Category: Ricotta

Ricotta Toast with Basil Egg for Breakfast

Ricotta Toast with Basil Egg for Breakfast

Food-Eggs-Ricotta Toast

A bit of a warm breakfast on a heat-soaked morning, but the cooking is minimal and the food is a fine change from summer yogurt and fresh fruit.  Make your coffee first because once you begin making this sweet little meal, it’ll need your undivided attention.  Use up some of those ever-ripening Minnesota –Indiana, Illinois, Aix-en-Provence, New Jersey– tomatoes. Just add a few ruby-red slices to your ricotta-slathered toast along with an egg and a little julienne basil, et voila, you’re at the table!  Here’s how:

ricotta toast with basil egg    1 serving (repeat for more)

                         Read through recipe before cooking. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta
  • kosher salt/fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 thin slices tomato
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons julienne basil
  1. Place oven rack 4 inches from broiler element.  Preheat broiler.
  2. Spread ricotta on bread, season with salt and pepper; place on baking sheet.
  3. Broil 2 minutes or until ricotta is warm. Remove from oven, top with tomatoes. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and broil again for one minute.
  4. While you’re broiling the bread, cheese, and tomatoes, heat oil or butter in a small skillet over medium high heat.  Add egg and cook until almost, but not totally done. Season egg with salt and pepper while it’s cooking. (Egg should be runny on top.)
  5. Add egg on top of the tomatoes and garnish with basil. Run under broiler briefly to finish cooking egg.
  6. Serve hot.

{printable recipe}

———–
dog days of august in saint paul, minnesota

Just for fun for dog days, here’s Tucker the Pup in 2010.

The heat we missed in early August when we had two weeks of temps in the 70’s arrived last weekend.  With temperatures pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and heat indexes way over that, Saint Paul folk — typically able to withstand any onslaught of cold or hot weather–are wilting. (It’s State Fair time, too.) People who never complain about the weather are just about “under the weather” over this last blast of wet-breathing miasma.  Those without air conditioning are leaving home in search of relief in friends’ homes or malls.  When Dave and I gave up even grilling the other night and headed to Scusi, our favorite across-the-street wine bar, we found that the poor restaurant cooling systems can’t keep up with it either, though they gave it a valiant try. (It was bearable.)  Of course, you have to figure there are pizza ovens, huge gas stoves, grills, and salamanders adding to the fray.  The dripping server brought our happy hour half-price pizza and salad with a wan grin, but was clearly unhappy to be running around in the typical waiter garb: long-sleeved white shirt, black slacks, and apron.  The rest of us had our muumuus on — or the male version thereof.

A great big boomer thunderstorm rolled in overnight and I awoke with hopes of a cooler, less humid morning—-no joy.  79 degrees F and a dewpoint of 73 at 7am when we walked the mile with the slower and slower dogs.  No hope in sight for days.  This is why, America, Minnesotans have cabins up north.  Just in case you wondered.  Going to the lake is a time-honored past time in northern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  I grew up going as often as my parents could get away and I’m sorely disappointed this morning that not one friend invited us up for this sweltering weekend.  We are considering holing up in a hotel with freezing central air, ordering room service, and watching sleazy movies Saturday and Sunday.  Or, as I told Dave, “Look and see how many miles we have.  Maybe we can fly somewhere cool.”
“And where would that be?” asked Dave.

I’m guessing we’re stuck in our basement with Netflix and a few cold beers or, if I’m lucky, lunch and an afternoon at Mall of America.  The only time we approach that place is when it’s 20 below zero and we can’t look at each other across the living room one more afternoon or when it’s 95 and I need a walk and red wine in the same afternoon.  I’m not sure we’ve ever bought anything there except maybe at Williams-Sonoma.  I do need some dishes, though.

In this heat I’m reading:  TRANSATLANTIC by Colum McCann ( new and lyrically written) and FAMILIES OF THE VINE: Seasons Among the Winemakers of Southwest France by Michael S. Sanders. Non-fiction that reads like fiction is Michael Sander’s forte-published in 2006, but I sadly missed it.  I adore Michael Sanders and this book is about one of my favorite grapes–Malbec or Cahors, as it’s known in France.  (French “Malbec” is usually a blend of grapes, however–Malbec, Merlot, and Tannat.)

And I’m listening to:  MUMFORD AND SONS–  2 albums:  Babel and Sigh No More.    As I prepare for choir to start, I’m listening, over and over again, to our first (one rehearsal) anthem–which is a ’96 rendition of the 23rd Psalm by Stuart Townend. No scooping, though!  Probably everyone’s sung it (we haven’t), but I adore anthems that congregations can participate in.   Too often, we only hear the 23rd at funerals.  Does anyone preach on it even when it’s in the lectionary?  Actually, I rarely hear anyone preach the psalms.  Pity.  I love the people’s song prayers. 

Help the hungry in Syria?

Like everyone else, I’m praying for peace in our world and food for the hungry–especially in Syria.  If you’d like to contribute–something very positive to do when we think we can do nothing–contact the World Food Programme.  They’re getting food to Syrians in-country as well as in the refugee areas.

Stay cool as you sing a new song,
Alyce

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

 Every summer, I get about half-way through and want…chili.  Pot Roast.  Lamb shanks.  I’m a bit perverse, I’m fond of saying.  I can’t wait for the first grilled chicken and tomato salads.  I’m nuts about burgers on the patio in May with zin.  But there comes a day when salad looks bleh (stick out tongue) and I don’t even much care about that long-awaited burger.  I want something  real.  I want pasta.  And I don’t want it in a restaurant.

So last year, in January (way ahead),  I experimented with a pasta dish that included grilled vegetables and sausage, but I still made a cooked sauce in a pot.  A lot of folks have been interested in that post,  so here’s a continuation…

I had the idea then to create a dish totally done on the grill--much fresher– and I’ve now tried it.  Even the pasta is cooked on the side burner, if you have one.  (If not, buy fresh pasta to cook indoors; it cooks much faster.)  I’ll amend that; Dave mostly tried it.  I designed, orchestrated, cheer leaded, made fresh cheese, and ate it up.  The only true heated cooking I did was to saute some garlic in the microwave and warm the milk to make cheese! (5 minutes)  Do you have to make cheese?  Of course not.  Buy ricotta–fresh if you can get it.  But I’d love it you made cheese.

I lately have been encouraging cooks to just try making an easy, quick fresh cheese.  There isn’t much simpler to do and the brief instructions are below.  I’ll also point out that if you need a lot of ricotta, this is the way to go; you’ll save a bunch of cash.  To purists, this isn’t true ricotta, which is made with all milk; here I add some yogurt.  My idea actually is a riff  (a mistake I made and liked) from a recipe created by dessert guru and Parisian blogger David Lebovitz.  See the original here.  (See my first attempts and info on how to make a firmer cheese here.)

Imagine pasta in the summer and no hot kitchen?   Try this:

grilled eggplant and sausage pasta made on the grill
           serves 4                 

 

 
directions:  (ingredients below)

1.  On the grill’s side burner (or on stove indoors):   bring to a boil a kettle of salted water with a couple of springs of fresh basil and several grinds of black pepper.  This takes a while outside, so start here.  When it boils, add 1# whole wheat linguine.  I like Whole Foods 365 brand; it’s luscious.  Cook until al dente — where your teeth are stopped just gently as you bite into it.  (Read package directions.)
2.  Heat oiled grill to medium heat and add 2 sliced unpeeled Japanese eggplant*, 2 sliced medium zucchini, and 2 large onions sliced.  Grill, watching closely, until nicely browned grill marks appear on one side  and turn.  Continue grilling until vegetables are almost tender.   Remove to a large pasta bowl or pot.  Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and toss.

3.  Grill 4 Italian sausages (buy locally made if you can), turning once or twice, until thoroughly cooked–about 6 minutes on each side.   Remove from grill, let rest a couple of minutes, and slice into rounds about 1/3″ thick. (Juices should run clear.)  Add to the pasta bowl with the vegetables and toss.
4.  Meantime, microwave two minced cloves of garlic with a little olive oil in microwave-safe container on high about 30 seconds.  (I use a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.)   Stir into the meat and vegetable mixture.  

5.  When pasta is done, drain well, and add to the meat and vegetables.  Add 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half.  Toss with 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil. (Cont’. below)

                                                 If you’d like to make your own cheese, here’s how:

In 2 qt saucepan, heat 2 c whole milk, 1 c plain yogurt, 1 t salt, 2t vinegar for a few minutes.  When curds form, pour the mixture through a colander or sieve lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth.

Let drain a few minutes.

Et voila…cheese for your pasta

Yum.

                                           

6.  Stir in 2 cups homemade or store-bought ricotta and 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. a pinch of crushed red pepper and stir well. Taste and re-season.  Serve hot or at room temperature with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.

    

*If using regular eggplant, choose one that’s 1 to 1 1/2 #, firm, with shiny dark purple skin. Unlike the Japanese eggplant, you’ll need to peel the larger one before grilling.
ingredients list
  • 1# whole wheat pasta (I like 365 Whole Foods brand)
  • sprig of basil for the pasta water, plus 1/4 cup shredded to finish dish 
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, unpeeled, and sliced (or 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ x 2″ pieces)
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/4″-1/2″ thick
  • 2 peeled onions, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • Canola oil to oil grill
  • 4 Italian sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided (a bit to cook garlic; the rest to toss with pasta toward end)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta, homemade or store-bought
  • crushed red pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Summers in Colorado are hot days and cool (sometimes cold) nights.   Wild lightning storms across huge skies.  Stacks of summer reading take me to Italy and beyond.

I adored this.

 Testing recipes for the soup cookbook keep me in the kitchen mornings before it’s too hot.

Grinding spices for the Red Lentil (vegetarian) I’m working on.  How do you spice your Red Lentil soup?

 Neighbors pop by for a drink on the porch or get together to watch a movie in a cool basement.  Friends come for supper to try the soups on the back deck.  So far, I like the Corned Beef-Potato with Irish Cheddar best.  But I’m far from done and even that one needs working on.

Last night off the back deck after the rain we both love and fear due to mudslides.

Giving up on corner grass…planting ajuga and a bit of sod.

Tuck’s fave pose here.

You’re where I want to be, Mom.

Leaving the robin’s nest on front porch light.  Too sweet.
Close-up:  She used our Russian sage.  A work of art by an animal.

Temporary herb garden outside the front door.

Our columbine in Colorado–chooses its own spot.  Illegal to pick.

Our front yard here in the Springs.

On the front walkway—wild yarrow and milk weed I’ve left.  I usually call this the “Primrose Path.”  But I’ve yet to plant primrose this year.

Bees and Russian Sage with my one pot of annuals that must be watered daily or twice-daily.

 Sing a new song,
Alyce

Women Game-Changers in Food- #33-Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer-Meatballs with Mint and Parsley

Women Game-Changers in Food- #33-Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer-Meatballs with Mint and Parsley

What if you wanted beautifully written recipes, tastefully conceived, and perfectly photographed–all from home cooks–for home cooks? What if you wanted those cooks to have worked professionally (catering, restaurants, magazines) and to have traveled the world so they could bring the best dishes back to you?

Order book here

Enter Canal House Cooking, La Dolce Vita,  #7  in a series of self-published  volumes from a multi-talented duo who have worked at food, cooking, and food writing/photography most of their lives.  After leaving behind the corporate publishing/food world in order to spend more time at or near their homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Melissa Hamilton (above, right) and Christopher Hirsheimer (above, left; she’s a she) began cooking together daily in a warehouse and keeping a record of it.   Out of that commitment comes this lovely, popular series of books that is their gift to those of us in the home-cooking “business.”   An article from WSJ tells the story more thoroughly here.

To really get to know these women a little more, watch an enchanting tiny video about them and their food in Italy (basis for the most recent book)….Here.
 

And, when you’re done reading and watching, it’s time to cook with Melissa, Christopher, and me….
So that you can spend more time at the table (who are you inviting?),  we’re making:

meatballs with mint and parsley    makes 24

  (Often served with broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes)
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
¼ pound prosciutto,  finely chopped
1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta (in the book or David Lebovitz’ version)
1 cup grated pecorino*
2 eggs
¼ cup packed finely chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup packed finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
 ½ whole nutmeg, grated
 Pepper
 ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
 ½ cup white wine
¾ cup heavy cream,
 optional salt
   1. Mix together the pork, veal, prosciutto, ricotta, pecorino, eggs, mint, parsley, nutmeg, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
   2.  Use a large soup spoon and scoop up about 2 ounces of the meat into your hand and roll into a ball.   
   3.  Make all the meatballs the same size so they will cook evenly. As you make them, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. You can do this a few hours ahead, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
   4.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs in batches, about 15 minutes per batch, using two forks to delicately turn them over so that they brown on all sides. Add more oil if needed. Transfer cooked meatballs to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
   5,  Increase the heat to high and deglaze the skillet with the wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add the cream, if using, and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens.
*Pecorino Romano is, most likely, the pecorino (hard, often gratable sheep’s cheese) available in most American grocery stores.  Milder and less expensive than Parmesan, it’s a happy addition to pasta or salads.

Cook’s Note: I made one meatball first and cooked it to test the seasoning; I had gone easy on the black pepper and had not added any salt at all.  My thought was to maintain the freshness/lightness of the meatball so that the herbs weren’t overwhelmed.  On tasting, I did add a bit more pepper and about 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  The rest of the batch was perfect.  You could do anything you typically do with meatballs with these, but I do think they’re special and complete all on their own.  I served them with broccolini sautéed in olive oil with crushed red peppers and slices of garlic thrown in the last 2-3 minutes.  We started with a little very simple green salad.

Here’s a bit of the easy journey in photographs:

                       More info if you’re interested……………

Just for fun, here’s a sample from the Canal House #7 book and their “on location work:”

We rented a farmhouse in Tuscany — a remote, rustic old stucco and stone house at the end of a gravel road, deep in the folds of vine-covered hills. It had a stone terrace with a long table for dinners outside, a grape arbor, and apple and fig trees loaded with fruit in the garden. There was no phone, TV or Internet service, just a record player and shelves and shelves of books. It had a spare, simple kitchen with a classic waist-high fireplace with a grill. It was all we had hoped for. It was our Casa Canale for a month.

Back in the states, Melissa and Christopher are eating lunch together every day as they take a break from cooking, working, and writing.  Read their blog that chronicles those noon-time meals. 

Listen to their interview on edible radio.

Want to cook more food from Canal House?  You can do it if you…. 
Check out our team of great bloggers writing about 50 Women Game-Changers in Food

Sue – The View from Great Island   
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan –
The Spice Garden              
Heather – girlichef
Miranda of
Mangoes and Chutney 
 Mary – One Perfect Bite
Barbara –
Movable Feasts              
Jeanette – Healthy Living
Linda –
Ciao Chow Linda              
Linda A – There and Back Again
Martha –
Lines from Linderhof       
Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits,
Veronica –
My Catholic Kitchen     
Annie Lovely Things
Nancy –
Picadillo                        
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook

Val – More Than Burnt Toast       
Joanne –
Eats Well With Others
~~~~~~~~~ 

If you liked this, you might like my Bacon-Caprese Salad with Fresh Cheese.

Make your own cheese!

or my subsequent post on Meatball Subs:

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood return soon…Woof from Gab and Tuck.

Sing  new song; dream a new dream,
Alyce

Food photos:  copyright Alyce Morgan, 2012.  Recipe, book and author photos courtesy Canal House. 

Ricotta, Chive, and Prosciutto Omelette-Donna Hay-50 Women Game-Changers in Food-#31

Ricotta, Chive, and Prosciutto Omelette-Donna Hay-50 Women Game-Changers in Food-#31

 

 Lydia Walshin (The Perfect Pantry) often has great recipe links on fb.  One day, she linked to a recipe for Stir-Fried Rice with Mushrooms from Jeanette’s Healthy Living.  Jeanette’s recipe came from the famous Chinese cook and cookbook author, Barbara Tropp, of whom I’m very fond.  The post title indicated the recipe was part of the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging effort.  Each week, bloggers from all over the country feature the recipes of one of the 50 Women Game-Changers from the Gourmet Live List published last May.  I had to get in on this thing and here I am the very next week, blogging down-under Donna Hay’s recipe for Ricotta, Chive, and Prosciutto Omelettes.  Thanks, fellow food bloggers, for the warm welcome.  I’m thrilled to be participating!
 

Donna Hay is Australia’s premier food editor and cookbook writer who began at the young age of 19 as a writer and food stylist.   By 25, she was the food editor for marie claire.  Since then, she’s published 18 award-winning cookbooks and now is the editor of the bi-monthly donna hay magazine with a circulation of nearly 400,000.  Donna also has a popular weekly food column in the Sunday editions of News Limited newspapers around Australia and The New Zealand Herald, reaching over seven million people each week. She is a regular contributor to UK’s leading lifestyle magazine, Living etc.  Click here for a list of Donna’s recipes and menus and here for the magazine’s ipad app.

Before I began this blogging adventure, I had downloaded the magazine app for my ipad, which I keep in the kitchen unless I’m traveling.  The easy-to-use format of this beautiful app sold me as much as did the pictures that told such clear stories.  While looking at food photos, the reader can click and choose between reading the recipe (including photo, ingredients list, and story/directions) and cook mode, which with just a push of the finger takes you from the first bit of instructions to the last, page by page.  Right now, from what I can see, there are just a couple of issues available free.  Keep an eye out for more.

My ipad with the donna hay mag at center. Screensaver: Colorado kitchen!
While not a great photo, you get the idea of how fun this is to use.

Let’s cook… 

In the pan with the egg ring.  Watch carefully to avoid burning.

This very quick, light meal consists of a souffle omelet (one in which the eggs are separated and the whites are whipped to peaks before the yolks are gently folded back in) with a tiny taste of salad –the spinach–and a bit of salty Italian ham for garnish and kick.  Two eggs truly make two servings here. If you’re on South Beach, this will cook with just a bit of adjustment.

 ricotta, chive, and prosciutto omelettes by donna hay

Just add Chardonnay.

                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Next up: #32  Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian

The gorgeous, intelligent locavores of the magazine world, Ryder and Topalian’s Edible series now numbers 60 editions, from Allegheny to WOW (southeast Michigan). And, despite the handicap of being free print mags, they actually make money!  (courtesy Gourmet Live)

Check out how the other bloggers are honoring the 50 Women Game-Changers:


Sue – The View from Great Island   
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan –
The Spice Garden              
Heather – girlichef
Miranda of
Mangoes and Chutney 
 Mary – One Perfect Bite
Barbara –
Movable Feasts              
Jeanette – Healthy Living
Linda –
Ciao Chow Linda              
Linda A – There and Back Again
Martha –
Lines from Linderhof       
Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits,
Veronica –
My Catholic Kitchen     
Annie Lovely Things
Nancy –
Picadillo                        
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook

Val – More Than Burnt Toast       
Joanne – Eats Well With Others

If you liked this recipe, you might like:

Herb-Spinach Egg White Omelet on the Dinner Place blog

 

How to make an omelet

Sing a new song, cook a new recipe….

Alyce  
All photos  by Alyce Morgan, copyright 2012-unless otherwise noted or obvious.
Donna Hay photo courtesy donna hay magazine.
Afternoon Open House

Afternoon Open House

Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)

An afternoon open house is the perfect party …  No main course.  Everyone’s gone by dinner time…  And folks show up because  other commitments are for evening.  Few dishes to wash.  Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal:  everything out and ready for guests to help themselves.  Your reward:  To be able to enter your own party!

Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen

A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail  or dinner party.  People come dressed comfortably.  Yes.

A festive few dishes and a candle or two.  Not much more needed.

Your best cookies,  a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-

Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts

Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches

 

Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.

All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party.  Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.

Something  filling for those who skipped lunch.  Here, a great tapenade.  Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find.  Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.

Spicy Tapenade with Crostini

Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler.  Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch.  There’s usually a discount if you buy a case.  Think ahead.

Cava and Cranberries.  Back-up bottles  all chilled in the frig.

 

Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.

 

David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix.  No Chex Mix needed.

Something crunchy is a must.  Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.

My take on  Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt..  I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year.  Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping.  Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.

Menu:

*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea.  The best cream you can find.  Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of  fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites.  Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and  Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts!   Salty, hot, and sweet pecans.  Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.

                                  Other Recipes

 Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts 
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced  (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
Garnishes:
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Rosemary sprigs 


Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended.  Taste and readjust seasoning.  If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary  Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers.  If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.

Spicy Tapenade  (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)

2 cups pitted mixed olives
3 anchovy fillets
2 small garlic cloves
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
Big handful of flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tiny pinch  ea kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Process all ingredients in food processor using steel blade.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Serve with crostini (Many people make this in the oven, but I am fond of grilling the bread on a large, stovetop grill if the weather is inclement.  Grilled crostini is luscious with salt and pepper, but none is needed here when serving with tapenade.)

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket,  going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport.    Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal.  Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct.  Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice!  Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.

We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service.  If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.

Christmas Day is a different story:

For years, I never even made Christmas dinner and I’m an avid cook.  By the time Christmas Eve services were done, I was done, too.  No one’s happier to see Christmas day arrive than a church musician.  A great meat tray and the perfect basket of croissants sounded good to me.  Maybe a big bowl of shrimp and sauce and fresh veggies.  But one year Dave began cooking on Christmas Day and that continues.  I do a mean pan of cinnamon rolls and stollen and and an egg casserole for brunch after presents and he’s in the kitchen the rest of the day often cooking up something out of Tyler Florence’s books. It’s a hoot for him to get me out of that kitchen and to just putter on his own.  No timetable.  I stay in my jammies and watch movies.
 
 
   
Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.
Christmas Day.  Toys, movies, the pups.
Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be  nothing in their stockings.

Maybe there are others with the same fears….

                                                                courtesy Share Our Strength

 

Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?

 

No Kid Hungry this Holiday Season

With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season.   Click here to donate.

John O’Donohue is fond of talking about “entering your own life,” but I love the idea of entering your own Christmas.  It’s time.

Merry Days to you!   Do the fun things.
Alyce

Golden Beet Ricotta Salad with Fresh Cherries and Carmelized Shallots or What’s in a Name?

Golden Beet Ricotta Salad with Fresh Cherries and Carmelized Shallots or What’s in a Name?

Could this have a better name?  How about “Delicious?”
 

I know.  This sounds like something off a froofroo menu, right?  I couldn’t think of another name for it that said what it was. When you’re naming a recipe, it must

  • catch the ear
  • catch the eye
  • represent the dish accurately in a thrice (or right away, you might say)
  • not be too long (ha)
  • end up in the right place in the index (or..today on google)

Of those things, the most important one for me is that you know what you’re making just by the name. There’s no sense being halfway through making something and saying, “Geez, this is full of walnuts!” with your jaw dropped.  On the other hand, I’m sometimes taken in by coy, cute, or gimmicky recipe titles like

  • Funny Bones
  • Babysitter’s Spaghetti Casserole (You can google either of the first two; they’re real.)
  • Chocolate Nut Heavens  (This one being my own; I held a contest for the name on fb.)

I mean, think of it.  Sally Lunn Cake.  Anadama Bread.  Brunswick Chicken.  Pagliacci’s Cheesecake. And I make those.  How about Anzac Biscuits?  Slippery Soup?

To say nothing of Pasta Puttanesca, Grandma Clark’s Soda Bread, Sabayon, Pavlova, Mother’s Pie, Ruffled Ham, Oysters Ernie, Rose D’s Mushroom Monterey, Hot Toddy, Chatham Artillery Punch, and so on.

Compare those to:

  • Chicken and Potatoes
  • Fried Clams with Tomato Sauce
  • Scallop and Artichoke Soup
  • Cheese Omelet

If you see “Chicken and Potatoes,” you know what you’re getting.  If you see “Mystery Soup,” in the index, it’ a mystery.  (Heat, mixing well, 2 cans beef broth and 1 8 oz package cream cheese.  —That’s the entire recipe from THE EASTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK.)

To some of us (who grew up in the mid west, for example)  Quahog Chowder sounds like something out of Star Trek.  We didn’t know from clams. We probably weren’t picking that name out of the index.

Two friends  this week kindly invited us to a  potluck for a group that typically meets once a month to try a new restaurant.  Somehow, backyards, mosquitoes, and vegetable gardens beckoned an outdoor summer gathering and a homemade potluck was the July event.  Because summer fruit is coming on and I love a reason to fix a big dessert, I brought (more than a) pound cake with sliced fresh peaches and homemade ginger ice cream.  (Ok, come over; I’ll make it for you, too.)  The cake, I kid you not, was called “Elvis Presley’s Favorite Cake.”  Would you have jumped to the conclusion that this was a regular old, if delish and huge, pound cake?

Elvis Presley’s Favorite Cake

The recipe’s on epicurious.com, and probably in other places as well.  And if your berries are in, get up early and make this baby.  Invite the neighbors; it’ll serve 12-14.

Ah, well–back to today’s salad with it’s apropos name.  A trip to the farmer’s market blessed us with a big mess of still-dirty greens, tiny zucchini, spring and summer onions, fresh garlic, golden and red beets, and the first of the string (green) beans and tomatoes.  Running into Whole Foods for a small Friday list, I came out with two pounds of cherries @ $2.99 per pound.  That’s $4 off per pound.  A bowl of shallots (still dirty in their skins, too)  I grabbed a couple of weeks ago from the downtown market caught my eye when I returned and that was the start of the salad.

dirty shallots

 

clean beets

Pencil for scale and memories.

I’ve just started making cheese this week after saying I’d do it forever.  That’s another post, but I’ll share one pic:

Just add great honey and black pepper.

Colorful, lovely, fresh foods simply yelled to be together last night.  Leftover whole milk whimpered, “Make more cheese.”  The result:

Golden Beet Ricotta Salad with Fresh Cherries and Carmelized Shallots 
serves 2-4 (2 as a main course, 4 for a first course)
    ingredients:

  • 6-8 cups fresh greens, chilled or not
  • 6 small-medium gold beets, roasted in the microwave*
  • 1/2 cup fresh, sweet cherries stemmed and pitted 
  • 6 small shallots, sliced and carmelized**
  • 1/2 c fresh ricotta (You can sometimes find fresh ricotta at a good cheese shop; it’s dear.  You can use regular store-bought or -last resort fresh goat cheese or  good cottage cheese- in a pinch.)
  • 1tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T crushed, toasted hazelnuts or almonds, optional

Dressing ingredients:  1T sherry vinegar, generous pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper, 1/2 t finely minced garlic, 1/2 t honey, 3T extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk (or use a fork) together all but olive oil.  Then drizzle in the oil one tablespoon at a time, making sure all of the oil is incorporated before adding the next tablespoon.   Two hints: Let the salt dissolve in the vinegar and don’t over beat the dressing.

directions:

  1. Make sure greens are clean and free of water.  Use a salad spinner if necessary.  I don’t mind room temperature greens, but you might like them chilled.  Place them in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle in cooked shallots and toss lightly with your hands.
  3. Scatter the beets evenly on top of the salad and mound the cherries in the center.
  4. Add 2-3 small scoops of fresh cheese around the cherries.
  5. Add orange rind and sprinkle lemon juice evenly.  Dust with salt and pepper, making sure each pile of cheese gets an extra smack of pepper,
  6. Add dressing to taste and toss quite well to distribute the soft cheese evenly.  Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
  7. Serve immediately.  Does not keep.  Eat it all!

*To “roast” beets in microwave:  Clean, scrub, and trim the roots off the beets, leaving about an inch of greens on each. Rub in a little olive oil over each beet.  Place beets in a microwave-safe casserole, cover, and cook on high for 10 minutes.  Carefully (HOT!) uncover and pierce with small, sharp knife to make sure they’re tender.  Let cool a few minutes and rub skins off with paper towels.  Slice off greens and a bit of the top of the beet and then slice into 1/4″ pieces.  copyright Alyce Morgan, 2011

**To carmelize shallots:  Peel shallots and slice thinly.  Place in a small-medium skillet with 1T olive oil and heat to low-medium low.  Let cook slowly 20-25 minutes until soft and browned.  Stir occasionally, but keep a good eye on them.  You don’t want them crispy or fried; turn down if you see that happening.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood:

We enjoyed the long Fourth of July weekend at home, working a bit on the house and yard, taking long walks, having a meal or two with friends, and generally breathing.  It’s too hot to do much cooking or baking except in the early morning, but we’ve been grilling (see my bbq bison ribs on examiner.com) or just cleaning, chopping, and eating.

Move over, Fred and Barney

 I’m working on music and practicing my conducting for a church job audition, which is a wonderful thing.  I covet your prayers there.  But I’m also spending some time on piano bar type music with vocals just for grins.  We have tickets to the Minnesota Symphony for Sunday night; it’s chamber music!  They have lovely summer programs that include coming early and having dinner on the plaza downtown.  Of course there’s live music for the meal, too.  Love that.

I’m reading THE PIANO TUNER by Daniel Mason (a bit late, I know) and also Diana Butler Bass’  A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY:  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY- a little late there, too, but my bedside table is always piled high. 

This week, our family room couch arrives on Tuesday.  Four months without a couch!  We did have a tv (though the regular one just got mounted last week), but had outside chairs or one borrowed rocker down there.  What a baby, but I’m so excited to do something like watch a movie!!  We’ll be all cozy for winter now.   We looked in six stores and all over the internet to find the ONLY couch (we did find one small sectional, too) that will fit down our stairway.  That’s the couch we bought.  Hundred-year-old houses.

Also this week is our 37th wedding anniversary and we’re taking a week and going to Devil Track Lake, where we’ve rented a house and will paddle around the lake with the doggies.  Can’t wait.  Devil Track is just west of Lake Superior, off the north shore near Grand Marais.  I’m working on how to take a week’s worth of groceries in one cooler.  The stores there have little and that little isn’t so good.  This is good for me…kind of upscale camping.

If I haven’t nathered on enough, you can call me.
Sing a new song,
Alyce

Bacon for Breakfast; Bacon for Lunch

Bacon for Breakfast; Bacon for Lunch

My sweet husband adores bacon.  God love him.
I like bacon.  Why not?  It’s great with eggs and it’s an incredible UP when you need a taste boost for the start of a soup, chicken salad, tomato sandwiches, et al.  And, oh, the scent of it.
But I don’t adore it.    I adore chocolate.  I adore Pinot.  (Oregon Pinot Noir)  I am a Pinot girl, in fact. 
At 57, I enjoy being able to say that.  I have a couple of girlfriends who feel the same way.  I have guy friends who certainly feel that way. 
But back to bacon.  I only have to SAY, “Bacon.”  I don’t even have to cook it.  And Dave is entranced.  Hanging around.  If I actually start cooking the stuff, he is in the room and doesn’t leave.  So, there you go.  If you want to attract someone to the nth, fry bacon.  No one ever told you? Ach.

I think this is common.  I posted a note on fb last Friday that I was cooking a pork tenderloin with bacon twisted around it, fixed with toothpicks.  I had more interest in that than anything I’ve cooked in months.  Loved ones, think about making this.  Soon.  Simple?  Pretty much so.  Fragrant?  Ahhhh.  Earthy?  Mmm hmm.  Easy to harmonize?  I thought so.  A couple of Granny Smith apples, a bulb of fennel (go ahead and get one–ask the produce guy) and a big onion.  Some green beans on the side.  A light Pinot; you don’t need a great big heavy one, I don’t think.  Maybe a little bread.  I did some pears poached in port for dessert; you can do what you want.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Fennel and Onions

1 pork tenderloin
Kosher salt; freshly-ground pepper
3-4 slices thick bacon

2T olive oil

1 fennel bulb, fronds removed, end cut, sliced into half-moons about 1/3″ thick
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, sliced
1 large onion sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Salt and pepper well the pork tenderloin and wrap it with the bacon pieces, securing ends with toothpicks.

  Meanwhile, heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil.  Place bacon-wrapped pork in the center of the pan and surround with the fennel, apples and onion.  Salt and pepper well the vegetables and apples.  When the meat is very-well browned, turn and let brown on the other side.   Stir the vegetables and apples.  When that side is looking crispy, move the pan to the oven to finish cooking.  It may take another 10-15 minutes or so.  Using an instant-read thermometer, remove the skillet from the oven when the meat registers 150F.  (Others will tell you 155; I like it a bit rare; it will continue cooking)  Cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.  Slice meat in 1/2″ p ieces.  Place cut meat at the center of a large platter and surround with fennel, apples and onions.  Serve with green beans or whatever vegetable you like.

Poached Pears in Port  (from FINE COOKING)

In a 4 qt skillet, pour 1 cup port wine.  Add 1 cinnamon stick and a few peels each of lemon rind and orange rind.  Peel four ripe, but firm Barlett or Bosc (or your choice) pears and slice off a tiny bit off one cheek to make a flat side.  Place the pears in the wine mixture and heat over medium-high heat.  Cover and reduce to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so until pears are tender when pierced with a knife.  Eat warm, at room temperature or cold with a little of the thickened port sauce spooned over.  You can add a little heavy cream if you like.

Sweet      

 Did you wonder about an appetizer?  Of course I had one.  And I was testing it out for my Cooking with Music class, which was the very next day!  Here it is: 

This is a Ricotta Pine nut dogoodie that is served with crostini (grilled bread).  I’ll blog it with the cooking class, but if you have to make it soon…..

Mix one cup ricotta with 3-4 T torn fresh mint and season well with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  Lottsa pepper.  Heat over medium heat a small saucepan with  1/2 c honey and 1/4 c pine nuts.  (Amounts negotiable.)  When quite warm and gooey, pour over the cheese mixture and serve with crostini or crackers.  (I heard Tyler Florence talk about this once and committed it to memory.  Yummy.)

Ok, folks…there ya go.  Make it and tell me about it.  I have to know!

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood, Including Fitness


It’s been a busy week, but the pups have been happy as clams; Dad was home for three days in a row!

Tucky-Bucky letting it all hang out one morning.


Why God gets me up early.
The light on my backyard when the dogs go out for the first time.
First dusting of snow…early in the light.

Why I have dogs: I need tennis balls in the dishwasher, of course.

 Fitness update:  This last week, I skipped the gym all but one time.  Life got crazy.  Did I let it all go, though?  Nope.  I did Denise Austin on the DVD.  I hiked the ‘hood with Gabby.  I lifted weights at home.  I did my stretching routine.  I watched what I ate–mostly.  Or ate what I wanted, but not too much.  Teaching an Italian cooking class could have done me in (and the crostata almost did), but we made the ricotta starter, a roasted vegetable soup, pizza margherita, and a veal stew as well.   Took all afternoon Saturday and the students stayed for dinner to eat and see what wines fit where….  (Another blog.)  But I was sensible and remembered how strong I long to be.  That’s the crux.

Meantime, I’m applying for  new jobs as my job winds down at The Church at Woodmoor.  We are getting ready for Thanksgiving in St. Paul, as well.  Good thing I have a dog sitter; an SUV ran into my old vet/kennel today!  At the same time  THAT was happening, I was driving up to a staff meeting at work in Monument,  where there was a 40-car pile-up on I-25.  I saw zip.  Thank you, God.