Category Archives: Cheese

Asparagus Ricotta Galette

BakedOnce local asparagus shows up, you know that flip flops and a chilled glass of rosé can’t be too far behind. This tart is a splendid way to showcase asparagus, Post-Asparagus Stinky-Urine Disorder, be damned.one sliceMild, milky ricotta is the ideal partner for asparagus. They complement each other perfectly. Ricotta can be a bit bland, so I added  lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes to ramp up the flavour. Some grated Gruyere cheese and a beaten egg add some heft to the filling.

For the dough, I decided to use Kim Boyce’s Rustic Rye Dough, from her book Good to the Grain. The hearty rye dough stands up quite well against asparagus’ strong flavour.

This dough takes a bit of time and needs several hours to chill. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, I think that this tart would still be very delicious using my go-to simple Galette Dough.making rye dough 1Rye flour, all purpose flour sugar and salt are sifted. Cold butter is worked in with your hands. Ice water and cider vinegar bring it all together.making rye dough 2Once the dough comes together, let it rest in the fridge for about an hour, then roll it into a rectangle, and fold the rectangle into thirds, like a letter. This is similar to the process of making puff pastry. The dough gets rolled and folded two more times and is then chilled for an additional hour. You can make the dough and the filling components a day ahead and then just assemble and bake before you are ready to eat. making rye dough 3making rye dough 4I decided to roll the dough into a rectangular shaped tart, but feel free to to roll it into a circle. I have a strong aesthetic sense and I prefer the linear way the asparagus line up in a rectangular tart.

To punch up the flavour profile even more, I spread the tart with a pistachio pesto (recipe from Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook.)  Whole grain dijon mustard or a jarred basil pesto would  be good substitutes.Spreading pistachio pestoSpreading ricotta fillingThe border of the tart just gets folded over the filling. No need to be too precise or precious about it. It’s supposed to be rustic. galette ready for ovengalette cut upThis would be great as a light lunch or dinner, or cut up into smaller squares and served for aperitivo with a freezing cold glass of Prosecco, on the dock. (I have big plans for this tart!)3 plates

Click here to print recipe for Aspsaragus and Ricotta Galette.

Click here to print recipe for Rustic Rye Dough or here to print recipe for Galette Dough.

galette with a glass of wine

Mexican Frittata

cooled and ready to cutI struggled with what to call this dish. To give you a better idea of what I created, try to imagine if Shakshuka and Nachos were to hook up. This dish would be their love child.

I first had Shakshuka a few years ago in Israel. It is essentially eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. My husband loved it and kept asking me to recreate it at home. While I loved the classic rendition, I couldn’t resist tampering with it. Ingredients for sauceI began with the usual base for a Shakshuka sauce; canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and sweet peppers. I took a page from Mexican sauces and added a few dried chile peppers. I used an ancho and a guajillo pepper. Dried peppers add a depth of flavour you just can’t get from chile powder. Here is a great primer if you want to learn more about cooking with dried peppers. Many of the more popular dried peppers are not that spicy, so don’t be afraid. I added corn to my sauce because corn makes everything better.cheesesI knew that I wanted to top the dish with cheese, because, Nachos need cheese. I settled on a mix of cheddar, Monterey Jack and Queso Fresco, a mild cow’s milk cheese. If you can’t find it, Ricotta Salata would be a good substitute, or just use extra cheddar and Monterey Jack.

Rather than fooling with poached or fried eggs, I decided to make it easy and use scrambled eggs. Inspired by matzoh brei (fried matzoh), I briefly mixed the tortilla chips with the eggs, before pouring them over the tomato sauce. I added some chopped pickled jalapeños to the eggs for a bright bit of heat. ready for oveneggs and tortillasready to assembleready for ovenI served it with black beans, salsa and sour cream. Diced avocados or some guacamole would also be very welcome at this fiesta. ready to eat

Click here to print recipe for Mexican Frittata.

have a slice 2have a slice 1

Grilled Zucchini Halloumi Chickpea Salad

plated 3 FWe’re not big on celebrating the “Hallmark Card Holidays” in our house. Valentines Day is just an excuse for me to bake, blog about and then gorge on photo shoot leftovers of gorgeous heart shaped cookies like these, or these or especially these!! Not that I really need a holiday excuse to bake cookies.

Mother’s and Father’s Day are customarily observed with the perfunctory card and a big hug. So imagine my surprise this year when each of my 3 children, totally independant of each other, presented me with gifts. Two days before, my youngest son gave me a delicate sterling silver chain bracelet. On Mother’s Day my oldest son handed me an impeccably wrapped and ribboned box that contained an elegant hand blown glass pitcher with a flavour infuser in the center. And then, 6 weeks after Mother’s Day, my middle child, (my daughter), left a fitbit on my desk.

My first thought was that my husband told the kids he was leaving me for a younger faster version and hadn’t gotten around to telling me yet. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I was dying and no one had the guts to break the news to me. But no, the husband vowed he was in it for the long haul and I felt perfectly healthy. Turns out, they just wanted to show me how much they love and appreciate me. Awww. Sweet!!

Guzzling mint-strawberry-cucumber flavoured water and wearing the fitbit make me believe I am healthier already. I decided to go with the flow and assembled this healthy, insanely delicious salad I discovered in the June 2014 issue of Chatelaine magazine.

Already armed with some gorgeous local zucchini, I was prepared. zucchiniI sliced the fatter zucchini on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick planks. The little ones I just sliced in half, lengthwise. slicing green zucchini on diagonalA package of Halloumi cheese gets sliced into 1/2 inch planks as well. slicing halloumiI whisked together a dressing with white wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.lemon juice FEverything gets treated to a generous glug of good olive oil, some Kosher salt and pepper (no salt for the cheese!, it’s salty enough already.) The zucchini get grilled until deeply golden brown. I pan fried the halloumi since it can stick to the grill. A can of chickpeas and some fresh mint and parsley and lunch is ready. plated 4FI think that eating raw zucchini is about as pleasant and flavourful as chewing a sponge. But bathe it in olive oil, salt and pepper and let it get grill kissed and something magical happens to the taste and texture. It becomes silky in texture and almost meaty in substance. And if you have never had fried halloumi cheese before, well, let’s just say you are in for a real treat. It is salty, slightly rubbery and squidgey. While that may not sound like the most appetizing description, trust me, it is delicious. It sort of squeaks between your teeth when you chew it and it is very addictive. plated 2F 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Zucchini Halloumi Chickpea Salad.

Summer Crostini

There are times when you feel like being culinarily creative and making beautiful lunches like these for weekend cottage guests.

And there are times when you don’t feel like moving from here:

and want to suggest to those guests that they just help themselves to a peanut butter and sour cherry jam sandwich!

Happily there are several options in between these two. Option #1, and my personal favourite, is when weekend guests are invited and invariably ask what they can bring, suggest “lunch for Saturday.” When my mother heard that I do this on a regular basis, she was horrified. Had she not raised me to be a gracious host?

Actually, I think that people feel happy to contribute when being invited for the weekend (or longer, and those to whom I am referring, know exactly who you are!) And truthfully, it’s not the cooking that I mind. It’s the planning and figuring out what to make that takes up so much mental energy. So it’s nice to let someone else figure it all out and just show up at the table and be surprised. However, there is a caveat here. Make sure that your friends are comfortable in the kitchen and possess a basic skill set for preparing  meals.

I have one friend who used to use up every dish, pot and utensil when she prepared her meals. We would eat brunch at 2 in the afternoon. They were exquisite brunches but way too much for a cottage. Happily, she has gotten into the swing of things and now prepares perfect meals without destroying the kitchen. This friend is in fact, so comfortable in my kitchen and knows exactly where everything goes, that she and my husband joke that in the event of my demise, she will just slip seamlessly into place and become the woman of the house. Truthfully, all my friends are wonderful cooks and I love having them take over my kitchen.

Another friend makes sure we always have enough wine and her salads and salad dressings are so creative and inspiring. Did you ever notice how much better salad tastes when someone else makes it?

One friend takes her responsibility so seriously that she begins researching the meal she will prepare as soon as we settle on a weekend. She is an extremely accomplished cook and last year we feasted on Peruvian Grilled Chicken, Chile Roasted Sweet Potatoes and a 7 Layer Coconut Cake for our Saturday night dinner. Her husband is a skilled mixologist and she just told me he has perfected the Negroni, so I am looking forward to sampling that when they come to visit in August.

Option # 2, if you just aren’t comfortable turning over your kitchen, or have control issues or whatever, is to cook on auto-pilot. Perfect one special lunch and just make it every weekend, for the rotation of guests that turn up. If you have different guests every weekend they won’t know that you do this and you will look perfectly at ease turning out a wonderful lunch.

Here is my auto-pilot lunch that got its test spin last weekend, to rave reviews, I may add. These crostinis  will be appearing on the menu every Saturday for the next 8 weeks!

These crostini were featured in an article in the June 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. I have adapted them slightly. The first one features ripe peaches, ricotta and honey. I made Homemade Ricotta Cheese, but feel free to use store-bought. Just don’t try making this with less than perfectly ripe peaches. Although the peaches I bought were not yet local, they were the “tree ripened” variety, and after a few days on the kitchen counter, they smelled like peaches.

The finished crostini get a drizzle of honey just before serving.

The second crostini has a base of feta, sour cream and pickled jalapenos. It is topped with grilled corn, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. For these I used a multi-grain baguette and rubbed the  grilled bread slices with a garlic clove.

I set out all the prepared ingredients on trays and let everyone assemble their own. Much easier and way more fun. There are so many excellent quality Artisan breads available in supermarkets now. Have fun with your choices but be sure you slice the bread thinly (less than 1/2 an inch thick). You want the toppings to be the star, not the bread.

Click here to print the recipe for Peach and Ricotta Crostini.

Click here to print the recipe for Grilled Corn Crostini

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

 

The other day I told my husband I was planning to make my own ricotta cheese. He looked at me like I was from another planet and said, “why?” As in why bother making it when you can buy it? I would have asked the same question 2 weeks ago, but recently, on a trip to South Beach with my daughter and two of her friends, I had dinner at Michael’s Genuine in Miami. One of the appetizers we ordered was homemade fresh ricotta cheese, served on toasted baguette slices with a dollop of blueberry jam. The slightly salty, creamy ricotta contrasted so beautifully with the sweetness of the blueberry jam.  Since my first bite, I have become obsessed with learning how to make my own ricotta. Fresh ricotta has a rich and milky sweet taste and moist texture. Most ricotta from the supermarket is made with gums or stabilizers to prevent the ricotta from weeping. These additions often make for a gummy and grainy ricotta.

Unfortunately we gobbled it all up before I had a chance to take a picture of it. I did manage to take a picture of the tomato display and our wood fired oven pizza (caramelized onions and mushrooms). One of the chefs came over when he saw me shooting the tomatoes and told me very proudly that they were all local, from Homestead Florida. They are passionate about everything to do with food-from the growing and harvesting, to the preparation, serving, and eating. The menu changes daily because they start with what’s in season and arriving on their doorstep from local farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and artisans.

Once I got home, I looked up fresh ricotta on the Cook’s Illustrated web site and sure enough, there were detailed instructions showing me exactly what to do. All you need is whole milk, lemon juice and salt.

The milk is combined with the salt and then heated to 185ºF. Take it off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. At that point you should see curds beginning to form. Let it sit for another 20 minutes and then spoon off the curds and discard the whey. Just like Little Miss Muffet. I am always so awed by chemical reactions like this. Basically the acid in the lemon juice and the heat cause the proteins in the milk to clump together forming curds that separate from liquid whey. I was quite blown away at how easy this was to make.

 

To print the recipe for Fresh Ricotta, click here.

There are a million different ways you can use up your ricotta. That night I sautéed some shallots and garlic and whisked in ricotta, milk and pecorino romano cheese. I mixed it with some whole wheat penne and green peas. It was quite yummy. It would be great on pizza, in lasagna, or even in cheesecake. Check out this chowhound link  for lots of other great ideas.

To print the recipe for Penne with Ricotta and Peas, click here.

I had more of my ricotta for breakfast today, spread on rye toast, with a sprinkling of coarse salt and some Triple Berry Jam.