Appetizer Archive

Saturday, June 18, 2011

rich homemade ricotta

ricotta crostini, three simple ways

A few years ago, I made ricotta for the first time. I suspect a good lot of you just read that — the part where I made cheese/played cheesemaker/fiddled with curds and whey in my shoebox kitchen, not because I maybe forgot about a carton of milk for a few weeks in the back of the fridge and conducted an unintentional science project, but just for a good time — inched your cursor to the little X of your browser tab and navigated away. Clearly, this wasn’t the act of a sane person, though that does seem to be the theme this week. The thing is, a good amount of cheese that we eat — mozzarella, goat cheese, paneer, cottage cheese — come down to milk plus acid. What you do from there is your art. Except my first ricotta wasn’t particularly artful. It was a little dry and coarse. We spread it on pizza with jammy caramelized red onions and ate it happily, but it wasn’t the kind of ricotta you dream of. I moved on.

lemon juice for acidity
a thermometer helps

But then I fell in love with ricotta again. I discovered Salvatore Ricotta, made in small batches in Brooklyn, and frustratingly hard to find anywhere else as I want everyone in the world to have a taste just a couple months ago and I’m sure, years after everyone who pays attention, and sadly, for anyone around me who is not my equally ricotta-besotted husband, have spoken about little else since. [You've got to watch the video, okay?] I’ve never had ricotta like it; it’s nothing like the store bought stuff. This is very strained ricotta, almost whey-free, and it spreads almost like cream cheese but with a richness suggestive of whipped cream or crème fraîche. It’s not easily forgotten.

hard to see the curds at all

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

leek toasts with blue cheese

leek toasts with blue cheese

I get in a lot of cooking ruts. Except, “ruts” sounds like the bad kind of monotony, but I’m not sure that it is. There have been pasta phases, in which I was certain that any vegetable, chopped, lightly cooked plus parmesan plus penne made a perfect dinner. I was on a homemade pizza bender for a year or maybe five. There was a galette fixation, that still rears its head once or twice a year. And currently, I’m struggling to find a single food that doesn’t taste better when it lands on toasts.

leeks
trimmed, halved leeks

Hear me out: Even the most poorly stocked kitchens — self, I’m looking at you and your shop-for-one-dish-at-a-time ethos — probably have bread, somewhere. (Mine is in the freezer. I buy good stuff, and then don’t feel rushed to use it up.) And whether you’ve got diced prosciutto or an excess of greens around, cooking them together and dolloping them on toasts somehow makes them more elegant, more open-faced sandwich-ish, more light dinner-ish. Now that the weather is finally (finally!) warmer and the farm stands are green again, quick meals are welcome.

sliced leeks

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

pizza with bacon, onions and cream

alsatian pizza

I am busted. Someone figured out that I made this over a week ago and have been holding out on you and called me out on it. Guilty as charged. I know nobody will believe me, but I swear, sometimes I just come up blank. I keep trying to figure out how I can convince you that you should make this now, right now, but I’m having a hard time. It’s January, after all, the month of absolving (oneself of having eaten a lot bacon) and resolving (to stop eating so much bacon), and I suspect that the last thing people want to be taunted with is a homemade pizza, creamy tangy base, lightly caramelized onions and thick crunchy salty smoky-sweet — that’s right — bacon lardons. Plus, we think this goes best with a generous glass of crisp white wine.

thick cut bacon
lardon-ed

All of which isn’t very “January” of me, and truthfully, I’d intended to squeeze this recipe in right before New Years, as tiny flatbreads for a cocktail party, for people like me who always forget to eat dinner before we go to a party but feel kind of terrible when we eat nothing but tortilla chips, salsa, various cheeses on crackers and cocktails for dinner. Mini-dinner food is the answer. But New Years was a blur and a few days into January I realized I had slab bacon and crème fraîche on the decine in my fridge. One should never let either go to waste.

onions, to caramelize a bit

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Monday, December 20, 2010

broiled mussels

broiled mussels

Welcome to the single time each calendar year I cook something that began its life in the ocean. I suspect right now that you’re in one of a few camps. You’re either thinking “You know, I never noticed it before but Deb, you really don’t have any fish recipes on the site!” Or you’re thinking, “What kind of person doesn’t eat fish?” or you’re thinking, “Lady, I just arrived here yesterday because I heard there were some cookies around and I couldn’t care less about your food hangups.” Welcome, all of you.

wine-steamed mussels

Yeah, so I have some fish hangups. But I love mussels. It’s probably because they’re usually steamed open in wine or beer, shallots or garlic, butter or, well, even more butter. It doesn’t hurt that they’re usually served with fries, and the juices sopped up with chunks of crusty baguette. Can you imagine a more glorious way to go out? They’re sweet and bite-sized and the shells make the most magnificent low clinking sounds against each other in a bowl, like very full wine glasses. The presence of those is encouraged, too.

ready to be butter-slathered

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

garlic butter roasted mushrooms

mushrooms in garlic caper butter

A repeat offender in the lede-burier category, let me begin with what matters: this is absolutely my new favorite quick and obsessively delicious way to prepare mushrooms.

little browns

And now, a story. Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian who loved going to steakhouses. A friends birthday would approach and out of kindness to me, they’d start talking about gathering friends at a restaurant that had vegetarian options and I’d beg them to go to a steakhouse instead. “It’s your birthday! I know you want a steak! You deserve a big fat juicy slab of steak,” I’d try to coerce. Why was I such a weirdo? Because good steakhouses have even better sides, and no matter how much the waiter sneered when I ordered them without a $50 centerpiece, I knew I’d be getting some flawlessly poached asparagus hollandaise and roasted potatoes like you wouldn’t believe. And mushrooms; I had broiled, buttery and garlicky mushroom caps at Sparks over a decade ago that I haven’t forgotten about since.

garlicked and buttered, ready to roast

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