SARDINIAN PARCHMENT BREAD & FENNEL ANCHOVY SPREAD

This little snack came together in fragments, beginning with a visit to the finest liquor store I’ve ever known — Mission Wine & Spirits in Pasadena. I was there in search of Amaro Nonino, a liqueur of grape distillate aged in barrels with mountain herbs (essentially aged, infused grappa). Enticing, right? True to Mission’s reputation, I found it, setting into motion my favorite pastime: pairing food with the drink you’re intent on having. The idea to make Sardinian parchment bread — “carta musica” (sheet music) — came about fortuitously while browsing a local deli. To go with it, I improvised a rustic spread made with caramelized fennel and anchovies. That’s how I welcomed Amaro into Mr. Alpenglow’s bar.

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SARDINIAN PARCHMENT BREAD
“carta musica”

recipe for about a dozen oblong breads:
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup fine semolina
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
1 1/4 cups water, about
extra virgin olive oil, optional

Preheat the oven to 450F. In a large bowl combine the flours and salt and mix ingredients thoroughly. Slowly add water, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft dough (you many not need to add all the water). With your hands, work the dough into a ball. Place on a clean, floured work surface and knead for about one minute. The dough should be firm and pliable, not sticky. Divide the dough evenly into 12 balls. Place the balls on a lightly floured surface. Flatten each ball into a thick 4-inch pancake. Generously flour the work surface and with with a heavy-duty rolling pin roll each portion of the dough as thin as possible into an 8″ to 9″ round. These breads are meant to be roughly shaped. Thinness is more important than the shape. The dough should be thin enough to see your hand through it.

Place several rounds of dough on an ungreased baking sheet, brush lightly with the olive oil, and place in the oven. Bake until the top of the bread is firm and lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Baking time will vary and will also depend on the number of breads placed in the oven. With tongs or your fingers, turn the bread over and bake until the other side is slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes more. (The bread should be rather bumpy, puffy, and irregular, with occasional pockets full of air.) Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining rounds of dough. The bread cools quickly and can be served immediately.

FENNEL ANCHOVY SPREAD 

improvised recipe for about 2-3 cups:
extra virgin olive oil
3 medium-large fennel bulbs, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tin of fine anchovies
1 cup of walnut pieces, toasted
juice of 1 lemon, plus a bit more to taste
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
one bunch of flat-leaf parsley
Aleppo chili peppers, optional

In a large skillet, heat a generous amount of olive oil on medium-high flame. Add the fennel and saute until caramelized and softened. Transfer to a dish. Reheat more oil and saute the onions until caramelized and softened. Transfer the onions to the dish with the fennel. Reheat a bit more oil and add the garlic and anchovies, using a wooden spoon to break apart the anchovies in the oil. When the anchovies are nearly dissolved into the oil, add the caramelized fennel and onions back into the skillet with the toasted walnuts. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer half of this mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth. Stir the blended and unblended portions together and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and top with parsley and Aleppo chili.

FOLDING SHRIMP WONTONS WITH MY MOM

Tsim Chai Kee is just a few steps from Hong Kong’s Central Mid-levels escalator. Famous for Cantonese-style shrimp wontons with noodle soup, this joint has been designated by Michelin guide as “Bib Gourmand” — that is, “inspector’s favourite for good value.” Good value is an understatement. Of all the luxurious delicacies on offer across that aromatic isle, these wontons perpetually monopolize my affections. Last Sunday when Los Angeles was blanketed in rain and fog, I had to make them.

Since these wontons are accented with faint notes of ginger, white pepper, sesame and salt, the theme is 99% prawn — so get the freshest ones you can muster. Making wontons can be a chore. It’s customary to have helping hands on deck. As my mom and I folded (127, she counted, hers superior to mine), we recalled with laughter all the shapes and stories from wonton-making sessions over the years.

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SHRIMP WONTON SOUP 

recipe makes about 30 wontons, 4 servings:
350g medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
wonton wrappers (square)
8 cups Chinese chicken stock, below*
one bunch of watercress or bok choy

Dice the prawns, about 4-5 pieces per prawn. Add the white pepper, cornstarch, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to beat the shrimp mixture together. Cover the prawns and let them marinate in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes. To assemble your wontons, prepare a wonton “station”: wonton wrappers, a small bowl of cold water, the shrimp mixture along with a teaspoon, and a baking sheet lined with parchment. To form each wonton, spoon a teaspoon of the prawn mixture onto one wrapper. Dip your finger in the cold water and apply it against the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half (see below), pressing the edges closed. With the seam facing down, take the top two corners and bring them together, using water to make them adhere. Repeat with all the wrappers/shrimp.

Meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil. In a separate pot, bring your chicken broth to a simmer and ensure that it is seasoned with salt and white pepper. Quickly blanch your vegetables until tender (eg. watercress) and place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Place a few wontons in the boiling water for about 4 minutes. Transfer wontons to each bowl and add the blanched vegetables along with the hot chicken broth. Serve immediately.

*If you won’t be making Chinese chicken stock from scratch, simply bring canned chicken stock to a simmer with water, a few fresh ginger slices, green onions, and ground white pepper.

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CHINESE CHICKEN STOCK 

for about 2 liters of stock:
2-3 lbs chicken bones
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, diced
3 green onions
salt and white pepper to taste

Use a cleaver to chop the chicken bones into smaller pieces, about 2-3″ in size. Add the ginger and and green onions. Cover the bones with cold water, about 2 liters, and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain several times to remove impurities. Cool and store for future use. Season with salt and white pepper as needed.

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SPARKLING COCKTAILS FOR A NEW YEAR

How is it that effervescent beverages are so winsome while effervescent humans are almost always distressing? (Don’t answer that.)

364 days a year, I wouldn’t dream of protesting if offered a glass of champagne. On the last day of the year, my mood changes. I don’t just want just bubbles. I want a more complex mixture — something fortified perhaps, or distilled, tart, even slightly bitter — topped with champagne. I want a sparkling cocktail.

I’d raise that cocktail with a suitably beguiling toast for the new year:
We must be still and still moving.”

photo (3)(clockwise from noon: French 75, Elder Fashion Royale, North by Northwest, Bittenbender, Boomin’ Granny)

All recipes below are from the magisterial book, Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails:

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FRENCH 75
classic, well-balanced, overachieving

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
dry champagne
1 lemon twist for garnish

Shake all the ingredients (except the champagne) with ice, then strain into a flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with the lemon twist.

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ELDER FASHION ROYALE
understated, self-assured, sophisticated

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
1/2 ounce St-Germain
1 dash orange bitters
dry champagne
1 grapefruit twist for garnish

Stir all the ingredients (except the champagne) over ice, then strain into a flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with the grapefruit twist.

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NORTH BY NORTHWEST
mysterious, brooding, iconoclastic

1 1/2 ounces Aviation gin
1/4 ounce absinthe
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
dry champagne

Shake all the ingredients (except the champagne) with ice, then strain into a flute. Top with champagne. No garnish.

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BITTENBENDER
complex, zesty, sexy 

4 raspberries
1 lemon twist
1 orange twist
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce cacao nib-infused Campari*
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce ginger syrup**
1 ounce dry champagne
1 lemon wheel for garnish

In a shaker, muddle the raspberries with the lemon and orange twists. Add the remaining ingredients (except the champagne) and shake with ice. Strain into a snifter over 1 large ice cube. Top with champagne. Garnish with the lemon wheel.
*Combine 3 tablespoons of cacao nibs with one 750-ml bottle of Campari and stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.
**With about 24 ounces of ginger root, make 1/2 cup fresh ginger juice using a juice extractor or by finely grating fresh ginger, wrapping it in cheesecloth, and squeezing out the juice. Put the juice in a blender with 1 cup of superfine sugar and blend until the sugar is dissolved.

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BOOMIN’ GRANNY
wholesome, nostalgic, a little needy

1 1/2 ounces cognac
1 ounce fresh green (Granny Smith) apple juice*
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup**
dry champagne
1 Granny Smith apple slice for garnish

Shake all the ingredients (except the champagne) with ice, then strain into a flute or coupe. Top with champagne. Garnish with the apple slice, dropped into the drink.
*I preferred to double the amount of green apple juice.
**In a bottle or other container with a tight lid, combine 2 cups of honey with 1 cup of warm water. Shake vigorously until the honey is dissolved.

LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH (PINE NUT ROSEMARY TART)

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PINE NUT ROSEMARY TART 

makes one 10″ tart, recipe from The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali:
sweet tart crust (see below)
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cup pine nuts
several sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnish*
granulated sugar for garnish 

On a floured surface, roll the tart dough into an 11″ circle 1/8″ thick. Transfer the dough to a 10″ tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom. It’s easiest to transfer by rolling the dough around the pin and then unrolling it into the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim it so it is flush with the top of the pan. Chill the tart shell while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and position an oven rack in the center of oven.

To make the custard: Place the honey, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine them. Add the butter, place the saucepan over med-high heat, and bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl; allow it to cool for 20 minutes. Whisk in heavy cream, followed by the egg and egg yolk.

Place the tart shell on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Distribute the pine nuts evenly over the bottom of the tart shell and pour the custard into the shell until it reaches the top of the crust. Bake for 30-55 minutes, or until both the crust and the filling have turned light golden brown and the custard is set but still jiggly. (Mine took the full 55 minutes.) Allow the tart to cool completely on a rack before carefully removing the sides of the pan. Serve the tart while still slightly warm, or cool it and serve at room temperature, garnished with the candied rosemary sprigs.

*To make the “candied” rosemary, dip a rosemary sprig in water and shake off excess. Sprinkle granulated sugar all over it and again shake off excess. Set aside to dry.

SWEET TART CRUST

makes one 10″ tart shell:
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
freshly grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 small orange
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
a few drops ice water, if necessary

Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and citrus zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine the dry ingredients. Add all fo the cold, cubed butter to the bowl and pulse to process the mixture until it is sandy and there are no visible lumps of butter. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and heavy cream. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times, or until the dough comes together. If necessary, add some ice water, a few drops at a time, to make the dough come together. Remove the dough from the food processor and work it with your hands to even out any dry and wet spots. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling it out.

MOTHER’S RUIN PUNCH with BACON WRAPPED DATES

I can get a little heavy-handed around the holidays. Not about gifts, not about the nitty gritty of a recipe, not even about rampant fetishization of jolly patriarchal figures of dubious origin. I do, however, have certain dictums around the creation of conviviality.

One of these dictums concerns punch: For the sake of poetry, unalienable rights, and reason — make one. Make a punch and watch your guests open themselves to the exchange of unusual affection. Here is a punch that I like. (By all means, give it a less tragic name.)

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MOTHER’S RUIN PUNCH

 for 4-6 servings:
8 white sugar cubes
2 ounces club soda
4 ounces Plymouth gin
2 ounces cinnamon orange tea-infused sweet vermouth*
4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
3 ounces dry sparkling wine
1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)
grapefruit and lemon wheels for garnish

 In a pitcher, muddle the sugar cubes with the club soda until the sugar is fully broken up. Add the remaining ingredients (except the sparkling wine) and fill the pitcher ¾ full with ice cubes. Stir until cold, then strain into a punch bowl over 1 large block of ice. Top with the sparkling wine and garnish with the grapefruit and lemon wheels.

*For the cinnamon orange tea-infused sweet vermouth: In a large container, combine 3 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon-orange tea (available at marketspice.com, or any comparable cinnamon tea substitute) and one 750-ml bottle of Martini sweet vermouth and stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

BACON WRAPPED DATES STUFFED with BLUE CHEESE  

for 24-30 appetizers:
1 pound dates, such as Medjool
1 pound thick sliced bacon, preferably applewood smoked
4 ounces blue cheese, such as Maytag
toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the dates partially open to remove the pit. Pinch off a piece of blue cheese and place them into the center of the date, pressing them closed. Wrap a half slice of bacon firmly around each date, securing it with a toothpick. Arrange the bacon-wrapped dates in a baking dish (preferably with a wire rack to drain grease) and bake for 30-40 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Turn the dates once at around 20 minutes. Drain them, remove toothpicks, and serve immediately.

STICKY DATE CAKE with TOFFEE SAUCE & WHIPPED CREAM

THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.
THIS IS THE CAKE YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMAS.

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STICKY DATE CAKE with TOFFEE SAUCE & WHIPPED CREAM

for the date cake, recipe from Sunday Suppers:
1 pound dried dates, pitted and finely chopped
2 ¼ cups water
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
whipped cream, for serving

 for the toffee sauce:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Place the dates in a heatproof bowl. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and pour it over the dates. Stir in the baking soda, cover the bowl, and set aside to allow the dates to absorb the water, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch square baking pan or a similarly sized circle cake pan. Puree the date mixture in a food processor until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and both sugars. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the flour and the date puree. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake should be moist and a little sticky when a toothpick is inserted into the center. The top should be a deep brown color. Let cool before removing from pan.

To make the sauce, combine the butter, cream, brown sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Whisk over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove the warm cake from the pan and pour toffee sauce over it, or cut the warm cake into squares or slices and spoon toffee sauce generously over each serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

CRAB & LEEK HUSHPUPPIES / OYSTERS / TANGERINE MIMOSAS

Curators are my tribe.

You know the people I’m talking about — they’re incessantly choosing, arranging, rearranging. Always scrutinizing, editing, unsatisfied. They do it in the realm of material culture, the mind, even human relations. When they’re “in the zone,” you’re just a spectator. Curators are sometimes a huge pain to be around.

Brunch is totally a curator’s paradise. Tradition lounges in the wings and there’s plenty of room for appetite’s eccentric dance. Here’s my little jig:

TANGERINE MIMOSAS

CRAB & LEEK HUSHPUPPIES, GREEN GODDESS SAUCE

OYSTERS, GREEN APPLE JUICE, CHILE, PINK PEPPERCORN

SOFT SCRAMBLED EGGS

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CRAB & LEEK HUSHPUPPIES with GREEN GODDESS SAUCE   

recipe for 8 servings (32 hushpuppies) from Sean Brock’s Heritage:
1/2 pound leeks (or wild ramps), cleaned and green parts only
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups cornmeal, such as Anson Mills
1 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup small dice sweet onion or shallot
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup rendered fresh lard, melted, or vegetable shortening
canola oil for frying
1 1/2 cups fresh crabmeat, such as blue crab
Green Goddess dressing (below)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl with equal parts ice and water. Place a steamer basket over the water and steam the leeks over the water, cover, and steam until softened and bright green. Remove the steamed leeks to an ice bath until completely cold. Drain and shake off any water, then dry with paper towels. Thinly slice the leeks.

Combine the self-rising flour, cornmeal, all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, white pepper, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk well. Mix in the onion and some of the chopped leeks (use your judgment as to what proportion of leeks to batter you prefer). Lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the milk, buttermilk, and lard. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Heat 2-3 inches of canola oil in a large high-rimmed pot and heat to 350F. While the oil is heating, blend the remaining leeks in a blender on high and add the pureed leeks to the batter. Then fold in the fresh crabmeat. The batter should be scoopable. If the batter is too moist, add all-purpose flour. If too dry, add buttermilk. Place one scoop of the batter into the hot oil to test the consistency and shape. When it turns golden brown, transfer the hushpuppy to a wire rack or paper towel-lined platter. Continue frying the hushpuppies, placing scoops of batter into the hot oil without crowding the hushpuppies. Transfer the hushpuppies to your baking sheets and bake for 4-5 minutes to ensure that the hushpuppies are cooked through. Drain the hushpuppies on a paper towel then serve immediately with the green goddess sauce.

GREEN GODDESS SAUCE

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1-2  anchovy filtets (optional)
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a blender or food processor, puree all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use. Serve at room temperature.

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OYSTERS with GREEN APPLE JUICE, CHILE & PINK PEPPERCORN

a dozen freshly shucked oysters
1-2 green apples, juiced
2 slender serrano peppers, thinly sliced
pink peppercorns, crushed

Place the shucked oysters on ice. Place a dab of foam from the green apple juice on each oyster along with a slice of the serrano pepper and some of the crushed pink peppercorn. Serve immediately.

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RATATOUILLE GALETTES with MARJORAM

A few weeks ago amidst the heady run-up to Thanksgiving, I made a super simple and very satisfying apple galette. I’m now in a peculiar phase during which every goddam thing seems destined for a galette, that buttery omnibus vehicle.

Persimmons? Galette. 
Bacon and eggs? Galette. 
Brussels sprouts? Galette.
Microwaved hot dogs with sriracha? Ga-lette.

And that’s how this Ratatouille Galette was born.

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RATATOUILLE GALETTES with MARJORAM   

for the galette dough (two 10-inch galettes or several smaller):
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter, chilled but not hard
1/3 cup ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar either in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Divide the butter in half.  Work it into (or pulse if using food processor) the flour mixture until the texture of coarse cornmeal.  Cut the remaining butter into cubes and incorporate into the flour mixture until the size of small peas.  Slowly add the ice water and mix (or pulse) just until uniformly moistened.  Transfer the dough to plastic wrap and press into 2 smooth disks.  Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before rolling.  (Dough can be kept in refrigerator for one day and frozen longer.)  Allow dough to warm slightly when removed from refrigerator so it is soft enough to roll.

for assembly:
extra virgin olive oil
3-4 medium yellow onions, diced
3 sweet bell peppers, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
herbs de Provence
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
dried chili flakes
several slender Japanese eggplants
several firm Roma tomatoes
several green and yellow squash (zucchini)
1 egg
fresh marjoram

Heat the oven to 375. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-low flame. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the peppers and sweat them. Continue to saute the onions and peppers until slightly caramelized. Add the garlic, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste. Saute to allow the flavors to deepen. Remove from heat and allow this mixture to cool. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly and uniformly slice the eggplants, tomatoes, and squash. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out your dough into two 10-inch galettes or several smaller ones. Use a knife to cut the dough into a rounded shape. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread some of the onion and pepper mixture into the center area of each galette dough. Neatly arrange the sliced vegetables atop this mixture, alternating with the eggplant, tomatoes, and squash. Use your fingers to fold the edges of the galette over, creasing at intervals to create a rounded shape. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and season with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. Beat the egg and brush the galette dough. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the vegetables are thoroughly cooked but still vibrant. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables throughout to prevent them from drying. Allow the galettes to cool slightly before serving with fresh marjoram.

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SPICED HEIRLOOM CARROTS with DILL YOGURT

I look up to these women.

My mom (of course). When I get all bunched up, she’ll sing “Don’t worry be happy” in a laborious Jamaican accent — complete with woooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ing interlude.

Alice Waters. When I first saw her cook an egg in the fire, I just about lost my virginity. She says “Cook simply, engaging all your senses.”

Diane von Furstenberg. I don’t actually want to be her friend or anything. I don’t even really dig her designs, but her point of view and her choice of words are golden. “It’s not all about going to a party. It’s life as a party.” Who talks like that? Diane does.

This dish embodies their combined wisdom and distills what I’m striving for in the kitchen: A place to recenter. Simplicity. The everyday sense of celebration.

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SPICED HEIRLOOM CARROTS with DILL YOGURT

for about 4 servings:
1 ½ cups of plain Greek yogurt
a large bunch of fresh dill, stems discarded, more for garnish
dash of kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1-2 pounds small heirloom carrots, peeled and leaves removed
generous dusting of chipotle chili powder
several dashes of cumin (optional)
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 lemon wedges

Combine the yogurt, a large handful of the dill, and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the carrots and saute, taking care not to overcrowd (or the carrots will release liquid). When the carrots turn golden brown and slightly crispy, dust them with the chipotle powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add olive oil as needed along with several dill fronds. Squeeze one of the lemon wedges over the carrots. Saute the carrots for several minutes longer to let the flavors come together. Discard the sauteed dill and remove the pan of carrots from heat. Spoon the dill yogurt onto a plate and place the carrots over the yogurt. Garnish with fresh dill and the lemon wedge. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.