Bourbon blue cheese sauce turns a nice steak into a decadent one

Food media tends to separate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day along a well-defined line. Put all the meat and grilling stories for dad in June and leave all the breakfast-in-bed and brunch stories for mom in May.

Blue cheese and bourbon add intense flavor to the sauce on this filet, but the sauce also dresses the salad vegetables on top. Contributed by Jessica Ebelhar

Well, this mom is ready for a thick-cut steak this Mother’s Day, so I turned to Loreal Gavin, author of “The Butcher Babe Cookbook: Comfort Food Hacked by a Classically Trained Chef” for a recipe for bourbon blue cheese sauce and a technique that involves searing the filet on one side and then finishing it in the oven. She tops it with a simple trio of salad veggies, but feel free to serve this with anything else that puts a smile on mom’s face.

Filet with Bourbon Blue Cheese Sauce

2 (8-ounce) filets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
1 scallion, cut on the bias
1/4 red onion, cut into wedges
For the bourbon blue cheese sauce:
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 ounces smoked or regular blue cheese

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the filets with salt and pepper.

In a screaming-hot cast iron pan, add a touch of vegetable oil, sear the filets for five minutes on one side then flip them over. Add a nice little fleck of butter on each filet, reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and then finish roasting for six additional minutes. Pull the filets out of the oven and remove them from the hot pan. Let them rest for 10 minutes for the perfect mid-rare.

To make the bourbon blue cheese sauce, sweat the garlic, butter, bourbon, red chili flakes and salt in a small saucepan. Once the sauce has reduced by half, remove it from the heat and add the cream and blue cheese. Mix together with a large spoon until incorporated and it starts to thicken up. Right before you serve the sauce over the steaks, make sure to toss in the tomato, scallion and red onion. Serves 2.

— From “The Butcher Babe Cookbook: Comfort Food Hacked by a Classically Trained Chef” by Loreal Gavin (Page Street Publishing, $22.99)

Bored with pork tenderloin? Try this one stuffed with cranberries and wrapped in bacon

Pork tenderloin has always been a weeknight favorite that happens to be suitable for Sunday supper or even a holiday. I tend to buy the marinated tenderloins from the grocery store, but on other occasions, it’s nice to buy an unseasoned one and stuff it with a flavorful filling.

In this recipe from “The Cranberry Cookbook: Year-Round Dishes From Bog to Table” by Sally Pasley Vargas (Globe Pequot Press, $18), tenderloin benefits from both herbs and cranberries in the filling, as well as bacon on the outside.

If you have frozen cranberries left over from Thanksgiving or dried ones in your pantry, you can add them to the stuffing of this bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin from “The Cranberry Cookbook.” Contributed by Sally Pasley Vargas

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (1- to 1 1/4-pound) pork tenderloin
1/3 cup fresh, frozen or dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
8 to 10 strips of bacon (about 12 ounces), cut in half
For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds small red or yellow potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and fennel, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the rosemary and thyme and cook 30 seconds more. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Set aside to cool briefly.

Cut a deep lengthwise slit down the center of the tenderloin but not all the way through. Open it up like a book. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and with a mallet or rolling pin, gently pound it until it is of an even thickness. Remove the plastic. Spread the stuffing in a line along the center of the meat and top with the cranberries. Bring the edges of the meat together to return it to its original shape. Secure with toothpicks.

On a cutting board, lay out the bacon slices overlapping them slightly. Place the tenderloin on top with the toothpicks facing up. Removing the toothpicks as you work, wrap the bacon slices around the pork to form a log. Place the tenderloin, bacon seam side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside while you prep the potatoes.

On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the potatoes. Drizzle with the oil. With your hands, rub the oil into the potatoes so they are completely coated. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper and toss together. Spread on the baking sheet, cut sides down.

Roast the meat and potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 145 to 150 degrees and the bacon browns and crisps. If the roast is ready before the bacon browns, remove it from the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes to brown the bacon. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into slices. The potatoes are ready when they are tender and golden brown. Serve alongside the pork. Serves 4.

— “The Cranberry Cookbook: Year-Round Dishes From Bog to Table” by Sally Pasley Vargas (Globe Pequot Press, $18),

How to make ratatouille, just like the movie (that somehow turns 10 this summer)

Loyal Statesman reader (and recipe clipper) Carlene Brady sent me an email a few weeks ago with her recipe for ratatouille, the rustic French dish made popular by the Disney movie of the same name that came out 10 years ago this summer.

Ratatouille got a huge boost in popularity after the 2007 Disney movie of the same name. Contributed by Carlene Brady

Like many fans of the movie, Brady wanted to make a version of the dish at home, but all the recipes she found didn’t look like the carefully assembled, layered one that Remy, the charming rat who loves to cook, makes for Ego, the restaurant critic.

“Amazingly, during a high school reunion a few years ago in my old hometown in Ohio, I happened to pick up a copy of the local paper and there it was! A recipe specially created based on the cartoon version,” she wrote via email. “This recipe is eminently tweakable. The original recipe calls for eggplant, but I don’t like eggplant and don’t use it, and I Southwesternized it with the seasonings, etc. Sometimes I add poblano peppers. The important thing is to try to buy the veggies with roughly the same diameter so they will layer evenly.”

Ratatouille

2 (14.5 oz. cans) diced tomatoes
1/3 onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
One small packet Goya cilantro-achiote seasoning
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour diced tomatoes, onion, garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil into 9-inch round baking dish.

Add salt and pepper to taste and about 2/3 of the Goya seasoning. Mix well. Use a mandoline to slice all the veggies about 1/16-inch thick, discarding the cores and ends. Arrange all the slices on top of the tomato mixture in a concentric circle starting from the outer edge, working in, overlapping them.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle a little salt, pepper and the remaining 1/3 Goya seasoning over the top. Cover the vegetables with parchment paper, cutting to match the shape of the inside of the baking dish.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the veggies are cooked but not soggy. Remove from the oven when the tomato mixture is bubbling but before the veggies get brown around the edges.

— Carlene Brady

Think potatoes are the bad guys in your diet? Think again

Most of us take potatoes for granted. They are a good source of lots of different nutrients, and we now know that carbs, in moderation, aren’t the evil diet-killers we once thought they were.

Baby potato, greens, garlic and chickpea hash from “Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals” by Susie Middleton. Contributed by Randi Baird.

The James Beard-winning cookbook author Raghavan Iyer agrees, which is why he recently deviated from Indian-themed cookbooks to write “Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked — and Fried, Too!: A Celebration of Potatoes in 75 Irresistible Recipes” (Workman, $16.95). The book reclaims the oft-maligned potato in many imaginative forms, including this lasagna.

Here’s a handful of other healthy potato recipes that we are featuring in this week’s Wednesday food section for dishes like roasted potato salad with mustard-walnut vinaigrette; crab, spring potato and watercress salad; and a baby potato, greens, garlic and chickpea hash (above).

RECIPE

Italian Potato Lasagna

Thinly sliced potatoes add heft, texture and flavor to a traditional lasagna, one of the many dishes in Raghavan Iyer’s new book. Contributed by Matthew Benson

2 cups ricotta cheese
Zest from 1 large lemon
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces baby spinach, stems removed and leaves thoroughly rinsed and dried
Freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray
1 (23-ounce) jar tomato sauce
12 ounces ready-t0-bake lasagna sheets
12 ounces shredded Italian cheese blend

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment or aluminum foil. Set aside.

Place the ricotta in a medium-size bowl and stir in the lemon zest, eggs, basil, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Scrub the potatoes well under cold running water. Fill a medium-size bowl with cold water. Slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick planks and immerse in water while you work with the other vegetables.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and stir-fry the medley until the onion and red pepper are light brown around the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Add half the spinach leaves and cover the pan. Wilt for 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining leaves and wilt for another few minutes. Dust with freshly ground pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir.

Drain potatoes and rinse again. Give the colander a good shake to rid the potatoes of excess water.

Spray a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour in enough sauce to thinly coat the bottom. Place one third of the pasta sheets to cover the bottom. Spread half of the ricotta over the sheets. Arrange a layer of half the potatoes on the ricotta, followed by half of the vegetable medley. Pour and spread some of the remaining sauce, then sprinkle on one third of the cheese.

Place another third of the lasagna sheets on top and repeat the layering, using up all the ricotta, potatoes and vegetables, and half of the remaining sauce and cheese. Place the last of the sheets over this, followed by the remainder of the sauce.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on a cookie sheet in case the cheese and sauce spill a bit during baking. Bake the lasagna until the sides look bubbly and the center of the lasagna, when pierced with a knife, reveals a hot, cheesy, bubbly interior, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top and return the uncovered pan to the oven. Let the cheese melt, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Serves 8.

— From “Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked — and Fried, Too!: A Celebration of Potatoes in 75 Irresistible Recipes” by Raghavan Iyer (Workman, $16.95)

Craving bolognese, but minus the meat? America’s Test Kitchen has you covered

Family pasta night is one of the great American food traditions. I grew up eating a meaty red sauce, but now that so many of my family members are eating more vegetarian and vegan meals, mostly for overall health reasons, we are getting creative about what we eat when everyone gets together.

America’s Test Kitchen shared this recipe for mushroom bolognese in its new book, “Vegan for Everybody.”

This mushroom bolognese from America’s Test Kitchen’s new book, “Vegan for Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and In-Between” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95), is an ideal dish for such a crowd. It’s kid- and cook-friendly. You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat while you make the pasta.

Few will miss the meat. Two types of mushrooms help replicate the complex textures of a traditional bolognese while adding a similar depth of flavor along with the soy sauce, tomato paste and red wine. The real trick here is adding soy creamer to round out the sauce. You can substitute with other types of unsweetened dairy-free creamers or even a regular heavy cream if no one in your crowd is vegan.

Mushroom Bolognese

2 pounds cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsweetened soy creamer
1 pound dried fettuccine or linguine

Working in batches, pulse cremini mushrooms in food processor until pieces are no larger than 1/2 inch, 5 to 7 pulses; transfer to large bowl. Pulse carrot and onion in now-empty processor until finely chopped, 5 to 7 pulses; transfer to bowl with processed mushrooms. Pulse tomatoes and their juice until finely chopped, 6 to 8 pulses; set aside separately.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add processed vegetables and minced porcini mushrooms, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until vegetables begin to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Stir in garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in wine and simmer until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add processed tomatoes, broth, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce has thickened but is still moist, 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in soy creamer.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and toss to combine. Adjust consistency with reserved cooking water as needed, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Vegan for Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and In-Between” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)

Why polenta fries won’t replace french fries but are worth making anyway

Izy Hossack, author of “Everyday Delicious: Super Tasty Breakfasts, Brunches, Mains, Desserts and Snacks” (Hardie Grant Books, $29.99), knows that her polenta fries are not going to replace regular french fries.

French fries will never be replaced with polenta fries, but these are a good dish to make when you’re out of potatoes or looking for a slightly different texture from an oven fry. Contributed by Izy Hossack

Polenta fries are for the times when you want to make oven fries but don’t have any potatoes, the British cookbook author explains in her new book. “They aren’t a replacement for potatoes. … They are, however, much more exciting in terms of texture and flavor potential. Take a regular fry: What can you do? You can season it with spices or herbs. That’s about it. Take a polenta chip, however, and you have access to the actual ‘meat,’ so to speak, of the chip.”

She suggests adding various cheeses or purees to the polenta while you cook it, and then you get to decide how you want to season the outer layer, too. Here, she’s added garlic, ricotta and Parmesan to the polenta before it’s baked, and then rosemary and truffle salt on the outside just before the polenta “fries” go in the oven. The result? A nice harmony of a cheesy, soft center encased by a crisp outer layer. No ketchup required.

Baked Rosemary Polenta Fries

1/2 cup milk
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup dry polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup ricotta
2 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Large pinch of salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Large pinch of truffle salt or regular salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a large pan, bring 2 cups water and the milk and garlic to a boil over a medium heat. Gradually add the polenta, while stirring, and simmer until thickened, between 5 and 15 minutes. Then stir in the butter, ricotta, Parmesan and salt.

Spread the mixture on a foil-lined baking tray in a layer roughly 1 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt, pressing it gently into the surface with your hands. Chill until set, roughly 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Once set, cut the polenta into 1 1/2-inch wide strips. Grease the lined baking tray with a little oil and then spread the polenta fries on top. Drizzle or spray the fries with oil, too, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown, flipping them over halfway through the baking time.

— From “Everyday Delicious: Super Tasty Breakfasts, Brunches, Mains, Desserts and Snacks” by Izy Hossack (Hardie Grant Books, $29.99)

Celebrate baseball’s opening day with this slow cooker beef sandwich

Starting today, the return of baseball season is (finally!) upon us and Daina Falk has just the recipe to celebrate.

Daina Falk’s new book “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook: 165 Recipes for Eating, Drinking & Watching Sports” has a recipe for hot Italian beef au jus sandwiches that were inspired by a sandwich she had at Fenway Park. Contributed by Greg Dupree

Falk is the baseball-loving author of “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook: 165 Recipes for Eating, Drinking & Watching Sports,” which includes all kinds of dishes that you can serve while watching a game. This sandwich isn’t your typical stadium fare, but it was served during the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park.

Falk re-created the dish in a quantity that will serve a party or leave leftovers for the week to come, and it calls for cooking the meat in a slow cooker, which means less time in the kitchen and more time watching the game.

Hot Italian Beef au Jus Sandwiches

I’m often inspired by the concession food I eat at the many ballparks and arenas I visit over the course of each year. This sandwich was inspired by one served at Fenway’s Yawkey Way during the 2013 World Series. The Red Sox, my mom’s favorite team, took the title, winning their first World Series since 1918.

— Daina Falk

4 pounds chuck roast
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley
5 banana peppers, thinly sliced, or to taste
1 cup beef stock
8 to 10 whole-wheat buns
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high. Add the beef, and brown both sides quickly, about 2 minutes per side. Decrease the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook for 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.

Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker, and add the oregano, basil, parsley, banana peppers and stock. Add a couple healthy grinds of black pepper, and cover. Cook on low for 9 hours, or until the beef is soft and can be pulled apart with a fork.

Serve the beef hot on the buns, topped with a healthy slice of mozzarella, which will melt with the heat of the beef. Or put it under the broiler for 2 minutes to also lightly toast the tops of the buns. Serve with a small cup of the jus (the yummy juice left in the slow cooker) for dipping. Serves 8 to 10.

— From “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook: 165 Recipes for Eating, Drinking & Watching Sports” by Daina Falk (Oxmoor House, $22.95)

Morimoto shares his technique for cooking perfect rice, every time

If you aren’t already rinsing rice before you cook it, it’s not too late to start.

Famed chef Masaharu Morimoto includes his recipe for perfect white rice in his new book, “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” (Ecco, $45), as well as an easy nori-wrapped rice ball that will ease your craving for sushi without actually having to make it at home.

Washing off the excess starch makes for perfectly plump, springy grains that are blessedly free of mush and clumps, but don’t cheat and buy cheaper long-grain rice, he says. Short-grain rice — often labeled “sushi rice” — is essential, even though you’re not necessarily making sushi.

Onigiri Rice Balls

Go into any convenience store in Japan and you’ll see rows of the classic, portable and shockingly tasty Japanese snack called onigiri, triangular rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed and filled with delicious things like pickled plum or broiled salmon. The filling can be anything you desire, including last night’s leftover salmon. You can even roll the outsides in toasted sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder) or furikake.

— Masaharu Morimoto

Masaharu Morimoto, best known from his appearance on “Iron Chef,” has a new cookbook called “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” (Ecco, $45). Contributed by Evan Sung

2 ¼ cups short-grain white rice (sushi rice)
Kosher salt
¾ cup leftover salmon, chicken or vegetables, chopped
4 nori seaweed sheets, halved lengthwise

Put the rice in a large-mesh strainer set inside a large mixing bowl and add enough water to cover the rice. Use your hands to stir and agitate the rice to release the starch from the exterior of the grains. Empty the water, fill the bowl again, and repeat the process until the fresh water no longer becomes cloudy when you stir the rice.

Drain the rice in the strainer and shake well to help drain excess water. Let the rice sit in the strainer, stirring once or twice, until it’s more or less dry to the touch, 15 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the rice to the rice cooker, add 2 ¼ cups of fresh water, and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Gently fluff the rice with a plastic or wooden rice paddle. Let the rice cool slightly, so you can handle it without burning your fingers.

Pour some salt in a small bowl. To make each ball, wet your hands slightly with water, dip two fingertips in the salt, and briefly rub your hands together to distribute the salt. Grab ½ cup clump of rice and spread it slightly in your palm to form a ¾-inch layer.

Make a slight indentation in the center and add about a generous tablespoon of the filling, pressing lightly to flatten it if necessary. Fold the rice around the filling to enclose it completely, using a little more rice if necessary. Use both hands to shape the rice into a rough ball, then firmly pack it to form a rough triangle that has about 3-inch sides and is about 1-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining rice and filling. (You’ll have about two cups leftover rice, which is perfect for a stir-fry the next day.)

Just before you eat the rice triangles, wrap them in the nori. Serve right away, while the nori is still slightly crisp. Makes about 8 balls.

— From “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” by Masaharu Morimoto (Ecco, $45)

Always rinse your rice before cooking, says Masaharu Morimoto. Contributed by Evan Sung.

Recipe: Roasted corn vinaigrette warms up this spinach salad with spicy cashews

Roasted corn is fun to eat off the cob, but I have really grown to love roasted corn kernels in salads. They add just a hint of sweet, but the charred edges bring the whole salad to life.

Chris Santos loves roasted corn in salads, too, so much that he makes a corn vinaigrette by pureeing some of the roasted corn into a dressing.

To roast corn at home without firing up the grill, remove the husk and place the ear of corn under the broiler, turning occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Let cool and then cut the wide end of the corn off to give it a solid base. Stand the ear on its cut end, and, using a large knife, cut from top to bottom to remove the kernels where they meet the cob. Transfer the kernels to a bowl. Use the knife blade to scrape the corn “milk” from the cobs into the bowl for even more corn flavor. One average-size ear will yield about 3/4 cup of kernels.

Roasted corn is one of the key ingredients in this spinach salad tossed in a corn vinaigrette from Chris Santos, author of “Share: Delicious and Surprising Recipes to Pass Around Your Table.” Contributed by Quentin Bacon

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Spicy Cashews and Corn Vinaigrette

Chris Santos, the chef behind NYC’s Share restaurant and a judge on the Food Network show “Chopped,” uses vegetable purees and juices in salads to create an intense depth of flavor. Pureeing the corn makes a beautiful pale yellow dressing that richly coats bright green spinach leaves. For a warm salad, toss the spinach very briefly in a large nonstick skillet with a dash of olive oil to warm the leaves before dressing, taking care not to wilt them.

Chris’s restaurants in NYC include the Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Vandal. Contributed by Grand Central Life & Style

For the spiced cashews:
2 tsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pure ground ancho chili
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. five-spice powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
3/4 cup roasted cashews
For the corn vinaigrette:
1/2 cup roasted corn kernels
1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
12 oz. baby spinach
1 cup roasted corn kernels
4 oz. goat cheese, frozen until firm
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the cashews: Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, or butter the baking sheet well with softened butter. Melt the 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, ground ancho, cayenne pepper, five-spice powder and salt and stir to melt the sugar. Add the cashews and mix to coat them well. Turn the cashew mixture onto the mat and let cool completely. In batches, break up the cashews into clusters and pulse them in a food processor until coarsely chopped. (The spiced cashews can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Puree the roasted corn kernels with the stock in a blender. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard. With the machine running, gradually add the canola oil through the hole in the blender lid and process until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Season with the salt and pepper. (Makes about 1 cup. The vinaigrette can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Toss the cashews, spinach and corn with the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Using a Microplane zester, grate a generous amount of cheese over the salad. Toss again and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

— From “Share: Delicious and Surprising Recipes to Pass Around Your Table” by Chris Santos (Grand Central Life & Style, $40)

Recipe: Crispy lentils, fried pears pair well in this warm winter salad

A few weeks ago, we explored poaching pears to take advantage of their flavor and ability to soak up other flavors.

Gill Meller, one of the head chefs at England’s River Cottage cooking school, takes another approach to the fruit. In this savory lentil dish from “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” (Quadrille, $35), Gill Meller fries pear slices and cooked lentils to mix with roasted red onions, a trifecta of ingredients that blend beautifully together but also might inspire other dishes with lightly fried fruit, skillet-popped lentils or roasted alliums.

This dish has two unexpected ingredients: fried pears and crispy lentils. It’s from “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” by Gill Meller. Contributed by Andrew Montgomery
This dish has two unexpected ingredients: fried pears and crispy lentils. It’s from “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” by Gill Meller. Contributed by Andrew Montgomery

Choose ripe pears, but not overripe or else they will fall apart in the pan when you fry them. Taste the lentils as they cook to make sure they crisp up nicely without getting too crunchy. (However, some people cook them in the oven until they are crunchy for a protein-dense snack.) No need to serve this dish with meat, but a few crumbles of goat or blue cheese might be a nice addition.

Fried Pears with Roasted Red Onions and Crispy Puy Lentils

gatherplc_us-2Heaping 1/2 cup puy lentils, rinsed
2 red onions, each cut into wedges
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 ripe pears
1 Tbsp. butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the rinsed lentils in a medium pan, cover with water, and set over high heat. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 18 to 25 minutes, until the lentils have softened but retain some bite. Drain them, then leave them in the colander and allow the steam to evaporate.

While the lentils cook, place the onion wedges in a roasting pan with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, toss to coat and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast the onions in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the wedges are soft and starting to color. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Slice each pear into quarters, remove the cores, then cut each quarter in half again, giving 16 wedges of pear altogether. Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter and oil mixture is bubbling, add the pear slices to the pan. Fry them gently for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until they have taken on a little color. Remove the pear wedges from the pan and keep them warm.

Leaving the skillet on the stove, increase the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining oil, followed by the cooked lentils. Season with a little salt and pepper, and fry, tossing regularly, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are crisped.

Arrange the warm roast onions and pears on a large serving platter. Scatter over the lentils, drizzle over the lemon juice, and bring to the table immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” (Quadrille, $35) by Gill Meller