Marie-Paule is a minimalist. She uses high quality ingredients and just a few at a time. This recipe is a classic example. It is comprised of zucchini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I threw in the tomatoes for color and a bit of parsley for something fresh but neither are necessary. You could use mint as well. I love mint and zucchini.
The quality of the zucchini you use is important. It should be as fresh as possible and firm. I prefer smaller ones as they cook more evenly. The salt and pepper is also important. I like Tellicherry pepper from India. I find it extremely aromatic and a bit spiced. You can play with the sea salt. I like sea salt from the Camargue but you could use another sea salt or perhaps a volcanic salt from Hawaii. You can play with the kind of olive oil but I would recommend extra virgin.
1 lb Zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I like Badia a Coltibuono)
Some time ago I had a marvelous, individual serving of a chocolate bread pudding, at a catered event. Too much time elapsed before I decided to make said bread pudding and I couldn’t find the caterer. I don’t know that they would have parted with the recipe in any event. That’s ok, I like a challenge. It was a bread pudding unlike any I’d had before. It was light and moist with no discernible cubes of bread. It had the texture somewhat like a flourless chocolate cake.
So why not start with recipe for a flourless chocolate cake? Well, for one, I wanted to take the catering server at his word and assume he knew he was serving a bread pudding and not a flourless chocolate cake and two, it was studded with dried fruit and I figured a flourless chocolate cake wouldn’t support those fruits. So, I hit the internet and found recipes from Cooks Illustrated, Dorie Greenspan and others. I tried them all and none really made the dessert I was looking for. Once again, on my own looking for the bread pudding in my memory.
There were multiple choices I had to make: what kind of bread to use, fresh or day old or toasted; the ratio of chocolate and/or cocoa powder, whole eggs or yolks only, cream and/or milk, leavened or not, and whether or not to bake them in a large pan and cut them to size or bake them individually. After I made a promising batter, I cooked some in a high sided pan oblong pan, some in ring molds and some in muffin cups. I cut out individual cakes from the batch in the high sided pan but didn’t like the exposed edge. Muffin cups with tulip shaped liners worked but I was looking for a more formal shape. Ring molds seemed to be the way to go. You get a bit of leakage coming out of the bottom but not too bad if your tray is completely flat. The silpat seems to help stop the leakage as does a cold sheet pan. Alternatively, you can buy some cylindrical liners to go inside the ring molds.
My father mottos in life were, “If it isn’t chocolate it isn’t dessert” (Ira Blitzsten) and “Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lay down and wait until it passes” (Robert Hutchins).
Chocolate cookies are problematic. Too much chocolate or cocoa and they are soft. Not enough and they lack a deep chocolate flavor. I have tried many a chocolate sandwich cookie recipe and I always circle back to this one. Somehow these cookies have the sandy texture of a sable and a deep chocolate flavor. Eaten alone they are lovely. Sandwiched with raspberry jam they are sublime. The jam does soften them but you won’t mind and they are just big enough so you can pop the whole thing in your mouth.
I would also try orange marmalade, apricot jam or a little coffee ganache (white chocolate ganache flavored with coffee), but for me raspberry jam brings special memories of my dad who passed away in 2008.
This is a soft dough and you can use a pastry bag to pipe it but I find it a bit faster and more uniform to use a cookie press. When filling the press you can either drop in bits of dough until you fill it up or use some Saran Wrap to make a little log a bit narrower than the tub and the same length. Then you can just slip the roll into the tube and you don’t have to worry about air pockets. The cookie press is easier for kids and they can help you press out the cookies. Make sure the cookie sheets are cold. They grip the cookie as it comes out of the press so it doesn’t lift off the pan when you pull the press up.
Ruth is a longtime family friend and contemporary of my mother. Ruth contends that she can’t cook. In fact, the things I’ve eaten at her house have always been wonderful. Her mushroom/barley soup is rich and hearty, almost like a stew. Ruth will tell you it’s Minna’s recipe (her ancient housekeeper) and perhaps it was at some point but I had Minnas soup and she never used wild mushrooms, which I think are key to the recipe. Ruth uses dried mushrooms but I like to use fresh ones. I make vats of the soup around Thanksgiving when the grocery stores bring in loads of fresh Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Enoki and other mushrooms that are hard to find during the year. Once cooked I package it up and put it in my freezer to nourish us during the desolate winter months.
3 lb piece of chuck roast, trimmed
1 pound short cut carrot or carrots peeled and trimmed to 2″pieces
2 pints of white mushrooms and two pints of exotics: Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Baby Bella, Crimini, enoki etc
2 cups sliced yellow onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons of beef base ( I like Better than Bouillon) diluted in 4 cups of water or two beef bouillon cubes or 4 cups beef stock
Gladice is a formidable Frenchwoman who tutored me and my oldest son in French. I met her through a local agency that gave children lessons in cooking, various languages, art and music. Most of the kids were under 6.
Gladice ran her classroom with an iron fist in a velvet glove a la Francaise. Those kids were lined up in neat little rows, all facing her, and were not allowed to speak until spoken to. No bathroom breaks until the designated break time. No arguing, no passing notes, no crying for mom and no mom’s peeking in the door. The mothers were terrified but the kids managed just fine.
At some point Daniel became too old for the class and started tutoring in Gladice’s home and I began lessons as well. It was then that we appreciated her true nature. She was warm, witty and delightful. She treated Daniel like a son and me like a friend. My lesson consisted of sitting on her front porch, drinking iced tea and gossiping in French. My son’s lessons were more structured with grammar and conversation but from time to time she would have some sort of a treat for him. One day she made crepes for him. He raved about them and she kindly gave me the recipe, written in French, naturalment.
Crepes are generally pretty straightforward: flour (all purpose, buckwheat or chestnut) eggs, milk and a bit of sugar for sweet crepes. Gladice put in a secret ingredient that made them delightful: a soupçon of rum.
My Sicilian grandmother didn’t know from Thanksgiving, but she was a great cook and her cranberry relish is the best I’ve ever tasted. It is sweet, sour, crunchy and fresh. It’s a welcome counterpoint to all the heavy Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes etc.
There were no food processors back in the day so she used her cast iron, hand cranked meat grinder and sausage maker to grind the cranberries. Now that my grandmother has passed away, I am asked to bring the relish to every Thanksgiving dinner and it is my pleasure and my honor.
Daniel is in a cook off with another boy in another fraternity, to raise money for charity. They are allowed a hot plate, a grill and a sous vide, since they both have one. I have to chuckle here as it’s not the customary possession of a college boy and yet, Daniel found possibly the one other boy in this huge University that owned one as well.
The boys were to prepare an entree using pork tenderloin, a side dish and dessert. Daniel is making prosciutto wrapped tenderloin which he will cook to temperature in the sous vide and finish in a hot pan. We discovered this technique at one of Jean-George Vonderrichten’s New York City restaurants, “Nougatine”. We had some unbelievable Berkshire pork chops which were tender with a crisp surface. The sous vide Is perfect for tough cuts of meat, like pork chops, because you can cook them for a long time to tenderize them without overcooking them. In addition to the pork, Daniel will make a butternut squash risotto with rosemary and sage.
I was tasked with finding a desssert that could be made solely on top of the stove, that didn’t require any pre made items or special equipment and could be cooked in 30ish minutes. Hmmm!
My husband and I love to travel and one of our favorite places is Italy. One year we had the good fortune to stay with a friend of my mother in law in Volterra, famous for its alabaster. Ido graciously lent us his home and moved in with his daughter for the week.
Ido’s home was set in the Tuscan hill side amid peach and olive trees, grape vines and an assortment of vegetables. The house was rustic with terra-cotta colored plaster walls and tile floors. I distinctly remember chasing spiders out of the shower. All the beds in the house were cast iron with metal springs. The dining room table was composed of several planks of wood pegged and doweled together and it was surrounded by tippy little chairs with rush seats. However, we rarely ate in the dining room. There was a little patio on the East side of the house where we took our breakfast and in the evening we went to the patio on the West side of the house and had dinner, watching the sun set and eating Edo’s fresh peaches, soaked in his home made Chianti with a little sugar and lemon juice.
Every day Ido would drop buy bearing a small gift: some potatoes he’d just dug up, those amazing peaches with skin so thin and crisp and flesh so sweet and juicy that it was like biting into a Creme Brûlée with the crack of the sugar and then the unctuous silky cream. Ido made his own wine, olive oil and peach preserves. The peach preserves were lovely and had a distinctive flavor I had not tasted before. I sat him down one day and asked him to reveal the secret of the preserves. “Well”, he said. “I macerate the peaches in sugar and lemon juice overnight. Then I put everything in a big pot and boil it until it thickens. Unfortunately, I’m usually doing several things at the same time and it usually burns. But, I just scrape it up and put it in jars”. So, what was the secret of Ido’s peach preserves? He burnt it and what I was tasting was caramelized sugar.
Ido spoke a bit of French but often mixed it with Italian, creating new words and phrases. For example, he would often say” Va bien” in response to our query, “ How are you”. In Italian one would respond “ Va bene ” and in French one would respond “ Ca va bien”, thus Ido created the new phrase “ Va bien” which we still use with great affection when we speak of him and the enchanted week we spent in his home.
The recipe I’m going to give you is not from Ido, but it is from Lucca, not to far from Volterra and certainly in the style of Ido: excellent ingredients prepared simply. Dinner was served in the garden of a farmhouse which was up a winding rode in the hills of Tuscany. I remember two items from the meal. One was an appetizer of thinly sliced pieces of Lardo. The other a lovely carpaccio of beef. I had never seen carpaccio of beef done with anything other than raw meat so I was happy to see that this was cooked, rare but not mooing.
1 lb Eye of round roasted rare and sliced paper thin
This is my go to candied fruit recipe for pieces of fruit. For whole fruits, like small tangerines or small Forelle pears, I use a longer process that does not entail simmering the fruit. The spices in this recipe can be changed or omitted.
Caramelized nuts are a staple, in my opinion. They can be used in pastry applications and also in salads. They’re easy to make either with a dry caramelization method or a syrup. I love the ease of just throwing a bunch of sugar in a pan and caramelizing it but for the nuts, I’ve had more success with using the method below. For some reason, I seem to get a smoother coating over the nuts by first creating a syrup. The ones in the picture I did with the dry sugar method. As you can see they’re a bit gloppy although still delicious.