Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake

It’s hard to find delicious apricots in Massachusetts–usually I’m limited to whatever the grocery store has shipped in from California, and while  plenty large these are often mealy  and flavorless.  Apricots are notoriously poor travelers, and much like strawberries, flavor gets sacrificed for sturdiness–and the ability to travel cross-country.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (3 of 4)

So I go a little crazy during those few short weeks when the Red Jacket Orchard apricots from upstate New York come in at the grocery store, and even crazier when the farmer’s markets have apricots on display.  (It’s a good year for fruit!).  So it was that I bought about seven pounds of apricots and carried them home on the commuter rail–the majority dedicated to an apricot-cardamom jam.  True to their delicate nature, a few still remained for eating fresh out of hand, but the rest were bruised from their commute–feeling, perhaps, much as we all do after a long day?  No way could these be wasted, so little surprise what comes next:  I found myself baking!

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (2 of 4)

As you know, I love baking with ricotta–it adds a wonderful springiness as well as sturdiness to baked goods.  More prosaically, we were about to go on vacation and the expiry date on the tub was nigh.  There’s plenty of cheesecake-apricot recipes on the web, but I had the urge to make one of those snacking cakes that can acceptably be eaten at breakfast.  I found this recipe on the blog Seasonal Desserts, and made a few tweaks of my own, adding a bit of whole grain flour and a splash of rose water.

Apricot rose ricotta cake, assembled.

As you can see from my shoddily-lit instagram photo above, the cake looks rather flat and unsubstantial in batter form–be not dismayed, as you have ample proof it bakes up beautifully.  You can also see that no matter how unphotogenically you’ve arranged your apricot halves, the result is nonetheless stunning.  Don’t you love it when that happens?

I’ve provided Maria Teresa’s suggested amount of apricots (six to eight) but if you are using local fruits you might have a variety of sizes.  Just fit as many halves as you can over the surface, bake, and enjoy.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (1 of 4)

 

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 250 grams ricotta []
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 6-8 apricots, washed, divided in half and stone removed
Instructions
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch round cake or springform pan and place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place the eggs, zests and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Set the mixer to its lowest speed and beat in the ricotta.
  6. Add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until they are incorporated.
  7. Pour about the batter into the prepared pan. Place as many apricots as you can fit on top of the batter and sprinkle them with the extra sugar.
  8. Bake the cake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (4 of 4)

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Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano

With your more well-known beans, I don’t have too much trouble figuring out what to do.  Black beans make a great soup or salad base, white beans and pretty much anything go well together, and red beans just require a bit of spice.  And garbanzos, well, I could almost eat them every day.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (4 of 6)

But my nose certainly crinkled a bit to get giant lima beans as part of my Rancho Gordo bean subscription.  The mealy sallow green crescents I remember eating from time to time as a child were not inspiring, with the fact that they were dried only being a new wrinkle.  What to do but turn to google.?

I’m happy to report that the same things that work so well for other beans do the trick here too.  Like all the herbs I grow in my backyard (and in contrast to all the vegetables and berries, which if they grow at all are eaten by squirrels and rabbits), my pot of oregano is lush and fragrant.  Its flavor in this pesto is as vivid as the color suggests, and is the indispensable flavor that brings this dish together.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (1 of 6)

While this recipe unfortunately proceeds in many stages–cooking the beans, simmering down the tomato sauce, baking the whole thing together in the oven and topping with pesto and fried bread crumbs–it actually requires very little active work.  I cooked the beans and tomatoes one evening, then assembled the casserole the next day when I got home from work and immediately popped it in the oven to be ready for dinner a little while later.  A few minutes pounding on my mortar and pestle is always a therapeutic end to a workday, though you can use a food processor to make the pesto as well.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (3 of 6)

And it probably goes without saying that this treatment would work nicely with any bean you happen to have on hand, but it’s nice to have something up my sleeve for when the next bag of gigantes shows up in my mailbox.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (2 of 6)

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano
Ingredients
  • Lima Beans
  • 3 cups (one pound) dried giant lima beans or gigantes, rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 4 hours or overnight and drained
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • One 14 or 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese (6 1/2 ounces), for sprinkling
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • Pesto
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, cover the lima beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the limas are just tender but still al dente, about 2 1/2 hours; add water as needed to keep the limas covered by 2 inches. Season the limas with salt and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Drain the limas, and if desired, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid for use in the tomato sauce.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano and the reserved bean cooking liquid (or 1 1/2 cups water) and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 1 hour. Season the tomato sauce with salt.
  3. In a mini food processor or with a mortar and pestle, combine the olive oil with the oregano, parsley and garlic and pulse to a coarse puree. Season the oregano pesto with salt. Press plastic wrap against the surface to help prevent browning while you store.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the limas to cover the base of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and spread the tomato sauce on top (or mix together before putting in the dish). Sprinkle the feta on top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 40 minutes, until the beans are bubbling and the cheese is browned. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
  6. Top the beans with the bread crumbs, dollop with the oregano pesto and serve.
Notes
The cooked limas, tomato sauce and pesto can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding. While the original recipe suggested using some of the bean cooking liquid in making the tomato sauce, I used water instead as I was cooking both the beans and sauce simultaneously. To my mind, there was no significant flavor loss.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (6 of 6)

Sfoglini’s Zucchini Radiatore Pasta and a visit to Wedge Brooklyn

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For all you Brooklynites or vistors to the area, I have found a nice little gem in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  It’s a new little cheese shop called Wedge and it’s a great new store to the area.

There are many little items to browse through in the store, but their big ticket item is the cheese. There are all sorts of other products to buy like jam, condiments and different beverages. They even have picnic baskets to buy to take to the park!

Now, I should be writing about all the cheeses I’ve tried, but, well… I haven’t tried them yet. I’m really quite disappointed in myself. Please don’t stop reading. There is more to this blog.

Even though it is in many ways not as exciting as cheese,  I have been trying a pasta they sell called Sfoglini!  It’s a great organic pasta that is made with semolina flour.  I know that “it’s just pasta.” So, why not get the cheaper kind at the grocery store? But I have to say I’m hooked. I’m not sure what exactly makes it taste so good (probably the semolina flour), but the pastas has a very hearty taste to them and they taste far more filling than normal pasta I have cooked in the past.

When I went to their website at sfoglini.com, I also read they use bronze dies which adds to the texture of the pasta. Also, they air dry the pasta which adds to the flavor. Clearly, I’m not making pasta at home so I think for 10 dollars this is a great find.

The nice thing is they make a variety of pastas that I think are fairly unique. They have a great pasta called Mint Radiator. It’s made with pureed fresh mint and it’s divine. I’ve also bought a pasta that is called “trumpets” which basically are shaped like a “flower or horn.”

Mint Radiators

I’ve made two pasta dishes so far but my favorite of the two is “Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini”

This dish can be made on any weeknight. It’s very filling and the zucchini makes me feel like I don’t have to made a side salad or cook another vegetable. (I’m a big fan of the one dish dinner).

Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Author: Sfoglini.com
Ingredients
  • 6 oz Sfoglini Mint Radiators
  • 2 1/2 oz yellow zucchini (cut in moons)
  • 1 oz diced red onion
  • 1 oz chopped kalamata olives
  • 6 chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat 3 quarts of salted water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook for 5-8 minutes.
  3. While pasta is cooking, saute the zucchini and onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium to high heat.
  4. After about 1 minute, add the olives and a pinch of salt and 1-2 tbsp of the pasta water so the onions don’t caramelize.
  5. Cook for another 2 minutes making sure the zucchini stays firm.
  6. Add the pasta, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of cheese and a splash of pasta water to saute pan and stir together.
  7. Toss in mint leaves and a pinch of red chili flakes.
  8. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and top off with grated cheese.

If you are interested in going to Wedge yourself click below for hours and address.

Wedge

7288 Franklin Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

https://www.facebook.com/wedgeonfranklin

http://www.yelp.com/biz/wedge-brooklyn

To learn more about Sfolgini, here’s the link below:

http://sfoglini.com

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

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I was so excited to finally get The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from my library after being on the waiting list for over a month! My sister, of course, has it as well as many friends who all highly recommend it.  It’s a great book for small kitchens, and for people that love vegetarian options for dinner (with a lot of cheese).

It’s a hit for me because I (1) have a tiny kitchen, (2) love cheese and don’t always need to eat meat and (3) have a little baby just like the author of the book had when she wrote it. There are many dishes I’m going to be trying over the next month (if I can keep the book out that long) and the first one I tried was Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.

The author, Deb Perelman, was inspired by a dish at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan.  I have never been to this restaurant, but have always wanted to go as it’s one of those “must-go-to” places in the city.

This is also a good recipe to make in stages. With a little one around, it was easy to stop and start. I was able to make the pesto in the afternoon and then not make the pasta until about a half hour before I had dinner. In Deb’s book, she even talks about how she made this dish especially when she had a newborn. I thought it quite suitable to start out with this recipe first.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Perelman
Ingredients
  • salt
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (or almonds)
  • 2 oz chunk romano or parmesan
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes (dry variety; if oil-packed, be sure to drain and mince them by hand before putting them in the food processor)
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • few tbsp of parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sherry vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 lb of linguine
Instructions
  1. Set a large of salted water to boil.
  2. Prepare pesto: Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, and repeat with the second batch, adding it to the same bowl when you are finished.
  3. Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds (or pine nuts), cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley in a food processor.
  4. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower and add the olive oil, the smaller amount of vinegar, and some salt and stir until completely combined. (If you do this step in the food processor, it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.)
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed–either by adding salt, pepper or remainder of vinegar. (start out with about 1/2 tsp of salt but go up to nearly a full tsp)
  6. Assemble Dish: Once water is boiling, add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  7. Reserve a cup of the cooking water then drain rest.
  8. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed.

In her cookbook she recommends cutting up the cauliflower chunks by hand that don’t easily cut in the food processor, but I found no problem with this.  You will know the pesto is ready when it looks like “course breadcrumbs.”  The recipe can be modified to fit your tastes and if I make this again I will probably add more pine nuts (only because I love them) and maybe a couple more splashes of sherry vinegar which adds a nice bite.

The recipe does request you mix the pesto immediately with the pasta and water, but I had to refrigerate mine (not sure this was necessary) for a couple of hours before I served it, and I think it tasted just fine. I did have to work harder to make sure the ingredients were dispersed evenly, but other than that I was satisfied and so was my husband who can sometimes picky! It was fabulous for leftovers.

Pesto Cauliflower

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad

This is one of those recipes I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about before.  I make it a lot:  enough that my husband simply refers to it as “the salad.”   So I think it’s due for a post, especially now that it’s summer.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (2 of 3)

I first made this salad several years ago, from a recipe in Tessa Kiros’s Falling Cloudberries–but it’s so easy that I haven’t actually opened the cookbook (for that recipe at least) since.  As they say, it’s all “up here” (imagine me tapping at the side of my forehead now, if you please).  Meanwhile, my husband just calls it “the salad”–

What’s nice is it is both a filling salad–thanks to the chickpeas, it can be a main meal–and light–plenty of fresh herbs and a touch of hot pepper working their magic.  There’s a little sweetness from the sautéed red onions, some richness from the feta, and a unifying brightness provided by a squeeze of lemon.  And while I give precise quantities in the recipe, since it’s all “up here,” all these measures are really approximations.  It’s an easy summer salad that should be easy to make, so just, you know, go with it.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (3 of 3)

I hate to be that person, so I’m not going to tell you to buy the most expensive brand of feta in the store, but you should definitely buy one that you like, as the cheese is crumbled into the salad and retains its character (and as you can see from the photo, the feta almost insinuates itself into the dressing).  I prefer sheep or goat’s milk feta sold in brine (after being thoroughly indoctrinated on the subject by a dear friend from Greece) but go with what you like.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (1 of 3)

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad
Author: adapted from Tessa Kiros [url href=”Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes “][/url]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, and cooked OR two cans.
  • 1/2 c olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or other pepper, seeded and chopped fine OR 1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Cook the chickpeas until soft if using dried chickpeas (about 1 1/2- 2 hours). Drain the beans.
  2. Sautee the red onion gently in 1/4c of olive oil. If using dried pepper flakes, cook together with the red onion. When the onion has softened and the red has turned to a slightly translucent magenta, add the garlic and fresh pepper if using. Cook for another 30 seconds or so until you can smell the scent of the garlic, and remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a bowl. Add the chickpeas and the remaining olive oil, and season with salt and pepper (but be careful with the salt as the feta will be salty). Pour the onion mixture over (including the oil) and stir in. (I like to add while it’s still warm to help the flavors meld).
  4. Crumble in the feta, and finally stir in the chopped cilantro and parsley. Adjust for salt, and serve at room temperature.

 

Gooseberry Tart

For me, gooseberries are one of those quintessentially British fruits, like damson plums or sloes, that I nonetheless never managed to try while I lived in London.Gooseberry Tart

To rectify this, I’ve been on the lookout for them  for the past several years, only to be disappointed.  But this year’s fruit crop in Massachusetts is proving to be amazing–tons of sour cherries have now given way to red, black, and even golden raspberries, along with red and black currants and yes, gooseberries.

Gooseberry Tart

The price, unfortunately, reflects the fact that these gooseberries are so hard to come by.  So even though I splurged on two generously filled half pints at the farmer’s market, I came home to find I didn’t even have the four to five cups required for a pie.  Fortunately, I had enough for pie’s rustic French cousin, a galette.

Gooseberry Tart

While you thankfully don’t have to chop gooseberries (which must be as tedious as cutting up grapes or cherry tomatoes for toddlers) they do require a bit of prep work–they need to be topped and tailed, which is really just removing the stem from one end and the blossom from the other.  It’s easy enough to do, but given how these tiny bits tend to stick to your fingers, and then rub off on the next gooseberry you reach for, you’ll want to wash your berries after this process.  Once done, the gooseberries look much like grapes, albeit rather veiny ones.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly.  It’s easy to find helpers who will enjoy sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the berries and the crust.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberries are surprisingly tart, and are said to taste a bit like strawberries–which is true, but not something I would have noticed had I not already been aware of the comparison.  They cook down into a juicy filling, and have a surprising richness–making it easy to see why gooseberries complement savory dishes so nicely.  For dessert, however, a tart yogurt ice cream or dollop of creme fraiche would nicely accompany this galette, with the fruit’s juices swirling together with the melting cream.

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberry Tart
Author: Adapted from Lindsey Shere, via [url href=”http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/gooseberry-tart”%5DFood and Wine[/url]
Ingredients
  • Pastry
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
  • About 3 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint gooseberries (about 3 cups), stems and tails removed
Instructions
Make the crust.
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender (or two knives or forks) or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until the mixture resembles a mix of coarse cornmeal with larger particles the size of peas. (I.e. you’ll still have a fair amount of larger chunks of butter). Stir in the ice water with a fork. When the dough holds together, knead it a few times against the side of the bowl to smooth it out. (If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a few more drops of ice water.) Pat the dough into a disk, and wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Flour a surface and roll out the dough into a round about 14 inches in diameter. (You may have to wait a few moments for the dough to soften). It need not be perfect around the edges as this gives it its rustic look. Lay it on a large baking sheet or pizza pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate briefly while you prepare the filling (but no longer as the crust will get to hard to fold over the filling later).
Make the filling and assemble the tart
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Mix 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar with the flour and sprinkle this mixture over a 9-inch area of the pastry. Spread the prepared gooseberries on top. (I rolled out the dough before prepping the gooseberries; the dough chilled while I topped and tailed the berries). Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar and sprinkle the remainder over the gooseberries. Fold the edges of the pastry up over the berries to form a 9-inch free-form tart, making pleats and pressing them together lightly. Brush the pastry with water and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon-sugar.
  2. Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the gooseberries are bubbling and lightly browned and the pastry has caramelized in spots and is well browned on the bottom. Cut the tart into wedges with a sharp knife and serve.

Gooseberry Tart