In the kitchen with Alex Hitz, Lidia Bastianich, and Deb Perelman.
Here are three recipes from three different cookbooks being published this season by Knopf.
In MY BEVERLY HILLS KITCHEN by Alex Hitz, the popular restaurateur mixes classic Southern cooking with a French twist.
In LIDIA’S FAVORITE RECIPES, Lidia Bastianich presents 100 foolproof Italian dishes, from basic sauces to irresistible entrees.
And in THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK, Deb Perelman — a star of the food blogging community and creator of the hugely popular SmittenKitchen.com (with a whopping 8 million page views and 4 million unique visitors per month!) — shares 100 of her favorite recipes, illustrated with
300 of her own beautiful photographs.
Dorothy’s Cheese “Straws”
(from MY BEVERLY HILLS KITCHEN)
These aren’t straws at all, but, actually, wafers
Anyone who has ever lived in the South knows what a cheese straw is: a savory, salty cocktail cookie shaped long-ways like a straw, made of sharp Cheddar cheese, butter, flour, and cayenne pepper, and always on hand for that Southern habit of dropping by. Seemingly every household has its own version, and great pride is taken in the exploitation of its subtleties.
Dorothy Davis, our beloved family cook, rarely used a recipe, but I had the foresight to write this one down. The secret to Dorothy’s cheese straws is that they featured dried dill and chopped pecans. These days, perfectly delicious cheese straws are easily purchased, but few are as delectable as Dorothy’s.
Yield: 60 small wafers
1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons dried dill
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On medium speed, cream the butter and cheese together until they are light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.
Mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, salt, pecans, and dill in another bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients slowly. This whole process should take no more than a couple of minutes, and the dough will be coarse and dense.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and place it in the refrigerator for an hour. Take the bowl from the refrigerator and pour the dough onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion with your hands to make 3 balls, making the balls into logs about 2 inches thick.
Be sure the dough is condensed so there are no air holes. Roll the logs in wax paper and put them in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the logs from the freezer and slice them into half-inch slices. Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake them for approximately 10 minutes, until they are golden but not yet brown in color. Let them cool at least 15 minutes and either freeze them or serve them.
Note: These will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese
(from LIDIA’S FAVORITE RECIPES)
Pesto has become very familiar in American homes by now—that is, pesto made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, and pignoli nuts. Well, this one is different— it is an uncooked sauce freshly flavored with herbs, almonds, and tomatoes. It is a recipe I discovered in Sicily while researching for Lidia’s Italy, and I have received countless e-mails about this recipe, praising its simplicity and rich flavor. I am sure it will become one of your favorites.
Serves 4 to 6
3/4 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 large fresh basil leaves
1 plump clove garlic, crushed and peeled
1/3 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta pot
1/2 cup extra- virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Rinse the cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, and pat them dry. Drop the tomatoes into a blender jar or food-processor bowl, followed by the basil leaves, garlic clove, the almonds, hot red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl, and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived. With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste, and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate it for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)
To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in a large pot. Slip in the spaghetti, and cook until al dente.
Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl. Lift the cooked spaghetti up, drain briefly, and drop directly into the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
Tres Leches Rice Pudding
(from THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK)
My list of rice pudding loves is long. There’s the Danish risalamande, with chopped almonds, whipped cream, and a sour cherry sauce, usually served at Christmas with a prize inside—one that I never win, not that I’ve been trying for thirteen years at my best friend’s house or anything. There’s kheer, with cardamom, cashews or pistachios, and saffron. There’s rice pudding the way our grandmothers made it, baked for what feels like an eternity, with milk, eggs, and sugar. And there’s arroz con leche, which is kind of like your Kozy Shack went down to Costa Rica for a lazy weekend and came back enviously tan, sultry, and smelling of sandy shores. As you can tell, I really like arroz con leche.
But this—a riff on one of the best variants of arroz con leche I’ve made, which, in its original incarnation on my site, I adapted from Ingrid Hoffmann’s wonderful recipe—is my favorite, for two reasons: First, it knows me. (That’s the funny thing about the recipes I create!) It knows how preposterously bad I am at keeping stuff in stock in my kitchen, like milk, but that I seem always to have an unmoved collection of canned items and grains. Second, it’s so creamy that it’s like a pudding stirred into another pudding.
The rice is cooked first in water. I prefer to start my rice pudding recipes like this, because I’m convinced that cooking the rice first in milk takes twice as long and doesn’t get the pudding half as creamy. Also, it gives me a use for those cartons of white rice left over from the Chinese take-out I only occasionally (cough) succumb to. Then you basically cook another pudding on top of it, with one egg and three milks—coconut, evaporated, and sweetened condensed—and the end result will be the richest and most luxurious rice pudding imaginable. But why stop there? For the times when the word “Enough!” has escaped your vocabulary, I recommend topping it with a dollop of cinnamon- dusted whipped cream, for the icing on the proverbial cake.
Yield: serves 8
1 cup (180 grams) long-grain white rice
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
One 12-ounce can (1½ cups or 355 ml) evaporated milk
One 13.5-ounce can (1 7/8 cups or 415 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
One 14-ounce can (1¼ cups or 390 grams) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) heavy or whipping cream, chilled
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Ground cinnamon, to finish
To cook the rice, put the rice, 2 cups of water, and the salt in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil—you should hear the pot going all a flutter under the lid and puffing steam out the seam. Reduce to a low simmer, and let the rice cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove the rice pot from the heat.
Once the rice is cooked, whisk the egg in a medium bowl, and then whisk in the evaporated milk. Stir the coconut and sweetened condensed milks into the rice, then add the egg mixture. Return the saucepan to heat and cook the mixture over medium-low heat until it looks mostly, or about 90 percent, absorbed (the pudding will thicken a lot as it cools), about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, then divide the pudding among serving dishes. Keep the puddings in the fridge until fully chilled, about 1 to 2 hours.
To serve, whip the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop a spoonful of whipped cream on top of each bowl of rice pudding, dust with ground cinnamon, then enjoy.
Cooking note: If you have 2 cups of leftover white rice, you can skip the first step, and jump in with the egg and three milks.
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