Tag Archives: appetizers and nibbles

candied tomato + ricotta crostini


There is a sort-of-good reason my posting has been sluggish the last two weeks; I’ve been in Italy with my sister. First we were in Rome for a week, and then out in Perugia, visiting a remote enough village called Montefalco. Italian food and wine—and the gorgeous, sunny, bright, 70-degree days—they make you a step slow. In a good way.

I made these crostini before I left; I was probably already thinking about Italy. In northern Italian cuisine, at least, there are as many ways to transform dry and stale bread as there are moments in time. During our journey, we had many dishes of bread soaked in bean broth, or smeared with some kind of meat, or heaped with brothy greens. All delicious. These are easy finger food for a party—nice and compact and simple to pick up and eat. Most of the crostini I’ve encountered in Italy are actually soaked in broth, which makes them decidedly not finger food.


When I created these, I needed a huge batch, so I give large party-sized proportions below. But you can just as easily grab a 12-ounce container of sweet cherry or grape tomatoes and make these on a smaller scale. Fresh marjoram is hard to find—but it’s wonderful. If you can’t find it, I think a much smaller number of sprigs (maybe 2 or 3) of fresh thyme would do. And do take the time to locate a nice, strained, creamy, fine-grained ricotta, or make your own, or simply line a sieve with cheesecloth and drain the regular store-bought kind by weighting it down over the sink for an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Few sights will perk up your kitchen faster than a giant pan of these incredible tomatoes simmering away on the stove. You’ll find more uses for them than just crostini. I originally got this idea, in fact, from this stunning recipe I found on Food52 a year or two ago. More cooking discoveries from Italy over the next few weeks. I’ve already made versions of two new dishes that will soon enough make it to these pages. Until then, ciao!

cooking away

Candied tomato + ricotta crostini

Makes about 50 crostini; enough to feed a number of people as part of a cocktail party menu. You can cut the recipe by one-third for a much smaller number.

A lazy woman’s version of this fantastic recipe from Food52.

  • 36 ounces cherry and grape tomatoes, mixed colors
  •  3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 sprigs fresh marjoram
  • Maldon salt
  • 3 cups fresh, strained ricotta
  • 1 or 2 baguettes, sliced about 1/4-inch thick (depends how long the baguettes are)

1. In a very large nonstick skillet, warm tomatoes and olive oil together. Cook at medium-high heat until tomatoes are all burst. Pour in the vermouth after taking the pan off of the heat. Crumble in the brown sugar and return pan to burner, set to medium. Throw in marjoram sprigs. Simmer until dark, thick, and syrupy. This may take 20 to 30 minutes. It depends on the amount of moisture in the a tomatoes. Let mixture cool for about 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place baguette slices cheek by jowl on baking sheets and toast for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

3. Thickly spread a dollop of ricotta on about half of crostini. Then top each with a spoonful of candied tomatoes. Sprinkle with Maldon salt to taste. Discard marjoram stems as you go. Continue covering crostini with ricotta and candied tomatoes until mixture is used up; you may have bread left over, depending on how big your baguettes were. Serve at room temperature.

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deviled eggs w fresh herbs

egg plates

Is everyone sick of deviled eggs? Between Easter and Passover, they get a workout this time of year. But if you aren’t, I recommend grabbing some of the super-springy herbs at the farmers’ market and getting to work. While I’m giving out unsolicited advice, I would also recommend trying out those medium-size eggs in the grocery store.

I seriously feel for the medium eggs. No one uses them. I often wonder who, besides me, ever buys them. But when you’re boiling eggs, you want ones that are a week or two old. I figure you get that and more with the mediums. No recipes ever call for them, even though, really, they aren’t that runtish.

cute and medium

Generally I buy my eggs at the farmers’ market—and they’re mostly mediums, with a handful of larges and usually one super-giant egg in each dozen. Using these eggs for baking, I’ve long been used to measuring the cracked eggs to make sure I’m getting the right quantity of fluid in sensitive baking recipes. So, when I’m making deviled eggs, especially for a cocktail party, I like them bite-sized. And they hard-boil in no time. (Nine minutes off the heat after bringing to a boil; then you plunge them into an ice bath. The eggs are still a mite soft in the middle; this makes the filling extra gorgeous in the end. Change the time to 12 minutes off heat for large eggs.)


Adding butter to the yolks, just a bit, at room temperature, is a trick we have all by now seen on Food52, where this technique was shared by Virginia Willis in a “genius recipe” feature. It’s pretty clever. The filling is just gorgeous, and handles easily. The chopped herbs get stirred in by hand at the end so as not to turn the filling green. I am partial to the chervil, and add quite a lot, showering the finished eggs with a heavy hand. Its pert citrus flavor livens up the proceedings, and marries beautifully with a nice cocktail like a Negroni.

Do you have an old hobnail or pressed-glass egg plate? Run out and get one! Cheers, it’s spring.

Deviled eggs w fresh herbs

Adapted from Virginia Willis’ recipe at Food52

  • 1 dozen medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, if needed
  • 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus more for garnish

1. First, boil the eggs. Place eggs in a pan and cover with water by 1 inch. Place on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cut off heat just as water boils, place lid on pan. Set a timer for 9 minutes. (This is for medium eggs. For large, time 12 minutes.) When it rings, carefully transfer eggs to a big bowl of ice water and cool thoroughly. At this point you can refrigerate eggs for several days until ready to make deviled eggs.

2. Peel eggs. Slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolk to food processor; add mayonnaise, butter, mustard, cayenne. Pulse until very smooth. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add chopped herbs. Taste for salt. Add salt as needed.

3. Scrape mixture into a quart-size plastic zipper bag. Push out air, seal bag, snip off corner. Use this to fill eggs, or simply spoon filling into the whites. Garnish with remaining herbs.


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lamb meatballs w zaatar + aleppo pepper

After having been snowed out of my house for four days—thanks to a giant winter storm—I am looking for ways to introduce the flavor of warmer climes into the kitchen. And at any time of year, who can resist a meatball? I have been experimenting with meatballs with no egg to bind them together. In this recipe, I make a paste out of the bread or breadcrumbs, garlic, fresh onion, and spices. There is so much moisture in the onion that it saturates the breadcrumbs and creates a fairly wet paste to work ever so lightly into the ground meat. If you don’t have access to za’atar you could use a combination of thyme, sesame seeds, and extra lemon zest.

We are fortunate that here in New Haven we can get ground lamb regularly from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm, at our CitySeed market. If you can’t find it at your market, you could ask the butcher to grind some lamb stew meat for you, or you could probably substitute ground beef.


It’s really fun to serve these meatballs for supper with a nice chopped salad, dressed lightly with olive oil and lemon juice, along with a dish of olives or maybe some stuffed grape leaves. Or make a big batch of baba ganoush and serve alongside some za’atar pita. You can imagine you’re in a warmer place, feasting after sunset on a long, long midsummer day.

Lamb meatballs w zaatar + Aleppo pepper

Serves 4 as part of a larger meal, serves 8 as an appetizer.

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 c breadcrumbs, or a hunk of bread that looks like it would make that much
  • 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Maldon or sea salt for finishing
  • 1/2 lemon cut into wedges

1. In the bowl of food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine garlic, breadcrumbs, onion, za’atar, Aleppo pepper, lemon zest and salt. If you have only a hunk of bread, tear it into pieces and pulse it in the food processor first to make crumbs, then add the other ingredients. Scrape mixture into a large bowl. Add lamb and mix lightly with your hands until mixture is uniform. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes, to allow moisture to redistribute.

2. Warm olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Form lamb mixture into sausage shaped logs, about 1 inch in diameter and 3 inches long, or into 2-inch long torpedo shapes. Fry these in the hot oil until very well browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes in total.

3. Serve meatballs with lemon wedges and sprinkled with sea salt.

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sweet + tangy meatballs

For a long time I have played around with Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatball recipe, which is a great addition to a Christmas Eve supper, or a Christmas lunch. The combination of sweet (lingonberry preserves) and creamy (heavy cream) and tangy (pickle juice) with the rich meatballs is just the perfect holiday mixture.

When I make meatballs, I like to make a lot. It’s a pretty labor-intensive—not to mention messy—process. You can always freeze them for later and then have the benefit of having messed up the kitchen only once. When I started making these meatballs, I would fry them in oil on top of the stove. But with the larger batch, I find that it’s dramatically less messy than frying in batches, and I can make sure the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Sure, the resulting meatballs are kind of flat on one side (the side sitting on the baking sheet), but this is a price I’m more than willing to pay to avoid a grease-coated kitchen. If you’re dedicated to producing the cordon-bleu version of these, by all means fry away!

While the meatballs are cooking, you’re cooking up a sweet, tangy, and then ultimately creamy sauce on top of the stove. After the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is thickened up, you can combine them right away in a slow-cooker on low or on top of the stove on low, to coat the meatballs and allow the flavors to mix. After that, you can reheat or keep warm at will. If you’re freezing part of the meatballs, you should freeze them after baking in the oven, and make up the sauce when you’re ready to use them.

Samuelsson’s recipe is based on his family’s Swedish traditions. In my family, molasses is a traditional ingredient in just about anything. And we get the best molasses in the world from Center Market in Cambridge, Md. I keep lots of it in the house this time of year. I played around with using it here in lieu of honey in the meatballs themselves, and I added them to the sauce, just like I do to my barbecue sauce. The result is a nicely browned meatball, and a rich and sweet sauce. (By the way, if you prefer, you can make up the meatballs as below and make the barbecue sauce recipe to dress them. Also delicious.)

Enjoy serving these to your family and friends—and adapt the recipe with traditional ingredients in your house this time of year.

Sweet + tangy meatballs

Based on Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs, which is a great recipe


  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground veal
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and half-and-half and allow to rest, stirring occasionally while sauteing the onions. Set up food processor fitted with metal blade.

2. In a large saute pan, melt olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Add sliced onion and saute until soft and transparent. Do not allow to caramelize. Scrape contents of pan into food processor. (Set pan aside without washing to make sauce later.) Add soaked bread crumbs. Pulse about 20 times until onion is finely chopped and mixture is well combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, ground meats, molasses, eggs and spices. Using your hands, combine until mixture is consistent, but use a light touch. Do not squeeze or manhandle the mixture. Take your time. When combined, set aside and wash your hands.

4. Place the meat mixture and baking sheets on a work surface. Wet your hands and begin to form meatballs the size of golf balls. Pinch off a suitable amount of the mixture and lightly form them into balls by smoothing between your hands. Line meatballs up, not touching, on the sheets. When all meatballs are formed, place the sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 400 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of meatballs is 170 F. Remove from oven and set aside.


  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ancho chile powder (this is not the same as chili powder, which should not be used)
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 c molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or pickle juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. While meatballs are in the oven, make the sauce. Using the saute pan you used for the onions, warm tomato paste and ketchup over medium-high heat. When mixed and bubbling, add chile powder, cayenne, and allspice. When these are mixed in, add molasses and stir until bubbling and combined. Slowly add apple cider and whisk until mixture is smooth and combined. Cook this mixture until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Adjust heat lower if boiling too rapidly.

2. When mixture is thickened, add salt, chicken stock, and vinegar. Whisk again until very smooth and continue simmering until reduced and thick, another 10 to 20 minutes. Taste sauce and correct seasonings. Remove pan from heat and stir a few times. Slowly add cream, whisking constantly, and bring back to a simmer. Keep warm until ready to combine with meatballs.Taste again and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

3. To finish the dish, place the cooked meatballs in a large heavy Dutch oven or sauteuse with high sides. Cover with sauce and gently combine until meatballs are coated. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. Serve as hors d’oeuvres, or with mashed root vegetables, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.

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oyster mushrooms + thyme

I feel that few things convey the warmth and beauty of my Thanksgiving wishes to you better than posting a picture (and recipe) of a gorgeous fungus. I mean that in all sincerity. Is there anything more fabulous than a fresh and frilly mushroom?

If you are putting away the wreckage from the opening salvo of Thanksgiving cooking, I hope you are satisfied with your labors. I have just finished roasting the sweet potatoes, the butternut squash, baking the pies (pumpkin and raisin), drying out the bread for the stuffing, and straining the broth for the gravy. My grandmother has already made the turnips, and cut up all the onions and celery for the stuffing. We are set well on the path to the great American holiday. (I believe that what makes this holiday particularly American is that for something so simple, we certainly have made it complicated. And probably for excellent reasons. Is there any aspect of this holiday that has gone unexamined?)

If you are attending a feast elsewhere and are expected to bring a dish, but have given it absolutely no thought and are now filled with remorse and anguish: this is your recipe. These mushrooms are sold by Two Guys from Woodbridge at my farmers’ market in Wooster Square (New Haven) on Saturdays, but you can make this with any flavorful wild mushroom you find in the market. The beauty of it is that it is quite delicious at room temperature. So you can whip this up tomorrow and bring it along with you to supper without asking your host to borrow a burner. I like it dished up on the side, but you can also serve it piled up on toasts if you prefer. Quadruple the recipe and make it in two batches, so as not to crowd the pan. That is all.

I hope you have a brilliant Thanksgiving. And, as always, thank you for reading.

Oyster mushrooms + thyme

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced into thin ribbons
  • leaves from 2 – 3 small branches of fresh thyme
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Maldon sea salt, kosher salt, or fleur de sel
  • thin toasted slices of baguette, if desired, for serving

1. In a large nonstick skillet, warm butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, scatter in mushrooms and reduce heat to medium. Shake the pan once and then cook mushrooms without disturbing them for 3 – 4 minutes until starting to brown on the side in contact with the pan. Then stir, sprinkling with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for 1 minute more.

2. Remove mushrooms to a serving bowl. Serve hot or, better yet, at room temperature. Eat plain or on toasted baguette slices, if desired.

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soda farls

I feel that along with the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the soda farl may be one of the great gifts Irish civilization has given to the world. I mentioned these shortly after my return from a vacation in Ireland this summer, and I have dedicated myself to figuring out how to make these miraculous breakfast breads. They are the most pedestrian thing in the world in the northern part of Ireland where I traveled, but to an American who is always excited to have freshly baked goods for breakfast, but who is not always excited to heat up the oven or to get into a seriously complicated pas de deux with her Kitchen Aid first thing in the morning, the soda farl seems just the thing.

I was told that “farl” is a word in Gaelic that means “triangle” because these biscuits—they are, essentially, biscuits—are always cut out of a round piece of dough. This recipe makes four good-sized farls, quarters of an 8-inch round. You could double it and make two rounds, also cut into quarters, or smaller sections if you like. The basic idea here is that you take your usual Irish soda bread recipe, and instead of baking it in the oven, you pat it into biscuits that are “baked” on top of the stove. I was also told that this preparation was developed because in Ireland, most stoves were fired by coal or peat, 24 hours a day. But in the morning, when the stove was stoked up first thing, it was not an ideal time to bake inside the oven (temperatures fluctuating, and the fuel flaring up), so breakfast bread was baked on top of the oven. This may or may not be true, but sounds like a reasonable enough explanation to me. The key to cooking something this thick on top of the stove is to get the griddle nice and hot at first, but then cut back the heat right away after you place the dough in the pan. Let them cook nice and slowly, as the bottoms gently brown.

Unfortunately, my usual Irish soda bread recipe has too much sugar and is too heavy for this treatment. So here I revert to a much more typical mixture. However, I ultimately added a trick that my mom has always used in her biscuits—the addition of cream of tartar. Like buttermilk, cream of tartar is an acid (tartaric acid, to be precise) and it just makes the dough rise up a bit higher and a bit more tender. You can make these without it, just as the recipe is written. The whole point is that it’s first thing in the morning! Don’t knock yourself out. Just pull out a pot of jam and enjoy.

Soda farls

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. Using a spatula, gently mix buttermilk into dry ingredients until it produces a shaggy mixture. Be careful not to overmix; there should still be a few teaspoons of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.

2. Lightly flour a counter and turn contents of bowl onto counter. Pull dough together and knead very lightly for five turns. Pat gently into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Dough should be about 1 inch thick. Cut into quarters.

3. Heat a dry and well-seasoned cast-iron skillet–large enough to accommodate the farls you have cut–over medium-high until very hot. The griddle should not smoke. Reduce heat to medium-low. Take each farl and place into the pan. (Try to shake off any extra flour before placing in the pan, as the flour will burn. If it does, it is not the end of the world, however.) Cook on the first side for 10 minutes. After about 1 minute, gently nudge each farl around the pan to loosen it from the griddle. After 10 minutes, carefully and lightly flip each farl over and cook for another 10 minutes on the second side, until cooked through.

4. Remove farls from pan and serve piping hot with breakfast. Jam and butter are great, or just eat yours with eggs and bacon.

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eggplant + tomato spread (bohémienne)

It’s evidently that time in the summer when few of us can resist the siren song of the piles of glossy black, purple, and white eggplants at the market. Their shiny, taut skins belie the pithy perfection that lies within. The eggplant is one of the true chameleons of the vegetable world. Much more subtle than its extroverted solanaceous cousins, eggplant blends with flavors from rich to smoky to zesty to piquant.

I have been eyeing this recipe from some time. I frequently make baba ganoush when I want an eggplant-based dip, but with tomatoes on hand it was too much to resist this wonderful concoction. It is delicious scooped out of the pan hot (not that I would know, of course) and wonderful cold out of the refrigerator on toasts. Most of this batch was consumed at room temperature on garlic-rubbed crostini, which I would heartily suggest. This would be a marvelous party trick for your next social gathering. It takes advantage of the season’s bounty but is simple to prepare and very friendly with drinks.

The cooking time here is long, and approximate. But you can do other things in the kitchen while making this. (And, as noted above, you may want to make it ahead of time and consume it at room temperature.) Depending on the water content of your eggplant and tomatoes, you could be simmering this down for a long time. Watch the pan, and taste it. You’ll know when it’s ready.

Eggplant + tomato spread (bohémienne)

Adapted from Lulu’s Provençal Table by Richard Olney

  • 1 ripe Italian eggplant (about 1.5 pounds)
  • kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 can San Marzano plum tomatoes (28 ounces) or 1.5 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets (optional if you wish to make this vegetarian)

1. Peel the eggplant and then slice it into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Spread these in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with kosher salt, then flip the slices and sprinkle the second sides. Set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, squeeze each slice between paper towels, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips, and set aside in a large bowl.

2. In a large, wide saute pan or casserole, warm 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and saute, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft but not at all brown. (This takes 5 to 10 minutes.) Add the garlic and eggplant and continue to cook, stirring regularly, over medium-low heat until the eggplant is soft. This takes about 15 minutes. You may increase the heat of your burner, perhaps, a little, but you do not want the eggplant to brown at all. If your eggplant absorb all the oil, you may want to add another tablespoon or so to the pan.

3. Add the tomatoes to the pan, reserving the juices. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add tomato juices as needed to bring liquid just below the surface of the vegetables. Set the pan to a simmer and stir every few minutes. Cook in this manner for 60 minutes, breaking up the vegetables with your spoon as they soften.The liquid in the pan should almost completely evaporate. If it completely dries up and the mixture begins to scorch, add tomato juice or water a little bit at a time to continue the cooking for a full hour. If, after 60 minutes of cooking, the mixture is not dry (it should be beginning to stick) continue cooking and stirring until the liquid evaporates and the mixture becomes glossy and rich. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, use a potato masher or a fork to create a chunky puree.

4. Before the mixture is finished cooking, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to a small pan. Add the anchovy fillets and warm over medium-low heat until the anchovies break up and melt into the oil when prodded with a fork. Pour this mixture over the cooked bohémienne and stir well. Set the pan aside to cool. Serve at room temperature or cold, on toasted slices of ciabatta or baguette rubbed with a smashed clove of garlic.

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ricotta, baby leek + mint crostini

Last weekend there was a dinner party. From which, I think, we have only just recovered. And now I’ll pass along the recipes to you. The preparation of the meal was quite easy–I just moved from dish to dish throughout the afternoon. Except for a griddled asparagus salad, nothing I was making involved a last-minute preparation, so nearly everything was completed in advance. This crostini recipe, a version of which was on Food52 earlier in the week, was a no-brainer first course. It takes about 10 seconds to make, and it makes use of some of the season’s best ingredients. I passed over the ramps that were called for in the original recipe because next to their ramps, Waldingfield Farm had baby “King Richard” variety leeks, a crisp and peppery leek that adds crunch and punch to this hors d’oeuvre. We’re lucky in that we have some of the best ricotta around here in New Haven, from Liuzzi. And Ty’s mom had recently sent us some gorgeous, fresh mint from her garden.

The other crostini I made was this one, which you’ve seen before, made from chicken livers from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm. If you are interested, here is the entire menu. I’ll be posting these dishes throughout the week.

First Course

Chicken liver ♦ Ricotta and baby leek

Second Course

Griddled asparagus ♦ Mustard cream ♦ Prosciutto di San Daniele del Friuli

Main Course

Herb roasted shoulder of lambGratin de flageolets, fenouil


Semifreddo alla vaniglia Composta di rabarbaro


I mostly relied on recipes from David Tanis, “A Platter of Figs,” and “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” Suzanne Goin’s incomparable cookbook. So if you have these books, look up  the recipes and throw your own dinner party. I hope the company you have was as good as ours was.

Ricotta, baby leek + mint crostini

Adapted from TasteFood’s recipe at Food52

  • 20 thin slices of baguette
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta*
  • 1/4 cup finely minced baby leeks (“King Richard” was my variety) or minced chives or garlic scapes
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • juice from half a lemon
  • fleur de sel

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Leave until toasted and golden, about 10 minutes. Check them frequently so they don’t become overdone. Remove from oven and cool. This can be done an hour or so before guests arrive. Leave bread on the baking sheet so it doesn’t become soft.

2. Combine ricotta, leeks, mint, zest, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl with a fork. When well mixed, refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. To serve, scoop a couple tablespoons of mixture onto each slice of baguette. Place crostini on a platter. Spritz with lemon juice, drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil, and sprinkle with additional mint or chives (if using), and fleur de sel, as desired. Serve.

*I use the thick, strained kind sold at our Italian market and cheesemaker here in New Haven, Liuzzi. If yours is watery, you’ll want to strain it before using.


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eggplant salad

Sometimes I forget that the simplest of salads often don’t involve leafy greens. Just before an abundance of salad greens hit our farmers’ markets, I was at the co-op and spotted an eggplant. I usually don’t buy out-of-season vegetables, but I thought about what a nice change it would be to indulge in one of summer’s signature ingredients. Virtually every eggplant dish I make is a variation on this theme: plunk the eggplant down on one of my gas range’s burners, char it until it is totally blackened, covered with ashes, and seeping fluid onto the range, scrape out the smoky, roasted innards, and then mix that with whatever makes the most sense at the time.

I had a bit of red onion around and so I thought a simple salad with a kick of cumin might do the trick. You could use lemon juice if you have one around. I didn’t, but vinegar did the trick.

Since last week I have visited the CitySeed markets and stocked up on rabe, spinach, carrots, and other seasonal treats (check back soon!) but this salad was a great preview of what summer has to offer.

Eggplant salad

Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet

  • 1 eggplant, about 1 pound, more long and skinny than stout
  • 1/4 red onion, minced finely
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • coarse salt

1. Roast the eggplant. I place it, whole, over a gas burner directly on my range. As one side chars and blackens, I rotate it with metal tongs, until the entire eggplant is charred and the flesh has collapsed and is cooked. Alternatively, you can slice it in half lengthwise, place both halves cut-side down on a baking sheet, and place under a high burner (about 1.5″ away from flame) for 15 – 30 minutes, until it is charred and the inside is soft and cooked.

2. Scrape the eggplant flesh from the inside into a medium bowl, and discard skin.

3. Break up the eggplant with a fork. Stir in the other ingredients: onion, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin, parsley. Add a little salt, taste, and add more if needed.

4. Serve at room temperature as part of a selection of tapas, or to accompany roast fish, chicken, or lamb. Heap on toasts to make crostini, garnish with a bit of crumbled feta. This is a flexible dish so enjoy playing with it.

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asparagus hash + poached egg

Today is Easter and so predictably I must write a post involving an egg. I actually spent the day on my own, but wanted some kind of holiday meal that would seem like an official meal—I remind myself that standing over the sink dipping stoned wheat crackers into a container of hummus is not an official meal—without being too difficult to prepare. The eggs at the farmers’ market really are terrific right now. I had a potato, an odd bit of bacon, and some fresh spring asparagus and scallions, and it seemed like this could make something quite delicious.

The recipe I give below can be scaled up to feed any number of people. The rate-limiting factor here is knowing how accomplished you are at poaching eggs. I can’t poach more than four at a time, and I don’t recommend trying to do more than that. Since I was just cooking one for myself, the timing worked out. I like my eggs poached for exactly 3 minutes. So I cut the asparagus into tiny enough slices (1/4 inch) that I knew it would cook during the time the egg was poaching. The idea is that you make the hash with bacon (or olive oil if you want a vegetarian version), cook the potatoes through, and then when you add the asparagus and green scallion to the pan, you slide the egg in to poach and set the timer. You spend the next three minutes alternately nudging the egg(s) from the bottom of the poaching pan and stirring and shaking the hash to crisp up the asparagus. When the egg is finished, so is the asparagus, and everyone’s happy. Add a quick squeeze of lemon to the hash to give it some brightness, stir, and serve.

Instead of lemon juice you could make a very mustardy vinaigrette here and add it at the end. But what I do like about using a poached egg is that it is really the lazy woman’s hollandaise sauce. You know how you’re supposed to serve asparagus with hollandaise? Unfortunately for me, Escoffier’s mother sauce doesn’t generally appear around here at supper time. However, with the hash doused in a bit of lemon juice, and the runny yolk kind of stirred into the hash, it has a pretty similar effect. Seriously. What is hollandaise, anyway, but egg yolk, lemon juice, and butter? And what are holidays for—standing around fretting over your broken sauce? Never. Poach your egg, swish it around in your hash and bon appetit.

Asparagus hash + poached egg

I didn’t base this recipe on anything when I made it this week. But as I wrote this post, I thought, I know this idea came from something I read somewhere. I searched through my Google Reader and found this post from SmittenKitchen, and I think it is probably influential in this recipe.

For every 2 servings as a main course:

  • 1 slice thick-cut bacon, chopped into ribbons across the grain*
  • 1 large (baseball sized) red-skinned potato, cut into 1/4-inch batons**
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts sliced finely, white parts separated from green parts
  • water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • half a bunch (4 oz.) asparagus, washed, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch slices diagonally
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • coarsely ground fresh pepper
  • coarse sea salt or lavender + meyer lemon finishing salt

1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon ribbons over medium heat until fat is rendered and they are brown and crispy.Add the potato batons and the white parts of the scallions. Stir and then turn heat to just below medium, letting the potatoes rest on the bottom of the pan to get brown on one side. Then stir gently, nudging batons to get at least another side browned. Cook in this manner until potatoes are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes, if all potatoes are in contact with the surface of the pan.

2. While potatoes are cooking, bring water and white vinegar to a simmer in a pan large enough to hold the number of eggs you are cooking, up to four eggs. (If you are making more than four servings, poach eggs 4 at a time.) Water in the pan should be about 3 inches deep. When it reaches a simmer, turn it back so that it remains at a simmer temperature, but no bubbles break the surface. Salt the water as you would for pasta. Crack each egg into 1/3-cup measuring cup or a small ramekin.

3. When potatoes are just cooked and nicely browned, add asparagus and green scallion tops. Stir well and shake down to a single layer to cook.

4. Holding the 1/3-cup measure with the egg just at the surface of the water, tip the egg into the pan of water. Tip the second egg in. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Stir the asparagus mixture periodically to redistribute and shake the pan.When egg white solidifies, use a small spatula to loosen each egg from the bottom of the pan, if they are stuck there.

5. When the egg timer is about to go off, turn off the heat under hash and sprinkle with lemon juice. Stir and then distribute asparagus mixture into plates or dishes. Top each dish with a poached egg, removed from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Serve.

* For a vegetarian version, substitute 3 tablespoons of olive oil for the bacon. Warm the olive oil over medium heat and start the recipe by adding the potatoes and white parts of scallions.

** To get potatoes that cook quickly, I cut each potato in half lengthwise, then place the flat sides down on the board. Then I cut across the short way into 1/4″ slices, then rotate the board and cut long way into 1/4″ slices. You get 1/4″ batons that are as long as half the potato’s depth.

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