three from the files

Last month, when I was cleaning off my hard drive, I wasn’t just forced to confront pictures of recipes I’d forgotten to mention, but the 250-plus recipe bookmarks I had hoped to get to “one day.” Some people have cookbooks, others have recipe binders and while I have both, they’re never where I am when I’m trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.

making salted butter caramelsalted butter caramel ice cream

Unable to part with them, I created what I affectionately call my “cook this” list, neatly organized into subcategories of sweets, salads and sides, light meals and “mm, cocktails” because we always save the best for last, and swore that I would make every attempt to look there first for inspiration. (Alex too. For my fellow geeks out there, I have this on a shared Google document with Alex so he, too, can help me make very difficult choices like Which Daube Should I Try Next.) Amazing no one more than myself, it is working like a charm. Nearly every recipe I have made since the beginning of January has been a satisfying marking off of a to cook list item.

salted butter caramelsalted butter caramel ice cream

But my favorite ones have got to be the three I have cooked in the last week. It started when I was sick and just like the pathological oddball I am, I craved ice cream and not just any ice cream, the recipe I like to tell myself that David Lebovitz posted for me, and me alone. Such a narcissist, this one, eh? But really, when David began talking up his (awesome, amazing and a ton of other a-words) ice cream book on his site, I only wanted to know if there was a recipe for salted caramel ice cream in it. No there was not, he responded, but he did have one that that didn’t make the cut (be still my heart!). This ice cream is, in another a-word, astonishingly good. It is a little complicated to make but your reward is salted caramel ice cream so good, you won’t believe it didn’t come out of a restaurant kitchen.

halved leeksmmm, shallots

Next on the agenda were braised leeks, from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques via the Wednesday Chef over two years ago, one of about seventeen recipes I bookmarked while on an archive-reading bender shortly after having discovered her site.

braised leeks

I have this thing about leeks–I adore them, especially when they’re cooked until it seems no walls remain and they taste vaguely like potatoes. Yes, I am aware that was the least tasty sentence ever in the history of food writing, but what can I say? What I lack in heavy breathing I’ll make up for with a promise that if you make this, you will not regret it and if you top it with a poached egg, you might swoon. Aloud. See? Now you can forgive me for the potato comment.

butternut chickpea tahini salad

Last is the salad Alex has requested a repeat performance of every single evening since, but as it turns out I am a tease about a Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini I found via Orangette. Seriously, I sometimes think that the world is out of ways to prepare my favorite squash–mashed, pureed, in soup, in a galette, in a curry, in ravioli, risotto, etc.–but there I was, terrifically inspired again. The non-squash elements are like a deconstructed hummus (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil) and when stirred together with red onions and roasted squash, my my. The best part is that it really doesn’t take that long to cook; I made it after coming home from the gym at 9 p.m. last week, certain it was too late to make anything and less than an hour later, I was so glad I hadn’t listened to myself. It is the perfect winter salad meal.

Of course, now that I’ve whittled my Cook This list down slightly, I am jonesing to build it out again. I mean, who has only 237 items on their to-do list? How depressing! What am I supposed to do with all of this free time?


Update: For those who have asked, I shared my technique for taking apart butternut squash in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

46 comments on three from the files

  1. RA

    Real Simple mention? I need to crack open that new issue!

    Having a to-cook list of over 200 items would be depressing for me. I admire your resistance to being overwhelmed!

  2. Jennifer

    I ADORE butternut squash too, but I find it so incredibly hard to cut up (I’m in Italy and my local shops don’t sell precut squash). My wrists are in agony by the time i’m done. So much so I can only make it for Thanksgiving! Do you have some secret way of cutting up a squash?? Especially since you said it only took you an hour to make that salad! Did you use a vegetable peeler in the picture you posted?
    I looove your blog – but unfortunately I just can’t find many of the ingredients here…

  3. I wonder if you or David Lebovitz have noticed that when he was very cutely referring to you in his salted caramel blog, he linked to, which does not, apparently, exist. But it’s just a cute mistake, I wouldn’t have corrected him if I were you anyway.

  4. liz

    God, a friend made that salted caramel ice cream a couple weeks ago and it was all I could to to keep from eating the entire container. Although it did help to keep reminding myself it had cream AND egg yolks AND butter in it.

  5. SG’s book is so fantastic, as well as this leek dish. Actually, everything on this post is deliciously sexy. I never thought I’d see leeks , peeled butternut squash, and shallots as sexy, but you bring out the best of each ingredient!

  6. I have that ice cream recipe on my to-make list too. Unfortunately, I just put away my ice cream maker for a while – had to make room in the freezer for post-baby casseroles.

  7. Deb,

    Be still my little, overwhelmed NYer heart, as there never ceases to be a bad day when I visit this lovely site and feel all great again.

    Hope you’re enjoying the snow!

  8. I’ve bookmarked all these recipes, can’t wait to make them!

    And isn’t Google wonderful? Notebooks, documents, and Google toolbar bookmarks make it so easy to pick a recipe, make a shopping list, then send your hubby to the store!

  9. Once again, everything you made looks fabulous. I only wish that I could be as organized as you are with your “cook this” list. Perhaps I need to start a “drink this” list.

  10. Nan

    Holy crap! Just when I thought everything was working great!!! So sorry Deb – my site has a few “issues” – and if I knew what they were I’d fix them! Anyway, I’m passing along an award to you for your great blog – hopefully you’ll be able to see it soon. Nan

  11. Kit

    I made David’s salted caramel ice cream last summer, and it is the most awesome thing that ever came out of my kitchen. After I make my way through a few more citrus sorbet recipes (hello, winter!), I shall have to do it again …

  12. Oh man, I’m so making the chickpea salad this week. Especially since I’ve been minorly addicted to another of Orangette’s recipes for chickpeas (lemon, olive oil, salt and parm). I have seriously eaten that twice a week for about a month now. Obsessive much?

  13. ditto the congrats on the real simple mention!

    i’ve been wanting caramel ice cream ever since david lebowitz posted a picture a few weeks ago, but it’s so freaking cold here that by the time i walk from the subway to my house, i’m so cold that i can’t even contemplate it.

    those leeks look killer; i’ve recently become enamored of them and am looking for new things to do (and your sentence about how they turn potato-y tasting sounded kinda good to me).

  14. Oh my god, that squah and chickpea salad sounds delicious. I’m making it next wee for sure. But does anyone know how long a jar of tahini will keep once opened? I have a jar sitting in my fridge, but I don’t want to send anyone to the emergency room…

  15. deb

    I forgot to mention the one change I made the butternut-chickpea salad: I swapped the allspice with sumac powder, and loved its red, speckly flavor. I bet some smoky pimenton would be great in there as well. We also served it with lemon wedges, because this salad really can’t get enough brightness. Oh, how I wish I was having this for lunch, and not my salad bar salad (zzz).

  16. sK

    OMIGOD, I thought I was the only one dorky enough for the “Foods to cook” spreadhseet on Google. I, too, decided that maybe if it was always at my finger tips it would provide me with inspiration. I’ll say it does 50% of the time. I also have a field for comments so I can remember if I liked it or not. I input all recipes I’ve saved as well as new recipes I stumble across. I’M NOT ALONE!!!! :)

  17. deb

    All right, if I ever get over my fear of being on camera, oh, and also ever borrow a video camera, I promise to create a video of this. Maybe even soon. But until then, here is How Deb Tames a Butternut Squash (in words):

    1. Peel the squash, twice. The first time you peel it, it doesn’t take enough off, no matter how good your peeler is. Trust me, there is no harm in taking a little extra off. If you look at the top photo, you can see some slightly yellow streakiness–that is how the squash looks when it is only peeled once. Peeling it a second time allows you to get to the all orange layer.

    2. Get out your sharpest, largest knife. Sharpen it again.

    3. Sever the squash head from the neck with a horizontal cut. Yes, I could have explained that less gruesomely, but that would have been less fun.

    4. Cube the neck (narrow section): First, cut off the stem. Second, lay it on its side, and cut the thinnest slice off the bottom. This creates a bevel so the squash neck can lie on its side without rolling away or your knife swinging off and beveling you. Third, rest the squash neck on its beveled side; it should be stable. Fourth, begin making lengthwise cuts, at whichever intervals (such as one inch) you want to create your cubes. Fifth, remove the last one and put it aside (creating a second bevel), and turn the stack of lengthwise cuts on their side. Create lengthwise cuts the other way, creating big fat orange matchsticks. Sixth, cut these in the other direction until you have cubes. Cut the slice you put aside, as well.

    5. Cube the head (round base): First, cut off the base stump with a horizontal cut. This creates a bevel at the base. Rest the round part on its new base; it should be stable. Cut this in half with a vertical cut. Scoop the seeds out from both sides with a spoon. (These are excellent cleaned and toasted, just like pumpkin seeds.) Put the scooped-out halves face down (again, flat, stable) and create cuts at one-inch intervals in both directions, as you would chop an onion, until you have the base cubed.

    6. Marvel that it isn’t as complicated as these long directions make it sound.

    1. Marnie

      You wrote this 13 years ago, and I still vaguely remembered that it existed. I’m so glad I was able to find it – the best butternut squash tutorial!

  18. Deb-do you have a good daube recipe to share? My husband just requested it this past weekend. I made the beef stew from Tyler’s Ultimate and he said daube would be good in the near future.

  19. I saw that ice cream and nearly swooned. Salted caramel! Then I remembered that I’m a poor student who can’t fit an ice cream maker into her kitchen budget. Some day!

    I’m definitely trying the salad. Deconstructed hummus sounds great!

  20. Nichole

    I just saw this recipe on David’s site this weekend and though I need to make this and I see you made it first! I am trying it this weekend. :)

  21. Sonya

    I made the leeks last night as part of our Valentine’s Dinner and they were amazing. So wonderful and tender and the flavor was just so … full. That’s the best way to describe it. I hope to make the butternut squash dish this weekend. Love your website and congrats on the Real Simple mention.

  22. calico13

    Thank you so much for the salad recipe. As it happens, I bought a squash just the other day. It sounds so tasty!

    Thanks for the tips on how to cut up a squash, too, it always seems so daunting. I’m going to try your “peel first” technique!

    Also, for the person who was wondering about fridge-life of tahini, I’ve been known to have the same jar for a year or so, and I’ve never gotten sick. YMMV! :)

  23. Amanda

    For recipe storage, have you ever used ? It’s a social bookmarking site, so you can tag websites (read: recipes) to show up on other people’s sites, and you can make a great little cookbook with it, too (I tag all my recipes with key ingredient, type of food (your subcategory) and the word “recipe” – it’ll make sense when you see it. You should try it, it’s fabulous.

    ps. I don’t work for them, I swear.

  24. Mimi (another one :)

    A question reg. the butternut squash salad: are the onions added raw? isn’t that a bit… sharp, tastewise? I thought maybe I could add them to the squash before baking.

    If you find time to answer this… it would be much appreciated :)
    thank you!