This is a recipe I whipped up for a recent Food52 competition that asked for my best “Recipe with Fresh Ricotta Cheese” . To be honest, I don’t cook with ricotta that much, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why, because I really do love the stuff. As a good Italian boy, my first exposure to ricotta was in my Mom’s fabulous lasagna, and I have used it occasionally as part of a filling for homemade raviolis, but I have to say my favorite way to enjoy ricotta is in a cheesecake.
Archives for March 2011
This was a dish we pulled together a few weeks ago to feed a large gang heading North with us for one of our last ski weekends of the season. It was a great prep ahead dish that Boris helped me with the day before we traveled. He’s my go-to guy for prep that requires lots of knife work, as he is always looking to hone his skills in this area. By dicing and chopping all of our chicken, veggies and pork products in advance, all that was required after our full day of skiing was a quick saute of our prepped meats and veggies, the addition of some stock, rice and spices, and then popping the whole lovely concoction into the oven to bake.
When I was a kid, my Mom made “New England Boiled Dinner” fairly frequently, though she generally made it with a picnic ham, as corned beef was a little trickier to come by. Almost everyone I know cooks this dish on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ve always assumed that it is a traditional Irish dish. It turns out that’s not quite the case, and most folks living in Ireland wouldn’t recognize this bugger at all. Our associating this dish with the Irish has more to do with its adoption into their culture by Irish-Americans, many of whom landed here in New England and have made this dish a staple of their cuisine.
Not unlike our recent “Tortilla and Chicken Lasagna”, this treat came to be as a means to use up some hangers-on in our pantry. A recent inventory turned up a few cans of pumpkin puree leftover from holiday baking, as well as some medjool dates that were starting to show their age and dry a bit. We always have a few boxes of dates lying around, because they are an easy and healthy sweet treat for our after school scavengers, and terrific with a spot of tea as an afternoon pick-me-up for us elders. Sadly, one of our boxes of dates got buried under some nuts in the pantry and languished there until their skins turned papery, robbing them of their normally glossy curb-appeal.
This post marks my first foray into the world of homemade charcuterie, and if the success of this dish is any indication, we are in for a fun and delicious few months of experimenting with this rather ancient culinary tradition. You see, I’ve joined a group of adventurous food bloggers in what has been named “Charcutepalooza – A Year of Charcuterie”. The purpose of the group, which was founded and is being managed by the amazing bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and the The Yummy Mummy, is to encourage all of us participating to delve into the mystical world of charcuterie with a little help from cookbook author and food writer extrordinaire, Michael Ruhlman.
Every now and again, even the best laid menu plans go awry, and we’re left with an abundance of certain ingredients in our pantry of fridge that are crying out for some creative use. Such was the case a few days ago when my wife noticed a few unopened packages of corn tortillas languishing in the back of the fridge, castaways from a planned fish taco feast that never materialized. Further inspection turned up a few half-eaten jars of tomato salsa, some shredded cheese, and a huge bag of baby spinach.
Whatever shall we do?
By the time I finished my training at Le Cordon Bleu, I had sworn that I would never again cook a dish that required my wrapping anything in a cabbage leaf. Why? Because over the course of my time there, it seemed that we spent an inordinate amount of time cooking things in cabbage, and to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan.
Training at the school is broken into three trimesters, the first concentrating on the very basics of knife skills and cuts, and learning the ins and outs of culinary building blocks such as stock, roux etc. The second term is designed as a tour around regional France, with each week or so dedicated to exploring the classic dishes of the country’s varied regional cuisines. In the final term we stepped things up and created modern, internationally influenced “restaurant” quality dishes.
While I’m pretty good about cleaning up after myself when cooking at a leisurely (weekend) pace, I’ve been known to leave quite the debris field in my wake when slamming to get a weeknight meal on the table for the family. And so, my wife loves it when I make a one pot meal on a weeknight, especially one that is as tasty as this one. You see, while we have a rotating schedule of kitchen duties that gives everyone a chance to be a sous-chef, table cleaner, pot washer, or drier, it seems that my wife more often than not swaps duties with one of the kids and finds herself up to her elbows in soap suds cleaning up the mess I’ve left in the kitchen.