Potato, Three-Cheese, & Swiss Chard Cakes

These colorful potato patties are reminiscent of panfried gnocchi with lots of greens and cheese added. Much easier to shape than gnocchi, and completely flour-free, they are an ideal side dish to meat or poultry, or a satisfying appetizer served atop arugula dressed with lemon juice and  olive oil or, as in the picture below, shredded green cabbage cooked with mustard seeds and garlic until browned at the edges and limp.

Feel free to use spinach or beet greens or Tuscan kale instead of the Swiss chard, and to swap out goat cheese for the Feta, or Pecorino for the Parmigiano; you really can’t go wrong with potatoes, greens, and cheese cooked in a bit of olive oil until golden on the outside and creamy on the inside!

Serves 2 as a side dish or appetizer

  • 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 ounces whole-milk Ricotta
  • 1 ounce French Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed thoroughly
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Cover with cool water  and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until just tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Reserve the cooking water, but remove the potatoes from the saucepan, drain, and cool.

Peel the potatoes and place in a bowl. Crush with a fork, leaving some small chunks for  a more interesting texture. Stir in the Ricotta, Feta, and Parmigiano. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and all the pepper. Set aside.

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Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Remove the stems from the Swiss chard (reserve it for another use; I love the stems boiled, then tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper). Drop in the Swiss chard leaves  and cook 3 minutes, or until floppy. Drain, cool, and squeeze dry. Chop the leaves finely.

Place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add the chili flakes, scallions, and garlic.  Cook over medium heat until the scallions are soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard leaves  and cook until they are wilted and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir into the potato mixture and allow to cool thoroughly.

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Compact the mixture with your hands and shape into 4 patties, each about 1 -inch thick.

Wipe out the nonstick skillet. Place it on medium heat. Brush it with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil.

Place the potato patties in the skillet and cook until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Brush the tops of the potato patties with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil.

Flip the potato patties carefully. Cook until the other side is also golden and crisp, about 5 more minutes. Serve hot.

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Pugliese Potato-Crust “Pizza” with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

The Pugliesi are known for transforming simple vegetables into memorable dishes, and the pizza below is no exception. A supple crust is made with boiled potatoes and flour (much like gnocchi dough, but firmer) and baked in a well-oiled pan until the edges crisp and brown. Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and fresh thyme are a classic topping, but you can add Parmigiano, olives, even salame or artichoke hearts, whatever strikes your fancy or beckons at the market.

The dough, unlike classic pizza dough, doesn’t contain yeast, so it won’t rise in the oven. While the pizza can be baked immediately after shaping and topping, you can also opt to  shape it and top it up to 12 hours ahead, making it  a perfect dish for entertaining.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer

  • ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fresh Mozzarella, cut into 1/4 -inch cubes, drained in a colander 30 minutes and blotted dry

Place the potatoes in a 1-quart pot. Add cool water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes over medium heat, then drain, pass through a ricer, and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 425°F (preferbaly set on convection bake).

Mix the potatoes, flour, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt on a counter until a smooth dough forms, adding a little water if needed to help the dough come together; if the dough is sticky, add a little flour. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter.

Generously grease a non-perforated (and preferably nonstick) 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough. Drizzle the top of the dough with the olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with the thyme, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.

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Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, top with the Mozzarella, and return to the oven for 2 more minutes, or until  the Mozzarella melts. Serve hot.

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Romanesco Cauliflower & Bacon Reginette

The first time I saw Romanesco cauliflower, I was not in Rome. I was at a farmer’s market in New York City, and the subtle green vegetable made me stop in my tracks: it looked like an alien from a science fiction film, or something out of an Arcimboldo painting. It had a striking shape, with conical florets spiraling towards a pointed top.

When I asked the vendor about it, she said it was Roman broccoli (another name for it).  Needless to say, that day I bought and cooked my first Romanesco cauliflower;  and every time I have spotted any at the farmers’ markets, I never passed up a chance to pick one up. The flavor of Romanesco is a bit nuttier, sweeter, and more subtle than that of regular cauliflower, so I tend to like it best in simple preparations that don’t mask its nuanced flavor or its unusual shape.

The recipe below can certainly be made with regular cauliflower if Romanesco is not available.

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Serves 2 as a main course, 3 to 4 as an appetizer depending on what else you are serving following the pasta

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 thick slices bacon, fat removed, minced
  • 1/2 pound Romanesco cauliflower florets, trimmed and cut as needed (they should be about 2 inches long at most)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • water as needed
  • 1/2 pound reginette or other long, fresh pasta
  • 2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Make the sauce: Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the shallot, garlic, sage, and bacon  in a skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Set the skillet over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the shallots are fragrant and the bacon has lost its raw smell.

Add the cauliflower florets, season with 1/2 teaspoon of  the salt, and cook, stirring often, until the cauliflower is limp and lightly browned in spots, about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water by the 1/4 cup as needed to prevent the cauliflower from burning or drying out.

Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. When the sauce is ready, add the pasta and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt to the boiling water, and cook until al dente, about 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1 and 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Transfer the pasta to the skillet and saute over high heat to combine the flavors.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water,  the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the Parmigiano, and the pepper. Adjust the salt if necessary, and add a little more of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry. Serve hot.

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Croissants (Buttery, Flaky, Delicious Croissants!)

I don’t bake croissants very often. Not because we don’t love them (oh, how  we love them!!),  but because I am always trying out new recipes for our cooking school, and with just two of us eating, it’s hard to justify making a batch of croissants  when I know we really can’t eat more than a few at a sitting… Freezing the rest just seems so sad! All that delicious butteriness, that perfect flakiness, FROZEN? Being a bread and pastry purist, I never freeze my desserts or breads unless I really don’t have a choice (like a sudden trip or WAY too much food in house).

Unlike most people who are signing up for gym memberships and vowing to eat less in the New Year, this week we decided that New Year’s Day was the perfect time to indulge in homemade croissants, and that freezing a few uneaten croissants was better than not eating any at all. Even if the thawed croissants would be a little less perfect than the fresh-from-the-oven croissants, I would make peace with that.

Making croissants at home is not difficult, but requires a bit of time and patience. The techniques used are drawn from bread-baking (the dough is yeasted) and puff pastry-making (the butter is layered between sheets of dough and the dough is turned repeatedly). The resulting croissants (when properly made) are a beguiling combination of crisp, bread-like exterior and soft, flaky, buttery puff pastry interior. Hence, I categorized them as both bread and dessert on this blog:  they are either a very rich bread or a somewhat lighter pastry… your call.

For best flavor, it is absolutely essential that you use good quality, unsalted European butter rather than domestic butter. French, Italian, and Danish butters all work well (they have a higher fat content than American butters and a deeper, creamier flavor). We tasted several imported and European-style butters last year, and determined that Lescure from France was our favorite brand. So before making croissants, seek out a  good European butter; it will make a huge difference.

One more thing: All of the recipes (with just one exception) I have ever seen for croissants  call for the dough to be made with milk. I have made croissants with both water and milk and we have decided that the flavor of the butter is more pronounced when water is used. Feel free to try milk, or half milk and half water, instead of water as below, and see what you think. Milk croissants will brown more quickly in the oven, due to the sugars in the milk.

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Makes 10 medium croissants (or 6 large croissants if larger shapes are cut from the dough before baking)

For the dough:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup room-temperature water
  • Butter for greasing the bowl

For the butter paste:

  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted European butter (our favorite brand is Lescure)

To bake:

  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water

Make the dough: Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Pour in the water and mix quickly until you have a soft, sticky dough; the dough will be ragged and not smooth. Don’t overmix or the dough will be tough; 1 minute is long enough. You don’t need to knead the dough, just gather it together. Place in a buttered bowl, turn to coat lightly with the butter, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (but no more than 12 hours), as the dough is easier to handle when cold.

Make the butter paste: Pour the flour on a counter and place the chilled butter on top of the flour. Using a metal pastry cutter or dough scraper and working quickly to avoid melting the butter, cube the butter and incorporate it with the flour; be sure to avoid touching the butter directly with your hands or the butter will melt. Use the scraper to break up the butter into tiny pieces; any hard lumps will ruin the texture of the dough and force it to tear. When the butter is soft but not melted, there are no lumps or hard bits remaining, and it is uniformly mixed with the flour, shape it into a 5-inch square. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

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Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured counter. Do not knead it or work it, or it will toughen. Using a rolling pin, roll it into a 12-inch square. Place the butter on the central portion of the dough at a 45 degree angle so it looks like a diamond on top of a square. Fold the corners of the dough over to  enclose the butter perfectly: you will now have a diamond-shaped package of dough encasing butter. If needed, wet your fingertips lightly with water to help seal the edges properly. No butter should be visible or oozing out of the dough package.

Turn the dough diamond so it sits like a square on the floured counter. Flip it upside down so the seam is underneath.

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Using the rolling pin and working quickly so as not to melt the butter, roll out the dough into a 1/4-thick rectangle, about 20 inches long by about 4 inches wide. Flip the dough over a few times as needed to prevent sticking to the counter and dust lightly with flour as needed.

Fold the left third of the dough towards the center and then flip the right third of the dough over, to cover. Make sure the edges line up nicely and brush off excess flour with a dry pastry brush.

To ensure a proper texture and plenty of puff, do not roll the rolling pin beyond the edges of the dough, or you will inadvertently seal the layers together and crush them, preventing proper puffing.

Turn the package 90 degrees so the spine (the closed edge) of the dough sits at the left. Roll out again into a 1/4-thick rectangle, about 20 inches long by about 4 inches wide. Fold again into thirds as before, then wrap the resulting rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 8 hours). The dough has now been turned twice and has 9 butter and flour layers.

Place the rectangle of dough on the counter so that the spine of the dough sits at the left. Repeat the rolling out and folding process two more times, for a total of 4 turns. The dough now has 81 layers of butter and flour.

Wrap the resulting rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.

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To bake: Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust a counter with flour and roll out the dough into a rectangle that measures about 21 inches x 7 inches; it should be 1/4-inch thick. Working quickly so the butter does not melt, trim the edges as needed (use the trimmings to make other pastries, such as almond croissants, as below) and cut into 10 triangles (to make 6 larger croissants, cut into larger triangles).

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Dust off excess flour with a clean, dry brush.

Cut a small slit in the middle at the base of each triangle; this will help you get a better curvature to the finished croissants and will allow you to elongate the corners.

Gently stretch each triangle, especially at the base and tip. Roll each triangle, starting from the wide end and working towards the point, into a log, keeping the layers tight.

Fold the two corners down to create a crescent shape. Place the croissants on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart (they will rise dramatically in the oven so they need room to expand, or they will bake up pale and soft instead of golden and crisp if they are overcrowded).

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Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature at least 2 hours, or until the croissants are almost doubled in bulk. If your kitchen is cold, the dough will rise more slowly; don’t rush the proofing step or the croissants will end up heavy rather than feather-light.

When the croissants are noticeably bigger, brush with the egg wash.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees convection.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden all over and crisp; if underbaked, the croissants will be soggy in the center. Remove to a cooling rack.

Enjoy within minutes of baking if possible (or at the very least, within hours). Croissants can also be frozen once cooled, double-wrapped in plastic wrap and then sealed in freezer-safe plastic bags; to reheat, remove the plastic wrap, place on a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until defrosted all the way through and crisp.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROOFING

Take a look at the two photos below: one batch of croissants was left to proof until doubled in bulk before baking, and another was proofed just until the croissants grew about 50% of their original volume. The difference in the lightness of the layers is amazing once baked: the top photo (fully proofed) shows light, flaky, distinct layers, while the bottom photo (underproofed) shows  undistinct, cakey, thick layers.

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WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER SCRAPS? ALMOND PASTE CROISSANTS AND MORE…

croissantalmondtrio1And remember the leftover scraps and dough trimmings? Gather them gently, roll out into rectangles, and fill with a few pieces of bittersweet chocolate, some apricot jam, savory items like Gruyere cheese and sauteed spinach, or (our favorite) a combination of almond paste, butter, and sugar (I beat 1 and 1/2 ounces almond paste with 3/4 ounces butter and 1 tablespoon sugar until creamy and smooth to fill 3 rectangular croissants).  Spread the filling of choice on the dough, leaving a wide border all around, and wrap to enclose in thirds. Place seam side down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, then proceed as above for glazing with egg wash twice and baking.

Lemony Octopus Salad

Octopus scares most cooks. Not because of its tentacles, or its slipperiness, or its often unwieldy size. It scares most cooks because  preparing it successfully (until it’s tender rather than rubbery) seems unlikely.

Why this should be the case is a mystery. Think of octopus as you would a tough cut of meat meant for braising: beef chuck, oxtail, pork shoulder, lamb shanks… You get the idea. All it needs is slow, gentle cooking to render it tender and soft, rather than chewy and tough. Forget all you have read about triple-dunking in boiling liquid, beating against the side of a rock (or the inside of your sink), whacking it with a meat mallet, or adding a cork to the boiling liquid. Just cook the octopus for hours, until a fork easily punctures it, and you’re done.

The recipe below is for poached octopus, which certainly doesn’t sound very sexy, but it is succulent, the ideal starter for a holiday seafood dinner. The first step is making what the French call court bouillon, which means short stock: a flavorful, often wine-spiked cooking liquid in which to poach fish and seafood (or anything else you wish to cook). Making a  court bouillon takes minutes of work, and you can add whatever aromatics you want to the pot: below are my favorites, but improvise as you like.

Once the court bouillon is strained, lower the octopus into it and cook it at a happy simmer for 2 or 3 hours, then serve it straight away, as below, or cool it in a bit of its cooking liquid and grill it later (a simple smoked paprika, parsley, and garlic dressing is my favorite post-grilling). You can also press the cooked octopus into a terrine mold (or loaf pan) lined with plastic wrap overnight, refrigerate it under the weight of a few cans, and when you take it out, you can slice it into a most impressive-looking octopus soppressata:  the gelatin in the octopus sets the layers so it looks like a gorgeous octopus mosaic.

Keep in mind that octopus shrinks tremendously when it is cooked, so even if it seems like a 3-pound octopus is overkill, it will be about one-third of its original weight after cooking.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 to 6 as an appetizer

For the court bouillon:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • tops and fronds from 1 bunch fennel
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • cool water to cover

For the octopus and to serve:

  • 1 large octopus (ideally about 3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

Make the court bouillon: Combine all the ingredients except the water  in a deep pot (preferably one with a built-in strainer). Add enough water to come as high as you think is safe, considering that you will later be adding the octopus to the pot.

Bring to a  boil and simmer 30 minutes. Strain to discard the solids and return to a  boil.

Lower the octopus into the simmering liquid. Cover and cook until the octopus is very tender over medium-low heat, about 2 to 3 hours. Don’t rush the process; octopus takes time to become tender. Add more water as needed to keep the octopus submerged throughout the cooking.

Remove the octopus from the liquid and place on a large platter. Cool until you can handle it easily with your hands. Slip off the slimy purple skin (but leave the suction cups attached to the tentacles). Discard the head (I find it tough, although you might want to try it in case you disagree).  Cut the tentacles into bite-size chunks.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, chili flakes, garlic, and parsley. Pour over the octopus and toss well; taste the seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. We enjoy octopus with steamed baby potatoes, green beans, and kale sprouts (as pictured below) dressed simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper, but you can serve it atop baby greens, peppery arugula, or a shaved fennel salad.

 

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Einkorn Bread

I don’t know if you ever heard of einkorn. If you haven’t, you aren’t alone: most people have no idea what it is. Despite its name, it isn’t a variety of corn. It’s actually thought to be the oldest form of wheat, and supposedly has never been hybridized like modern wheat. Einkorn  means “one grain” in German, because it has only one grain per stem, while other varieties of wheat have several groups of grain.

I first heard of einkorn a few years ago, when I was researching farro. Einkorn is one of three main types of farro wheat, called farro piccolo (little farro) in Italian. It grows well in hardy climates, and has a much higher vitamin and nutrient content than modern wheat varieties. While it contains gluten, and is actually higher in protein than even bread flour (around 20% protein content as opposed to around 14%), einkorn may contain a type of gluten that some people with gluten intolerance can digest more easily. However, it was close to extinction until a few years ago, because harvesting and milling is much harder and more costly, and the yield is far lower, than with modern wheat varieties.

Since I love baking bread (if I could, I would bake every day… but being a family of just two, there is only so much bread we can consume!), I was intrigued at the prospect of baking with einkorn flour. Would the bread taste significantly different? Would it rise as well, or be leaden and heavy, like many undoctored whole wheat breads can be? I didn’t want to add more yeast than usual to make it rise higher, as an abundance of yeast gives bread an artificial taste and an overly light crumb. I didn’t want to add vital wheat gluten. I didn’t want to add sugar or fat or anything other than what I usually put in my bread dough: just flour, yeast, salt, and water. This way, I figured, I would really taste the difference between einkorn bread and bread made with modern wheat.

So last week, I baked my first batch of einkorn bread, using flour I picked up at my local market. (You can buy the flour as well as the whole berries from Jovial, the world’s largest producer of einkorn, online.) Since the gluten in einkorn is apparently not activated by kneading, I skipped the kneading step and simply stirred the dough a minute or two, then let it rise overnight at cool room temperature (if your kitchen is warm, refrigerate the dough). The bread rose very, very slowly at first, then picked up speed in the last few hours of rising. I took care not to deflate its air bubbles in the final stage of shaping, and let it rise again before slipping it into a moderately hot oven, and it emerged golden and fragrant 40 minutes later.

The result: Delicious, wheaty, sweet, moist, definitely worth repeating. It didn’t rise as much as bread made with modern wheat, but it had a pleasant chewiness and staled far more slowly than modern wheat bread: in fact, it was still good the next day (I propped it on its cut side so no air would compromise  the open crumb). Try the recipe below; it’s easy and rewarding, and you’ll be helping a grain once vital to humanity to flourish once again.

Makes 1 loaf (about 1 pound)

  • 2 cups einkorn flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
  • cornmeal for dusting

Place the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the water slowly, stirring constantly. When all the water has been absorbed, determine if you need to add a  little more water or not; einkorn flour absorbs water more slowly, and doughs made with einkorn should be somewhat sticky if the bread is to bake up light rather than heavy. The dough should feel sticky when touched, but not like a batter.

When you are satisfied with the texture of the dough, stir it a minute or two. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place a plate on top of plastic wrap  to prevent light from filtering through (the bread can develop an orange hue if the  dough is exposed to light, due to the high amount of carotenoids in the flour; carotenoids are very good for us, as they are anti-oxidants, so the high amount of carotenoids is another good thing about einkorn).  Set aside to rise for 12 hours.

Uncover, and gently deflate and reshape the dough to redistribute the yeast (this helps bread dough to rise better). Cover again with the plastic wrap and the plate, and let rise again until doubled, about 12 more hours.

When you are ready to bake, place a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (preferably set on convection bake).  Line an upturned baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it with cornmeal.

Sprinkle your counter with cornmeal. Gently turn the dough onto the cornmeal without deflating it. Gently tug into a long rectangle, about 10 inches long by 4 inches wide; if the dough is sticking to your hands, wet your hands as you would if you were handling meatballs. Place on the cornmeal dusted parchment paper atop the upturned baking sheet and dust the top with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.

Uncover (the plastic wrap may have stuck here and there).  Dust the top again with a bit of flour for a rustic look.  Transfer to the baking stone using the baking sheet as a peel (don’t bake the bread on the baking sheet though, just on the parchment paper).

Spray 3 times with water during the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake for a total of 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is richly golden. The bread should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack, removing the parchment paper first to allow air to circulate from  the bottom and prevent the bottom crust from getting soggy.

Cool completely before slicing. This bread is excellent spread with raw honey!

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Reginette with Turkey Stock, Caramelized Onions & Rosemary

If you’re wondering what to do with those rich juices from your roasted turkey, and you’re tired of soup or risotto, here’s my favorite recipe: an easy to make yet memorable pasta. The savory depth of the meat juices combined with the nutty flavor of the grated Parmigiano results in something far more than the sum of its simple parts.

After roasting your turkey, add a few cups of water to that roasting pan, scrape well to deglaze the clinging bits, and cook the juices until rich, then save them for the recipe below. You can even freeze the rich juices in ice cube trays for later use. This is one dish where homemade stock (or the reserved juices from roasted meats) really makes a difference; the store-bought stuff just won’t give you the depth of flavor needed to elevate a simple dish to extraordinary status.

And remember: when caramelizing the onions, take it low and slow… no need for sugar, just patience and a low heat and a bit of water to prevent scorching.

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • cool water as needed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups rich turkey stock

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound reginette or other fresh, wide pasta noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Make the sauce: Melt the butter over a medium-low flame in a deep, wide saucepan large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Add the onions and rosemary, season with the salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about 30 minutes, stirring often and adding  a bit of water if the onions start to stick; the trick to caramelizing onions is to cook them slowly and to add a bit of moisture as needed. Watch the flame so the onions don’t burn.

Pour in the wine and cook 2 minutes, scraping the pan to release any caramelized bits into the liquid. Pour in the turkey stock, stir well, and cook over medium-low heat until there is about ¾ cup of liquid in the pan. It will take about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sauce should be very flavorful and intense. (The sauce can be made up to this point 2 days in advance; refrigerate until needed, then warm gently before proceeding.)

Make the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Transfer the drained pasta to the saucepan and sauté 1 minute over high heat. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Stir in the Parmigiano. Drizzle with the olive oil, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

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Classic Panna Cotta

Creamy, smooth, and almost ridiculously easy to make, panna cotta is one of my favorite comfort food desserts. Recipes with all sorts of embellishments and variations abound. My favorite, though, remains the simplest of all: scented with vanilla, tasting purely of cream (panna cotta means, after all, cooked cream).

You can swap in almond extract for the vanilla if you’re feeling experimental, or add a few crushed amaretto cookies for texture just before spooning the panna cotta mixture into the ramekins. Whatever you do, be sure to let the cream come to a full boil before pouring it over the softened gelatin, or else the gelatin may not dissolve properly, resulting in an improperly set panna cotta; and allow at least 6 hours for thorough chilling, so it is creamy and set all the way through.

For a jolt of color and contrasting acidity, you can cook a cup of fresh berries with a few spoonfuls of sugar into a jammy coulis, about 10 minutes over medium heat; cool thoroughly, then spoon over the chilled panna cotta upon serving.

Serves 4

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, scraped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin

Combine 1 and ½ cups of the cream with the vanilla and sugar in a small pot over a medium flame. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a full boil and the sugar dissolves. The cream has to come to a boil, or the gelatin may not dissolve later.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining ½ cup of cold cream in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. Let stand 2 minutes. Pour in the boiling cream and whisk constantly to dissolve the gelatin. If needed, strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any undissolved gelatin particles.

Pour into 4 individual 3-ounce ramekins and cover each ramekin with plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 6 hours (or up to 1 day). Serve chilled.

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End-of-Summer Squid Salad with Potatoes & Green Beans

My mom usually served her seafood salads with a side of boiled potatoes: the brininess of the lemony dressing from the seafood gave the potatoes a delicious flavor. So when I make a seafood salad, I usually boil a few potatoes to drag through the lemony dressing. The salad I made last week is much simpler than my mother’s (no mussels, shrimp, or octopus), and comes together in minutes.

If you can find small squid, it will be much more tender than larger squid. Most seafood salads call for cooking the seafood in white wine; my trick is to boil the squid in the water from the potatoes after I pull out the potatoes. It not only saves a pot, it gives the squid a sweeter flavor and helps it emerge extra-moist. Remember that with squid, you can either flash-cook it until it just curls and turns opaque, or you can slow-cook it for about 45 minutes until it becomes super-soft. Anything in between yields tough, rubbery squid. This recipe is of the flash-cook variety.


Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

  • 1/2 pound young boiling potatoes, scrubbed (a variety of colors is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 pound baby squid, tubes cut into thin rings
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

Place the potatoes in a 3-quart pot. Cover with cool water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes for small potatoes and 40 minutes for larger potatoes. Remove from the pot and reserve the boiling water. Slice the potatoes in half and place on a platter, cut side facing up.

Return the potato boiling water to a boil. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove from the pot and reserve the boiling water. Shock the beans under cool water and drain; blot dry and place next to the potatoes on the platter.

Return the potato boiling water to a boil. Add the squid and cook 1 minute, or until the tentacles curl and the squid rings turn opaque. Drain and place on the platter next to the potatoes and green beans.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, chili flakes, garlic, and parsley. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour over the potatoes, green beans, and squid. Toss gently and serve warm, cutting the potatoes and beans on your plate into bite-size pieces as you eat.

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Stringozzi with Roasted Poblanos, Corn, & Chorizo

The ingredients for this pasta sauce are hardly Italian, but the concept (clean, bright flavors) is very much Italian in spirit. As often happens in summer, there are so many vegetables to use up, and a pasta sauce is a great way to transform summer’s bounty into a memorable meal in relatively little time. Poblanos mellow when roasted, their smoky heat perfectly offset by corn’s sweetness and chorizo’s bold, porky taste. We love the Palacios brand of chorizo imported from Spain, and a little goes a very long way.

Stringozzi are a thick cousin of tagliatelle, made in Umbria and sauced with grated black truffles, fresh tomatoes, or whatever inspires the cook at the moment. To make stringozzi, we roll out our all-purpose semolina flour and egg pasta into sheets, stopping at the third setting on the pasta machine so the sheets are nice and thick, then cut the sheets into noodles with the linguine attachment; the result is a resilient, toothsome noodle very much like stringozzi. If you don’t have fresh pasta on hand, or don’t feel like making your own, opt for a chewy, ridged noodle like rigatoni or penne rigate instead.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

  • 2 poblano peppers, halved and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ounce chorizo imported from Spain, casings removed, minced
  • 1 ear fresh corn, shucked, kernels scraped off
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 pound stringozzi or other pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Make the sauce: Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the pepper halves, cut side down, on the foil. Slip under the broiler and broil 5 to 8 minutes, or just until starting to blacken; don’t overdo it or you will have a really tough time peeling off the skins, as poblanos are very thin-skinned. Wrap in the foil and set aside until cooled. Unwrap, slip off the skins, and cut into fine dice.

Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep, wide skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Add the garlic, chorizo, corn, and poblanos. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring once in a while, until the corn is soft and the chorizo has rendered its fat and turned the sauce orange, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and all the pepper, and splash in 1/2 cup of water; cook another 3 minutes, or until the water has reduced by half. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Drop in the pasta and cook until al dente, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the skillet. Saute over high heat for 1 minute, stirring in the Pecorino and thinning out the sauce as needed with some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot.

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Micol Negrin's kitchen