Roasted Green Beans and Broccolini On a Bed of Ricotta

Roasted Green Beans and Broccolini On a Bed of Ricotta

It’s terribly difficult being a food writer who specializes in cheese. I mean, what are you supposed to do when you have copious amounts of ricotta leftover from a photo shoot? Well, in my case, I happily ate fresh strawberries, honey, and ricotta for breakfast and spread it on thick slices of olive bread with slices of tomato and a generous application of Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper. Despite all my best efforts I still had an impressive amount of ricotta to use before it went bad (once opened, ricotta only keeps for 3-4 days before it starts to smell sour.) I was on the lookout for ricotta recipes that a) weren’t stuffed pasta and b) weren’t dessert (because I’m not a very dessert-y person.) Eventually I found this intriguing recipe for charred green beans with ricotta and lemon on Epicurius and felt inspired by the elegant simplicity of the recipe. The first time I tried this recipe (and with great success, I might add) I followed the instructions to a T and yes, it was just as gorgeous and delicious as I’d hoped. However, me being me, I wanted to fiddle around with the basics and create my own riff on this already brilliant idea (this sort of creative license is why I’m a disastrous baker.) Lo and behold, this recipe for roasted green beans and broccolini on a bed of ricotta was born. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a grill to fall back on but if I did I would be using it for this recipe – the slightly charred green beans and broccolini add a sweet and nutty flavour which complements the light creaminess of the ricotta*. Fortunately, a hot oven can mostly replicate this effect (albeit, without any aesthetically pleasing grill marks.) Don’t skip roasting the lemons with the green beans and broccolini, they won’t get those beautiful char marks food stylists strive for but the moderately high heat results in fat wedges of lemon with meltingly tender, almost buttery pulp. The quantities called for are open to interpretation, you can use more or less of everything depending on how many servings you need.

Ricotta

*A note on ricotta: Buy the best, full-fat ricotta you can find (remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive ricotta you can find.) If you’re in Canada and you can find Quality Food’s Canadian Cheese Grand Prix-winning ricotta I’d highly recommend this particular brand. Another tasty option is sheep’s milk ricotta (if you can’t find it at the grocery store check out your local cheese shop or farmer’s market.) Sheep’s milk ricotta has a light, milky taste and is generally well-tolerated by people who suffer from lactose intolerances or allergies.

roasted green beans and broccolini on a bed of ricotta:

1 lb. green beans, tipped and tailed

1 lb. broccolini

2 Tbsp. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

2-3 lemons, halved

1 – 1 1/2 cups full-fat ricotta

Dried red chili flakes

Fresh parsley and basil, roughly chopped/torn

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Line 1-2 baking sheets (depending on their size) with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  3. Spread the green beans, broccolini and lemon halves (pulp side down) across the baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, gently massaging it into the vegetables. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast the vegetables for 30-40 minutes, stirring everything two or three times as it cooks. If the green beans and broccolini look like they’re cooking in a shorter amount of time reduce the heat to 350°.
  5. While the vegetables are roasting, spread a generous layer of ricotta across the bottom of a large serving platter (or a smaller one, depending on the number of servings you end up with.)
  6. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and loosely pile across the surface of the ricotta, drizzling with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and any juices that may have accumulated in the baking sheet.
  7. Finish the dish by slicing the lemon halves into smaller wedges, nestling them into the ricotta with the vegetables. Sprinkle the dried chilies, fresh basil, and parsley over top before serving.

Roasted Green Beans and Broccolini On a Bed of Ricotta 2

When I was a little kid I was obsessed with Tina Turner (and Lionel Richie, but that’s another story.) I used to wear my leotard from ballet lessons and make up dances to every single song on Tina Turner’s Simply the Best album in my room with the door closed. I’m pretty sure I wore out the tape from overuse, I’d listen to it on my Walkman walking to school, mowing the lawn with a clunky old push mower, and lying in bed at night. I actually hadn’t listened to Tina in a long time, years in fact, but the other day I was trying to do some writing and I felt really stuck and (unsurprisingly) this amazing greatest hits collection saved the day! I’m choosing “Better Be Good To Me” for this post because it has an amazing video involving a werewolf-like man and a song you can strut to.

Tina Turner – Better Be Good To Me

Super Creamy Cashew Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

White bowl on an orange and blue-flowered tablecloth full of vegetable stir fry topped with cashew butter sauce, chopped fresh basil and cilantro, sambal oelek, and crushed cashews.

When people find out you have a peanut allergy this is what they always say: “You mean you’ve never had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Man, you are missing out!” It’s never any other candy, it’s never a peanut butter sandwich, it’s always Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (which, c’mon guys, are they really that great? Wait, don’t tell me). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, however, so I’ll tell you what I always think I’m missing: Peanut stir-fry sauce topped with plenty of crushed, salty peanuts (my sister assures me that I’m correct, peanut stir-fry sauce is actually incredible). So I took it upon myself to make something close using cashew butter (although you could use something entirely nut-free like SunButter if all nuts are off the table). I’ve made several versions of this sauce, each feeling a bit like trial-and-error, especially when you consider the fact that I’ve never had the original to compare it with. This is the version I’ve been making lately, it’s rich and creamy yet tangy and vibrant, all at the same time. I like to make it in my blender because it turns the cashew butter stir-fry sauce-making into a 2 minutes-or-less type of activity, but you could use an immersion blender or even a whisk to incorporate all of the ingredients together. This recipe is for a vegetable stir fry but feel free to add the protein of your choice, I like to carefully fold in small cubes of creamy tofu towards the end of the cooking time with the vegetables.

super-creamy cashew butter stir-fry sauce:

1/2 cup smooth cashew butter

Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 Tbsp. lime juice, total)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped ginger (use store-bought pre-prepped ginger if desired)

1-2 Tbsp. sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

1/3 cup warm water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth, adding more water to thin if necessary.

vegetable stir-fry:

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

4 cups of your favourite vegetables, thinly sliced (I’ve been on a real sweet pepper, carrot, baby bok choy, and scallion kick lately)

2 cups spiralized zucchini

1 cup basmati rice, steamed

1/2 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, loosely chopped

1/3 cup roasted and salted cashews, crushed (I like to put a handful of cashews into a resealable bag and whack them with the flat-side of kitchen mallet)

Extra sambal oelek and lime slices, for serving

  1. Add the grapeseed oil to a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet and heat until very hot over medium-high heat (the oil will start to look shimmery once it’s hot enough).
  2. Carefully add the vegetables and stir-fry until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. A minute or so before you think the vegetables are done, add the spiralized zucchini and keep cooking until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and pour the cashew butter stir-fry sauce over the vegetable mixture. The cashew butter will thicken quickly, keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Serve the stir-fried cashew butter vegetables with a scoop of rice, plenty of fresh basil and cilantro, a generous sprinkling of crushed cashews, a dollop of sambal oelek, and a lime wedge.

It’s kind of funny that The War on Drugs always makes me think of my dad, considering the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’s ever heard them. They remind me of Neil Young, which reminds me of some of his first “single dad” apartments (children of divorce, you know what I mean). Staying at those apartments every other weekend as a little kid was surreal, in retrospect. Not quite comfortable with just doing nothing with my sister and I, as we would be at my mom’s house, we would always have planned activities to keep everyone from feeling well, under the pressure. We did a lot of painting (my dad loves to paint), I remember once time we tried to make a papier-mâché horse using taped up newspaper and old Penny Savers. My dad’s visiting me in Vancouver for the first time in a couple of years next month and I’ll finally have to play him a War on Drugs album and see if he remembers the oddity of that time in my life the same way that I do.

The War on Drugs – Under the Pressure

Creamy Portobello Mushroom Puff Pastry with Pancetta and Smoked Caciocavallo

Sour Cream Mushroom Puff Pastry

I can’t really think of a less summery recipe than buttery puff pastry piled high with meaty portobello mushrooms and then topped with smoky cheese, but up until quite recently Vancouver was asking its regular “is it winter? Is it summer?” questions, my cravings being reflected in the former season rather than the latter. I also have the benefit of my beloved toaster oven, which I use more than my actual stove all year long, meaning that my kitchen doesn’t get hellishly warm when I’m cooking things at 400 degrees. You don’t have to use portobello mushrooms, you can either go for the exotic and use fancy mushrooms or you can dial it right back with white button mushrooms. Regular bacon or even prosciutto can be used instead of pancetta if you prefer, it’s the crispy texture and resonant smokiness that’s important in this recipe. If smoked caciocavallo isn’t familiar or available to you then go right ahead and use smoked mozzarella in its place. Incidentally, if you’re searching for smoked caciocavallo it can often be found with the fancier supermarket cheeses, Cryovaced and in the shape of a rubber ducky – you’ll know it when you see it.

creamy portobello mushroom puff pastry with smoked caciocavallo:

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed and rolled out on parchment paper

1/2 packet of pre-cubed pancetta (about 1/2 cup)

3 portobello mushrooms, dark gills removed

2 shallots, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1/4 full-fat sour cream

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. dried dill

Juice of half a lemon

A generous cup of grated caciocavallo or mozzarella

Fresh parsley, torn into small pieces for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare puff pastry by pricking it all over with a fork, being careful to leave a small border around the edges and trying not to press the fork all the way through the puff pastry. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prepare the mushroom topping.
  2. Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove pancetta from skillet and set aside.
  3. Chop the portobello mushrooms up into smallish pieces, removing any overly woody stems. Sauté the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in the bacon fat over medium heat until softened and cooked through. Add the paprika and dill and cook for a couple of minutes longer.
  4. Remove the mushroom topping from the heat and stir in the sour cream and lemon juice.
  5. Bake the puff pastry for 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden. Remove from the oven and spread out the mushroom topping evenly, right up to the border. Sprinkle with the smoked caciocavallo and return to the oven for another ten minutes, watching carefully to ensure the cheese doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve with a crisp green salad. Alternately, serve chilled on  picnic along with seasonal fruit.

Where do I even begin? I’m wrestling with the mother of all depression demons right now, it’s been several weeks of lows so low I can’t touch the bottom. So I listen to a lot of Lemon Jelly because I feel like at least with them, there are no expectations. They’re a gentle push when I feel like I’m swimming against a leaden current, like an encouraging smile in the form of music.

Lemon Jelly – Come

 

 

Simple Asparagus Dinner

Earthenware shallow bowl with roasted asparagus, toasted breadcrumbs, and parsley.

It’s so easy to make a meal out of good, seasonal produce. Ordinary ingredients become Platonic ideals of themselves, every component is placed together in perfect purity of execution. This might seem hyperbolic to some people, but I truly get an immense amount of pleasure from selecting and preparing beautiful vegetables. I was lucky to have found the most delicate bundle of pencil thin asparagus yesterday while I was out shopping for groceries and I’ve spent my entire work day mulling over my various options as far as what to do with them. I trimmed the asparagus stalks and roasted them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the asparagus cooked I toasted some panko crumbs, salt, and pepper in some olive oil before tossing with a scant handful of finely chopped parsley in a small bowl. The asparagus was arranged in two shallow bowls and topped with the panko crumb mixture. The only extra addition to my Tuesday night supper was a couple of crispy olive oil fried eggs, spiked with plenty of freshly cracked pepper.

Asian Inspired Bright Steak Salad

Steak salad arranged on a white plate in a colourful presentation containing purple cabbage, greens, tomatoes, red peppers, and slivered ribeye steak. On a flowery tablecloth.

I like my steak really, really rare; not quite blue, but the closest shade possible (a particularly rosy shade of indigo?).  I generally make steak about once a month, I can go weeks without red meat and then suddenly I need the rarest, bloodiest, still perfectly pink red inside and seared on the outside steak I can get my hands on. Last week I treated myself to a ribeye steak that was so massive not even ravenous and particularly carnivorous Ashley could finish it. Steak sandwiches are always a good way to use up a leftover steak, but I suppose I was hankering for something slightly lighter (after all, I had to make buttery wish mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms to go with my steak dinner), and this steak salad was born. Marinating the steak after it’s been cooked gives it marvellous complexity and intense flavour, especially if you can give it a significant time in the fridge before you prepare this recipe. I wanted this salad to have tons of crunch and tons of colour but feel free to use my suggestions as a guide only, you can use any kind of vegetable or leafy green you’d like. I think salads like this are functionally best when presented on a shallow serving platter, this way the heavier salad ingredients and the dressing won’t sift down to the bottom of the bowl. You can also take this salad to work or school with you, just keep the steak and it’s marinade separately in a tightly lidded container and add right before you eat your lunch. Alternately, if eaten at home or on a picnic, this salad is fantastic with a really cold glass of dry Prosecco – the brightness of the salad is perfect with the crispness of the wine.

asian inspired bright steak salad:

1 ribeye steak, prepared your favourite way and at room temperature or cooler

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. finely minced ginger

2 tsp. garlic and chili sauce

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

2 small heads of bok choy, cut into fin ribbons

1 cup of shredded purple cabbage

1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced

1 red sweet pepper, thinly sliced into strips

2 cups of green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced very thinly

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

3 scallions, snipped into small pieces

A large handful of cilantro, torn into small pieces

A large handful or fresh basil, torn into small pieces

  1. Slice the steak very thinly on a cutting board, I find that a good carving set is essential for creating extra thin slices.
  2. Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili sauce, and sesame oil in a medium-sized glass container. Add the steak pieces and marinade for at least an out but up to overnight.
  3. When you’re ready to eat you salad arrange the bok choy, purple cabbage, cucumber, sweet pepper, green leaf lettuce, jalapeño pepper, and grape tomatoes on a large, shallow serving platter. Add the steak slices and pour the marinade over the salad to coat. Gently toss to coat the salad with dressing and finish the salad with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and fresh basil before serving.

 

Intentionally operatic and beautiful, Austra reminds me so much of the best of best: Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Tori Amos, and Elizabeth Fraser. Cinematic, atmospheric, lush, and darkly moving – I wish I had Austra in high school, because I know I would have a band photo up in my locker amongst all the other aforementioned greats.

Austra – The Beat and Pulse

Creamy Parsnip Soup with Marinated Eggplant

White bowl of creamy parsnip soup with eggplant as a garnish on a hot pink background.

There’s something to be said for soup after a 5 day period of eating nothing but extremely rich food, especially if its at the beginning of December and the cold weather practically makes it the required light food of choice. This parsnip soup is deceptively creamy, its texture suggests the use of heavy cream when in actuality the blame falls firmly on Greek yogurt. You won’t miss the the fat, and in fact the yogurt is preferable as it lends the soup a soft tanginess that ensures its subtlety isn’t drowned by its own voluptuousness. That being said, the amount of butter and oil called for could easily be reduced by half but I think the fat adds an extra layer to its already silken perfection. Marinated eggplant is a favourite of mine, and if you have a jar of it already then please feel free to use that (I never do because I tend to devour jars in their entirety with a fork, all in one sitting). The eggplant isn’t necessary but it’s definitely a good thing, so make it if you have the time. You could always make the soup and eggplant the day before, blending the soup before you want to heat it up and letting the eggplant mellow in its juices at room temperature an hour before serving. Some parsley or cilantro would be beautiful as well, just snip them with scissors into very small pieces – you’d want just enough to add a dusting of greenery to the final picture.

creamy parsnip soup:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

1 large bunch of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves of garlic, each cut into 3 pieces

2 lbs. of parsnip, peeled and cut into smallish pieces

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Kosher salt, to taste

  1. Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the scallions, garlic, and parsnip and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to encourage a gentle simmer, cook with the pot lid on for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is very soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Using either an immersion blender or a stand up version blitz the soup until silken and very creamy. Pour 3/4s of it back into the soup pot and blend the Greek yogurt and curry powder into the remaining soup, add to the soup pot. At this point it’s a good idea to test for seasoning, the soup will almost definitely need salt and even some extra curry powder if you’re inclined.
  4. Heat the soup over low heat until nice and hot, being careful not to let it boil. Serve in a shallow bowl with the marinated eggplant strewn across the surface.

marinated eggplant garnish:

1 small eggplant, cut into medium sized dice

Olive oil for drizzling

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scatter the eggplant pieces in a single layer over a parchment lined baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the dried oregano, chilli flakes, and kosher salt evenly, tossing to coat.
  2. Roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring periodically. When they look evenly browned and crisped at the edges remove from the oven and transfer to a small bowl. Spritz with lemon juice or add the vinegar, stirring once again to coat.
  3. Use immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing them to room temperature before using as a soup garnish (these are also very good cold as an addition to an antipasto salad plate).

Oh, this is such a pretty one! Hex is an amazing album, just perfect for traipsing alone around the apartment in the depths of intellectual introspection or, more likely, pondering what to make for dinner that night or where your cookbooks should go in your solarium/office. With me it’s the latter, for I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t constantly adding lists to my lists of lists.

Bark Psychosis – Absent Friend