Labor of Love: Open Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Ravioli

I want to go to the new Andrew Carmellini restaurant, The Dutch, more than anything. Reading the buzz over it online is not making it any easier. The concept of a restaurant that is part all-American joint, part country inn all with an oyster room is too much to resist. The menu expresses those admired feelings of comfort food but elevated. You can dine on seafood ceviche and caviar all while digging into ribs and homemade pies. A dish people seem to be pleased with so far is the Smoked Ricotta Ravioli with Tomato and Soft Herbs, so I decided it was time to make my own Recreation Nation version.

My version is Open Ricotta Tomato and Herbed Ravioli. I made two simple pasta doughs, one tomato with tomato paste and one herbed with chopped fresh basil. I ran the pasta dough through a pasta maker to make the sheets very thin. Using a circle shaped cookie cutter I cut the dough into perfect circular shapes. This is not a sealed ravioli recipe in fact it is easier. All you need to do is nestle scoops of the ricotta mixture in between two of the circles and dig in. The flavors of the herb and tomato are subtle, but they add great color contrast. This is definitely a special recipe if you want a change of pace from typical frozen ravioli.

Open Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Ravioli

[It is not often that I make pasta from scratch. It is not like it is hard to make. It just takes a little bit of time. Leave more than an hour free and you will have some colorful and fresh homemade pasta. If you just want to make one of the doughs skip the steps for the other, simple as that]

  •     3 cups flour
  •     2 tablespoons olive oil
  •     3 eggs
  •     3 tablespoons chopped basil
  •     2 tablespoons tomato paste
  •     Pinches of salt and pepper
  •     1 cup ricotta cheese
  •     2 tablespoons basil
  •     ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  •     2 cups of tomato sauce, your favorite brand

1.  To make the Tomato version start by making a mound of 1½ cups of flour on a clean surface. Create a well in the center for the other ingredients deep enough so they will not spill out.

2.  Combine one egg, one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of tomato paste in a bowl and then pour into the well. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Slowly combine egg and tomato mixture with the flour by adding flour bit by bit until all of the ingredients are combined. If you think the dough is too dry, add some more olive oil and if it is too wet add some more flour.

4.  To make the Herbed version start in a similar fashion by making a mound of 1½ cups of flour on a clean surface. Create a well in the center for the other ingredients deep enough so they will not spill out.

5.  Combine two eggs, one tablespoon of olive oil and three tablespoons of fresh chopped basil leaves in a bowl and then pour into the well. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Slowly combine the egg and herb mixture with the flour by adding flour bit by bit until all of the ingredients are combined. If you think the dough is too dry, add some more olive oil and if it is too wet add some more flour.

7.  Run your prepared dough through a pasta machine according to the machine’s instruction to create thin sheets of pasta dough. You may need to split the dough in half and work bit by bit according to how much pasta your pasta machine accommodates at one time. You may need to oil the machine with some olive oil to help move the dough through the machine.

8.  Put a large pot of water on high heat to boil.

9.  Once you have sheets of the dough use a circular cookie cutter to cut circled shapes from the vibrant doughs.

10.  Once the water boils cook the pasta circles in shifts making sure not to overcrowd the pasta in the pot. The pasta will cook in less than ten minutes so watch for the pasta to rise slightly in the pot. Try one of the circles when you think it is cooked to your liking to gage how long your pasta will cook on your stovetop. Finish cooking all of the pasta, using a slotted ladle to remove circles that are cooked.

11.  While the last of the circles are cooking make the ricotta mixture and heat the sauce in another pan. Use any tomato sauce of your liking, and heat it up to wake up some of the tomato flavor. To make the ricotta mixture combine one cup of ricotta cheese with two tablespoons of sliced basil and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

12.  To assemble pour some sauce onto a plate. Place a layer of the pasta circles. Top the pasta circles with a scoop of the ricotta mixture. Top that off with another pasta circle, plenty of sauce and a generous sprinkle of more Parmesan cheese if desired.

13.   Eat, eat and eat. It is worth your work.

Upscaled Comfort: Poached Egg Sandwich with Curried Hollandaise and Braised Kale with Bacon

I think it is proper time for another version of a popular restaurant’s recipe. And today, it’s Union Square Cafe’s turn.

Union Square Cafe opened in 1985 and has been a favorite ever since. Offering both lunch and dinner, Executive Chef Carmen Quagliata offers high value eating without the pretension other top eateries dish back. With a menu that begs for my own versions of everything, I am definitely going to be continually inspired. I recently went to the restaurant and had really great soft shell crabs over rice.

But while I love crabs and need to make my own soft shell crabs I needed a simple dinner for myself tonight, as my entire family was out. I found my inspiration in Union Square Cafe’s Pan Roasted Chicken with Warm Buttermilk Biscuit, Bacon and Braised Kale. I had some kale and bacon left from a previous dinner so it was time to figure out a creative solution for those ingredients. I didn’t want to do something identical to the restaurant’s recipe, but I did want something similar. A good compromise for me was a poached egg sandwich topped with a curried Hollandaise and braised bacon kale. The biscuit recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, but everything else is improvised.

With the delicately cooked egg yolk oozing from the sandwich and smoky bacon flavored kale, you will definitely need more than one sandwich. This recipe calls for eight eggs only if you want to make an equal amount of eggs to biscuits. The biscuit recipe made eight hamburger-sized biscuits for me so only make the amount of poached eggs you need to serve. This recipe is real comfort food to reflect a restaurant that drives to make the high-end culinary experience homey too.

Poached Egg Sandwich with Curried Hollandaise and Braised Kale with Bacon

For the Biscuits

  •     3 tablespoons butter, melted
  •     2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  •     1 tablespoon baking powder
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     1 1/2 cups heavy cream, or half and half

For the Kale with Bacon

  •     2 cups of fresh kale
  •     4 slices of bacon
  •     salt and pepper to taste

For the Poached Egg

  •     Pot filled halfway with water
  •     2 teaspoons white vinegar
  •     8 eggs cracked into eight cups

For the Hollandaise Sauce

  •     3 egg yolks
  •     2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  •     1 tablespoon water
  •     1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  •     1 teaspoon curry powder
  •     1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  •     3 tablespoons of butter
  1. Start with preparing the biscuits and preheating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, the baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups of cream or half and half. If you use cream the dough will be tighter and you should cut the biscuits from the dough. If you use half and half the dough will be wetter, so just scoop out the biscuits portions like you would do with drop biscuits. If your dough does not seem soft enough, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup of cream or half and half, little by little.
  3. Pour the melted butter on top of the biscuits and bake until golden 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile wok on the kale with bacon. Place the bacon in a cold pan on medium heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy. Add the kale and cook down until the kale is soft and tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. On high heat bring a pot filled halfway with water to a boil with white vinegar added. Once the water begins to boil lower the heat to low and carefully pour one of the eggs from its cup into the water. Cook for about two to two and a half minutes until the egg is slightly firm. Remove with a slotted spoons and place on a plate to the side. Work on each egg one by one raising the heat when the water stops boiling.
  6. To start the Hollandaise sauce, bring a small pot with a shallow amount of water to a boil with a small bowl over it. Make sure the bowl does not dip into the water. With a whisk mix together the yolks, lemon juice, water and Dijon mustard in the bowl. Add in the curry powder and some salt if desired. Keep whisking until the mixture is light yellow in color. Before you take the sauce off the burner add the butter stirring to incorporate. Take the sauce off the burner and add the basil, continuing to whisk until its smooth.
  7. To serve, cut each biscuit in half. Place a poached egg on the bottom half with some curried Hollandaise. Put some of the braised kale on the egg and top with the top part of the biscuit.
  8. Try to eat just one. Just try. I dare you.

Instant Hit: Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Ricotta Galette

A Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Ricotta Galette. Doesn’t it sound like heaven?

Well, it was just a manner of fate that led me to this recipe. Recently I used sour cream in an Apricot Fruit Tart recipe, sure to be posted as soon as possible, and I had some left over ricotta from the ravioli I made, again soon to be posted as soon as possible. Both ingredients are part of this galette and normally sour cream and ricotta are not staples in my fridge so I believe it was almost meant to be when I discovered this recipe while exploring the blog, Smitten Kitchen. I have tried many recipes from Deb Perelman’s incredibly organized blog, none of them falling short from excellent. The crust of the galette is a thing of magic. Somehow I am always impressed by how butter and flour are able to come together and create flaky delicate layers. The crust snugly keeps in a creamy mixture of ricotta cheese and layers of fresh zucchini and in my version, yellow squash. There is not much to say except that you will find the galette disappearing quicker than it takes to cook it, it is just that delicious. The crust is crisp and contrasts well with the melted creaminess of the ricotta and the gentle roasting the vegetables go through in the oven.

Not much is changed from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe except that I changed some of the way things are phrased just to please my own way of maneuvering in the kitchen. Of course as always, feel free to go about this recipe in a way that feels right for you.

Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Ricotta Galette

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick, or eight tablespoons, cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 zucchini, cut into thin circular slices
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into thin circular slices
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (Egg Yolk Glaze)

1.. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle the butter over the dough and blend with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas.

2.. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips mix the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball trying not to overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

3.. Spread the zucchini and yellow squash over layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoons salt and let sit for thirty minutes to remove some of the moisture. Blot the tops of the vegetables dry with paper towels before using.

4.. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil and the garlic together, set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and one teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the ricotta mixture onto the the dough, leaving a two-inch border. Place the zucchini and squash pieces in a concentric circle pattern, or in a pattern that suits your liking and top with the rest of the garlicky oil mixture. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

6,. Bake the galette until the dough has a golden brown color and the vegetables are slightly wilted, thirty to forty minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for five minutes. Cut into wedges to devour at any temperature, whether hot or room temperature.

Quick and Impressive: Mussels Marinara

Every summer when I was growing up my family and I would go on a vacation to the sandy shores of Cape Cod. This always meant a week or two overflowing with chasing seagulls on salty beaches, going whale watching and mostly importantly, having memorable eating adventures. I still get giddy when we go to the restaurant with the giant boat filled with lobsters or when we get our French fries served in mini pails with shovels. Even though some of the Cape’s food can be very themed, there are plenty of serious eats as well. I still remember fondly many food memories such as a dinner in which my dad and I had veal and tender asparagus with balsamic glaze, lunches sipping on perfect clam chowder, waiting on line at the beach for thinly sliced and crisped onion rings and digging into steamers and buttered lobsters. I believe that from these wonderful vacations with my family my love of food was given a place to expand.

And while I have to wait until the end of the summer to go back to the Cape, I decided to enjoy some seafood with a dish of Mussels Marinara with Gruyere Toasts. I don’t think I have ever realized how adoringly cheap mussels are. For two dollars per pound why would I ever reserve mussels just for special occasions? Whenever you buy some mussels make sure that they are all closed. Open mussels usually mean that they are not alive and fresh, which is something no one wants. Once you have your mussels be sure in let them sit in a bowl filed with water. This will allow them to breath and expel any sand that is left in their shell. After the quick preparation they will open up when they are cooked and you will enjoy them. The Gruyere toast is simple and makes the perfect vessel to sop up the warm plum tomato sauce. It’s not the real Cape Cod, but it’s a lovely compromise.

Mussels Marinara with Gruyere Toasts

  •               Three tablespoons olive oil
  •               One small onion, finely diced
  •               4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  •               1 cup white wine
  •               32 ounce can of plum tomatoes
  •               3 pounds of mussels, closed
  •               ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  •               2 tablespoons butter
  •               1 baguette
  1. Place the mussels in a a bowl of water. This will allow them to breath and expel excess sand within their shells.
  2. In a deep saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add in the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion appears translucent, around eight minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and simmer for about five minutes while the wine reduces.
  4. Add the plum tomatoes and crush with the back of a wooden spoon until the tomatoes break down slightly and are not very chunky.
  5. Let this simmer while you prepare the Gruyere toast. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the baguette into one inch slices. Spread the butter on the stop of the pieces and sprinkle the bread evenly with the cheese. Place in the oven for around ten minutes, be sure to check every once in a while. You want to toasts to be golden brown but not burnt. Ovens vary, so be careful to adjust the cooking time to your ovens setting.
  6. While the toasts are crisping, place the mussels into the marinara sauce and let them cook until they open up.
  7. Place a portion of mussels in a bowl and top with some tomato sauce. Serve with the Gruyere toasts. Discard any mussels that are unopened.

Quick and Impressive: Seared Sea Scallops with Tomato-Crab Sauce

It is incredibly rare that I am able to easily order when I eat out. How can I possibly just choose one dish when there are usually several astounding options? I always go back and forth between dishes until I eventually decide to order. Usually I go with menu items that I know I cannot easily recreate at home or a signature dish that has tremendous street credit.

But as much as some restaurants present dishes that seem complicated and special, many of them can be recreated at home without the need to sit in a stuffy dining room with a drink tab gone wild. Somehow I believe that Mas, in Greenwich Village would not be so nightmarish of an experience. Chef Galen Zamarra changes the menu daily for his French-American restaurant depending on what is fresh and seasonal. The website presents images of a tree in four different seasons gesturing to the restaurant’s commitment to local food. Offering dinner service seven days a week Mas and Zamarra have ample amounts of time to create some incredible food.

It is the menu that drew me into needing, not wanting, to recreate one of his dishes. I know I am going to have to continue to make dinners based off the stellar menu, but for now I present to you with a delicious example. The day I checked the website, Roasted Sea Scallops with a Tomato-Crab Sauce and White Polenta and Glazed Wild Ramps caught my eye. I love scallops and crab when I order at a restaurant, and together? That is such a win-win. While crab and scallops do have the ability to bust a bank account, the rest of the ingredients are pretty cheap and reasonable. Using a good jarred sauce and crabmeat it is easy to create a special sauce to go along quickly seared scallops. Instead of ramps, I decided to make balsamic and bacon roasted leeks that are earthy and have great flavor. There are so many things going on here, but everything came together quickly and tasted wonderful.

Seared Sea Scallops with a Tomato Crab Sauce (Polenta and Balsamic and Bacon Roasted Leeks)

[Inspired by Mas, Greenwich Village]

  •             3 large leeks, split in half and rinsed to remove sand
  •             3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  •             ¼ cup olive oil
  •             3 strips of bacon
  •             1 medium onion, medium dice
  •             2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  •             4 ½ tablespoons of butter
  •             16 oz. tomato sauce, about half a jar
  •             ¼ cup chicken stock
  •             8 oz. of high quality canned lump crab meat
  •             3 cups of water
  •             1 cup of dry, coarse polenta
  •             ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  •             1 ½ pounds of scallops, patted dry and salted
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the halved leeks on a baking pan. Mix together with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Put in the oven for forty minutes.
  2. Meanwhile put the bacon on a cool sauté pan. Turn the heat on and cook the bacon until it is crispy. Drain the bacon on a paper towel, reserving the bacon fat. Pour the bacon fat over the leeks in the oven, and allow them to roast for the rest of the forty minutes.
  3. In a deep pan bring three cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add one cup of polenta and keep the pan at low heat. Keep stirring occasionally for thirty minutes.
  4. Start the sauce by sautéing the onion and garlic in three tablespoons of the butter. When the onions are soft and translucent add the tomato sauce and the chicken stock. Let this simmer for twenty minutes.
  5. Ten minutes before you would like to eat, salt the scallops before searing them. Heat a nonstick pan on high heat and place the scallops in the pan being careful not to crowd them. Cook on two to three minutes on each side until both sides are golden brown and caramelized. Put on a plate to wait while finishing up the last touches on the sides.
  6. Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese into the polenta until melted, smooth and creamy. Mix the crab meat into the sauce right before serving.
  7. To serve place a scoop of polenta with leeks surrounding the mound. Place some scallops on the polenta and top with the tomato and crab sauce.

Tart Goes Sweet: Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I have never had rhubarb. I doubt that trying it would have been an experience that would have easily escaped me. When the local farmers market had rhubarb available, my mom and I jumped. There was no question for where our rhubarb was going to go, Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake. The recipe comes from Melissa Clark featured in The New York Times. Rhubarb is incredibly tart but when baked for enough time becomes soft and delicate. The cake was lemon and vanilla scented and had the right amount of density to keep the soft rhubarb on top. This was a great cake that I will love to make again. Moist but not crumbly, with a perfect cut makes this recipe perfect for company. I would definitely serve this for a brunch, mother’s day or a book club. Or perhaps just for myself, it was that good.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake 

[From the New York Times]

  •     2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
  •     1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  •     2 teaspoons cornstarch
  •     1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  •     1/2 cup light brown sugar
  •     2 cups cake flour
  •     1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  •     1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  •     Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  •     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •     4 large eggs
  •     1/3 cup sour cream
  •     2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.
  5. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.
  7. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.

Summer Side Dishes: Tomatoes and Corn

I wish I could extend summer. Not for those lazy nights outdoors when the sun never sets or for hot afternoons watching a baseball game in an energetic stadium. Those are great “cherries” on the top of the deliriously lovely summer produce available now. Who doesn’t love the tart cherries or the perfect scent of a white peach? While most fruits and vegetables are offered year round at the supermarket they all experience a spike in quality over the summer. Specifically I am musing about tomatoes and corn. Once the farmers market starts to reveal heirloom tomatoes and fresh vibrant ears of corn, I am ecstatic. Combined with careful preparation that never needs to be overly complicated, a great summer side dish is born from the suns perfect ripeness of summer fruits and vegetables.

I decided to work out two of David Tanis’ side dish recipes from his book Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys. Such a great book, I really cannot say it enough. His ability to showcase food and make it elementally simple yet delicious is perfection. Buy this book please, just do it. Your family will be impressed with dishes for every season and you will be so inspired to have even more adventures in the kitchen. Here I am giving you two recipes from the book, one for Coriander Marinated Tomatoes and another for Scalloped Corn. Now, I did not follow this recipes word by word, so here I have what I did but trust me it is very similar and not too different. The corn is creamy and you will want to have scoops of it. I feel like it goes well with hearty or spiced chicken recipes or barbecued meat, but try it with whatever you feel like. I had the tomatoes with a salad but use them instead of just regular chopped tomatoes in whatever recipe you are thinking of. Of course if you are like me, eat them like a snack. Enjoy.

Scalloped Corn 

[David Tanis’ recipe from Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys]

  •    2 tablespoons butter
  •    1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  •    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •    Pinch of cayenne
  •    1½ cups half-and-half
  •    Around 3 cups of corn kernels, from around 4 to 6 ears of corn
  •     2 egg yolks
  •    ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 10-inch baking dish.
  2. Melt the two tablespoons butter over medium heat in a medium skillet, and soften the onion with a little salt, about five minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, season with salt and pepper and cayenne, and stir well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Slowly add the half-and-half and stir well as the sauce thickens. Add the corn kernels and simmer for two minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat.
  4. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, and stir into the corn mixture.
  5. Pour the corn mixture into the baking dish. Scatter the bread crumbs over the top and dot with butter if desired. Bake for about thirty minutes, or until golden.

Tomatoes with Coriander Vinaigrette 

[Another recipe, very close to it, from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys except without olives, because they do not tickle me pink]

  •    2 pounds ripe tomatoes, any kind you like
  •    1 garlic clove, smashed to a paste with a little salt
  •    2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  •    ½ cup olive oil
  •    1 teaspoon ground coriander
  •    Pinch of cayenne
  •    2 teaspoons dried or fresh basil
  1. In a small bowl mix the vinaigrette, starting with the garlic, vinegar and some salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil. Add the coriander and cayenne.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into think slices or cut smaller tomatoes in half. Arrange in a random pattern on a large serving platter. Season lightly with salt.
  3. Just before serving add the basil to the vinaigrette and spoon on top over the tomatoes.

From the Heart of the Artichoke: Peppery Chicken

There is something so incredible about a cookbook that explores food through the seasons. While you first discover the book in one season with passing time the book never grows old. Each passing season proves to show new ways to interpret the old recipes. One day I hope to write my own cookbook, and I now that it must be written in this manner. Seasonal and fresh ingredients should be the prerequisite for cooking although sometimes that is hard to do in today’s world when we can get seasonal strawberries or corn on the cob at any point of the year. I am crazy thankful for the availability, but there is no denying that certain food tastes better during its rightful season. The first bites of the naturally sweet watermelons that are available during the summer are just perfect enough to wait the seasons for them.

This is why I am such a huge fan of David Tanis’ part cookbook part food guide, Heart of the Artichoke and other Kitchen Journeys. Tanis is a co-Chef of Chez Panisse, a bistro in Berkeley serving dishes like Pork loin with mustard sauce, peas, spring onions and spaetzle noodles and Grilled spiced Sonoma Liberty duck breast with fava bean toast, cherries and grilled spring onions. The flavors coming from the restaurant, as well as his book, seem to just scream fresh and satisfaction. The food is simple and delicious as there is no fuss necessary for great food. The book reflects so much of his attitude towards food through seasonal menus he presents as well as a list of his kitchen rituals, like eating oatmeal with a moat of milk and sugar or dining on raw artichokes for lunch.

I will definitely be making more dishes from this book, but I decided to start with a basic recipe that is easy for anyone to make. Tanis presents a simple yet perfectly spiced recipe for Peppery Chicken Wings. I decided to use all of the spices he encourages but I used pieces from a deconstructed chicken rather than just the wings. I liked the wings after they were cooked but honestly all of the meat was just perfect. It is simple to marinate and simple to cook and when it comes out of the oven the spices are aromatic and the juice is ready to burst. I never cook chicken on the bone, but I am definitely ready to develop my own spice mixtures inspired by Tanis’ recipe. Does curry and coca powder chicken sound interesting to you? How about citrus and sage? I think the possibilities are unlimited, but if you have any brains to you, you would start with this recipe of perfect and simple chicken.

Peppery Chicken Wings 

[from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke and other Kitchen Journeys]

  •     5 pounds chicken wings (wing tips removed) or 1 chicken, deconstructed
  •     Salt and pepper
  •     2 teaspoons ground allspice
  •     1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  •     1 teaspoon cayenne
  •     1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  •     4 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
  •     3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Lay the chicken pieces out on a baking sheet and season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the wings to a big mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients and give the chicken pieces a massage. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the wings in a roasting pan or baking sheet in one layer. Roast, uncovered, until nicely browned and crisp, about one hour. You can eat the chicken hot, at room temperature or cold.