Tag Archives: extra-virgin olive oil

Reginette with Pine Nut & Marjoram Pesto

One of our favorite summer dishes is fresh pasta (either round corzetti or the long, curly ribbons known as reginette, pictured here) tossed with a highly fragrant pine nut pesto. We look forward to this Ligurian specialty in the cold of winter, when fresh marjoram is not an option, and make it almost weekly when the marjoram on our deck starts to grow in. For a lighter (but no less delicious) version of the sauce, you can omit the heavy cream and double the milk, as we often do at home.

This recipe is adapted from my latest cookbook, The Best Pasta Sauces.

Serves 2

For the pesto:

  • 3 tablespoons marjoram leaves
  • 1 plump garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup whole milk, plus extra as needed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

For the reginette:

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs

To cook:

  • 2 tablespoons salt

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Make the pesto: Combine all the ingredients except the Parmigiano in a food processor and process until smooth. Place in a bowl large enough to accommodate the pasta later, and stir in the Parmigiano. If the sauce seems too thick, dilute with additional milk; the pesto should have the texture of heavy cream, but it won’t be perfectly smooth due to the nuts.

(The pesto keeps in the refrigerator up to 1 week as long as it is topped with a thin layer of olive oil; it can also be frozen for up to 1 month if the Parmigiano has not been stirred in.)

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Make the reginette: Mix the flour, semolina flour, and salt on a counter and shape into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the eggs to the well. Using your fingertips, work the flour into the eggs, then gather into a dough and knead by hand; add a little water if the dough is too dry or a little flour if it is too moist. Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth, then shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut the pasta dough into 4 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the others covered, roll out each piece using a pasta machine into a thin sheet. Sprinkle each sheet generously with semolina flour and roll up loosely jelly roll-style. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips with curly edges using a reginette attachment. Toss with semolina flour to prevent sticking. Spread out in a single layer on a few semolina-dusted trays. (If you don’t have a reginette attachment, you can order one from Fantes or simply cut into tagliatelle or pappardelle, or whatever shape you fancy.)

To cook: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the reginette and cook until al dente; drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water into the pesto in the serving bowl. Add the drained pasta, and stir to coat. Adjust the salt if necessary and stir in additional reserved pasta cooking water if the sauce seems too thick to properly coat the pasta. Serve hot.

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Crispy Polenta & Olive Fougasse

Fougasse is a ladder-shaped bread from Provence, similar in many ways to focaccia (even the name hints at shared roots). You can make fougasse with any type of yeasted dough; pizza dough or a simple bread dough enriched with olive oil work very well. It’s all about the shaping: several slits are cut into the dough after the second rising, so the bread bakes up crispier than usual thanks to the additional exposed edges.

My favorite fougasse includes fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary. Lately I have been adding polenta to the dough, a nod to the cornmeal doughs made in Calabria and Abruzzo, which are typically baked until quite crisp and served floating in thick vegetable soups or passed alongside savory cheeses and salumi. Adding minced black olives to the dough gives it an addictively salty bite; you can omit the olives for a sweeter, more neutral taste and lighter color.

The bulk of this dough is polenta, with just a little wheat flour to provide gluten and lift, so the fougasse bakes up crispy outside and a bit dense and cakey on the inside. It tastes like an old-fashioned bread should: hearty, rustic, and full of character.

Makes one 12-inch fougasse (serves 2 hungry people or 4 more reserved eaters)

For the dough:

  • ¾ cup stone-ground coarse polenta
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives, such as Kalamata or Gaeta, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm (100°F) water, plus extra as needed

To bake:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

To serve:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Make the dough: Place the cornmeal, flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the olives and olive oil, and mix again. Pour in the water, adding enough to make a soft dough that gathers around the spoon.

Add a little more water if the dough is dry or a touch of all-purpose flour if it is sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and silky and elastic. It is fine if the dough sticks a little bit to the counter; the faster you knead it, the less it will stick; and the less it sticks, the less flour you will add, resulting in a lighter fougasse once baked.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Shape into a rough ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour. At this point, refrigerate the dough overnight so the dough develops a deep, sweet, complex flavor. (You can skip this step if you are in a rush, but the fougasse will taste more flat.)

A few hours before you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it on a very lightly floured counter, and knead it a few times. Return it to the bowl and cover again with the plastic wrap.

One hour before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 425°F (preferably set on convection bake).

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured counter and stretch it into a 12-inch long by 6-inch wide rectangle. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper on an upturned baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes, or until starting to puff a bit.

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Using scissors, cut decorative slits into the dough, creating a ladder shape. Stretch each aperture created by each slit with your fingers so there is more crust exposed.

To bake: In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil and water. Brush over the fougasse. Sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Slip the fougasse (still on the parchment paper) onto the hot baking stone, using the upturned baking sheet like a pizza paddle to push off the parchment paper. Immediately close the oven door.

Bake on the baking stone in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown all over and crispy around the edges, spraying the oven floor with ¼ cup of water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking.

To serve: Cool on a rack 10 minutes, brush with the olive oil, and cut into wedges before serving.

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Cream of Fennel Soup with Basil & Parmigiano

This soup is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fennel: creamy in texture, gentle in flavor, and delicately colored, it owes its surprising depth to the enriching action of the Parmigiano rind that simmers along with the fennel. If you don’t have a Parmigiano rind on hand, add a splash of heavy cream after pureeing the soup.

Serves 2

  • 1 large head fennel
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 Parmigiano rind
  • 6 basil leaves, cut into fine strips

Trim the fennel. Cut the fennel into 4 wedges, discard the tough core from each wedge, and slice very thinly. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the leafy, wispy fronds for the garnish.

Place the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the shallot, garlic, and fennel seeds. Set over medium-low heat; cover. Cook until the shallot is lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the thinly sliced fennel, season with the salt and pepper, and cover again.

Cook 15 minutes, or until the fennel is soft, stirring once in a while. Add the water and milk, and drop in the Parmigiano rind, making sure the rind is fully submerged in the liquid. Bring to a gentle boil and lower the heat to a simmer; cook, covered, 30 minutes, or until the flavors have melded and the fennel is very tender. Watch that the soup does not boil, or the milk will curdle. Discard the rind.

Transfer carefully to a food processor and puree until perfectly smooth. Return to the pot and warm to just below a boil. Cook, uncovered, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon; if the soup is too thick, add a little more milk or water as needed. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot, garnished with the basil and the fennel fronds.

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Roasted & Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Spring is almost here—and while I am thrilled about the weather warming up, the longer days, and the return of birds and squirrels and chipmunks, I’m not quite ready to stop enjoying hearty, comforting winter fare quite yet. So today I made this soothing soup with roasted butternut squash, a hint of ginger and nutmeg, and a swirl of sour cream. The flavors are rich and deep, but the soup itself very low in fat and calories, and quite filling.

Be careful with the amount of ginger you use, as it really lends the soup an unmistakable spicy note; too much will take the soup from soothing to jarring!!


Serves 2

For the squash:

  • ½ pound peeled butternut squash, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water, plus extra as needed
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 sage leaves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup 2% milk, plus extra as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Make the squash: Preheat the oven to 350° (preferably set on convection bake). Toss all the ingredients for the squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the preheated oven until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add a bit of water if the squash is drying out or browning too much before becoming tender.

When the squash is tender, puree the squash, shallot, and ginger (along with any liquid on the baking sheet) until very smooth using a blender or food processor. Slowly pour in the broth and milk. Season with the salt and pepper and puree again.

Transfer to a pot and heat over a medium flame until the soup thickens to the consistency you like and the flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

To serve: Ladle the soup into 2 bowls. Garnish each with dollops of sour cream and drag a toothpick through each sour cream dollop to swirl a pretty pattern through it. Serve immediately.

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Dressing Salad the Italian Way

Whenever we serve salad at our cooking classes, invariably half (or more!) of the class participants ask me what is in the dressing: “What did you put in the dressing?? It is so delicious and so light!” This is such a familiar question that I finally realized it was time to write about it. It is so very simple to make a good salad, but unfortunately most people don’t know how.

Here goes. Start with the very best salad greens; they should be perky and firm and unblemished. I usually choose several varieties (for example, arugula, Boston lettuce, Romaine, oak leaf, and radicchio) so there are textural and color and flavor contrasts, making the salad more interesting. Wash the greens thoroughly and spin them dry. A little clinging water will water down the flavors of the salad, so DRY the greens well. If you are not using the greens right away, refrigerate them in a large bowl that will allow easy tossing later, wrapped in several layers of paper towel.

When you are ready to serve, and no sooner than that, tear the greens (if needed) into bite-size pieces. Avoid cutting unless you are sure that your knife is very sharp. And here comes the most important part: Season amply with fine sea salt and give a gentle toss to coat well. Next, add the acid of your choice (most often, I use freshly squeezed lemon juice at home, or balsamic vinegar at the cooking school). Toss gently again to coat. Finally, pour in about twice to three times as much extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can afford) as the acid you used, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently again. Taste. Taste again. The salad should taste bright, lively, and full; if it is flat, add a touch more salt and toss gently again. Still flat? A bit more acid, and another gentle toss. Then onto plates right away before it wilts.

Notice the repeated emphasis on the word “gentle.” Greens should be tossed delicately, to avoid bruising, and your hands are the best tool for this job.

It is crucial to toss the salad in a very large bowl, also to avoid bruising the leaves. But the most important factor in achieving a salad with proper flavor and a light texture is to first season with salt, then with acid, and lastly, with fat. If you reverse the order in which you add the acid and fat, the fat will create a barrier that prevents the acid from coating the leaves, and the salad will be heavy as a result, lacking in brightness. And if you add salt after tossing with the fat and acid, the salt won’t flavor the greens as efficiently.

Here is a general recipe to follow. Less is more when it comes to salad, so you taste the greens and feel refreshed after eating the salad; salad should not be drowning in dressing, it should just be coated lightly with as much acid and fat as needed to bring out its intrinsic flavors. Serve salad after the main course to cleanse the palate, the Italian way, or before the meal if you prefer it as a palate-teaser.

Serves 2

  • 3 ounces salad greens, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces if needed into a very large bowl. Season with the salt and toss gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle with the lemon juice or vinegar and toss gently again. Pour on the olive oil, and toss gently again. Season with the pepper, and toss gently again. When all the leaves are evenly coated, taste, and adjust as needed. Serve within minutes.

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Escarole and Egg Soup with Pesto and Crispy Pancetta

Soup: comfort in a bowl. In the winter, we eat soup at least once a day. Most of the time, we crave vegetable soups, full of chunky bits of goodness, with something to thicken the broth up: it can be a crushed potato, beans, or a roux. The soup below, thickened with beaten eggs, is a play on the spinach soup my husband grew up eating at home: his father Attilio cooked down spinach in broth until silky soft, then stirred in plenty of Parmigiano and beaten eggs just before serving. Here we use escarole instead of spinach, top it with crispy Pancetta for texture and meaty depth, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the eggs to lighten the flavor, and stir in pesto at the very end to brighten things up. Serve this soup with bread and salad, and you have a memorable meal fit for a chilly day indoors.

Serves 2
For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves (about 1/2 large bunch)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup:

  • 1 ounce Pancetta, defatted and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • water as needed
  • 1 head escarole (about 1 pound), washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the pesto: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process to a fine paste; there may be some little basil strands here and there, because there is very little oil in this pesto, but that is fine. The purpose of this pesto is to lend flavor to the soup, not to make the soup creamy in texture, so a semi-chunky texture is fine. Remove to a bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to prevent darkening. This can be done up to 2 hours before serving. Hold at room temperature until needed.

Make the soup: Place the Pancetta in a 2-quart pot. Set over medium heat and cook until the Pancetta is crispy and lightly golden, about 3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

Place the olive oil, onion, and garlic in the same pot in which you cooked the Pancetta. Set over medium heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often and adding a bit of water if needed to prevent scorching, until the onion becomes translucent. Add the escarole and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook, stirring often, until wilted and collapsed, about 8 minutes. Add the broth, season with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the escarole is silky and the soup smells rich and deep. The soup can be made up to this point 2 hours before serving and held at room temperature. Reheat when needed to the boiling point.

When you are ready to serve, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Return the soup to a boil. Pour in the eggs and let sit, undisturbed, until the eggs set, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir gently once or twice, being careful to leave the eggs in large fluffy clouds, swirl in the pesto, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve hot, topped with the crispy Pancetta.

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Braised Greens with Garlic & Chili Flakes

Turnip greens can be hard to find. When I happened upon a bunch of turnips, their leaves and stems intact, perky and green, I was so excited. I knew just what I wanted to do: the turnips would get blanched before baking with milk, caraway, and Parmigiano (so soothing on a cold day), and the greens and stems get treated to that typical Italian slow-cook that renders them meltingly tender, unctuous, just shy of bitter. If you can’t find turnip greens, broccoli raab works very well. You can also serve these greens as a pasta sauce, with short, concave pasta like orecchiette; just add freshly grated Pecorino when serving.

Serves 2

  • 1/2 pound turnip greens and stems, washed thoroughly and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • water as needed

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the turnip greens and stems and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking, then shake dry.

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, and chili in a 2-quart saucepan. Set over a medium-low heat and cook until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Before the garlic takes on any color, add the greens and stems. Stir well, season with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring often, about 20 minutes. You may need to add a splash of water now and again, to prevent the greens from sticking to the pan. There should always be some liquid in the pan; a few tablespoons is right.

When the greens are silky-soft, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Reginette with Burst Cherry Tomatoes & Herbs

Winter lingers too long for my taste here in the northeast. Granted, it was even worse when we lived in Montreal, starting in December and dragging through April… But sometime around late January, I start craving the flavors of summer, the simplicity of summer cooking, the bright colors of the summer table. So I cheat a little and cook something that feels summery even though I’m using anything but seasonal ingredients. Here is an easy and superbly flavored pasta that owes its summery flavor to cherry tomatoes that are cooked to bursting in a searing hot pan, creating a soulful, deeply flavorful sauce in no time at all.

You can make this dish with half a pound of store-bought pasta instead (something thick and sturdy like penne rigate or mezzi rigatoni is ideal). But if you have the time to make the pasta from scratch, the result will be even more memorable. And if you need a little practice before making fresh pasta, join us at one of our hands-on cooking classes in NYC. Reginette are frilly pappardelle, named after the collars worn by queens (regine). Pappardelle or tagliatelle are a good substitute if you do not have a reginette attachment for your pasta machine.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

For the reginette:

  • 3 and 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) semolina flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3 and 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs

For the sauce:

  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and left whole
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves only

To cook and serve:

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) freshly grated Pecorino Romano (optional)

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Make the reginette: Place the flours on a counter and add the salt; combine with a fork. Make a well in the center and add the eggs to the well. Incorporate the eggs into the flour, forming a firm dough. Knead 5 minutes, or until smooth, adding a little water if the dough is dry or a little semolina flour if it is sticky, shape into a ball, wrap and let rest 30 minutes. This relaxes the gluten and makes rolling easier later.

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Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the other covered, roll out each piece into a nearly transparent sheet using a pasta machine. Cut with a reginette attachment or cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips with a sharp knife. Toss with semolina flour to prevent sticking.

Spread out in a single layer on a semolina-dusted tray and toss every few minutes to prevent sticking. (The pasta can also be dried at this point and stored in airtight containers for weeks, but it tastes much better when fresh and supple.)

Make the sauce: Heat a heavy pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later over medium-high heat for 2 minutes (if using nonstick, do not allow the pan to get so hot that it smokes). Toss in the cherry tomatoes and cook 5 minutes, shaking the pan once in a while. When the tomatoes start to blacken in spots and burst, add the the olive oil, salt, chili, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Sauté 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes fully burst and start to form a chunky sauce. If the sauce dries out too much, add a splash of water to the pan; there should always be about 1/2 cup of liquid in the pan. Remove from the heat. (The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated; warm gently before proceeding and adjust the seasoning.)

To serve: Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the reginette. Cook until al dente, about 1 minute for fresh pasta (much longer for dried); drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Toss the reginette into the sauce in the skillet and sauté over high heat for 1 minute, diluting with some of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed; the sauce should be fluid and coat the pasta nicely. Stir in the olive oil and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot, passing Pecorino if desired at the table.

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Roasted Poblanos Stuffed with Ricotta & Chorizo

When a recipe calls for less than a handful of ingredients, requires about 10 minutes of work, and delivers amazing satisfaction, it becomes a favorite in our kitchen. That’s exactly the case for these stuffed peppers.

Most stuffed peppers feature heavy meat or rice stuffings, and are often bathed in tomato sauce. I’ve never much loved these, and neither does my husband. The inspiration for this dish came to me during Hurricane Sandy, when we had to finish off whatever was left in the refrigerator quickly. You can hold them in a roasting pan for 12 hours or so before roasting; they are an ideal make-ahead dish for entertaining, and depending on the rest of your menu, they can either serve as the main course or side dish. I’ve served the peppers reheated the next day too, and they are almost as good.

When selecting chorizo, look for the cured Spanish variety; we buy Palacios chorizo, which is all natural and imported from Spain. The fresh Mexican chorizo is too vinegary and crumbly for this dish.

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Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the roasting pan
  • 1 pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • 1/4 pound Spanish chorizo, casing removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 poblano peppers, halved, stemmed, and seeded

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (preferably set on convection bake). Lightly oil a roasting pan large enough to accommodate all the peppers.

In a medium bowl, combine the Ricotta, chorizo, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Arrange the pepper halves in the oiled roasting pan.

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Scoop the Ricotta mixture into the pepper halves and spread evenly to fill. Drizzle the top with the olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden on top. If the cheese filling browns too much before the peppers are soft, cover with aluminum foil, then uncover during the last few minutes of roasting to evaporate excess moisture. Serve hot or warm.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Roasted Shiitake & Speck

We love Jerusalem artichokes. With a flavor reminiscent of truffles and aged cheese, they lend themselves to all manner of preparations. One of our favorite ways to enjoy their distinct aroma is in soup, and the recipe below, a recent creation, is especially soothing on a chilly day.

Serves 2

For the soup:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half

For the shiitake:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

  • 2 thin slices Speck, cut into fine slivers

Make the soup: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart pot. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes over medium heat, or until soft, stirring often and adding a splash of water if needed to prevent sticking. Stir in the Jerusalem artichokes and artichokes, season with the salt and pepper, cover, and cook 10 minutes, stirring once in a while and adding a splash of water as needed if the vegetables stick.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are thoroughly coated in flour and the raw flour smell has dissipated. Add the broth, still stirring, and bring to a gentle boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft and the soup is thick.

Meanwhile, make the shiitake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (preferably set on convection). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss the shiitake with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and somewhat shriveled, stirring once or twice for even browning. Set aside.

Being careful not to burn or splash yourself, puree the soup in a blender in several batches. Return to the pan. Stir in the half-and-half, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot, garnishing each portion with the shiitake and Speck.

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