Articles by Martha Rose Shulman

Ooh La La! Easy-To-Bake Macarons For The Holidays Image

Finally, there’s an easy macaron that is as enticing as the French classic but can be made in less than half the time. French macarons can be intimidating. The method involves an Italian meringue that requires slow streaming of very hot syrup into egg whites while they’re being whipped, a task that is always a little scary.

These cinnamon pecan macarons, which come from pastry chef Genevieve Gergis, co-owner and pastry chef at Bestia in downtown Los Angeles, don’t call for the Italian meringue. Just fold a mix of ground pecans, powdered sugar, vanilla seeds and cinnamon into beaten egg whites and you’re ready to pipe. The egg whites require an overnight rest, but that’s nothing compared to the 48 hours that many traditional macaron recipes call for.

Gluten-free for the holidays

Box these pecan cinnamon macarons and you have an instant holiday gift. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Box these pecan cinnamon macarons and you have an instant holiday gift. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

These are gluten-free cookies you can add to your usual Christmas repertoire. Macarons are a natural choice because they don’t require any substitutions.

“Flour substitutes take away from the integrity of the original dessert. There are plenty of desserts out there that don’t have gluten and never have,” says Gergis, whose gluten-free desserts fall into that category.

The mix of ground pecans, sugar and cinnamon gives the almost-decadent cookies a texture and praline-like flavor that are unique. “They’re like nutty, super chewy snickerdoodles,” Gergis says. A creamy, unsweetened filling of mascarpone mixed with crème fraiche creates a perfect balance inside the sweet, moist, chewy masterpieces.

Genevieve Gergis’ Cinnamon Pecan Macarons

These macarons use simple ingredients and can be baked in under two hours. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

These macarons use simple ingredients and can be baked in under two hours. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Genevieve Gergis’ Cinnamon Pecan Macarons

Prep time: 15 minutes plus overnight rest at room temperature for egg whites

Batter and baking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Yield: 3 dozen 2-inch cookies

Ingredients

For the macarons:

A little under 7 large egg whites

2 3/4 cups pecans

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1/4 vanilla bean, scraped

For the filling:

7 ounces mascarpone

1 ounce crème fraiche

Directions

To facilitate working with this batter, divide the ingredients in half and make two batches. Even if you don’t choose to make two batches, grind the pecans and powdered sugar in two batches to avoid making pecan butter.

1. Put egg whites in a container, a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap, pierce plastic wrap in several places and let stand at room temperature overnight.

2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine half the pecans and half the powdered sugar. Pulse until pecans are finely ground, taking care not to turn them into butter (this is why you should pulse, rather than turn on the machine full tilt). Transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining pecans and powdered sugar. Stir in cinnamon and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar, salt and vanilla seeds.

4. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk or using electric beaters, beat egg whites on medium low speed until soft peaks form. Turn speed to medium and gradually add granulated sugar mixture, a tablespoon at a time. Beat to stiff but not dry peaks.

5. Carefully transfer egg whites to a very large bowl. A cup at a time, slowly fold in pecan/powdered sugar mix, taking care not to deflate egg whites (they will deflate a little no matter what). Resulting mixture will be thick.

6. Preheat oven to 225 F (200 F for convection) with rack positioned in middle. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch round tip. Line sheet pans with parchment and use a 2-inch cookie cutter and pencil to trace 2-inch circles on the parchment, leaving 1 inch between circles and staggering rows. Flip parchment over so macarons don’t absorb pencil marks.

7. Holding pastry bag with tip pointed straight down, pipe 2-inch circles. Bake 10 minutes in a regular oven, 7 minutes in convection. Cookies should have a skin on surface. Remove from oven and turn heat up to 325 F for regular oven, 315 F for convection. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes. Cookies should be crisp on outside and soft on inside. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from parchment.

8. Whip together the mascarpone and crème fraiche until smooth. Turn over half the macarons and place a teaspoonful of cream mixture on each bottom half, then top with another half and gently press together. For best results refrigerate overnight (but the macarons are also good right away). They will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Don’t stack them, but stand them side by side in a container or box.

 Main photo: These pecan cinnamon macarons are easy to make for the holidays. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

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Cake Or Cookies? Here’s A Batter That Does It All Image

Recently, master baker Uri Scheft of Breads Bakery in New York and Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv shared this recipe for his pistachio financiers. Baked in small pyramid-shaped silicon molds, they are delicious.

What I liked best about the little cakes were their crispy edges. This made me think the batter would make delicious tuiles, those delicate, crisp buttery cookies that are draped over a rolling pin when they come out of the oven so that when they cool they’re shaped like a roof tile.

I remembered that another great pastry chef, Sherry Yard, also uses cake batter for her tuiles; her recipe is in the pound cake chapter of her cookbook “The Secrets of Baking.”

My instincts were right! The nutty, crisp, rich-tasting tuiles are fabulous and have great staying power.

You will need pistachio paste, which is available in baking supply stores, Middle Eastern markets and online. If you can’t decide which to make, use half the batter for the financiers, refrigerate the other half overnight and the next day make tuiles.

Uri Scheft’s Pistachio Financiers or Tuiles

Delicate, crisp tuiles can be made from the same recipe as financiers. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Delicate, crisp tuiles can be made from the same recipe as financiers. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Prep Time: 1 hour (add overnight rest for batter for tuiles)

Baking Time: 20 to 25 minutes for financiers; 1 hour 20 minutes for tuiles

Yield: 50 tuiles or petits fours

Ingredients

6 ounces butter, preferably French style, such as Plugrà

5 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup less 1 tablespoon almond flour (without skins)

1/3 cup potato flour (or potato starch), sifted

1 teaspoon dark rum

2 scant tablespoons pistachio paste

2 tablespoons chopped pistachios (optional)

Directions

1. Place butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat until solids have settled and butter is golden brown with a nutty aroma (the solids on bottom of pan will be a darker brown), 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a heat-proof measuring cup. You should have 2/3 cup melted butter. Allow to cool to lukewarm, 90 to 105 degrees F. This will take more than 30 minutes, but best not to chill in the refrigerator, as butter should be liquid when you add it to the batter. Meanwhile, weigh out remaining ingredients.

2. Combine egg whites and sugar in bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down sides of bowl and beaters. Add almond flour and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Scrape down bowl and beaters.

3. Add cooled butter, including browned bits at bottom of pan, and beat at low speed for 1 minute. Add potato flour and beat at low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl and beaters.

4. Add rum and pistachio paste and beat at medium-low until well combined.

Baking differences

Tuiles and financiers use the same ingredients, including rum, almond flour, potato flour and pistachio paste. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Tuiles and financiers use the same ingredients, including rum, almond flour, potato flour and pistachio paste. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

For Financiers:

5. Preheat oven to 350 F, with rack in the middle. Line baking sheets with 1 1/2- x 1 1/2-inch pyramid-shaped silicon molds. Pipe or scoop batter into molds (I use a 1 1/4-inch scoop). Bake 20 to 25 minutes, switching sheets front to back halfway through, until cakes are dark brown on the edges and a tester comes out clean when inserted. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in molds for one hour. They will detach from molds easily once cool.

For Tuiles:

5. Cover batter tightly and refrigerate overnight for best results.

6. Remove batter from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 F with rack positioned in middle. Line sheet pans with silicone mats or with parchment. (Silicone mats are easiest to work with).

7. Using a 1 1/4-inch scoop or by tablespoons, scoop batter onto baking sheets leaving a good 2 1/2 inches between each one and staggering rows. If desired, sprinkle chopped pistachios on top. You will only be able to get about 8 to a sheet. For super thin tuiles, use a small offset spatula to spread batter. (It will spread anyway when you bake, but spreading it before results in very thin, lacy tuiles). Place in the oven and bake 10 minutes, or until golden brown on edges and beginning to color on top. Cookies will spread on baking sheets.

8. Meanwhile, place a rolling pin on your work surface propped against something so that it won’t roll, or on a sheet pan, propped against edges. When cookies are ready, remove from oven and let sit on pan for 30 seconds to a minute, then slide an offset spatula under and drape each cookie while still pliable over rolling pin. They will curve and cool quickly. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. If cookies cool too much and are not pliable by the time you get the last ones off the baking sheet, place back in oven for 1 minute and they will soften up again. Repeat with remaining batter until all of it is used up.

Main photo: Uri Scheft’s pistachio financiers are baked in small pyramid-shaped molds. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

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8 Simple Salads To Kick Off Your Thanksgiving Feast Image

Salads are the last thing we think about when we’re planning a Thanksgiving menu, but they are a great way to begin the feast. We like to serve this course before people sit down to dinner. We’ll plate them in the kitchen, then pass them around while the crowd sips champagne before the meal. Or we’ll place them on a buffet along with other hors d’oeuvres, a stack of salad plates and forks close by.

Here are some of my favorite choices for this holiday meal, salads that show off fall produce, feel autumnal, but won’t fill you up too much before the main event.

Endive and Baby Arugula with Pears and Toasted Hazelnuts

Toast about 1/4 cup hazelnuts, set aside. Combine baby arugula, endive, a sliced ripe pear or two, some chopped fresh tarragon and parsley and toss with a lemon vinaigrette made with lemon juice, mustard, a little garlic, hazelnut oil, olive oil, salt, pepper and some shaved Parmesan. Add hazelnuts just before serving.

Marinated Vegetables with Coriander Seeds and Herbs

Marinated vegetables are paired with coriander seeds and herbs. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Marinated vegetables are paired with coriander seeds and herbs. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Simmer 3 cups water, 1/3 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 1/2 cup olive oil, a few crushed garlic cloves and chopped shallots, a bouquet garni made with parsley sprigs, bay leaf and thyme sprigs, 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, a teaspoon of peppercorns and salt to taste in a large saucepan or soup pot 15 to 30 minutes. Remove vegetables to a bowl. Reduce marinade by half and add lemon juice to taste, and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate for a few hours. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, tarragon or chervil.

Baby Spinach Salad with Balsamic Roasted Turnips or Beets

Add balsamic roasted turnips or beets to a baby spinach salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Add balsamic roasted turnips or beets to a baby spinach salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Cut peeled turnips or beets in wedges and toss with a few tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 425 F. Stir and bake for another 10 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then toss with baby greens and vinaigrette. Walnuts, blue cheese or feta, fresh herbs all welcome.

Turkey Waldorf

Make a turkey waldorf with shredded turkey, chopped apples, diced celery, chopped walnuts and chopped radicchio or endive. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Make a turkey Waldorf with shredded turkey, chopped apples, diced celery, chopped walnuts and chopped radicchio or endive. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Make a creamy dressing with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, a little honey, 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, salt and 2 tablespoons walnut oil or grapeseed oil and toss with shredded turkey, chopped apples, diced celery, chopped walnuts and chopped radicchio or endive.

Broccoli, Baby Arugula and Purslane with Quinoa

broccoli salad

Mix together broccoli, baby arugula and purslane with quinoa. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Slice broccoli crowns as thin as possible. Toss with a vinaigrette and marinate 10 minutes. Add baby arugula and purslane and toss together. Add just a little quinoa, about 1/4 cup, and toss again.

Marinated Carrot and Cauliflower Salad

Marinated carrots and cauliflower make for an easy salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Marinated carrots and cauliflower make for an easy salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Cut carrots into 2-inch sticks and break cauliflower into florets. Steam carrots 5 minutes. Steam cauliflower 5 to 8 minutes, until just tender. Toss at once with coarse sea salt and equal parts sherry vinegar and olive oil. Before serving, toss with a few tablespoons chopped fresh mint.

Radish and Orange Salad

Radishes and oranges create a colorful salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Radishes and oranges create a colorful salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Cut navel and blood oranges into rounds or sections. Cut radishes and daikon radishes into thin rounds. Make a dressing with lemon juice, a little agave syrup or honey, cinnamon, cayenne and pistachio oil. Toss radishes and citrus with dressing in separate bowls and arrange on a platter or on plates. Garnish with pistachios and fresh mint.

Romaine and Couscous Salad

Add couscous, peppers and herbs to this salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Add couscous, peppers and herbs to this salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Toss romaine (broken into small pieces), diced red and yellow peppers, and abundant fresh herbs with a lemon vinaigrette.

More from Zester Daily:

» Roasted tomato and corn salad for Thanksgiving

» 9 fresh ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers

» Brussels sprouts that can convert even the haters

» Game plan for a perfect last-minute Thanksgiving

Main photo: An endive and baby arugula salad with pears and toasted hazelnuts makes a perfect Thanksgiving salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

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8 Foods That Can Save Your Summer Vacation Image

Every summer I go to a farmhouse in Provence with friends. We do one major supermarket shop on the first day to stock up on all the staples we will need for the week. We know we’ll eat well with just fun trips to the farmers market for produce and fish. The best news: This quick and easy trick works just as well when I’m home.

You, too, can shop once and then forget those dreary checkout lines. I’ve organized my staples into eight categories and suggest a dish or two for each. There is a lot of room to hack the formula.

With summer’s produce bounty at its peak, the farmers market is the only place you want to shop.

More from Zester Daily:

» Celebrity chefs share 9 secrets to perfect summer pasta
» 3 canned foods to save your day, with recipes
» 10 ways to up your salad game this summer
» Arrive in style with a perfect potluck presentation

Main photo: Stir-fried Tofu and Beans. Credit: 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

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When Lettuce Bolts, You Can Still Capture Its Flavor Image

Water scarcity is not the only issue that climate change is forcing those of us in California who garden, whether on a small or large scale, to think about. I’ve been learning that lesson this spring as I watch plants bolt within weeks, sometimes, after setting them in the earth.

Bolting is when plants convert to producing seeds, leaving the leaves tough and — usually — inedible. I had planted romaine and red leaf starts, mâche, arugula and spinach, oak leaf and frisée, and broadcast a beautiful collection of French seeds from Georgeanne Brennan’s La Vie Rustic.

Bolted lettuce is tough, but doesn’t need to go to waste

Bolted lettuce, at center, stands tall in the garden. Credit: Copyright 2012 Flickr user woodleywonderworks

Bolted lettuce, at center, stands tall in the garden. Credit: Copyright 2012 Flickr user woodleywonderworks

But with hot September Santa Ana winds blowing in March, my crops were confused, and they still are. Broccoli went to seed long before I could harvest much in the way of florets. Baby lettuces are going to seed before they are larger than my hand, and those I planted as starts have grown into tall lettuce trees, the leaves tough and sticky.

I rarely throw out food though, and none of my bolted produce is going to waste. I learned long ago when I lived in France that a salad need not be the only home for lettuce. Bolted romaine may not be tender enough for a Caesar salad, but it can withstand the high heat of a stir-fry, and it makes a terrific spring or winter soup.

Lettuce, fresh ingredients are perfect in soup

Ingredients for lettuce soup: lettuce, leeks, herbs, potatoes, onions and garlic. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Ingredients for lettuce soup: lettuce, leeks, herbs, potatoes, onions and garlic. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

I’ve pulled and cooked most of my lettuce by now as I turn my garden over to tomatoes. But I haven’t pulled it all, and there will be more for dishes like these. Though I learned about cooking lettuce from the French, I’m now taking cues from many cuisines. I stir-fry lettuce with tofu and with shrimp, and I’ve been blanching the bitter frisées in salted boiling water, then sautéing them in olive oil with garlic to accompany polenta or mashed fava beans, Appulia-style. If I find my bolted wild arugula too pungent to eat on its own, I chop it up and cook it quickly in olive oil, to toss with pasta.

If next year brings us another hot, dry fall and winter in California, I will not change my gardening routine. I’ll plant my winter lettuce garden as I do every year, but I’ll change my repertoire of dishes, and by necessity veer from the raw to the cooked.

Romaine, Leek and Potato Soup

Romaine lettuce, leek and potato soup.

Romaine lettuce, leek and potato soup. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small or 1/2 medium-size onion, chopped

2 leeks (3/4 pound), white and light green parts only, sliced and rinsed well (about 2 1/4 cups; save the dark parts for the bouquet garni and stock)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large russet or 2 Yukon gold potatoes (10 ounces), peeled and diced

5 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

A bouquet garni made with a cleaned leaf from the dark part of the leek, a bay leaf and a few sprigs each parsley and thyme, and a Parmesan rind, tied together

Salt to taste

1 large head (3/4 pound) romaine lettuce, washed and coarsely chopped (6 cups)

Freshly ground pepper

Garlic croutons, chopped fresh parsley and/or chives, and hazelnut oil for garnish

Directions

1. If you do not have stock, make a quick vegetable stock with the leek trimmings and a few cloves of garlic while you prepare the other vegetables.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and leek. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, stock and bouquet garni, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Stir in the lettuce leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. The potatoes should be thoroughly tender and falling apart.

4. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender, purée the soup until smooth. I prefer to use an immersion blender, and then put the soup through the coarse blade of a food mill. That way you get some nice texture, but you get rid of the fibers from the lettuce. If you want a smooth, silky texture, strain the soup through a medium strainer, pushing it through the strainer with a pestle, spatula or the bowl of a ladle. Return the soup to the heat, add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Heat through and serve, garnishing each bowl with garlic croutons, chopped fresh parsley or chives and a drizzle of hazelnut oil.

Note: The soup can be made a day ahead and reheated or served cold.

Stir-fried Brown Rice With Green Garlic, Lettuce and Tofu

Stir-fried Rice&Lettuce

Stir-fried rice and lettuce. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Total time: 23 minutes

Yield: 2 generous servings

Ingredients

1 egg, beaten

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or peanut oil

1/2 pound tofu, cut in 1/2-inch dice and blotted on paper towels

Soy sauce to taste

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced green garlic

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño or serrano chile (more to taste)

1/4 pound lettuce, cut in 1/2-inch wide strips (4 cups)

2 cups cooked brown rice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

Directions

1. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Season the beaten egg with a little salt. Swirl 1 teaspoon of the oil into the wok or pan. Make sure that the bottom of the wok or pan is coated with oil and add the egg, swirling the pan so that the egg forms a thin pancake. Cook until set, which should happen in less than 30 seconds. Using a spatula, turn the egg over and cook for 5 to 10 more seconds, until thoroughly set, then transfer to a plate or cutting board. Using the edge of your spatula or a paring knife, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Set aside.

2. Swirl another tablespoon of oil into the wok or pan and add the tofu. Stir-fry until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with soy sauce and stir-fry for another few seconds, then remove to the plate with the egg.

3. Swirl the remaining oil into the wok or pan and add the garlic, ginger and chile. Stir-fry no more than 10 seconds, until fragrant, and add the lettuce. Stir-fry until the lettuce wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir-fry, pressing the rice into the pan and scooping it up, for a minute or two, until fragrant and hot. Return the tofu and egg to the wok along with the cilantro and fish sauce, stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute, until everything is hot and nicely mixed together, and serve.

Main photo: Bolted lettuce stands tall amid the flowers in the garden. Credit: Copyright 2015 Martha Rose Shulman

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3 Canned Foods To Save Your Day, With Recipes Image

I have a repertoire of quick, easy dinners that I make when there is no produce in the house. It does happen; after I return from a trip, in particular, but also there are times when I just haven’t gotten to the market. My favorite pantry dishes are the ones I picked up long ago from an Italian friend who was able to produce the most marvelous simple dinners every evening when he returned from his office, though he hadn’t stopped at the market. He’d whip up a delicious tuna and bean salad, or pasta e fagiole, or pasta with tuna and tomato sauce or penne a l’arabiata, because he always had three canned items in his small cupboard: tuna, beans and tomatoes.

From him I learned that I must always have these three foods on hand. They don’t have to be fancy and I’m not stuck on any particular type of bean. Right now I have supermarket brand chickpeas, white beans and pintos on my shelf. I have one can of tuna packed in water and another can of tuna packed in olive oil, and I’ve got 28- and 14.5-ounce cans of chopped tomatoes in juice, which is what I prefer (less work), but whole tomatoes will do.

Tuna and bean salad is a meal I make often when I’m on my own. If I have some produce on hand — green beans or cauliflower or some of those beautiful spring onions I’m beginning to see in the farmers markets — I’ll make variations on this simple theme, which requires little more than the tuna and the beans, vinegar, olive oil and whatever seasonings you like. Red onion is standard, parsley is always nice for color. But I never get too elaborate; it’s not a salade Niçoise, after all.

Simple Tuna and Bean Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small or 1/2 medium red onion or spring onion, peeled and very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

2 5 1/2-ounce cans tuna, packed in water or olive oil, drained

1 15-ounce can cannelini beans, white beans, chickpeas or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small or medium garlic clove, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 Japanese cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced, for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Place the onion in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of the vinegar and cold water to cover. Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then dry on paper towels.

2. In a medium bowl or salad bowl, combine the tuna, beans, onions and parsley.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the remaining vinegar, salt to taste, freshly ground pepper, garlic and Dijon mustard. Whisk in the olive oil. Toss with the tuna and beans and serve, garnishing each plate with cucumber slices.

Advance preparation: This will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Two-Bean and Tuna Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

3/4 pound green beans, trimmed

1 small red onion, cut in half and sliced in half-moons

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 5-ounce cans tuna (packed in water or olive oil), drained

1 15-ounce can white beans, cannellinis, chickpeas, or borlottis, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram or sage

Salt to taste

1 garlic clove, minced or puréed

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Bring a medium-size pot of water to a boil, add salt to taste and green beans. Cook for 4 minutes (5 minutes if the beans are thick), until just tender. Transfer to a bowl of cold water and drain. (Alternatively, steam the beans for 4 to 5 minutes.) Cut or break the beans in half if very long.

2. Meanwhile, place sliced onion, if using, in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon vinegar and soak 5 minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again on paper towels.

3. Drain tuna and place in a salad bowl. Break up with a fork. Add canned beans, green beans, onion and herbs. Toss together.

4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together remaining vinegar, salt, garlic and mustard. Whisk in olive oil. Toss with tuna and bean mixture, and serve.

Advance preparation: This will keep for a day in the refrigerator; however, you should keep the green beans separate and toss with the other ingredients just before serving so they retain their bright green color.

Main photo: Two-Bean and Tuna Salad. Credit: Copyright Martha Rose Shulman

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Black-Eyed Peas Draw Full Flavor From African Roots Image

I used to think of black-eyed peas as a purely American food, much loved in the South. Despite the time I spent living in Austin, I’ve never made them the way Texans do, using ham hocks or salt pork for flavoring, and I’ve had more than one run-in with staunch traditionalists who have challenged — even berated — my vegetarian approach.

Even now that I’m not a strict vegetarian (albeit it’s the way I eat most of the time) I prefer black-eyed peas that have not been simmered with pork products. I love their earthy depth of flavor and I have never thought, “Gee, these would be really great if they just had some pork to flavor them.” They have plenty going for them on their own.

As I’ve researched the cuisines of the Mediterranean over the years, I have learned that these beans are an important staple in that part of the world, especially in Greece and North Africa. They are the backbone of some of my favorite Mediterranean dishes.

Black-eyed peas are native to Africa. According to cookbook author and Zester contributor Clifford A. Wright, they had arrived in the northern Mediterranean by about 300 B.C. and were cultivated by the Romans. The beans traveled to South America with the slave trade, but they came to North America via the Mediterranean. They are much loved in Greece, where they are stewed in abundant olive oil, often with greens, or used in lighter salads or bean dishes and seasoned with wild fennel, mint, dill and parsley.

In Tunisia, a country with a rich repertoire of vegetable stews or tagines where you are not likely to see pork with beans (because of Muslim dietary rules), black-eyed peas are simmered with abundant spices, vegetables like greens and fennel, and lots of fresh herbs — cilantro, parsley, mint. The spicy bean tagines are ladled over couscous. These dishes are complex, with an array of seasonings — harissa, caraway and coriander seeds, cumin and garlic.

But my favorite black-eyed peas are the ones that I make year after year. I cook the beans with onion, garlic and bay leaf, then toss them while warm with a cumin-infused vinaigrette, chopped bell peppers, and lots of cilantro. The balance of flavors is perfect. It’s a traditional good-luck dish on New Year’s Day, but it never fails to leave me feeling optimistic about the future — no matter the time of year.

Black-Eyed Peas Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

You can serve this salad warm or chilled. I often make the beans several days ahead, marinate them in the vinaigrette, and add the chopped pepper and cilantro after I reheat the beans in the vinaigrette.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 as a starter, 4 to 6 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the beans:

1 medium onion, cut in half

1 pound black-eyed peas, washed and picked over

2 quarts water

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

Salt to taste

For the dressing and salad:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 teaspoons lightly toasted cumin, ground

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup broth from the beans

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Combine the onion, black-eyed peas and the water in a soup pot or Dutch oven and bring to a gentle boil. Skim off any foam from the surface of the water. Add the garlic, bay leaf and salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons). Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Remove from the heat. Remove onion halves and bay leaf. Carefully drain the beans through a colander or strainer set over a bowl and transfer to a large salad bowl. Measure out 1/2 cup of the bean broth.

2. In a pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and mustard. Whisk in the bean broth, then the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir the dressing into the warm beans. Stir in the red pepper and cilantro, and serve, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

Greek Black-Eyed Peas With Wild Fennel

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 as a starter, 4 to 6 as a main dish

Ingredients

1 pound black-eyed peas

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups wild fennel leaves, chopped

1 15-ounce can tomatoes, drained and pureed in a food processor

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Additional chopped fennel for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Wash and pick over the beans. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fennel leaves and cook, stirring, for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant and the fennel beginning to wilt. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the black-eyed peas and enough water to cover by an inch, and stir together. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Add salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons) and freshly ground pepper, and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, another 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or hot, garnished with additional chopped wild fennel if desired.

Couscous With Black-Eyed Peas and Chard

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

Total time: up to 2 hours

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

Chard stalks, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1 teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly toasted and ground

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

2 cups black-eyed peas, rinsed

2 tablespoons harissa (or more to taste; substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper if harissa is unavailable), plus additional for serving

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste

1 to 1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stemmed, washed thoroughly in 2 changes of water, and coarsely chopped

1 large bunch parsley or cilantro (or a combination), stemmed, washed and chopped

2 cups couscous, reconstituted and steamed until fluffy and hot

Directions

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole or Dutch oven and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, the chard stalks, garlic and ground spices, and stir together for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the black-eyed peas and 3 quarts water, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the harissa or cayenne, the tomato paste and salt to taste, cover and simmer another 15 to 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and fragrant. Strain off 1/2 cup of the liquid and set aside to add to the couscous when you reconstitute it.

2. Stir in the chard a handful at a time, allowing each handful to cook down a bit before adding the next. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until the chard is tender and fragrant. Stir in the parsley and/or cilantro and simmer another few minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt, garlic or harissa as desired.

3. Reconstitute and warm the couscous while the black-eyed peas are cooking. Shortly before serving, transfer to a wide serving bowl, such as a pasta bowl, or directly to wide soup plates. Spoon on the black-eyed peas and greens with plenty of broth, and serve, passing additional harissa at the table.

Main photo: Black-Eyed Peas Salad. Credit: Martha Rose Shulman

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Arrive In Style With A Perfect Potluck Presentation Image

Making dishes for holiday potlucks is usually more pleasurable than transporting them to the occasion. There’s always the fear that things will tip over or spill in the trunk. Whenever you stop short at a light, you wonder whether your tart or cake will be intact when you get to the party or whether the top has flown off your casserole.

I have watched with wonder as chefs and pastry chefs wrap food for transport. Learning their tricks has been one of the bonuses of working with them on their books. Chefs such as Sherry Yard and Jacquy Pfeiffer must wrap delicate tarts, cakes and other pastries for catered events and deliver them intact and beautiful. When I worked with Mark Peel, I observed as he used yards of plastic wrap to wrap full hotel pans and containers filled with sloshing liquids in such a way that they would arrive at their destinations without losing a splash or a drip.

Plastic, plastic, plastic

Plastic wrap — yards of it — is the tool used by most chefs. There are other, more eco-friendly materials now on the market for covering food containers (read on), but plastic wrap is still the most efficient for protecting large sheet pans, casseroles and Dutch ovens.

If you can find a place to keep it, I recommend you buy restaurant-strength plastic in an 18-inch wide roll. You can find these in package stores. The plastic is much easier to handle than household plastic rolls and much more convenient for wrapping.

Watch out, it’s hot: stews, soups and casseroles

If you need to transport a dish straight from the oven that’s so hot it will melt plastic, insulate the dish with foil or a dish towel first. Don’t wrap from the top to the bottom; pull out a long sheet of foil and set your dish on top of it. Pull the foil up, over and around the dish. If your foil isn’t wide enough to cover the entire dish (a 12-inch roll won’t be), you will need to do this with a few staggered sheets. Crimp the foil against the sides and edges of the baking dish so that it’s tight on the dish. Now do the same with a really long piece of plastic, setting the dish on top of the plastic and bringing the plastic all the way around the dish and back to the bottom, so that the dish is tightly enclosed. If the dish isn’t too hot, there’s no need to insulate it first. To make a really tight seal, wrap crosswise as well with a few sheets of plastic. Your dish should be completely enclosed in the plastic and there should be no way for the plastic to slip off.

To insulate with a dishtowel, cover the top with foil, set the dish on the towel and bring the towel up around the dish. Then wrap in plastic as instructed above.

If you are transporting something like a heavy stew pot with a lid, wrap as above, remembering to set the casserole on top of the long sheet of plastic and to bring the plastic up, over and tightly around the top of the pot (you won’t need foil unless it is coming straight from the oven) in two directions to secure the lid. Sometimes I tape the lid down first. Pull out a long sheet of plastic that will go about 1 1/3 times around the circumference of the pot. Twist it into a rope and tie it around the sealed pot just below the lid.

Transporting liquids without spills

Liquids (including dips) can be particularly worrisome. Even when you have a Tupperware or plastic container with a lid that snaps into place, there is always the chance that it could fall over and open up. Peel always double wrapped containers tightly in plastic, setting the container on top of the plastic and wrapping it all the way around the container twice. Sometimes he would also seal with the twisted plastic “rope” described above.

Packing hot food in a basket or a box

Pati Jinich, host of “Pati’s Mexican Table” on PBS, describes the way taco vendors in Mexico City wrap baskets of tacos to keep them warm. This strikes me as a good way to keep all sorts of dishes warm if transporting in a basket or a box. Line the basket or box that you will set your dish in with several wide layers of plastic. The plastic should cover the bottom and come up the sides of the basket or box and be large enough to fold over your dish or platter once you set it inside. Arrange two kitchen towels on top of the plastic. Set your dish on top of the towels (taco vendors place parchment or brown paper on top of the towels and set their tacos directly on top of the parchment, then cover the tacos with another sheet of parchment or brown paper). Cover with another towel and bring the edges of the plastic around from the sides of the basket or box to wrap.

Desserts: some assembly required

Pfeiffer says that it is often better not to bring a completely assembled cake to a party. “Some assembly or last minute finishing touches will create a great conversation topic; people are always interested in knowing how things are done or assembled,” he notes. If you do need to bring a fully assembled cake or tart, put it into a cake or pie box so that the top won’t be exposed and it won’t slip around.

Securing the food in your car

Once a dish is well wrapped or boxed you don’t need to worry about its contents sloshing out. But you still need to secure it in your car. I like to set casseroles and pots into bus trays or on sheet pans. Pfeiffer lays a sheet of shelf liner on the floor of the car or trunk. “They make great anti-slip surfaces. We use them when we deliver wedding cakes.” In France, my French friends would take large dishtowels and tie them around the dishes in two directions, creating a sort of sling that also has a handle. These will also prevent the dishes from slipping around. I prefer to set dishes on the floor behind the driver’s seat, but if there isn’t room and you need to use the trunk, just be sure your dishes are wedged in or on a nonslip surface like the shelf paper so they won’t slide around.

An eco-friendly alternative to plastic

Today there is an alternative to plastic wrap, a material called Abeego made from cotton, hemp, beeswax and jojoba oil. The material comes in sheets that you can mold over food items or containers. It will stick to the sides of containers and seal them well, and it can be washed and reused. The product is sold in various sizes, the largest of which is 13 by 20 inches. This might not be big enough for the kind of ultra-tight wrapping I’ve described above, but you can cover smaller containers with it and get a good seal, and you don’t have to worry about all that plastic.

I wish I’d known these chefs’ tricks decades ago when I was a caterer. I had plenty of sturdy containers for transporting food, but I did have one disaster on the way to a nearby party I was catering that could have been avoided with some careful wrapping. In the trunk of my car were a number of sheet pans filled with quiches and a big pot of refried black beans for tostadas. As I was getting off the freeway, I rear-ended a truck. It wasn’t a bad accident, and I wasn’t hurt, but all of the quiches went flying and doubled over on themselves, and the lid came off the black beans, which splattered all over my trunk. In tears, I called the artist who was hosting the party. She wasn’t far away and sent some friends to pick up what could be salvaged. It was my great good fortune that the party was for a group of sculptors: When I arrived with the rest of the food a little later, they had put my quiches back together again!

Main photo: Food wrapped for a potluck.  Credit: Martha Rose Shulman

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