Friday, December 31, 2010

Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake with Chanterelles

In an attempt to slightly atone for my pretty sparse blogging this year, I am trying to squeeze in one more post before the new year arrives (good thing I am in one of the last few time zones to welcome 2011). We hosted some family for an evening tea a few days ago, so in addition to sweet things (fruit salad and lemon pie), my mom (who was visiting - yay!) and I thought we should have a savory dish as well. This (non-sweet) cheesecake fit the bill quite well - it's easy to make, doesn't need last minute fussing when the guests arrive, and was a hit with everyone. We adapted the original recipe by adding chanterelles and were rather pleased with the look and taste of the result.

Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake with Chanterelles
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 lb mushrooms (chanterelles, shiitake, or some other "pretty" mushroom), cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups zucchini, unpeeled & grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2½ cups ricotta cheese
½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
4 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, well beaten
⅓ cup goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 325°F degrees, racks the middle. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Wrap the ricotta in some cheesecloth and allow some of the moisture to drain away. (This step is not strictly necessary but can be helpful, even when your ricotta looks rather non-watery, like ours did - chances are there is still plenty of water to be drained away from it.)

3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add half of the chopped shallots. Once they've softened a bit, add the chopped mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked through. Set the cooked mushrooms aside.

4. In a strainer, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt and let sit for (at least) ten minutes. (Ours sat draining for much, much longer, and it was still OK.) Now squeeze and press out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.

5. Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, remaining shallots, garlic, dill and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and continue mixing until well combined. Now stir in the shredded zucchini.

6. Fill the springform pan with the ricotta mixture and place the pan on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes.

7. Take out the cheesecake and cover the top with the cooked mushroom/shallot mixture. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top of the mushrooms. Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes or until the goat cheese is melted.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Dinner: Carrot, Beet and Avocado Salad

The previously made carrot and avocado salad combined with (parts of) French "peasant" beets from Food52.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

Yes, it's been 5.5 months since I last posted here. What can I say - the last few months have been pretty busy. We got back from our honeymoon, packed up our Boston apartment, drove cross-country, moved into a new place in the San Francisco Bay Area, and started our new jobs (well, completely new for me, sort of new for Mihai). Since then, we've been occupied with fully settling in, getting accustomed to our new surroundings, traveling back east for multiple weekends in a row for friends' weddings, etc. In between all that, there has been lots of home cooking - we have an amazing farmers' market 5 minutes away from us every Sunday that showcases some of the best that California has to offer (we were particularly excited to discover that tomato season lasts much longer around here than what we are used to). I just couldn't find the time to also write about the delicious dishes we were trying. We'll see if I manage to do better from now on. But for now, the Thanksgiving recap (a lot of these can be done for Christmas too, so this doesn't feel too backwards-looking).

Mihai's parents came out to visit us for the first time since we moved, and this was also our first time hosting Thanksgiving. The pressure was on, but we think it turned out OK.

(Part of) The Mise en Place:

We made butternut squash soup to start, with some cabbage pies on the side:

Since there were only four of us, no one of the four particularly likes turkey, and Mihai's dad particularly likes pork, we decided to try out a new-to-us pork recipe. Here's a beauty shot of the pork mid-way through the cooking:

Mihai was in charge of the milk and cream braised pork, and it turned out amazing - not dry at all, just juicy and delicious. He did have a great recipe to start with, one from Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef at Prune, and written up as a "favorite" in Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte (and covered online here and here).

For sides, we had Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Bread Crumbs:

and Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme:

Here's a shot of a full plate:

For dessert, I wanted something with apple (both because I like apple desserts and because we had a bunch of apples from the CSA we recently signed up for). Mihai's dad has pretty high standards for apple baked goods, so I went with a safe option - combining one of my favorite doughs (I always go with the all flour option rather than the almond and flour combination) with a pinch of cardamom and, on top, apples and cinnamon instead of the traditional plums or apricots. It turned out quite well, if I do say so myself:

All in all, a satisfying but not overwhelming Thanksgiving, with a good mix of tried-and-true and new-to-us dishes. The leftovers have been tasty too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Honeymoon Cooking

Mihai and I are in Hawaii for our honeymoon and have opted to stay at rental cottages/apartments so that we would have the option of cooking (two weeks of going out every day did not seem appealing especially since a) we are spending a whole week at each of the two islands we are visiting so renting a place is easy and b) we haven't heard the best things about quality/price ratio at most Hawaiian restaurants).

So here is some of the food we've been enjoying at our temporary homes:

Linguini with Shrimp, Parsley, Garlic, and Lemon (adapted from Amanda at Food52)

Fish Tacos (adapted from Merrill at Food52)

Zucchini-Tomato Pasta (adapted from Anne's Food)

Watermelon-Feta Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and previously blogged about)

Lemony Green Bean Salad with Feta and Mint (adapted from Food52)

I must say, cooking while on this vacation has actually added to the relaxation factor, rather than detracted from it. Cooking straightforward (and yet delicious) dishes certainly helps too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Okonomiyaki

(Based on 101 Cookbooks' recipe)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Mango, Avocado, and Shrimp Salad

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Zucchini and Mint Frittata

(Loosely followed Eric Ripert's recipe)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spring Vegetable and Shrimp Risotto

Last Sunday night, Amanda and Merrill of food52 hosted their second Sunday Supper. The idea is that they pick a couple of recipes, and then people cook them all at (roughly) the same time at their own homes, all while posting updates, comments, and photos on Hot Potato. I missed the first Sunday Supper, and so was particularly interested in participating in this one.

This supper's theme was risotto, either the Preserved Lemon and Spring Vegetable Risotto with Grilled Pernod Shrimp or Risotto Rosso. Given that spring is upon us, I liked the idea of making the spring vegetable risotto with asparagus and peas, but I didn't feel like going through with the recipe in its original form. First of all, I am not a huge anise flavor fan, so I didn't feel like using Pernod for both the rice and the shrimp marinade (I also didn't want to buy a whole bottle of the ingredient just for this recipe). And secondly, the bit about preserved lemon kind of intimidated me because it seemed like that would require more advanced planning than I had time and energy for after our trip. (By the time I read the comments on the original recipe and saw that making preserved lemons is really not that hard, it was too late to change my mind and still participate in Sunday Supper on time.)

In any case, I modified the recipe to be a little less involved (i.e. no Pernod or preserved lemon) - perhaps it was not as good as the original, but it was still mighty tasty. The way I made it, it was all pretty straightforward.

Here's the marinade for the shrimp being prepped:

And here's all of my mise en place - I am not usually quite this organized in my prep, but the recipe strongly suggested to prep everything ahead of starting the cooking of the risotto itself, since it involves quite a bit of attentive stirring:

I love how spring-y the peas make the risotto look:

and Mihai liked the large bits of butter and mascarpone that get added toward the end (along with mint and lemon zest):

The marinated shrimp get broiled, so they very quickly turn from this:

to this:

You can then top each portion of risotto with these shrimp. Here's a final shot of the risotto before it's plated:

Spring Vegetable and Shrimp Risotto
Adapted from food52 and The Dog's Breakfast

For the shrimp:

24 to 32 large, de-veined shrimp
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of half a large lemon
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

For the risotto:

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
fine sea salt, to taste
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup lemon juice
6-8 cups hot chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons lemon zest
¼ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
2 cups fresh peas
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 2-inch lengths and blanched in salted, boiling water

1. In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the oil, white wine, garlic, zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let the shrimp marinate at room temperature while you make the risotto.

2. Prepare all of your risotto ingredients: blanch the asparagus, heat the stock, chop and measure everything out, placing it all close to hand by the stove.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, fennel, and garlic and sweat over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Season with salt about halfway through.

4. Add the rice and raise the heat to medium high. Stir to coat and slightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes. You should hear a lively crackling in the pot. The rice will take on a shiny, translucent coat.

5. Add the white wine and lemon juice to the rice and continue stirring until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.

6. Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and continue stirring. It’s important to regulate the heat at this point. The rice should neither boil vigorously nor cook too slowly.

7. As the stock is absorbed, continue adding it by ladlefuls and stirring. Stop incorporating stock once the rice is creamy, cooked but not too soft. This can take between 20 and 30 minutes, and between 6 and 8 cups of stock. If you are using fresh peas like I did, incorporate them into the risotto about 5 minutes before you remove it from heat. (If you are using frozen peas, you can add them in along with the butter and mascarpone in the next step, as instructed in the original recipe. The fresh peas need a little extra time to cook through though, as pointed out in food52's video of this recipe.)

8. Remove the risotto from the heat, and immediately fold in the butter, mascarpone, lemon zest, peas, and most of the mint (save some for garnish). Stir slowly to blend, check a final time for seasoning, and carefully fold in the asparagus. Put a lid on the risotto and let it rest while you quickly broil the shrimp.

9. Broil the shrimp for about 60 seconds on each side, or until the flesh is completely opaque.

10. Top each serving of risotto with 4 shrimp, garnish with mint, and serve.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pescada a la Vinagreta with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

(Loosely followed Bay Area Bites' recipe)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner at L'Ourcine

On our last night in Paris, Mihai and I had dinner at L'Ourcine. We were fortunate to discover L'Ourcine almost by accident last time we were in Paris a few years ago - we were there for only 1.5 days and didn't have dinner reservations for one of the two evenings because we were originally supposed to go to a different (much fancier) dinner. After another restaurant turned us away because they were completely booked, we were able to squeeze into L'Ourcine by showing up much earlier than most Parisian diners. That dinner turned out to be the best one of that whole trip, and so was the dinner during our repeat visit last week.

We began with pre-dinner drinks:

Mihai had a beer, and I was surprised to hear that L'Ourcine didn't serve kirs, my pre-dinner drink of choice for that week. However, the waiter said they offered something else similar that was very good, so I trusted his recommendation. I am still not sure what it was I was drinking, but it tasted like a really well-made, slightly bubbly, kir. And, of course, any place that serves something like salami as a pre-dinner snack (instead of the more usual olives) is a winner in my book.

Our amuse-bouche was a light and creamy mushroom mousse with crunchy mini-croutons:

And for appetizers, I went with a beef consommé (with radishes and foie gras morcels):

and Mihai had a special of "open ravioli" (which turned out to be basically pappardelle) with morels:

Both dishes were wonderful, though I have to say I slightly preferred Mihai's mushroomy ravioli. Almost every restaurant we had dinner at that week offered special dishes with morels (and asparagus - the French take their seasonal ingredients very seriously), but I thought this one was really the best morel dish we'd tried all week. It's possible that had my soup not had all the red pepper flakes in it, I may have preferred my dish for its singularity (and difficulty in getting something similar stateside) after all (so if you are not averse to spicy-ness the way I am, you may love it wholeheartedly).

We both had very meaty main courses (I don't think we saw a vegetarian main course on a menu all week):

Mine (in the front) was a very large beef filet from a Blonde d'Aquitaine cow, served with roasted ratte potatoes (not pictured), and Mihai had pork with the most delicious and creamy polenta I've ever tasted (just visible in the upper right of the picture). He was very nice and let me have easily a third of his polenta, since I kept raving about how amazing it was (and even went as far as to ask how they made it so good). Just like I returned from our last trip determined to recreate the life-changing granola at home, I am now determined to figure out how to make polenta taste this delicious (it's funny, I didn't even like polenta at all until a couple of years ago).

For dessert, I had the poached pear in caramel sauce:

and Mihai had a chocolate bouchon with crème anglaise:

The desserts were tasty, but I'd say the "real food" part of the meal was definitely my favorite. All in all, I cannot recommend L'Ourcine highly enough if you are looking for a blow-your-socks-off and yet casual meal in Paris. It's not a huge restaurant, the little wooden tables are tablecloth-less, and the napkins are in the style of dish towels, which means that dressing up is not required (though certainly not forbidden). It's not dirt-cheap, but for the quality of the food you are getting, it's a fantastic deal - the three-course menu (plus the extra salami snack and amuse-bouches) would have been 34 euros each if we hadn't ordered the specials (Mihai's "open ravioli" with morels and my special beef filet). Since it's not a large restaurant and, more importantly, since when you come to a French restaurant, it's as though you are coming to a person's home, I'd recommend making reservations before going (though you probably don't need to do it very far in advance for most days).

92 Rue Broca
75013 Paris, France (map)
+33 (0)1 47 07 13 65

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Paris

Breakfast "at home"

Creative (and (shell)fish-y) amuse-bouches and appetizer at Les Fables de la Fontaine

Café au lait at Verlet

Savoyarde and Cancalaise galettes with lait ribot at Breizh Café

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mixed Citrus Salad with Mint and Feta

I know that I am a bit late in posting this, since this is more of a cold February dish than a warm March dish, but, even though it's 60 degrees outside, the supermarkets around here aren't yet carrying spring produce, so there is still time to take advantage of the winter citrus that's stocked in the produce section.

This is really a delightful, juicy, and refreshing salad. The one thing I would do differently is to use less grapefruit next time - that said, I like grapefruit in moderation only, so if you are a bigger fan of it than I am, feel free to use these proportions.

Mixed Citrus Salad with Mint and Feta
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 blood oranges
2 navel or cara cara oranges
2 pink grapefruits
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
3 oz feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
2 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers

1. Prepare your citrus fruits by beveling the stem end, cutting enough off that you reveal the pith-free flesh of the fruit. Repeat on the other end. Rest your fruit on one of its now-flat surface and begin cutting the peel and pith off in large, vertical pieces. You want to cut away all of the white pith.

2. Turn the fruit back on its side and cut it into 1/4-inch thick wheels, removing any seeds. Place the wheels and any collected juices from the cutting board in the strainer over a bowl.

3. Spread the fruit slices out on a platter. Whisk one tablespoon of the citrus juice from the strainer-bowl with red wine vinegar or lemon juice, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt. Drizzle the dressing over the citrus, then sprinkle with feta and mint.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Potato, Watercress, and Gravlax Salad

(Loosely followed recipe here)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Magical Granola

I should start this post by saying that I never liked granola. I am not big on cold cereals in general - the only ones I liked in camp (during the summer between 6th and 7th grades) were Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Golden Grahams, and I don't eat either as a grown-up because I know that it's not really healthy to eat that much sugar for breakfast on a daily basis.

That's why I didn't even consider trying the granola at the lovely Mountain Range Boutique Lodge in Wanaka in January. Only when one of the other guests, a nice British woman, remarked that they had very good "muesli", did I try some of it from Mihai's plate. And then I was very glad that we were staying at the lodge for one more night, because I could have my own plate of their granola for breakfast the next morning. Since this is the first time I was having granola I actually liked, and since we were once again discussing how good the "muesli" was, I asked the manager of the lodge how they made it. He told us it was straightforward, and that the secret was probably the butter that they toasted the oats in (of course!). Armed with the knowledge of the secret ingredient, I made sure to inspect the granola on my plate carefully to figure out what else was in it other than oats. (Note: based on what the nice British lady was saying, I'd assumed that "muesli" is simply the British word for American "granola". As it turns out, muesli is made of non-toasted oats, so what we were eating at the lodge was most definitely granola.)

When we got back home from our travels, I tried replicating the granola that very same weekend, just guessing at the right ratios of ingredients. To my surprise (and great excitement), I got the proportions right to my taste the very first time, so I could finally have some more of the granola I've been dreaming of for the previous two weeks since we'd left Wanaka. We've now been through at least 4 more batches - it's that good, if I do say so myself.

(Helpful) note: I learned from Amanda Hesser on food52 that the easiest way to crush/chop nuts is to place them in a ziploc bag and pound with a meat pounder. Since I don't have a meat pounder, I've been using the back of my smallest skillet on the macadamias:

Magical Granola
Inspired by the one at Mountain Range Boutique Lodge

9 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoons honey
3 teaspoons raw sugar
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced and blanched almonds
¾ cup macadamia nuts, chopped or crushed (not too finely)
¾ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¾ cup dried cranberries, chopped (in half)
½ cup raisins, chopped (in half)
½ cup dried apricots, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

2. Cut up the butter into a few pieces and place in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Place in the microwave and heat until somewhat softened. Add in the honey and raw sugar, and continue microwaving until butter is completely melted and the sugar and honey are well mixed in.

3. Mix the oats with the butter-sugar-honey mixture until they are all well-coated with the butter.

4. Spread the buttered oats on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Toast the oats in the oven for 45 minutes, mixing them up every 15 minutes.

Toasted oats:

5. Once the oats are toasted, transfer them to a large bowl. Then spread the almonds on the cookie sheet and toast for 25 minutes; transfer the toasted almonds into the bowl with the oats. Then spread the macadamias and pepitas on the cookie sheet and toast for 15 minutes; transfer the toasted nuts and pepitas into the bowl with the oats and almonds.

6. Once all the oats and nuts are toasted and the dried fruit is chopped, mix them all together.

Before mixing:

After mixing:

7. Store the granola in an airtight container and enjoy by itself or with greek yogurt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: New Zealand - Week 3

Meaty dinner at Capitol in Wellington

5pm "porridge" at Joe's Garage in Wellington

On the ferry in Queen Charlotte Sound from the South Island to the North Island

Black swan in Lake Rotorua, fluffy begonias in Wellington

Aratiatia Rapids near Taupo (top), Champagne Pool at Wai-o-tapu Geothermal Area (bottom)