Tag Archives: garlic

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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Flaky Focaccia Stuffed with Spinach, Mozzarella, & Spicy Sausage

Hearty enough to serve as a main course on a cold day, this crispy, flaky, flat focaccia is a re-invention of northern Italy’s greens-filled flatbreads, made using a dough known as pasta matta (crazy dough), because it contains so little fat. You can use any sort of greens you like; spinach is especially sweet and silky, but broccoli raab or escarole are delicious too.

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer

For the dough:

  • 1 and ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and the pan
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ pound Mozzarella, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the dough: Place the flour and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl. Add ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Turn out onto the counter and knead for 5 minutes, adding water if the dough is dry or flour if the dough is sticky.

The dough should be soft and supple, or you will not be able to roll it out until it is nearly transparent later; resist the temptation to add too much flour or it may be tough later.

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Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl, cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball, and wrap.

Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature (or refrigerate up to 2 days; return to room temperature before rolling out).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°.

Make the filling: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the spinach and cook 3 minutes, then drain and cool under running water. Squeeze almost dry. Chop finely and place in a bowl.

Warm the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the crumbled sausage and cook, stirring often to break up the meat, until browned and cooked all the way through, about 5 minutes. Add to the bowl with the spinach. Stir in the garlic, Mozzarella, salt, and pepper. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Roll out the two dough balls on a lightly floured counter until very thin and allow to rest on a floured counter for 5 minutes to relax and make stretching easier.

Roll out each piece until nearly transparent; if the dough tears, patch with your fingers. (This is a very easy dough to work with, and is very versatile.)

Generously oil a round 14-inch pizza pan (use at least 1 tablespoon: don’t be skimpy with the oil or the texture of the focaccia won’t be right) and line it with 1 piece of dough, allowing excess dough to hang over the sides (there should be at least 1 inch of excess dough on all sides). Scatter the cooled filling over the dough, then cover with the other piece of dough. Press the edges to seal and run the rolling pin over the edge of the pan to cut off excess dough, then seal again. (Excess dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, covered, and used to make other focaccias; you can also freeze it for up to 1 month and defrost as needed).

Brush the top of the focaccia with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle it with the salt. Make a few small tears in the top of the dough (this allows air to escape, preventing the dough from doming as a result of accumulated steam as the focaccia bakes) and bake on the baking stone in the preheated 550° oven for 7 minutes, or until the dough is lightly golden and puffed with a few brown spots. You don’t want the dough to take on a cracker-like texture, so don’t overbake. Serve hot.

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Kale & Chorizo Focaccia

Focaccia is a canvas for anything you are inspired to eat. I especially love focaccia topped with greens, finding the lengthy cooking time mellows the vegetables into sweet submission. Last week, we had a bunch of Tuscan kale in the refrigerator and a knob of Spanish chorizo; here is the delectable result. Any type of kale, or other greens such as broccoli raab, spinach, beet greens, or even cabbage will work instead. For a vegetarian version, omit the chorizo and add 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano when topping the dough.

Makes one 14-inch focaccia (serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer)

For the dough:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/3 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water, plus extra if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 average bunches) Tuscan kale, stems removed, washed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 ounces Spanish (dried) chorizo, casings removed, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • cool water as needed
  • 1/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, diced (optional)

Make the dough: Place the flour, yeast, and 2/3 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add the water, and stir well. If the dough is too dry to gather around the spoon, add a bit more water by the teaspoon until the dough gathers into a soft mass around the spoon. If the dough is sticky, add a bit of flour by the teaspoon until it forms a cohesive, soft mass.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead vigorously for 10 minutes, or until it is very smooth and elastic. Try to add as little flour as possible to the dough as you knead it; the more flour you add, the denser the focaccia will be. It is all right if the dough sticks to your hands a little; knead it faster and it will tend to stick less. The dough is kneaded sufficiently when it is smooth and even in texture all the way through, and when it springs back when poked with a finger; it will also stretch about 6 inches without tearing when pulled apart with two hands.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.

Turn it to coat with the oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until starting to increase in volume. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours (a 24-hour rise yields a tastier dough). Return to room temperature when you are ready to shape the dough and bake the focaccia.

One hour before you are ready to bake the focaccia, and after it has returned to room temperature, preheat the oven with a baking stone on the bottom rack to 425 degrees (preferably set on convection bake).

Lightly oil a 14-inch shallow pizza pan. Turn the risen dough out onto the oiled pan and using your fingers, push and flatten gently so it stretches out a bit. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (if you try to stretch the dough too far at this point, it will simply spring back, as the gluten needs to relax).

Uncover and flatten again so the dough extends and covers the entire base of the pan. Try to stretch it evenly so it does not tear anywhere or have thin patches. Brush with the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let rest 15 minutes, uncovered.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the kale and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil the kale 5 minutes, or until it is bright green and tender, and drain. Cool under running water, drain again, and squeeze almost (but not completely) dry.

Chop the kale a few times.

In a nonstick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the onion, chili, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Stir in the chorizo and cook 2 more minutes, or until fragrant. Stir in the boiled and chopped kale. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix well. Cook 10 minutes, adding a bit of cool water if the kale is sticking to the skillet. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Cool to room temperature.

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Top the dough with the cooled kale mixture. Spread it out evenly. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax). Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake on the baking stone in the preheated oven for 15 to 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. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and cut into wedges. Serve hot, topped with the Mozzarella if desired.

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Farro with Roasted Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onions, & Many Herbs

If I had to pick just one whole grain to cook with (and thank goodness I don’t have to!!), I would likely pick farro. It is so versatile: robust in salads, soothing in soups, toothsome in risotto-style dishes. It has a decidedly firm bite when cooked al dente, and can be toasted lightly in olive oil or butter before adding liquid, to intensify its nutty flavor.

Feel free to experiment with other seasonal vegetables instead of the more summery eggplants and tomatoes below; my farmer’s market still had beautiful end-of-summer produce a week ago, but butternut or acorn squash would be lovely instead, as would shiitake mushrooms, beets, or even cauliflower. Just roast the vegetables of your choice until tender while you boil the farro, then combine and enjoy.

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

For the vegetables:

  • 2 Japanese eggplants, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the farro:

  • ¾ cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra as needed
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ cup mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, Italian parsley, chives, oregano, cilantro, mint, and tarragon)

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Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 375° (preferably set on convection bake).

Line an 11-inch x 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roast the vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes, or until just tender (the eggplants will take the longest to cook through; undercooked eggplants are spongy and bitter, so be sure to cook them all the way through). Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the farro: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro and cook until chewy but tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking, then drain thoroughly and place in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Finely mince the garlic with the mixed herbs until very fine. Stir into the farro along with the roasted vegetables, taste for salt and pepper, and adjust as needed. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Broccoli Raab & Pecorino Bread Pudding

Bread puddings are an ingenious vehicle for stray bits of vegetables and cheese, stale bread, even excess steamed milk from your morning cappuccino. I don’t think I’ve ever made a bread pudding I didn’t like. The key is to taste the custard before adding the bread to ensure it is properly seasoned (in fact, season it more than you think is necessary, as the bread is neutral and requires additional seasoning). The vegetables should also be seasoned properly, so taste, taste, taste!

I prefer my bread puddings firm rather than wobbly, so I add plenty of eggs to bind the mixture properly. I also like lots of vegetables, and usually opt for greens like spinach, arugula, or broccoli raab. The vegetables should be cooked before being folded into the custard base, so they become a silky part of the whole rather than a distinct component.

Serve the bread pudding below with a simple green salad as a main course, and experiment with other vegetables if you’re inspired at the market. Just be sure to pair the cheese with the vegetable: Gruyere is lovely with mushrooms; Parmigiano with spinach; Scamorza with fennel… You get the idea.

Makes 1 large bread pudding (serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course)

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 large bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 1 pound prior to trimming)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water

For the bread puddings:

  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the roasting pan
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • ¼ pound day-old white sliced bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • ¼ pound thickly sliced Pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

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Make the broccoli raab: Preheat the oven to 375° (preferably set on convection).

Place the olive oil, garlic, and chili in a 12-inch sauté pan. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli raab, season with the salt, and sauté 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the water and continue to cook until the water evaporates and the raab is soft, about 5 more minutes. Cool to room temperature and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Make the bread pudding: Brush an 8-inch square roasting pan with olive oil.

Beat the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and ½ cup of the Pecorino in a large bowl with a whisk until aerated and some bubbles have formed in the mixture. The longer you beat, the lighter the bread pudding will be. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Add the bread and the sautéed raab. Mix gently with your hands so the bread soaks up some of the liquid, but do not overmix or the bread will disintegrate and lose its texture.

Spoon the mixture in the prepared roasting pan and dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Pecorino. Scatter the Pancetta over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until set, golden-brown on top, and bubbling. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve hot.

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Roasted Chinese Eggplants with Olive & Tomato Salsa

I have never understood how someone could dislike eggplants. They are, to my mind, one of the most amazing vegetables (though they are technically a fruit) around: creamy when fried or slow-cooked, chewy when grilled, meaty when roasted… And the flavor itself is nothing short of miraculous in the summer, when the markets are filled with eggplants in every shade of purple and white, some plain, others streaked zebra or graffiti. I adore eggplants, and I believe anyone who says they don’t like them has never tasted a truly good specimen.

Here is one of the simplest ways to enjoy eggplant. I borrowed the flavors for the salsa from one I tasted in Liguria, but made mine bolder by adding raw onions and a touch of chili. If you favor more delicate flavors, top the eggplant with the salsa halfway through baking so it loses its direct potency, and finish with tiny dice of fresh Mozzarella when serving.

Chinese eggplants (and Japanese eggplants, which are quite similar) are slender and long, with few seeds and a sweet flavor. They have a thin skin, cook through faster than Western varieties, and are a good starter eggplant for anyone with a timid palate. Japanese eggplants are darker in hue than Chinese, and will work just as well in this recipe; use whatever variety looks good at the market.

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

For the eggplants:

  • 4 Chinese (or Japanese) eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the salsa:

  • 1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 8 black olives, pitted and minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 12 basil leaves, very thinly sliced

Make the eggplants: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (preferably set on convection bake). Lay the eggplant halves, cut side up, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cut a cross-hatch pattern into each eggplant half, barely scoring the flesh. Brush with the olive oil and season with the salt. Roast in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until tender and creamy when pierced with a knife; the eggplants should still hold their shape. If using western eggplant varieties, the cooking time will be longer.

Make the salsa: In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients and taste for salt. Adjust as needed.

To serve: Spoon the salsa over the warm eggplants and serve.

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Fuji Apple & Avocado Salad with Pecans

My mom made this refreshing salad often when I was growing up; I’m not sure where she got the inspiration, because the ingredients are hardly typical of Italian cooking, but it was one of my favorites as a child. It takes just a few minutes of work (mostly scooping the avocado out of its skin) and delivers surprising flavor: the sweet, juicy apple plays off the rich, creamy avocado beautifully, and the pecans tie the two elements together.

Serve the salad within an hour of tossing it, or else the avocado will darken and the flavors meld rather than remain distinct. If you have any leftovers (doubtful), lay a piece of plastic wrap directly over the salad to prevent darkening.

Serves 2

  • 1 Fuji apple, peel on, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 avocado, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, gently mix all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Refrigerate up to 1 hour prior to serving.

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Swiss Chard & Pecorino Crespelle

Cooks in the Italian countryside often make simple crespelle (the Italian word for crepes) with flour and water only, no eggs or milk or fats added. The result is a slightly chewy, hearty wrapper that best encases sharp cheeses such as Pecorino, or a thin slice of salty Prosciutto, or, as below, a garlic-laced vegetable filling.

I serve these crespelle as a vegetarian main course when I am inspired by the greens at the market; broccoli raab, Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, or escarole all work well. You can even combine a few different greens to obtain a more complex flavor.

The crespelle can be made up to 12 hours ahead and kept covered with plastic wrap at room temperature until needed. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days in a tightly sealed plastic bag, but my guess is, there won’t be any leftovers once you try these!

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

For the crespelle:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, thoroughly washed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) freshly grated Pecorino Romano

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Make the crespelle: Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Whisking all the while, beat in enough warm water (about 1 cup) to make a smooth, fluid, fairly thin batter that flows like heavy cream. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl.

Heat an 8-inch round cast iron or nonstick skillet over high heat. Brush very lightly with some of the olive oil, and pour in about 1/4 cup or so of the batter (measure first, but use a ladle to spoon it into the pan for ease), tilting the pan immediately to spread it all the way to the edges. (If the batter does not spread easily, thin it out with additional water.) The batter should barely cover the base of the skillet, or else the crespelle will be too thick and therefore tough.

Cook 3 minutes, or until lightly crisp around the edges and spotted lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the other side for 1 minute, or until lightly speckled with brown spots. Remove to a plate; continue with the remaining batter, making (ideally) eight crespelle in all.

Make the filling: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and drop in the chard leaves. Cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain, cool under running water, and squeeze dry. Chop finely and place in a bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the garlic, chili, olive oil, and Pecorino. Stir well and taste for seasoning; adjust as needed.

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Arrange the crespelle in a single layer on a tray. Top evenly with some of the filling, fold into quarters, and enjoy.

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