Archive for ‘Cheese’

June 11, 2013

Big Schnooze’s Lite Summer Salad

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Summertime is upon us here in Strasbourg. Or at least I think. The weather has oscillated between scolding hot and blistery cold for the past month. The only solid sign I have that summer is almost here is the giant mosquito that is torturing me each night. Otherwise, the changing of the seasons is a most promising feeling when you get your produce from a market each week. The French rarely eat out of season, which for me meant discovering a ton of new produce (like, what the hell was a leek? and rhubarb? I’m sorry, that just doesn’t grow on Long Island!) and THEN having to learn when to get excited for what. Poor old me who thought strawberries were a year ’round fruit.

Now I know the simple joys of asparagus season — those few, beautiful weeks where you eat so much asparagus that your pee stinks for weeks. Or cantaloupe season — those magnificent round delights that migrate north from the Provence region of France (think Beauty and the Beast) around this time every year. Ah eating seasonally.  Maybe people do it in the United States, I just never had before. Shame on me.

This recipe is simple, easy and reminds me of a good dear Schnooze. Her invention perhaps? Or perhaps she was just the one to introduce me to this medley of flavors. But when summer time roles around, big Schnooze’s lite summer salad comes out and it brings me back to Strasbourg : Summer 2011, 2012.  For a lack of better name, I have named this one after you, Schnooze.

Big Schnooze’s Lite Summer Salad

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cantaloupe, cut into cubes
  • 1 cucumber, scraped out and cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, cut into bite sized bits
  • 1.5 cups feta, cut into cubes
  • as much chopped fresh mint as needed to cover the dish — preferably from the Beard’s mom’s garden…

Now what?

Easy. Cut each ingredient into a bite size cube. Mix in a bowl. Eat chilled. (Can be kept in fridge if you haven’t finished yet! But I would eat this quickly since it can get soggy after about 2 days.)

Serve with wine. Gewurztraminer is a good idea.

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What are we listening to in the kitchen in honor of Schnooze? Postcards from Italy – Beirut

Bon app!

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June 9, 2013

Banana Bread Crepe Cake | gâteau aux crêpes

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Here is a cake that trumps all cakes.A crepe that trumps all crepes.

The kind of cake that makes the French tremble in their booties.  What a sacrilegious idea to combine crepes to make something other than a traditional crepe, egg and ham dish? Though they all shudder at the thought of a crepe cake, they always come back, eye-ing the photos, interested, wondering if they could put their culinary preferences aside for the moment in order to engage in such an American spin on the crepe.

This is the kind of cake that says “I am sorry but I don’t have a birthday present for you.” This is the kind of cake that says “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. This is the kind of cake that says “squish” when you cut into it. This cake is divine. The recipe seems long and daunting but once you have mastered the crepe technique (which is essentially the pancake technique but easier) this cake is a breeze. No oven needed. Can be stuck in the freezer for faster consolidating results. Even the most anti-banana beards on the planet have approved the subtle hint of banana that infiltrates the palate. It marries perfectly with the cream and the butterscotch. There really is no other way to eat 10 crepes in one bite than this way.

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Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

(serves a many, but was eaten by 2.)

What you’ll need:

Crepe batter

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 large ripe banana (should yield about 1/2 cup peeled and squished)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Cream cheese yogurt filling

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Walnut butterscotch topping

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (about 50 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste

Now what?

  1. Crepe batter: Mix together banana and butter in a food processor or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing until obtaining a smooth liquid. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 1 hour minimum. This part is essential since it helps your crepe batter thicken up significantly. If possible, overnight will yield the best results.
  2. To make the crepes: Heat a non-stick skillet or a crepe pan on medium heat. The best part about France is that a crepe pan will cost you 2 euros whereas in America where it will be deemed a specialty item. Melt a nub of butter in the pan. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the crepe batter in the pan as you swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads out evenly and thinly across the whole pan. Emergency fill in any open holes carefully with fresh batter if need be. The French will argue that an ideal crepe is a thin one. Let the crepe cook, untouched for 2-3 minutes. Once it is ready to be flipped, the crepe will be golden brown and it will peel right off and flip easily. Cook for 30 seconds on the second side, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, you should get 10-11 crepes. Cool crepes completely before assembling the cake.
  3. Cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese until fluffy, then add the greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla and beat for another minute, until fluff-city.
  4. Cake assembly: Lay the very first cake on your cake platter or plate of choice. Spread with 1/4 cup of the cream cheese filling and then place another crepe on top. Repeat until the crepes or the cream cheese filling runs out, but be sure to end with a crepe hat on top.
  5. Butterscotch topping: Combine the cream, brown sugar and butter in the bottom of a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as it reduces and thickens. After 10 minutes, once it smells toasty and feels thick to the touch, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, then walnuts. Immediately pour over stack of filled crepes. Spread the butterscotch over all of the “hat” so that everyone gets their share of butterscotch topping.

Bon app!

November 16, 2012

Stuffed Shells | pâtes farcies à la ricotta

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Lately, I’ve been feeling like I just don’t have enough time to breathe.  Even if I do find a spare moment, I spend it agonizing about the trillions of other things that I ought to be doing.  Consequentially, I get nothing done, for I’ve spent all of that time agonizing.  Vicious circle.  In an attempt to save myself from a lack of cooking nervous breakdown, I decided that I would cook a little dinner for two.  Uninspired, I biked to the supermarket in the pouring rain to get some materials anyway.  Sometimes I go to French supermarkets to oogle the 3 aisles strictly devoted to butter, yogurt and cream.  As I was strolling through those glorious aisles, I stumbled upon the “discount” section (the French have a hilarious way of pronouncing it -discooont.)  A medium sized shell shaped cheese vessel caught my eye, and I was suddenly inspired.  I would do what my Mamoon does best and shove 4 types of cheese combined (heeaaaven) into the inside of my favorite food of all time (carbohydrates = pasta) and cover it with even more cheese.  Only after having made a garlicky and onion-y sauce to dump all over that pasta mixture like a warm blanket in winter.  Done deal. I was sold.  I bought all of the remaining large shell pasta bags on the shelf because goodness me, who knows the next time I will be able to find those here.

This recipe comes from the book that was and still remains king in my household, “Eat This, It’ll Make You Feel Better” by Dom Deluise.  That jolly faced and pleasantly plump man posing with eggplants on the inside of the book (no joke) taught me how to do the cooking that was usually improvised on Sundays.  Stuffed shells are usually made for a special event in my family, but I decided that just having the time to stuff shells full of cheese was special enough of an event.  And en plus, the odor of garlic and onions wafting through the kitchen is enough to make me weak in the knees, imaging myself back in New York, even though my feet may be standing in Strasboug, France.

Je vous présente….

Ma Ziti’s Stuffed Shells

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(adapted from Dom Deluise)

serves 6 hungry, hungry hippos people.

What You’ll Need:

Filling:

  •  2 eggs
  • 1 lb (500 g) ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 (200 g) pound mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbsp parsley
  • few leaves of basil, chopped
  • dash of pepper
  • grated cheese for topping

Sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • pinch of sugar
  • Italian seasoning
  • 24 giant ziti shells

What now?

  1. Fry garlic and onions in a pot until fragrant.  Add diced tomatoes, pinch of sugar and Italian seasonings, heat thoroughly and then set aside.  That’s your quick sauce.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, parsley, basil and pepper.
  3. Cook giant shells in lots of boiling water until al dente.  Don’t overcook it though! They are easier to fill when they are a little stiff.  Drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
  4. Stuff each shell with a few tablespoons of the cheese mixture.
  5. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with about 1/2 inch of sauce.  Arrange stuffed shells side by side in the sauce.  Cover with remaining sauce and a light dusting of cheese.
  6. Bake covered in a 350 f / 180 c oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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October 20, 2012

Butternut Pasta with Caramalized Onions and Spinach

My friendly market vegetable stand man gifted me with a butternut squash this week.  He likes to tease me because I am American, often (and repeatedly) telling me stories about his trip to New Jersey and how he tried to lose his wife in the Bronx (oh Alsatian humor, unsure of how funny it actually is…)  His wife is usually standing right next to me as he tells this story, with a look of desperation in her eyes as if to say that she wished that she were still in the Bronx as well.  In any case, perhaps this gift was in fact a curse because never have I ever spent so much time deconstructing a butternut squash. But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, hm?  In America, we have the luxury of buying vegetables that are peeled and chopped for us.  Not in France.  They make you do the dirty work yourself.  And dirty it is — and incredibly dangerous as well — because those chopped pieces of squash have a proclivity to fly across the kitchen, nearly blinding any and all innocent standbys.

Anyway, I am not here to lecture on the hazards of butternut squash but rather to tell you how imperative it is that you make this faux-mac and cheese.  It is the kind of recipe that spent the entire week open in my tab-bar beckoning me at the end of every day. J’avoue (I admit) that it is a lot of preparation but oyé (Alsatian version of oy vey?), it is worth it in the end.  The most satiating pasta dish I’ve had in a very long time.  En plus, it is full of vegetables to rid the conscious of any sort of guilt.  And subbing in greek yogurt in the place of creme fraiche provides a tangy sort of sauce without breaking the calorie bank.  All in all an A+.

This recipe is originally made with KALE in the place of spinach but since I can’t seem to find this elusive vegetable in my current country, I opted for some fresh spinach instead to increase my intake of leafy greens!

Butternut Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Serves 6, adapted from Eats Well With Others (my blog GURU)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz (400 g) whole wheat pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere (let’s be honest, I may have used a little more)

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 400 f / 200 c Spend several hours face to face with your butternut squash fully equipped with a machete. Or, peel the squash like a potato (good luck with that), cut it length-wise and then scoop out its innards like that squash hurt the ones you loved the most. Take the cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it on a baking sheet to roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want that to be soft and sort of caramelized.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salt water for about 7 minutes.
  3. Simultaneously (this recipe requires ambidexterity), sauté the onions in a medium sized skillet on medium heat for about 6 minutes until they start to brown. Add garlic and salt cooking until very fragrant.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth with flour to create a sort of paste. Add to the onion mixture and cook until it thickens up a bit, slowly adding more vegetable broth. Wait until it thickens up before adding a little more. This is a sort of faux-roux.
  5. Once it seems good and thick, remove from heat, add red pepper flakes, greek yogurt (and a handful of gruyere) to make it officially a sauce.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the rest of the components: pasta, spinach, butternut squash, and mix well.
  7. Pour into a large glass baking dish, top with gruyere and put that sucker in the oven at 400 f / 200 c until you’ve got a crusty baked pasta dish (20 minutes)
  8. et bon app!
October 14, 2012

Crustless Leek Quiche | quiche aux poireaux sans pâte!

I feel like so much has happened in a month’s time.  I am slightly surprised by how time consuming working, going to classes, tutoring and trying to live my life has been.  I feel like I used to have impeccable time management skills in college and all of that went out the window when I got to France.  Maybe I am not used to balancing things.  Maybe this time period has been exceptionally hectic.  Maybe.  Maybe I should be working right now and I haven’t done squat just yet because cooking my lunch for the week seemed much more important.
Because how can I be expected to get things done if my lunch isn’t something that I look forward to greatly throughout the early morning hours of the day?

An amazing person gifted me with a bento box for my back to school days and I couldn’t be happier (and often, he fills it up for me with delicious home-cooked healthy lunches.)  So today I wanted to brainstorm a fairly easy contribution to the bento box in order to fill up his double decker delicious vessel.
And how about a quiche?  Nothing says miam miam like a single serving quiche.  Jam packed with egg protein, moderate cheese deliciousness and leeks.  Leeks were a vegetable I did not know about prior to coming to France.  Now it is something that my quiches must always have! Why crustless, you may be asking?  Well, it is a whole lot of butter and I didn’t have one on hand.  Consider this: quiche lite.  Consider this remorse cooking after eating not one but 2 birthday fondues last night (but my goodness weren’t they so good.)
Though I’d love to sit and chat, I must get back to my work.  But à l’aise fraise will be more attentive….I promise…

Crustless Leek Quiche | quiche aux poireaux sans pâte!

makes four single serving quiches

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 medium leeks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 5 large eggs
  • 600 mls milk
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (maizena)
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Gruyère

Now what?

1. Preheat your oven to 350 f / 180 c degrees.

2. Meanwhile, cut off the roots and green leaves of leek.  Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices.  Rinse in a bowl of water to get rid of dirt (be sure to swish the leeks around.)  Remove the leek by hand from the bowl of water and drain well.  Toss those babies into a preheated skill with olive oil.

3.  While the leeks are cooking (about 12-14 minutes), combine the eggs, milk, cream, cornstarch and half of the gruyère.  Season this well (I like to add a little cumin for absolutely no explainable reason.)  Whisk together until well mixed.

4.  Butter quiche dishes in order to ensure easy removal.  First, add the leeks equally to the dish or dishes to make sure that each quiche has a fair amount of leeks.  Finally, pour the egg mixture over the quiches and sprinkle with remaining gruyère to get that golden brown top often dreamt about.

5.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean and the tops are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before removing. Enjoy hot or room temperature! Put it in your bento box for a quick (originally wrote quichke) lunch!

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