Bacon and Parmesan Frittata

 

To all nervous novices out there: I think you’ll like this recipe.  I made a larger version for two friends for lunch and they both remarked upon how easy it was to make and how much flavor the final result packed in.

I’d like to tell you a little about said friends, because they represent in my mind the exact type of people I hope to convert into cooks.  These two work in finance and explained to me today that their favorite home-cooked meals come in boxes usually bearing the title “Lean Cuisine” or another similar variation.  Perfect, I thought, hopefully this easy recipe will convince them that cooking is not as hard as it seems!  Unless they were just trying to make me feel good (and that would be so sad), I think I succeeded.

I hear from a lot of my friends that they would like to learn to cook for their significant others.  I hope you will use these recipes as a starting point to get yourself familiar with cooking.  Since a great majority of these dishes can easily be doubled, you will have no problem impressing someone else with your newly acquired skills!

Frittatas are great because they are easy and almost fail-proof, and you can alter most recipes to cater to ingredients you have on hand or that you prefer.  In this case, you can substitute arugula (that has been sautéed and slightly wilted) or chopped cilantro for the parsley.  You can also change the cheese – don’t want to splurge on a large hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano?  Opt instead for pecorino romano, gouda, swiss, or Gruyère.  Any hard cheese that can be grated will actually taste great – let’s be honest, cheese is just fantastic anytime, in any form.

You’ll need some time to cook the caramelized onions but I promise you it is will worth it – only when onions have been slowly cooked over low heat does their natural sweetness come out and shine.  They pair beautifully with the salty bacon and crisp parmesan cheese.  Caramelized onions are pretty low maintenance, just watch over them in the beginning or they may risk burning.

Bacon and Parmesan Frittata – serves 1
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 slices thick bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1.  Heat olive oil in a small ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
2.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until onions are caramelized and golden in color, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and dry off excess fat with paper towels.  Discard bacon fat.
4.  In a small bowl, beat eggs with heavy cream (or milk if using) and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Turn heat under onions up to medium, and add egg mixture along with parsley and bacon bits.
5.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until bottom is set.  Tilt the pan and push cooked egg towards center of skillet to let uncooked eggs run underneath.
6.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over frittata and finish cooking in the oven until center is just set, about 4-5 minutes.

Welcome to America Potato Salad

I have France to thank for many things, one of which is the start of this blog, whose title first bore the name “Cooking For One in Paris.”  Although I delighted in the flavors and offerings of Paris for over 2 years, from oozy cheeses to shared bottles of wine on the banks of the Seine, I returned to the states three months ago to establish a culinary career, something which proved to be near impossible as an American in Paris. Fortunately all is not lost, for what America lacks in terrines de foie gras and boudin noir, it more than makes up for in multicultural variety.  I am now living in New York, and I find myself acting like a kid in a candy store every time the subject of dinner comes up.  Will it be Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, German, French, or Brazilian tonight?  The possibilities are endless, and the quality of food is unrivaled.

All international food delights aside, I decided to kick off this blog with an American classic, albeit with a few twists.  In this potato salad you will find no mayonnaise or pickles, staples that are replaced instead by such actors as lemon juice, basil, cayenne pepper, and chives.  It is a straightforward, simple recipe, and my only suggestions/notes are twofold: firstly, Yukon gold potatoes worked well because they softened once boiled but still maintained their shape in the salad.  However, other varieties that would likely work well include red-skin potatoes, Yellow Fin potatoes, and white round potatoes.

Secondly, I converted that salad into a sandwich by placing it on a soft brioche bun, courtesy of Amy’s Bread, but this dish holds its integrity as a salad, and if I were to repeat this recipe I would probably omit the bun altogether (although I have nothing against the bun itself, which was delicious and properly fulfilled its brioche destiny).

For perfect hardboiled eggs, cover the eggs with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for at least 12 minutes.

Welcome To America Potato Salad
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, size b or c
2 hardboiled eggs
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon shredded basil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/8-teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 brioche bun (optional)
1. Wash potatoes.  Place in a pot and add water to cover; add 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
2. Remove potatoes from boiling water and place in a bowl of ice water (this stops them from cooking any further).
3. Peel eggs and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  In a small bowl, toss eggs with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; add basil and toss gently to combine.
4. Once cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, add to bowl and toss with the other ingredients.  Add lemon juice, chives, and cayenne pepper.  Toss and season once more with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to taste.
5.  Serve as a salad or atop a brioche bun.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta

 

Another recipe to celebrate the warm weather season, highlighting the deep and plentiful flavor of green asparagus which has popped up on almost every bistrot menu around Paris.  This year more than ever I’m learning to embrace the seasons, which bring along with them the adventure of learning to cook with what nature gives you.  Asparagus is a great ingredient to experiment with because it can be eaten in so many forms, whether puréed in a soup, tossed in a spring salad, or incorporated with eggs as is done here.  If you are left with extra asparagus spears while making this recipe, I suggest tossing the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting in a 220°C/400°F oven.  Once cooked you can top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar.

The pairing of green asparagus and eggs is effortless and harmonious, and by tossing pan-seared salmon into the frittata you include enough protein and energy to make this meal for a healthy lunch or dinner.  Fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, or parsley add brightness and a strong summer flavor.  If you decide to add a cheese such as feta, be prepared for a very particular tang with a slightly salty aftertaste.  Other cheeses that would work equally as well would be goat cheese, ricotta, or perhaps blue cheese for the strong-hearted.

I would definitely pair this frittata with a white wine with hints of spices, such as the Californian J Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.  For dessert, you could chop up two nectarines and slice a few ripe cherries, and toss them with 1 tablespoon honey, a drizzle of oil, and a handful of sliced fresh mint.  If you prefer to finish this frittata in the oven, instead of flipping it over and cooking the other side, place the (ovenproof) skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until set.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta – serves 1

1 salmon filet, about 6 ounces/185 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
3-4 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon

1. Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Rub all over with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
2. Heat a small 8-inch/20-cm skillet over medium heat. Add salmon filet, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides until cooked through. Remove salmon from heat, and with a fork gently break the fish apart into small, bite-size pieces.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, herbs, heavy cream, and a pinch each of salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper if you like things spicy). Whisk together with a fork. Add in the salmon bits and feta cheese, and combine gently.
4. Heat the teaspoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus bits to the pan and cook until tender but still crunchy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the egg mixture to the pan; swirl the pan around to coat evenly. Let eggs cook over medium heat, occasionally tilting the pan to one side and pushing the eggs to the center of the pan to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the skillet.
6. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back onto the skillet to heat the runny side. Cook until frittata is set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve on same large plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Apricot and Cherry Millefeuille with Avocado and Melon

Pretty much everything I love about summer is summed up on this plate – delicious ingredients (mostly fruits and vegetables) full of flavor, that require very little preparation to make a meal.

Perhaps I should begin by saying that I have been a fruit fiend for all of my life, ready to pass up a plate of fries for a giant bowl of fruit any day.  What I’ve learned in France, however, is that fruit is only meant to be enjoyed during the right season.  While I grew up in Boston enjoying blueberries in December and green seedless grapes all year round, I quickly learned here, mainly by the stares I received by old French women and market vendors when trying to purchase a bag of grapes in winter, that there is absolutely no point in eating something out of season, because the seasonal stuff tastes so much better.  And I have to hand it to the French, because they’re absolutely right.  I now find myself dreaming about the enormous and tender black figs that are in season here through late summer and early fall – I distinctly remember eating my first one upon arriving in France in 2009, and just staring at it after my first bite.  I was shocked to know that a fruit could contain so much life and taste.  The other day when I saw a few of the same figs at a fruit stand in the Marais, I got so excited and quickly rushed to the vendor in order to have my first bite.  Imagine my disappointment when the fruit vendor confiscated my figs from me: “ne prenez pas ces figues - elles n’ont aucun goût.  Elles seront bonnes en août – don’t buy these figs, they have no taste.  You have to wait until August.” I like to think he was looking out for me.  One can never be too sure though…

Although I still sometimes yearn for a giant bag of seedless green grapes to munch on while surfing the internet at home in the wintertime, I admit that every minute of the wait is worth it, because the fruit season is in full force and everything I eat is bursting with flavor.   Of course, there are always exceptions (France is, after all, the land of paradoxes), which is why no one has qualms eating avocados from Chili throughout the year, in addition to green beans from Africa.  But I’m not judging, I’d rather join.

So I made you a fruit salad that I just love, with a dressing similar to what I made for the Avocado and Mint recipe (mint, olive oil, and honey, with the addition of lime juice).  I wanted to present it in the form of a millefeuille because I was excited about the prospect of taking a photo this way, but in terms of flavor combinations I would recommend just tossing everything together, because the creamy avocado will envelope the other ingredients and give them a wonderful, slightly savory touch.

If you are thinking of making this for a light lunch, I would recommend pairing it with a sweet white wine such as riesling or gewurztraminer from the Alsace region of France.  Unfortunately I don’t know other wine regions from other countries well but hopefully you catch my drift.

Lastly, if you make this recipe you will find yourself left with half of a melon and half of an avocado.  For the melon, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and saving it in your fridge for the next few days.  To prevent the avocado from browning, sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice and place in a sealed plastic container, so it will keep for a day or two in your fridge.  If you’d like, you could dice them both up and combine them both with some crabmeat, lime juice, and olive oil the next day to make another delicious and refreshing salad.  Just an idea – if you have any other suggestions for what to do with leftover avocado and melon, please write them!

Bon appétit!

Apricot and Cherry Millefeuille with Avocado and Melon - serves 1
.
1 melon, halved, seeds discarded
1 avocado, halved, pit removed
1/2-cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablepoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 apricots, halved, pits removed, thinly sliced
about a dozen dark cherries, pits removed, thinly sliced
1 handful toasted slivered almonds
.
1. Using a knife, cut around the edge of the melon half, then working from the center outward in a circular motion, cut into thin slices. Scoop out with a spoon, and place melon slices flat around the edge of a large plate.
2. Use one half of the avocado and reserve the other half for another use. Thinly slice the avocado, scoop out gently with a spoon, and place in between the melon slices.
3. In a bowl, combine a few sliced mint leaves with the honey, olive oil, and the juice of 1/2 of the lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Place three of the apricot slices in the center of the plate. Top with several cherry slices, then with some sliced mint. Top the mint with three more apricot slices, and repeat in this manner until you have no more apricot, cherry, or mint left.
5. Drizzle everything with the honey and lime mixture, then with the toasted almonds.

White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad

Not every one falls in love with Paris, but I find that those who do are hooked for life.  Whether it happens over a café crème on a sunny terrace or during a never-ending picnic rife with cheap red wine and crunchy baguettes, this city is capable of leaving you mesmerized, walking through the charming streets as if in a daydream.   And while living here may be just a fantasy, an image of a life I want to believe I’m leading (I recommend watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris to get a better idea of what I’m talking about), there are certain rituals I have come to adopt that remind me that, even if Paris embodies a city that is bordering fantasia, there are still many things, mostly in food form, that capture my heart and remind me that true talent and beauty lies in the heart of the city.  One such ritual is enjoying lunch at le Comptoir, undoubtedly one of my favorite restaurants in Paris and likely the favorite of many other frequenters.  While it’s almost not worth going for dinner as it requires a reservation six months in advance, if you arrive on the early side (12pm sharp) for lunch you can enjoy a lovely table on the sunny terrace.  This is precisely what I do when I want to enjoy a refreshing glass of white wine and the best salad I’ve ever had in my life, the Salad Niçoise.  I assume you’ll immediately tell me that you don’t like Salad Niçoise, because it is boring or bland, or that you don’t like anchovies.  But, my dear reader, I felt the same way before trying this salad, which has changed my life and made me think about the perfect harmony of a salad in a new way.

I am grateful to this salad niçoise, not only for making my stomach and eyes extremely happy, but additionally for reminding me that salads don’t need to be light or boring to be enjoyed.  They can be a scene for extreme experiences: marriages of flavor that develop and change with each bite.  Dig around the plate to find a little bit of egg or some crispy caramelized onions that will forever change your next bite from your last.  Although the salad that I’m posting today has nothing to do with a nicoise salad, it was with this appreciation for the greener side of life that I hoped to present to you a salad that is at once hearty, healthy, and complex.  This is essentially a new version of a shrimp and arugula salad that I have been making for a while.  Because it’s springtime and the fruits and vegetables are at the beginning of their glorious high season, I had to include roast asparagus, which for me is one of the easiest springtime things to make and can be tossed with just about anything: in a frittata, with pasta, or just roasted and eaten in its pure form. 

If you have to buy more asparagus than the recipe calls for, I would recommend either saving the remainder and using them at a later time (they will keep for up to 5 or 6 days in tupperware in your fridge), or roasting all of them and eating the remaining asparagus as a snack over the next few days.  Roast asparagus is something I would liken to roast sweet potatoes, in the sense that both of these ingredients change personality entirely to acquire a salty, almost creamy air about them once exiting the hot oven.  Needless to say I’m a huge fan.  Also, don’t forget to remove the ends of the asparagus which are not tender enough to be eaten: take each asparagus in your hands and snap it in two – the asparagus will naturally break where it is no longer tender.

I of course added shrimp because I am a seafood lover jusqu’au bout, and fresh, large, jumbo shrimp can make a cameo on my dinner plate any day.  The addition of sesame seeds adds a nice extra dimension of saltiness and protein (and it’s really easy to put together, I promise!) which pairs very well with the sautéed basil.

Lastly, if you decide that you would like to try to make the shallot/shrimp medley but you don’t care for the lettuce or roast asparagus, I would recommend removing the tails off the shrimp, cutting them into bite-size pieces, and eating them in a burrito with sliced avocado and sour cream or on toasts.  And now I’m hungry once again.

White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad – serves 1
 
For the asparagus:
6 to 8 stalks of green asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil
coarse sea salt
 
For the Salad:
1/2-cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled, heads removed and tails left on
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 lemon
1/2-cup white beans
2 large handfuls arugula
 
To cook the asparagus:
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425° F. Line a baking sheet that is large enough to hold all the asparagus flat with tin foil. Add all the ingredients and toss thoroughly with your hands to combine.
2. Roast in the oven until crispy yet tender, about 12-15 minutes.
3. Once cool enough to handle, cut into matchstick-sized pieces and set aside. If there is any oil remaining on the baking sheet, set it aside to add to the sauce
 
To prepare the salad:
1. In a shallow bowl or dish, spread out the sesame seeds.
2. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, and salt; pass the oiled shrimp through the sesame seeds to coat.
3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot, and cook, stirring occassionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
4. Turn the heat to medium- high, add the shrimp, and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.
5. Add the juice from half of the lemon (or more if necessary, you want to make a sauce). Remove from heat, add the basil slivers, and toss to combine. Add any remaining oil from the roast asparagus.
6. Place the arugula and white beans on a plate. Top with shrimp and shallot sauce. Add additional lemon juice or olive oil as neccesary, and season with salt and pepper.

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot Fish

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, since tomato season really isn’t here yet and the tomatoes coming from Morocco and Spain (the only ones available in Paris all winter long) pale in comparison to the locally grown summer tomatoes, bursting with so much flavor that they are good enough to eat plain, maybe with just a touch of coarse sea salt or a drizzle of olive oil.  But I couldn’t help trying out this dish because the big change in Paris has happened and I am officially in Spring/Summer mode.

When I say the “big change,” I am referring not only to the change in weather but more importantly to the change in personality of almost every one in Paris, myself included.  Paris is a different city once the weather turns, and in these warmer months even the typically frigid take on a softer side, and although I am sure this effect takes place in many cities I find that it is very marked here.

If I may, allow me to give you an example. Now you may or may not know that the Sorbonne (where I’m getting my masters in “Food Cultures” – I hope you’re not surprised), has every entrance door blocked by security guards, most of whom are rather serious, terse, and prefer to speak only when spoken to.  So I timidly walked to one of the entrances and dreaded having to tell the security guard that in fact, I lost my student ID card and need to enter in order to get a new one.  Please imagine my surprise when he responded to me in kind with, “Ne vous inquiétez pas mademoiselle, dans ce cas-là il ne me reste que de vous souhaiter une très bonne journée” – don’t worry miss, all that I need to do in that case is wish you a very pleasant day.  His reaction was shocking to me, but after thinking back I realize that every one I interacted with today was friendlier and more cheerful than normal, which is why I have come to the conclusion that Paris undergoes a drastic improvement once the clouds part and the sun graces us with her lovely presence.

Bref, that is why I made this Mediterranean dish.  Unfortunately these tomatoes from Morocco were underwhelming as predicted and I probably should have waited until summer to make this, when grape tomatoes are the perfect amount of sweet, salty, and tangy.  If you don’t have access to ripe tomatoes then perhaps you should wait to make this dish too. 

A few notes: firstly, you can certainly roast other vegetables along with the tomatoes: I think white onions, zucchini, or summer squash would all taste great with these flavors.  Additionally, what you add to the stuffing blend is up to you, feel free to do a pantry raid and add whatever you have in there that wouldn’t taste too funky (or let it taste funky, you’re only making it for yourself so you should do what makes you happy). 

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot – serves 1
7-8 grape tomatoes
dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
75g/2.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4-cup bread crumbs
3 large kalamata olives (or 4-5 small black olives), pitted and chopped
1 lemon
2 turbot fillets (150g/5.5oz)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
1. Cut all but one of the tomatoes in half, place on a lined baking dish, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Roast until softened, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining grape tomato, and combine in a bowl with the pine nuts, mint, feta, olives, and half of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, oregano, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
3. Rub the turbot fillets with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dredge in the remaining bread crumbs.
4. Remove tomatoes from oven, reduce oven heat to 160°C/360°F. and place one turbot fillet on the same baking sheet. Cover with stuffing and place remaining fillet on top. Drizzle with any remaining lemon juice and bake until fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

>Egg-White Frittata with Caramelized Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a lunch like this every day:

While overlooking this?
I for one would relish the opportunity to overlook this great blue body of water while savoring a satisfying and memorable lunch. And while I can’t enjoy this type of luxury every day, I managed to escape the cold for a few days of good food and sun in the Bahamas.
Fortunately for us our resort provided us with a full kitchen, complete with stove, cooking utensils, silverware, wine glasses, chef’s knives, and a cutting board, so I was able to continue cooking right through the vacation.  I decided to make this frittata because, most simply put, it includes the best of what we could find in the supermarket.  Another reason this frittata came to fruition is in part from my mom’s high cholesterol, which she has been afflicted with for the past 25 years.  Her specific dietary restriction recommends cutting out as many high-cholesterol foods (in this case egg yolks) as possible from her diet. So, you can enjoy this frittata thoroughly because it’s quite heart-healthy.
Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the lightness of the egg whites paired with the sweet and crispy onions and the earthiness of the mushrooms.  This dish takes a little bit of time to put together, due to the slow caramelizing of the onions, but you only need one sautee pan for the whole thing and the cooking itself is pretty straightforward.  Enjoy with a crisp glass of white wine, such as a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or California. 
Egg-White Frittata w/ Caramelized Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese  – serves 3-4
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 sprigs basil
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 egg whites
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
a large handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
1.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
2.  Add the onions, the 2 basil sprigs, and sprinkle with a dash of pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, slightly crispy, and sweet, about 30 minutes. 
3.  Stir in the brown sugar; remove the basil and pour onions into a warm bowl or dish.
4.  Pour one more tablespoon olive oil to the pan, and raise heat to medium-high.  Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, touching only once to turn over halfway through, about 10 minutes total. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Remove from sautee pan.
5.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, beat the egg whites and add salt and pepper.  Add the last tablespoon of olive oil to the sautee pan, reduce heat to medium, and add the egg whites.
6.  Cook the eggs without touching, until they are slightly solid in the center and still loose around the edges, about 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle the onions, mushrooms, basil, and goat cheese evenly over the egg whites. 
7.  Continue cooking, pushing the egg whites towards the center of the pan and tilting it so that the runny parts reach the pan and cook as well, about 7-8 minutes longer. Sprinkle with fresh-ground black pepper if desired.