A Sunday Supper

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Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Bagels di Ricotta

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Based on Monday’s post, entitled Simplicity, about simple crostini baked with ricotta, I wanted to do something similar that would be an option for breakfast. Or maybe even dessert, depending on your tastes.

So at the same time I was baking my sliced French bread for crostini, I opened up a bagel and toasted it as well.

I used the same mixture – 5 ounces of ricotta with one egg mixed together, plus the Parmesan, and topped the toasted bagel with some of this. Then I placed the bagel back into the oven for 15 minutes.

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Before I ate it – after all, it was breakfast time – I drizzled the ricotta-topped bagel with orange-infused oil.

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The oil isn’t sweet, it just tastes like oranges!

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I could have added a touch of sugar, or a little honey to the ricotta mixture first, but I liked the idea of the savory Parmesan in the mixture, and so I left it alone. And I added raspberry jam. I did, however, omit the salt, pepper, and thyme!
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I must say, it was absolutely fabulous.

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And then I drizzled a little more orange oil…

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And ate some more. Until there was none left.
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Idea: Make these ahead of time, maybe using mini bagels, and then heat them up in a warming drawer or warm oven, and serve to company. They are fabulous for breakfast, I can attest, but for a brunch they would also be spectacular, especially with different jams and jellies. Maybe a little messy, but no one will care. They don’t get soggy because the bread is toasted first, and then the ricotta is baked.

Simplicity

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Many different cuisines do “simple” well. I think it’s because of how regional “cuisines” began in the first place. It was about feeding your family – from milking a cow, killing a chicken, to picking ripe tomatoes and lemons. It’s about what grew and what you farmed.

But today in the wide world of all things culinary, things have become a little more fancy. We’re responsible for this, really. I mean, from my computer at home, I can now order just about any ingredient that 20 years ago I’m not sure I’d ever think I’d see in person.

And our demands for more upscale and modern meals at restaurants these days are relentless! There is more and more pressure on chefs to outperform even themselves. Maybe it’s good to keep the chefs on their toes, but as a result, I feel food has gotten a little complicated.

An appetizer, for example, that is built up like a tower 6″ tall, with no way of eating it politely. Or a beautiful piece of fish that has 8 different kinds of sauces drizzled artistically around it. Fun, but a little too much for me. In fact, I think of this example, because when my husband and I would go to Hawaii, I would ask for the fish to simply be grilled or pan fried, and for all of the accessory items to be omitted. This seemed to always take a lot of instruction, like they really didn’t believe my request. But I just wanted to taste the fish. I don’t get just out-of-the-ocean fish where I live.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with trends, like how foam is so popular now. But for me, I just want the best quality food, made from the freshest of ingredients, simply prepared. I don’t care if it’s a meal in my home, at a fine dining establishment, or in a little hole-in-the-wall pub.

Simplicity. And I honestly think the Italians do it best. Something divine, yet made with only a few ingredients, like the hors d’oeuvres I’m offering in this post. Simple grilled breads topped with ricotta and baked. Sure, there’s a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, but that’s it. Simple perfection.

This recipe is quite common, and there are many ways to make it, but I’m inspired by this book by Lorenza de Medici, called Antipasti. It’s an old book, but I just checked and it still can be purchased on Amazon.

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This recipe is adapted from the book above, to serve only two people.

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Bruschetta di Ricotta

1 small loaf French or Italian bread
Olive oil

5 ounces ricotta cheese, well drained, whole-milk only
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Asiago or Romano
Salt
Pepper
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the bread approximately 1/4″ thick, and place the slices on a baking sheet. Brush some olive oil over one side of the slices. Toast the bread slices in the oven until they are lightly golden.
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Meanwhile, place the ricotta cheese in a small bowl Add the egg.
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Stir the ricotta and egg well, using a whisk if necessary. Ms. de Medici also includes the olive oil with the ricotta-egg mixture, but I left it out to drizzle over the crostini later. Then stir in the grated cheese.
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When the bread has toasted, place a teaspoon or two of the ricotta-egg mixture on top of each crostini, then return the cookie sheet to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes more.
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The ricotta should be slightly yellowed and firm. Let them cool a little.
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Sprinkle the crostini with a little salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper.

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Drizzle the olive oil on the top, and then sprinkle with thyme leaves, if you’re using them.
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The bruschetta are also good at room temperature.

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I’m also offering a sweet twist of these crostini on Monday, so stay tuned!

note: Just think of all of the variations possible with these bruschetta! You could add fresh or roasted garlic, lots of herbs or a little pesto, bits of things like sun-dried tomato… So simple.