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Once again, the year-ending holiday overeating season is upon us. Brisk, chilly weather tends to make us think of rib-sticking edibles, but even so, when one festive dinner party follows another within a day or two, it can be a kindness to guests – and to herself – if a hostess includes one fairly light dish in a multi-course menu.

I have a few of those in my repertoire, and I’ve just added an interesting new one, an appropriate appetizer course for fall or winter. It’s from Alfred Portale’s book Simple Pleasures, and the recipe’s full name is Shaved Fennel, Green Apple, and Pecorino Romano Salad. The dish is indeed simple in composition: for four portions, two Granny Smith apples, two medium fennel bulbs, a lemon, and pecorino Romano cheese. (Here, I used a young pecorino Sardo.)
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However, preparing the ingredients is another story. Portale almost literally means “shaved” to apply to them all, which can be a problem to do without a specialized cutter. Here’s the book’s picture of the dish:
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See how thin the slices are? Tom is a willing and very experienced knife man, but I’d never ask him to try cutting apples and fennel that thin by hand. He’d lose either a finger or his mind.

Happily, I have a neat little vertical mandoline slicer that’s a godsend for this kind of job. I’ve sung its praises here before. It works like a tiny guillotine, and your fingers never come anywhere near the wickedly sharp blade. I forgot to take a photo of it slicing the apples and fennel, but here’s a picture from the earlier use:
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I put all the slices into a big bowl and used a microplane to grate in the zest of a lemon. With a vegetable peeler, I added a flurry of pecorino flakes, and stirred it all together, along with a big dose of a good Sorrento extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground Tellicherry pepper.
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It all came to a huge amount of salad stuff! When I chose the recipe, it hadn’t seemed as if half an apple and half a fennel bulb per person would be too much for an appetizer course, but cut that thin, they seemed to make a bushelful. I put the bowl in the refrigerator until dinnertime, then served out moderate portions, topping each plateful with more of the olive oil and some chopped feathery fennel fronds.
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It made a pretty plate, and a very tasty dish too. This was an inspired combination: crisp, tart green apple, crunchy, anisey fennel, and smooth, sharp cheese, all “married” together by the light, fruity olive oil and tangy lemon zest. We managed to eat quite a lot of it.

 

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I’ve sung the praises of bread pudding several times in this blog – its goodness, simplicity, and adaptability. As a frequent bread baker, I often have a few-days-old loaf available for a pudding, and fresh fruit for a filling – apples, peaches, pears, bananas. For a change this time, I tried a variant new to me: chocolate.

I couldn’t find a recipe I liked in any of my cookbooks, but the ever-obliging Google offered many choices. I picked the one from the King Arthur Baking Company website, both because King Arthur is a resource I trust and because its recipe was the only one that specified dark chocolate. Yum!

I love making bread pudding because it’s so easy. The ingredients do require a bit of preparation, but the only tools you need are a knife, a spoon, and a whisk.

Here are the ingredients for one-third of the recipe. Clockwise from the bread cubes, there’s milk, eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder, chopped chocolate from an extra-dark Venchi bar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract.
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The first thing to do was butter my smallest soufflé pan, dump in the bread and mix it with half the chopped chocolate.
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Next, in a small pot I put half the milk, the rest of the chocolate, the cocoa and the sugar, and stirred it over low heat until the chocolate melted and the cocoa and sugar dissolved.
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Then the liquid chocolate had to be poured into a larger bowl and have the rest of the milk, the eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt whisked in, creating a custard base.
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I poured that over the bread and chocolate in the soufflé pan, stirred it about, and left the dish on the kitchen counter for half an hour, so the bread could absorb the liquid.

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My pudding baked in a 325-degree oven for an hour, until the custard part of it had firmed. (When testing for doneness with a skewer, I had to avoid the little patches of semi-melted chocolate chunks.) Then it needed to rest for a while to fully set – which was fine, because that cooled it just enough to be ready to eat at the end of our dinner.
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It was a great dessert – not heavy but rich; not sugary-sweet but deeply, intensely chocolaty. The bread had practically turned into chocolate cake, lightly cloaked in velvety custard. The recipe suggested serving the pudding with whipped cream, ice cream, or confectioners’ sugar, but we were perfectly happy with it just as it was.
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Once again, I’ve been tempted to try a recipe I saw in the New York Times. Owing to problems I’ve had with the newspaper’s culinary offerings, I mostly avoid them. But I was intrigued by this concept of cut-up chicken roasted on a bed of apples, bulb fennel, and onions. Interesting combination: would it work?

Not to keep you in suspense, it did – beautifully. But only after substantial adaptations to the recipe.

A friend would be coming to dinner the evening I decided to try the dish. Just in case it wasn’t going to work, I made sure to have enough other good things to eat at the meal. With aperitifs, I set out some mortadella rolls (wrapped around roasted red pepper strips and cornichons) and a spicy chipotle crabmeat spread (purchased) to heap on baguette toast rounds.
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For a first course at the table, I made an old favorite, mozzarella in carozza. It’s slices of bread and mozzarella, separately dipped in egg beaten with grated parmigiano, then clapped together and fried in olive oil. Delicious, and quite filling. Tom makes a nice little anchovy-and-cream sauce for it.
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The main course, and star of the show – I hoped! – would be the chicken. Let me back up now and describe the recipe as it was given in the “Here to Help” section of the newspaper, and the dish as I actually made it.

For 4 to 6 servings, the recipe called for 2½ to 3 pounds of chicken thighs. That seemed reasonable, so I’d bought half that amount for 3 of us. But quantities of the other main ingredients were ridiculously stingy. Imagine, to feed 6 people:

  • 1½ cups of thinly sliced onions – that’s 2 ounces per person or about 3 tablespoons after roasting
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced fennel – less than 1½ ounces per person
  • 1 thickly sliced apple – about 2 slices per person

That would be more like a modest condiment than a full-plate vegetable accompaniment. Even for my half quantity of chicken, I doubled the full-recipe quantities of these three ingredients.

There was one interesting seasoning: toasted and ground fennel seeds. I toasted 2 teaspoons of them in a tiny, dry cast-iron frying pan, then ground them in mortar and pestle. I’d never done that with fennel seeds before, and this aromatic little trick may turn out to have other uses.

I tossed half of the toasted fennel with the chicken thighs, along with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil, and the rest with the sliced fennel, onion, and apple, along with salt and more olive oil. (I used more fennel seed and olive oil than the recipe wanted: no surprise there.)

In late afternoon, I spread the vegetables on a sheet pan, laid on the thighs, and topped each with a little sprig of rosemary.
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Covered with foil, the pan sat peacefully on the kitchen counter until cooking time, when it was to go into a 425-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. All three of us had looked at that instruction and said No way! Indeed, after 30 minutes the chicken was barely colored, and the vegetables were still totally hard.

We all trooped back to the table and continued enjoying our mozzarella in carozza and glasses of white wine for an additional 20 minutes, when we checked again and declared the dish done.
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It was splendid. I was charmed by the way the flavors made a virtual culinary concerto. With the chicken as the lead instrument, I imagined the tangy Mutsu apple as a violin, the tenderly spicy fennel as an oboe, and the smoothly understated onion as a cello. I’ll admit that my table companions weren’t as rhapsodical about the dish as I was, but they agreed it was very good. And we had no trouble getting through most of the apple, fennel, and onion.

For dessert, I’d made another old favorite: a polenta berry cake. It was very good too.

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I’ve done very little sheet-pan cooking, but I can see how its ease and simplicity make it a versatile approach for either family or company dinners. Clearly, if you hit upon an inspired combination of flavors, you have a real winner.

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“You have to have grown up in Jersey City to understand veal and peppers.” So says my husband, semiseriously (I think!) – who did and does. Heaps of ripe peppers on our favorite Greenmarket farmstand this week reminded Tom that it had been a while since he’d made his long-loved Italian-American dish for us. There was no objection from me!
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Normally, the meat he uses is veal shoulder. In the freezer we had two pounds of boneless veal breast: extras trimmed off a large piece that I’d recently stuffed and roasted for a small dinner party. Would those do? The answer was yes.

“I never knew what cut they used for veal and peppers at the stevedores’ bar where I always ate lunch, that summer when I worked the loading platforms in Port Newark, but it was always delicious. I see no reason our veal breast shouldn’t do just as well.”
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The thin slabs of meat had a large amount of fat, fell, and connective tissue. In long roasting, such excrescences soften or melt on their own. Here, they’d have to be painstakingly stripped away. But Tom has admirable patience for close, delicate work like this, and he managed to produce a bit more than a pound of relatively clean strips of veal.
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He set the pieces to brown in a pan with olive oil, softened some chopped onion with it for five minutes, then added fresh sage leaves, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
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After stirring everything together for a few minutes he poured in a cup of his homemade mixed-meat-and-vegetable broth and a generous quarter cup of red wine. At that point he’d usually add a few tablespoons of tomato sauce too, but this day he decided to substitute a chopped San Marzano plum tomato, since we had some nice ripe ones on hand.
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Covered, the pan simmered for about two hours. I was deputized to stir it occasionally, to make sure it wasn’t cooking too fast or not at all. Meanwhile, Tom cleaned and cut up three big frying peppers. He likes red ones when they’re available, because they’re sweeter and less acidic than the greens. But greens can be OK too.

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Once the peppers were in the pan, it had a final half hour of simmering and sending out tantalizing aromas. By then, both the veal and the peppers were meltingly tender, and our dinner was ready.
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The only other thing we needed at the table was a big crusty loaf of bread, to sop up the delicious sauce. And wine, of course: Tom chose a 2020 Lacrima Christi from Mastroberardino, the red version rather than the white, for parallel-to-the-peppers reasons: The soft fruit of the red Piedirosso grapes would match the dish better than the acidity of white grapes would have – though he admits that on another day, or if he had used more green peppers, his choice might have gone the other way. “Both wines, red and white, are great with simple, savory dishes like veal and peppers,” he says.

The evening’s dish, by the way, was great, and we did full justice to it. The delicate flavors of the veal and the vegetal sweetness of the peppers came together beautifully from their long simmering in broth, tomato, and red wine. I – who didn’t grow up in New Jersey – was just as happy with it as Tom was.

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Just enough left for a hero sandwich for the next day’s lunch

 

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In my younger, overweight years, when I obsessively counted calories, I considered avocados temptations of the devil, a dietary death trap. Might as well eat a stick of butter, I’d say to myself. Not true, of course. Avocados are rich with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Even knowing that now, enjoying a luscious avocado still feels sneakily sinful.

I do it, though. Mostly as guacamole, or in nachos, from recipes in my Mexican cookbooks. This week I tried something different from an unlikely source: Elizabeth Schneider’s Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. Unlikely because avocados are not a vegetable but a fruit (botanically, actually a berry), but in the culinary context they do occupy much the same ecological niche as vegetables.

Schneider presents her avocado “mayonnaise” enthusiastically:

A satiny sauce, the color of pistachio cream, to dress chilled salmon, shrimp, or white fish fillets. Or spoon dollops over asparagus, snap beans, or even corn on the cob – messy but yummy. Or garnish chilled soups with the pretty topping. . . . Scoop into a pita and add sprouts. Offer as a dip on a vegetable platter.

All that sounded great, so I put together the ingredients for a small batch. In the rear of the photo below, half a cup of buttermilk, sugar, lime juice, and salt; in front, an avocado (a little squished because it didn’t want to let go of its pit), a scallion (my substitution for chives), and a few leaves of basil.
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I chunked the avocado, minced the herbs, and stirred sugar, salt, and pepper into two tablespoons of lime juice.
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All the ingredients were to be pureed in a food processor, which was something of a problem in this case. My mini food processor was too small to handle that quantity, and my full-size processor would have merely pasted the ingredients around the sides of the bowl. I settled for a blender. Even that needed a lot of persuasion to produce a puree, but eventually it did.
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Its taste was interesting. While the basil and scallion weren’t really noticeable, the sweet acidity of the lime juice and the light sourness of the buttermilk had given an intriguing tang to the rich, buttery avocado flesh. The texture was indeed mayonnaise-y. I was eager to see how it would work with different foods.
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My first experiment was to smear dollops of avocado mayonnaise onto corn on the cob.

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Messy to eat it certainly was – especially for Tom, a man with a mustache: a few bites and he looked rabid. Yummy? I’d have to say, not so much. That is, the fresh, sweet corn was excellent in itself, and the avocado sauce was – just itself. The two components didn’t say much to each other; in a way, they clashed a bit.

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Still hopeful, the next day I tried the sauce with a few chilled, boiled shrimp for a small appetizer.

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That was a much better marriage of flavors. The shrimps sort of blossomed under the sauce, rather than just coexisting with it, as the corn did. I could see enjoying this combination again some time.

Still, this sauce isn’t a condiment I’d want often: from what I’ve seen so far, the insistence of its presence tries to override whatever else it’s served with. Avocado is delicious in itself, and it welcomes the strong, spicy flavors of Latin American cooking. I could probably be content staying with treats of that kind.

But Elizabeth Schneider has planted a seed, and other possible uses for her mayonnaise keep popping into my head. I wonder if that tree where Eve met the serpent might not have been an apple but an avocado.

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I’m away on a non-cooking vacation just now and wanted to leave something to amuse my readers while I’m gone. Friends have told me that sometimes my posts about recipes that didn’t work are more interesting to read than ones that did. For your culinary schadenfreude, therefore, I proudly present some of Diane’s Greatest Misses.

Not Very Mexican Corn Soup

Here’s a recipe I really had to struggle through, arguing with it all the way. Though it produced something edible in the end, I couldn’t feel it was worth the effort. Hard to tell how it was supposed to turn out.

 

Swordfish Bocconcini

I have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for this one. I didn’t pay enough attention to the instructions, so I did something foolish. The disappointing result probably served me right. Justice can be cruel.

 

Rillettes: A Sad Story

This failure was entirely due to my not being able to find the right cut of pork for the dish. Not wanting to postpone my culinary experiment, I bought what I hoped would serve just as well. Poor choice: It didn’t.

 

French Irish Stew

This time I blame the famous cookbook author. I followed his recipe faithfully, but this dish, which he highly praised, was totally uninteresting. A notorious egoist, he would have been outraged by my opinion.

 

How Not to Make Wine Jelly

I’m not sure why this one failed. As an experienced jam maker, I thought I certainly should be able to make jelly. The instructions were clear, the procedures straightforward. Unfortunately, there was no jelling.

 

One More Strawberry Dessert

This summer pudding took a pretty elaborate effort to make, and it gave only a very minimal reward. There was nothing wrong with the process or the ingredients. The combination just didn’t sing for me.
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Well, however poorly these culinary experiments turned out, they were interesting – and in most cases educational – for me. Win or lose, cooking is an endlessly fascinating activity. If you dip into these little tales, I hope you’ll find my experiences interesting – and maybe a bit instructive – to read.
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The recipe for a potato and oyster mushroom gratin that I tried for the first time this week gave me the additional pleasures of an opportunity to use a nifty new piece of small kitchen equipment in making it and then to serve it for dinner with a cut of beef I’d never eaten before.

This culinary trifecta originated in Elizabeth Schneider’s Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, a truly magisterial book. Her section on oyster mushrooms runs to eight large pages, packed with useful information, color illustrations, and recipes for seven varieties of oyster mushrooms. This gratin calls for the common variety, which is what I had.

Here’s half a pound of them, trimmed of their bases and hard bits.
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The recipe also wants medium-small, yellow-fleshed potatoes, which is exactly what my favorite German butterballs are – to be cut into “thinnish slices.” This is where my newest kitchen gadget came into its own. It’s an ingeniously designed mandoline.
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In typical mandolines you slice a vegetable by pushing it by hand along a track over an extremely sharp embedded blade. There are guards and techniques to protect your fingers, but it’s still an awkward and perilous procedure. Here, each potato goes into the angled chute on the left, followed by a pusher shaped to fit the chute. It all works like a tiny guillotine: Just press down the tall white plunger, and a slice falls into the bin on the right. Perfectly even slices, quick as a wink. (Many thanks to my friend Roland, for telling me about the machine.)

After the mandoline effortlessly sliced all my little potatoes, I put them into a baking dish to wait for the mushrooms.
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The mushrooms needed to be cut into bite-size pieces and sauteed in butter with a little chopped shallot for about two minutes.
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Then I scooped them into the baking dish with the potatoes.
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Next was to prepare the liquid for the baking. In the mushrooms’ sauteeing pan I poured vegetable stock (from a cube), heavy cream, freshly grated nutmeg, and black pepper (should’ve been white, but I never have any).
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I stirred it all together, brought it to a boil, poured three quarters of it over the potatoes and mushrooms in their baking dish, and mixed them around to coat. The dish, covered tightly, went into a 375° oven for half an hour, until the potatoes were just getting tender. Then I uncovered the dish, poured on the remaining cream mixture, and returned it to the oven uncovered for another half an hour, until the top layer of potatoes was browning and crisping a bit.
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Just before the gratin was ready, Tom stepped in to grill our experimental dinner meat. This was called a Bohemian steak, which we’d seen for the first time ever at the butcher shop. It looks much like a skirt steak, but I learned that it’s cut from the tail end of the sirloin. The fact that it cost $10 per pound less than skirt steak (which once was an economy meat!) made it seem well worth trying.
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And so to the dinner table. The steak was very good indeed – a bit chewy but richly meaty. The gratin was good too, with the distinctive flavor of oyster mushrooms joining well with the potatoes and both lightly seasoned by the cream sauce. I’ve found that oyster mushrooms, like chanterelles, show at their best when cooked in liquid.
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The dish is a bit more fussy than I’d want to make often for two – even with the fun of using the mandoline – but it will be very nice to serve to guests. I think it might even be possible to make up completely in advance and reheat when needed. Perhaps we shall see, at my next dinner party.

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Officially we’re well into Spring, but it doesn’t always feel like it. On one raw, wet morning lately, I had an urge to make a warm, comforting dish for our lunch. I had a recipe in mind called Cheese and Onion Pudding, which I’d seen in The Greens Cook Book. Normally I don’t find “pudding” an attractive name for dishes other than desserts, but this one seemed interesting.

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For a half recipe, to serve two, I was to peel and slice ¾ pound of yellow onions. Clearly, you’ve got to like onions for this dish! We do. The ones I had on hand were mostly red, but I didn’t think they would hurt the dish.

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I tossed them in two tablespoons of butter in a skillet, sprinkled on salt and dried thyme, and let them cook very slowly, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes, until they were very soft.
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Meanwhile I was to beat an egg with half a cup of milk or light cream. What I had in the refrigerator was heavy cream. Undaunted, I measured out a scant cup of it and made up the difference with water, to lighten it a bit. My egg turned out to be a double-yolker, which I thought would probably be all to the good. I finished the batter by beating in two tablespoons of flour and seasoning the mixture with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.
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When the onions were ready, I stirred them into the batter along with three generous tablespoons of grated gruyère.
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To bake the pudding, I had the choice of a single pie plate or individual gratin dishes. I chose the latter, topping each dish with a little more grated cheese. They bubbled away merrily in a 400° oven. The recipe said they’d take only 30 minutes, but at that point my puddings were still very wet in the centers. They needed 45 minutes to firm up. (Could that have been due to my red onions, the extra egg yolk, or the heavy cream? I wouldn’t have thought so.)
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Though nothing extraordinary, the little puddings made a pleasant enough – and welcomely warm – lunch. You could think of them as crustless onion quiches.
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One day I may try the recipe again with the exact ingredients called for, and see if the result is any different. Or else, since both Tom and I felt the puddings would have liked more cheese presence, maybe I’ll try it with a more assertive cheese than gruyère, or simply more of it.

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Butternut Squash Soup

The weather has been weird lately, with spring and winter trading places every few days. So, naturally, on the day I had planned to try a recipe for a hearty winter squash soup, the temperature topped 70 degrees. Hmpf. I made the soup anyway.

The recipe is from Eric Ripert’s Vegetable Simple, a book I’ve had for several months and used only a few times. Its photography is gorgeous, but the recipes are a mixed bag. Some are almost insultingly simple – e.g., green beans boiled and served with salt, pepper, and butter. Others would be simple for a staffed professional kitchen – e.g., black truffle quesadillas with made-from-scratch tortillas. But I hadn’t done much with squash this year, so I thought I’d try Ripert’s Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Turmeric.

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I bought a two-pound butternut, which was to be peeled, seeded, and chopped. Need I say that doing that to a hard winter squash is not as easy as doing it to a tomato? I had to use a cleaver, a rubber mallet, my biggest chef’s knife, and a strong paring knife for the job. And I interpreted “chopped” as something more like “chunked.”
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After that, the rest really was simple. Aside from salt and pepper, the only other ingredients were small amounts of chopped fresh ginger, ground turmeric, and butter. I had to do a little scaling-down, as my squash had yielded four cups of chunks rather than the recipe’s indicated five. Since for my preceding post I’d been urged to “think like a chef,” I figured an approximation of the fractional quantities wouldn’t hurt.
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The squash and all its seasonings went into a soup pot, there to be covered with cold water by an inch. The black specks you see are freshly ground pepper. The recipe wanted white pepper, but that’s not an item I keep on hand.
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The soup then simmered, uncovered, until the squash was completely tender. The recipe expected it to take 15 to 20 minutes; my large chunks took 30, as I expected. Then everything was to be pureed in a blender. I was surprised Ripert didn’t call for a food processor, but I do have a blender and was glad to have an occasion to use it.
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When returned to the pot, the soup was rather thin, especially compared to the book’s picture, which showed it as a dense porridge. I probably put too much water in my pot. It’s hard to tell when you’ve got an inch’s worth of water over objects that insist on floating!

It was easy enough to correct, though: I just simmered the soup until it reduced to a nice creamy texture.
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A one-vegetable puréed soup isn’t a kind we usually make, so we were eager to see whether the natural sweetness of the squash would be balanced by spiciness and heat from the ginger, as the recipe headnote promised. I’d have to say it wasn’t.

However, running through the undeniable sweetness, there were hints of something pleasantly savory that must have been from the ginger. The flavor gradually grew on us: each spoonful was tastier than the last. If ever I make this recipe again, I’ll go heavier on that ginger.

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Here is a very nice dish for a warm winter lunch or a simple, light supper, which I made from a recipe in chef/restaurateur Tom Colicchio’s book Think Like a Chef. I’ll have some things to say about the book later in this post; first, I want to show you how I made the dish.
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For a half recipe’s worth, I used the white part of one very large, fat leek, four small, unpeeled German butterball potatoes, and two ounces of slab bacon. Other than a little spicing, that’s all there is to it.
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Bravely eschewing the services of my bespoke knife man, I cut up all those ingredients myself. This entailed some decision making, as will be explained below.
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In a big cast-iron skillet, I heated extra-virgin olive oil. Though I very rarely use extra-virgin oil to cook in, I felt the few but significant flavors in the dish deserved it this time. Into the pan went the potatoes, leeks, bacon, salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme.
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I cooked the mélange, turning everything frequently, for about 15 minutes, until the bacon began to render and the leeks began to brown. Then I transferred the pan to a 350° oven and roasted it, turning everything occasionally, until the potatoes were tender. The recipe said this was to take 15 minutes; mine took about 30.
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Those three simple flavors were a marriage made in heaven. In the mouth, they didn’t exactly blend, but they seemed to accentuate each other’s savoriness. (That’s umami, I guess?) Whatever, I could eat this dish every week! For a bit of lily gilding, next time I may top it with poached or fried eggs.

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Now, about Colicchio’s book. The man is a brilliant chef, and I’ve enjoyed many dishes at his restaurants, as well as from this book. His “think like a chef” concept urges you to consider different foods and cooking techniques, how they go together, and what can be made of them. Those parts of the book are interesting and thought-provoking. He also wants to free his readers from feeling that they must follow a recipe exactly.

But the book’s weakness is in the recipes it provides. The author often seems not to realize what amateurs need to have specified. For instance, the potatoes in this recipe: If he expects the dish to be ready after 15 minutes in the oven, how thick should I have sliced the potatoes? He doesn’t say.

And the leek: There are huge variations in leeks’ thickness and length, as well as in the proportion of green to white parts. When he says to prepare the leek whites by quartering them lengthwise, is he expecting them to be 6-inch lengths? 8-inches? Mine would have been closer to 10 inches – which I think would have been unpleasantly stringy when cooked. Not even thinking that I was thinking like a chef, I cut them quite a bit shorter.

It’s fine and fun to try to think like a chef, but it would be nice if Colicchio had thought a little more like a hopeful new cook. Many of us can figure things out on our own, but beginning cooks need complete, consistent instructions; and even experienced cooks appreciate them.

Furthermore, when I’m trying a new recipe, I like to learn the effect its creator originally intended, before I think about putting my own slant on it. Professional chefs, with years of experience, make such judgments easily and quickly. We home cooks have a tougher time of it.

End of gripe: Whew! I feel better for getting that off my chest.

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