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New book celebrates cooking, for life

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An essential kitchen companion

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Photo By Sue Ade
Photo By Sue Ade
A relationship with Amanda Hesser's newly released "The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century"could last a lifetime. Hesser's work contains more than 1,000 recipes from The New York Times 150 year-old recipe archive -- the "world's most extensive collection." The New York Times has not done a comprehensive cookbook since Craig Claiborne's 1961 "The New York Times Cookbook."

Since receiving Amanda Hesser's "The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century" earlier this month, I've been carrying it around just about everywhere -- and people notice. Between the book's 932 pages (containing more than 1,000 recipes) and bright red cloth cover, it is not easy to hide. And, I can't stop gushing about Hesser's book either, describing it with words like "comprehensive," "relevant," "reliable" and "historical." More of a kitchen companion than a cookbook, Hesser's book is peppered with stories that are amusing, interesting and informative. And, don't miss the introduction, especially the food timeline, which spans culinary history from 1860 right through to the present year. Although respectful of the 1961 classic "The New York Times Cookbook," by iconic The New York Times food writer, Craig Claiborne, Hesser likes to point out that her cookbook is "not an update to Claiborne's book." Nor is it filled with glossy, full-color images, which, surprisingly, you'll not miss a bit. It took Hesser six years to write this book and says, "I want this book to be a celebration of great cooking." Hesser has done that and has done it well. This is a great cookbook. Be sure to get one from Santa.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Lasagna

Reprinted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century" by Amanda Hesser. Compilation copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company and Amanda Hesser. Recipes and reprinted text copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

For the Sauce

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium red onions, finely diced

4 large cloves garlic, 2 minced, 2 left whole

1/2 pound sliced ( 1/4 inch-thick) pancetta, diced ( 1/4-inch cubes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups dry red wine, preferably Italian

Two (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups lukewarm water

3/4 pound ground sirloin

1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

2 large eggs

10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, washed and dried

Approximately 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 pound Italian sausage, a mix of hot and sweet

For the Lasagna

One (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

2 extra-large eggs

2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 pound mozzarella, grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

16 fresh lasagna noodles

1. To make the sauce, heat 1/2 cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over low heat. Add the onions, minced garlic, and pancetta and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until the onions are wilted. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Raise the heat slightly, add the wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated, about 20 minutes.

2. Crush the tomatoes into the pan, and add their juice. Add the tomato paste and lukewarm water and simmer for 1 hour.

3. Combine the sirloin, cheese and eggs in a large bowl. Chop the parsley with the whole garlic cloves until fine, then stir into the beef mixture. Season lavishly with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix until all the ingredients are well blended. Shape into meatballs and set aside.

4. About 20 minutes before the sauce is done, heat the remaining 12 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dust the meatballs lightly with the flour, shaking off excess, and lay in the hot oil. Brown the meatballs on all sides (do not cook through) and transfer to the sauce.

5. Brown the sausages in a clean skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer to the sauce. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the heat.

6. To make the lasagna, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ricotta, eggs, Pecorino Romano, parsley, and all but 1 cup of the mozzarella in a large bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

7. Remove the meatballs and sausage from the sauce and let cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Spoon a thick layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking pan. Cover with a layer of 4 noodles. Spoon more sauce on top, then add a third of the meat and a third of the cheese mixture. Repeat for 2 more layers, using all the meat and cheese. Top with a layer of noodles and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly over the top.

8. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 to 10 as a main course.

October 31, 2001: "The Noodle and I: A Face-Off At The Oven," by Regina Schrambling; recipe adapted from Giuliano Bugialli -- 2001.

Purple Plum Torte

Reprinted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century" by Amanda Hesser. Compilation copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company and Amanda Hesser. Recipes and reprinted text copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Large pinch of salt

1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, or more or less, depending on the tartness of the plums

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

12 purple plums, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more or less, depending on the tartness of the plums

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.

2. Cream 1 cup sugar and the butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer (or in a mixer) until light in color. Add the dry ingredients and then the eggs.

3. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Cover the top of the batter with the plum halves, skin up. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the lemon juice, adjusting to the tartness of the fruit. Sprinkle with the cinnamon.*

4. Bake until the cake is golden and the plums are bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack, then unmold.

*Kitchen Ade Note: I sprinkled the top of my Purple Plum Torte with a mixture of 2 teaspoons cinnamon mixed with 1/2 cup (scant) granulated sugar.



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