Farr-oh!

Farro is good. New favorite. Went great with some leftovers from the weekend. It was like a three salad combo at one of our favorite joints… but with four salads!

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Slight tweaks: sauteed the onion (the whole one, duh) and added chopped cucumber. YUM!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs (Giada De Laurentiis)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion (recommended: Walla Walla) chopped
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Add the tomatoes, onion, chives, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat.

The salad can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Secret: I add a sprinkle of sugar. Crazy good.

Chicken Salad (Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup good mayonnaise, plus more for the bread
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 cup small-diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 8 to 10 slices health or seven-grain bread
  • 1 package mesclun salad mix

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken into 3/4-inch dice. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, tarragon, celery, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and toss well.

To assemble, spread a little mayonnaise on half the bread slices, top with the chicken salad and mesclun mix, and cover with the remaining slices of bread. Cut in half and serve.

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Jicama Slaw (Bobby Flay)

Ingredients

  • 1 large jicama, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1/2 Napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Directions

Place jicama, cabbage, and carrots in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, ancho powder, honey, and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the dressing over the jicama mixture and toss to coat well. Fold in the cilantro. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

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Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Lemon Zest (Tyler Florence)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Take a large pot of salty water and bring it to a boil. Cook broccoli rabe in water for 3 to 5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a large saute pan heat a 2 count of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes then toss in the broccoli rabe. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently tossing it in the pan. Finish with the lemon zest and toss to combine. The broccoli rabe should be tender and fragrant with lemon when done. Give it 1 final taste and season, if necessary. Serve immediately.

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Fiesta

After making John Besh’s Chicken Stock post-Gumbo, I knew it was time to make another soup. (Mainly because there’s not enough room in the freezer for all that stock.) I’ve been wanting to try another version of tortilla soup, so the Mexican fiesta was on!

I went with Rick Bayless’s Sopa Azteca. Muy bien!
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Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup) (Rick Bayless)

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes.  It’s a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony. Earthy dark pasilla chile. The softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas. Soul-satisfying broth.  And creamy-rich avocado and cheese.

A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile:  Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, it’s ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy). Though for these everyday recipes I’ve relied heavily on the easier-to-use powdered dried chile, finding powdered pasilla (negro) can be harder than finding the whole pod. Should powdered chile be at your finger tips (be it powdered pasilla (negro), ancho or beyond), add about 1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion.

In Mexico, it’s more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as we do in our restaurants.

Ingredients

1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large epazote sprig, if you have one
4 (about 1 1/4 pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A generous 4 cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Directions

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).

Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema.  Pass the lime separately.

 

Also made his Frontera Ceviche.

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Frontera Ceviche (Ceviche Fronterizo) (Rick Bayless)

Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 as a starter

Recipe from Season 7 of Mexico – One Plate at a Time

Ingredients

1 pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
OR 1/4 cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
1/4 small jícama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sundried tomatoes)
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
Salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

1.  “Cook” the fish in the lime juice.  In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion.  The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more.  Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like:  An hour or so for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through.  Tip off the lime juice—sad to say that it’s fishy tasting at this point and can’t be easily used for any other preparation.

2.  Flavor the ceviche.  In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand).  Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil.  Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve — preferably no longer than an hour or two.

 

And had to try Rosa Mexicano’s Guacamole en Molcajete (menos Molcajete)

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Guacamole en Molcajete (Rosa Mexicano)

Makes 4 servings

Chile Paste Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 1 firmly packed tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or as needed

Additional Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados (about 8 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons diced tomato
  • 2 firmly packed tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • Salt if necessary
  • Tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas

Make the chile paste: Grind the onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt together in a molcajete until all the ingredients are very finely ground. Alternatively, use a fork to mash all the ingredients to a paste in a wide hardwood bowl.

Cut each avocado in half, working the knife blade around the pit. Twist the halves to separate them and flick out the pit with the tip of the knife. Fold a kitchen towel in quarters and hold it in the palm of your “non-knife” hand. Rest an avocado half cut side up in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through the avocado flesh down to the skin, without cutting through it. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same way. Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with the remaining avocado halves.

 

And our old favorite: Southwestern Slaw.

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Southwestern Slaw (Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fine-shredded green cabbage
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 2 tsp minced jalapeños
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

Combine all the ingredients. Allow the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.

 

See? Fiesta!

Gumbo!

Ever since going to New Orleans this summer, we’ve talked about how we need to cook up a big pot of gumbo. Tonight was the night! We went with a full-on John Besh-athon. I’ve flipped through his beautiful, monster cookbook, My New Orleans, and was pleased to find it on Google Books! (I’m also linking to the recipe from elsewhere so it’s easier to read.)

Drew’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo (from My New Orleans, by John Besh)

Ingredients

For the Creole spices:

  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

For the gumbo:

  • 1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons Creole spices (above)
  • 2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked off
  • 3 quarts John Besh’s Chicken Stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 ounces Andouille sausage, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced fresh okra
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Filé powder
  • Tabasco
  • 4–6 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice

Directions

For the Creole spices:

Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.

For the gumbo:

Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with Creole spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

Add the Andouille, okra, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé at the table.

 

John Besh’s Chicken Stock (from My New Orleans, by John Besh)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound roasted chicken bones and carcass
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken bones and carcass, the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and 3 quarts water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours.
Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.

 

Basic Louisiana White Rice (from My New Orleans, by John Besh)

Ingredients

Directions

Put the fat, oil, or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and salt.

Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

 

First, a shot of the roux:

Don’t be fooled by the milk chocolate brown color. That is oil and flour. (And non-stop whisking. 15 minutes… and go.)

And now the whole shebang:

A couple notes: I ended up browning the chicken, taking it out, chopping it up, and returning it the the pot. (There didn’t seem to be enough room for everything with the chicken still on the bone. I also recommend doing this a couple pieces at a time, rather than cramming an entire chicken into the pot. Rookie error.) I used andouille sausage exclusively. And in our house, Crystal beats Tabasco. (Hard to find, but worth it.)

 

And for something green, our favorite: Braised Kale (but it was really rainbow chard).

Braised Kale (John Besh)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3 pounds kale, stems and inner ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a very large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, then add the kale in large handfuls, letting it wilt slightly before adding more. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderate heat until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

 

Aw man, that was so good. It’s been a long time since we cooked a meat-heavy meal. (True, a few links of sausage have made the rare appearance, but we’ve been vegging out recently.)  This was totally worth the wait. We know what it means to miss New Orleans, but now we know we can cook some of it up right here in LA!

Brusselsmania

“Oh wow.” So said the attractive nuisance.

Balsamic Braised Brussels with Pancetta (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

The only major change I made to this recipe was that I adapted it to cook the medium-sized brussels I can easily get, versus the baby ones Goin recommends — this required more liquid and much more cooking time but the reward is a heartier bite with the same complex flavors. The recipe below is for the larger sprouts.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (though I found I needed far less)
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus an extra glug or two for drizzling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds medium-sized brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper
6 ounces pancetta in small dice (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups veal stock, rich chicken or vegetable broth, more if needed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs and thyme with a couple glugs of olive oil, and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Heat butter and remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foamy. Add brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add diced pancetta, and sauté, tossing frequently, until sprouts are well browned and softened slightly, and pancetta is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Reduce heat, add shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.

Increase heat to high, add balsamic vinegar and stock, and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are glazed and tender, about 20 minutes; add more stock if needed. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and scatter bread crumbs on top.

Lemon

Lemon night!

Spaghetti al Limone (Smitten Kitchen)

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil [Spaghetti al Limone]

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • Salt
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for serving
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
  • Ground black pepper
  • Small handful fresh basil or arugula (what I used, deliciously, in a pinch) leaves, shredded

Cook linguine or spaghetti in well-salted water to your al dente tastes in a large, wide-bottomed pot. (You’ll have fewer dishes to wash if you use this pot to assemble the dish as well.)

While pasta is cooking, zest lemons until you have a little shy of a tablespoon of zest. Juice lemons — you’ll have anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water. Dry out your pot, then boil the olive oil, cream, zest and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water together for two minutes over high heat. Return pasta to pot and stir until coated. Add the cheese and 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss, toss, toss everything together. Add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if you’d like your dish a little looser. Quickly taste a strand of pasta and see if you want to add the remaining lemon juice (we did). Stir in basil or arugula and season generously with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, drizzling individual portions with a bit of extra olive oil and sprinkling with extra Parmesan cheese.

Garlic Roasted Cauliflower (from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?)

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large florets
  • 4 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the garlic cloves. Boil for 15 seconds; drain and peel. Cut the largest cloves in half lengthwise.

2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the garlic, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp salt, and black pepper. Spread into a single layer and roast, stirring twice, until the cauliflower is tender and the garlic is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl with the garlic and pan juices. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, parsley, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, toss well and serve hot or warm. Serves 6.

Lemon Yogurt Cake (Barefoot Contessa, of course)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Now, who’s got the U2 song stuck in their head?

Totally smitten

I’ve been doing a lot of Smitten Kitchen recipes recently. Here are two very awesome ones: Romesco Potatoes and Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette. Romesco takes some work but is worth it. The squash was pretty easy and absolutely delicious.

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Romesco Potatoes (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, the potatoes more generously adapted than the sauce

Romesco Sauce
5 ancho chiles*
2 tablespoons raw almonds
2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts (or, you can rub their skins off once they are toasted and cooled)
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice country bread, about 1-inch thick
1/3 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes (I bought whole tomatoes, not sure why; I’d use purée next time)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon, for juicing
A splash of sherry vinegar (can’t find it? Use a mild wine or balsamic vinegar instead)
Kosher salt

Potatoes
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (full size or minis work)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
6 springs thyme, plus 2 teaspoons thyme leaves (I left this out, accidentally; it was fine without it)
1 cup Romesco sauce (from above)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the sauce: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove and discard the seeds and stems from the chiles, then soak them in warm water for 15 minutes to soften. Strain the chiles, and pat dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they smell nutty and are golden brown.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoon olive oil, wait a moment (for it to heat) and fry the slice of bread on both sides until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan and cool. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Return the pan to the stove over high heat. Add 2 tablespoon olive oil and the chiles and sauté for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until the tomato juices have evaporated. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pan.

In a food processor, pulse together the toasted nuts, garlic and fried bread until the bread and nuts are coarsely ground. Add the chile-tomato mixture and process for 1 minute more. With the machine running, slowly pour in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil and process until you have a smooth purée. Don’t worry, the romesco will “break” (separate into solids and oil); this is normal. Add the parsley, season to taste with lemon juice, sherry vinegar and more salt, if you feel it needs it.

Make the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a roasting pan (I used my 12-inch cast iron skillet, which turned out to be a brilliant idea as I could transfer it to the stove and continue cooking there — highly recommended if you have one) and toss well with 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and a heaping teaspoon of salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast the potatoes until tender when pierced (this took 30 minutes for my tiny ones, larger ones may need 50). Discard the bay and thyme and squeeze the garlic out of its skin and set aside.

Either transfer potatoes to a large sauté pan or transfer cast iron skillet to stove-top and heat on high for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil (you can get away with 1 tablespoon if you are using the same cast-iron you roasted the potatoes in and it is well seasoned) turn the heat to medium-high and wait 1 minute more. Add the potatoes and smash them with your spatula or a fork until a little broken up. Season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper and sauté them for 6 to 8 minutes until they are crispy on one side. (If they are stuck to the pan, don’t try to move them, they will eventually release themselves). After they’ve browned nicely on the first side, turn them until they color on all sides. Spoon the romesco sauce and reserved garlic over the potatoes and stir. Toss in the parsley. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Do ahead: Sauce can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and kept in the fridge. Use the extra on sandwiches, with cheese, eggs, grilled fish and roasted meats. One the dish is assembled, if you’re not ready to serve it yet, turn off the heat and leave the potatoes in the pan; just before serving reheat for a few minutes and add the parsley at the last minute.

* Guys, I’m chile clueless. It’s pathetic. Kitchen Market — stocking everything, knowing all — once helped me hide this fact from the public, but in their absence, left to fend for myself, I was only able to find something called New Mexico Red Chiles and you don’t want to know how long (very) I spent trying to figure out whether they were hotter or less hot or bigger or smaller than the chiles I was supposed to use. I ended up using 3 instead of 5, and regretting it as the sauce could have had 5 without being more than just moderately hot.

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2006

Makes 4 servings.

2 (1 1/2 – to 1 3/4-lb) acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot red chile, including seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Halve squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard stem ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges. Toss squash with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl, then arrange, cut sides down, in 2 large shallow baking pans. Roast squash, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until squash is tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer paste to a small bowl and whisk in lime juice, chile (to taste), cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined. Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Huh?

This sounded too crazy not to try. It worked. Tasted pretty good!

Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Jacques Pépin

Serves 4

  • 1 pound large, thick, firm asparagus, lower third of the stalks peeled with a vegetable peeler or snapped off
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 4 ounces Spanish chorizo (but Portuguese chouriço will work as well), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 3/4-inch bread cubes (croutons), preferably from a baguette or country bread loaf
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup cooked beans (optional; I used 3/4 pound fresh cranberry beans, shucked then boiled for 20 minutes in lightly salted water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make this right as you are ready to eat. Cut each asparagus stalk into 3 or 4 pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add all the ingredients except the beans, if using, and salt and pepper. Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides. Add the beans, if using, and salt and pepper, toss again, and serve.