Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fresh cherry tart

Cherry season has arrived here in western New York and we have been enjoying them a lot! Of course, we love to eat them just they way they are... but sometimes we can't keep up and need to use some of the fruits in cooking, too. Since my husband graciously offered the pit the cherries if I wanted to make a tart with them, I agreed! This tart is very simple with few ingredients so it really hi-lights the tasty, fresh cherries.

Fresh cherry tart
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
about 1/4 cup sugar (unbleached)
juice and zest of half a lemon
about 1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
1 crust

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cherries, sugar, lemon, and tapioca into a medium bowl. Let sit while you make the crust (at least 15 minutes). Press the crust into the tart pan, making sure to get it up around all the sides. Add the filling to the crust. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust has turned golden brown and the filling is slightly bubbling. Let cool before serving to allow the filling to set.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lemon ricotta pancakes with berry sauce

These pancakes were one of the things I made with our homemade ricotta cheese. They were very light and fluffy and the ricotta gave them a nice texture. I adapted this recipe for these pancakes. I'm always looking for new pancakes to try and experimenting with new tastes and ingredients to make delicious pancakes. I thought that they would be a bit more lemony in flavor than they were. Next time I'll probably add a bit more lemon zest. The berry sauce was a nice compliment to these pancakes and something different rather than the usual maple syrup. The recipe will make about 3 servings.
 

Lemon ricotta pancakes
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients, reserving about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for the sauce. Gradually combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Heat a griddle and brush it with butter when hot. Use about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Flip when they begin to bubble and the underside is golden. Repeat until all batter is used.

berry sauce:
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened. Spoon on top of hot pancakes and serve.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roasted cream of mushroom soup

The abundance and variety of beautiful mushrooms at our local grocery store has been wonderful lately. As a kid, I disliked mushrooms... a lot! I could not stand them. But as an adult, I love mushrooms. I think it had a lot to do with the texture and that most of my mushroom exposure as a child was of the canned variety. My husband has begun learning how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms, too, which is awesome. This soup contained a variety of mushrooms - button, oyster, baby portabella, and trumpet. I just grabbed a whole bunch of whatever looked good.

Roasted cream of mushroom soup
about 2 lbs of mushrooms of your choice
1 medium to large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
4 cups of mushroom stock (or chicken stock)
about 1 cup water
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
about 1/4 to 1/3 cup half and half
sea salt and lots of fresh cracked black pepper
olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread the mushrooms, onion, and garlic evenly among 2 baking sheets. Cut larger mushrooms in half. Drizzle with olive oil and add some pepper. When the oven is hot, roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft and brown. In a soup pot, add the vegetables (squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin), stock, water, salt, pepper, thyme, and paprika. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Then turn off heat. Puree the soup to your desired consistency using an immersion blender (or by doing it in batches in a blender). After the soup is pureed, add the half and half until the soup reaches your desired creaminess. Return to heat and warm the soup until just hot (don't boil). Serve immediately topped with an extra sprinkle of paprika and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ricotta cheese

 
So I ordered a cheesemaking kit for mozzarella and ricotta from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company after reading about them in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which I loved, by the way). My kit came yesterday and so this afternoon I decided I would try the ricotta (which sounded less complicated as a first try). The below recipe is from the book that comes with their kit. 

I enlisted the assistance of my husband for this job (mostly for stirring). It was fun to make the cheese. We tasted it and it was really good. I'm sure I'll be posting some recipes in the near future that use ricotta now that we have a bunch to use. The recipe will make about 1.75 to 2 lbs of cheese. You will need a thermometer and cheesecloth to make the ricotta.

Ricotta cheese
1 gallon of whole milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized)
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon salt (the kit comes with a cheese salt)
 

Add all ingredients into a large stainless steel stock/soup pot and stir. Heat over medium heat, stirring often as to not scorch the milk.

 
Continue heating until the milk reaches 195 degrees (this took approximately 1 hour). The curds and whey will separate. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Line a colander with the cheesecloth and fit it into a large bowl or pot to drain the curds from the whey. Ladle the curds into the colander. 
  
Then tie your cloth into a "bag" shape and hang to drain for another 30 minutes, or until your desired consistency (I hung it on the knob of a cabinet and placed a bowl underneath to catch all the drippings). 

The ricotta is ready to be eaten or refrigerated until needed (up to one week).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peach-strawberry-raspberry pie

The other day I wanted to make a pie and just decided to use the combination of fruits I had on hand. The pie turned out really good -- not too sweet and a touch of sour/tartness. My experience with pies is quite limited; however, the more I make them, the more I like to do so. I had some frozen peaches as well as some frozen berries and fresh strawberries.
 

Peach-strawberry-raspberry pie
2 pie crust recipes
2-1/2 cups peach slices, fresh or frozen (thawed and well-drained)
1 cup halved/quartered (depending on size) strawberries, fresh or frozen, (thawed and well-drained)
1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and well-drained)
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of fresh grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small cubes

Mix all the filling ingredients except for the butter in a medium bowl. Let sit for about 15 minutes/while you make the crust. Fit one of the pie crusts into a 9-inch pie pan. Add the filling. Top with the small butter cubes. Then top with the second pie crust. I used cookie cutters to make flower and leaf shapes for the top crust. Or you can use the whole crust or make it into lattice strips - whatever you want to do.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake for about 25 minutes then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top turns golden and the filling bubbles a little. Let cool until the filling sets. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rhubarb bellinis

This refreshing beverage is great for a brunch on a lazy Sunday. I found this recipe in my copy of Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home which has a lot of rhubarb recipes. We bought what will probably be our last bunch of rhubarb for this season at the farmer's market yesterday. This was a treat for a warm and rainy day. Plus, we had them in our champagne glasses from a wedding shower we had last summer, which was nice. The recipe below will make enough for about four standard champagne glasses.

Rhubarb bellinis
2-3 stalks of fresh rhubarb, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
your favorite champagne or Prosecco

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the rhubarb is soft and then let cool. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. For a cooler drink, refrigerate until cool or set in the freezer for a few minutes. Divide into your glasses (a good spoonful in each glass) and top with your cold champagne. Stir and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thai green curry

Let me start by professing my absolute love for green curry. This was a staple for me when I was in Thailand a few years ago and just the smell makes me feel good. The store bought curry pastes just don't do it for me. This curry paste tasted more like what I had in Thailand than green curry I've had in local Thai restaurants here. The added bonus is that I found Thai basil at a nursery and planted it. It's doing great. I have never been able to find Thai basil, despite all the Asian markets we have around here. You can substitute regular basil, or just use all cilantro if you cannot find Thai basil. I researched a lot of recipes on-line and combined some of my favorites to come up with the recipe below. The recipe will make about one cup of curry paste. Depending on how much you use, you can refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for another time. I love the way curry combines hot, sweet, salty, and sour - it's wonderful.
 

Thai green curry paste
2 stalks of fresh lemongrass (lighter colored parts only, sliced)
1-3 Thai chilis (or other green chilis, sliced - remove seeds for a milder curry)
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
about two inches of fresh ginger, sliced
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 cup tightly packed Thai basil leaves and stems
about 3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
zest of one lime and juice of half the lime (reserve the rest for serving)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 can light coconut milk

In a dry skillet, lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Add the white pepper and stir. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle and grind them until powdered (alternatively, you can use pre-ground, but I would still lightly toast it).


In a food processor, add all the ingredients except the can of coconut milk. Combine on high until a paste is formed. Add a couple of spoonfuls of coconut milk to help combine, if needed.

After you have your lovely, fresh, and delicious paste, use it to make a curry dish. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and add the desired amount of curry paste to the pan (I used about 4 tablespoons and thought it was a good amount). Heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add whatever meat and/or vegetables you desire (I used chicken, oyster mushrooms, carrots, peas, and scallions). Add some low-sodium chicken stock (about 1-2 cups, enough to almost cover your meat/veg). Cook over low heat stirring occasionally. When the meat is cooked, add the rest of your coconut milk. Heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Taste the sauce and adjust as needed (you can always add more of the sweet, salty, sour, or hot). If it's too hot for you, add more stock or coconut milk.

Serve with jasmine rice, lime wedges, and cilantro/Thai basil as a garnish.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cheese and onion salad with a creamy chive dressing

As the weather continues to warm, I'm trying to incorporate at least one salad dinner into our week. This cheese and onion salad is a recipe from Jamie Oliver's cookbook Jamie at Home. I really enjoy this cookbook. It's full of seasonal recipes and beautiful photography. I changed the recipe slightly and, as I frequently do, bumped the quantities down for two people. As with other salads I've posted in the past, I don't really give a lot of quantities in the recipe though. This is because you can make a huge salad for a main dish or make this as a side or light lunch. All you really need to know is what goes in it!

Cheese and onion salad
1 small shallot (per salad), peeled and very thinly sliced
sea salt
red (or white) wine vinegar
romaine lettuce (or other crispy lettuce)
baby salad greens of your choice
blue cheese, crumbled
walnuts, lightly toasted

Place the shallots in a small bowl along with some salt and vinegar to cover the shallots. This will make a quick pickle. Let them marinade while you make the rest of the salad and dressing. Combine all of the lettuces, blue cheese, and walnuts on each salad plate. Then make the dressing as follows.

creamy chive dressing:
two parts creme fraiche
1 part red wine vinegar
dash of extra virgin olive oil
dash of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh chives, finely chopped

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Refrigerate until ready to serve (you may want to whisk it up again before using).

After at least 10 minutes (30 is better!), drain the shallots and give them a squeeze in your hands to remove all the extra liquid. Spread them out amongst your salads and top with the dressing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Puffed pear pancake with cinnamon-maple syrup

I wanted to try a new pancake this past weekend. I had a rapidly ripening pear that I needed to use up. I had never made a baked pancake before. When I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it! It didn't come out picture perfect, but it tasted great. I'll definitely be using this recipe again with other fruits in the future. I'm looking forward to making this during peach season.

Puffed pear pancake
3 eggs
3/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium ripe pear, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons butter
powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a 12-inch cast iron (or other oven-proof skillet) in the oven to warm. In a small bowl, toss the pear slices with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, and salt.

Remove (carefully!) the skillet from the oven and add the butter. Swirl it around until it melted and covering the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pears on the bottom and then pour in the batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffy and golden.

While it's baking, warm up some real maple syrup and add the remaining cinnamon mixture from the pear bowl to the syrup to make a warm cinnamon-maple syrup. Serve in wedges topped with the syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar, if desired.