Veggie Burger

Imagine two hungry diners, out for an al fresco lunch at Portland’s Veritable Quandary on a lovely summer’s day. One orders a burger, a juicy medium rare with all the trimmings. The other orders the housemade veggie burger with caramelized onions and a truffled aioli. Who wins for best ordering, an event I take very seriously? The one with the veggie burger! (I could scarcely believe it myself.) And I have been thinking about that veggie burger every since, obsessively scouring the internet for a recipe and having to settle for VQ’s menu description: lentils, hazelnuts and wild mushrooms, with blue cheese on top. I gathered those ingredients (a little nutty, a little savory, a hint of funk), pulled out my food processor and hoped for the best.

And I am going to toot my own horn here: I nailed it. Quadruple flipped and stuck the landing nailed it. They have everything I’d hoped for, with a sink-your-teeth-in texture and holy-moly umami flavor. I think the burgers taste even better when made ahead; let cool after baking, freeze until your next BBQ and rewarm under the broiler, on the stovetop or on the grill. Win!

Best Veggie Burgers (If I Do Say So Myself)
inspired by Portland OR’s Veritable Quandary; makes six burgers

  • 1/2 cup dry lentils (I recommend French du Puy style)
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms, or similar
  • scant cup toasted hazelnuts
  • 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 3 fat garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • caramelized onions (optional, for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the lentils: combine 1/2 cup of dried lentils with 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until coarsely chopped and then transfer to a large bowl. Process the white beans until smooth; transfer to the bowl. Chop the onion into quarters and with the garlic cloves, pulse until minced; transfer to the bowl. Pulse the hazelnuts until coarsely ground and (you guessed it) transfer to the bowl. Pulse the lentils until they break down, about 15 seconds; add to the bowl.

Stir in the olive oil, balsamic, beaten eggs and stir to combine. Sprinkle the salt, savory and flour over top and mix. Form into six patties (it will feel pretty slack, don’t worry) and bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes. Flip and bake for 10 minutes more. Serve or let cool, wrap tightly and freeze for later use. Defrost in the fridge overnight and let the burgers come to room temperature before re-warming on a clean, well-oiled grill, under a broiler or on the stovetop until heated through.

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Corn & Tomato Salad

Pizzeria Delfina is one of my favorite lunch spots in the city (my go-to order is their broccoli rabe pizza, a poem to Neapolitan pies everywhere) and a new-favorite starter is their special insalata granturco (“corncob salad”), an easy arrangement of sweet summer corn, cherry tomatoes, and arugula. The salad tastes like summer, light and sweet and pared down to a breezy, bright simplicity.

It’s so simple, actually, that my version involves three minutes in a microwave (sweet summer corn and no cleanup!) and two minutes on a cutting board, and that’s about it. You’ll notice there are no proper measurements below, just an eyeballed estimate, and I don’t even fuss with a vinaigrette, opting to just glug a little olive oil and balsamic over top. Serve on a platter or in a large, shallow bowl so it’s easy to see and scoop up all those lovely ingredients, and consider pairing it with marinated, grilled flank steak, which in my estimation is a perfect match. Summertime and the living is so easy.

Quick Corn & Tomato Summer Salad
inspired by Pizzeria Delfina’s Insalata Granturco; serves 3-4

  • one ear of corn in its husk
  • half-pint of cherry tomatoes
  • four large handfuls of arugula
  • ricotta salata, pecorino or any other aged sheep’s milk cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt and pepper

Cut off the top 1″ of the corncob and discard. Dampen a paper towel so it’s saturated but not dripping wet and fold into quarters. Place the towel on top of the corncob and microwave for 90 seconds. Flip the corn over, return the paper towel on top and microwave for 90 more seconds. Carefully pull back the husk and any silk (it will be steaming hot) and cut off the stalk end by 1/2″; discard the husk. Prop the corncob up vertically on a cutting board and with a sharp knife, slice off the kernels.

Slice the cherry tomatoes into halves. In a large salad bowl or platter, add the tomatoes and corn kernels and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Add the arugula. With a vegetable peeler, shave a bit of the cheese over top. Dress very lightly with equal parts olive oil and vinegar, about a tablespoon at a time, and toss. (You can always add more, but you can’t take it away; aim to just barely kiss the arugula with dressing.) Grind pepper over top and garnish with a some cheese shavings. Serve.

Note: If you don’t have a microwave, you can also steam the corn on the stovetop. Remove the husk and any silk, cut in half cross-wise and place in a steamer basket, covered, over simmering water for about 15 minutes or until tender.

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Zucchini Dill Pancakes

I am on a savory pancake kick these days. There’s been batch after batch of my leek and pea pancakes, a (less than stellar) attempt at sweet potato latkes, corn and chive shortstacks ordered at State Bird Provisions. Lately whenever I look into a produce bin, I start picturing the veggies griddled and dolloped with crème fraîche or tzatziki. Can I turn that into a pancake?

And at least for zucchini, friends, the answer is yes. I fudged Nigel Slater’s ode-to-the-garden recipe a bit (I think mine are a little sturdier and easier to flip) but kept the lovely essentials: mild, vegetal zucchini, a bright hit of dill and salty-crumbly feta. If you’re the type (guilty!) to amp up the seasoning in a new recipe, aim for restraint here, as zucchini’s delicate flavor is easy to overwhelm. You can serve these tender cakes as a satisfying main (figure 2-3 pancakes per person) with salted tomato wedges and a green salad, or maybe as part of a Greek-style meze, with marinated olives, grilled lamb and smoky baba ganoush. Let the kick continue.

Zucchini-Dill Pancakes
inspired by Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, 2006; yields 6 pancakes

  • one pound zucchini
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 C onion, finely chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 scant tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • olive oil

for the batter:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • one egg + one egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk

Coarsely grate the zucchini into a colander placed over the sink; toss with 3/4 teaspoons salt and let sit for about 30 minutes. (Meanwhile, prep the aromatics and set aside.) Wring out as much moisture as you can from the zucchini and pat dry with paper towels.

Warm two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet or cast iron pan. Sweat the onion for two minutes; add the garlic for another minute. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for about four minutes. Take off the heat, stir in the herbs and season with black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Wipe down your skillet with a paper towel. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Warm the skillet over medium-high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. To the dry ingredients, add the egg and milk and whisk to combine. Fold the vegetable mixture and 1/2 cup of feta into the batter. With a 1/4 cup measure, scoop portions of batter into the skillet; cook each zucchini cake for a few minutes on each side until well-browned. Serve warm with Greek yogurt or tzatziki.

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Grilled Leg of Lamb

If my mother has any claims to fame as a hostess (they’re legion, believe me), numero uno is her way with lamb: rosy, rosemary-scented Easter roasts, mustard-rubbed racks and butterflied legs, grilled to a robust tenderness. It’s no surprise, then, that I have an abiding love of lamb, as an eater and a cook, though it wasn’t until just last weekend that I worked up the nerve to grill a whole leg by myself. Turns out, it doesn’t take much more attention than flipping burgers, and a meat thermometer removes all the guesswork of when to pull the lamb off the heat. (I will admit to nervously hovering over the grill, jabbing at the defenseless meat and worrying that I might overcook such a precious purchase. If you can’t trust your instincts, trust your thermometer.)

Ask your butcher to leave the fat but remove the bone and butterfly the meat, so it lays flat like an open book. Marinate overnight in a flavor-packed rub to season and enhance the lamb’s distinctive, earthy flavor; if you want to up the garlic quotient (why not?) make several slits in the meat and stuff with thin slices of garlic before adding the rub. You can skewer the meat, as my mother recommends, to keep the ends from curling up and cooking unevenly, though I was skewer-less an hour before my dinner party and just went for it anyway. I heeded some other good advice on keeping a spray bottle handy (a glass of water works just as well) for putting out any flare-ups.  And oh, was that lamb fantastic! Mom would be so proud.

Grilled Leg of Lamb
serves 8-10

  • 2 teaspoons dried savory
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon onion granulates or powder
  • 4-5 anchovy fillets
  • 5-6 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons + 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • one 5 pound leg of lamb, boneless and butterflied

Prepare the rub: in a small bowl, mix the first six ingredients. On a cutting board or in mortar, sprinkle the anchovy and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt; chop and smash (with the pestle or the back of your knife) the mixture into a paste. Add the anchovy-garlic paste to the herbs and add the remaining salt, pepper, mustard and olive oil. Mix to combine. Spread the rub all over the butterflied lamb and marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Bring the lamb to room temperature for an hour and a half. Preheat the grill to high heat. (If using charcoal, bank the briquettes to one side to create a hot zone and a cooler area. When you can hold your hand over the banked side for only 1-2 seconds, the grill’s ready.) Place the lamb fat side down and sear, about 12 minutes per side, covered. Lower the heat to indirect (or move to the cooler side of the charcoal grill) and cook, covered, until the temperature reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part of the lamb. (The time will vary according to the thickness of your lamb and your grill’s temperature, but mine took about 45 minutes to cook, including searing.) Let the meat rest, loosely tented with foil, for 15-20 minutes. Carve against the grain and serve.

Note: taken off the grill at 125 degrees, the lamb will continue to cook as it rests and end up beautifully bright and rosy inside, just past rare into medium-rare territory; take it off at 135 degrees if you prefer yours a little more done.

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Sangria Shrub

I’ve always liked the idea of sangria. It’s festive and pretty and if I’m having a glass, it usually means it’s warm outside and/or there are Spanish nibbles in arm’s reach, all of which I’m very fond. The unfortunate reality? Pitchers of red wine + brandy + loads of sugar often add up to one pounding headache. So what’s a señorita to do?

I shared another shrub recipe last summer; both summer quenchers harness the layered tartness of vinegar to spruce up a temperate base. (It still sounds strange, I know, but vinegar’s distinctive acidity will blend in harmoniously and add notes of wine-like complexity.) A few dashes of orange bitters provide even more interest, and with a touch of sweetness (not nearly as much as a traditional sangria) and fizzy seltzer, you have a refreshing, cheery beverage that can hold its own against any boozy version, minus the headache. And that’s a sangria I can truly love.

Sangria Shrub
adapted from Homemade Soda by Andrew Scholss, 2011; makes about 12 servings

  • one quart unsweetened grape juice
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar, more or less to taste
  • two large navel oranges
  • two limes
  • 2 peaches or apples, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange bitters (optional)
  • 3 liters seltzer or sparkling mineral water (plain or flavored)

Add the grape juice, vinegar, bitters and sugar to a pitcher. Juice one orange and one lime; add to the pitcher. Cut the second lime into rounds and stir into the juice mixture. Cut the second orange in half and slice into half-moons or triangles as is your preference. With a wooden spoon, muddle the citrus a bit into the sangria base. Stir in the peaches or apples. Taste and sweeten with more sugar, if needed. Chill the sangria base for at least half an hour.

To serve, pour one cup of seltzer or mineral water into a red wine glass. Top off with the sangria mixture, and spoon a bit of fruit into each glass.

Note: Bitters do contain a negligible amount of alcohol (slightly more than vanilla extract per teaspoon). You can substitute whatever bitters you have on hand.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Several years ago I took a rambling tour of the Low Country, promenading through Savannah’s gracious moss-draped oaks and Charleston’s honeysuckle-scented gardens. I remember two things best about that trip: that my boyfriend asked me to marry him by the fountain in Forsyth Park (I said yes, and did) and that proper Southern cooking can be positively transcendent. Not of the same import, these two things, but there you have it.

As far as frying’s concerned (oh, those feather-light oysters we had!) I now know the Southern secret of working in small batches and keeping a close eye on the temperature. (If the heat’s too low, you’ll wind up with the greasy, leaden dreck I usually associate with fried foods.) Unripened, firm green tomatoes are a traditional and terrific application for frying, and this recipe yields a cormeal-crisp crust with plenty of tender and sweet-tart (almost citrusy) green tomato flavor. Serve a stack with a green salad as a starter or light lunch, or really gild the lily with buttermilk dressing, crisp bacon and toast for a ridiculously delicious BLT.

Fried Green Tomatoes
adapted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, 2004; serves 4 as an appetizer

  • one large egg
  • one cup buttermilk
  • 3 very firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/3″ slices
  • 3/4 cup coarse-ground cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • dash of cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 cups peanut or corn oil for frying
  • buttermilk dressing and side salad (optional)
  • candy or deep-fat thermometer

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a shallow pan (pie plates work well) or pasta bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper and cayenne. Whisk or stir to combine. In a separate bowl, beat the egg; add the buttermilk and beat to combine.

In a cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat the oil to 360 degrees. Dredge a tomato slice in the buttermilk mixture and then into the cornmeal mixture, pressing lightly so the coating adheres. (Use one hand for the buttermilk and the other for the flour to keep things relatively tidy.) Repeat with the remaining slices, transferring the prepped tomatoes to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Line a second sheet with paper towels.

With tongs, slide a few of the tomatoes into the hot oil (it will bubble up – you’re frying!), no more than four at a time to keep the temperature from lowering. (If you’re nervous, try one slice by itself as a warm-up.) Cook for two minutes; turn the tomatoes over and cook for about two minutes more, until the breading is nicely browned and crisp. Transfer the cooked tomatoes to the paper towel-lined baking sheet; blot with another paper towel and keep warm in the oven. When ready to serve, stack a few tomato slices on each plate and serve warm with a little buttermilk dressing and a salad, if desired.

Note: if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by the Joy of Cooking method. Drop a cube of bread about an inch thick into the oil, and if it browns within one minute, the temperature should be around 365 degrees. This probably goes without saying, but don’t leave your frying pan unattended, as oil will burn at 400 degrees and catch fire at 500.

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Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad

There’s a bumper crop of zucchini in my backyard, blossoms by the bouquet and armfuls of lean, green courgettes. My neighbors upstairs, who tend the garden and summoned this army of vegetables from seed, found themselves slightly outpaced by their success. (Any recipes for zucchini?) So far they’ve mandolined them into raw ribbons for salad, sautéed them with garlic, and I’ve made my zucchini and onion tart. Now that the zucchini’s in, the tomatoes won’t be far behind.

To the rescue: a substantial, gutsy salad heaped with smoky, grilled summer vegetables (plenty of zucchini for everyone!), crumbles of  tangy-rich goat cheese and a garlicky vinaigrette. Grilled country bread adds a hearty crunch, and while die-hard meat eaters might throw some chicken sausage or flank steak on the grill to serve alongside, I think most folks will find the salad plenty satisfying as a main course. Serve with a fruity, robust wine (we had a plummy, affordable red blend from Portugal’s Douro region, on our wine guy‘s recommendation) and chocolate pudding for dessert. Bring it on, garden.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad
adapted from The Fresh & Green Table by Susie Middleton, 2012; serves two

  • one large red bell pepper (3-4 oz)
  • one large zucchini (10-11 oz)
  • one medium heirloom or slicing tomato
  • 1 1/2 C baby arugula
  • one generous tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • one large garlic clove, peeled
  • one handful goat cheese crumbles (2-3 oz)
  • 1/4″ slices of good country bread
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

for the dressing:

  • handful grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 scant tablespoon oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 scant tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

Place the bell pepper, whole, on a clean grill grate and preheat the grill to high. Use tongs to rotate the pepper until it’s evenly blackened all over, about 2 minutes per side. Place the pepper in a small bowl and cover with foil; let steam for 15-20 minutes. Lower the grill to medium.

Meanwhile, slice some of the cherry tomatoes into halves and whisk all the remaining dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Fold in the fresh tomatoes and set aside.

Slice the zucchini in half, crosswise. Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife to trim off some of the skin. Stand the zucchini up on your cutting board and slice lengthwise into several planks about 1/4″ thick. Slice the bread. Place the bread and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet; brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle the zucchini with a bit of salt.

Hull and thickly slice the whole heirloom tomato into wedges; sprinkle with a little salt and set aside. Peel the blackened skin off the red pepper (it should come off easily) and slice into thick strips, discarding the hull and seeds. Reserve some arugula leaves for garnish and divide the rest between two shallow pasta bowls or plates. Drizzle the arugula with a tablespoon or so of the dressing and toss.

Arrange the bread and zucchini on the grill and close the lid. Grill the bread for 1-2 minutes per side; when done, rub the toasts (both sides) with the peeled garlic clove. Grill the zucchini until nicely marked, about 2-3 minutes per side. Arrange the salad by placing the grilled toast on each plate, then layering the zucchini, red pepper, goat cheese, basil and tomato wedges on top. Garnish with the reserved arugula. Spoon the tomato dressing over the vegetables and serve.

Note: you can prep the red pepper, make the dressing and slice the zucchini a few hours ahead, but it all comes together pretty quickly. Crumble the goat cheese while it’s very cold and reserve until needed.

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Peach-Blackberry Cobbler

For the rest of the country, summer means sticky heat waves and swimming pools, lightning bugs and sunburn cream. We San Franciscans have a slightly different way of looking at summer, bundled up against our “June gloom” as the marine layer seeps in through the Golden Gate and hugs the city like a blanket. We don’t have many sundresses in our closets, no need for bug repellent or air conditioning.

What we do have is stonefruit. We have cherries and plums and peaches, so fat and heavy with juice that you have to lean over the sink to take a bite. We have Frog Hollow‘s Crimson Ladies and Suncrests, K & J Orchards‘ Bings and Rainiers. We have ethereal (and elusive) Blenheim apricots and sunshine-sweet pluots. Such beautiful fruit is really best eaten out of hand, but I love the simplicity of an old-fashioned cobbler, the fruit baked to a yielding, slurpy softness, a flaky biscuit topping soaking up the thick juices, a little scoop of vanilla ice cream. I like this particular recipe as the pastry has a proud, sturdy quality and it’s not very sweet, letting the natural flavors of the peaches and blackberries really shine. Even in the fog, we have summer, too.

Peach & Blackberry Cobbler
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, 2009

for the fruit:

  • 4 large peaches, pitted and sliced (about 2 lbs prepped)
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt

for the cobbler topping:

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons (5 oz) unsalted butter, cold and diced into cubes
  • 2/3 C + 1 tablespoon cold buttermilk, divided
  • sanding or turbinado sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, gently toss the peaches, blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar and the juice from one lemon. Let the fruit sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep the ingredients for the cobbler topping. Strain the juice from the fruit into a small saucepan and heat until reduced by half. Sift the cornstarch over the fruit and toss with the reduced juice. Transfer to a deep dish pie pan or other baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the cold butter and pulse until the pieces break down to the size of large peas. Transfer to a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the buttermilk and use a fork to toss the mixture together until it’s moistened but still a bit crumbly, with little hunks of butter still visible. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a flat disc. Use a biscuit cutter (or a juice glass dipped in a bit of flour) to cut out rounds of dough. Place on top of the fruit. Brush the tops with a little bit of buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any overflowing juices) and bake for 30 minutes on a lower rack. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees for 20 more minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the juices are thick and bubbly. Let cool for about 20-30 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Note: if you roll out this biscuit dough to make one large pie crust-like topping, you now have a “pandowdy” rather than cobbler. I made this with the roasted pork I wrote about recently; put the cobbler in with the pork at 425 and let it go for about 30-40 minutes once you’ve turned the heat down. (If the pastry takes on too much color while it’s baking, cover loosely with a bit of foil.) Once the pork’s finished, turn the temperature down to 200 (or your “warm” setting) and put the cobbler back in until it’s time for dessert. Keep any leftovers wrapped at room temperature.

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Blueberry Coffee Cake

As the product of a sound Catholic school education (plaid kilts from kindergarten to 12th grade), I’m an inveterate rule follower. I make full and complete stops at all stop signs. I return my library books on time. I find a soothing comfort in the order provided by Ikea assembly instructions and TSA restrictions (I’ve got my quart bag of 3 oz toiletries, just like you asked!) no matter how arbitrary or annoying to the general populace those rules might be. I’m a good girl grown up.

And I think in part, in this noisy and unpredictable world of ours, that’s why I find baking so satisfying: the measurements, the tidy technique, the right-angled assuredness of a finite project. Baking’s a creative process, sure, but you can’t just improvise wildly and expect a recipe to work. Unless, let’s say, there’s a pint of just-picked blueberries on the counter, big and fat as marbles, and they look awfully tasty next to that coffee cake batter you’re mixing. Doesn’t that sound perfect? Blueberry coffee cake, with a buttery-sweet crumble topping and a cup of creamy coffee? Caution to the wind, people, and in those blueberries go.  And sometimes, breaking the rules tastes really good.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, 2005

  • 1 ¼ sticks (5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ C sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 generous cup fresh or frozen blueberries

for the crumb topping:

  • 1 ½ C all-purpose flour
  • ½ C light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ¾  sticks (7 oz) butter, diced, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the crumb topping by adding all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulsing until the mixture forms sandy, wet, large clumps. (You can also do this by hand: whisk the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter with two dinner knives or a pastry cutter.) Stick in the fridge until needed.

Use the empty butter wrappers to grease a 9” or 10” springform pan (though any 12-cup capacity baking pan will work fine). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (scrape down the sides with a spatula as needed), about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the dry cake ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda and powder) and set aside.  To the butter mixture, add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well to incorporate. Add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add half the flour mixture and mix until mostly incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix , stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the flour and mix until mostly incorporated. Take the bowl off the mixer. Toss the blueberries with a bit of flour (no more than a tablespoon); fold the berries into the batter. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over top.

Bake on the middle rack for about an hour (or less, 40-50 minutes, if you’re using a tube pan or 13×9 pan) or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep at room temperature, wrapped well.

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Roast Pork

Oh, honey. Sit down for a minute and let me tell you about this roast pork. The juicy, well-seasoned, flavorful meat. The woodsy bits of herbs and crispy, unctuous, oh-dear-Lord cracklings. (I mean, come on. Cracklings.) Your butcher will do most of the work (de-boning and scoring the skin so it’ll crisp), you just slap on some salt and a herb rub, and you’re ready for a Sunday night supper of the highest order. (It’s even a cinch to carve.) If you aren’t having the entire family over, buy a smaller shoulder, maybe three pounds or so, and follow along as is. (Use leftovers for bánh mì sandwiches on Monday. Yes!)

This recipe should take your pork right between medium-rare and medium, blushed with pink in its interior and wonderfully juicy throughout. Take it out a little sooner or later depending on your preference, but there’s no need to cook pork to well-done these days. When cooked at a moderate temperature, the shoulder is a forgiving cut; the ample connective tissue melts into the meat and helps keep it juicy within a range of about 30 degrees. Roast skin-side up, so that gorgeous layer of creamy fat beneath bastes the roast while it cooks. (Sigh.) New favorite recipe, friends.

Herbed Roast Pork
inspired by Nigel Slater’s Ripe, 2012, and Molly Steven’s All About Roasting, 2011; serves 8-10

  • 6 lb boneless pork shoulder, skin intact and scored
  • one generous tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/3 C flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/3 C Pecorino Romano or Parmigina-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 C + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 C chicken stock (optional)
  • kitchen twine

Ask your butcher to score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern or strips about 1/4″ apart. (You can do this yourself with a very sharp utility knife or razor blade, just be careful not to cut all the way into the meat or into your hands; aim for slicing halfway through the creamy white fat.) When you get home, salt the pork with a generous tablespoon of kosher salt, including the skin and the flap where the bone used to be. (I strongly recommend salting the pork the night before or at least several hours ahead.)

In a bowl or small lidded jar, add the herbs, cheese, mustard and olive oil and shake or mix to combine into a paste. Smear the herb paste all over the pork, inside and out. With several lengths of kitchen twine, tie into a squat package. Let rest and marinate in the fridge until needed. (You can also do this the night before.)

Let the pork come to room temperature 1 1/2 hours before cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pork in a roasting pan, skin side up, and roast for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and cook for about 2 hours, until the thickest part reaches about 140 degrees. Let rest for 10-15 minutes without covering to keep the cracklings crisp.

To serve the pan juices (optional), remove the roasting rack and pour off the clear fat from the roasting pan, reserving any dark pan juices (there won’t be much). Heat the pan over medium heat and add 3/4 cup of chicken stock or apple juice (or a combination), scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan until the liquid reduces by half. Set aside.

After it’s rested, remove the twine from the pork and use a carving knife to slice away the top layer of fat and cracklings. (If they’re crisp, peel them off the fat and add the cracklings to your serving platter.) Carve against the grain in 1/4 – 1/2″ slices and serve with the pan juices.

Note: a full boneless pork shoulder averages about 10-12 pounds, depending on the pig; your butcher will cut it down to a more serviceable size and remove the bone. If it’s from the lower portion of the shoulder, the cut I used for this recipe, it may be labeled as “picnic shoulder”. If your cut is from the top portion of the shoulder (“Boston butt” or “pork butt” or “blade roast”) it may take a little longer to cook. As always, buy the very best humanely-raised meat you can afford; the difference in flavor is worth the splurge.

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