Fresh Ricotta

My husband and I have a favorite local restaurant where we like to go and have a special lunch together. Even though it is quite indulgent, we cannot go without ordering the fresh ricotta cheese appetizer. It is seasoned with lemon and served with warm bread. Irresistible.

I knew that making homemade ricotta was an easy task but had never tried to make it. I’m a little bit worried that now that I’ve finally done it because I’ll be making it all of the time! 🙂 I brought it to serve as an appetizer at a party to spread on slices of sourdough baguette… but- wow- it would also be amazing over pasta with a little drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by J.J. Goode. I added lemon zest (like at my restaurant!) and coarse salt, to taste. I found the consistency was perfect after straining for just twenty minutes. It was beyond creamy, rich, and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 cup

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon, or more, to taste
  1. Bring milk, cream, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice; stir gently until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into a fine-mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth set over a medium bowl.
  4. Chill until cheese is spreadable, at least 20 minutes and up to 12 hours (the longer it strains, the thicker it will be). (I recommend the consistency after about 20 minutes.)
  5. Cover and chill cheese up to 3 days. (If it lasts that long!)

Note/Update: This ricotta was absolutely delicious in Spinach & Ricotta Pappardelle. Wonderful!!

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (ž stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ž teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1Âź cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated ComtĂŠ cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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Curried Squash Galette

I made this galette for myself. I really did- which rarely (read: never) happens. As soon as I saw the recipe I had to make it. Such a seasonal and pretty vegetarian meal. The perfect use for my CSA butternut squash and red onions too. It took me a week to enjoy it and was worth every flavorful bite.

The crust was super flaky and fabulous thanks to grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Genius. I made the crust days in advance and kept it well wrapped in the refrigerator without any issues as well.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. I used all butternut squash instead of a combination of varieties. I also adapted the crust preparation as well as the baking times for a convection oven. Lovely!

I am sharing this at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #142 this week, co-hosted by Elaine @foodbod and Michelle @O Blog Off. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
  • ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2 pounds butternut squash (or a combination of kabocha & butternut squash), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red onion, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light okay)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded aged Manchego Anejo cheese, plus more for serving

 

 

 

 

To Make the Dough:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  2. Working over the bowl, grate the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater. Gently toss the grated butter in the flour.
  3. Stir in 1/3 cup of ice water until the dough is evenly moistened.
  4. Scrape out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather up any crumbs and knead gently just until the dough comes together.
  5. Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour, or up to several days in advance.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash and the onion with the olive oil and curry powder. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash is tender but not falling apart. Let cool.
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 450°.
  4. Lightly flour the dough and place between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the dough to a 14-inch round.
  5. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and replace with a piece of parchment paper large enough to line a rimmed baking sheet. Invert and carefully transfer to a baking sheet.
  6. Spread the sour cream over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
  7. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese on top.
  8. Arrange the squash and onion over the sour cream and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top.
  9. Fold the pastry edge up and over the vegetables to create a 1 1/2-inch border.
  10. Bake the squash galette for 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned; let cool slightly.
  11. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, cut into wedges and serve warm.

Make Ahead: The galette can be made a few hours early and rewarmed before serving.

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Greens & Cheese Quesadillas

I have received an exorbitant amount of Swiss chard in my CSA box so far this season. It’s a good thing that I absolutely love it! and… Who doesn’t love chard when it’s combined with fabulous cheese?!?!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Gabriela Camara. I have made these quesadillas a couple of times with my CSA greens, using both raw milk extra (extra) sharp yellow cheddar (from Trader Joe’s) as well as Cabot extra sharp 3-year aged white cheddar. I have also used combination of greens including Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens, as well as baby bok choy.

I adapted the recipe by increasing the garlic as well as using a red onion, whole wheat flour tortillas, and chipotle salsa, avocados, fresh lime, and sour cream, for serving. I also microwaved the assembled quesadillas for a quick dinner! We ate them with refried beans on the side. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 for dinner or up to 8 as an appetizer

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola
  • ½ medium white or red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 10 ounces Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, or a combination of greens including beet, turnip, or bok choy, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • coarse salt
  • 6 ounces Toma cheese or sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 8 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Salsa Roja, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Verde, or Trader Joe’s Chipotle Salsa, for serving
  • avocado slices and lime wedges, for serving, optional
  • sour cream, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes.
  2. Add greens a handful at a time, letting wilt slightly before adding more. Pour in ½ cup water and cook, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Add lime juice; season with salt. Transfer to a plate; let cool.
  4. Assemble the quesadillas: Place on tortilla on a large plate. Mound grated cheddar on top and spread evenly. Top with sautĂŠed greens and another tortilla.
  5. Microwave for 1 minute, 35 seconds on high.
  6. Remove and slice into pieces. Repeat until all filling is used.
  7. Serve immediately with sliced avocado, prepared salsa, and sour cream, as desired.

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Mexican Street Corn Crostini

I was also able to celebrate my birthday on my special Charleston trip. 🙂 Although I enjoyed a lot of wonderful Southern food while I was there, my friends and I also went to Sean Brock’s Minero’s Restaurant for a Mexican birthday lunch. It was SO good.

Along with our various tacos, we had bowls of Mexican street corn which were absolutely delicious. I do plan on re-creating that dish, but for now these grilled corn crostini were another terrific variation. I made these as a Fourth of July appetizer. Unlike other crostini that have to be prepared at the last-minute, these are perfect to bring to a party or potluck because the topping can be placed on the ciabatta in advance.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit. I toasted the ciabatta until it was nicely browned and increased the garlic on the toasted bread. Great!

Yield: Makes 12 crostini

  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices of ciabatta bread (I used most of a 1 lb. loaf, cut into 12 1/2-inch thick slices)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup crema mexicana or sour cream
  • 3 T crumbled feta
  • lime wedge
  • cilantro leaves
  • chili powder
  1. Rub corn with vegetable oil. Season corn with salt and freshly ground black pepper; grill until slightly charred and tender.
  2. Slice corn off the cob in wide strips. (I grilled 3 ears just to ensure that I would have enough wide strips.)
  3. Grill or toast the bread slices until uniformly browned. While still warm, rub the top of each slice with garlic.
  4. Mix crema mexicana or sour cream with feta.
  5. Smear toasts with crema mixture. Top crema with grilled corn.
  6. Squeeze a lime wedge over each.
  7. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sprinkle with chili powder.

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Southern Pimento Cheese Dip

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. (I write about it in all of my Shrimp & Grits posts!) I love everything about it. The culture. The architecture. The FOOD. I met my husband there. ❤ I went to graduate school there and met amazing people and established wonderful friendships there as well. It is just beyond fabulous. 🙂

I recently attended a reunion weekend in Charleston with my best girlfriends. It was better than great. I smiled for three days! 🙂 I also ate incredible food… Which brings me to this post.

I have a memory of pimento cheese from way back when in my South Carolina days. I had never heard of it- growing up in Maryland- and didn’t like it at all. Well, now I’ve seen the light! Pimento cheese can be jarred pimentos mixed with Miracle Whip and shredded cheddar cheese- maybe with a little cream cheese. It could also be this. (The Anson Mills website makes a point of this.) On my recent visit, we ate pimento cheese dip (from Ted’s Butcher Block) with rosemary crackers for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour. 😉 It was that good. When we went to buy a second container, I asked for the recipe. Apparently, it’s a secret… but they did tell me that it didn’t have pimentos- it had roasted red peppers instead. No wonder I loved it!

When I came home, I searched for a similar recipe. I was so pleased when I found it on AnsonMills.com. I made it to share with friends on the Fourth of July. The Long Island crowd loved it! 🙂 I used New York extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar cheese (the cheese is very important), organic mayonnaise, and grilled the peppers to roast and char them. We ate the finished dip chilled with rosemary crackers, pita chips, stone ground wheat crackers, and Trader Joe’s social snackers. Delicious!

  • 3 firm red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), roasted and charred on a gas grill, steamed, peeled and seeded, and cut into ⅛-inch dice (instructions below)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce, such as Chipotle Cholula, Sriracha, or Tabasco
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, preferably 12 oz extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar (or 6 oz each of sharp yellow cheddar and aged raw-milk white cheddar, or 12 oz of sharp yellow cheddar)
  • 4 oz (½ cup) organic mayonnaise, plus additional as needed
  • assorted crackers or celery sticks, for serving
  1. Using a gas grill, roast the red peppers until their skins are uniformly charred.
  2. Place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skins have loosened from the steam and they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove the charred skin, seeds, and ribs from the peppers. (Do not rinse!) Dice into 1/8-inch pieces. Reserve any residual juice/liquid.
  4. Add the diced roasted bell peppers and any residual juice to a small non-reactive bowl (you should have 1 very generous cup).
  5. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, remove and discard the skins, and add the garlic to the bowl with the peppers.
  6. Stir in the vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and up to ½ teaspoon hot sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater (you should have about 4 cups lightly packed). Turn the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the peppers, which are now pimentos, and, using a rubber spatula, stir the pimentos into the grated cheese until well combined.
  9. Add the mayonnaise and fold lightly with the spatula. If the mixture appears too dry, fold in additional mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning.
  10. Transfer the pimento cheese to a serving container with a lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  11. Serve chilled with assorted crackers or packed into celery ribs.

Note: Covered tightly, pimento cheese keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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Ottolenghi’s Deconstructed Baba Ghanouj

This is the final part of our amazing Middle Eastern feast that I would like to share with you. Even though baba ghanouj is typically an appetizer, we really could have eaten this dish as a complete meal! We gobbled it up with warm naan.  Our spread was complete with grilled chicken thighs, Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, Hummus, and Baked Rice. SO so SO good.

This recipe was adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I used 3 eggplants and charred them on a gas grill. I loved the use of fresh oregano as a garnish because my home-grown oregano has completely taken over my herb garden! 😉

  • 3 large eggplants, approximately 2-3 pounds
  • flaky sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, roughly grated
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • warm naan, for serving
  1. Char the eggplant. Prick surface of the eggplant in multiple places with a fork to release steam when cooking. To cook on a stove, place each eggplant directly over an open medium flame, and cook for 15 or 20 minutes, using tongs to turn the eggplant a number of times, until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is soft and smoky. To cook on a gas or charcoal grill, place the eggplants on the grill, and cook over medium-high heat, using tongs to turn the eggplant until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is completely soft and smoky.
  2. Remove the eggplants from the heat, and place on a rack to cool and drain, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, leaving the stalks intact, and place them on a large plate.
  3. Using your fingers, coax each eggplant into a fan shape, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and drizzle with a tablespoon of tahini.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the grated tomato in a medium bowl with the garlic, oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Spoon the mixture over the eggplants and tahini, leaving some of the eggplant visible, and then sprinkle with the oregano leaves and a final dusting of salt.
  5. Serve with warm naan.

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