This week I finally got the chance to prepare a few recipes I’d been wanting to try for a while, namely a butterscotch chiffon pie, and a pepper-eggplant confit. I’ll tell you up front, they both turned out fabulously, meeting and exceeding my optimistic expectations. But what’s even better, this week also gave us the chance to finally have over a couple we’d been wanting to get together with for a while now too, Ben’s co-worker Jennifer and her boyfriend Mike. Once again, our patience was rewarded and out expectations of a good time were far exceeded. The four of us, along with my dad who at the last minute ended up staying in town for an extra night, had a sensational time, and enjoyed a pretty amazing meal.
I’d been eyeing this recipe for the pepper-eggplant confit even since buying the book it resides in. This totally awesome cookbook, a collection of all-time best recipes from Gourmet Magazine, is one of my current favorites. I found it this summer in a dusty used book shop in Madison, Wisconsin, and instantly fell in love. Along with this vegetable confit and the butterscotch chiffon pie too, I’ve tried at least a dozen other recipes from within its pages. Each one has been a total, absolute hit. I got it for a complete steal, but even if I didn’t, this wonderful cookbook would have been one of my best buys of the year.
Anyways, back to this confit, this abundant blend of tenderly roasted vegetables – sweet red peppers, full and mellow garlic, velvety eggplant and deeply flavored roasted tomatoes – slightly spicy with a touch of red pepper flakes, and richly infused with lush, fruity extra-virgin olive oil. It’s at once humble and extravagant, simple yet undoubtedly splendid. And it’s utterly delicious. Served atop a crispy, oblong round of French bread crostini with a dollop of creamy whipped goat cheese, and it was even that much better!
This night was supposed to be one of our last grilling nights of the year. But at the last minute, we realized our store of charcoal had dwindled to just a few measly bricks. And so, rather than grilling these lamb chops, I ended up pan-roasting them. No regrets though. No regrets at all. A hot cast iron pan, a swig of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper – that’s all that was really needed for these gorgeous chops. Juicy medium-rare and full of flavor, this lamb was so great, we never missed the grill.
This couscous side dish hit the mark too. A fluffy bowlful of tender, pale yellow particles interwoven with bright yellow dices of sweet bell pepper, golden brown dots of toasted pine nuts, chewy slices of bright amber apricot, shiny golden raisins and inky black specks of dried currents, all lightly cloaked in a bright vinaigrette of lemon and garlic with a touch of mustard and a smoky hint of cumin. Bright yet warm, with hits of sweetness and full of savory goodness, each flavorful bite of this lovely couscous dish was fully delicious and entirely satisfying.
A perfect partner to the couscous were these gingered beets. Tender slices of freshly cooked, redder than red beets, tossed in a garlicky, gingery vinaigrette. Tart lime juice tames the sugary beets, while a little heat comes from a sprinkling of diced jalapeños, and handfuls of fresh mint and cilantro add a wonderful brightness. The deep red slices of this earthy, sweet root vegetable soak up this varied mix of seasonings, so that each bite contains an exciting burst of bright, huge flavor. Beets have never been less boring!
The deep orange, ultra-velvety puree of butternut squash was concocted from nothing more than a few simple ingredients – only a small pat of butter, a touch of dark brown sugar, a dash of salt and pepper, and the slow-roasted gourd itself. With a recipe like this, so simple and pure, it’s all about the star ingredient. In this case, a truly gorgeous butternut squash, large and smooth, the color or pale cream, with a straight, thick neck, swollen seedy base and firm, dense flesh of vivid orange. I was lucky enough to be home in Toledo when my Dad received a assortment of winter squashes from one of his business clients. Rupp Seeds is a Toledo-area family company that specializes in developing unique varieties of fruits and vegetables for chefs’ kitchens. Every once in a while, my parents get surprise deliveries of freshly harvested produce straight from their farms, all of it of the most amazing flavor and texture imaginable. Like any Rupp vegetable I’ve ever sampled, this squash is sensational – sweet and buttery, immensely deep in flavor, utterly delicious. For a recipe that demands the best of ingredients, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
And now we move from butternut to butterscotch. Butterscotch chiffon pie that is. A butterscotch chiffon pie with a deep brown gingersnap crust. A crust that’s a little bit sweet and a littler bit spicy with the heat of ginger, and its texture just the perfect blend of chewy and crispy. Within this tender crumb crust is folded a silky whipped filling of glowing golden butterscotch, so hugely buttery and intensely rich, it’s the epitome of edible decadence. On top, a cool dollop of vanilla-spiked whipped cream. A perfect finish for a perfect finish.