Right about now I would love to be on an island in the Mediterranean, but that is not going to happen. I had to go to Baltimore twice, once for my daughter’s senior recital at The Peabody Conservatory, and then for her graduation. Then I had to go to Chicago for my nephew’s graduation for Northwestern. I am not complaining—though I could have done without the disastrous airplane trips (thanks AA), hot and humid weather, and freak thunderstorms—because I got to eat at two of my favorite restaurants: Bottega in Baltimore and Il Piccolo Sogno in Chicago. So I am done traveling for a while. But if I were on an island in the Mediterranean, I would probably choose Mallorca, one of loveliest of them all. There is the sophisticated capital city of Palma, charming towns and villages, and vast untouched swaths of nature. And there is fabulous food everywhere, much of which is unique to the island. I did a story on Mallorca for Bon Appétit many years ago and here are the recipes I created for the story. If you make them you might just be transported to this Catalan culinary wonderland.
Almond and citrus trees cover Mallorca’s landscape, so it’s no surprise that this flourless lemon and almond cake is offered in restaurants all over Palma. It is usually topped with homemade almond ice cream or ice, but vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet would also be delicious.
1 ½ cups blanched slivered almonds
8 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
5 tablespoons (packed) grated lemon peel, yellow part only
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour 9-inch diameter cake pan with 1 ½-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment or waxed paper. Finely grind almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Combine yolks, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in almond mixture. Place egg whites in clean large bowl. Using clean beaters, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Fold large spoonful of whites into almond mixture. Gently fold in remaining whites.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Turn cake onto platter. Remove paper. Cut cake into slices and serve.
This is Mallorcan pizza, plain and simple. Shaped in a long oval or rectangle, baked in a wood-fired oven and sold in room temperature squares, it is the street food of Palma and usually eaten as a snack. But unlike its Italian cousin, it is covered only with vegetables, never with cheese. And it is nothing if not versatile: There are sweet cocas and special holiday ones as well. I call for frozen bread dough to keep things easy, but you can make your own if you are ambitious.
Makes 2 cocoas (about 8 servings)
2 1-pound loaves frozen white bread dough, thawed, room temperature
9 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
1 large bunch green Swiss chard, ribs removed and thinly sliced, leaves thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place each loaf of bread dough in a separate bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to each; season each with ¼ teaspoon pepper. Knead each in bowl until oil and pepper are well incorporated. Let dough rest 10 minutes.
Oil two 15x10-inch baking sheets. Turn out dough onto floured work surface; knead 1 minute. Roll out each dough piece to irregular 13x9-inch rectangle, pulling and stretching dough. Transfer each to prepared sheet. Brush each with 1 tablespoon of oil. Let dough rise uncovered in warm draft-free area until puffy, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and chard ribs and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add chard leaves and stir until just wilted and coated with oil, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Press dough all over with fingers, forming indentations. Brush each with 1 tablespoon of remaining olive oil. Spread vegetables over, leaving 1-inch border. Bake until crusts are golden, about 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
Mallorcans love to talk about the quality of their vegetables—and it is fine indeed—and this casserole dish of sautéed eggplant, potatoes and bell peppers in fresh tomato sauce is one of their favorite creations. Serve it with grilled fish or lamb chops, as Mallorcans do.
2 1 ¼ pound eggplants, thinly sliced crosswise
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil (for frying)
3 pounds russet potatoes, thinly sliced
3 green bell peppers, cored, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
Place eggplant slices on 2 baking sheets. Lightly salt eggplant on both sides. Let stand 1 hour. Using paper towels, pat eggplant dry, wiping off salt.
Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes Add tomatoes with their juices and thyme sprigs and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced to 2 ½ cups, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon, about 20 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add oil to 2 heavy large skillets to depth of ¼ inch. Heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant to skillets and cook until golden brown, adding more oil to skillets as necessary, about 5 minutes per side.
Transfer to paper towels and drain. Working in batches, add potatoes to skillets and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer potatoes to paper towels Add green peppers to same skillets and sauté until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
Layer half of eggplant in 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon thyme. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce over. Top with half of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with 1 tablespoon thyme. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce over. Place all pepper slices over. Season with salt and pepper. Top with 1 tablespoon thyme. Spoon ½ cup sauce over. Top with remaining eggplant. Top with 1 tablespoon thyme. Spoon ½ cup sauce over. Top with remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining tablespoon thyme and ½ cup sauce.
Bake uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
A possett was originally a British drink of spiced hot milk curdled with wine or ale, which was popular from Medieval times through the 19th century. Now it refers to a creamy dessert, which kind of works on the same principle. This "custard" (technically not because it does not have eggs) is the easiest dessert in the world and one of the most delicious and refreshing. Serve it as is or topped with fresh berries or cherries or jam. You can serve it in ramekins, custard cups, little glasses, coffee cups, or espresso cups--whatever suits your fancy.
Makes 4 to 10 depending on the size of your vessel
2 cups whipping or heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place cream and sugar in heavy small saucepan. Whisk to blend. Set over medium heat and bring just to boil; do not allow cream to boil over. Immediately reduce heat to simmer and cook 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Whisk in lemon juice. Let mixture cool.
Ladle mixture into ramekins, glasses or cups of any kind. Refrigerate until set and chilled, at least 2 hours.
My dear friend Greg, his lovely wife, Amy, and their charming daughter, Penelope, are presently in Vancouver visiting friends. They are in charge of cooking some of the meals and to that end Greg, an excellent cook, has asked me for the recipes for a couple of things that I have had made for him in the past. I got to thinking that these recipes are perfect for summer cooking and that I should share them with everyone.
The farmers' markets are filled with tomatoes these days. For this recipe I look for "seconds" or "over-ripes" as they will be cooked so it does not matter what they look like on the outside. But it does matter what they taste like on the inside, so ask to taste one and make sure it is juicy and bursting with sweet flavor. Do not buy cottony mealy tomatoes or this sauce will not taste good. I have been buying these tomatoes for about $2.00 per pound and sometimes can find them for $1.50. You can sauté garlic with the carrots and onions in the beginning or add fresh basil at the end if you are so inclined.
Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta with some sauce leftover
4 large carrots, washed and sliced into thin rounds
2 large sweet onions, peeled and chopped
5 to 6 pounds juicy ripe tomatoes, washed, stemmed and cut into chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried pasta--whatever kind you like
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots and onions and stir to coat with oil. Sauté until vegetables are just softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, stir well, and cook until mixture is thick and pulpy, stirring often and adjusting heat so mixture simmers, at least 1 hour, but it may take more depending on juiciness of tomatoes. Remove from heat and cool.
Set food mill fitted with finest sieve over large bowl. Spoon some of tomato mixture into food mill and turn in both directions until sauce has passed into bowl and skin and seeds are left behind. Repeat process until all of tomato mixture is gone, cleaning out food mill if necessary to facilitate process. Transfer all or as much of sauce as desired to large skillet (place remaining sauce in glass jar and store in frig). Reduce to desired thickness if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. Drain and add pasta to sauce in skillet. Toss to coat and heat if necessary. Spoon pasta into bowls and serve immediately, passing cheese alongside.