introducing: the love list

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

Hey y’all!

I thought I’d try a little something new here at Milly’s Kitchen and share some of my favorite happenings from around the internet with you. So here is my inaugural Love List, chock full of things that I think are swell:

- It’s Friday, so obviously we’re going to start with a cocktail recipe. I recently discovered O&O Eats (which is a gorgeous food blog and which you should absolutely check out). If you’re in the mood for some spirit-lifting libations this weekend, shake up a Long Hope and get the party started. I’m already a sucker for drinks with cucumber and gin, but throw honeydew and mint in the mix and I’m smitten.

 

- Big news for my fellow food-science nerds: Kenji López-Alt (a culinary god and founder of the Serious Eats Food Lab), is publishing a book! Kenji is an indispensable resource on all things food-science and a slayer of revered kitchen myths. I mean, this guy will bake 50 gazillion chocolate chip cookies to test the effects of each and every ingredient. He’s my hero. You should get to know him if you don’t already.

 

- I highly recommend checking out this dreamy Instagram feed from visual-storyteller, Sejkko. It’s filled with stunning images that recall fairytales, daydreams and nomadic wanderings. One of the most inspiring feeds I’ve seen and part of what makes Instagram wonderful.

 

- If you’re heading to Paris (or dreaming of heading to Paris), add this NYT article on the rue des Martyrs to your reading list. This street has it all: chocolate, jam, pastries, charcuterie, ice cream, wine. And if you do make it to this Montmartre culinary paradise, reserve a table at Le Pantruche, one of my favorite bistros, and order the Grand Marnier soufflé with salted caramel for dessert.

 

- If you’re following me on Pinterest, you know I’m obsessed with tiny houses. (Beau and I are currently hatching plans to build a little house of our own.) This one takes the cake. I love, love, love everything about it. It's even super eco-friendly. Sigh.

 

- And to get your weekend started on the right note, here’s the new Downtown video from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I know this is going to be all over the internets in about two seconds, but it’s too fly not to share with you here. (Seattle represent!)

 

XO and Happy Friday!

Olaiya

P.S. If you’re feeling the love (or not), please head on down to the comments and let me know what you think of Love List Fridays. :)

 

slow-roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

One of my many “charming” idiosyncrasies is that I often intensely dislike the things I come to adore. 

Take my best friend, Sarah, for example. I met Sarah in the 7th grade. She was part of a clique of impossibly cool and intimidating girls who wore peppy Keds sneakers and adorned their shiny ponytails with ribbons with their names on them. 

They were everything I wanted to be: pretty, popular, rich--by the humble standards of my family, anyway. And so, I decided that I would hate them with every fiber of my awkward, middle-school self and wish for their social downfall. 

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

Whether my adolescent ill-will had any effect on the fate of this formidable clique, I cannot say. But I do know that shortly after I vowed to despise them, something magical happened: Sarah was booted from their ranks. 

There was a shift in the 7th-grade hierarchy of power, and somehow Sarah didn’t make the cut. But one girl’s loss is another’s gain, and at a boozily unchaperoned party later that year, I discovered that Sarah was supposed to be my BFF for all time and claimed her as my own. 

She has remained my very best and most steadfast friend since that fateful eve. She is one of the few people I, introverted hermit that I am, pick up the phone for. We make each other laugh until we cry at least once a week. Last year, she officiated at my wedding. She knows me like no one else and I can’t imagine a world without her.

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

Tomatoes and I have a similar story.

As a kid I hated tomatoes with a vehemence that bordered on insanity. My mother and grandmother were always trying to sneak them into a ham sandwich or an iceberg lettuce salad. But no amount of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing could disguise my sworn enemy. The tomatoes I grew up eating were of the 1980’s industrially-farmed variety, shipped from the far corners of the country to the Midwest and refrigerated until mealy and almost completely lacking in flavor. They were pale and lifeless and in no way represented something I was going to stick in my mouth. 

This was pretty much the status quo until I moved to Brussels after college. It was there, at my local farmers market, that I discovered heirloom tomatoes so beautifully ripe and fragrant that I was lured into giving them a try. I recently found a picture of those tomatoes: a pile of Green Zebras and Belgium Pinks and Sungolds. The experience was apparently so transformative, I decided to memorialize it for all time.

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

I have since come to love tomatoes of many stripes and colors. Our kitchen table has a bowl that remains full of some sort of tomato from late June through September. In Seattle, we are spoiled with a stunning variety to choose from. I was rounding a corner at the farmers market last Sunday when a pile of pristine yellow romas from Growing Things Farm caught my eye. I backtracked and scooped up every last one. I knew exactly what I was going to do with them; beautiful, ripe romas are perfect for slow-roasted tomatoes. And slow-roasted tomatoes are perfect on just about everything.

Gently-roasted in a low oven, tomatoes become meltingly tender and sweet. Their flavors are intensified as water evaporates and their sugars start to caramelize. Once roasted, their uses are almost endless. You can bake them into a fluffy frittata, pile them onto a slab of crusty bread with avocado or mozzarella, whiz them into a vinaigrette or toss them with white beans, fresh herbs and a drizzle of good olive oil for a hearty summer salad. You get the drift.

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

After I roasted those golden beauties, I decided they wanted something creamy to balance their acidity and something earthy to ground their intense sweetness. This pasta was the result. There is velvety fresh ricotta and a hit of lemon zest for brightness. And the whole thing is topped with toasted seeds for crunch and a handful of dill that lends freshness, complexity and verve. 

But the tomatoes are what bring it all together. I guess this dish is an ode of sorts to a former foe. I’m going to have it for dinner again tonight, I think, and ponder my good luck at having made such dear friends of erstwhile enemies.


Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta with Lemon, Ricotta and Seeds

  • 10 oz. (285g) spaghetti or other long, thin pasta
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons finely-grated zest (approximate yield of 1 large lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 12 slow-roasted tomato halves (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup (about 8 oz or 225g) fresh whole-milk ricotta (preferably close to room temperature)
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dill fronds, to garnish (optional)

*Notes: Homemade ricotta is easy to make and so much better than store-bought! Here's a recipe in case you want to give it a go. If not, I think Bellwether Farms and Belgioso both make great ricotta.

- I know dill is a divisive herb; some people love it, some hate it. But used in moderation, it cuts through heavier flavors to freshen a dish and provide a faintly sweet and sour complexity. And dill with tomatoes can be a beautiful thing. I encourage you to try it. But no hard feelings if you’re not feeling it--just leave it off or substitute it’s much milder counterpart: fennel fronds. A few finely snipped chives would be nice, too.

- Leftover toasted seeds are delicious sprinkled on a green salad, a rice bowl , hard-boiled eggs or a simple slice of avocado toast. They will keep, stored in an airtight container for at least a month before they lose some of their zing.

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

Bring a pot of generously salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. 

While the pasta is cooking, toast the seeds. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast, stirring often, until fragrant and golden, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Add all the rest of the seeds to the skillet and toast, stirring often, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes longer. Transfer to the plate with the sesame seeds. Stir to combine. 

When the pasta is done, use a heatproof measuring cup to remove about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Set aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the lemon juice and zest.

You can mix the pasta with the other ingredients before serving or you can layer the ingredients as you plate the dish, as I did in these photos, which looks a bit fancier. If I’m not photographing this dish or serving it to guests, I mix everything together, which I think distributes the flavors a bit more evenly. 

To mix the ingredients: roughly chop the tomato halves and add them to the pot with the warm pasta along with the ricotta and a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. This helps the ricotta coat the pasta better. Stir to coat the pasta. If the ricotta seems too thick or clumpy, add another tablespoon or two of the pasta water and stir again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and sprinkle with some of the mixed toasted seeds and a few dill fronds. Drizzle with a bit of the oil from the tomatoes if desired and serve.

To layer the ingredients: divide the pasta (seasoned with zest and juice) between 4 plates. Top each plate with ¼ cup of the ricotta. Arrange 3 tomato halves on top of the ricotta. Sprinkle each plate with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle with some of the mixed toasted seeds and a few dill fronds and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

 

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds

 

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise (you can use cherry or grape tomatoes, too)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling and storing
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C) Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Place the halved tomatoes, cut-side-up on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven.

Roast until the tomatoes have lost at least half of their moisture, and are starting to caramelize slightly. The time will vary depending on the size of your tomatoes. This will take anywhere from 45-50 minutes for tiny cherry tomatoes, to 2 hours for large, juicy plum tomatoes. 

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature before storing. To store, transfer the roasted tomatoes to a clean jar and pour the oil from the sheet pan over the tomatoes. You can pour in a little more oil if you like. The tomatoes don't need to be covered, but they will season the oil which you can then drizzle over them or use to season vinaigrettes, fish or roasted vegetables. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

slow roasted tomato pasta with lemon, ricotta and seeds


pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

I am not a baker at heart. I like to improvise as I’m cooking and don’t have the love of precision and order that all great pastry chefs have. But over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the art and science of pastry-making (especially the science part) and now consider myself a tolerably good baker. I can make a very solid pie crust. I understand what makes a cookie crisp versus chewy. I can temper chocolate well enough to make all sorts of bark at the holidays.

My white whale, however, has always been meringue. 

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

I am not easily intimidated in the kitchen and will give almost any culinary effort my best shot. But I have had some really disastrous run-ins with meringue. There was one year I made hundreds upon hundreds of Alice Medrich’s Peanut Butter Clouds for a Homemade Holiday Gifts class I was teaching. These are a very basic meringue cookie, flavored with peanut butter and topped with toasted sesame. They taste AMAZING. The only problem is that if you don’t really know how meringue works, some of your clouds will come out looking gorgeous and fluffy and very, well, cloud-like, and some of your clouds will end up looking like a blob of marshmallow fluff somebody spilled on the floor. I ended up eating a lot of rejected Peanut Butter Clouds and having to make many extra batches to compensate. Not fun.

Then there was the Grand Marnier soufflé with salted caramel I became obsessed with after a trip to Paris. I spent hour upon fretful hour in the kitchen trying to perfect a fail-safe soufflé base I could teach in a cooking class and never felt my recipe was 100% beyond reproach.

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

The tipping point came last December when I was working on a recipe for dark chocolate chestnut meringues to give as Christmas gifts. The flavor was fantastic: rich, dark chocolate melding with earthy-sweet chestnut. All that deliciousness clearly deserved to be enshrined in a perfectly-crisp-on-the-outside, meltingly-fluffy-on-the-inside meringue. And it was not happening. At all. Some of my efforts came out of the oven as gorgeous as I’d hoped. Others slumped and spread into sad puddles.

It was clearly time to step up my meringue game. So I delved into the science. I read everything I could find about egg whites and the mysterious alchemy of a successful meringue. I learned a lot. (For all you meringue-lovers and food-science geeks, you’ll find my definitive list of tips for working with egg whites below.) And I'm happy to say that after my research, those meringues turned out to be some of the most beautiful I'd ever made.

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

If you’ve ever been intimidated by meringue, allow me to help you conquer your egg white anxiety with these Pine Nut Meringues. The combination of sweet meringue and toasty pine nuts reminds me of my favorite French nougat. They’re delicious as-is, barely cool, right off the baking sheet, and spectacular topped with a mound of whipped cream and a swirl of summer berry compote. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

Read on and you’ll be coaxing a few egg whites and some sugar into ethereal mounds of fluff in no time. If I, impatient, improvisational cook that I am, can learn to make a glorious meringue, you undoubtedly can, too.


pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

How to Work Magic with Egg Whites and Sugar

  • Fat is the enemy. A little fat left in a bowl or on your hands, can wreak havoc on your meringue. Make sure everything (your bowls, beater, hands) is clean, clean, CLEAN. Also, use the three bowl method of separating your eggs to make sure no yolks get into your whites.
  • Start with room temperature eggs. It's easier for the sugar to dissolve into room temperature eggs. If all you have is cold eggs, beat them at a low speed for a minute or two to warm them up.
  • Fresh eggs have a more acidic pH and a tighter protein structure, which leads to a more stable meringue. Older eggs will work, too, but if you have a choice, fresher is better.
  • The small granules of superfine sugar mean they dissolve into your egg whites more quickly and evenly. I sometimes cheat and use a high-quality granulated white sugar, but I never use my regular unbleached cane sugar for meringues.
  • How and when you add the sugar to your eggs is very important. If you add the sugar too early, the protein matrix that gives your meringue structure can't form properly. If you add it too late, the sugar won't dissolve completely and your meringues will be gritty. The key is to start adding the sugar right after the whites come to very soft peaks and to add it slowly. It should take about a minute to incorporate the sugar into the eggs. Don't rush it.
  • You can further stabilize your meringue with acid. In this recipe we're using vinegar, but you can use cream of tartar (tartaric acid) or even lemon juice.
  • A little cornstarch goes one step further in stabilizing your meringue and making sure it doesn't weep in the oven.
  • I couldn't find any hard science on this one, but kitchen wisdom dictates you not attempt meringue on a rainy or especially humid day. The air you whip into your whites will be heavy with water and won't whip up as light and fluffy.
pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

Pine Nut Meringue Pavlovas

  • 9 oz superfine sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 oz egg whites (from about 6 large eggs), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1 ½ cups cream
  • 1 recipe blackberry compote (see below), cooled to room temperature

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. 

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Split the half vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the meringues. Add the cornstarch and salt. Whisk to combine and break up any clumps.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes.

Increase the speed a little and slowly sprinkle in the sugar mixture. It should take you about a minute; adding the sugar too quickly or before the eggs form soft peaks will result in a less stable meringue that might spread or weep. A minute or so after all of the sugar mixture has been added, add the vinegar. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the meringue forms very stiff peaks, 5-8 minutes longer. You will know the meringue is stiff enough when it will hold the whisk attachment perfectly upright with no other support. Gently fold in the pine nuts.

Spoon the meringue into 6 heaping mounds, each about 4 inches wide on the parchment-lined sheet pan (be sure they aren’t touching). If you're making the meringues for pavlovas, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the middle of each meringue for the filling.

Bake the meringues until they are crisp and dry to the touch on the outside but still white (not golden or cracked), about 80 minutes. Check on the meringues periodically to make sure they aren’t coloring or cracking. If they are, rotate the sheet pan and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

When the meringues are done, let them cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet pan then carefully lift them from the parchment and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling. The meringues will keep, tightly sealed for up to a week if you have baked them fairly dry.

While the meringues are cooling, whip the cream to soft peaks. You can add a little sugar if you want, but keep in mind that the meringues are pretty sweet.

When the meringues are cool, serve topped with a generous amount of whipped cream and blackberry compote.

Makes 6 large meringues.

 

Blackberry Compote    

  • 10 ounces (approximately 1 pint) blackberries                 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste     
  • 2 tablespoons water, divided
  • Salt, to taste                     
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest     
  • Lemon juice, to taste


Place the blackberries, sugar, 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until some of the berries burst and release their juices, about 5 minutes. You may need to smash some of the berries to coax them into releasing their juices. Remove the pan from the heat.

Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add the remaining tablespoon of water. Stir to make a slurry and add it to the blackberry mixture. Cook for 1 minute more over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Add lemon juice to taste; you may not need any if your berries are tart.

Can be eaten warm or cold.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.
                          

pine nut meringue pavlovas with blackberry compote // millys-kitchen.com

Recipe adapted from Brandi Henderson