Summer squash redux

Had to try one of last summer’s favorites. Sorry, I didn’t make the ricotta from scratch.

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Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta

Recipe courtesy of “Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking” by Mario Batali (Ecco, 2010)

Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 pound summer squash or zucchini, or a combination, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick half-moons
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
  • 1 pound pennette rigate pasta
  • 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

• Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.

• Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil together in a small bowl. Add the Parmigiano, whisking until it is evenly incorporated. Whisk in 2 tablespoons warm water, then whisk in another tablespoon of water if necessary to loosen the consistency.

• Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until just tender and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Season well with Maldon salt and remove from the heat.

• Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1⁄3 cup of the pasta water.

• Add the pasta and the reserved pasta water to the squash, stirring and tossing over medium heat to mix well. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to steam together for 2 minutes.

• Stir in the mint, season with Maldon salt if necessary and with pepper, and transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Garnish with dollops of the whipped ricotta and serve immediately, with additional grated Parmigiano on the side.

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Green bean salad

Got some great stuff at the farmers’ market this week. Whipped up a great green bean salad that felt worthy of a pic and a post.

  • Blanched green beans
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped fresh mozzerella
  • Chopped herbs (I used basil, parsley, cilantro)
  • The Current Favorite Vinaigrette: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, minced garlic, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper

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Spaghet and granit

We like to drop the end vowels in our Italian pronunciation. It’s how we roll.

Here’s a great new sauce recipe (sorry, gravy). From Mike Isabella’s new DC restaurant Graffiato. With fresh pasta. (No, not homemade. Not yet.)

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Chef Mike Isabella will be serving this sauce with hand-cut spaghetti and fresh basil at Graffiato, his new restaurant near Verizon Center. A glance at the ingredient list might cause you to think: That’s a lot of garlic and shallots. The chef says they flavor the sauce, which ends up being rich-tasting and almost sweet. But the garlic can be reduced to 1/2 cup if you prefer. MAKE AHEAD: The chef recommends using 1/2 cup of sauce for each serving of pasta. The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes 5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 ounces shallots, shaved or cut into very thin slices (1 cup)
  • Cloves from 1 or 2 heads garlic, shaved or cut into very thin slices (1 cup; see headnote)
  • 4 cups (17 ounces) whole stemmed cherry tomatoes (do not use grape tomatoes; they might not be juicy enough)
  • 2 cups canned plum tomatoes, crushed
  • 8 stems basil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Combine the oil and shallots in a large saute pan over low heat. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and soft, then stir in the garlic until evenly coated. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the garlic has softened, then stir in the cherry tomatoes and the crushed plum tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the basil.

Partially cover and cook for 1 hour; most or all of the cherry tomatoes should be deflated, and the mixture should be somewhat blended in a rich sauce. Discard the basil.

Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

Serve right away; or cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

 

For dessert, Watermelon Granita. Skipped the sugar. Totally worked.

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Watermelon Granita (Bon Appétit)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 3/4 pounds) cubed seedless watermelon (from a 4-lb. melon)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preparation

  • Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a 9x9x2″ metal baking pan. Freeze mixture for 1 hour. Stir, mashing any frozen parts with the back of a fork. Cover and freeze mixture until firm, about 2 hours. Using a fork, scrape granita vigorously to form icy flakes. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover tightly with foil and keep frozen. Give it a quick scrape before serving.
Also made these Honeydew Lime Pops, but forgot to take a pic. Again, skipped the sugar!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups 1″ cubes peeled honeydew melon
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preparation

  • Purée all ingredients and 1/4 cup water in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium pitcher; strain, pressing on solids to extract purée. Divide among molds. Cover; insert ice-pop sticks. Freeze until firm. Dip bottoms of molds into hot water for 20-30 seconds to loosen pops. Remove pops from molds and serve.

Elmo

Credit where credit is due: this is totally my sister’s doing. But they were too awesome not to post.

Elmo cupcakes for the niece’s second birthday!

Cake recipe is family favorite, Beatty’s Chocolate Cake courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa.

Icing was Magnolia’s with red food coloring.

Mouth: half an Oreo (well, a Newman’s O)

Nose: orange peanut M&M

Eyes: Slice of marshmallow (not homemade – uh, sister, get with the program) and a dot of black icing from a tube

Needless to say, the niece was thrilled. So were the adults!

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Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, by Ina Garten (Use the icing recipe another time. It’s amazing. We also discovered this cake freezes well.)

Ingredients

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Magnolia’s Frosting

The vanilla buttercream we use at the bakery is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners’ sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes*

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

*Note:
If you are icing a 3-layer cake, use the following recipe proportions:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
8 to 10 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Raising the veg stakes

We’ve been eating vegetarian a lot of nights. This often involves roasting farmers market vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Always tasty, but tonight, we had to satisfy our Indian craving. This was all pretty easy and really, really good. Definitely plan to make again!

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Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes (from Smitten Kitchen)
Gourmet, February 2004

1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.

Cucumber Scallion Raita

1/4 cup finely chopped English (seedless cucumber)
1 thinly sliced scallion
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix!

Chana Masala (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, which was adapted over here because much to my frustration, I own two Madhur Jaffrey books and this is in neither

This is an intensely spiced bright orange chana masala with a sourish bite that reminded of us the best restaurant versions we’ve tasted. I’m thrilled to finally have a good recipe for it at home.

The major changes I made were simplifying the addition of spices, adding more tomatoes and oh, the recipe calls for a tablespoon of amchoor powder, which I did not have. I looked it up and learned that it was dried unripe mango powder (which sounds so delicious to me, I’m buying it next time I go to Kalustyan’s, who also sells it online), which is clearly a sour flavor, so I upped the lemon juice i used instead. The dish had a nice sour snap at the end, so I will presume this is a good swap.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I used a quarter of this because my cayenne is extremely hot)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon amchoor powder (see note)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon (juiced) (see note; I used a whole lemon to swap for the amchoor powder)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor (if using it), paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spiced for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

Eat up or put a lid on it and reheat it when needed. Curries such as this reheat very well, later or or in the days that follow, should it last that long.

Basmati Rice (helpful tips from Madhur Jaffrey)

  • Rinse the rice in a sieve and soak it in a bowl of cold water for half an hour. This allows the boat-shaped grains to elongate elegantly. Cook unsoaked rice in boiling water and it will split.
  • Measure the rice by volume (rather than weight) before soaking it and then use one and one third the volume of liquid to cook the rice (so 12floz/340ml rice needs 16floz/450ml stock or water). This means that the rice will absorb all the flavour from your chosen liquid and any spices added during cooking. Season the liquid.
  • Bring the pan to the boil, then put the lid on. “If you aren’t confident that the lid is tight fitting, then put a sheet of foil over the top of the pan before putting the lid on.”
  • Boil for a couple of seconds, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook for 20-25 minutes.
  • Alternatively put the covered pan in the oven set to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 (a useful trick for hobs which don’t have a very low setting).
  • Cook for 20 minutes, resisting the temptation to lift the lid and check.

Repeat offenders

Lots of eating recently. Not so much posting. Many repeat offenders. Here are a few favorites.

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Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Salad Sandwiches

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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Rosa Mexicano’s Guacamole en Molcajete

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.

Some farmers market faves:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

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Thuckering Thuccotash (Not exactly sure what succotash is, but this tasted good.)

Just threw together some sauteed corn, sweet onion, sugar snap peas, and cilantro.

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Roasted carrots with dill

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