Archives for posts with tag: Cheese

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Sometimes cooking becomes the daily grind.  You have no creativity and don’t feel like cooking very much.  I was in that place for a little while, a funk, if you will.  I think we all go through phases like this.  I was cooking dinner and just getting by and not expanding my culinary repertoire much.  And then one day I just felt upset, upset that I’ve let something go that I’m so passionate about.

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I thought to myself, I used to go to the Farmers’ Market every Saturday and get inspired, I used to think of how I could start something with food.  I felt sad and felt as though I let myself down.  Why must I doubt myself — why must I get into these phases where I am uninspired?  I’m sure this happens to everyone.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  Something that helped me get out of this strange aura I was living in, in regard to cooking was that  my friend Christy asked me to participate in a program/class she is involved with on the first 3 Thursdays of every month called the ELLICSR Kitchen.  This is a remarkable program that works with cancer survivors and patients and introduces them to healing, holistic nutrition.

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When Christy asked me to participate I felt a little apprehensive and scared.  I didn’t know how I could speak ON CAMERA.  When I got there I felt much better – the environment was so warm and friendly and I was a little more at ease (still nervous, though!).  Christy Brissette is a Registered Dietician and Nutritionist who explains nutritional components to dishes and Chef Geremy Capone is a wellness chef who expertly prepares all the dishes.  They chose two dishes from my blog and one new dish I created for the workshop and we prepared them together and I shared a little about myself.  Once I got going I was comfortable and I don’t think I fumbled!  The best part was interacting with the lovely audience.  They were so eager to learn and gave me to positive reinforcement I needed.

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I remember one older lady in particular.  She is living in the hospital and wheelchair bound. She is a regular at the ELLICSR kitchen.  She was the the first to arrive so she could get a prized front-row seat.  She is from India and was excited to talk about the spices we had on display. We made a Potato Radish Salad with a Tarka and she throughly enjoyed it because as she explained to me, she loves raw vegetables over cooked ones.  I’m sure she is over 80 years old and she told me about when she was a child in India.  She would accompany her mother weekly to the fruit and vegetable vendors – she would wait all week for this outing.  She loved all the fresh vegetables and would be in awe of all the activity in the market.  There were other mothers and their children at the market, she told me.  They didn’t seem to enjoy the experience as much as she did.  She plucked fresh peas from the overflowing baskets and ate them raw.  She laughed when she said, “my mother used to call me a goat because I loved to graze on green vegetables like a goat and that I was definitely a goat in my previous life.”  I was amazed at how her memory was so vivid.  She talked about her mother as if she was still a child.  She took my email and told me when she goes home she will get in touch with me.  I hope I hear from her soon.

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Since that day, I decided I wanted to reach out more and hear more stories like this.  We all have something to share and we all have memories that will last for decades and need to passed on.  Just lend an ear and give someone some time and without expectation you can gain invaluable insight.

Back into the kitchen I went.  Cooking more and eating out less.  I recently started to make ricotta cheese at home.  So easy and so good.  I made this pasta because these are flavors I love – sweet corn, fruity red chilies, fresh basil, and creamy ricotta.  It’s summer on a plate and the sunshine colors make it all the more appealing.  Share it with friends or family and learn something new about each other.

Some quickly shot photos from the ELLICSR Kitchen Event:

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Sweet Corn, Red Chili Linguine with Fresh Ricotta and Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients

linguine, or pasta of your choice

olive oil

sea salt

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

3 mild red chilies, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilies (red chili flakes), optional

2 cups fresh shucked corn, or frozen kernels

fresh ricotta, for serving I used this recipe.

fresh basil leaves in a chiffonade

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Method

In a large sauté pan heat about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-low heat.  Add in the sliced garlic and the fresh red chilies.  Allow them to caramelize and almost confit for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile cook the linguine according to the package instructions and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Add in the crushed red chilies with the garlic and red chilies, if you are using.

Turn the heat up to medium and add in the corn.  Cook the corn for about 5-7 minutes.  Season with salt, to taste and add in the heavy cream and parsley.  Toss in the linguine and add 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid and sauté until it all comes together, about 1-2 minutes.  Add in more pasta cooking liquid, if necessary.  Serve hot and top with a dollop of fresh ricotta and the basil leaves in chiffonade.

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I really need to get back to healthy cooking.  But who wants to read a blog post about some calorie-free dish of blah?  Not me for sure.  I “ooooh and ahhh” when something is decadent and rich.  This quiche is both of those things.  I went through a phase where I would not touch eggs, they would just gross me out.  I think it had to do with the smell of the yolk, something I still have not come to terms with.  Now, I like omelets, quiches, and the like but will not touch a runny yolked egg.  I know, I know, culinary faux pas on my part, but let me have one.  Otherwise, I am not picky at all.

The story of this quiche comes from my grocery trip last week.  I picked up leeks with no inkling of what I would make out of them; a soup was the most obvious thing that came to my mind.  But then again, I thought, “Boring!”  So I sifted through my cookbooks hoping to find the perfect leek tart recipe.  Not much luck.  Booooo.  Then I went to Google and typed Leek and Mushroom Tart and I was led to Deb (whose site I love) from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Leek and Mushroom Quiche and alas I had some inspiration.  I used her recipe as a starting point and wanted to add my own flair to it clean out my fridge.

I used a mish mash of cheeses, sour cream, light cream, herbs and the outcome was good!  My husband rolled his eyes at me when I said I am making a Leek and Mushroom quiche for dinner, probably because he knew he was going to have be vegetarian tonight.

*Oh!  Don’t worry about the dough, if I can do it you CAN do it too.  Plus, I don’t even have a rolling pin and used a glass to roll out the dough.  (I know, I can spend on other things but I’m stingy when it comes to a rolling pin, only God knows why, :))  It was simple to make, probably because I have a food processor, if not the story would probably be a rant furthering my hate for dough making.  Fortunately, I succeeded!  But, if it’s easier for you do get a pre-made pie crust or use puff pastry.

Empty out the Fridge Quiche

Inspired and Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Leek and Mushroom Quiche

Tart Crust from Martha Stewart and Baking Technique from Joy of Baking (Makes 2 crusts, so halve the recipe or save the other crust for later)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tart crust rolled out in a 9 inch pan and pre half-baked

2 cups chopped leeks, rinsed thoroughly

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, I used half shiitake and half baby bella

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sprigs of thyme

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

3 large eggs

1/3 cup low-fat sour cream

1/4 light cream or milk

1 cup grated cheese of your choice, I used a mixture goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, and manchego

1/2 chopped baby spinach

1/2 cup chopped baby arugula

1/4 cup chopped parlsey

12 sprigs of chives, chopped

Method

Caramelize the leeks and mushrooms with salt, black pepper, and thyme in the olive oil on medium low heat for about 20 minutes and allow to cool slightly, discard the thyme stems.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium sized bowl crack the eggs and whisk.   Add the sour cream, light cream, cheeses, baby spinach, baby arugula, parsley, and chives.  Next, add the cooled leeks and mushrooms.  Add extra salt and black pepper if necessary.  Pour the egg mixture into the pre half-baked tart crust.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, do not serve it right out of the oven, it tastes better warm.  I served it with a mixed green salad like on Smitten Kitchen, and with a dijon vinaigrette.

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I have loved artichoke dip since I was a child.  This is because one of our dear family friends, Marjorie Aunty is a great cook and artichoke dip is one of her many specialities.  This dip is so delicious that you just can’t help but say, “MMMmmmmmMMMMMmmmm.”  I usually make it when I have company over.  I let the guests eat it and when they are gone, (if there is any left) I reheat it and eat it by myself in peace!  It is SO good that you would want to sneakily eat it like a guilty pleasure.  It’s salty and creamy and tangy and oh so fattening.

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I use Hellman’s Half the Fat Mayo in this dip and it still tastes sinful.  But, if I feel like really indulging I use full-fat mayo.  Some like to add spinach in their artichoke dip but I feel the spinach just washes out the flavor of the artichoke.  I add jalapenos for an added kick, I leave the seeds in but remove them if you want a milder dip.  I opt for marinated artichokes because they tangier and contrast quite well with the smoothness of the mayo, sour cream, and cheese.  This dip requires no effort and is ideal as an appetizer for last minute guests.  Bake it and forget about it!

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Artichoke Jalapeno Dip

Serves 5 (as an appetizer)

Use Real Butter’s Version is here.

Ingredients

1  6 ounce jar of marinated artichokes (separate from oil and vinegar marinade), roughly chopped

1/2 cup half the fat mayo (if you want, use full-fat, more power to you!)

1/2 cup light sour cream (same as above regarding full-fat)

8 medium sized balls of fresh mozzerella IMG_8212

1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

1/2 cup  grated Swiss or gruyere cheese

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 jalapeno, diced (seeded if you want it milder)

6-7 chives chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter to dab over bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the mayo, sour cream, the three cheeses, garlic, jalapenos, chives, salt, and pepper in a medium size bowl.  Transfer to a baking dish mine was 5 by 8.  Sprinkle on the bread crumbs and dab the top with butter.  Bake for 25 minutes then switch the heat to broil for about 5 minutes or until the top gets golden brown and bubbly, ooey gooey, and yum!  Let the dip settle for about 10 minutes, otherwise it will be scalding hot.  Serve with water crackers, baguette, or tortilla chips.

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You could easily step into your grocery store and grab a bottle of “Classico”, heat it up and toss it with pasta.  Sure, we get lazy, sure we don’t feel like cooking every day.  But, making a fresh tomato sauce is almost as easy as opening up a bottle of jarred sauce, and the taste has no comparison.  I know a traditional tomato sauce consists of a mirepoix of carrots, celery, and onions.  To me, a simpler sauce without the onions,carrots, and celery tastes almost like perfection.  I use shallots, garlic, and thyme infused garlic-chili oil inspired by Ina Garten as my base.  The shallots are sweeter and smoother, giving the sauce a softer taste.  The herb infused oil gives the sauce extra boldness and rounds out the flavors.

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Of course, fresh tomatoes are the best.  However, even with all the organic, pesticide-free, heirloom, local varieties of tomatoes available to us here in America, the taste is just not the same as San Marzano tomatoes.  I am a firm believer in eating local whenever possible, but until I find a suitable tomato for sauce I will stick to canned San Marzano tomatoes.  They are becoming more and more common.  Chefs on Food Network always mention them and even budget conscious cooks are embracing them. During an undergraduate spring break, I travelled to Italy, and to this day I remember how sweet and delicious Italian tomatoes are.

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My recipe is simple, the longer it simmers the better.  But, if you don’t have 4 hours to simmer your sauce, an hour should be just fine.  I like to keep the sauce simple.  I sometimes opt to add ricotta cheese to the sauce to give it a little more smoothness, but this is entirely optional and non-traditional.

Tomato Sauce:

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

a glug of extra-virgin olive oil (about 4 tablespoons)

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilis (or to taste)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

3 shallots, chopped

1 bay leaf

2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

a 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano Tomatoes, slightly pureed (if they are not available to you then use the best quality canned tomatoes you can source)

2 heaping tablespoons ricotta cheeseIMG_7916

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano for garnish

fresh torn basil leaves

Method:

Prepare the herb-garlic infused oil by taking a small sauce saucepan on medium heat and adding the olive oil to it.  Let the oil heat up slightly and next add the crushed red chilies and allow to infuse the oil for 30 seconds, next add in the thyme and garlic and allow them to settle in the oil for a minute.  Turn down the heat to low heat (almost medium) so that the garlic does not burn and turn bitter.  Let the flavors come together, about 15-20 minutes.  In a larger pot add the herb-garlic infused oil with the springs of thyme and allow to heat up at medium heat.  Next, add the shallots and the bay leaf allow the shallots to sweat.  When the shallots are translucent pour in the red wine vinegar and move the pot away form the heat.  The vinegar will be burning off, so this may irritate your eyes, use caution.  Once the vinegar steam has settled put in the tomatoes and salt into the pot.  Stir everything together and allow to simmer on low heat for about an hour.  After an hour or so, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Discard the bay leaf and any thyme stems left in the sauce.  Tear in fresh basil leaves and  mix the ricotta cheese into the sauce until combined.  Serve with any pasta of your choice and top with grated parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil leaves to garnish.

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This sauce can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, you name it.  It is a basic sauce that is quite versatile.  It be used in pastas, for dipping, on pizza, as a base for tomato soup, in eggplant/chicken/veal parmesan and the list could go on and on.  You can add olives, ground meat, vegetables, or whatever you fancy!