Monthly Archives: March 2012

Single Sheet-Pan Suppers

I’m not sure why the idea of baking-pan sauces and entrees has gotten so hot recently. But I think it’s terrific! Roasting adds a flavor intensity missing from one-pot winter wet-cooking methods (like stewing and braising), and the ease of it seems so suited to spring and summer’s more relaxed lifestyle.

Examples of this technique seem to be sprouting up everywhere:

On a recent “Today Show” segment, Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, demonstrated two simple recipes for mess-free, single-sheet meals: Pork saltimbocca with sage-seasoned Yukon Gold potatoes, and wasabi salmon with bok choy, green cabbage and shiitake. You can get the details at the Today Show’s Web site (http://today.msnbc.msn.com).

On his Cooking Channel program about tomatoes, Jamie Oliver showcased a sausage and sauce dish made on a single baking sheet. To get the recipe, which is an excerpt from his book Jamie at Home, (Hyperion, 2008), go to http://www.cookingchanneltv.com and search for Jamie Oliver’s Sweet Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake.

And when Amelia Saltsman, award-winning author of The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook, was interviewed by Evan Kleiman on “Good Food,” her weekly KCRW (89.9 FM) radio show (http://www.kcrw.com), Saltsman described her non-recipe recipe method for making a hearty fresh tomato sauce using only one baking sheet. Put all the usual ingredients (tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, etc.) on a sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees until softened and beginning to char. Then serve as is or put through a food mill to puree and eliminate skins and seeds.

Advocates of the single sheet-pan cooking method speak of it for weeknight meals. But I think that it would be ideal for a casual company dinner, too.

Game to Entertain

Sometimes when I’m inspired to extend a last-minute invitation, I panic at the thought of the limited preparation time and the length of the “to do” list. Instead of pushing myself, I let the urge pass…at least, I used to.

But a scheduling situation the other day led to an epiphany about last-minute entertaining.  I’d left too little time to ready myself for a 1 o’clock meeting with a friend, including eating, dressing, and finding something from my still-stored summer wardrobe to wear on that suddenly unseasonably hot day. Instead of calling to postpone, I decided to hustle, and not only got everything done but had a surprisingly good time doing it.  With a deadline looming, I realized, I’d accomplished much more than I would have without one.

I turned this playful approach into a winning entertaining technique the other day, when I was returning to the country one Friday night. As it happened, it was the only night when friends who were in town just for a long weekend were free to see us. We might have met for a meal in a restaurant, but I decided to invite them over for dinner instead, despite the fact that I would only have about an hour-and-a-half for preparation. At home, I thought, we could have more time together and be more relaxed.

Once I accepted that some compromises would be necessary, the challenge of beating the clock began to feel like fun. Some division of labor was necessary. My husband handled all the critical cleaning jobs, while I set about making salad, assembling dinnerware and serving pieces, and setting the table (resisting the temptation to iron the tablecloth and napkins). Since there certainly wasn’t time for cooking, I had ordered an entrée and a side dish from a neighborhood restaurant in the city and brought it with me. For hors d’oeuvres, I relied on jarred and packaged favorites, and I recruited a frozen cheesecake for dessert.

The evening was a pleasure for my husband and me, and apparently also for our friends, who have thanked us several times since for going to the trouble…ample reward for the brief, if intense, effort we expended to make it happen.

An Intoxicating Dessert

When we go on vacations, I’m always looking for food ideas or recipes to bring back as mementos and to share with friends. One such souvenir is the dessert that we enjoyed at Dining at the Peak, the stunning mountain-top fine dining spot at Sunday River in ME. (www.sundayriver.com)

The rich yet refreshing capper to a four-course, pre-fixe meal, the so-called Limoncello Flute seemed exactly the sort of simple but satisfying dessert I’d like to serve at home. As it happens, on a trip to Italy a few years ago, we fell in love with limoncello, the sweet-tart Italian lemon liqueur, and have a bottle residing in our freezer.

Dining at the Peak’s waitstaff likes to refer to evenings there as “events,” and the term seems appropriate, since the dinners are scheduled only on Saturday nights and feature specially designed menus using local Maine ingredients. I won’t soon forget our night there: The exhilarating ride 2,100 feet up to the restaurant in an enclosed gondola, the glass of champagne and blueberries I was handed upon arrival, the splendid assortment of hot hors d’oeuvres, the panoramic views. But thanks to the generosity of Chef Chad Davidowitz, Executive Chef at the Summit Grand Resort Hotel in Sunday River, I have the recipe to remember it by and can give you a taste of the experience:

Limoncello Flute

Chef Davidowitz prepares all the components for this dessert from scratch, including the liqueur, which itself takes three weeks. He provided the recipes for every element, and I’m including them for those of you who feel ambitious. Here’s the simpler version that I plan to try:

Begin with a commercial bottle of limoncello and store-bought lemon or vanilla gelato and, following the final directions below, make a simple syrup of limoncello and sugar, pour it over the gelato, and garnish with fresh whipped cream.

Lemon Gelato

For the gelato recipe, you will require an ice-cream maker

• 1 cup milk

• 1 cup sugar

• 5 egg yolks, lightly beaten

• 3 tablespoons grated lemon peel

• 3/4 cup lemon juice

• 2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

• In a small heavy saucepan, heat milk to 175°.

• Stir in sugar until dissolved.

• Whisk a small amount of the hot mixture into egg yolks in a separate, heat-safe bowl.

• Return all to the pan, whisking constantly.

• Add lemon peel. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture reaches at least 160° and coats the back of a metal spoon.

• Remove from heat and strain.

• Stir in lemon juice.

• Cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water. Stir for 2 minutes.

• Stir in cream.

• Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

• Fill cylinder of ice cream freezer two-thirds full; freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

• Transfer to a freezer container; freeze for 2-4 hours before serving.

Yield: 1-1/2 quarts.

Limoncello Recipe

This recipe requires three-week prep time

• 10 lemons

• 1 liter vodka

• 3 cups white sugar

• 4 cups water

Directions

• Zest the lemons, and place zest into a large glass bottle or jar. Pour in vodka. Cover loosely and let infuse for one week at room temperature.

• Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan.

• Bring to a boil. DO NOT STIR. Boil for 15 minutes. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature.

• Stir vodka/lemon zest mixture into syrup.

• Strain into glass bottles, and seal each bottle with a cork.

• Let mixture age for two weeks at room temperature.

• Place bottled liqueur into the freezer. When icy cold, serve in chilled vodka

Limoncello Simple syrup

• 2 cups limoncello liqueur

• 1 cup white sugar

• arrowroot slurry (editor: combine equal parts arrowroot and cold water) as needed

Directions

• Bring the limoncello liqueur to a boil and add the sugar. Let simmer until the sugar is dissolved and thicken slightly with the arrowroot slurry until it coats the back of a spoon. Cool over ice bath stirring consistently until cold.

• Clean and polish the flutes or cups you will be serving dessert in.

• Scoop out the lemon gelato into a dish and let sit for a minute.

• Swirl the thickened limoncello sauce around and over the gelato.

• Garnish with fresh whipped cream and candied lemon wedge or fresh mint