Idiot Proof Recipes
And, although I'm not an idiot when it comes to cooking, I am a fan of the idiot proof recipe. Here are three of my favorites: an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert.
MARINATED OLIVES (adapted from a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything):
1 jar of queen-sized green olives
1 tsp. vinegar (red or white wine, or balsamic)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste (I use two good shakes from the jar)
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, or about 1 tsp dried. (Oregano is also good, but you can use any compatible herb you want.)
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife, and peeled
1 or 2 bay leaves
Drain olives and place in a small bowl or a container with a lid. Combine vinegar, oil, red pepper, and herb, if it's dried. Pour over olives, and mix. Add garlic and bay leaves, and herb if it's fresh. Cover, and allow to marinate for at least 6 hours, and up to a couple weeks.
RAW TOMATO SAUCE (adapted from a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything):
To make right before serving:
4 medium to large fresh tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a large knife, and peeled
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste (I use kosher)
Red pepper flakes to taste (I use 3 good shakes from the jar)
1/4-1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
At least 1 cup fresh basil, cut, torn or chopped, depending on how fine you want it. Use as much as you want.
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
Freshly grated parmegiano reggiano cheese
1/2 - 1 lb. pasta: linguine, fettucini, spaghetti, even angel-hair if you're a masochist
Put a large pot of water on to boil, and cook the pasta.
While water is boiling and pasta is cooking, core tomatoes and cut into medium-sized chunks. Don't discard the juice and seeds. There's a lot of flavor there. Put in a large flat-bottomed bowl, and add lemon juice, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Mash with a potato masher to the consistency you want, but do not puree. (Bittman says you can use a fork instead of a potato masher. I tried that. Seriously, I love Bittman, but sometimes he has his head up his ass.) Add bay leaf and pine nuts.
Drain pasta, and pour onto sauce, mixing thoroughly. Serve with parmegiano reggiano.
To make several hours ahead of time (this results in a slightly stronger, and I think better, sauce)
Core tomatoes and cut into medium-sized chunks. Don't discard the juice and seeds. There's a lot of flavor there. Put in a large flat-bottomed bowl, and add lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Mash with a potato masher to the consistency you want, but do not puree. Add bay leaf. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour. I usually make 3-4 hours before I cook the pasta.
Right before you start the pasta water, add the basil and the pine nuts to the sauce. Cook and drain pasta, and pour onto sauce, mixing thoroughly. Serve with parmegiano reggiano.
This is a really flexible recipe. You can increase or decrease it as you want. You can use more or less pasta, depending on your mood. I usually make closer to a half pound for Logan and me. That leaves us with some extra sauce for later, when we add more pasta or just have the sauce with some homemade bread.
You have to use fresh, in-season tomatoes for this; however, if you make it ahead of time, it's a good recipe for less than fabulous tomatoes. Marinating them for a few hours will soften them up a bit and give them more flavor.
PEACH CLAFOUTI (From The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion):
3 cups (2 lbs) sliced peaches*
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (3 oz) unbleached, all purpose flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) milk
3/4 tsp vanilla
Thoroughly butter a 10" round pan (a pie plate works perfectly) or ovenproof skillet. Arrange the peaches on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. In a large mixing bowl or a standing mixer, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the flour mixture into the milk, eggs and vanilla, smoothing out the lumps. Pour batter over fruit, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. (The original recipe says to bake it for 35-40 minutes, but it always takes an hour in my oven. I suggest that you start checking it at 35 minutes, but use your judgment.) Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. This can be served warm or at room temperature. Just let it rest long enough for the custard to set up.
*You can use sliced strawberries or quartered apricots instead. You can also add blueberries to the peaches, but you need a lot. The flavor of the blueberries can get lost if you don't have enough.
According to the Baker's Companion, you can use any of the following fruits: sweet, dark cherries, apples, pears, and plums. However, the recipes differ depending on the consistency and flavor of the fruit. It shouldn't be hard to find recipes if you do a little research.
"Clafouti" sounds fancy and complicated. I mean, it's a French recipe. But the French make peasant food too. If you can cut up some fruit and make pancake batter, you can do this.