Updated: Oct 24, 2018
Appetizer: Iceberg Wedges with Bacon & Buttermilk Dressing
4 large plum tomatoes, bottoms marked with an X
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ounces brioche, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (2 cups)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons snipped chives
1/2 pound thickly sliced bacon, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch pieces
2 medium heads of iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges each
1. Preheat the oven to 275°. Prepare a bowl of ice water. In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes just until the skins loosen, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the ice water to cool. Drain and peel the tomatoes, pat dry and halve crosswise.
2. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the tomatoes are very tender and slightly shrunken. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate and let cool.
3. Meanwhile, spread the brioche cubes on a small baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Let the croutons cool.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and buttermilk until smooth. Add the lemon juice, parsley, mint and 1 tablespoon of the chives and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
5. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and slightly crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
6. Put each iceberg wedge on a plate, add a tomato half and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Scatter the croutons and bacon on top. Garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chives and serve, passing the buttermilk dressing at the table.
Entree: Smitten Kitchen's Oven Ribs
1 5-pound rack spare ribs
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons paprika 3 tablespoons chili powder 1 tablespoon onion powder 2 tablespoons kosher salt (Diamond brand, which is very lightweight; for most others, use 1 1/4 tablespoons; more about why here) Chipotle powder or ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste As many cranks of freshly ground black pepper as your arm is in for
1 5-pound rack spare ribs
To finish: 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1. Heat oven to 200°F.* In a medium bowl, combine all of the spices and seasonings. On a piece of foil large enough to wrap around your ribs, place rack of ribs, meatier side up. Sprinkle half of spice rub over rack, patting it on generously, including the sides. Carefully — it can help have a second person hold the foil down while you lift the rack — flip the rack of ribs back onto the foil so that they’re now meatier side down. Pat on remaining rub. Tightly fold the foil to seal packets.
2. Set a metal rack (a cookie cooling sheet works well here) over a baking sheet and place foil-wrapped ribs on top. Bake for 4 hours, then reduce temperature to 175°F for 2 more hours, or until a fork easily penetrates the meat.
3. Open packet of ribs very carefully and pour accumulated juices into a saucepan. I find this easiest with one person lifting/tilting ribs packet and the other one snipping a corner and making sure the juices only go where you want them to. Bring the saucepan to a full boil and reduce the mixture until it becomes thicker, syrupy and will coat a spoon — usually by at least half. Stir in vinegar. This is the “barbecue sauce” for those that like it on their ribs; it will be fairly salty and I always warn people to use it judiciously.
4. Meanwhile, cut the ribs apart and spread them on a serving tray. For extra caramelization, you can spread them back on their baking sheet (sans rack) and run them under the broiler for a couple minutes.
5. Serve ribs with sauce on the side.
Side Dish: Summer Squash & Mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 medium yellow squash, sliced lengthwise paper-thin on a mandoline
1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over moderately high heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the mushrooms are browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, salt and pepper and sauté for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Side Dish: Zahav's Crispy Persian Rice
3 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh chives, chopped
5 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper (adjust to taste)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste)
1. Wash and drain the rice.
2. Place rice in rice cooker with a removable insert. Cover with approximately 1-inch of water.
3. Add olive oil, onion, basil, mint, chives, cilantro, rosemary, salt and pepper.
4. Turn on rice cooker and mix ingredients. Continue to mix ingredients a couple of more times in the first 3 to 4 minutes of cooking so that all ingredients are evenly spread throughout.
5. Cook rice for approximately 1 hour, or until the indicator lets you know the cooking is completed. A smaller rice cooker may only take around 45 minutes. The timing can vary depending on the size and model, but trust their settings. I've never had an issue.
6. Once cooking is finished, remove lid and place a plate on top of rice cooker bowl. Holding the sides with oven mitts, flip the golden rice cake with confidence!
7. Enjoy heaven in bite!
TO MAKE THIS WITHOUT A RICE COOKER, follow these steps:
1. Wash and drain the rice. Place rice in the pot and cover with approximately 1-inch of water.
2. Add olive oil, onion, basil, mint, chives, cilantro, rosemary, and salt and pepper. (The black pepper beautifully highlights the herbs here and offers a nice kick. But feel free to adjust to taste if you prefer a less “peppery” end result.)
3. Bring water to boil, allow to boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then mix ingredients and cover the pot. Reduce temperature to medium low. To avoid the rice from getting soggy, I used the Persian kitchen technique of placing a paper towel below the lid to capture the moisture.
4. Cook on low heat for approximately 1 hour.
5. Once ready, serve the fragrant and beautiful rice pilaf with whatever protein you like.
Side Dish (if you're feeling extra): Lobster Mac & Cheese:
1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes.
4. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
Dessert: Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
zest + fresh juice of two medium lemons
vanilla buttercream and additional lemon slices for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 12-count muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
2. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until creamed. About 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 additions, beating on low speed after each addition. Batter will be thick. Beat in the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix this batter at any point.
4. Spoon batter evenly into 12 cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for about 18-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
5. Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. If topping with lemon zest, do so right before serving. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
Make Ahead Tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Decorate/assemble cupcakes immediately before serving. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.