Tuscan Potatoes

Ask Liz why she married me, and you'll hear the usual - for love, for money, it was her first time drinking Absinthe, etc. Ask her again, and she may tell you the truth: Tuscan potatoes.

No one is immune to their charms, and they are sooooo many. First, there's the aroma; earthy, sweet, salty and fresh, an oven full of these beauties drives the whole neighborhood wild with rosemary-scented desire. Then, there's their appearance, imperfectly cut and tumbling together, roasted brown and gold, flecked with green, glistening with oil. The satisfying crunch as you bite down, and the melts-in-your-mouth interior. Finally, the explosion of elemental flavors: potato, rosemary, salt and oil, ratcheted up beyond reason.

Tuscan potatoes are an extraordinary accompaniment to a grilled steak, a smoked tri-tip or a pork roast. They take a bit of work, but they're worth it.

2 Russet potatoes
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, about 5” long
1 tsp rosemary salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Peel the potatoes, cut them lengthwise into quarters, then slice into roughly 1" chunks. Rinse in a bowl of cool water until the water runs clear, then soak them in cold water for about twenty minutes. This step removes the starch from the surface of the potatoes, enabling the delicious crunch.

Preheat the oven to 450F. If you're using a cast iron skillet (recommended*), put it in the oven to preheat.

Drain and dry the potatoes with a dish towel or paper towels.

Pour the oil into your skillet or a baking pan, then de-stem 2 sprigs of rosemary into the oil. (I usually throw in the stems, too.) Add the potatoes in single layer and toss to coat with the oil and rosemary. Put your pan into the oven on the top rack.

Roast for 30 minutes at 450F. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the potatoes with a spatula, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, de-stem the other sprig of rosemary and chop it finely.

Check your potatoes: they should be mostly golden, with a few dark-brown patches. If they are pale, return them to the oven, checking at 5 minute intervals. My last oven consistently took a full hour, but my current oven (in convection mode) turns them out perfectly in 45 minutes.

When your potatoes are ready, toss them with chopped rosemary and salt (I use rosemary-scented salt, for a double kick) and serve immediately.

This recipe feeds two hearty appetites.

* I like to cook Tuscan potatoes in a 12" cast iron skillet, which produces a superior crusty texture but only holds about two medium potatoes. If you have a crowd to feed, use a baking pan with raised edges. If you don't have a 12" cast iron skillet, buy one. Today.

White Bean Hummus

Smooth, creamy, garlicky and delicious. Try not to feel hurt when your friends ask, accusingly: “you made this?” The recipe originates at Orangette; I’ve tweaked it a bit and added the smoked paprika topping, which really brings out the flavors. Serve with pita or crostini or naan or carrot sticks or anything else you can imagine.

1 15 oz can Canellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup water
Extra virgin olive oil
Smoked paprika
Combine first six ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulsing until the beans are a smooth paste. Add the water a bit at a time until the consistency is as you like it. To serve, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with smoked paprika.

If you’re making hummus in advance, store it in the fridge, but take it out a bit before serving - it’s best at room temperature.

Store leftovers (assuming you have any) in a covered dish in the fridge. Hummus stays fresh for about a week.


Italian for “little toasts,” crostini are a simple yet decadent staple food. They're good for scooping up hummus or a soft cheese dip (think ricotta and pesto); smearing with roasted garlic; topping with prosciutto, arugula and parmesan; or just for crunching alone, like fat, succulent chips.

1 baguette
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp coarsley ground black pepper
rosemary salt or kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Press or mince the garlic and combine with the olive oil and black pepper. Slice the baguette into rounds* about 1/4” thick and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until they are just beginning to get brown. Paint the olive oil mixture on the rounds with a pastry brush, sprinkle with rosemary salt and return them to the oven for 2 minutes.

Cool and store in a jar or zip-top bag. Crostini stay fresh for about a week, but they rarely last that long in our house.

*When I want to be fancy, I slice the bread on the bias, or diagonally. It may look elegant, but they’re harder to dip and much more than a mouthful.

Smoked Tri-Tip

I hadn’t heard of a tri-tip roast until moving to California a few years ago - it’s a triangular cut of beef also called the bottom sirloin, usually weighing in at between two and three pounds. Tri-tip is funny-looking, but quite tasty - a cross between a sirloin steak and a roast - and really shines on the smoker, though it’s also good grilled.

1 tri-tip roast (2.5-3 pounds)
1/4 cup tri-wizard rub
24 hours before cooking: Trim the fat cap, if desired. Rub the tri-tip well with the tri-wizard mixture, making sure you get it into all the nooks and crannies. Cover with plastic wrap or pop into a zip-top bag and refrigerate overnight, or at least a couple of hours.

1 hour before cooking: Take the tri-tip out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat your smoker or grill.

Smoke at 225F for 4 hours or until the internal temp reaches about 140F for medium rare. I like a combination of hickory and pecan woods.

If you don’t have access to a smoker, sear on a hot (500F) grill for up to 5 minutes per side, then move it off of the flame and continue to cook for about 15 minutes at medium (350F) until the internal temp reaches about 140F for medium rare.

Use tongs to put your beautiful tri-tip on a serving platter, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for at least ten minutes before carving.

Tip: it’s just as easy to make two, and the leftovers make terrific sandwiches.

Tri-Wizard Rub

Perfect for smoked tri-tip, this rub is also nice on chicken, fish and pork. It’s a great seasoning base, too: add cumin and lime juice for a Cuban flavor, or paprika, brown sugar and celery seed for a Memphis-style rib rub. The ground chipotle pepper adds a nice touch of smokiness, as well as heat; if you have trouble finding it locally, try Penzey's online or substitute cayenne pepper.

1/4 cup rosemary salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
1 tsp dried chipotle or cayenne
Mix well and store in a covered container - an empty spice jar with a “shaker” lid is ideal. Tri-wizard rub keeps indefinitely.

Rosemary Salt

I made rosemary-infused salt on a whim a few years ago, and it immediately became a staple in my kitchen. It lends a soft perfume to spice rubs, soups and stews and takes crostini and garlic bread from good to great. It’s also inexpensive and extremely simple to make.

1 cup kosher salt or sea salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, about 5” long, cut to fit your container
Empty spice jar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the salt for about 5 minutes, or until hot to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the rosemary sprigs and set aside, uncovered, until cool. Store in a covered container - an empty spice jar with a “shaker” lid is ideal. Rosemary salt keeps indefinitely.