Nigel Slater’s Pearled Barley with Bacon, Peas, and Taleggio

Nigel Slater, the food editor of the Observer/Guardian, still rolls out good ideas for satisfying grub. Recently, I noticed a recipe of his that calls for boiling some barley, adding it to bacon still frying in its fat, tossing in some peas, and, at the end, mixing in cubes of Taleggio cheese. I decided to adapt the recipe — easy enough — for one. I decided to make it even more Spring-like. I made just enough for dinner with enough leftover for lunch.

For 1.5 or 2 servings

About a pound of fava beans removed from their large pods (a cup or so)

100g pearled barley

A couple of slugs of olive oil

2 strips of bacon, cut into lardons

Half a leek, sliced

Half a cup of fresh or frozen peas

2-3 oz Taleggio cheese, cubed

Put a pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Add the fava beans and blanch for a couple of minutes. If you have a spider scoop, fish them out of the water and let cool. Meanwhile, add the barley to the water you’ve just removed the favas from. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cook 15-20 mins until the barley is still firm but soft enough to chew.

While the barley is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium skillet and add the bacon lardons. Fry until almost crispy. While the bacon is frying, remove the outer skins on the favas and reserve to the side.  Add the sliced leeks and stir to combine in the bacon fat.

Drain the barley, shake off the excess water, and add it to the bacon and leeks. Add the shelled favas and the peas. Stir so that the bacon fat coats all the ingredients. Season according to your taste. When the peas and the barley are hot and well mixed with the bacon, scatter the cheese over, stir, and let it melt. Adjust the heat so that the cheese doesn’t burn. When the cheese has melted through the barley, turn off the heat.

If you’re eating alone, scrap half the contents of the pan into a bowl and leave the rest to cool. I ate it with a salad.

Vegetarians will omit the bacon. I imagine that olive oil on its own with a drizzle of walnut oil at the end might be very nice.

Nick Malgieri: Sour Cream Cheesecake

Recipe from my aunt, perhaps available somewhere here.

Cheesecake. I know, so eighties. This one, however, knocked my socks off. I recently visited my beloved aged aunt in New Jersey. Age has not diminished her cooking. She’s the kind of relative whose food turns out to be as good in your adulthood as you remember it being in your childhood. I probably acquired my love of cooking from her.

If anything is responsible for the cheesecake’s fall from favor, I attribute it to the graham cracker crust. A shortbread bottom crust sets this cheesecake apart from all others I’ve eaten. The cake is creamy and light. The shortbread base stays firm to the cut of a fork. This recipe will make you nostalgic for the luscious sort of cheesecake that we all used to make in the ’80s.

Make this recipe the day before you plan on eating it:

Equipment:

1 (3-inch deep) 9-inch springform pan

a 10×15-inch jellyroll pan

Cheesecake base:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry measure cup and level off)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Cheesecake batter:

1 pound (16 oz) cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1 (16 oz) sour cream

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of the springform pan and line with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside.

Shadowcook: I took this to mean: cut a circle of parchment or wax paper and place over the round buttered bottom of the springform pan.

To make the base, beat together the butter and sugar by hand until light and fluffy. Beat in the yolk until smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. With a rubber spatula, gently fold into the butter mixture. The mixture will be crumbly.

Shadowcook: You’ll probably have to gather it into a ball of dough with your hands. It will easily fall apart. Don’t overwork it. Remember, this is a crust that does not go up the sides of the cake.

Place the dough in the pan and use your hands to pat it down evenly and firmly over the bottom. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and baked through. Transfer to a rack and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

To make the batter: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on the lowest speed just until smooth, no more than 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater. Add the sugar in a stream, mixing for no more than 30 seconds. Stop and scrape again. Add 1 cup of sour cream and mix only until it is absorbed, no more than 30 seconds. Repeat with the remaining sour cream. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing only until each is absorbed; stop and scrape after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Shadowcook: I suspect the reason for Malgieri’s insistance on underbeating rather than overbeating is that the cake is less likely to set firm during the baking the more you beat the batter. So, even if there are lumps, err on the side of underbeating the batter.

Wrap heavy-duty aluminum foil around the bottom of the springform pan so it comes at least one inch up the sides. Pour the batter into the pan. Place the pan in a jellyroll pan or roasting pan and pour warm water into the pan to a depth of 1/2-inch.

Shadowcook: I used my big rectangular pyres baking dish and I poured in boiling water around the cake pan higher than 1/2-inch.

Bake the cheesecake for about 55 minutes, or until it is lightly colored and firm except for the very center. Remove from the oven and lift the cheesecake out of the hot water. Remove the foil and let cool completely on a rack. Wrap the cheesecake and chill overnight.

Shadowcook: Expect some condensation to form under the surface of the wrap.

To unmold the cheesecake, run a knife or thin spatula around the inside of the pan pressing the knife against the pan, not the cake. Unbuckle the pan side and lift off. Leave the cake on the base, or run a spatula under the cake base and slide the cake onto a platter.

Shadowcook: A few hours before serving, I roasted about 2 cups of hazelnuts in a 350 F oven. While they were still warm, I put the nuts in a tea towel and rubbed them vigorously to get the skins off the nuts. Then I took a kitchen mallet and crushed them into pieces. Using a long, thin spatula, I applied the crushed nuts around the side of the cake. Then I put the cake back in the refrigerator to set.

Jim Denevan’s Burrata Cheese with Nectarines, Mâche, and Hazelnuts

DSC04559

from Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook, p.42.

I gasped when I saw them. In the Co-op’s cheese section, I saw a basketful of individually-wrapped burrata cheeses. Not domestic. From Italy (and the price reflected its distant provenance). Despite all the time I’ve been in Italy — in Venice, mainly, which might explain it  — I’d never noticed or come across this luscious glob of cheese that Denevan describes as “a thin sheath of mozzarella stretches to enclose a velvety center of ricotta-like cream and mozzarella threads.” Of course I bought one.

Denevan’s recipe is a purist’s delight. Six ingredients combined in their simplest form. Delicious. Devine. My only comments are on the ingredients.

Serves 6

Shadowcook: HA! Six servings my fanny. Even someone hyperconscious of portions would be skeptical. More like four servings or even three.

1/4 cup shelled hazelnuts

2 ripe nectarines

Shadowcook: I used a small ripe peach for myself.

3 to 4 ounces mâche

8 oz burrata cheese (1 small or 2 large balls), at room temperature

Shadowcook: Denevan notes in his introductory paragraph to this recipe that it’s best at cool room temperature, which is to say keep it in the fridge until you’re ready. I liked it cool.

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Shadowcook: Get out your fruitiest kind.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are fragrant and their skins loosen, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a plate and let cool slightly. Rub the hazelnuts in a folded kitchen towel to release their skins. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Slice the fruits into thin wedges. Wash the mâche in a sink filled with cold water. Carefully remove any dirt or sand stuck between the leaves and discard any root ends. Dry the mâche in a salad spinner.

Cut the burrata into 1/4-inch slices; because it is very soft, it might be easier to slice with a serrated knife. Arrange the cheese on 6 chilled salad plates. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

In a medium bowl, toss together the mâche and the nectarines with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt. Arrange on top of the burrata. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and serve.