Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Photo of Fresh Ricotta Cheese on a knifeEasy Cheesy
Many moons ago I took a cheese-making class. It was great fun and much easier than you would think. Granted, I am not currently aging my handmade cheese in my own mountain caves, nor do I plan to be. But, that would be very cool…no pun intended.

I will, however, make some of the easier cheeses from time to time to add to recipes where freshness matters. By far, the easiest to make is fresh ricotta. The first time I ever made the cheese outside of class, I used it in a lasagna that I made totally from scratch—noodles and everything. The results were ridiculously good. But, I was exhausted.

You don’t need to get quite as nerdy as I did to try making fresh ricotta. For one thing, who really has that time? And second, you will get great results using good quality pre-made pasta and sauce.

Or, forget the pasta altogether and slather this fresh ricotta cheese on some crostini. Yum!

Fresh Ricotta Cheese Recipe
Yields about 1-1/2 cups of cheese Read more…

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake

Image of piece of Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel CakeBerry Corn-ucopia
I like cake. I like dessert in general, but I can definitely assert that I like cake. That being said, I have noticed that my cake tastes have changed in recent years. It used to be that if I went out to eat and a dessert menu was placed in front of me, my eyes would immediately be drawn to whatever was the most decadent, usually chocolate, option.

Not the case anymore. Nowadays if I am out on the town and it is time for dessert, nine times out of ten I will choose the fruity option over the chocolate. Unless it involves coffee or any mention of mocha…that’s a game-changer.

I have also noticed that I prefer less sweet offerings which is probably why a “Death By Chocolate” cake, while potentially fantastic and perfect in the right moment, is skipped over for something with lemon or berries. I find that I only eat what I call the birthday-style cakes for birthdays. (I know…birthday cake for a birthday?? I’m such a rebel.) I don’t make three-layer chocolate devil’s food cakes for a random Sunday night dinner. I will, however, make something like this apricot cake, which was amazing with the apricots from my brother-in-law’s tree.

Fruity cakes are great because it’s easier to justify eating them at all times of the day and not just for dessert. A slice of my Lemon Pound Cake Bliss with some coffee or tea in the afternoon can be just what you need to get you through the rest of your day. During the summer months, making a cake with any of the wide variety of fresh berries in the market can easily fill in as breakfast. I mean a muffin is just a smaller version of a cake, am I right?

A number of my favorite eat-all-day cakes include the use of corn or corn meal. I really like the flavor combination as well as the texture that corn can add to a cake. This is a great one for snacking but I also like cakes where the berries are baked in and not just spooned on top.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is blueberries and cornmeal. My recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake is an excellent example. The streusel on top suggests that this cake would work well for breakfast…or brunch…or lunch…or tea…or a midnight snack!

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake Recipe
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yields 16 small squares Read more…

Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles

Image of Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles on a plate with sour cream and bacon toppingWaffling
Waffles are a Sunday morning staple for my family. I have a fabulous two-sided flip waffle maker that I love which makes it possible to churn out a whole stack of piping hot waffles in a very short amount of time. Sometimes we use a prepared mix and other times we make ‘em from scratch. But, no matter how they come into being, everyone in my family can make a mean waffle.

Deciding what kind of waffles to make, however, can be a source of tension.

For the most part, the kids don’t care what flavor the waffles are as long as they magically appear, but they do have their preferences. My daughter is a fan of pecan waffles. These require toasting some pecans, chopping them up, and throwing them in the batter. When cooked and doctored up just right, they kinda taste like pecan pie. Lately, the boys have been partial to blueberry waffles. I take dried wild blueberries and reconstitute them in hot water for about 10 to 15 minutes, drain them and throw them into the batter. The dried wild berries provide a more intense blueberry flavor than fresh.

For me, I have gone to the savory side as of late. I have been especially fond of my recipe for Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles (with some cheddar cheese and green onion mixed in and sometimes crumbled bacon). For some bizarre reason, I find that they are fantastic with butter and syrup—and even better topped with some fried chicken for dinner.

My husband though is not a fan. He’s a waffle puristso boring!

Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles Recipe
Yields approximately 8 regular or 4 Belgian-style waffles Read more…

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina FrittataLoving The Tall Grass
It’s been a bumpy road to discovering my love of asparagus. As a kid, I would live in fear of the dinners where I would walk through the door and smell it steaming. If we were at my grandmother’s and I saw the hollandaise on the table, I knew it would be a rough night.

Back then asparagus wasn’t as readily available year-round as it is now. So, the arrival of those fat green stalks always heralded the beginning of spring—and filled me with dread thinking about what would be for dinner. From the moment asparagus appeared in the produce section, the regular and preferred vegetable component of our dinners switched from broccoli and frozen peas to a steady diet of asparagus prepared the same way, every time.

I can trace my change of heart vis-a-vis asparagus back to one night when I was living in San Francisco and attending a six-week cooking course. One of the many recipes we made that night was this Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto.

It was a lightbulb moment for me. Until then, I had strangely only had asparagus that was, usually, over-steamed, and I am not sure how I managed it. That recipe opened my eyes and taste buds to what asparagus is supposed to taste like. It’s a totally different experience when it is grilled…or roasted.

After having now explored asparagus used in any number of ways, you might ask what my current favorite way to enjoy asparagus is. The answer: steamed but still crunchy.

Perhaps it’s the obvious link to Easter. But, I also really like asparagus paired with eggs. This Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata recipe is a great example. It’s delicious for brunch or paired with a salad for a light lunch. And, it does work well for an Easter buffet.

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…