It’s fava bean season again, and they are worth the effort it takes to get them out of their protective shells. To prep fava beans, remove them from their cottony pods, blanche them in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, place in an ice water bath, drain, and remove their waxy outer shell.
This simple salad pairs fava beans with their classic counterparts, lemon and salty cheese. You can use Pecorino or Parmesan here. Bitter radicchio, parsley, and a super flavorful lemon vinaigrette round everything out. I love the pale green ingredients contrasted with the bright purple radicchio.
Radicchio and Fava Bean Salad
1 small head of radicchio, halved, cored and thinly sliced
3 handfuls of fava bean pods, beans removed, blanched, and outer shells removed
2 tblsp coarsely chopped parsely
2 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, pressed
juice of 1 or 2 lemons
salt and coarse pepper
3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
shaved Parmesan or Pecorino
1. In a large bowl, make the dressing. Combine pressed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Use a fork to slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add parsley and scallions.
2. Gently toss radicchio and fava beans into the vinaigrette. Divide into bowls and garnish generously with shaved Parmesan.
Arancini have become a mainstay of my party food repertoire, and for good reason. They are magical. They are so festive that one can imagine eating them at an ancient Roman feast, a backyard picnic, or a fancy wedding in the Hamptons. These traditional Sicilian fried balls of rice are also hand-held, bite-sized, and can be made in advance. Leave it to the Sicilians to perfect party food over 1000 years ago.
I made this sophisticated version of arancini from Martha Stewart for a baby shower. I love the double blast of bright orange color from the butternut squash and the golden panko crust. The center has a tangy burst of goat cheese, and a drizzle of warm honey takes them over the top.
To make them in advance, prepare the recipe below and let cool completely on parchment-lined sheets. Layer them between parchment in large freezer-bags and freeze for up to 1 month. To defrost, transfer them to the fridge one day before your party. On the day of the event, reheat them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning once.
Butternut Squash Arancini with Sage
makes about 20
2 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced butternut squash
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, whisked
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 ounces goat cheese
Canola oil for frying
1/3 cup honey, warmed
1. Heat chicken stock over medium-low heat until warm; cover and keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add squash and cook, stirring often, until lightly golden and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove squash from pan. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan; add onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Add rice to pan; stir to coat with oil. Add 1/2 cup warm stock; cook rice, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Repeat until all stock has been used and risotto is soft and creamy, about 22 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; stir in squash and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool completely.
5. Place flour, eggs, and panko on separate plates. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a ball of cooled risotto, and nestle 1/2 teaspoon goat cheese in the middle. Roll in flour, dip in egg, and roll in panko; set on a tray. Repeat for remaining risotto. Heat 3 inches of canola oil to about 360 degrees in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. Fry arancini in batches, turning every minute, until brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.
6. To serve, drizzle arancini with warm honey, or serve honey as a dipping sauce.
I am somewhat of an olive fiend. They are a constant element of my antipasto plates and salads. I’ve tried many recipes for marinated olives, but this one from Jean Georges Vongerichten really stands out. His simple technique uses toasted fennel, fresh orange peel, and crushed red chile flakes to make an infused oil full of depth and flavor. And it does this with only four ingredients. The sweetness of orange and anise counteract the brine from the olives, and every so often, you get a nice crunch from the toasted fennel seeds.
Orange and Fennel Marinated Olives
makes 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups Lucques olives (or other brine-cured green olives, or mix with Kalamatas)
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp crushed red chile flakes
4 (4-inch) strips of orange zest (removed with a vegetable peeler)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Rinse olives under cool water and drain well.
2. In a dry skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chile flakes and toast for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the oil and orange peel. Steep until cool.
3. Pour the oil mixture over the olives. Cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 6 hours, or refrigerate for up to 5 days.
For Valentine’s Day this year, I made two things Greg has always requested, but I’ve never made: clam chowder and popovers. As natives of CT and MA, of course I am referring to New England clam chowder. Chowder reminds me of being a kid and visiting my cousin in Rockport every summer with my grandparents. My uncle would take us to all the freshest seafood spots, and we would sit on the docks eating chowder, steamers, lobster, and corn on the cob. Greg’s favorite chowder was at Top of the Hub in Boston, where he worked for a few years in college.
For my first attempt at making chowder, I once again relied on the expertise of Cook’s Illustrated, with a few slight modifications. I wanted a chowder with a rich, silky broth that wasn’t at all gummy. Cook’s Illustrated uses flour, rather than cornstarch or breadcrumbs, and achieves this beautifully. Most recipes call for cherrystone clams, but I used littlenecks which are about the same size. Other changes I made to the recipe: I added garlic and celery, used Yukon Golds instead of red potatoes, and chives instead of parsley as the garnish. Since this soup only contains a few ingredients, it’s important that they are all top-notch; fresh clams, good bacon and clam juice. I was surprised how quick and simple it was to pull together. The popovers I made alongside also came from The New Best Recipe. They were lightly crisp and golden on the outside, with an airy center, webbed with dough. So good!
New England Clam Chowder
3 lbs medium hard-shelled clams, such as cherrystones or littlenecks, washed and scrubbed clean
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 large Spanish onion, diced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tblsp all-purpose flour
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 or 2 cups good-quality bottle clam juice, such as Bar Harbor
3/4 cup heavy cream
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring 1.5 cups water to a boil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams just open, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl; cool slightly. Discard any that didn’t open. Open the clams with a pairing knife, holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices. With a knife, sever the muscle that attached the clam to the shell and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Chop the clams; set aside. Pout the clam broth into a pyrex measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth to avoid the sediment; set the clam broth aside. You should have about 2 cups. Rinse and dry the Dutch oven and return to the burner.
2. Fry the bacon in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir unlit lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam broth and 2 cups bottled clam juice. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved chopped clams, the cream, and salt (if necessary) and pepper to taste; bring to a simmer, but do not boil. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tblsp vegetable oil
1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until well combined, about 20 seconds. Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl and add to the egg mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or spatula just until the flour is incorporated; the mixture will still be lumpy. Add the melted butter. Whisk until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 30 seconds. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. While the batter is resting, measure 1/2 tsp vegetable oil into each cup of a popover pan. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place the popover pan in the oven and heat to 450 degrees. After the batter has rested, pour it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or another container with a spout (you will have about 2 cups batter.) Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and distribute the batter evenly among the 6 cups in the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, without opening the oven door. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown all over, 15 to 18 minutes more. Invert the pan onto a wire rack to remove the popovers and cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Who could forget Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as Italian brothers and chefs in Big Night. In preparation for his role as Secondo, Stanley Tucci worked with acclaimed chef Gianni Scappin, honing the skills he already had, as the son of “food-obsessed” Italian immigrants. In The Tucci Cookbook, he pulls together recipes from both of their families, compiling a collection of well-crafted traditional dishes, heartfelt personal histories, and gorgeous food photography. I want to cook this whole book.
I made this plum and polenta cake for a recent dinner party, and it was excellent. If you can’t find plums right now, substitute 6 quartered figs, or 1/2 cup of cherries. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Plum and Polenta Cake
1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp finely ground cornmeal or semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
13 tblsp butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tblsp packed light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan or an 8-inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal (or semolina), all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.
4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter (place them along the perimeter, not in the center). Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes (it took closer to an hour for me).
This simple salad would be a beautiful and festive addition to any holiday table. It’s a rustic yet sophisticated dish that could be served as an appetizer or a side, and is delicious at any temperature.
Carrot salads are typical in Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines, and often contain raisins. As a twist, I used slivered Medjool dates, which also play off of the carrots’ natural sweetness. A sherry vinaigrette with shallots rounds out the dish.
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Dates & Sherry Vinaigrette
serves 4 as a side
3 bunches rainbow carrots, peeled, scrubbed, halved lengthwise if very thick (cut into equal-sized pieces)
6 dates, slivered
2 tblsp sherry vinegar
1 tblsp lemon juice
1/2 shallot, finely minced
4 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and pepper
Italian parsley for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the carrots with 1 tblsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots until tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes.
2. In the meantime, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the sherry vinegar, lemon and shallot, and in a slow steady stream, the remaining 3 tblsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. After removing the carrots from the oven, let cool slightly. Toss with the dates and the vinaigrette. Before serving, garnish with parsley leaves.