Yummy Leftovers

Fending for myself this evening, so I made a delicious salad with leftover steak from last night, lettuce from our CSA share, local strawberries, fresh ricotta, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Nom.

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By the way, I’m writing from my iPhone testing the wordpress app, so I apologize if the formatting is off!

~CM

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House Warming Experiments

Yesterday, my dear friends were moving into their new apartment and I wanted to bring over a special treat. I was taking the train up to see them, so I needed it to be easy to transport. After my cousin sent me the link to Smitten Kitchen’s pea pesto, I spent a long time perusing her wonderful blog. If you haven’t read it before, check it out! I was especially intrigued by her post on homemade ricotta (or ricotta-inspired soft cheese). I decided to try it out and also make a version of the pea pesto.

When it comes to the cheese, it was remarkably easy! And the end result was delicious. I highly recommend it. Because I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe verbatim, I’m just going to post my pictures. Check out her blog for the details. NB: The fresher the milk you can find, the better the cheese will end up.

I used my Le Crueset because you should use a non-reactive pot. I was concerned about using non-stick so this was my best alternative. After heating the milk and cream to 190 degrees, I added the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, let the cheese sit for 5 minutes and poured the whole shebang through cheesecloth.

This is what it looked like when it first went into the cheese cloth. After this, all you do is wait! Let the cheese drain for about 2 hours. As it drains, it hardens and the curds become more visible. After 1 hour, you could already see a big difference:

After an hour, the cheese has reduced a bit, though there is still a lot of whey mixed in with the curds. By the time it was done draining, it had reduced to about a cup and a half of curds. The lemon gave it a nice fresh, summery taste. After I go to the gym a few more times, I am definitely making this cheese again!

When I first saw the pea pesto recipe, I knew it was something I wanted to try. In our CSA share this week, we got another small bag of delicious looking peas. I shelled them and we had about 1/2 cup total. I knew this wouldn’t be enough to make the pea pesto as directed, but I knew I still wanted to include the peas.

Perfect fresh peas!

Because I didn’t have enough peas, I decided to fill out the pesto with garlic scapes and basil! I’d been wanting to make garlic scape pesto anyway, but, again, based on quantity (and my need to eat them right away) I haven’t been able to make it yet. I chopped the four garlic scapes into about 1 inch pieces, just using my kitchen shears, and tossed about a cup of basil into the food processor.

I blanched the peas for about 4 minutes while toasting pine nuts in a dry cast iron skillet.

Once everything was ready, I tossed 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, all the peas, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and about 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese into the food processor and blended until smooth.

The pesto became the most beautiful vivid green color and had a delightfully smooth texture. The peas lended a touch of summer and mellowness that is unusual for pesto. The garlic scapes added just a bit of bite and heat and the basil filled it out with a classic pesto finish. We served these on slices of baguette with the cheese spread first topped with the pesto. I ate probably two thirds of it and it was delicious (if I do say so myself)!

Don’t you wish I brought this to your house? Luckily, you can make it for yourself! The pesto is also delicious tossed with pasta. Just reserve a bit of the cooking water to help it bond to the noodles and smooth out the texture.

~CM

My Love Affair with Beets

I. Love. Beets. Truly, I do. My affair with beets began later in life. I never tried them until I was in my early twenties, but when I did, there was an instant connection. The subtle sweetness, the crisp texture, the vivid color; it all came together to form the perfect relationship with my mouth. Due to the late start, beets and I are making up for lost time. Basically, if I see beets on the menu, I order them, forsaking all other foods.

So, you can imagine my glee when I saw three perfect beets in our CSA share last Wednesday, and I was even more excited to see them left when I returned from the Midwest. I had big plans yesterday for making up some beet tzatziki, but I got a call from a fellow teacher for a beach day and said, “Yes, unequivocally, yes!” After the beautiful day at the beach, it was almost nine by the time I started cooking. Way to late to get too creative. In the freezer, I had a grilled pizza crust, so I put together a delicious flatbread pizza.

I started by roasting the beets. First I scrubbed the beets really well and put them in a tin foil packet with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I cooked them at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. After they cooled, I peeled them and sliced them thinly. I brushed the dough with olive oil, topped it with some slices of fresh mozzarella, the beets, and some leftover fresh ricotta from Monday’s pasta dinner. I baked all this at 450 degrees for 5 minutes. In the meantime, I roughly chopped the pea tendrils that were left and tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I topped the pizza with these and baked it for 3 more minutes.

The flavor combination worked very nicely. It was the perfect post-beach tasty treat. Plus, I love how neon pink the pizza dough turned!

Today, for lunch, I was working on clearing out more space in the fridge for this week’s CSA share. One thing that my husband hadn’t eaten while I was out of town was the Hakurei turnips. Now, I’ve never cooked with (or eaten, I think) these so I wasn’t sure what to do. I read about braising them, stir-frying them, and putting them on salads. One suggestion that I really liked was to “just eat them.” After trying one turnip raw, I decided to make a giant salad, using a large bunch of lettuce, sliced up turnips, and my leftover roasted beet. I also added in some more ricotta and some dry roasted pepitas for a bit of nutty crunch. Dressed simply with olive oil, it was the perfect summer lunch (even though it was cold and rainy again today, ugh.)

All in all, a very satisfying day and a half with my beets. Good news: there’s more in today’s CSA! Check back tomorrow to see what else we got and what steps I take in my relationship with beets.

~CM

Rediscovering Green Things

I’m back home! Man, is it nice to be back. I had a fabulous time in the Midwest at my cousin’s wedding. We had so much fun but I am wiped. If you ever want to feel 16 again, take an eighteen hour road trip with your parents in a very small car! We made excellent time back, but I was definitely ready to stretch out after squeezing into the back seat. I love our trips to the Midwest because I get to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins, but sometimes I feel like no one out there has heard of fruits or vegetables! We ate a TON of starch and my body is craving greens. So I was excited when I got home and found some bits and pieces left from our CSA share. I had stopped at one of my favorite neighborhood shops, Capone Foods, and picked up fresh pasta, sauce, and ricotta.

After cooking the pasta, which was black pepper papardelle, I tossed a bunch of spinach about the size of my head into the pot with a little bit of olive oil and sauteed it for about a minute just to soften it up.

Yum! Leafy greens do the body good! After a quick saute, I tossed the pasta back in with the spinach. Doesn’t that look tasty and fresh?!?

The sauce I picked up at Capone’s is a Roasted Red Pepper Pesto. I’ve never tried it before, but all of their other sauces are fabulous. This one was no exception. The peppers just added a hint of heat and smokiness. Then, adding in the ricotta gave the meal just enough creaminess.

Very satisfying! I can’t wait to get into more light summer cooking in the days and weeks ahead. I’m off to finish out my meal with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with some of my local honeycomb. Cheers!

~CM