Aromatic Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles

1 tablespoon light oil
2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed and tough outer layers discarded, remainder halved lengthwise and minced
1 Thai red chili pepper, seeded and minced
1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces cooked chicken, shredded (see NOTE)
4 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
5 ounces thick rice noodles, or egg noodles
Soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium lemon
Handful cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the lemon grass, chili and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the chicken and the broth, and cook for 5 minutes to let the flavors develop. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. (It should take no more than a few minutes.)

Season to taste with soy sauce and pepper. Squeeze a little lemon juice into each serving and sprinkle with the cilantro.

NOTE: To make this with raw chicken, cut the chicken into thin slices and add it to the saucepan 30 seconds after adding the garlic, stir-frying it until the exterior looks cooked. Then add the broth and proceed with the recipe as written.

Poblano, Bacon, and Cheddar Corn Bread

3 fresh poblano chili peppers
6 to 8 slices center-cut bacon (about 4 ounces total)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs, well beaten
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups fresh or frozen/defrosted corn kernels

Place the poblanos directly on a gas burner over medium-high heat. Cook, turning them as needed, for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are charred all over. (Alternatively, position an oven rack 4 inches from the broiling element and preheat the broiler. Arrange the poblanos on a piece of aluminum foil and place on the rack to broil for 10 to 15 minutes; turn frequently until charred all over.)

Transfer the poblanos to a zip-top bag and seal, or place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. When they are cool enough to handle, discard the blackened skin, stem, ribs and seeds, then dice the remaining flesh. (It is easier to remove the skin under running water, but some cooks say that washes away flavor.) Cut the flesh into small dice; the yield is a packed 3/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels.

Heat a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisped. Transfer the bacon to the lined plate to drain. Turn off the heat, leaving the fat in the skillet.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and black pepper in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the milk, cream and eggs in a large liquid measuring cup, then stir into the cornmeal mixture until just incorporated. Add the diced poblano, the cheese and corn. Crumble the bacon over the bowl. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from the skillet into the batter, stirring gently to incorporate.

Heat that same skillet over medium heat. Once the remaining bacon fat shimmers, pour the corn bread batter evenly into the skillet. Transfer to the oven; bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cut into wedges; serve warm.

Tex-Mex Chili with Beef and Pork

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pound beef stew meat, cubed or cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound lean ground pork or lean ground beef
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded then coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño pepper (seeding optional)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mild or hot paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon sauce from canned chipotles in adobo, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
28 ounces canned, crushed, no-salt-added tomatoes
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4 cups no-salt-added beef broth
30 ounces no-salt-added, homemade or canned pinto beans (drained and rinsed, if using canned; about 4 cups)

Sour cream, for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
Crushed tortilla chips, for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chunks of beef. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the meat releases from the surface. Stir so the meat begins to brown on all sides, then add the ground pork or ground beef. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring, so the ground meat browns and loses its raw look and its juices evaporate.

Clear a space at the center of the pot; add the remaining tablespoon of oil, then the onion, red bell pepper and jalapeño pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring frequently to keep them from scorching.

Clear a space at the center again; add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, adobo, cumin and oregano, stirring to incorporate. Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring a few times, to form a thickened mixture.

Stir in the broth; once the mixture starts to bubble vigorously, reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the beans. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a low boil; cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally; for a thicker chili, add up to 15 minutes to the cooking time. Taste, and add adobo, salt and pepper as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Serve the sour cream, cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and scallions at the table, so guests can garnish their own portions.

Basic Marinara

1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, certified D.O.P. if possible
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
Small dried whole chile, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large fresh basil sprig

Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.

In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.

As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add whole chile or red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir.

Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil and chile (if using).

YIELD
Makes about 3 1/2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

Rao’s Meatballs and Marinara

FOR THE SAUCE:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces salt pork, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans imported Italian crushed tomatoes
6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
Pinch of dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper

FOR THE MEATBALLS:

1 pound ground lean beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly smashed

PREPARATION

Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the salt pork. Sauté until fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard salt pork. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté just until softened. Add tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Add the basil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 minute more.

Make the meatballs: In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, veal and pork. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley and minced garlic, then salt and pepper as desired. Add the bread crumbs and mix well. Slowly add up to 2 cups water, 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture is moist; all the water may not be needed. Shape into 1 1/2 -inch meatballs.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and sauté until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then discard the garlic. Working in batches and taking care not to crowd the pan, add meatballs and fry until undersides are brown and slightly crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and brown the other sides, about 5 minutes more. Transfer cooked meatballs to paper towels to drain, then add to the marinara sauce. Mix gently and serve.

Lemon Mashed Potatoes

FOR THE MEYER LEMON VINAIGRETTE

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano

FOR THE POTATOES

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
Kosher salt
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
Ground black pepper

For the Meyer lemon vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and mustard until combined. Slowly add olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and oregano; set aside.

For the potatoes: Put potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, return potatoes to the pan and put back over low heat, stirring a few times, to dry well.

Add crème fraîche, lemon zest, parsley, oregano and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently crush with a potato masher until combined. If desired, potatoes may be covered and kept in a warm oven for up to 30 minutes. To serve, transfer to a bowl and drizzle with Meyer lemon vinaigrette while still hot.

Boca Negra

White Chocolate Cream
12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon (or more to taste)

Cake
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces, at room temperature
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Prepare the cream at least one day in advance. Put the white chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor or in a blender container. Heat the heavy cream until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and process until completely smooth. Add the bourbon, taste and add up to a tablespoon more if you want. Turn into a container with a tight-fitting lid and chill overnight. (The cream can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to a month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper; butter the paper. Put the cake pan in a shallow roasting pan and set aside until needed.

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and keep close at hand. In a 2-quart saucepan, mix 1 cup of the sugar and the bourbon and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a full boil. Immediately pour the syrup over the chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Piece by piece, stir the butter into the chocolate mixture. Make certain that each piece of butter is melted before you add another.

Put the eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the eggs thicken slightly. Beating with the whisk, add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Gently whisk in the flour.

Baking the cake: Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan, running your spatula over the top to smooth it. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake for exactly 30 minutes, at which point the top will have a thin, dry crust. Remove the cake pan from its water bath, wipe the pan dry and cover the top of the cake with a sheet of plastic wrap. Invert the cake onto a flat plate, peel off the parchment and quickly but gently invert again onto a serving platter; remove the plastic.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with the chilled white chocolate cream.

Storing: Once cooled, the cake can be covered and kept at room temperature for 1 day or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Wrapped airtight, the cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Swedish Visiting Cake

1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch cake pan or even a pie pan.

Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest and blend the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Finally, fold in the melted butter.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar. If you’re using a cake or pie pan, place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside; the inside will remain moist. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and bottom of the cake to loosen it. You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.

Swedish Apple Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 extra-large egg or 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 to 1 1/2 apples (I used Fujis), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
Apple, quince or ginger jelly or preserves, for glazing the cake (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. (Ann says 345°F, but my oven doesn’t do that.) Generously butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or a similar sized cast-iron skillet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, if you’re using it, and keep at hand.

Working in a mixing bowl with the whisk, beat the egg(s) and sugar together until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla, if you’re using it, and then the melted butter. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Stir in the dry ingredients and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Top with the apples, making a spiral pattern. Leave some space between each slice, so the batter can puff up between the wedges – it looks much nicer with the puffs.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack.

If you want to glaze the cake, warm a few spoonfuls of jelly and a splash of water in a microwave oven (or a saucepan) until the jelly liquefies. Brush the jelly over the hot cake.

Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes, or wait until it reaches room temperature, before you cut it into wedges to serve.

Storing: Cooled and covered, the cake will keep overnight at room temperature, but it’s best served shortly after it’s baked.

Scallops with Mango Tomato Salsa

SCALLOPS WITH GINGERED MANGO-TOMATO SALSA
Makes 4 servings
4 strips bacon (optional)
2 large scallions, finely sliced (or finely sliced red onion)
About 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced (optional)
1/2 jalapeno or other chile, seeded and minced
1 or 2 limes
1 large mango, ripe but firm, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/2 pint (or more) grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
Chopped cilantro, mint or basil (optional)
Arugula and/or mixed greens
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, muscle removed, patted dry
Olive oil
Vinaigrette
Butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

If you’re using the bacon, cook it in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (you’ll use the same skillet for the scallops) until it’s crisp. Pat the bacon dry and, when it’s cool, chop it and keep aside. Pour off most of the fat; leave about 1/8 inch of fat in the skillet. (You can do this a few hours ahead.)

For the salsa, toss the scallions (or onion), ginger, preserved lemon and chile into a mixing bowl. Season wtih salt and pepper, pour in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, grate the zest of one lime over the mix and give everything a good stir. (You can make the salsa up to this point a few hours ahead; cover and leave at room temperature.)

Just before you’re ready to cook the scallops, finish the salsa by stirring in the mango and tomatoes. Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa, season with salt and pepper and taste for more juice and/or olive oil. Sprinkle over the cilantro, if you’re using it. Once you add the lime juice, you’ll want to serve the salsa within 15 minutes … max.

Season the greens with salt and pepper and toss with a little vinaigrette — you don’t want to over-moisten the greens. Line a large shallow serving bowl or a platter with the greens.

Put the skillet with the bacon fat over high-medium heat and, when it’s hot, toss in a tablespoon of butter. If you didn’t make the bacon, heat a combination of olive oil and butter in a skillet. When the bubbles have just about subsided, put the scallops in the pan — don’t crowd them. Cook, without turning, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they’re nicely browned on the bottom. Flip the scallops over and cook for another minute or 2 to brown. When done, the scallops should be firm on the outside and opalescent and still a little jiggly in the center. (If you like your scallops more done than that — cook away.)

Turn the scallops out over the salad. Give the salsa a last stir, then spoon it over the scallops. Top with the chopped bacon and serve.

Pasta Risotto

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 3/4 cups chicken broth (or 3 3/4 cups water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
1 1/3 cups tubetti (my preference) or elbow macaroni (traditional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 1/2 tablespoons mascarpone

Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Toss in onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. (Or, if you’d like, go ahead and cook the onion until it’s golden.) Pour in chicken broth or water and bring to a boil; if you’re using bouillon cubes, drop them in now and stir to dissolve. Add pasta, stir it around, and let it cook at a steady simmer until it has absorbed almost all the broth, 20 to 25 minutes. (There should be just 1/4 inch or less of liquid bubbling at the bottom of the pan.)

Pour in cream and allow it to simmer for about 3 minutes, until it thickens slightly. Stir in Parmesan and mascarpone, cook for 1 minute, and taste for salt and pepper (it should be generously peppered). Pull the pan from the heat, cover, and let rest for 3 minutes before serving.

You can certainly serve this as a side dish to a roast of almost any kind, including chicken—think of it as a fancy macaroni and cheese—but it’s elegant enough to come out on its own as a starter or main dish. It can be eaten plain or with a dusting of parsley or a little more Parmesan; of course, if you have some truffles to grate over each portion, go for it.

Cheddar Chive Quick Bread

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (it depends on what cheese and add-ins you’re using)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or more to taste; you could even add a pinch of hot pepper)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces coarsely grated cheddar or other cheese
2 ounces cheddar or other cheese, cut into very small cubes
1/2 cup minced chives or other herbs
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and whisk the ingredients together to combine.

Put the eggs in another mixing bowl; whisk for about 1 minute, until they’re foamy and blended. Whisk in the milk and olive oil.\n\n3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a sturdy rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, gently mix until the dough comes together. There’s not need to be energetic?beating the dough toughens it?nor do you need to be very thoroughly. Just stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Now, stir in the cheese, grated and cubed, the herbs and the toasted walnuts, if you’re using them. You’ll have a thick dough. Turn the dough into the buttered pan and even the top with the back of the spatula or spoon.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, wait about 3 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and turn the loaf over onto the rack; invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits

6 thick-cut bacon slices
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus melted butter for brushing
2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk
Honey (optional)

Position rack just above center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then chop coarsely.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter cubes. Blend until coarse meal forms, about 30 seconds.Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Add cheddar cheese, fresh chives, and chopped bacon; toss to blend. Gradually add buttermilk, stirring to moisten evenly (batter will feel sticky).

Using lightly floured hands, drop generous 1/2 cup batter for each biscuit onto prepared baking sheet, spacing batter mounds about 2 inches apart.

Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Brush biscuits lightly with melted butter. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve biscuits warm or at room temperature with honey, if desired.

Bacon-Cheddar Quick Bread

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese plus 1/2 cup 1/4-inch cubes extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces total)
1/2 cup finely chopped moist dried pears (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.
Combine bacon, all cheese, dried pears, walnuts, and sage in medium bowl. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs, milk, and olive oil in another medium bowl to blend. Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Add bacon-cheese mixture and stir until incorporated (dough will be very sticky). Transfer dough to prepared loaf pan; spread evenly.

Bake bread until golden on top and slender knife inserted into center of bread comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool bread in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic, then foil, and store at room temperature.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

1 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes
Pinch of fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme, optional
1 or 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed, optional
About 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat.

Cut the tomatoes in half – I cut cherry tomatoes horizontally (around their waists) and grape tomatoes from top to bottom – and place them cut-side up on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle over the salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. There’s no need to use a lot of oil – just enough so that the tomato tops glisten.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast the tomatoes for about 3 hours. When they’re done, the tomatoes will be shriveled and a little dry looking, but press them gently and you’ll see that they’ve still got some juice.

Use the tomatoes immediately or cool them on the baking sheet. If you don’t need them now, pack them in a jar along with the garlic and herbs, if you’ve used them, and cover them with good olive oil. Topped with oil, the tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

In addition to pulling the tomatoes into service to give pasta a little more punch, put them and a little of their oil over chicken, salmon or tuna, steamed vegetables and anything else that needs a little color and an extra hit of flavor.

Mustard Batons

All-purpose flour, for rolling
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (each about 8½ ounces), thawed
½ cup Dijon mustard
1 large egg
Poppy seeds, for topping (optional)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Have a ruler and a pizza cutter (or sharp knife) at hand.

Working with 1 sheet of pastry at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until you have a rectangle that’s about 12 x 16 inches. If necessary, turn the dough so that a short side of the rectangle is closest to you. Measure the length so that you can find the middle, and spread ¼ cup of the mustard over the lower half of the dough, stopping about 1/8 inch from the side and bottom edges. Fold the top portion of the dough over the bottom and, using the pizza cutter (or knife), with your ruler as a guide, cut the pastry from top to bottom into strips about 1 inch wide (I actually use the width of the ruler itself as my guide), then cut the strips crosswise in half. (If you prefer, you can leave the strips long.)

Carefully transfer the batons to one of the baking sheets and chill or freeze them while you work on the second batch. (You can make all the strips to this point and freeze them on the baking sheets, then pack them airtight and keep them frozen for up to 2 months.)

Lightly beat the egg with a splash of cold water and brush just the tops of the strips with this glaze. If you’d like, sprinkle them with poppy seeds.

Bake the batons for 8 minutes. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom and bake for another 7 or 8 minutes, or until the strips are puffed and golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the batons rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Unbaked batons can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months and baked while still frozen. Brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with the poppy seeds, if using them, just before baking.

Tapenade Batons. Can be made with tapenade instead of mustard, Before folding over the puff pastry, sprinkle the tapenade with grated lemon zest and/or grated Parmesan; other good add-ins are teensy slivers of roasted peppers or sun-dried tomatoes, paper-thin slices of onion, and toasted sliced almonds.

Chicken-in-the-Pot

Approximately 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, but not peeled
16 shallots, peeled and trimmed, or 4 onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, or 4 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
4 celery stalks, trimmed and quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 lemon
16 prunes, optional (apricots or dried apples are also good in this dish)
1 chicken, whole or cut-up
1/2 small (2 lbs or less) cabbage, green or red, cut into 4 wedges (try Savoy cabbage)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine, or another 1/2 cup chicken broth
About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, for the seal
About 3/4 cup hot water, for the seal

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Set a large skillet over high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic cloves and all the vegetables, EXCEPT the cabbage – you might have to do this in two batches, you don’t want to crowd the skillet – season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned on all sides. Spoon the vegetables into a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid – you’ll need a pot that holds at least 5 quarts. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and prunes, if you’re using them.

Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Put the chicken in the casserole, nestling it among the vegetables. Fit the cabbage wedges around the chicken.

Stir together the chicken broth, wine and 1/2 cup olive oil and pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Now you have a choice: you can cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil and the lid, or you can make a paste to seal the lid. To make the paste, stir the flour and water together, mixing until you have a soft, workable dough. Working on a floured surface, shape the dough into a long sausage, then press the sausage onto the rim of the casserole. Press the lid into the dough to seal the pot.

Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 70 minutes. If you need to keep it in the oven a little longer because you’re not ready for it, don’t worry – turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and you’ll be good for another 30 minutes or so.

The easiest way to break the seal, is to wiggle the point of a screwdriver between the dough and the pot – being careful not to stand in the line of the escaping (and wildly aromatic) steam. If the chicken was whole, quarter it and return it to the pot, so that you can serve directly from the pot, or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter.

Lemon Possets

2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, heat cream and sugar to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue boiling for 5 minutes. Watch the heat – don’t let the cream boil over. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let cool, about 15 minutes. Pour even amounts into four ramekins. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until set. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream, or shortbread cookies to dunk.

Cauliflower Couscous with Cashews

1 large cauliflower (about 1 ½ pound of cauliflower florets)
5 ounces raw cashew nuts
3 ounces sultanas (gold raisins)
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon za’atar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour warm water over them. Leave the sultanas for about 15 minutes, until plump. Drain and discard the water.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the cashewnuts and toast them for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and gently charred. Stir frequently to make sure that cashewnuts do not burn. Let the cashewnuts cool. Cut the half of the cashewnuts into smaller pieces (or simply crush them with your hands).

Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure to leave behind as much of the stem as possible. Chop the florets into smaller pieces. Transfer the cauliflower into food processor in batches, and pulse until the pieces are finely chopped and resemble couscous. Be careful not to over-process.

In a large sauté pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower couscous to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the couscous from the heat and let it cool. Add the sultanas, cashewnuts, za’atar, cumin, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Leave the couscous for about 15 minutes for the flavors to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste

Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.

Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce

fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (or other varieties, if they are equally ripe and truly fruity, not watery)

The blanching method: Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them into coarse pieces.

The freezing method (from David Tanis, via The Kitchn): Freeze tomatoes on a baking sheet until hard. Thaw again, either on the counter or under running water. Skin them and cut them into coarse pieces. The food mill method: Wash the tomatoes in cold water, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a bowl. Transfer the tomatoes with any of their juices to the mill and puree.