Monday Magazine Pick – Homemade Ricotta

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I’d attempted to make homemade ricotta cheese before a few years ago and failed…twice.

I went to a lot of trouble to find the appropriately non-ultra pasteurized milk, as that seemed to be the key to getting it right. Still nothing…no curdle. BTW, I failed at mozzarella too.

A few years passed and I didn’t really think about it much more until homemade ricotta started popping up online and in magazines and it seemed so simple and unbelievable that I couldn’t get this to work for me.

“Why Aren’t You Making Ricotta yet?” was the headline on a small story in the latest issue of Bon Appetit.

Milk, cream, salt, lemon juice or vinegar – remember this or vinegar part. No talk of milk that has only been heated to a certain temp in its life time. No special equipment, not even a candy thermometer. Just boil, add lemon juice, strain. How hard is that?

With a weekend dinner with friends planned, I decided I was going to make a salad with quick pickled veggies – also from the new issue of BA – and top it with the fresh homemade cheese. Seemed appropriate for a spring time garden-planning dinner. Since the balcony of my apartment is heavily shaded, filtered early morning sun at best, my friends offered me space in their garden to grow some veggies this summer. Yay!

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Anyway, I poured the milk and cream into a saucepan, added the salt and watched. I had prepared my double layer of cheesecloth in a fine sieve and place it over a bowl. The milk started to simmer and soon bubble. I had squeezed  fresh lemon juice into a small ramekin. I was ready! When the bubbles were consistent, I removed the pan from the heat, added the lemon juice and stirred just as the directions said. Nothing.

You have got to be kidding me!

So to Google I turned and the research began…

First let me say something about lemons. The levels of acid in lemons can vary, sometimes greatly. I’ve known this for some time now. Noticed that sometimes I need to add vinegar to salad dressings or a lemon-garlic aioli when there isn’t quite enough tang, and I found out the lemon is the culprit.

Initially in some of the articles I found online, there was much talk about the type of milk. But the recipe in BA said nothing about the milk needing to come straight from the cow. Neither did several of the recipes I saw and the problem I was having seemed a bit rare. But then I saw it. One brief comment buried towards the bottom of the comment section on one of the blogs I found.

“Mine never curdles with lemon juice, but when I switched to vinegar it never fails.”

Hmmmmm…I had never used anything but lemon juice.

So it was back to square one. I dumped the failed mixture down the drain, thinking as it fell that I should have tried salvaging it with vinegar before I tossed it. Believe me I hate throwing food out….but it was too late.

So the process began again, this time with white distilled vinegar and voila! Curdle!

I poured it into the cloth-covered sieve and let it sit for a minute while I cleared some space on the top shelf of my fridge. About 30 minutes later, it may not have even been that long, I gave a little taste test. It was creamy with just the slightest hint of vinegar, not bad, but I was mildly bummed about that.
The cheese chilled for another 4 hours before we sat down for dinner. By then it appeared very dry, but it was extremely smooth and creamy on the tongue, much more so than it visually indicated. And all hints of vinegar were gone!

I made cheese! Now that I know the secret, I will make it again, and again, because it truly is as simple as they say!

One other note I noticed when I was online trying to troubleshoot my problem. Lots of folks pointed out this is not ricotta, but rather farmers cheese. Well, if Bon Appetit can call it ricotta, I feel like I can too…regardless of what you want to title it…feel free to call it yummy!

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Bon Appetit, April 2014
page 64

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teas kosher salt
2 TB fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

Bring milk, cream and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over med to med-high heat. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice (or vinegar); stir gently until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand 5 minutes.

Pour into a fine mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth set over a medium bowl. Chill until cheese is spreadable, at least 20 minutes and up to 12 hours. The longer it strains, the thicker it will be. If you want to thin it out a bit, add some of the whey back into the cheese. Cover and keep chilled for up to 3 days.

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NEW – From the Web Wednesday!

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Not sure why I feel the need to be on this kick to tie my recipe to a coordinating day…but since so many of us get our recipes from our inbox or facebook feed, I thought I’d go ahead and add from the web day on, of course, Wednesday.

I promised that Monday’s magazine pick would be true to the written recipe, well, I am not going to make the same promise about Web Wednesday! I’ve always known that I rarely follow recipes, but until I started the Magazine Pick I had no idea how difficult it is for me to follow a recipe. I see dozens of them in the dozens of magazines I subscribe to, but whenever I read them, I am always making adjustments for a wide variety of reasons. A recipe is really a source of inspiration, a guide! And you should see them that way too!

That said, today’s web inspiration is pretty true to the original recipe from Saveur magazine’s blog. I simply made the crust gluten free.

I first made this a year ago on a dessert-making spree for my birthday weekend. It is an amazingly simple tart, that packs a wallop of both flavor and impact – it is really pretty and doesn’t look at all easy to make. I will warn you that you do need to allow time to prepare this, each stage has to cool and set before you move on.I was told it is the best dessert I have ever made…I have made a lot of desserts!

I’ve made this several times over the past year and it never disappoints. A couple of notes. The crust is thick and essentially an enormous chocolate cookie. Don’t be expecting a thin pie crust here. I think the thick cookie is needed to balance the layers of caramel and chocolate. But if you want a thinner crust, go ahead and cu the recipe down.

Be sure to cook the caramel to 340. I did get impatient once, was convinced my thermometer was off and pulled the caramel too soon. It was hardly a disaster, it just meant that the caramel layer didn’t get completely firm. It maintained a thick sauce quality rather than candy and when I cut the tart it ooozed out. Still delicious and believe me it didn’t keep us from eating it!

So make this for a special occasion, make this when you want to impress your friends, make this for yourself because it doesn’t get any better than chocolate and caramel…just make it!

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Crust
1 1/4 cups GF AP Flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teas salt
10 TB unsalted butter, room temp, cubed
1/2 cup plus 2 TB powdered sugar
2 egg yolks, room temp
1/2 teas vanilla

In a medium bowl mix flour, cocoa powder and salt.
In large bowl or stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients.
Press crust into a 9-inch fluted, removable bottom, tart pan. Press evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350.
Pierce crust all over with a fork. Bake 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 TB golden syrup
1/4 teas salt
6 TB unsalted butter
6 TB cream
1 TB creme fraiche

In a 1 qt saucepan, whisk sugar, syrup, salt and 6 TB water until mixed. Bring to a boil.
Cook without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 340 degrees.
Remove pan from heat, stir in butter, creme and creme fraiche. It will bubble up. Stir until smooth.
Pour into cooled tart shell.
Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan bring cream just to a boil over medium heat.
Place chocolate in a bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Pour over chilled tart. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Maldon salt or Fleur de Sel
Sprinkle with salt just before serving. Serve chilled.

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Monday Magazine Pick – Spanish Tortilla

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It’s back!

My Monday magazine pick has returned. After spending most of February battling a never-ending cold, then the flu, and spending that last few weeks trying to get back on track, finally….I’ve been doing quite a bit of cooking lately, but this the first magazine pick since starting to feel like spending time in the kitchen again.

The article in the February 2014 issue of Country Living was about eggs, the many uses that go way beyond breakfast and brunch and are very easy on the budget. This one caught my eye from the get-go because few people see tortilla and think of anything other than quesadillas or burritos. Well the Spanish tortilla is hardly even a distant relative of the Mexican version. They are both round. A closer cousin would be a frittata or open-faced omelet. It is an egg and potato dish, often served as tapas. It is wonderful in it’s simplicity, open to a variety of ingredients, whatever is in season, whatever you have on hand.

For this one I had everything I needed on hand except the Manchego cheese. I don’t keep that in the fridge on a regular basis. If you don’t want to go out and get Manchegeo, which has a great nuttiness to it, you can use Parmesan or Romano for this particular combo. Also feel free to add different veggies and switch up the cheeses…the two constants will need to be the eggs and onions.

I did make a couple of alterations to the recipe as written…I know, I know, there she goes again!

Well, I only had 6 eggs, so I added just a bit of water to increase the volume some.

I didn’t use a nonstick pan because I don’t own one.

When I got to the final batch of potatoes, I did 3 batches. I added about 1/4-cup chicken broth to the pan first, scraped up the yummy browned bits, then added the remaining potatoes, cooked them until the broth was reduced and thick and the potatoes were soft and added all of that to the bowl of reserved onions and potatoes. Then I wiped out the pan and carried on as instructed.
Another note, it really is best to have these potatoes sliced thinly, 1/8-inch is perfect. If you don’t have a mandoline, or aren’t used to using one, pull out that slicing blade for your food processor. This is what it’s for!

This is a great brunch dish, afternoon lunch, terrific for a family get together.

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Spanish Tortilla with Manchego and Green Olives
Country Living, February 2014
page 94

1/4 cup plus 3 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/8inch thin slices
1 1/2 teas salt
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (about 5 medium potatoes), cut into 1/8 inch slices
1/2 teas freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1/4 pound aged Manchego cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 2 TB olive oil. Add onions and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add 2 TB oil. Working in batches add a third to half the potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add to reserved onions. Repeat until done.

Add eggs and olives to onion-potato mixture and stir to combine.

Wipe the skillet clean. Add olive oil. Add half of mixture, use back of spoon to create a smooth even layer. Top with cheese, then cover with remaining potato mixture. Cook fo 10 minutes on stove top, then transfer to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Adjust oven to broil and brown the top for 3-5 minutes. Cool pan on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Invert onto serving pan and slice.

Can be served hot or at room temp.

Monday Magazine Pick – Butternut Squash Carbonara

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There are few things as rich and comforting as pasta carbonara.

Depending upon the tradition you believe, real carbonara contains no cream, and I am of that camp. Many call this the chef’s post-work snack. It’s easy to whip and contains just a few ingredients that everyone always has on hand. The dish gets it’s lusciousness from eggs – and for me egg yolks, no watery whites allowed! I have lots of other uses for those.

So when I spotted this egg-less version in Bon Appetit, I knew I wanted to give it go. It was actually posted on the BA facebook page before I had a chance to peruse the magazine and the only words I needed to see were carbonara and butternut squash…hmmmmm…

The recipe called for kambocha or butternut squash, I used butternut because it is so easy to find and I love it.

As I noted in the recipe details below, I actually roasted the squash ahead of time, mainly because the oven was hot and I hadn’t read the recipe yet! In all honesty, I would probably do it that way again. Butternut squashes are thick tough suckers and can be a pain to cube when raw, even with a terrifically sharp knife! I cut it half, removed the seeds, drizzled some olive oil on a sheet pan and roasted it until soft.

Also feel free to sub bacon for pancetta. I don’t always have pancetta around, but I always have some uncured bacon in the freezer!

One other note, I made a new gluten free pasta discovery!

Other than my own homemade pasta, I tend to prefer the quinoa and corn pastas over the rice ones because of the texture. And, when I make my homemade pasta, I use quinoa flour as a key ingredient. I tend to find the rice ones gummy, even if you are meticulous about monitoring it during the cooking process. And one of the unexpected bummers to not eating regular pasta, is the lack of shape selection. I know, sounds weird, but I love tagliatelli and orechietti…anyway I was at a local organic food store and saw a new brand I had never tried. Jovial tagliatelli. It is brown rice pasta, but it is wonderful! Although I think the width of the noodles is more fettucine than tagliatelli, I like the super wide tagliatelli, the flavor and texture were great in this dish!

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Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage
Bon Appetit, February 2014
page 38

2 TB olive oil
4 oz pancetta, chopped
1 TB fresh sage, chopped
1 2lb kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups low sodium, gluten free, chicken broth
12 oz gluten free fettucine or other long pasta
1/4 cup grated Pecorino, plus more shaved for serving

Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8-10 minutes. Add sage, toss to coat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Add squash*, onion and garlic to skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add broth, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced, 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then puree in blender, season with salt and pepper as desired.

Set skillet aside.

Cook pasta in salted water to al dente.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta.

Add puree, pasta and 1/4 cup pasta water to skillet and heat over medium, adding more pasta water to get desired sauce consistency. You want a thick sauce coating the pasta well. Mix in grated Pecorino.

Serve with pancetta, sage and shaved Pecorino.

Puree can be made up to 3 days ahead.

*I know I promised to do these recipes to the letter…but I ended up roasting the butternut squash ahead of time. I actually had not read this recipe yet, just knew the ingredients it called for, I had the oven hot the other night roasting potatoes, so I thought I’d get ahead of the game and roast the butternut squash! So if you do the same thing, the only change in the cooking process above is that I cooked the onions and garlic until transparent and added the cooked squash at the same time as the broth. I also didn’t cook as long, only about 10-12 minutes after adding the broth.

Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens Stew

Monday Magazine Pick

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Yes, another soup!

It seems I make a lot of soup. I never really noticed it until I started blogging. But hey, it’s been a chilly winter and what goes better with winter than soup?

Soup is easy. It’s easy to make ahead, and usually improves with time. It freezes well, reheats well, is easy to grab to take to the office for lunch and can pack a huge nutritional punch…or cure a cold! I have no doubt the impromptu miso I whipped up on Saturday helped me feel better yesterday!

So here you go, the Monday Magazine Pick is a bean soup loaded with greens. As promised I stuck to the recipe as written, except, I made this in a slow cooker. It was just easier that way given the way my week was going last week, plus I really love my slow cooker.

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This soup is called Spicy bean soup…well, it was spicy, until I added the greens and then all hints of heat disappeared…not sure at all why that happened.

You will notice anchovies are called for in this recipe…DO NOT eliminate them! I cook with anchovies a lot, they simply add a briney, salty depth of flavor you cannot get elsewhere. Often you will never notice if they are in a recipe, but I promise you will notice if they aren’t.

Also the parmesan rind. I always have a rind in the freezer for occasions just like this. So next time you get to the end of that parmesan or Romano cheese, wrap the rind up and toss it in the freezer to add to soups.

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Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens

Bon Appetit
February 2014, pg 74

1/2 cup, plus 1 TB olive oil
4 anchovy filets packed in oil, drained
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinky sliced
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large sprig of rosemary
salt and pepper
1 Parmesan rind
1 lb dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 bunch mustard greens or kale
1 large bunch spinach
4 cups arugula, separated
lemon, Parmesan cheese, olive oil for topping.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in large Dutch oven over med heat. Cook anchovies, chilie flakes and garlic until garlic is soft andanchovies have disolved, about 4 minutes.

Add onion, celery and rosemary. Season generously with salt and pepper. In crease heat to med-high and cook until very soft and just golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

Add parmesan rind and beans and 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans begin to fall apart, 3-4 hours. Add more water if necessary.

Lightly crush some of the beans to add to the creaminess. Mix in kale, spinach and 3 cups of the arugula. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted.

Toss remaining arugula with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve soup with arugula, shaved Parmesan and drizzle of olive oil.

If using a slow cooker, follow all steps above, when it comes time to simmer, set cooker on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6.

Gluten Free Nutella Brownies

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I haven’t posted a dessert recipe in a while…don’t think it’s be cause I haven’t been baking though!

In recent years I sort of became the unofficial dessert queen when invited over to someone’s house for a dinner or an event. I tend to always bring a sweet treat, even if not asked to. Some of this stems from the fact that since going gluten free, if I want dessert I need to bring it myself and I really do love to bake!

So when I had a sweet tooth coming on last month, and I was in the mood to fire up the oven, or at least attempt to – that’s a whole other story. Anyway, I scoured the pantry to try to decide what I wanted to play around with when I spied the large jar of Nutella – two of them actually. The use-by date was a month away and I hate wasting food, so something with the creamy hazelnut spread was in order.

Certainly no good could come of this!!

Certainly no good could come of this!!

The 3-ingredient Nutella brownies are all over the internet – just Nutella, eggs and flour and voila! you have brownies.

I altered the recipe slightly. I made it gluten free, I added toasted hazelnuts on top because I had some in the freezer and I added dark chocolate chips because, well, why would you not?!

If you are a salty-sweet person like me, go ahead and add some Maldon sea salt flakes right when the brownies come out the oven. Don’t be afraid of adding salt to your sweet baking. Salt really is a flavor enhancer and in the right ratio it really adds to sweet treats bring out the flavors and it usually isn’t even noticeable. Sweets can be, yes, too sweet and actually sort of one dimensional in flavor, just a bit of salt can help add depth and enhance the chocolate, vanilla, caramel, whatever flavor you have used. Just a sprinkling of the flakes on these brownies just bring out the richness of the dark chocolate and Nutella!

I’ve made these brownies four times now, taken them to friends, devoured them myself, and with and without the salt. I have to admit I like the with salt version the best!

NUTELLA BROWNIES

1 cup Nutella

10 TB gluten free flour (I used King Arthur)

2 eggs

2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix Nutella, eggs and flour with mixer until blended. The batter will be very thick. Add chocolate chips, reserve a handful for the top if you want. Stir with a spoon.

Spread batter into prepared 8×8 pan.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

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Monday Magazine Pick

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I am a magazine junkie, always have been. Even when I was a little kid I loved looking at the magazine rack at the store, all the bright colored photos of beautiful people, homes and FOOD!

I still stop and stare at the magazine rack at the grocery store and oh my gosh at Barnes and Noble, I can hardly contain myself! Most of my subscriptions arrive on my tablet now, but I confess I get most of my food magazines in the mail and my ipad. With apologies to the trees, holding an actual magazine or a book, well, there is nothing like it.

I also still flip through the magazines the day they arrive and immediately dog-ear the pages with all the recipes I want to try. You know you do the same thing! But how often do you go back and make those great dishes? There are so many food blogs, web sites, TV shows, seemingly endless sources of recipes out there, people rarely turn to cookbooks or magazines any more.

So I have decided that every Monday I will feature a recipe from a food magazine. I promise to stick to the recipe as written. Those who know me, know that hardly ever happens. A recipe is little more than a guide to me, an inspiration. I usually just look at the list of ingredients, a photo of the dish if available and then put my spin on it, substitute items as needed and so on. That’s just what I do! One caveat to this stick-to-the-recipe plan. I will alter it to be gluten free as needed. I’ll let you know if the recipe failed or succeeded and where I think alterations might be helpful if necessary.

So welcome to the first installment of Monday’s Magazine Pick…

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Butter Lettuce Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

 Food and Wine, February 2014, pg 84

2 plum tomatoes, halved

2 medium shallots, quartered lengthwise

1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for brushing

1 TB plus 2 teas sherry vinegar

2 teas dijon mustard

2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (2.5 ounces)

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 TB for pumpkin seeds

salt and pepper

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 1/2 teas chili powder

1/4 lb (4 slices) thick cut bacon, diced

2 heads butter lettuce, cut into wedges

thinly sliced red onion

diced tomato

 

Preheat oven to 425.

Brush tomatoes and shallots with canola oil. Roast on baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned in spots.

Transfer to a blender and cool completely. Then add vinegar and mustard Puree until smooth. Add blue cheese. Puree. With machine running add canola and olive oil until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil and chili powder. Place in single layer on baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Cool.

In a skillet, cook diced bacon over moderate heat until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange wedge of lettuce on plate, top with pumpkin seeds, bacon, onions and tomatoes. Drizzle with tomato vinaigrette.

A few notes. This may seem a like a lot of steps for a salad, but it comes together quite quickly. Bake the pumpkin seeds while the tomatoes and shallots are cooling and while the oven is still hot.

The dressing offers a unique change of pace from the average mustard vinaigrette. I look forward to making it with some more flavorful local tomatoes this summer.

If you have never used sherry vinegar I encourage you to get some. It has great tang combined with a slight sweetness that no other acid can match. The blue cheese adds a richness to this dressing, but doesn’t scream blue cheese at you with the first bite. In fact you might not be able to place just what that extra something is if you didn’t already know it. If you have leftover cheese, I would crumble it over the salad.

All in all I would make this one again, the dressing itself is one I will repeat, probably often!

 

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