Three Things

Apple-stuffed apple cake, easy weeknight pasta, halfway homemade meatballs

Good morning eaters and readers! The Weekday Vegetarian recipe of the day is Roast Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos (vegan, page 101) because I really need to break out of the Pavlovian have-squash-make-soup cycle. Who is with me? Also, I’ve been listening to Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner on audiobook which has been such a comforting companion on my recent spate of long drives, but it has also made me really hungry for the foods her mom cooked for her growing up, specifically tteokguk, or crispy rice cakes in beef broth. How amazing does that sound? Who has a good recipe for me before I hit H Mart myself to track it down? Alas, here are your weekly Three Things…

1. Four(ish) Ingredient Pasta I’ve Been Making Forever

Last week I posted a reel on instagram of one of my all-time favorites weeknight pastas. The recipe is the brainchild of Frances Boswell, one of the first food editors I’ve ever worked for — the first to teach me the lesson of using fewer, better ingredients as opposed to throwing everything in there and hoping for the best — and it really is astounding how the sum of four ingredients (I don’t count olive oil, salt, and pepper) winds up equaling way more than its parts.

Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Spinach
You want your onions to be as sweet and caramelly as possible, but if you are starving and don’t want to wait, you can cheat a bit by tossing in a bit of balsamic vinegar.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound spaghetti (or fettuccine or long noodle pasta; could also use GF pasta)
8 to 10 ounces baby spinach
Lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pour the oil into a skillet set over medium-low heat, and add the onions, salt, and pepper, stirring every few minutes, for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to 45 minutes. While the onions cook, prepare the spaghetti in heavily salted water according to package directions. During the last minute of pasta cooking, add your spinach to the water. Drain the pasta and spinach together. Toss with a little olive oil. Serve the pasta in bowls, then heap on the onions, spinach, and Parm.

2. Halfway Homemade Meatballs

Meatballs used to feel like such a project meal, but two things have changed that for me. 1) I can make them without a recipe (probably because of all those years fulfilling demands for Great Grandma Turano’s meatballs), which saves on the back-and-forthing with a cookbook and measuring cups; 2) Instead of making my own sauce, I just simmer the browned meatballs in jarred sauce. We usually have Rao’s on hand (winner of my jarred pasta sauce taste test), but this past weekend it just so happened that I had a jar of Pizza Girl’s organic marinara and it was so so good. Natural, not too sweet, not too salty, and eminently tomatoey. The lucky person on the other end of the meatball delivery even said to me “I need your sauce recipe.” I didn’t dare tell him.

3. Apple-Stuffed Apple Cake

On my way home from a hospital visit last week, I had an overwhelming craving for apple cake. Not apple crisp. Not apple pie. And not just any old apple cake, either. I wanted an apple-stuffed apple cake, the kind where there’s more apples than not in every bite, and where hopefully the apples are still a teeny tiny bit crispy so the cake texture is, like, squeaky? Do you know what I’m talking about? Well, as I learned in first grade when I set out to draw a Siberian tiger, execution often proves more elusive than vision. It took me a few recipes and a few rounds before I landed on this one, which is essentially Marian Burros’s famous plum torte (doesn’t everything come back to that one?) but packed with diced apples and spiked with cinnamon. I just had my last slice this morning with my coffee, so I’ll be baking another one later today — it takes, like 10 minutes hands-on time.

Apple-Stuffed Apple Cake
Again, very heavily inspired by Marian Burros’s famous plum torte.

¾ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1-2 medium apples, peeled and diced (optional: save 5-6 unpeeled thin slices for top decoration)
Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round baking pan with butter.

Cream together the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and eggs and beat well. Fold in diced apples. The batter will be thick.

Spoon the batter into prepared pan, smoothing out the top (and making a little decorative spiral of apples in the center if you’ve saved those few slices). Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Bake 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and cool. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream or morning coffee.


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See you in a few days!