Pete Wells’ Cooking with Dexter Cuban Black Beans

From February 2010 to February 2011 I freelanced for the New York Times. I had the pleasure to recipe test and work with Pete Wells. This recipe, adapted from “Tastes Like Cuba,” by Eduardo Machado and Michael Domitrovich was featured in Wells’ Cooking with Dexter series. This Cuban Black Beans recipe is one of the first I tested and styled and they taste as good as they look, if not better.

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Photo by Tony Cenicola of the New York Times. Food Styling By Molly Rundberg-Villa
  • 1 ½ green peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado or other brown sugar

Preparation

  1. Cut 1 green pepper into 1-inch squares. Smash and peel 4 of the garlic cloves. Put the green pepper and garlic into a large pot with the beans, ham hock, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon salt. Add 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, an hour or more.
  2. Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Cut the remaining ½ green pepper into ¼-inch dice. Peel and finely chop the remaining garlic. Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and onion and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño (leave out the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy), oregano, cumin, black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and stir for another minute. Pour in the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. This is your sofrito.
  3. When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaf. Remove and set aside the ham hock and let it cool. Transfer 1 cup of beans to small bowl, mash them into a paste with the back of a fork and return to the pot. Add the sofrito, then the sugar. Pull the meat from the ham hock, leaving behind any white sinew or gristle. Chop the ham into ½-inch pieces and return it to the bean pot.
  4. Stir the beans well and bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so, skimming any foam from the top. Taste for salt and serve with white rice.

*this recipe was published in the New York Times Magazine in an article by Pete Wells called Burnt Offerings

Glögg Braised Brisket featured in Sweet Paul Magazine

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Photo by Paul Lowe Food by Molly Rundberg-Villa

Recipe here: Glögg Braised Brisket

I am so happy to share this dish which I developed and was featured in Sweet Paul Magazine. Both my grandmother’s inspired this dish, one Swedish one Jewish and both a huge influence on my life and my cooking. The holidays are filled with memories of their cooking and generosity and this dish happily marries their backgrounds into a ridiculously good winter meal.

Warm and hearty, with lots of depth from the crushed dried mushroom and juniper berries which are used to marinated the beef to the mulled wine spices it braises in, this brisket has many layers of flavor.  I use a second cut of brisket instead of the first cut, the second cut has more fat and I think this really means more flavor and yields a tender finished product. You need to do more skimming of fat during the braising and if it is really important to you cut out the fat layer before you reheat it before serving.

Brisket can be dry if you skip steps or rush the process but if you let this dish be a drawn out lazy process it will be worth ever second of wishing it was done already.

Lemon Cardamom Cookie with Lemon Glaze

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Lemon Cookie featured in Sweet Paul Magazine Spring 2013. Photo by Alexandra Grablewski. http://www.sweetpaulmag.com   http://www.sweetpaulmag.com/food/lemon-cookies

Lemon confections can be refreshing and light, this cookie is both, but I love it for other reasons as well.

A few years back when I had my cookie company Mollypenny, my dear friend and mentor Paul Lowe asked me to develop a cookie for his spring issue of Sweet Paul Magazine, I was thrilled to do this. I loved this cookie so much I later added it to my Mollypenny cookie line.

It is balanced not too sweet, lots of flavor without going overboard and has amazing texture, like a cross between lemon bar and a cookie. I worked on ways to add the lemon flavor without drying out the cookie (the lemon juice can do that to cookies) and I came up with making a lemon syrup. Also lemon can sometimes be overpowering in desserts, you know that filmy feeling that can linger when eating lemon sweets, well the heat and nuances in the cardamom and black pepper balance out the flavor in this cookie, they give it depth and a smooth flavor.

 

Lemon Cookie with Lemon Glaze:
½ cup of butter (1 stick), slightly softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup lemon syrup (see recipe)
½ tsp. baking powder
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
½ tsp. cardamom, ground
¼ tsp. black pepper, ground
½ tsp. Maldon sea salt, (or other flaky sea salt)
Cream the butter and brown sugar in a standing mixer on medium-high speed about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly incorporated, light and fluffy. Add the cooled syrup and beat on medium high for 1 minute, making sure syrup is mixed in thoroughly.

Combine flour, spices, and salt in a medium bowl, then add to the rest of the dough and mix to combine about 30 seconds.

Heat oven to 375 degree F.
Scoop dough into a 2 oz ice cream scoop (or a ¼ cup) and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 11-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. Let cool on wire rack.

When cool, glaze cookies by dipping tops into lemony glaze (see recipe).

Lemon Syrup:
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan heat the lemon juice and granulated sugar over medium heat until sugar has dissolved about 2 minutes (you should have about ¼ cup of syrup). Set aside to cool.

Lemony Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
¼ cup lemon juice

In a small bowl whisk confectioners sugar and lemon juice until smooth.

Makes 11 – 2 oz cookies

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Article in Sweet Paul Spring 2013 issue. More on Sweet Paul Magazine go here: http://www.sweetpaulmag.com/food/lemon-cookies

Seven Reasons Why I Cook

1. Cooking has always been fun and it’s a really good day when it makes me dance.

2. There is nothing better than sharing food you cooked with the ones you love. Like when my son ate those two pieces of blanched green beans yesterday and said they were good, my heart swelled…but seriously when will he eat more than two pieces?

3. Because I get to use an awesome knife and make things look pretty and taste good. Did you know that spiffing up your knife skills will make you a better cook? Get a nice enough knife, keep it sharp and store it properly. Go slowly and practice, it’s all muscle memory! Learn a few new knife techniques and watch out for that thumb!

4. Everyday is fresh and new, there is always a new dish to eat or create. I am always learning, that’s why I cook.

*My favorite post about my favorite cook, my grandma.

5. Because we all need to eat and life is too short not to enjoy the food we get our hands on. When ingredients are lovely being a chef is easy, you have your technique down and then when you learn to listen to your food, it’s even easier. What does it say to you? Does it say: I’m done, I need more time, I should be room temperature before you start that, etc.?

6.   Yes, I cook food and create recipes, but food creates me. Being a chef and a recipe writer for me is all about connecting with people, hearing what they want and in turn collaborating with the food to get to an end point. These end points, these finished dishes have so much meaning to me for that reason. I have gotten so much more from cooking in this life, more than I could ever give to a pot roast, (or my chocolate hazelnut crepes, but man those are good) it’s that simple. It’s a relationship that mimics life, where nothing is static, it is always moving and changing. Food is so powerful and cooking this way has made a fulfilling life for me.

7. Because I am always thinking about the next thing I will cook. Whenever people ask me what my favorite thing to cook is, I wonder if I should say “steak” or “Moroccan!” But for me cooking is about the adventure and the unknown, finding the answers to the experiment. So I always answer that question with “whatever is next!” That’s my favorite thing to cook.

Rosé Grapefruit Sangria

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photo by Molly Rundberg

1 -750 ml bottle dry Rosé such as Mulderbosch

3 oz Cointreau

3 oz golden rum

1 cup grapefruit simple syrup (see recipe below*)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 green apple, finely chopped

2 cups seltzer (sodium free)

2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped

Combine the first six ingredients  in a glass pitcher and chill in refrigerator at least one hour, add strawberries and seltzer just before serving and pour sangria over ice in glasses.

*Grapefruit Simple Syrup–

-Place 1 cup grapefruit juice with 1 cup sugar simmered in a small pot over medium heat, until sugar dissolves, let cool.