To understand American history, Jon Lauck says you have to understand the Midwest's role in some critical events.
It all began in 2009 with a challenge to Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, who were writing for the food section of The New York Times.
Each of them would cook a meal for six for under $50. Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni would judge who made the better meal. The contest ended in a tie, but an idea was born.
In their new book “CookFight: 2 Cooks, 12 Challenges, 125 Recipes, An Epic Battle for Kitchen Dominance,” Kim and Julia present their menu ideas for such things as a kids meal, a picnic and an open house.
“Kim is from the Midwest, her mom is Italian, she has a Scandinavian side of the family, she’s actually worked in restaurant kitchens and she’s been covering food for a long time,” Julia told Here & Now. “I’m from Manhattan, I was named after Julia Child, I grew up six blocks from Zabars.”
And those differences come out in their menus.
“We do compete a lot, but it’s having someone who you really trust, and I trust Julia’s palate a lot,” Kim said. Even if she doesn’t always agree with it.
This creamy soup, served in tiny cups and bright with chive oil, is easy to make and serve. Kids will like the little cups and the crazy green swirl. Adults will appreciate the healthfulness and the flavor.
2 cups dried Great Northern or other small white beans, rinsed and picked over
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 large tomato, halved, seeded, and chopped
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
8 garlic cloves, chopped
11 cups homemade chicken stock
or canned low-salt chicken broth, or more as needed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chive Oil for drizzling (recipe follows)
Put the beans in a large pot, add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches, and let soak overnight. Drain.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leeks, tomato, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the beans, chicken stock, thyme, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add the half-and-half, then add more chicken stock to thin the soup if needed, and reheat the soup if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into espresso cups and top each with a few squirts or a drizzle of chive oil.
Makes 18 small servings
Chive Oil Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh chives
1/2 cup canola oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fill a bowl with ice cubes and water. Blanch the chives in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain immediately and put the chives in the ice water. Drain, wrap in paper towels, and squeeze out the excess water.
Put the chives in a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend for 2 minutes; strain through a fine sieve. Transfer the oil to a plastic squeeze bottle if you like. The oil can be refrigerated for up to a month; bring to room temperature before using.
Makes 1/2 cupMacaroni And Cheese Pancakes
Kenny Shopsin, one of the few truly scary people I’ve encountered in the food business, brought forth this Franken-pancake from his famously creative brain. In my first week at my first job in New York, four coworkers invited me to tag along for lunch in the West Village. I trotted along happily in my black silk Eileen Fisher tent dress (oh, the ’90s). We didn’t know that the owner of Shopsin’s was famously hotheaded and— among other brutally enforced rules—never, ever seated more than four people at a table. Soon after Mr. Shopsin started screaming that one of us assholes had to go, I found myself out on the sidewalk alone.
Much later, I read his excellent book, “Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin,” and understood some of the passion and grief and principle behind the profanity. Still, I’d rather make my own version of these absolutely brilliant pancakes at home.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
About 2 cups leftover macaroni and cheese
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, butter, and buttermilk in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir gently but thoroughly. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Heat a nonstick griddle or large heavy skillet. Grease the griddle and then for each pancake, place a large pinch of grated cheese on the griddle. Spoon on a pancake’s worth of batter and, when it settles, use your fingers to crumble some macaroni and cheese over the top. Adjust the heat so the pancakes cook slowly.
Wait until each pancake is covered with bubbles and puffy and dry around the edges, then flip. Cook until browned on the second side. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.
Makes about 3 dozen pancakes