Friday, July 30, 2010

Garlicky Angel Hair with Grape Tomatoes

This is a great way to use grape and/or cherry tomatoes from the garden. Be sure not to overcook the angel hair!

(serves two adults and two children)

olive oil
1 quart grape tomatoes
kosher salt
8 cloves garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bunch fresh basil
2 oz. parmesan cheese (to make about 1 cup grated)
1 lb. angel hair pasta
freshly ground black pepper

1. Place a rack at the top of the oven and turn the broiler on high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and rub the foil with a little olive oil.

2. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and broil, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes shrivel and become slightly blackened, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

3. Peel, trim, and coarsely chop the garlic. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and the red pepper flakes with ½ cup olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 1 minute and then remove from the heat.

4. Separate the basil leaves from the stems. Roll the leaves, several at a time, into cylinders and slice crosswise to produce ribbons of basil ⅛–¼ inch wide. Grate the parmesan.

5. When the tomatoes are done, cook the angel hair in the boiling water until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Immediately add the garlic oil and toss to prevent sticking. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and continue tossing. Add the tomatoes and basil and continue tossing. Finally, add the grated cheese, toss, and serve.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Braising Greens with Shallots and Crispy Pepperoni

This side dish is so robust that you could serve it as a (mostly) vegetable main course, paired with either a hearty soup or some bread and cheese. The most important step is the draining of the blanched greens. If they're too wet when you add them to the skillet, the dish will come out unpleasantly watery. For the same reason, don't reheat the greens too long or they will begin to weep moisture.

(serves two adults and two children)

1 large bunch braising greens (such as collard greens or kale)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
2 large shallots
2 oz pepperoni slices
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1. Prepare the greens by trimming away the stems and tearing the leaves into bite-sized strips. On a baking sheet, spread two layers of paper towels.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the greens until just tender, about 4-6 minutes. Remove and drain on the paper towels. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the honey and sherry vinegar. Set aside.

4. Halve the shallots lengthwise. Peel and cut into thin half-rings. Cut the pepperoni slices into thin strips. (You can stack them and cut several at a time.)

5. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Sauté the shallots, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until well browned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6. Add the pepperoni to the skillet and sauté, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove and set aside with the shallots.

7. Add the drained kale to the skillet and toss to coat with the rendered fat. When the kale has just reheated, remove the skillet from the heat. Add the reserved shallots, pepperoni, and honey-vinegar mixture. Toss to combine. Serve.

Party Cake

This light, sweet cake suits any celebration, but I especially like to make it during strawberry season. You can use all-purpose flour, if you like, but using cake flour ensures a soft texture and delicate crumb.

2¼ cups cake flour
1 Tbs baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1¼ cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
4 large egg whites
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1 pint (or more) strawberries
1 pint (or more) heavy cream
confectioners' sugar, to taste

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut circles from parchment paper to fit. Place in the cake pans and butter.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. In another mixing bowl, whisk togehter the buttermilk and egg whites.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until the sugar dissolves and the butter becomes pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6. With the mixer still running, add one-third of the dry ingredients. When these have been incorporated, add one-half of the wet ingredients, again mixing until incorporated. Repeat, alternating between dry ingredients and wet ingredients, until all have been added. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat for 2 additional minutes to ensure that the batter is smooth and well aerated.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the twio pans. Shake them gently from side to side to spread out the batter. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean, about 30–35 minutes. Transfer the pans to a rack and let cool.

8. If the sides of the cooled layers haven't already pulled away from the pans, release them by running a knife around the outside edges of the layers. To unmold, invert the layers onto platters. Remove the parchment liners.

9. Trim and slice the strawberries, reserving a few whole berries for decoration. Whip the heavy cream, adding confectioners' sugar as you go to taste. Frost one of the layers with about half of the whipped cream. Top with the sliced berries. Place the second layer on top of the berries. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the rest of the cake. Decorate the top with the reserved whole berries.

• I measure the parchment circles by placing the pan on top of the parchment paper and marking its outline with a pencil. Then I cut with a scissors just inside the pencil line. Close is good enough; better a little small than a little large.

• Although I think this cake tastes best with strawberries, you can easily substitute any kind of fresh, sweet berry—such as raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries.

• You can make the layers a day in advance and store them at room temperature covered in plastic wrap.