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

How to Make Amazing Cold Brew Iced Coffee with a French Press and an Ice Cube Tray

A Mason jar full of milky iced coffee against a burgundy background.

My love of cold brew iced coffee is comparable to say, my love of listening to Nick Drake while walking around at dusk: that is to say, immense, deep, and neverending. I like to drink it black and unsweetened, although I’ve never turned down an iced coffee that’s had a drop or two of cream added. As a freelance writer in the summertime I go through an embarrassing amount of iced coffee and when I add it all up it seems crazy that I’m not making my own. I started making cold brew iced coffee in my French press instead and I have to say, I think it’s even better than what my local coffee shop is selling. What makes it so delicious? The ice cubes! I make two batches of coffee, one hot and one cold brew, and then fill ice cube trays up with the hot coffee for the following day. No watery iced coffee endings anymore, the entire experience is as loaded with caffeine as it could possibly be. Cold brew iced coffee needs at least 12 hours to sit so I’ve been making everything the night before – waking up has never been this hopped up and amazing!

for the coffee ice cubes:

Make coffee as you normally would using a French press and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze for future use in iced coffee. If the coffee on coffee component makes you leery and you enjoy milky coffee these cubes can be piled high in a glass and topped with the milk of your choice (this works really well for iced coffee on the go).

for the cold brew iced coffee:

The trick with cold brew coffee is to grind the beans coarsely, the flavour will be fabulous and you won’t have to worry about grounds floating around after you lower the press. Use about 3 times more coffee than you normally would, this will leave you with strong coffee that can be diluted with water or dairy. Cover the coffee grinds with filtered cold water, stir gently, and cover with plastic wrap before transferring to the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours. Since the coffee is being extracted in cold water the finished product won’t have strong acidity and bitter notes but it will have plenty of caffeine. Plunge the coffee as usual and pour over the coffee ice cubes, leaving room to dilute with with water or the dairy/non-dairy of your choice.

*If you like to sweeten your cold brew coffee it’s a good idea to keep some simple syrup made with either sugar or honey hanging around. Simple syrup will sweeten your coffee uniformly and will taste much better than regular cold brew with sugar sitting undissolved at the bottom of your glass.

A Mason jar filled with iced coffee and coffee ice cubes sitting on the book Alligator Pie by Dennis Leery.

Oh weird, yet ANOTHER 4AD artist I’m obsessed with (add it to the list: Belly, Tanya Donelly, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Grimes, Blonde Redhead, Lush, Camera Obscura, Ultra Vivid Scene, Deerhunter – it’s like someone made a record label just for me).

Daughter – Numbers

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

 

 

Marinated Olives with Orange and Rosemary

Clear glass dish with marinated olives with orange and rosemary on a white, green, and red striped tablecloth.

Do you need a quick, dare I say effortless, appetizer for your next gathering? Something less formal and more of a help-yourself-my-lovely-friends ordeal, but still sophisticated enough that it looks elegant decanted into a few pretty dishes? Look no further dear reader, this bright little recipe lets the olives do the work with the help of a few vibrant additions to the overall look and taste. Rosemary and orange zest are old friends in this recipe, seemingly oddball in combination with the olives but somehow it just works. Give the olives at least a day to marinate in the fridge and then put them out for your guests in a few well-chosen beautiful dishes (remember to include a little container for the pits as well) and let them have at it.

marinated olives with orange and rosemary:

About 2 cups of mixed olives, with pits (reserve the brine for storing any leftover olives)

2 or 3 big sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 orange, coarsely zested and juiced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl or container stir together the olives, rosemary, orange zest and juice, garlic, and a few good glugs of olive oil. Give the mix a generous addition of freshly cracked black pepper, stir well and try an olive to make sure the flavours are on the right track. Allow to marinate overnight or for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours, store any leftover olives in the reserved brine (these make an excellent midnight snack as you stand in the front of the open fridge pondering what your real snack will be).

And speaking of midnight snacks, cold roasted radishes dipped in sea salt make an excellent last-minute addition to your day…

Roasted pink radishes on a white plate.

Bowery Electric provides the ideal downtempo soundtrack to mulling over your late night eating habits; I should know, this album has served me well through my important snack food decision making for the last 20 years or so.

Bowery Electric – Empty Words

Buttered Mushrooms on Toast

Mushroom Toast

All I can say about Buttered Mushrooms on Toast is that they are truly one of my all-time favourite things to make for myself ever in the entire world. Yes, that’s all.

buttered mushrooms on toast:

2 cups of mushrooms, sliced thinly (cremini and shiitake mushrooms are my preference)

2 shallots, sliced into thin half-moons

1 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup of white vermouth

About 4 sprigs worth of fresh thyme

2 slices of bread

Softened butter for toast

1. Melt the olive oil and unsalted butter together over medium heat in a skillet. Add the mushrooms, shallots, garlic and salt to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms and onions are soft and beginning to brown, at which point the vermouth should be stirred in. For the last few minutes of cooking turn the heat up to medium-high heat so that the mushrooms become slightly darker around the edges.  Take off of the heat and stir in the fresh thyme.

2. Make the toast to your preferred degree of toastiness and generously apply softened butter before covering with mushrooms and any juices that accumulated in the skillet.

If you can have a one person dance party while you’re sauteing the mushrooms then even better.

!!! – Take Ecstasy with Me (Magnetic Fields cover)