Risotto swept American diners off their feet in the late ’80s and early ’90s, helped along by chef experts such as Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan, who made it look so easy and so good. But super creamy, calorie-laden versions like Risotto Milanese, made with high-starch short grain white rice and plenty of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano are a tad rich for today’s tastes. This silky vegan update uses quick-cooking barley, a high-fiber, high-protein par-boiled whole grain that has a satisfying nutty flavor. As with classic risotto, we make this one with a sofrito of olive oil and onion, toast the barley in the sofrito and then add white wine, vegetable stock and hand-shelled sugar snap peas. For a little textural contrast and crunch, we sprinkle each serving with pea shoots.
Ham, turkey and melted cheese on egg-dipped, butter-crisped white bread, the Monte Cristo sandwich made waitressing at the local Denny’s in that godawful brown polyester uniform, almost worth it. Perhaps because the fried bread’s a lot like French toast, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures puts the Monte Cristo in that “strange netherworld between breakfast and lunch,” making it perfect for Hobbit “elevensies.”
Most basically an Americanized Croque Monsieur, the Monte Cristo is purported to have first appeared under that menu moniker in 1950s California. Disney started serving it in 1966 at its Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace restaurants on New Orleans Square in Disneyworld, and chain-restaurants popularized it ever after. LRF’s triple-decker version riffs on a Los Angeles recipe that Gourmet magazine ran in 1968, in response to a reader request.
Chefs love bananas in whimsical desserts that take classic flavor combinations and update them. This sundae from Chef Bill Corbett (Absinthe Group) in San Francisco is a great example. Following Corbett’s recipe you’ll learn to make old-school brown sugar crumble, banana ice cream and bourbon-laced caramel. It’s a homey-flavored dessert, with star-chef appeal.
Another summer favorite! A bunch of Chicagoans wrote to tell us they missed this spicy-good signature shrimp appetizer from Joe’s Be-Bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium (Navy Pier’s erstwhile, family-friendly jazz club.) Marinated in chili-spiked buttermilk overnight before being dipped in Cajun-seasoned flour and deep fried, these crunchy shrimp get extra kick from chipotle/cilantro/lime dipping sauce.
Time to revisit some summer favorites! This is the corn relish recipe that has won self-professed “ribbon slut” Barb Schaller eight blue ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair. (Those, and a mock marriage proposal from Garrison Keillor.) Crunchy, colorful and easy to make (well…mostly easy–cutting all of the corn off the cobs takes a little practice), the relish cooks up in 30 minutes flat. Follow Ball canning instructions to can, or, store finished relish in refrigerator.
Crostini–olive oil and garlic rubbed toasts–are still popular party food. Serve the toasts with a little warm goat cheese schmeer and a mound of olive/tomato/caper tapenade on top. The scent the garlic tomatoes make while roasting is almost the best part! Make the tomatoes the night before you want to serve this appetizer.
Q: When is a clafoutis not a clafoutis? A: When it’s made with any fruit other than black cherries—then it becomes a flaugnarde (flow-nard). Even though considered a dessert in France, the flaugnarde’s resemblance to the taste of a Dutch-baby pancake (very soft and moist) makes it well suited for breakfast or brunch-y affairs.
Since June is juneberry (also known as serviceberry, saskatoon, shadblow or sugarplum) month AND sour cherry time, we pluck both berries and cherries from the trees in our yard and put the two together in this pretty little flaugnarde.
I soak (macerate) the berries in a little brandy and sour-cherry syrup first. The flavors go very well with the almond aroma/flavor that the little edible seeds of the serviceberries emit when they bake! I’m offering this recipe two ways: one, dairy/gluten/& refined-sugar-free the other, with butter, cream and sugar. Save some of your juneberries (serviceberries) for our serviceberry pie recipe!
The berry world has its less-than-romantic nomenclature. I mean, “straw” or “rasp” don’t exactly scream, “Eat me!” But those berries eclipsed their names to become berry rockstars. Not so the serviceberry. Reddish-purple and shaped & textured like a small blueberry (but with more “red-berry” flavor to the juice) serviceberries are the fruit of one of America’s favorite ornamental trees. I’m always surprised that most of my neighbors don’t know the berries are edible. I’d love to change that.
We planted our serviceberry in our front yard as a landscape tree close to 20 years ago, loving it for its snowy-white ribbons of spring flowers, and the bright apricot orange foliage of the fall. What we didn’t anticipate was that as the tree matured, it would give us enough June-ripe berries to eat fresh out-of-hand and to bake into at least one, seasonal pie. Also great–we learned that serviceberries are nutritious, with a similar profile to blueberries, (although higher in protein, dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium & manganese, and without blueberries’ troublesome oxalic acid) No wonder Native Americans used them to make pemmican!
While there are 15 varieties of serviceberry tree native to the United States, Amelanchier alnifolia are supposed to have the best fruit. But don’t worry: if you don’t have a serviceberry tree, you can easily find a bank, fitness club or office building with a whole row of them. Ask nicely and they’ll probably thank you for picking the berries so they don’t have to clean them off the sidewalk. Note: The little crunchy edible seeds in the berries (serviceberries are really “pomes” related to apples, pears and plums) release a pleasant almond scent when baked.
Vintage cookbooks are filled with recipes for scalloped corn, corn puddings & corn casseroles, which sound lovely except that most of them call for canned vegetables. Our updated sweet corn & pepper pudding puts a fresh spin on all that, giving you a delicious way to eat the corn and peppers you’re growing in your garden, or buying at the farmstand. We’ve also eliminated the dairy and gluten for those of you who prefer dairy-free and gluten-free diets. If you prepare this recipe in two, 3-cup casseroles, you’ll have the perfect portion for two, two-person light lunches. Or just prepare the recipe in one larger casserole and serve this family style with a green salad.
Most good recipes that have endured over the decades started with fresh-made ingredients and then devolved to include canned & packaged items, making them faster & easier for the home cook to accomplish. Not so s’mores. From their start, somewhere in the nineteen-tens or early ’20s, s’mores were put together from packaged goods, fast & easy, the sum total somehow greater than the individual parts: melted marshmallow, chocolate candy bars, and packaged graham crackers. The first published recipe for the gooey snack appeared in the whimsically-titled 1927 “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts” and was kinda uninspiring, calling for marshmallows, graham crackers and eight bars “plain chocolate—any of the good plain brands, broken in two.”
Since I take great pleasure in building campfires, for me the appeal of s’mores was that they gave me something to do with the glowing embers. At least that was the case until chefs started riffing on s’mores with scratch-made ingredients. This incredibly tasty recipe, from pastry chef Eric Wayne Dale at Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, is a great example. Each of the building blocks—marshmallow fluff, chocolate pots de creme, and cinnamon-sugared graham crackers—are made from scratch, stand-alone delicious and so much better than packaged goods.
Next? I’d love to experiment with making marshmallows with the sap of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, the way French candymakers first mallowed.
NOTE: This recipe for marshmallow fluff yields a soft, airy result. If you want a stickier, stiffer fluff, try Shauna Sever’s recipe for marshmallow creme. Also, while I serve my s’mores pots with just a little sprinkling of grahams over the top of the browned marshmallow fluff, Chef Eric Wayne Dale likes to serve the pots de creme layered first with crushed graham cracker crumbs, and the dollop of fluff on top, browned under the broiler for a few seconds until the fluff is golden brown. Poke a graham cracker through the fluff and into the creme to serve–or just serve the crackers along side, dipping and scooping the creme as you go.