Friday, September 6, 2013

Settling in

It's September 6 and the high today is supposed to be 85 degrees. But I still got myself my first pumpkin spice latte on the season. Mmm-mmm, bring on fall.

When Jeremy and I were house-hunting in the spring, I reflected that there is only so much research you can do on an area - the schools, amenities and property taxes. But your neighbors - well, only time will tell.

Blessedly, we landed in a very warm, community-oriented neighborhood, anchored by a one-lot playground. On school mornings, the kids parade down the streets, walking to the elementary school. Friday evenings, there are pizza parties on the playground. We had our block party last weekend, where Jeremy and I got to meet more people. One woman noted that the house really becomes your own when you start cooking and baking your favorite recipes, perfuming your house with those wonderfully comforting, familiar smells.

I thought of her as I prepared our Rosh Hashanah dinner this week. We had what are becoming our traditional dishes for this holiday - Italian-style brisket and apple cake; I had my little baker at my side.

And we added some new side dishes; all from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust:

Provencal cherry tomato gratin

3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cups coarse bread cubes from a country bread (crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the tomatoes in a 9x13-inch ceramic dish. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together. Spread the tomatoes evenly in the pan.

Place the garlic, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the bread cubes and process until the bread is in crumbs. Add the ¼ cup of olive oil and pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the tomatoes.

Bake the gratin for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the tomato juices are bubbling. Serve hot or warm.

Potato celery root puree

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 leeks)
4 cups (1½ pounds) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ¾" cubes
4 cups (2 pounds) celery root, peeled and diced into ¾" cubes
3 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a large (8" to 10") saucepan or Dutch oven. Rinse leeks well in a colander, spin dry in a salad spinner, and add to pot. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Add potatoes, celery root, cream, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper to the pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to very low, cover pot, and simmer gently 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Be careful—don't let the vegetables scorch on the bottom of the pan! In batches, pour mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Taste for seasonings, return to saucepan, and keep warm over very low heat. If mixture gets too thick, add a little more cream.

Green beans gremolata

1 pound French green beans, trimmed
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

For the gremolata, toss the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan, and pine nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Drain the beans and pat them dry. Add the beans to the pan and saute, turning frequently, for 2 minutes, until coated with olive oil and heated through. Off the heat, add the gremolata and toss well. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and serve hot.

Happy weekend!