Tortas de Carnitas

Possibly the most interesting sandwiches in the world, Mexican tortas combine boldly seasoned elements in a way that achieves both complexity and a certain delicacy. This recipe is from my very dear friend Roberto Santibañez, chef/owner of Fonda. Friendship aside, my critical side knows that he cooks the best Mexican food outside Mexico, bar none.

All-Purpose Muffins

I love a recipe, like this one, that can be varied in infinite ways. Here the basic muffin batter can be altered to make a dozen different types of easy-to-prepare muffins. Thanks to my dear friend Cara Tannenbaum for sharing her recipe.

Brown Bread Ice Cream

Baking crumbled bread with the caramel, a pinch of salt, and just a tablespoon of butter produces sweet crumbs that stay crisp once added to the ice cream. The ice cream recipe is based on the one I learned from Monsieur Alex Frolla, the pastry chef when I did my three summer seasons working at the Sporting Club and the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. It was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Peperoni Imbottiti

Not like typical stuffed peppers with a meat or rice filling, these are baked with a sprinkling of pine nuts and capers, topped with seasoned breadcrumbs, and sprinkled with olive oil. They make a fine first course alongside other simple antipasti, or a great side dish with plain grilled or roasted meat or fish.

Peperoni Imbottiti

Salmorejo Cordobés

In the heart of Andalusia, where gazpacho also originated, Cordoba is home to gazpacho’s thicker ancestor, salmorejo. A simple mixture of tomatoes, seasonings, and moistened bread, salmorejo is usually garnished with chopped hard cooked egg, thin dice of Spanish Serrano ham, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pane Sciocco

This week, Florentines celebrate the feast day of San Lorenzo, the patron saint of cooks. The tradition of preparing salt-free bread in Tuscany doubtless developed at a time when there was an acute shortage of salt, after which people became accustomed to the bland flavor of pane sciocco (SHOW-ko). It’s amusing that sciocco also means foolish or “good for nothing” in Italian.

Summer Vegetable Pie

This pie came about when my friend Nancy Nicholas shared some of the produce from her Long Island garden with me. I had a couple of several kinds of vegetables, and not having enough to make a full dish from just one type, I combined them. You can add and subtract at will as long as you keep to the same weight of vegetables so you’ll have the right amount of filling for the pie. This pie is excellent on its own, but it’s also a handy side dish for simple grilled meats or fish.

Two Salad Pitas

Back when I was in high school, my friend Sandy and I would often grab a commuter train in New Jersey and head to Greenwich Village. We spent $3.00 on lunch at Amy’s on University Place, a vegetarian sandwich and salad shop where we always ordered a salad pita and helped ourselves to the added bonus: coolers of free spring water or mint tea. One of the pitas that follow is filled with a standard Greek salad mixture (like the one at Amy’s) while the other has a Turkish-style eggplant salad that I make all summer long.

Honey Peanut Wafers

I owe the trick of imparting extra flavor to the cookies by using honey-roasted peanuts to my friend and mentor Maida Heatter. They add so much to the flavor of these cookies that I I can’t imagine preparing them with anything else.

Real Strawberry Shortcake

Here’s a recipe you can literally have on the table less than an hour after you start making it. I love to use really sweet height-of-the-season strawberries for this, but don’t hesitate to try it with other fruit or berries such as peaches, mixed berries, or even fresh figs.

Torta di Mandorle

Slightly reminiscent of a French gâteau breton, this dense cake is perfect with a glass of sweet wine or a cup of tea. As a dessert, it would need to be dressed up with some fruit or berries.

Raspberry Meringue Wedge

In the fall of 1986, I was teaching my first career-training intensive baking course at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking school when I learned that Peter’s birthday was a few days away. I asked Gaynor Grant, our registrar, what kind of a cake I should make for Peter, and she told me that he absolutely adored the raspberry meringue cake from Maurice Bonté’s bakery, then the best pastry shop in Manhattan.

Pavlova

This delicate meringue cake is named in honor of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1882 – 1931). Pavlova performed in Perth for only one season, in 1929, to stellar reviews. A few years later the pastry chef at the hotel where she had stayed, the Esplanade, created this meringue and cream cake and named it after her, both because it is light and because it resembles a tutu.