Category Archives: fast

SEEKING SPANISH TITLES

I love Spanish food, but I just don’t cook its cuisine at home very often. So I was extra excited to help organize a Spanish-themed potluck — I contributed David Tanis’ hearty and elegant Spanish tortilla, pan con tomate, and patatas bravas (all the starchy, carb-y offerings, haha!) — because everyone seriously turned on their A-game. There was aged chorizo made from scratch and fried with apple cider vinegar… a wide pan brimming with a seafood paella… a vegetal black chickpea stew… and Spanish cheeses, nuts, and fruits from Seville. It was a feast! But now I’m left adrift: what now? I realized I have no cookbooks devoted to the region, and I have a feeling I have so much left to learn. Can anyone suggest a good place to start? Any suggestions would be awesome!

RICHARD OLNEY’S EGGPLANT GRATIN

Any idea what this could be?

It’s one of my favorite Richard Olney recipes — gratin d’Aubergines, or eggplant gratin. A lot of our friends have asked me for this recipe, because it’s a really unusual and lovely way to make our way through the final harvest of eggplant and tomatoes. We’ve made this dish so many times this summer, and it’s insanely delicious — faintly sweet, and unbelievably light in texture. Picture a syrupy soup dotted with fresh vegetables, topped with a pillowy square of souffle. I love eating a big wedge of this gratin for dinner, with a simple green salad and crusty, buttered bread.

Eggplant Gratin

For the eggplant:
1 1/2 lbs eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ slices [note: clearly, in the photo above, I chose to dice the eggplant into small cubes instead of the slice. Both options are nice]. Olive oil for frying

For the stewed tomatoes:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 t sugar
Salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne

For the cheese custard:
4 oz ricotta
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup heavy cream (you can use a bit less; I think we used around 1/4 cup)
salt, pepper
Handful basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

—Cook eggplant in hot olive oil until golden brown and tender. Do not undercook! Really let it fry. Remove and set aside. (Also, we only used as few tablespoons of olive oil and found that draining the eggplant was not necessary.)
—Add more olive oil to the pan, add onion and cook until soft and yellowed, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and turn up the heat until at a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer until tomato liquid almost completely gone, about 15 minutes. Taste for salt.
—In a small bowl, mash the ricotta with a fork, and mix in to the egg until smooth. Season, then add enough Parmesan to bring the mixture to the consistency of a thick paste. Stir in cream until of a pourable consistency.
—Line the bottom of a gratin dish with half the eggplant slices, and tear basil over top, and sprinkle lightly with cheese.
—Add the tomato mixture.
—Gently press the remaining eggplant slices on top of the tomato mixture.
—Spoon the cheese-custard mixture over the entire surface. Sprinkle liberally with remaining Parmesan and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then turning oven down to 375 to bake for another 25 minutes. Look for a swollen, golden surface.
—Serve immediately, and garnish with torn basil.

FASTER THAN FAST

I thought about whether this pasta dish deserves a recipe, but honestly it doesn’t. I chose three of my favorite late-summer ingredients (fresh cranberry beans, one zucchini, one ear of corn), then sauteed everything in a pan with lemon, garlic, shallots, and butter until golden and soft. I love the handmade pastas at Marché Milano, which are always super fresh and affordable. (I spent about $6 for 10 portions’ worth). The pasta is quickly boiled and then tossed into the pan, alongside a few ladles of starchy pasta water, some grated Parmesan, a pinch of red chili flakes, and more lemon juice.

I love having fresh beans around the house when they’re in season, but sometimes, when you’re really hungry, the last thing you want to do is spent 10 minutes shelling a bowl of beans, and then wait another 30 minutes while they boil. I tend to make huge batches of fresh beans, and then freeze them in small quantities, ready to be consumed at a moment’s notice. Then you can enjoy a supremely satisfying lunch that materializes in about 15 minutes.