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…

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Image of a plate of Roasted Cauliflower SteaksSteak Your Veggies
My relationship with cauliflower is difficult. I have only just recently started to eat it because my daughter can’t stand broccoli and cauliflower is a fairly easy substitute. My difficulties started when I was a kid when my mom would make cauliflower with a cheese sauce. And, for a long time, I was okay with it. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong. But, after having it one night I got sick. No one else got sick. Just me. From that day forward, in much the same way that college tequila shots have ruined margaritas for many people, I never wanted to eat cauliflower again.

It has taken 40 years but I have tried cauliflower—just a little bit now and then. Cauliflower has that great attribute of not having a strong flavor and therefore will soak up the flavor of anything it’s in. This is why I can handle cauliflower in Indian food, for example. But, large amounts of cauliflower on its own is a hurdle I haven’t cleared…yet.

I am intrigued by cauliflower steaks. There is something about this concept that appeals to me. The idea makes so much sense. A beautifully roasted or sautéed caramelized steak with a flavor-filled sauce of choice sounds so good in my head. So, I have been researching recipes so that I can take the leap…

While this version by Gordon Ramsay with salsa verde seems like it would be right up my alley, I have begun with something more basic as I dip my toe into these waters.

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks Recipe
Adapted from All Recipes
Yields 4 servings

Try these oven-roasted cauliflower steaks seasoned with a simple lemon-garlic sauce. Serve them with Chimichurri or topped with roasted tomatoes, olives, and feta. Read more…

Summer Stone Fruit Salad

Peachy-Keen
I have a thing for fruit trees. When we first moved into our house 12 years ago, we planted rootstock for 14 different fruit trees. I had this bucolic vision of walking through my orchard with my children, laughing and snacking while picking the seasonal fruit we found there. Life, water issues, and bad soil said hold my beer…

The orchard failed.

Two years ago, my wonderful children gave me a peach tree for my birthday. We planted it in the now vacant chicken area of our property. It goes without saying that the previous occupants helped make the soil much better on this part of “the farm”. We had peaches the first year—though they never matured. The tree was too young to support their growth. The second year was the same. This year was bonkers.

We had at least a bushel of softball-sized sweet peaches. It was glorious. I use the past tense here because they are now all gone. Some we ate right off the tree. Some were used in Saturday morning scones. Some were shared with appreciative friends and family. Others were quartered and put in the freezer. Many of these beauties found their way into evening salads. Sometimes we grilled them, sometimes we didn’t. You be you…

One of my favorite summer salads is a recipe for my Summer Stone Fruit Salad that I posted a while ago—it is still a good one. I have since updated things a bit.

Peaches are still going strong in the marketplace. So, give this updated version a go if you find yourself with some ripe sweet peaches.

Amy’s Summer Stone Fruit Salad
Adapted from Joanne Weir’s More Cooking in Wine Country
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Classic Chocolate Mousse

Image of classic chocolate mousse in a stemmed serving bowlIt Mousse Be Love
When I was a kid, I would order chocolate mousse whenever it was an option on the dinner menu. I thought it was the height of sophistication until my eight-year-old eyes were opened to the wonder that is a well-caramelized crème brûlée.

Strangely, chocolate mousse is not a dessert option you see all that often anymore, at least not as a standalone. It is out there in the wild. But, you have to look for it. Sure, there are chocolate mousse cakes—but a single dish of chocolate mousse? Not really. And a Pot de Crème is not the same thing.

Perhaps it is time chocolate mousse made a comeback?

The hot summer months are a great time to give Classic Chocolate Mousse a try because all that is needed is a microwave and a hand mixer. No hot oven (or even stoves) is required. What is required is good quality chocolate. Not the stuff you eat in the afternoon that I like to refer to as rescue chocolate. Good quality baking chocolate like Guittard or Valhrona is key.

While I do like my chocolate mousse straight up, I will from time to time add flavor, like a little espresso or something boozy. Just be careful not to add too much or your chocolate will seize and become grainy and/or greasy.

Real legit chocolate mousse is rich and decadent. Real chocolate mousse is not melted chocolate combined with whipped cream. If you make it the right way, Classic Chocolate Mousse contains butter and eggs which give the mousse its silky fluffiness. Don’t be afraid of the fact that the eggs are not cooked. It’s not too different than the runny yolks of a fried egg. If you are concerned, just make sure that the eggs you use are pasteurized and you should be just fine.

Classic Chocolate Mousse Recipe
Yields 4 servings

Classic Chocolate Mousse is both rich and creamy, yet light and fluffy.
This is a classic chocolate mousse made French-style. It has less cream, an intense chocolate flavor, and a beautiful, creamy mouth feel.

Note that this recipe needs at least 5 hours in the fridge to set before serving. Read more…