cavities of the pastry.
  31. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip, and pipe the cream on top of the chocolate cream. It should come at least 1 inch above the rim of the cake.
  32. Cut the pastry lid into 8 to 10 equal pieces, and reassemble them in order on top of the pastry to make it easy to cut into portions.
  33. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar.
  34. (The pastry can be assembled a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)
  35. At serving time, using the separations on the lid as guides, cut through the bottom half of the pastry, and arrange on individual dessert plates.
 

Eggplant and Potato Crostata

My friend Lilli made this beautiful concoction recently, when the Italian chit-chat group convened at my house a few weeks ago. We generally serve both savory and sweet things at our weekly gatherings, and Lilli helped me by preparing this delicious eggplant and potato crostata. Lilli, who hails from Salerno, is one of my dearest friends, and a sensational cook. This recipe however, is from Giallo Zafferano, an Italian site that features so many wonderful recipes, but they’re all in Italian. I’ve translated the amounts from metric, for those of you in the U.S.  It would make a great appetizer if you’re having company, or even a main course, with a salad on the side. I hope you try it.

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Eggplant and Potato Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • one pastry shell, ready made or homemade
  • 1½ cups (400 grams)potatoes
  • 1¾ cups (350 grams) eggplant
  • 1 cup (100 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (200 grams) Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper,
  • one egg yolk (for brushing on top)
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggplants (not too thinly), and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Let them rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry the eggplants with paper towels, then cut in half.
  4. Fry the eggplant in oil, draining well on paper towels.
  5. Wash the potatoes well, and boil them for about 20 minutes, with their skins on.
  6. Test for doneness, and when they can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from the water and let them cool, then peel them.
  7. Chop the potatoes roughly.
  8. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces.
  9. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.
  10. To the eggs add the potatoes, the mozzarella and the eggplant.
  11. Line a tart pan with the pastry, letting some hang over the edge.
  12. Fill the tart pan evenly with the eggplant and potato filling.
  13. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling and brush with beaten egg yolk.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  15. Serve hot or at room temperature.