January 25, 2011

Ricotta-Smashed Potatoes

I had an aha food moment last night. Sometimes those aha moments are utter failures, sometimes they work out beautifully. Last night's aha food moment was lovely and easy and elegant and I urge you try it!

Ricotta-Smashed Potatoes
8-10 large Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, skins on
3/4 cup Ricotta (I used part skim, but whole would work too)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4-5 large garlic cloves, quartered
1 large lemon, in wedges
1 tbs whole peppercorns
3 dry bay leaves

-Bring salted water with lemon, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic, to boil.
-Cut potatoes into 4-6 large chunks.
-Boil potatoes until very soft, drain.
-Discard the lemon, bay leaves, and as many peppercorn as you can.
-Add potatoes, garlic, Parmesan, and ricotta to serving bowl and "smash" until combined and potatoes are slightly broken up but not smooth or completely "mashed." You can used a potato masher for this, but  be careful to not over-do it. I used a beater attachment from a handheld mixer for the job.
-Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

January 20, 2011

Chili for a Friend

A friend of ours was having a rotten couple of days. Of course, my first instinct was to feed her. So I did. It's been cold, wet, and generally miserable weather-wise in New York - it's the kind of weather that begs for woolen socks, cups of tea, and something hearty. Nothing is heartier, easier, or more economical than Chili.

The great part about Chili is that its really a no recipe kind of dish, (that being said, there are some serious Chili connoisseurs who have very strict recipes and methods, I'm not one of them). Take ground meat (turkey, beef or some combination of the two), some tomato paste, yellow onions, garlic, salt & pepper; cook it in a big old pot with some kidney beans, canned crushed tomatoes, and a few healthy dashes of red wine vinegar. Let it all cook and bubble, then serve. If you can wait, chili is always better the next day though.

Because of it's simplicity, Chili is a great condiment dish. I serve my Chili with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocados, sour cream, Fritos or Dipsy Doodles, finely chopped white onions, and hot sauce. Let your guests customize their own bowl.

Along with a big ol' pot of chili, I made some equally easy sides. Maple roasted parsnips and carrots, and fried biscuits (don't judge until you've tried them!).

Maple Roasted Parsnips & Carrots
2 bunch carrots, washed and trimmed
6-8 parsnips, washed, and quartered
Vegetable oil (or other tasteless oil)
Real maple syrup
Salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 400.
-Place veggies in roasting pan, coat lightly with oil, then salt and pepper. Drizzle the maple syrup on, so that the veggies are well coated but not sitting in a puddle (the maple syrup will burn in the oven, try to be sure that you haven't used it in excess).
-Roast for about 45 minutes give or take depending on size of veg. You want the veggies cooked through and caramelized.

Fried Biscuits
1 package refrigerated biscuits (regular size, if you buy a "home-style" biscuit, which are much larger, make sure to cut them in half before frying, otherwise the outside will cook and the interior will remain gooey)
Oil for frying
Butter & Honey

-Fry the biscuits until they puff up and are a deep golden brown. Approx 2 minutes per side.
-Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with butter and honey.

You know you want them....

January 11, 2011

Screening Party

Sometimes you just want to get together with friends, watch some movies, and have a few drinks. You need food for these screenings. Food is essential. It always is of course, but whats the use of vegging out in front of the TV without sweet libations and sustenance? There is no use. So this was the menu:

Roasted Pork Sandwiches
Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Sandwiches
Cheese Straws
Crudités and Dip (a store-bought dill veggie dip, love the stuff. It's made by Marizetti)
Cajun-Spiced Popcorn (add Cajun spice mix to melted butter then toss with popcorn)
Chocolates (of various kinds)

Easy, yummy and very much appreciated by all!

Roasted Pork Sandwiches
To save yourself some time and work, roast the pork loin and the tomatoes one to two days ahead of time.

1 Pork Loin
2-3 Tbs Dijon
6-8 garlic cloves, sliced thickly
salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut slits all across the surface of the loin. Stuff garlic slices in slits. Salt and pepper the loin well, then cover in the 2-3 tbs Dijon. You want a thin layer of mustard over the whole loin.
-Roast for approx 35-45 minutes or until the meat registers 150-155 degrees. Let the meat rest, slice thinly before assembling sandwiches.

10-12 Roma (Plum) tomatoes, sliced in half
Dried mixed Italian herbs
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
-Arrange cut side up in a roasting pan, sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and spices.
-Pour on olive oil until well coated. Cook for 3 hours or until tomatoes have flattened out and the bottom of each half (the skin side) had charred.

Fresh parsley
2 Ciabatta loafs (just a personal preference. Italian bread or sourdough, or anything you like works, too)

-Assemble sandwiches. Spread a layer of Mascarpone on each side of bread, half of the tomatoes (slightly smashed into the bread), thin slices of pork, and top off with parsley. Cut into slices with the aid of toothpicks. Just remember to let people know the toothpicks are there!

Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Sandwiches
3/4 lb of roasted red peppers (you can make them yourself, or buy them. I bought them since we have an Italian Deli near by that makes some stellar roasted red peppers)
Fresh ricotta cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil
2 Ciabatta loafs
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

-Spread the ricotta on both sides of bread, sprinkle a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, and fresh cracked pepper on top. Finish off with half the pine nuts.
-Layer on half of the red pepper and the fresh basil. Slice with the aid of toothpicks and serve. Again, remember to let guests know there are toothpicks in the sandwiches.

Cheese Straws
1 box thawed puff pastry
Shredded cheddar cheese (you can use almost any cheese you like including Parmesan)
1 bunch chopped chives

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Unroll or unfold the pastry and press as much cheese and chives as you like into the puff pastry.
-Slice into even strips, about 1/2" thick.
-Twist each strip and place on a cookie sheet lined with Parchment or Silpat.
-Cook for 20 or so minutes until cheese is melted and crusty, and the cheese straws are a light brown.

1 box thawed puff pastry
3/4 cup sugar PER SHEET of pastry
Melted butter

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Unroll or unfold the pastry and brush generously with melted butter.
-Sprinkle on the sugar evenly.
-Roll both sides of the dough until they meet in the center.
-Let chill slightly before slicing the pastry into 1" slices and placing on the cookie sheet, cut slice up.
-Cook for 20 or so minutes until the pastry is brown and sugar has caramelized.