Archives for posts with tag: ricotta

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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’ve totally lost touch with my blog.  I’ve been trying to write a post for ages, but something was stopping me.  I have no idea what it was, but I put my foot down finally and decided I really want to resume my posts.  They are fun for me and I love the interaction with all of you!  I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but my resolution this year is to get back into blogging and stop making excuses about why I’m not, because there’s no valid reason except my own laziness.  I’m so silly, I will buy things thinking I’ll use them for my blog and they sit untouched.  I’m sure some of you with blogs know what I’m talking about.

I didn’t really fall off the wagon from cooking, but I haven’t been as enthusiastic about it as I used to be.  It’s slowly coming back and I’m ready to start up again.  Maybe it’s the winter – winter blues, I guess.  I know there’s lots to cook during the winter, but until recently I was totally uninspired.  Summer produce and colors inspire me.  This is probably also probably why I’ve been thinking once my husband is done residency we NEED to move somewhere warm.  It’s been on my mind for a few weeks now.  I’m craving sun and warmth.

Despite my love for summer, I do have a few winter produce favorites.  Most notable are beets.  I almost always have them on-hand.  Must have something to do with the color, I suspect.  As I’ve said before I’m a sucker for vibrant colors.  To the same effect, I buy watermelon radishes ALL THE TIME, not because I love thetaste, but more that I love the way they look.  For this dish there were no watermelon radishes, unfortunately.  But this tart is good with whatever you have on hand: mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions – you name it.  I used to be daunted by making dough, but now I’ve formulated my own proportions and it works every time like a charm.  This sort of tart is one of my go-to dishes.  Although it does take some time, it is by no means difficult to make.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Tart

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

for the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, frozen

up to 1/4 cup ice water

filling:

6 ounces goat cheese, softened

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

salt and black pepper, to taste

for top:

2 golden beets

2 carrots

1/4 cup chopped parsley and chives, or any herbs of your choice, for garnish

Method

Roast the beets in the oven (at 350 degrees) in a foil pouch on a baking tray drizzled with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for 45 minutes or until cooked.  At the 30 minute mark add in the  whole carrots, also tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Once cooked, slice the beets and carrots into thin slices.

To make the tart dough: in a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until they turn into a fine grind, add in the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined.  Grate the frozen butter and add it to the flour.  Pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized clumps.  Next, through the top, stream in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.  Once the dough comes together, cover it in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour.  After the dough has chilled, roll it out and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and blind bake (cover it with foil and use pie weights or dried beans to weigh down the crust, so that it doesn’t puff up while baking) it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

For the filling: whisk the goat cheese, ricotta, and egg together.  Add in the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Pour it into the partially baked crust and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  After 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and arrange the cut beets and carrots over the goat cheese and ricotta and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and chives, or any herb of your choice.  You can also sprinkle the final product with some flaky sea salt and drizzle with olive oil, if you like.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Figs are absolutely gorgeous.  When I cut into some fruits, I’m in awe.  The colors the textures, the perfect contrast in tones and shades make me *swoon*.  Take a kiwi fruit for example, that lime green color and the black seeds are beautiful.  The same goes for figs.  I cut one of those babies in half and I stare at it and revel in its beauty like it were a real baby.  Maybe I’ve got issues, but I’m all about the appearance of the food I eat.  I love it when food is so well presented that it s a feast for the eyes.  If you know me, you know I go absolutely gaga for jewel-tones.  This probably relates to my love of figs, that deep, dark purple is one of my all-time favorites.

I just remembered that every time my husband and I walk by this new gelato place that is about to open, I gush about how I love the sign.  I go on and on about how it’s so my style (because nothing in this town is my style hehe).  Mind you, the sign only says “mia’s gelato” and I rave about it for a block until my husband says, “get over it!!!”  The reasons I adore that sign are because the font is modern, in all lowercase and the colors work so well together.

I just mentioned the sign to strengthen my point about beautiful colors.  Strengthening arguments: a very useful skill picked up in Grad school *insert sarcastic smiley here.*  (Don’t get me wrong, Grad school is great but there are some things about it, I will never understand).

Anyway, the puff pastry is savory and sweet.  I think I started this recipe with an idea for something more savory, but along the way it turned into a dessert.  Oh well, that is what happens when you don’t use a recipe and just wing it.  Regardless, when I took a bite, it was nice and warm.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the flavors in it.  They worked together even though I was skeptical about the combination I had come up with.  The chevre I used was so mellow that it did not overpower the other delicate flavors.  The honey and brown sugar caramelized beautifully and resulted in a nutty and sweet taste.  The thyme also melded beautifully in unison with all the other ingredients, creating a lemony perfume throughout.  The fruits, oh yes the fruits, figs and strawberries were warm and rich in flavor.  I’m sure everyone loves puff pastry, how could you not, so flaky and buttery and the perfect vehicle for just about anything, yum.

I admit, this dish is a little more work than most of my recipes, but it is definitely worth it for a special occasion.  You can also substitute the figs or strawberries with other fruits, you switch the cheeses I used with mascarpone cheese.  It is so versatile, make it your own or try it this way.  Either way, it’ll be tasty.

Sweet and Savory Fig and Strawberry Puff Pastry

Serves 6

Ingredients

7 ounces of puff pastry, rolled into an 8″ by 10″ rectangle

15 strawberries, sliced

15 figs, sliced

honey, for drizzling

2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more depending on how sweet your fruit is

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from sprig

2 tablespoons on butter cut into small pieces

for the chevre/ricotta base:

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 1/2 ounces mild chevre, softened at room temperature

1 tablespoon fig white balsamic vinegar (or plain white balsamic or white wine vinegar)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

fleur de sel, to taste

black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor pulse together all the ingredients for the ricotta/chevre base until smooth.  (Or mix together by hand in a bowl).  Next, place the rolled out puff pastry on a cookie sheet and spread the cheese mixture on top evenly, all the way to the edges.  Then, assemble the fruit in an attractive pattern.  I did two rows of figs and two rows of strawberries on the diagonal.  When the fruit is placed on the puff pastry, sprinkle it with the brown sugar, pine nuts, and thyme.  Drizzle the honey on top and dot on pieces of butter all over the pastry.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey, if desired.

I am pretty sure pizza takeout places are buzzing on Fridays.  I must admit, when I am too lazy to cook, I have picked up the phone and placed an order for a processed cheese and squishy vegetable pizza.  There are not any great takeout pizza places where I live, so I find it to be a better option to make my own.

My family has been doing this for ages.  Making three or four pizzas at a time and devouring them all.  In high school, my friend’s mom also made great pizzas every week.  It is a family tradition for many of us.  Pizza can be doctored up in so many ways, that anyone can find something they like.  Pizza is a unifier for us all.  Who thought pizza could hold such a deep place for humans?  Sarcasm aside and in simpler words, everyone loves pizza!

There are no hard and fast rules to making pizza.  I usually use a whole wheat crust, (this time I got one from my local bakery) but feel free to use white, gluten-free, or herbed.  It is not that hard to make pizza crust and it is worth it.  Bread/Dough, of course is another common ground for all human beings.

Toppings are endless.  I am definitely a toppings girl.  I can never decide what I am in the mood for.  There are so many decisions to make and if you know me, you know how indecisive I am, especially when it comes to food.  This is probably because I want everything but ultimately I have to toughen up and make a decision. This time my refrigerator dictated what the outcome would be.  Instead of tomato sauce, I used ricotta cheese.  In the summertime, I like to make a simple Neapolitan style pizza, but in the winter I like the heartier ricotta.  If any New Englanders know about Papa Gino’s, you may remember their 3 cheese (or was it 4 cheese) pizza that had dollops of ricotta on it.  I used to love this pizza as a child.  I wish my inspiration for the ricotta came from a more sophisticated source, but alas it was good ole Papa Gino’s.

Pizza with Herbed Ricotta

Serves 3-4

Pizza dough

1/2 a bell pepper (any color you prefer) cut into small strips

3-4 stalks of asparagus cut on an angle

1/2 a zucchini, thinly sliced

1 onion, caramelized (sauté onion in a little olive oil on medium-low heat, add salt, pepper, 2 sprigs of thyme, crushed red chilies, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and allow to caramelize for about 15 minutes)

1/2 cup whole Kalamata olives, pits removed

3-4 cloves roasted garlic, optional

fresh mozzarella cheese or buffalo mozzarella, as much as you like

parmigiano regginao, as much as you like

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

crushed red chilies for garnish

For the ricotta mixture:

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup baby arugula

15 sprigs fresh chives

salt, to taste

black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out your dough onto a large baking sheet (round or rectangular).  If you have a pizza stone you may use that as well.

For the ricotta mixture, pulse all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth or mix and combine in a bowl but in this case, chop the herbs finer.

Spread the ricotta over the dough and top with the vegetable and cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is cooked and the cheese starts to get bubbly.  If you wish, garnish with the parsley and crushed red chilies.