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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

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We’ve been celebrating the release of our book, Winter Cocktails , for a few weeks with book signings, demos, and most importantly,  with loud and punch-drunk parties at home and with friends who’ve supported us every step of the way. Celebrate with us at home with one of our cocktails, and share in our glee while you look at these pictures, graciously taken by photographer Shinsuke Kishima.

A special thanks to Penelope Bouklas and Emily Rickard our prop stylists, without whose magical touches and hawk-eyed attention to detail, our book wouldn’t be as sumptuous as it is. Thank you to Geraldine Pierson, who put up with a vast number of photos that needed to be scoured through and pruned. Thank you to Lea Siegel for getting us camera-ready for our portraits. Thank you to Benny Mouthon, who added sound to our video and also took the lovely portrait at the back of our book, catching us in all of our early-morning/no makeup glory.

Finally, thank you to Ed Levine, Kenji López-Alt, and Leandra Palermo at Serious Eats for hosting a great party and cheering us on. And, congratulations to old friend and Author of One Bowl Baking Yvonne Ruperti who celebrated her book with us, too.

Thanksgiving Pies

The holidays are upon us! Again, they caught us by surprise, but there is no denying that in the city the streets are carpeted in thick layers of fallen leaves and the windows of shops are screaming out invitations to shop.

We had another early celebration, a dry run, so that we could share our Thanksgiving with you. Last year we honored the turkey and showed you how to roast and carve, but this year, we decided to go straight for what people most ogle at the table: PIE. Here you’ll find sweet and savory pies with classic flaky crusts, nut-based crusts, puff pastry berets, and crunchy layers of phyllo. We’ve included the standard but regal apple pie, and included a reimagined version of candied yams and marshmallows, as well as brown butter pear and cranberry, potato, and of course, turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

And a very special thank you to our friend and rock star prop stylist, Emily Rickard!

Thanksgiving Pies

Thanksgiving Pies

Thanksgiving Pies

INDIVIDUAL TURKEY POT PIES
Makes 8 to 10 pot pies

Notes: You can roast the turkey up to two days in advance.  
My rule of thumb for seasoning poultry is ¾ teaspoon salt per pound of meat.
- I prefer Dufour brand puff pastry; it is pricier, but well worth it for true butter flavor.
- Warming the milk makes it easier to incorporate into the roux.

For the Turkey
1 (6-pound) bone-in turkey breast
4 ½ teaspoons salt* and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup mixed herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Turkey: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F.  Set an oven-safe cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet.

- Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the turkey with your fingertips. Rub most of the salt and pepper directly on the flesh, then rub the remaining on the skin. Combine the butter with the herbs and smear the butter in between the skin and flesh.

- Drizzle the breast with the olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue cooking until the thickest part of the breast registers 150°F (usually it is 160°F, but there will be carryover cooking and the turkey will be cooked within the pot pies).  Cool turkey to room temperature, then carve and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces.

For the Filling and Topping
3 pounds red waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter
12 ounces slender carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into ½-inch-thick slices
12 ounces mushrooms, such as maitake or shiitake
4 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
4 cups whole milk, warmed*
2 sheets puff pastry*, thawed according to package instructions
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Filling and Topping: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

-Place the potatoes in medium saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer on medium heat until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in large skillet. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper, and sautée until golden about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

- Melt an additional 2 tablespoons of butter in now empty skillet. Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in sherry and cook an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with carrots.

- Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in now empty skillet. With a wooden stirring spoon, stir in the flour to make a paste (this is the roux). Cook, stirring, until beginning to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and slowly pour in milk while vigorously whisking. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes until thickened; it should be like gravy. If too thick, add more warm milk.

- Pour sauce over vegetables in bowl and fold in potatoes and turkey.

- Divide the mixture evenly between (6- to 8-ounce-capacity) ramekins.

- Dust a clean, dry work surface with flour and rub a rolling pin with more. Roll out the puff pastry — this will depend on the size of your ramekins. Use a round cookie cutter to punch out “lids” for the ramekins, or cut it into squares. Cover the pot pies with pastry. Whisk the egg yolk and cream together in a small bowl and brush over pot pies.

- Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.

CLASSIC DOUBLE-CRUST APPLE PIE
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8

Notes: Granny Smiths are firm and tart and will retain their shape while they bake. Avoid softer-fleshed apples like Golden Delicious, which will blow out and turn mushy.

For the Double Crust
400 grams/14 ounces (about 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar
200 grams/7 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Ice water, as needed

For the Filling
2 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples*, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Demerara or other coarse-granule sugar for decorating

For the Double Crust: See Brown Butter Pear and Cranberry Pie crust recipe above for method. The only difference will be that once you’ve kneaded the dough, you’ll divide it in 2 before wrapping in plastic and refrigerating.

- Once your pie has been filled, roll out the second disc of dough and cut out decorative pieces, if desired. For the design in this picture, I lopped off the top third of a green apple and placed it on the topping. I then used a cookie cutter to cut out an opening in the center of what would be the lid and placed it over the filling and green apple. Rather than trimming off the edges of the dough to make a classic fluted edge, I decided to go a more organic route and simply pinched the bottom and top doughs together, letting the rest ruffle.

For the Filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, and salt.  Pour mixture into prepared dough shell. Cover with second dough round, decorate as desired, and refrigerate for 20 minutes (this will allow the top dough round to rest and also allow the apples to release some of their juices).

- Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the egg yolk and cream together in small bowl and brush all over pie dough. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake until pie is deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before serving.

SWEET POTATO PIE WITH NUT CRUST AND FLUFF TOPPING
Makes one 8- by 8-inch pie, serving 8 to 12

For the Crust
Baking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into thin slices and chilled

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

- Lightly coat an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with baking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, laying down first one piece and allowing about 3 inches of excess to hang over the edges, then a second piece crosswise to create a sling. Coat with spray once more.

- In a food processor, pulse the flour, pecans, sugar, and salt until the pecans are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan and press into bottom of pan in an even layer.

- Bake until just set, about 20 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

For the Filling
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 pounds garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup apple cider
Water
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sorghum syrup or molasses
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ an orange
2 large eggs

For the Filling: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the allspice and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes, apple cider, and salt and bring to a simmer (if potatoes are not covered, add enough water to cover by about 1 inch). Cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 12 minutes. If liquid remains in pot, remove lid, increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking until no liquid remains. Remove pan from heat, cool potatoes to room temperature, and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

- Add the orange zest and juice and eggs to food processor and blend until mixture is completely smooth. Scrape mixture into prepared crust and smooth out into even layer. Prepare topping.

For the Topping
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch salt
1 (16-ounce) tub marshmallow fluff

- Beat egg whites and with wire whisk in large bowl until they hold soft peaks. Scrape fluff into a second large bowl. Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites, then fold in the rest using a rubber spatula.  Spread over sweet potato filling.

- Bake until marshmallow fluff is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Using the overhanging parchment paper, pull pie out onto a cutting board and cut into 8 to 12 pieces. Serve.

BROWN BUTTER PEAR AND CRANBERRY PIE
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8

Notes: In the images in this post, the pie was baked in several different-sized pie plates. Feel free to do the same.
- The measurements for the crust are provided in grams and ounces as I normally use a scale when preparing it.

For the Crust
200 grams/7 ounces (about 1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting counter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
100 grams/3.5 ounces (7 ½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Ice water, as needed

For the Filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds firm Bosc pears, peeked, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup brandy

For the Crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt on a clean, dry, and cool work surface. With a bench scraper, cut in butter until it resembles wet sand. Alternatively, combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand, then transfer mixture to work surface.

- Form a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in beaten egg and 1 tablespoon ice water. Working quickly, use the bench scraper to combine the ingredients.  If the mixture appears very dry and crumbly, add ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until mixture is cohesive but not overly wet.

- Bring dough together with lightly floured hands. Pinch off small pieces of dough and, working quickly, with the heel of your hand extend on work surface to ensure even distribution of butter. Gather dough together into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

- Clean and dry off counter and sprinkle with flour. Rub flour on rolling pin. Roll dough out, starting in the center and working outwards (never roll back into center as it will just bring the dough back). Dough should be about 12-inches in diameter.  Roll dough lightly onto rolling pin, then transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Press into the bottom and sides, trim off edges and reserve them, then pinch the edges into a decorative pattern. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, during which time you can prepare the filling. (The dough may be prepared up to 1 week in advance to this stage and frozen).

For the Filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

- Melt the butter in large skillet over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it begins to foam. Once the foam subsides and small brown flecks can be seen in the butter (it will smell nutty, too), add the pears, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing and stirring, until pears are browned and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.

- Stir in the brandy, sugar, and cranberries. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then, pour into prepared crust. Pinch off pieces of the reserved dough scraps and scatter over pie. Bake until bubbling and edges of pie are brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.

POTATO, LEEK, AND CHEESE TART
Makes 1 tart, serving 6 to 8

Notes: This is a great appetizer.
- I used a rectangular tart pan, about 7- by 11-inches. Any tart pan in that general size will work.
- Phyllo is a tissue paper-thin dough that dries out and breaks if exposed to air even for a few seconds. Set the pile of phyllo sheets on your counter, cover it with wax or parchment paper, then cover it with a damp towel. You will work with only one sheet of dough at a time.
- I used Cana de Cabra, a Spanish cheese with a chalky exterior and soft center. Avoid using the chalky logs of goat cheese here as it is lacking in flavor.
- A mandolin makes quick work of thinly slicing potatoes. While working, keep potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from oxidizing.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts thinly sliced (or 5 shallots, thinly sliced)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed out according to manufacturer’s instructions
6 ounces goat cheese or brie*
2 teaspoons thyme leaves plus additional for garnish
2 ½ pounds red or yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced*

- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks or shallots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

- Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter. Brush a tart pan with butter, then press 1 phyllo sheet (see notes above about working phyllo) into the pan. Brush the sheet with more butter, then repeat layering and buttering process until you’ve used all the sheets. Crumble or break apart the cheese and scatter over the dough. Scatter the leeks or shallots over the cheese.

- Arrange the potatoes in a slight overlapping pattern over the leeks and cheese.  Brush the potatoes with butter, lightly season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some of the thyme. Repeat the process until you’ve run out of potatoes. Trim off any excess pastry hanging over the edges of the tart mold.

- Bake until potatoes are tender and golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before serving.

*Leftovers are great reheated and served with a fried egg on top.

The Lone RangerOn a recent trip, I found myself alone in a darksome wood, driving for miles under cover of pre-dawn darkness.  The road meandered and snaked, unspooling like a cat’s ball of yarn. It was lonesome, but not lonely. Quiet, calming, sleepy, yet coursing with adrenaline, a soft, insistent thudding underneath the ribs keeping the time. The moon, even as morning hours progressed, shone high beam-bright, Night resolutely ignoring daybreak.

Seldom am I away from the din of cities, home and work pushing me back and forth between crowded spaces. Being alone comes with its own noise, however.

A while back I wrote about dining by myself and many of you responded with your experiences. Some of you applauded the activity and others wondered if they had the stomach for it – your thoughts have stayed with me…

This has been a particularly travel-heavy year and eating out on my own is becoming increasingly more routine. It’s ever easier, but admittedly, it has exhausting and trying moments. Food is about community, family, and sharing, and a party-of-one-dinner lacks in companionship. I do still try to pick interesting and popular restaurants that are easy to slip into as a single diner, but now there’s a bit more exploration: each new city, each new seat at the bar, each new dish provides space for thought.

Those thoughts have of late focused on eating alone at home. It is now a treat to do so, and, on occasion, I avoid having lunch at my desk or standing in the kitchen. This steak and mashed potato meal (cocktail included!) is a treat. Approach its preparation and consumption as if you’re a guest.

The Lone Ranger

The Lone RangerThe Lone Ranger

SALTED WHITE CHOCOLATE, LAVENDER, AND HONEY MOUSSE
Serves 6

Notes: When buying white chocolate, read the ingredients list and be sure it contains cocoa butter. Many brands omit it, and the quality of the dessert suffers.

This recipe is clearly not for 1, but leftovers keep for about 5 days.

1 (0.25-ounce) packet powdered plain gelatin
½ cup lukewarm water
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup fresh lavender (or 3 tablespoons dried lavender buds), plus additional for garnish
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped out, pod reserved
Table salt
10 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped*
Maldon salt, for garnish

- Stir gelatin and water together in small bowl and allow to stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

- Bring 1 cup cream, honey, lavender, vanilla bean pod,  and a pinch of salt to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and steep 15 minutes. Strain and discard solids.

- Return cream to pot and bring to a simmer once again. Add the vanilla bean seeds and white chocolate. Stir until smooth.

- Transfer mixture to bowl, cover with plastic, pressing down on surface. Refrigerate about 30 minutes until firm.

- Whip the mousse to soften and lighten. In a separate bowl, whisk (or whip with electric mixer) remaining 2 cups cream until soft peaks form. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mousse, then, fold in the rest with a rubber spatula. Serve in bowls or cups and garnish with lavender and Maldon salt.

STEAK

I don’t have much of a recipe for this one, but some guidelines that will hopefully help you:

-  Pat the steak dry with paper towels.
–  Season it generously with salt and pepper.
–    Heat about 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and be sure the oil is beginning to smoke: the skillet needs to be raging hot in order to get a proper sear on the meat.
–  Cook the meat to your desired doneness – I like mine bloody, so I go for 4 to 6 minutes on each side. The more you cook, the more familiar you will become with steak – you’ll be able to touch it with a fingertip and tell how done it is. In the meantime, an instant-read thermometer is helpful.
–  Allow the meat to rest at least 5 minutes before eating.
–  Always cut against the grain.

MASHED POTATOES

When it comes to mashed potatoes, I like a russet potato. Peel and cut about 1 pound into 1-inch cubes and bring to a boil over high heat, starting with cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. If you start with boiling water, the potatoes will cook from the outside in and they’ll blow out. DON’T DO IT!

-  Cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot over the heat. Allow them to dry out for a few minutes. Mash them or put them through a ricer or food mill, then stir in melted butter and warm heavy cream (warm butter and cream will incorporate much more easily into your mash, and you  won’t have to reheat them). Add as much butter and cream as you like, then season with salt, and sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

Guest Chef: Dean Sheremet

We spend a lot of time thinking of recipes and images to share with you on this blog, and sharing food, even if just virtually, is in effect the backbone not only of this blog, but the notion of food in general.

With that in mind, Cookin’ and Shootin’ will start introducing you to the chefs, creatives, and food lovers that inspire us (and sometimes, feed us!).

We start what will hopefully begin a delicious series with Dean Sheremet, fellow FCI graduate (ahem, we both graduated top of the class – just saying), Nobu and Jean-Georges alum, culinary TV presenter, and pal. This end-of-summer biyaldi, layered with vegetables, is a warm, deeply flavored, and robust dish that will bridge the gap between the seasons.

The recipe follows, as do details on where you can find Dean on social media, so be sure to add him to your list of people to follow. Lastly, a little Q&A, based on the ever-entertaining Proust questionnaire.

Cooking background: French Culinary Institute class of 2010, Nobu, Jean-Georges

Currently: TV projects, writing, recipe developing

What is your idea of perfect happiness, were it food? Any meal shared with friends.
And wine.

What is your greatest food fear? (Insert flashback) Not having mise ready at service.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself as a chef?  In the heat of service, I can be very stringent.

What is the trait you most deplore in fellow cooks? Laziness and lack of accountability.

What is your greatest food extravagance? The time I went to the French Laundry, and I wanted to experience everything. I couldn’t turn down the bread, and 21 courses later, I literally felt like I was going to throw up.

What is your favorite food journey? I’m still on it.

On what occasion do you lie in the kitchen?  I sometimes gloss over ingredients that I put in food that they may not eat. (Apologies to my vegetarian friends – read: duck fat).

What do you dislike most in a food’s appearance? I hate dead herbs on a plate. Or herbs on the rim of a plate. Actually, just any misguided herbs.

Which living chef do you despise the most? It’s more a quality than a person: Egotism.

What is your greatest food regret? Sending out overcooked salmon. Sorry, table 56.

What or who is the greatest culinary love of your life? Doing prep – it’s when I feel at peace.

When and where were you happiest cooking? Cooking on the line at JG, at a really high level, and cooking without fear.

What is the cooking talent you would most like to have? Patience.

What is your current state of mind? Restless.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I have a hard time letting go.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I’d have my grandmother back on this earth.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Work ethic.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Working brunch.

What is the quality you most like in a man? Trustworthiness.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? Wit.

What do you most  value in your friends? Knowing they  have my back no matter what.

Favorite hero of fiction? Sherlock Holmes.

Who are your heroes in real life?  My grandmother.

What is it that you most dislike? Ignorance.

How would you like to die? Happy.

What is your motto?  Memento mori.

Ingredients

Mixing and Tasting

Assembly Time

Baked & Ready to Eat

END-OF-SUMMER BIYALDI

Serves 6 to 8

For the Orange Braised Fennel

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½  yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel head, core removed and
Sliced thin
Finely grated zest plus 1/3 cup juice (from 1 orange)
¼ cup Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup ricotta cheese (your choice of skim or full-fat)

Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the orange zest and juice and white wine and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the ricotta.

For Eggplant Purée

3 Japanese eggplant, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
½  yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
Pinch of Aleppo or cayenne pepper
1/3 cup store-bought tomato sauce of your choice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant, onion, and a bit of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is golden brown and onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Set aside to cool slightly, then stir in the vinegar and Aleppo pepper and pulse it in a food processor just until chunky. Season with salt and set aside.

For the Biyaldi and Assembly

2 small Japanese eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise (ideally on a mandolin)
Olive oil
2 Gold Bar yellow squash, sliced thinly lengthwise (ideally on a mandolin)
Salt
1 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup plain panko
1 rosemary sprig, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
½ cup store-bought tomato sauce

- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

- Toss the eggplant with just enough oil to coat, and arrange the slices in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. Roast the eggplant until golden and soft, about 10 minutes.

- While the eggplant is roasting, arrange the squash in a single layer over a few clean kitchen towels and season liberally with salt, after about 10 minutes, wipe them dry of any moisture and excess salt.

- Grease a 13- by 9-inch casserole with olive oil. Spread the bottom of the dish with tomato sauce. Arrange half of the sliced eggplant to the bottom of the dish, gently overlapping the slices. Dollop and gently spread, first, with some of the braised fennel, then with some of the eggplant purée. Top with a layer of squash slices, then repeat procedure with remaining ingredients.

- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Combine the cheese and panko in a small bowl; drizzle enough olive oil to moisten the mixture. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Place under the broiler until the cheese starts to melt and the breadcrumbs gently brown

- Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Find Dean’s recipes at www.deansheremet.com and follow him on Twitter (@deansheremet.com) and Instagram deansheremet

And of course, you can find us cavorting on Instagram as well @tstriano and @sacasastylist

I have been remiss… It always happens that I get bulldozed with work and other distractions and I allow the blog to gather dust, much to the more diligent Tara’s annoyance. This post, along with a surprise guest-starring one coming up soon, begs to be paid attention to as the summer goes bipolar between summery hot flashes and incoming fall’s feverish chills.

This salad is actually something I hope to drag into the cold with certain variations in ingredients – it’s a salad that leaves those plastic bowl, carry-out, romaine chopped things in the dust with a robust smoky backbone of flavor. Oh, and, granita! I make a lot of granitas, for desserts and cocktails mostly, but a few months ago at one of my favorite restaurants (Blood & Sand in St. Louis) I had a lovely English pea and pea shoot tangle topped with a buttermilk frost that was divine in a very delicate sort of way.

This granita is salty lime and mint, and melts into the salad and its drizzle of olive oil for a refreshing and surprising twist on vinaigrette. Look out for some MacGyver action in this recipe, too: grilling, indoors!

CHAYOTE AND ROASTED POBLANO SALAD
Serves 4

For the Lime Granita
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup fresh lime juice (from about 6 limes)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup packed mint leaves
Salt

- Stir 1 cup water and lime juice together in an 8- by 8-inch metal baking dish or other similar-sized vessel.

- Bring the remaining ½ cup water, sugar, mint, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir mixture into the lime mixture and adjust seasoning to taste.

Place dish in the freezer and scrape with a fork once every 45 to 60 minutes, until mixture is completely frozen and has the consistency of a slushy. Reserve in freezer until needed.

For the Salad
5 chayotes
Salt
4 poblano peppers, scrubbed
10 scallions
Olive oil oil
6 radishes, scrubbed, tops and bootoms trimmed, thinly sliced
½ cup (about 2 ounces) queso fresco or other Latin American hard cheese, crumbled
½ cup packed cilantro leaves

- Peel the chayotes, cut them in half, scoop the seed out with a metal 1-teaspoon measure or melon baller, and cut into thin matchsticks. Prepare an ice bath by combining 3 cups of ice and 3 cups of cold water in a large bowl. Set up a strainer in the sink. Bring a large bot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the chayotes and cook for 2 minutes. Drain them and immediately plunge them in the ice bath. Once cool, drain them again. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and spread chayotes out in an even layer to dry.

- If you have a gas stove, char the poblanos over an open flame, turning with tongs occasionally, until their skins are black and blistered. Wrap them in foil and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove the stems and tear out and discard the ribs and seeds, then slice the poblanos thinly (lengthwise), and place them in a large bowl.
If you don’t have a gas stove,  heat a large dry skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the poblanos until black and blistered and follow steps above.

- Again, if you have a gas stove, toss the scallions with olive oil, then lay them on a metal gridded cooling rack over an open flame and cook them until charred. Otherwise, cook them in the same skillet as the poblanos. Transfer them to a cutting board, trim off and discard the root end, then coarsely chop and transfer to bowl with poblanos.

- Add the radishes, cheese, and cilantro and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Plate the salads and top with granita. Enjoy immediately.

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

 
I will never turn town a potato chip or a French fry, the starch, the grease-slicked fingers, the lips split by the salt as if they had enjoyed a long night of kissing…but a fried plantain can be a scene-stealer. Fried until crisp in long, thin strips until the color of marigolds, they look like sleek surfboards. Cut into chips, they become edible coins from a slot machine, completely addicting. And of course, the double-dip method in which the plantain is fried twice is a favorite preparation.

Tostones begin by being cut into thick pieces, fried in vegetable oil, then flattened with a tostonera (see image) or the back of a small skillet, and returned to the frying pan. When finished, tostones resemble an exploding gold bloom. Seasoned with salt and served as an accompaniment to many meals, tostones can also be served as a “boca” or “botana” (appetizer) with crumbly or creamy Latin American cheeses like cotija and quesillo, refried beans, and vinegary cabbage slaws.

This is a basic method for making tostones. On average, each plantain will yield about 10 tostones; make as many or as few as you’d like. I’d recommend making more because the crunchy exterior and starchy, satisfying bite of the interior of the tostón calls for gluttony.

TOSTONES

Fun fact: plantains in Mexico are called “plátanos machos”!

Green plantains
Vegetable oil
Salt

- Cut off and discard the ends of each plantain. Cut the plantain crosswise into 4 pieces. With a paring knife, score the skin, cutting just enough to reach the flesh of the plantain. Use the knife to pry off the skin. Cut each plantain quarter crosswise into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces.

- Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and reaches 350°F. The oil should be about ½-inch deep in the skillet.

- Fry a batch of the plantain pieces (don’t overcrowd the skillet) until golden, turning once halfway through frying, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet and repeat procedure with remaining plantain pieces.

- Using a tostonera or a small skillet, press down on the plantain pieces until they are flat. Fry the tostones once more, until crisp and golden, turning once halfway through frying, about 3 minutes per side.

- Transfer tostones to prepared baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Serve immediately.

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And, for ongoing food pics, follow us on instagram!  Tara: tstriano and Maria sacasastylist

If you don’t have Instagram, try http://www.followgram.me/tstriano and http://www.followgram.me/sacasastylist

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