Monday, January 30, 2012


I spent more than a few years searching for a tiramisu recipe that measured up to restaurant fare. My attempts were either too soggy or too complicated. Then I found this recipe. The only way to mess it up is to use the wrong ingredients. Most importantly, use hard Italian ladyfinger cookies, not the spongy Twinkie-style cakes that supermarket bakeries call ladyfingers. (I buy the Vantia brand.) The rest is easy.

4 c coffee, brewed double-strength
1 c plus 2 Tbs sugar
¼ c rum
4 eggs, separated
16 oz mascarpone
48 hard Italian ladyfinger cookies
3 Tbs cocoa powder

1. Brew the coffee. While the coffee is still hot, stir in 2 tablespoons of the sugar and set aside. When the coffee has cooled, stir in the rum.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and the remaining sugar on medium-high until the yolks are pale and fluffy, about 4–5 minutes. Add the mascarpone and continue beating until smooth, another 2–3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

3. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk of the stand mixer thoroughly. Beat the egg whites on medium-high until they form stiff peaks, about 3–4 minutes. Gently fold the beaten egg whites, one large dollop at a time into the mascarpone mixture.

4. Arrange on your countertop the ladyfingers, coffee, and a large Pyrex baking dish (about 10” by 15”). Submerge a ladyfingers in the coffee for 2–3 seconds (see tip below). Then place it neatly in the bottom of the baking dish. Continue until you have formed a complete layer, breaking cookies to fit if necessary. (This should use up half of the cookies.)

5. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly over the ladyfingers. Top with 2 tablespoons of the cocoa powder (see tip below).

6. Using the same method as above, add a second layer of soaked ladyfingers. Top with the remaining mascarpone mixture (but not with any more cocoa powder). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

7. Before serving, top with the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder.

• To brew double-strength coffee, simply brew as you normally would but use twice as much ground coffee. Use an espresso roast if you have it.

• Don't be tempted to oversoak the ladyfingers. They should still be firm when you remove them from the coffee (they will soften considerably as the liquid soaks through them). You'll know you've soaked them long enough if, by the time you finish a layer, the first cookies are spongy. You'll know you've soaked them too long if they fall apart in your hands.

• Instead of a large baking dish, you can use two loaf pans, making three layers in each.

• To apply the cocoa powder evenly, you can use a sifter. But I find sifters cumbersome, so I use a small mesh strainer (the one I use was originally designed to cover a sink drain). I spoon the cocoa into the strainer and then tap it as I move it across the dish.

• The reason for delaying the final dusting of cocoa powder is entirely aesthetic. Cocoa powder tends to “melt” into the mascarpone. so it looks best just after it's added.

• As with all dishes that contain uncooked eggs, you need to be careful with this tiramisu. Use eggs you can trust; don’t let leftovers linger; and if your health is such that a food-borne illness would pose a significant risk, use pasteurized eggs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Penne with Spinach, Walnuts, and Gorgonzola

(serves two adults and two children)

If you ever get tired of making penne with broccoli raab (my family's quick, meatless standby), try this simple, comforting recipe. The availability of decent chives, crumbled Gorgonzola, and baby spinach in just about every grocery store these days makes preparation a snap. Not so when I was younger!

½ c chopped walnuts
a handful of chives (to make ¼ c chopped)
1 lb dried penne
1 c heavy cream
3½ oz crumbled  Gorgonzola
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
10 oz baby spinach

1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. Toast the walnuts on the stovetop or in the oven. Finely chop the chives.

3. Cook the penne in the boiling water until just barely done.

4. Meanwhile, combine the cream and Gorgonzola in a large nonstick skilet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. When the sauce has thickened a little, add the spinach in batches, stirring it as it wilts.

5. When the penne is done, drain it, reserving some of the pasta water. Add the penne to the skillet along with half of the walnuts and chives. Toss to coat with the sauce, adding some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems overly thick. Continue to cook until the pasta has absorbed the sauce, about 2 minutes. Serve  with the remaining walnuts and chives.


(serves two adults and two children)

The key to crispy latkes is to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the potatoes. I've found no better method than to wring them out in a kitchel towel, as though you were wringing out a wet rag. You'll be surprised how much water comes out.

2½ lb russet potatoes
1 large onion
canola oil
4 eggs
¼ c flour
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
sour cream

1. Using a food processor fitted with a shredding disc, shred the scrubbed but unpeeled potatoes. Shred the peeled, trimmed onions. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover with cold water for 20 minutes.

2. Heat ½-inch of canola oil  (about 1½ cups) in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

3. In another large bowl, combine the eggs, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Beat with a fork.

4. Drain the potato-onion mixture in a colander. Working in batches, place some of the potato mixture in a clean kitchen towel and twist hard to remove as much moisture as possible. Add thesquuezed potato mixture as you go to the bowl with the egg mixture. When all of the potato mixture has been squeezed, toss to coat evenly with the egg mixture.

5. When the oil begins to shimmer, use tongs to add two clumps of batter to the skillet. Use a spatula to flatten the clumps into pancakes. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the bottom of the pancake has become crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side has crisped, about another 5 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Return the flame to medium-high until the oil shimmers again. Repeat with the remaining batter.

6. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

• The temperature of the oil needs to be hot enough to crisp the pancake yet not so hot that the outside of the pancake burns before the inside cooks. That's why it's important to reduce the heat a little after adding the batter. Exacly how much heat to apply differs from stove to stove and skillet to skillet. Adjust as necessary so that the oil is always burbling around the edges of the pancakes.