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

Warm Roasted Potato Salad with a Crispy Egg

 

Warm roasted potato salad topped with a crispy egg on a square green plate with a purple background.

I love potato salad and I’m not snobby about it. I’ll eat deli-style mayo-based potato salads any day, and I’ll certainly eat a warm potato salad with a tangy sweet dressing like the one. I think that roasted potato salads are notably more autumnal than their creamy counterparts and this recipe is living proof (in that, I have been eating it frequently ever since the first tinge of fall crept into the air). Many potato salad recipes, of the warm sort or otherwise, contain a couple of hard-boiled eggs to lend a creamy texture to the finished product. The truth is that I hate peeling eggs and will do almost anything to avoid doing it and as a result I’ve decided that topping a roasted potato salad with a crispy egg is the next best thing, especially if you fry them in any hypothetical bacon fat you might have lying around in your freezer. As with many of the recipes I post, you can consider this recipe a jumping off point. In the past I’ve had great success with the addition of finely diced cornichon, crumbled feta cheese, pancetta, and niçoises olives (so, basically anything salty). You can even use leftover roasted potatoes and skip the first step altogether, just let them sit out of the fridge for an hour or two so that they come to room temperature.

warm roasted potato salad with a crispy egg:

16-20 new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt

6 radishes, halved and very thinly sliced into half moons

2 ribs of celery, very thinly sliced

1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. capers, roughly chopped

Big handful of fresh dill and parsley, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. white sugar or 1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and plenty of freshly cracked pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1 egg per person

Small amount of bacon fat (if you have it), or any other type of fat that the eggs can be cooked in

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the halved potatoes with the olive oil and kosher salt before spreading them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, flipping the potato halves over with tongs a couple of times to ensure even roasting. Remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan warm the vinegar, paprika, white sugar or honey, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste over low heat. Pour the olive oil into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies.
  3. Add the radishes, celery, scallions, capers, and fresh herbs to the warm potatoes. Drizzle the also-warm dressing over the salad, using a spatula to gently combine the ingredients. Taste to see if the seasonings need to be adjusted.
  4. Heat a small amount of bacon fat over medium-high heat in a lidded skillet. Fry the eggs for a minute or two, covering with a lid so that the whites will cook. Carefully remove the eggs and place on top of the plated warm potato salad, adding an extra scattering of fresh herbs before serving.

Small white ramekin with thinly sliced red radishes on a purple background.

Pretty little Beach Boys-inspired song that I forgot about until my sister came over and started playing random music off of my computer. She’s the biggest AC/Panda Bear/Avey Tare fan I’ve ever met and I don’t think I’d listened to Panda Bear’s Person Pitch in several years; thank you Gabrielle!

Panda Bear – Ponytail

Chilled Watermelon Soup with Roasted Apricots and Tomatoes

A shallow white soup bowl full of watermelon gazpacho with roasted apricots, tomatoes, and red onions on a red, white, blue floral background. Small fresh basil clusters are arranged on the gazpacho and background.

Soup is best served cold on a hot day and this gazpacho-inspired recipe is a fine example of chilled summer soup at its best. Make this soup when local produce is readily available, this is the time to let seasonal fruits and vegetables shine. Roasting apricots, tomatoes, red onions, and a jalapeño  pepper or two gives the soup depth of flavour and a solid base for the raw ingredients. It’s absolutely crucial that this soup is chilled for at least 12 hours in order for it to taste spectacular, 24 hours is even better if you have the time. Use a fruitier extra virgin olive oil if possible, the biting peppery taste of the oil you use to cook with isn’t complementary to the lovely sweetness of the soup. I’ve also used avocado with success, it gives the finished product a delicious buttery quality. I love using sherry vinegar in this recipe as a nod to traditional gazpacho and I’ve added some additional lime juice to really underscore the sweetness of the watermelon. I like to serve this chilled watermelon soup with something tangy and rich such as creme fraiche or high-fat yogurt, finely diced avocado also works well. Pack this soup into jars for an easy picnic addition or any on-the-go meal, it’s also incredibly refreshing after any outdoor activity when temperatures are in full mid-August mode.

chilled watermelon soup with roasted apricots and tomatoes:

(makes enough for several meals and will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator)

4-5 cups of watermelon, cubed with seeds removed

6 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into quarters

6 fresh apricots, cut in half with puts removed

1 medium-sized red onion, cut into quarters

1-2 jalapeño peppers, cut in half with seeds removed

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 medium-sized cucumber, cut into a fine dice with seeds and peel removed

1 sweet pepper, cut into a fine dice

A generous handful of fresh basil, cut into a fine chiffonade

4 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup fruity olive or avocado oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the watermelon in a food processor and pulse until completely blitzed. Set aside.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, apricots, onion, and jalapeño pepper(s) on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until everything begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Scrape the roasted fruits and vegetables into the food processor with their juices. Pulse a couple of times being careful not to process until smooth, the goal is a chunky salsa-like texture.
  5. In a very large jug or bowl stir together the watermelon, roasted and chopped vegetables, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil. Season generously with salt and paper.
  6. Cover the soup and refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving chilled with your preferred finishing touch.

IMG_2824

Greg Gonzalez of Cigarettes After Sex has the gentlest of  singing voices, the most obvious comparison would be Hope Sandoval when she’s singing with the Warm Inventions but I also hear echoes of Low when they’re at their most sparse. This dreamy EP is just gorgeous, it’s also an album that gives me a definite feeling of time and place. It makes me think of reading in bed, sunlight filtering through semi-closed blinds, and the distinct smell of dust and library books. CAS has a playful yet melancholic sound that fills the room because of its lo-fi simplicity not despite of.

Cigarettes After Sex – Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby

Fiery Spaghetti with Plenty of Garlic, Fresh Herbs, and Parmesan

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs, Chilies, Parmesan, and Black Pepper on a vivid red background.

This recipe has many, many variations but the basic idea is always the same: heaps of fiery chilies, bright greenery, enough garlic to offend anyone within close range, and some sort of satisfying umami element to bring it all together. You could go ahead and use any type of pasta you prefer, but there’s something very satisfying about eating a big bowl of perfectly toothsome al dente spaghetti that I find essential to this loosely crafted recipe. If I’m using sub-par garlic, which tends to be often, I use between 5-7 cloves to really drive the point home. If you’re lucky to have wonderfully pungent cloves then feel free to scale back (or not). I have fresh basil and parsley kicking around more often than other greenery, but I’ve also had immense luck with arugula, dill, and even baby spinach. What you’re looking for is a big happy juxtaposition of elements, the greens need to be capable of standing up for themselves and shining through layers of other robust flavours. The cheese is the umami hit that’s so essential when bringing all these flavours together, I tend to have a big chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano hanging out in the fridge so I use it as my default ingredient but anything aged and flavourful will work wonderfully (may I humbly suggest Pecorino Romano, aged Manchego, Piave Vecchio, Asiago, Crotenese, or even a really aged goat’s milk gouda).

fiery spaghetti with plenty of garlic, fresh herbs, and parmesan:

Enough spaghetti for 1-2 people

Olive oil

5-7 cloves of garlic, finely minced (if you have super strong garlic use less, or not!)

A big handful of flavourful greens and fresh herbs (parsley and basil are my personal favourite)

Copious amounts of freshly cracked pepper

Dried chili flakes

Parmesan cheese, grated (or other aged cheese)

Kosher salt to taste

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, before draining reserve about half of a cup of the pasta water.
  2. In the same pot that the pasta was cooked in heat up the olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the minced garlic until fragrant and then add the fresh greens and dried chili peppers.
  4. Toss the spaghetti and pasta water with the garlic, dried chili peppers, and greens. Take off the heat and add the freshly cracked pepper, parmesan cheese, and kosher salt to taste.
  5. Serve in large bowls with extra cheese and greens sprinkled on top. Eat large amounts while still piping hot, relax and reflect on how happy and nourished you feel.

I have to admit, there’s something about The War on Drugs that reminds me of early childhood, being in the car with my dad while he listened to Dire Straits or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As with so many things in my life, nostalgia takes the wheel once again and steers my taste. I love this album, it’s just meant for sunny Sunday afternoons and lying around on the couch, waiting to gently fall asleep in the pools of a softly filtered sunbeam.

The War on Drugs – Comin’ Through

Watermelon Gazpacho

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

Summer in Vancouver is shaping up to be cool and rainy; I won’t lie, I love this cooler weather and the rainy days. I’ll admit that I do miss eating food in the sunshine, there’s something remiss about eating local strawberries while huddled under a blanket, wearing thick wooly socks. So this Sunday, when we had a rare sunny day, I decided to make the summeriest food I could think of and gazpacho was at the top of my list. This isn’t a true gazpacho, but it comes together quickly and can be poured into a juice jug to de served at intervals over the next few days. I bring it to work for an afternoon pick-me-up that I can sip at my desk, and I have it for dinner with chickpeas, fresh herbs, diced avocado, and a swirl of creme fraiche. The watermelon makes this gazpacho taste divine and satisfies the need for a brightly healthy afternoon snack, as well as any unwanted late night hunger pangs.

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

watermelon gazpacho:

1 small watermelon or half of a large one, cubed into large chunks

1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded and cut into large chunks

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered

1-2 Serrano chilies, sliced into a few pieces (remove the seeds for less heat)

1 shallot, peeled and loosely chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

Big handfuls of cilantro, parsley, and mint

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blitz until combined but with some remaining texture (work in batches if you’re dealing with a small blender). Allow to sit in the fridge overnight and up to 4 days for maximum flavour. Serve with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt and a your choice of finely chopped fresh herb for garnish.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho3

Here’s something regionally appropriate for gazpacho, and something beautiful to melt your soul into a warm puddle of nostalgic happiness. Almost a full hour of Andres Segovia, how wonderful!

Andres Segovia – The Intimate Guitar (album)

Slow Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Pasta Sauce

White bowl full of penne and a roasted red pepper blush sauce on an orange tablecloth.

I’m coming down from one incredible weekend; it’s Tuesday and I still feel some residual buzzing going on. Last Friday afternoon 11 of our friends came up to Vancouver from Seattle and San Francisco for a gigantic friend reunion of sorts. On top of that, I saw Beach House twice (!!) – Saturday at The Vogue and then Sunday night at Performance Works on Granville Island. Saturday’s concert was of course, wonderful, and Sunday’s performance was so special and so beautiful. Beach House did a series of intimate concerts in very small spaces, just the 2 original band members, and my husband was lucky enough to have been able to get us both tickets. From the moment we stepped into the witchy magenta hued space I felt utterly enchanted, the light show itself was gorgeous and sitting on the floor with cushions while you get to experience the visuals and the music all at once was an unforgettable experience. It was wonderful being able to surround myself with a live performance in such an aesthetically pleasing cocoon, I felt as though I was floating on the way home afterwards.

Tray of cut up peppers, celery, cucumber, and grape tomatoes.

On Saturday afternoon we all came to the consensus that dinner should be easy and totally uncomplicated. Pizza was ordered and I made a vegetable platter with hummus that I doctored with Greek yogurt and cumin. At the end of the evening I came home by myself, in desperate need of some solitude after the concert and the swarms of people downtown. While everyone else went on a drinking adventure I got into my pajamas, had a beer, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer in bed (which is pretty much my definition of paradise). I also snacked on the leftover cut up vegetables but realized that I’d need to think of a good use for all of the peppers I’d cut into strips. Monday night, when Ian and I were both in battery charging mode AKA extreme states of introversion, I decided that the leftover pepper strips would be just perfect for a pasta sauce because let’s face it, pasta has and will always be the best form of comfort that food can possibly offer. I wasn’t in any hurry because I was having a great time just reading a PD James book on the couch so I slow roasted the vegetables, this also made them very sweet and full of flavour without the unsightly addition of sugar burned black flecks in the sauce. The ricotta helps to thicken the sauce without having to add flour, it also gives an incredibly rich taste and texture without adding a surplus of cream. In fact, the small amount of cream called for in the recipe could easily be substituted with milk, just be sure not to bring the sauce to a boil in order to avoid accidental separation.

slow roasted red pepper and ricotta sauce:

3 sweet peppers, cut into strips

10 grape or cherry tomatoes

1 large red onion, cut into fat wedges

4 cloves of garlic, left whole in their papery husks

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2/3 cup of ricotta

1/3 cup of cream

5 fresh basil leaves (plus more for garnishing), torn into pieces

Pasta of your choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread the pepper strips, tomatoes, onion wedges, and garlic in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, add the rosemary whole and with your hands toss the vegetable mixture to coat.
  3. Roast the vegetables for up to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to ensure even cooking. The vegetables are done when they’re very soft and beginning to caramelize. Remove the rosemary and garlic husks and transfer the remaining vegetables and their juices to a food processor and pulse until you have a not so smooth puree.
  4. Add the red wine vinegar, ricotta, cream, and 5 basil leaves to the food processor and give a final blitz – the sauce should still be slightly chunky in texture. Adjust the salt and pepper if neccessary.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente, saving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid for the sauce. Lower the heat and transfer the sauce into the pot used for cooking the pasta and stir in the cooking liquid and sauce. Allow the pasta and sauce to cook together for about 5 minutes, this will give the sauce a chance to thicken up before you serve it. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh basil that’s been cut into a very fine chiffonade.

This song is an ideal addition to my soundtrack for the last few days, kind of like a beautiful sunset after a sublimely sunny day – pure, melodic, and strangely intimate. After Sunday’s show I now have an accompanying vision of light installation flower walls from floor to ceiling and both of us on pillows, leaning into each other in the softest moment possible.

Beach House – Real Love

Baked Hoisin Tofu with Stir Fried Greens and Toasted Cashews

Big skillet full of stir fried bok choy, asparagus, scallions, and baked hoisin tofu. Topped with toasted cashews.Baked tofu is so simple to make, almost the entire process is hands off and anything that isn’t is put together quickly with little ceremony. You can make it in the morning and then go off to work or back to bed to read and have a nap, or you can let it marinade for 20 minutes while you chop up the vegetables and toast the cashews – it will taste delicious either way. The only thing that I find really essential for baked tofu success is draining it before you slice it up. I do this by placing the block of tofu between 2 plates that are lined with paper towel and weighing the top plate down with a large can of tomatoes or something similarly heavy for about 30 minutes. This is a stir fry that stands on its own so I don’t tend to serve it with noodles or rice, although you definitely could do that if you felt like it. The vegetables don’t have to all be green, this is more of an aesthetic preference than anything else and shouldn’t determine whether or not you try this recipe. The cashews taste slightly smoky after being toasted but retain their buttery texture; feel free to experiment with nuts and seeds as toppings, I’m sure peanuts would be wonderful but as I’m allergic to them I haven’t tried substituting them in. It helps to make this recipe in a really big skillet so that the vegetables will cook quickly without getting too soft, they should remain slightly crunchy in contrast to the chewiness of the tofu.

baked hoisin tofu with stir fried greens and toasted cashews:

1 block of firm or extra from tofu, drained

1/3 cup of hoisin sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 bunches of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 small bok choy, torn into large pieces

1/3 cup cashews, smashed into smaller pieces with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet

Fresh basil or cilantro for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the tofu into 2 cm thick slices, arranging them in a single layer on a glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the hoisin and soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and water in a bowl. Pour over the sliced tofu, reserving a small amount for the stir fried vegetables. Flip the tofu pieces so that they are coated in the marinade and allow to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
  3. Bake the tofu for 40 minutes, turning over halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove and set aside.
  4. While the tofu is baking add all of the cashews to a large skillet and dry toast the cashew pieces for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring lots and keeping a close eye on them – they can burn in an instant. As soon as they begin to smell wonderful and toasty remove them from the heat and transfer them into a bowl, this will prevent them from continuing to cook from the skillet’s residual heat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the grapeseed oil to the same skillet used to toast the cashews. Allow it to heat up before adding the asparagus and scallions. Stir fry the green vegetables for a few minutes before adding the torn bok choy and remaining marinade. Cook for 1 more minute, tossing the skillet contents to coat with the marinade and to wilt the bok choy.
  6. Transfer the vegetables to 2-4 bowls and top with slices of baked tofu, the toasted cashews, and the fresh basil or cilantro. Serve with a really cold beverage, my personal favourite is a lemonade or gingerale shandy – just the perfect amount of icy kick to complement the warmth of the stir fry.

Sunday soundtracks: either over-the-top depressing or please-no-more-anxiety uplifting, this Sunday I’m determined to spring for the second option. My anxiety levels are always through the roof on Sunday afternoons because well, they’re always been like that and it’s now a weirdly comforting part of my weekly routine. So here’s an excerpt from this Sunday’s happy soundtrack: beachy silly lovely boy rock.

The Drums – Days