[Note: The shortbread got some fresh photos in 2019.]
I spend much too much time trying to figure out why some recipes we try out burn a hole in my laptop until I can get them up on the site–sometimes, even a day seems too long to keep something from you, like last week’s soup–and why others can linger for months. Sometimes, I’m just not that into them, but don’t want to admit it publicly and perhaps hurt their feelings, or even yours, if you happen to fall for them. Other times, the pictures just came out horrendously, and oh, we all know an ugly-looking recipe is a hard sell (sorry, big-name food magazine whose October cover picture actually convinced me to not buy it).
But then there are times that it is none of the above–the recipe was good, the photos were acceptable and there’s not a single good reason for me not to pass the word on, and yet, three months later, here is this Zucchini Rice Gratin. So, without further ado, bear with me as I clean some stuff off my hard drive today; I might want to try these again before I insist that you laminate and frame these recipes, but it doesn’t mean that they were any less worth sharing.
Zucchini Rice Gratin: Caramelized onions, rice, lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini layered in a baking dish with grated parmesan and oh my gosh, this was really delicious. Small problem, though, I was rushing when I cooked it; rushing like crazy. We were going out of town the next day and I had bought the ingredients many days before and I was physically unable to let them go to waste. So, I rushed. And well, I forgot to add the egg, I mean eggs. The result? Tasted good to me, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it would have been with some more cohesiveness. Tomatoes aren’t looking that great these days, so I suspect it will be a while before I find out. [Update: In fact, I wrote about this recipe again in 2012]
Tomato and Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing: Just days after I lightly chided New York Times food writer Mark Bittman for having recipes that could befuddle the home cook, he put a clear as day combination on his Bitten blog that I quite liked. We were past the midway point in tomato season by then; I was still a-smitten with this summer’s batch as I had been in any other year past, but I was getting bored of my go-to tomato salad (any vinegar, olive oil and some flaky salt). Tahini dressing seemed like a great way to bridge tomatoes into fall, and it was even better on the most amazing tomatoes I have ever bought from an organic farm on the North Fork the weekend before. Seriously, these tomatoes were so good that my tomato season ended the day I ate this salad. It wasn’t going to get any better than this, so I thought I should quit while I was ahead. Consider yourself warned on that one. [Recipe]
Sweet Potato Salad: Well, here’s a lesson for you: Don’t buy sweet potatoes in August. They won’t be very good. Still, I already had fall on the brain when I wanted to make one last potato salad this summer and the notion of a sweet potato one seemed like a great way to bridge the seasons. That it had a spicy peanut dressing didn’t hurt either, because my favorite things to do with squash or sweet potatoes is to pair them with something with a kick. The end result, however, was as could be expected from sweet potatoes bought months before they were in season–bland. Yet, since everything else about it was tasty, it leads me to believe that if I had cooled my heels another couple months, this could have been a great one. Of course, then might wonder how they can find sugar snap peas worth eating three months out of season, and well, I suppose that leaves us at something of an impasse. [Recipe]
Twice Baked Shortbread: Oh, this one is crazy delicious too. It is from a fantastic cookbook I bought months and months and months ago–Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich–that I have made only this single recipe from — so far!
[Update!] I revisited this recipe in 2019 and was consumed with regret for waiting so long — these are best-in-category material. The two untraditional processes (a rest time before baking, and a second bake after slicing) pay off. The rest time lets the flour hydrate and the sugar dissolve, for a better final texture, no powdered sugar (and its slight chalkiness) required. The second baking ensures that the butter tastes absolutely toasty, with a faint suggestion of brown butter. And here’s the best part: I’m not even using fancy butter here, just regular old non-European store brand and with the depth of buttery flavor, you’d never know. Imagine how good they’d be with fancier stuff. [Recipe below]
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
- 5 tablespoons (60 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from half a vanilla bean
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or a two solid pinches of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- 1 1/2 cups (190 grams or 6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
- Turbinado, Demerara or another coarse sugar for sprinkling
If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan; if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla of your choice, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let rest for at least 2 hours, or overnight (no need to refrigerate).
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Bake the shortbread for 40 to 45 minutes, until barely golden at the edges.
Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with sugar. Let the shortbread cool for 10 minutes.
Remove the shortbread from the pan, being careful to avoid breaking it. Use a thin sharp knife, or a sharp serrated knife, to cut it into oblong “fingers”, wedges, or squares. [I cut mine into 14 fairly large shortbread fingers, shown here, but might halve them next time for sharing.] Place the pieces slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.