Sometimes there’s a salad that you like, but don’t love, and then you change a few things about it and suddenly it’s your new favorite salad. That’s what happened with this salad, a familiar combination of apples and fennel and walnuts and golden raisins and arugula. It’s one you can probably find in my archives and that recipe in my archives is good but not great. This one is great. What’s the difference?
Dealing with expectations is a tricky endeavor for every cook, whether at home or at a four-star restaurant.
Granted, the four-star chef has a harder time: diners at a four-star restaurant expect impeccable service, pristine surroundings, and food at the cutting edge of what food can be. At home, things are a little different. You don’t have to make a streak of sauce on the plate with the back of a spoon, you don’t have to scrape crumbs off the table with a crumb-scraper, but if you’re going to serve something familiar, as I did recently with Butternut Squash Soup, it better be the comfortingly sweet version that everyone knows and loves. Sad to say that this one, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” isn’t.
It’s a big heaping mess, but boy is it good. The recipe comes from “The Silver Spoon Cookbook,” a birthday gift from Matthew my show’s director and a book that’s called Italy’s version of “The Joy of Cooking.” This specific recipe comes from the special back section where Italian chefs offer up their own favorite dishes and is it any surprise that the chef whose recipe I fluttered to first was Lydia Bastianich? Her Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans is an Amateur Gourmet staple–we eat it here at least once every two weeks. Plus, the recipe she offers up in this book–ziti with onions, sausage and fennel–is something I’ve seen her make on her show and it’s a naturally enticing combination.
You saw the end result on this week’s FN Dish and let me tell you, it was tremendous. The fat from the sausage enriches the pasta, the fennel and onion add a lovely sweetness, and then you douse the whole thing with cheese. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and definitely something to make before it gets warm outside. Here’s the recipe…