By Peter Som
The windy cold snap of winter is well upon us, and so is the need for the warm meals that nourish the belly and soul. The term “comfort food” can be traced back to 1966 or so, when it was written in a newspaper: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood.” Well, whether stress or sweater weather (or both), the security of a warm bowl of food will always soothe. Even better? Inviting friends and loved ones around the table to share in the meal. These recipes are perfect for a crowd—big, casual, rustic dishes with even bigger flavor served family style. So, pull up a chair, grab a plate and a napkin, and join in.
Charred Radicchio and Pear Salad
In the cooler months, I often turn to heartier fare like radicchio that give great crunch and big flavor—and these sturdier veggies can stand up to things like roasting and shredding. Charring the radicchio brings out some of the sweetness, which complements the delicate pear flavor. The addition of shards of salty feta, the crunch of pistachios and a bright, vibrant vinaigrette creates the perfect zingy bite that can stand up to the richness of other dishes at the dinner table. This salad is endlessly versatile—feel free to switch things up with apples and shards of salty pecorino.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large heads radicchio
1 Bosc pear
¼ cup golden raisins
2 ounces feta, sliced into shards
¼ cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons za’atar
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup and ¼ cup olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Cut each head of radicchio into 8 wedges, each with stems intact.
Place radicchio wedges cut-sides down in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and leaves are starting to wrinkle and ends have a medium-brown color.
3. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the pear into very thin slices. Add pear slices and raisins to the dressing and toss gently (the acid from the dressing will stop the pears from browning and the raisins will absorb some of the vinaigrette and plump up).
4. To serve, arrange radicchio on a serving platter and top with pear, raisins, feta and pistachios. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette and finish with za’atar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Poached Pears With Whipped Mascarpone
The simplicity of this dish is in its perfection. Poaching the pears in a spiced red wine renders them tender and gives them a deep ruby-like jewel tone that is even more eye-pleasing when sliced. While you can serve up these gems in myriad ways, I like them simply drizzled with honey, the crunch of granola and a dollop of creamy mascarpone.
1 bottle light red wine, such as pinot noir
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 lemon peel slices
4 Bosc pears, peeled, with stems intact
1 cup mascarpone, room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup granola, for finishing
Honey, for finishing
Flaky sea salt, for finishing
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add red wine, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon stick, star anise and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Add peeled pears and reduce to a simmer. Add additional wine or water to ensure pears are submerged. Poach pears for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove pears and continue cooking the liquid to reduce it by half.
2. While pears are poaching, make the whipped mascarpone. In a small bowl, add mascarpone and milk and whisk until combined and smooth.
3. To serve, slice pears into wedges. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out the cores. Place halves in a serving dish with a few spoonfuls of sauce, then top with mascarpone, garnish with granola, drizzle with honey and finish with flaky sea salt.
Asian Citrus Braised Short Ribs
Braise to the highest, indeed. This recipe is inspired by my grandma’s low-and-slow clay pot braises, and is the perfect winter dish for any night of the week. Tender, fall-off-the-bone meat enrobed in a rich, deep sauce with a hint of citrus. Like in most Chinese cooking, entire peels of orange are used—including the pith—and I’ve also added lemon peel (keep them big enough so that you can easily pick them out when you’re eating). Traditionally, the orange peels would be dried and stored in the pantry, but using fresh will still bring that bright citrus flavor. The ginger is also sliced (though you can also mince or grate it finely if you prefer). This dish isn’t strictly Chinese, as I do cross borders and use additional Asian flavors like fish sauce for more umami zing, but the end result is a bowl full of belly-warming comfort food that everyone will love.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds. short ribs, bone-in
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red onions, sliced into wedges, root end attached
4 garlic cloves, sliced in half
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 knobs of ginger, thinly sliced (approximately 2 tablespoons)
5 orange peel slices
4 lemon peel slices
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
½ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup orange juice
3 cups water
3 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Cilantro leaves and their tender stems, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Season ribs generously with salt and pepper and sear on all sides until browned. Remove short ribs and set aside.
3. Lower heat to medium and add onions, garlic, coriander, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and orange and lemon peels, and saute 5 minutes until onion is softened.
4. Add soy, hoisin, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and orange juice and stir in well to combine. Season with black pepper. Add water and bring to a boil. Return ribs to the Dutch oven, ensuring ribs are covered with liquid—add more if necessary.
5. Cover, place in the oven and cook 2 to 2 ½ hours until the meat is falling from the bone. Serve in the Dutch oven or carefully transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with scallions and cilantro and serve.
Lemon Labneh Cake With Lemon Elderflower Glaze
Lemons are one of my favorite things to use in the kitchen, as they add acidity and zing to both sweet and savory foods. And in this cake, that bright lemon flavor is a welcome ray of sunshine during the winter. If you have them, Meyer lemons are a fabulous upgrade. The finishing touch is the mouthwatering glaze—if you prefer to skip the elderflower liqueur, just replace it with more lemon juice.
Butter, for the pan
½ cup labneh, plus more for serving
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 3 medium lemons
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the glaze:
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain)
¼ cup powdered sugar, plus more as needed. .
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Add a round of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan and butter the paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine labneh, sugar, coriander, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, salt and zest, mixing until just combined. Add in oil and stir to combine until smooth and just combined.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake feels springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Turn out cake and cool completely on a rack, about 20 minutes.
5. For the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, elderflower liqueur and sugar and pour over the cake. Serve with a bowl of labneh alongside.
For more recipes, visit petersom.com.