Lusting Over :: Baked Lemon Ricotta with Strawberries
Sometimes I'll taste something so beyond incredible, I feel like I've won the lottery (well, a slight exaggeration, but still). I'm currently crushing over the baked lemon ricotta cheese from Bedford Cheese Shop. Imagine the amazingness of a creamy Italian ricotta + bright lemony notes + a light cake-like texture. Paired with some fresh summer strawberries and a glass Prosecco and you'll transport yourself smack in the middle of a lemon grover on the Amalfi Coast in no time.
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Obsessing Over :: Rhubarb!
Rhubarb's peak season is fleeting, a couple more weeks and then poof, it's gone until next spring. Often under-appreciated, rhubarb is one of those ingredients that can make your eyes light up when spotting it at the market or featured on a menu. Versatile, vibrant and mellow in taste, it's certainly worth a test-drive if you haven't cooked or baked with it ever before. Last year, I dabbled with it's savory side, pickling it to pair with asparagus and creamy feta...totally out of this world for a stunning side dish. Strawberry-rhubarb crisp is always in the mix each spring and early summer as a not-too-sweet dessert that's crammed with fruit and topped with oats and brown sugar. Dab a dollop of brandied-vanilla whipped cream* on top and it's near heaven.
And just last week, I went the route of a rhubarb-vanilla simple syrup and compote. Shockingly quick and easy...and ridiculously tasty. Use the syrup to stir up a perfectly pink cocktail (prosecco+fresh lemon juice+rhubarb syrup or gin+rhubarb syrup+club soda+lime both come to mind) or even to give pellegrino and lime a little pop. The compote that's leftover after making the simple syrup is great to spoon into morning yogurt. It'll for sure start your day with a smile.
*quick little note on that brandied-vanilla whipped cream (cause it's spatula-licking fantastic)...add 1 cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, the inside of 1/2 a vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of brandy to a mixing bowl and either whisk with some major arm power or use an electric beater to whip until soft peaks form.
Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup :: and Compote
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 stalks of rhubarb
½ vanilla bean, spilt in half
Bring all ingredients to a simmer until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is soft, about 15 minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve and allow to cool. Place remaining rhubarb compote in a mason jar or air-tight container and refrigerate. Both syrup and compote can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
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Kitchen Sink Cooking
Ask me to classify my standard "method" when I cook and my response would likely be the following: whatever ingredients are the most fresh, in-season, look drop-dead gorgeous at the market...and then really whatever the hell is remaining in my fridge. Call it kitchen sink cooking or a mish-mosh of items, but ingredient-based cooking and creating a recipe from your own intuition and inspiration, rather than stressing over an entire pre-printed recipe, is by far my preferred way to cook. It also tends to be cheaper, and in many cases tastier, at least in my opinion and I'm my own harshest critic! And when I get home late on a weeknight, I can skip a trip to the grocery store or calling for delivery and instead, turn to my fridge and take 20-30 minutes to destress, relax and experiment with different flavors, herbs, spices etc with whatever ingredients I have on-hand. From my latest concoction comes a light, vegetable-heavy pasta...with a just a kick of heat from chili pepper. And pairing cilantro, eggplant and tomato all together...with pasta?? It totally makes the dish pop and somehow the flavors meld really well, promise.
Pappardelle with Shrimp, Calamari :: and Pan-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Eggplant
Serves :: 2
¼ package of pappardelle
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ lb shrimp or prawns
¼ lb calamari, cleaned and thinly sliced into rings
1 pint of yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small Italian or Japanese eggplant, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
spring onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small red Thai or hot Italian chili, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 to ½ cup of cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
Boil pasta in salted water for 9-11 minutes. Reserve 3-4 tablespoons of the pasta water, drain and set pasta aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp and calamari for 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside in a bowl. Add additional tablespoon of olive oil into pan over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and eggplant and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until slightly soft. Lower heat to medium and add in reserved pasta water, garlic, spring onion and chili and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until tomatoes and eggplant are nice and soft. Add in shrimp, calamari, cilantro and parsley. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, add in pappardelle, cook for 30 seconds and toss well before serving.