The Dish: Amanda Hesser

Amanda Hesser’s fascination with food may have begun at an early age, but cooking wasn’t her first calling -- at least not professionally. Writing about food, however, was. 

Hesser began her journalism career in Europe, eventually becoming a food writer and editor at the New York Times. Gourmet magazine named her one of the 50 most influential women in food. 

She is now co-founder of the James Beard Award-winning culinary website and shop, Food52. Her latest book, “Food52 A New Way to Dinner,” is full of tips and tricks to streamline your time in the kitchen.

Here are some of Hesser’s signature dishes:  

Blood orange salad     

Enough for two salads, each serving 4 

Ingredients:

6 blood oranges
4 clementines or mandarins 
About 1/2 small red onion 
8 teaspoons good red wine vinegar 
4 tablespoons (60mL) best-quality olive oil 
20 green olives, pitted and torn into quarters 
Piment d’Espelette or other ground chile (such as cayenne or Aleppo pepper), for sprinkling 
Flaky salt 

Note: Split the ingredients in half if making one salad 

Directions

1. Cut the peel and pith from the oranges and clementines, making sure to remove all of the outer membrane without losing too much of the flesh. Cut the oranges and clementines crosswise into 1/8-inch (3mm) slices. Slice the onion thinly across the equator so that you can see through the slices; use a mandoline if needed. You will need about 8 slices. 

2. Divide the citrus among 4 plates, overlapping the slices. Scatter a few slices of onion over the top. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil over each plate; don’t measure, just splash! Divide the olives among the plates and sprinkle each plate with a generous pinch of piment d’Espelette. Season with salt. Admire all the colors, then serve! 

Chocolate Rosemary Pudding   

Serves 8 (or dessert for two nights)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups (1.1L) almond milk
10 tablespoons (120g) sugar
2 rosemary sprigs
1/4 cup (20g) cocoa
1/4 cup (30g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 4 yolks
10 ounces (285g) bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Heavy or whipped cream, for serving

Directions

1. Combine 4 cups (950ml) of the almond milk, 6 tablespoons (75g) of the sugar, and the rosemary in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. While the milk is heating, sift the cocoa, cornstarch, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Place the eggs and egg yolks and the remaining 4 tablespoons (50g) of sugar in the blender and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the blender and add the remaining 1/2 cup (120ml) of almond milk. Process for a few seconds, add the dry ingredients to the blender, and pulse just until smooth. 

2. Remove the rosemary from the milk mixture. With the blender running, add half the hot milk in a slow, steady stream, processing to blend. The mixture will be foamy, but the bubbles will disappear when the pudding is cooked. Pour the mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk and cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until the pudding thickens, about 2 minutes. (Do not let the pudding boil.) Off the heat, whisk in the chocolate, butter, and almond extract. 

3. Scrape half of the pudding into the blender and pulse until smooth. Pour the pudding into four 3/4-cup (175ml) ramekins or 1 large bowl. Blend the remaining half of the pudding, then pour it into four 3/4-cup (175ml) ramekins or into the large bowl. Cover and store in the fridge for up to a week. 

4. The day of: Let the pudding warm to room temperature, then serve plain or topped with heavy cream, whipped or not. 

Crisped potatoes

Ingredients

2 pounds (900g) baby Yukon gold potatoes
Olive oil
Smashed garlic clove
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Boil baby Yukon gold potatoes until tender, then let cool. Use the palm of your hand or a meat pounder to lightly crush them into disks. Warm a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the base of the pan with olive oil and toss in a smashed garlic clove.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes in a single layer (you might need to do this in batches). Let them cook, undisturbed, until very crisp and browned on the bottom (remove thegarlic before it burns). 
  3. Turn once and brown the other side. Season with salt and pepper.

Garlicky greens 

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 1/4 pounds (570g) spinach or other hardy green like kale or chard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

  1. Pour the oil into a large deep pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened and lightly toasted. Pile the spinach into the pot and sprinkle with salt. Cover the pot for about 30 seconds. 
  2. Lift off the lid and use tongs to stir the spinach. Once it begins wilting, remove the cover and set aside. Let the water in the bottom of the pot cook off, tossing the spinach as you go. When the spinach is wilted and most of the water is cooked off, taste and adjust the salt, then season with pepper and nutmeg.

Luciana’s Porchetta 

Serves 8 (with leftovers for lunches)

Ingredients 

1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds (1.8kg) butterflied pork shoulder (ask your butcher to do this)
2 bay leaves
8 thin slices pancetta
1/2 cup (120ml) good red wine vinegar

Directions

1. The day before roasting, toast the salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or a blender.

2. In a bowl or dish large enough to fit the pork, stir together the ground spices with the rosemary, orange zest, and garlic. Add the olive oil and stir into a paste.

3. Add the pork and slather the spice mixture all over it; wedge the bay leaves in and around the pork. Place the pork, uncovered, in the fridge overnight.

4. The next day, heat your oven to 325°F (165°C) and bring the pork to room temperature, 30 to 60 minutes.

5. Roll the pork and tie it with butcher’s twine at 1-inch (2.5cm) intervals. Stick the bay leaves under the twine in the middle of the roast. Lay the pancetta in overlapping rows across the top of the pork, like fish scales.

6. Place the porchetta in a roasting pan and roast, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, until the internal temperature reaches 155°F (68°C), 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let sit until the temperature rises to 160°F (71°C). Transfer the porchetta to a cutting board to rest while you make the pan sauce.

7. Set the roasting pan over medium heat and deglaze the pan with the vinegar, scraping up any browned bits. Don’t let the sauce reduce too much, just enough to tone down the sharpness (it should be like a porky vinaigrette). Refrigerate the pork and sauce in separate containers and save the pancetta chips.

8. The day of: Heat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Thinly slice the porchetta and arrange in a baking dish along with some of the pancetta. Spoon some of the gravy on top.

Sherry Temple 

Makes 6 drinks

Ingredients

Peel from 1 navel orange
3⁄8 cup (90ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
3⁄8 cup (90ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3⁄8 cup (90ml) gin
3⁄8 cup (90ml) dry sherry
Grenadine, to taste
1 1⁄2 cups (360ml) Prosecco

Directions

1. Slice the orange peel thinly to make twists.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the orange and lemon juices, gin, and sherry. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds and strain into 6 Champagne coupes or martini glasses.

3. Add a few drops of grenadine to each glass and top with 1 ⁄4 cup (60ml) Prosecco. Add an orange twist and serve immediately.

Note: For your smaller party guests, fill tumblers with ice and ginger ale. Add about a teaspoon of grenadine to each glass (you want the drinks to be cherry red), stir gently, and plunk a maraschino cherry on top.