A mad scientist’s power comes from making something wonderful and brand new—like a singular dish that was just a grocery list of disparate ingredients, moments or hours before. The golden, shimmering alchemy of cooking is one of the ways I fill my life with warmth and light. I cook home food; no molecular gastronomics, no loopy swirls on the plate. It is a remarkable thing to be confident in providing for yourself—not just surviving, but creating, often out of very little, a feast, nourishing and magnificent in its rustic simplicity.
SAVORY ROQUEFORT CRISPS
I’ve searched high and low and in all kinds of cookbooks and cupboards for the best savory cookie on the planet. Now, since I’ve found it, there’s no way to keep it to myself. Bon Appetit’s Carla Lalli Music’s grandmother’s Roquefort crisps recipe is their family tradition. But it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve hijacked deeply personal heirloom recipes—and it won’t be the last. It just has to be shared. You’ll believe when you try these buttery little biscuits from heaven, rich and smooth with the perfect, biting tang of blue cheese and little kick of cayenne.
1/4 lb room-temp butter
1/2 lb Roquefort, Gorgonzola, or your favorite bleu cheese
1 c AP flour
1/4 tsp cayenne (or more or less depending on your taste)
2 tbsp poppy seeds
Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and cheese for about a minute, then add the flour bit by bit until it’s all incorporated into the dough. Add the cayenne and beat the dough until it’s smooth. Divide the dough into two pieces and form into a log, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and let them chill in the fridge for about 12 hours.
When it’s cracker cookie time, preheat the oven to 400°F. Use the sharpest knife to slice off ¼-inch thick rounds from the chilled logs. Place the cookies on a nonstick baking sheet, sprinkle them liberally with poppy seeds, and bake for 8 minutes, but keep a close eye.
Cool completely before eating! If there are any left (there won’t be), they will stay lovely and crisp for about a week, when stored in an airtight container.
As far as we can tell, the Middle Eastern/North African geniuses who thought up shakshuka are the beginning and end of all things eggy. Theoretically, and at its most basic, this skillet dish is eggs cooked in tomato sauce, but in real life it’s something more: a perfect cure all, a zingy way to start or end the day, and the tastiest thing that used to be on two legs.
Eggs (one or two for each person)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, smashed
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 jalapeños, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
Garlic, diced—as much as you want
Big ol’ bunch parsley, mint and/or cilantro, chopped roughly
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the onions, garlic and some salt, and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the bell pepper, and the jalapeños, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Cayenne gets spicy quick, so proceed with caution. But this is a taste thing, so have at it, really. It’s your fancy tomato egg skillet.
Next goes in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 5 to 8 more minutes until the mixture begins to reduce and thicken. Crack the eggs over the mixture, evenly spacing them from each other. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. We like them sunny. Garnish with that parsley (and if you want a little cheese, some feta is awesome here). Eat it all up. We love you, and these eggs, and hope you love each other, too.
The sour squeak and ripe fresh burst of a cherry really is the biggest, baddest, best way to blow your own mind, and this Julia Child (along with Bertholle and Beck) recipe for Cherry Clafoutis from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is my favorite.
Clafoutis is a traditional peasant dessert from the Limousin region of France, and is basically a big fat sweet-and-tart-cake pancake. It requires the least amount of effort possible, and the lovely payoff far surpasses any effort extended.
1 ¼ c milk
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Fat pinch kosher salt
2/3 c sifted all-purpose flour
3 c fat, juicy, fresh cherries, pitted, some whole, some roughly chopped
Butter for the baking dish or pie plate (it’s also pretty in a cast iron pan)
Basically preheat the oven to 350°F, butter the dish, and put all ingredients into a blender. Pulse on high for a minute, till it’s all frothy and blended. Pour some batter into the dish, about a quarter- to a third-inch layer. Place in the oven for about 5 to 8 minutes, until it sets.
Meanwhile, pit and chop some cherries. When the bottom layer is set, tumble in the fresh cherries and pour the rest of the batter over. Give the dish a shake to even everything out.
Pop it back in the oven; bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The Clafoutis is done when it’s puffed and golden like some sort of crown, studded with cherry jewels.
Serve it with powdered sugar and maybe coffee or booze, depending on whether it’s breakfast or dessert. Wear a hat or a helmet, so your brains don’t escape your head when your mind is blown. Enjoy!
HOMEMADE NO CHURN
PEACH ICE CREAM
If you can remember two simple ingredients, you can master the easiest basic ice-cream recipe on the planet, and then just add peaches. Avid readers of this column (hi, Mom!) may recall in November of 2014 we made pink peppermint ice cream with the same method. But now, all spring and summer like, I want something a bit fruitier. It’s getting hotter by the day. I can’t be fussing around with eggs and sugars and boiling hot ice-cream bases. So! Back to the ol’ easy way out.
1 can chilled evaporated milk
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 medium peaches, sliced, juiced and pulped (press every bit of flesh you can into a wire-mesh strainer; throw away the stone and skins)
Add milk to a thin aluminum bowl (or some other vessel that chills quickly), and whip with a hand-mixer for a minute until it’s all frothy. Add the sugar little by little while mixing, until it’s all mixed uniformly, and it’s bubbled and frothed. Then pop it in the freezer for an hour.
Halve your peaches and work them through your strainer to get as much peach juice and pulp as possible, and set them in the fridge to chill.
After an hour, take out milk and sugar bowl, buzz it with the hand-mixer to break through the hard foam that’s formed, and add peach sauce. Blend well for a minute to combine, and put the mixture back in the fridge.
Repeat this process 4 or 5 more times, then pour the peachy fluff into a tupperware container and let it freeze overnight. The fruit has water in it, so crystals might form and you may have to remix it with the hand-mixer before serving, but the taste and texture are amazing, and this is all so simple, and so, so satisfying.
A peachy perfect day in one cold and deeply delicious dish.