Prep your veggies …
For the crostini:
Soak 4 shiitake mushrooms in hot water (if you’re using
For the salad:
Wash the greens. Squeeze the juice from half a
lemon into a small mixing bowl of water. Slice the pear and let
the slices sit in the acidulated water.
For the pesto:
Mince 3 cloves of garlic and dry basil leaves.
For the rice:
Mince ½ a small onion.
Make the dressing: Take 1/3 of the garlic and add it to a small
bowl. Add the cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, and whisk together
briskly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Prep the nuts: Toast 2 Tbsp. walnuts in a dry skillet over medium
heat, stirring constantly, until the nuts are crisp and aromatic
(5 minutes or so). Repeat with 2 Tbsp. pine nuts (if you have a
large skillet, you can try and toast the two types simultaneously,
but I’m kind of a spaz – I find it way too hard to keep the
two segregated while I toss and stir).
the pesto: Place 1 cup packed fresh basil, ½ of the remaining
garlic, 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a food
processor or blender. Add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
the crostini: Cut 6 ½" thick slices from your baguette.
Brush the slices with olive oil. Place the baking sheet on the lower rack
of the oven, and toast until both sides are golden (you’ll
need to flip about 5 minutes or so into the cooking time). While
the bread’s toasting, slice the mushrooms. In a small skillet,
sauté the remaining garlic in olive oil. Add the mushrooms and
cook until tender. Place a slice of brie on each toasted slice,
top with a dollop of the mushroom mixture, and pop the crostini
back into the oven. Cook for another three to five minutes, until
the cheese is good and melty. Garnish with slivered fresh basil.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place one rack in the middle and a
second close to the bottom.2
For the custard: Heat 1 cup milk/cream (I use half heavy cream,
half skim) and 1 tsp. vanilla on medium until steaming, then
remove from heat. Let it sit, covered, for twenty minutes or so.
caramelize the custard dish as follows: Pour ¼ cup sugar and
1 T. water in a small skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat,
stirring only until the sugar is dissolved. As the sugar begins to
liquefy, bubble and turn sticky, begin swirling the mixture by
lifting the pan slightly above the burner, and gently tilting it
around. Continue to cook, swirling frequently, until you have a
rich, golden caramel (this will take fifteen minutes or so).
Immediately pour the caramel into the custard cup, tilting the cup
to coat the bottom completely. Let cool.
20 minutes haven’t passed yet, give your co-chef a hand while
you wait for the milk to cool.
Finish the custard: Set a small pot of water on the stove and
bring to a boil. Whisk one egg, one extra yolk, 1 Tbsp. of sugar
and a pinch of salt until smooth. Gradually add in the
vanilla-flavored milk mixture. Pour it all into a 10-12 oz.
custard dish. Place the custard dish in a baking pan with high sides (I
use a 9"x9" cake pan): Add the hot water to the baking
pan, filling it up so that the water level is about 1" from
the top of the custard cup. Pop it in the oven (middle rack) and
bake for 45 minutes (don’t forget to set the timer)., until the
custard looks set around the edges, but still trembles in the