Posts tagged ‘Cheese’

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!

August 27, 2012

The best way I’ve ever eaten Eggplant

I am a bad Italian.  I HATE raw tomatoes and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore! There is something about the texture that freaks me out and to be frank, I am not all too crazy about the taste.  I know, it’s pretty horrible considering that tomatoes are a huge source of vitamins and I deprive myself of that on a regular basis.  Up until a couple of year ago, though, not only did I hate tomatoes but I also hated eggplant.  Beurk.  Non, merci.  I found it to be spongy and unpleasantly bitter.  An Italian who hates tomatoes and eggplant?  Not a good combination. But one day, I tasted eggplant in all of its glory — eggplant parmigiana.  How can anyone reject FRIED vegetables (screams the American inside of me?) It was outstanding.  Delicious.  Full of oil and happiness (and potential heart attacks.) But it still didn’t have a texture that suited me.

Now, it must be known that most of my hours trolling the internet  are spent on food websites.  And in my browsing, I stumbled upon an interesting technique for making eggplant that supposedly gets the bitterness out! I followed the instructions, and was bestowed with the discovery of the most silky, creamy eggplant that I’ve ever eaten in my life. Now I know how Christopher Columbus must’ve felt when he arrived in America.  Now, I will never eat eggplant any other way.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3-5 Tb. olive oil
  • salt
    (optional: drizzle 3 Tb. honey with thyme leaves and sea salt)

Now what?

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant into thin 1/6 inch rounds.
  2. Place the eggplant slices in an airtight tupperware and pour the milk over it. Cover and refrigerate over night. *This is the vital part of the eggplant amelioration process!* 
  3. In a slightly deep dish, mix the flour with 1 tsp. salt. Heat the olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels.
  4. When the oil is hot, dip the eggplant in the flour but be sure to tap off the excess.  Place them in the pan and fry for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden.  Remove from the oil and place on the paper toweled plate. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, always adding oil as needed.

How we ate it?

We enjoyed this creamy eggplant with some creamy goat cheese.  One of the best parts of living in France is the Saturday morning market.  I have a cheese guy.  He has a serious mustache.  My life in France. Anyway, we assembled our sandwiches on English muffins (which could perhaps be a French faux pas considering all of the crusty baguettes running freely!)  On the bread, we spread some eggplant cavier (recipe to come soon), goat cheese, eggplant, goat cheese, eggplant, truffled salt until the result was too divine to be true.  I imagine that the sandwich ideas are endless with this sort of eggplant! How do YOU eat eggplant?

August 6, 2012

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake | Cheesecake à la ricotta

I am an Italian American which means that I grew up feasting on all things delicious (and saying things like ‘rigoth’ instead of ricotta and ‘ganol’ instead of cannoli).  As a child though, I didn’t fully appreciate the allure of this cake.  Every Easter, I poo-pooed it and grabbed some Cadberry eggs instead, satiating my sophomoric taste buds.  But there is something funny about being across an entire ocean that makes me rethink all of those old recipes that I grew up knowing but turning my nose up at out of sheer ignorance.  When spending Easter without your family, for example, all that you can think about making is your Grandma’s cheesecake, even though you can’t seem to remember exactly how it tastes.  In just creating the cake with your own hands, it brings forth an entire culture, familial history and series of memories that are essential on all days, but on holidays in particular.

But it’s no such holiday right now and I am simply fulfilling a request for an Italian cheesecake.  Using ricotta instead of cream cheese really changes the texture a whole lot.  Don’t poo-poo this cake like I did a very long time ago.  Make it just once and it will be your go-to cheesecake for a while!

Usually this produces an enormous amount of batter.  Since I was cooking for 8 (on two separate occasions, I know, cheating my way out of baking two separate desserts! How dare I!),  I thought I would make single serving portions out of wax paper.  This could be a very fruitful idea, in theory, but be sure to press your crust INTO place to prevent overflowing cheese rivers that create your very first  kitchen “debacle.” I did manage to salvage four cheesecakes (which I believe to be kitchen karma telling me I should’ve never lump-summed two desserts into one…)

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lb (600g) ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 g) of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½  tsp vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup (60 g) heavy cream, whipped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups graham crackers (or speculoos cookies), crushed

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Beat drained ricotta until smooth and gradually add ¾ cups sugar and egg yolks, beating after each addition.
  3. Beat in flour, lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff and then combine with whipped cream.  Gently fold cream mixture into ricotta mixture.
  5. Turn into 12-inch spring form pan (or mini vessels, or mini muffin tins, or mini ramekins or whatever you’d like) which has been well buttered and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.
  6. Bake 10 minutes at 425 and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for one hour or until golden brown and wobbly to the touch.
  7. Turn off heat and allow to cool in the oven with the door closed.
  8. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

(the vessels)

(the cream)

(the very minis)

(the salvaged)

(the explosion)

(the massacre)

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