Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies are rich, moist and citrusy bright. These perfect cookies are easy to make and even better to eat. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE lemons. And for me, there is no better finale to a delicious (or even not so wonderful) meal than a good dessert. Of course, these cookies would also be a wonderful accompaniment to afternoon tea. These lovely morsels are really mini-cakes and oh, so satisfying.

One bite and you get the sweet, moistness of the cake with a burst of fresh lemon. If you look back on recent posts of mine, you might detect a trend. That’s right – ricotta! It’s a lovely, creamy cheese along the lines of a farmer’s cheese. While it comes in low-fat versions, I only like to use whole milk ricotta in desserts. If you are lucky enough to live where hand-packed ricotta is available, that only needs a little vanilla extract, honey and cinnamon to make a delicious and quick dessert. Add some fresh berries and/or drizzle with some melted chocolate to make it a bit more decadent and a perfect no-bake dessert.

This cookie comes together quickly and there is no chilling of dough. You simply make the batter and bake it up. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis. I am not generally a fan of hers but after a couple of tweaks, I have made a few things that have turned out well. And this is one recipe that you definitely should give a try.

For more delicious lemony desserts, try these:

Tarte Citron Mama

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

For the Cookies

2.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

1.5 cups of powdered or icing (Confectioner’s) sugar

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

For the Cookie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a large bowl, combine the butter and granulated sugar. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (This can be done by hand as well.) Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Now add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon juice and zest and beat well to combine.

Stir in the dry ingredients. Do not over beat. Mix until everything is incorporated.

Line 2 to 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of batter for each cookie. The cookies will spread some so leave about 2 inches of space between. Bake until the cookies are just becoming golden at the edges. The original recipe said 15 minutes, but mine were a bit bigger than Giada’s and all ovens are different. My cookies ultimately took about 23 minutes. So keep an eye on them after about 18 minutes. They are so moist that it is difficult to over bake them. You do want the bottom to be golden and just barely dry.

Allow the cookies to cool on wire racks. After they are cool, you can glaze the cookies.

For the Glaze

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon or spatula to gently spread.

While the cookies can be eaten almost immediately after glazing, I would not pack them away until the glaze is truly dry which takes about 2 hours. It’s best to pack them with waxed or parchment paper between layers. The cookie cakes will continue to get moister and you don’t want them to stick to one another.

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Spaghetti Squash with Asparagus and Ricotta

Today is “Blursday.” Somehow I thought that being retired, the stay-at-home orders would be a minor adjustment for us. But even though we didn’t have jobs to got to anymore, the days still used to have more definition. After almost 4 months at home, the main “event” that now divides the day for us is dinner. Who cooks and what do we eat? I’m trying for variety in our meals even if there is very little variety in anything else in our lives right now. So when I came across this recipe for Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Asparagus it sounded like the perfect summer, meatless meal. Paired with a crisp Provencal rosé, this proved to be a lovely, light yet satisfying dinner for two.

We were lazy and decided that we didn’t want to make anything else to accompany the squash, but if you are more ambitious (or have tiny appetites), this could be stretched to feed 4 as a dinner. My husband ate his portion with a couple of crispy sesame bread sticks, but I didn’t feel the need for anything but the wine.

Now spaghetti squash is used by a lot of people to mimic pasta when they are looking to lose weight. And frankly, when eaten that way, I am NOT a fan. Because while the strands that develop when the squash is cooked, may resemble spaghetti, they most definitely do not taste like spaghetti. If you are someone who has fooled yourself into thinking that it tastes like pasta, more power to you. However, when it is treated on its own merits, it is quite delicious, and easy to prepare. This Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Asparagus is a delicious example of the latter. And during those hot summer nights, this meal would be satisfying without being heavy. Creamy yet with a bite. Delicious! And it was simple enough that with a little help from me, my husband was able to prepare the dinner.

Recipe

Yield: Dinner for 2-4 (More as a side)

Ingredients

1 small spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 cup ricotta cheese

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (from 4 to 5 sprigs)

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet (Watch this carefully, flipping frequently. It just takes a few minutes.)

Directions

Arrange the rack in the upper middle of your oven and heat to 375 degrees F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise (Be CAREFUL) and scrape out the seeds and the pulp that is attached. Discard the mess. (Yes, you can wash and toast the seeds if you want. I did not.)

Brush the cut sides with 1/2 Tablespoon of EVOO. Place the squash, cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet with the garlic cloves underneath. Roast for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the woody ends off of the asparagus and cut the stalks on a diagonal into 2-inch pieces.

Remove the baking sheet with the squash from the oven and add the asparagus around or to one side of the squash. Drizzle with the remaining EVOO and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the hot oven and continue roasting until the garlic is fragrant, the asparagus is tender and the squash is easily pierced with a fork. This took about an additional 20 minutes for me.

Meanwhile, place the ricotta, lemon juice, zest, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. When the squash and asparagus are done, remove the pan from the oven. Using tongs, place the squash halves in a bowl or on a cutting board. Try not to take any of the excess liquid. Using a fork, scrape the inside flesh of the squash to form strands. Squish the now soft garlic into the ricotta mixture. Add the asparagus pieces, trying not to include any extra moisture that may have formed on the pan. Add the squash strands and mix through. I found using tongs worked best for this. Place on a platter and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Serve. Yummmmm!

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

There are many foods that I can live without, but bread isn’t one of them. I enjoy it in all of the many forms and flavors that it takes. I love flat breads and fry bread. Herbed breads and sweet breads. And breads with crusts that make me thankful I have great teeth. Olive Rosemary Foccacia raises the volume on soups, salads and pastas. The pillowy chewiness of the center with the slightly salty crust and zing of fresh herbs makes this bread almost a meal in itself.

This easy-to-make recipe comes via Valerie Bertinelli and like just about every recipe of hers that I have tried, the directions are simple and it works out on the first try. As much as I like bread, even I can’t eat a whole pan of this delectable Olive Rosemary Focaccia in one sitting. Although it’s perfect for a family. So I ended up freezing half and saving some for another dinner. I definitely encourage you to eat this bread warm from the oven. Since mine was made a few hours earlier than we ended up eating dinner, I simply warmed it for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven when I was ready to serve. The same goes for bread that you froze and defrosted.

So the next time you want to turn turn up the volume on a bowl of soup, salad or pasta, try this Olive and Rosemary Foccacia.

For another take on focaccia try this recipe.

Recipe

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon sugar 

2.25 teaspoons active dry yeast 

3 1/2 cups bread flour 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling (I have made this with just rosemary and with a mix of fresh herbs – rosemary, oregano and thyme. Works well either way.)

1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced (Red onion works too)

One 5.3-ounce jar pitted green olives, drained (A mix of black and green or one or the other works. Use what you have. I used Kalamatos and Cerignola this time.)

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (Optional but really nice)

Directions

  1. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and grease with a thin layer of olive oil. (You can also make this directly on the pan if you don’t have parchment.)
  2. Place sugar and 1 1/2 cups slightly warm tap water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  3. Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt and one tablespoon rosemary in a large bowl. Add to the mixer along with the oil. Knead the dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth, supple ball that is not sticky to the touch, about 5 minutes. Turn the dough out on the prepared sheet tray, drizzle with more olive oil and cover with a bowl or clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
  4. Using well-oiled fingertips, gently press the dough out onto the sheet tray, making dimpled indentations all over the dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again for another 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Sprinkle the dough with the onions, olives and rosemary and drizzle generously with oil. Bake the focaccia until it is puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving. Don’t be stingy with the EVOO. The focaccia drinks it up and it’s just delicious!

Summer Ricotta Cheesecake

I hesitated posting this week. Somehow it seemed so frivolous. The world watched in horror while an unarmed Black man, begging for his life, was murdered by a white police officer – on camera – with others standing by. The aftermath of anger and despair provided an excuse for looting and destruction as well as a catalyst for worldwide peaceful protests demanding change. And I watched with continuing shame our country’s president as he made matters worse, instead of helping a nation already battered by the pandemic.

But summer has started here and much of the country is beginning to open up after three months of a punishing lockdown. And we still have to eat. This Summer Ricotta Cheesecake won’t cure Covid 19 or any of the other societal problems. It will give, however, an opportunity to smile and remember that there are still small pleasures out there – even if they are transitory.

I read a LOT of recipes and many get filed away to try “some day.” This particular recipe was on hold until eggs were no longer being rationed at the grocery store. We appear to be past that stage now so I wasn’t afraid to make a dessert that called for 6 eggs. And let’s face it, dessert makes everything just a bit better.

Nothing could be simpler than this Summer Ricotta Cheesecake. There are very few ingredients, the flavorings are adaptable and there is no pastry or crust to deal with. The filling cooks in such a way that it forms a very thin crust. If you can whip eggs whites and fold them into a batter then you can make this dessert.

The result will be a light, flavorful cheesecake that is the perfect end for a summer dinner. But because there are so few ingredients, make sure that you only use a good quality whole milk ricotta and fresh eggs. If you don’t have these ingredients, then wait until you do. You can play with the flavorings but not the basics of this recipe.

This can be made ahead and refrigerated which is perfect when your time in the kitchen is limited and is best parceled out. A homey recipe that isn’t at all fussy and an end product that is a summer delight. It’s speckled with zest and needs nothing more than a few fresh berries to smarten it up. Don’t worry about cracks. Just say that it’s rustic!

For a ricotta cheesecake to make when you have more time and want to fuss a bit (but oh, so worth it!) try the Crostata di Ricotta that I recently posted.

Recipe

Yield: 8 servings (One 9-inch cake)

Ingredients

3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g) plus about 2 Tablespoons for the pan

1.5 pounds (750g) whole milk ricotta at room temperature

6 large eggs at room temperature

1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose, unbleached flour

Zest of two large oranges and one lemon (See below for other flavoring suggestions)

1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 Tablespoon Rum (dark or light) or Marsala

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Generously butter (or spray) a 9-inch springform pan and dust with the 2 Tablespoons of sugar, shaking off any excess.

Mix the ricotta and zest in a large bowl. You can beat it for a minute for a smoother texture, but frankly I didn’t bother to do that.

Add the flour and about 1/2 of the sugar to the ricotta. Mix it well (That means half of the 3/4 cup. Eyeballing is fine.)

Separate your eggs. Put the yolks in with the ricotta mixture and put the whites and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a clean, dry bowl. Either use a stand mixer or a hand mixer to whip the whites and salt until soft peaks form. Then gradually add the remaining half of sugar (a Tablespoon at a time) to the whipped whites and beat until you just have stiff peaks. Do not over beat or the whites will collapse.

Meanwhile mix the egg yolks with the ricotta mixture.

Use a spatula and mix about 1/4 of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture to make sure that it is nice and loose. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites in about 3 additions. Do not over mix. You want the lift that the egg whites give.

Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared pan using the spatula to help. (Don’t pour from a great height or it will deflate. I learned this from Mary Berry!) Gently smooth out the top. Place the springform pan on top of foil or a baking pan to catch any oozing from the butter.

Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes or until it is golden on top but the center of the cheesecake still wiggles. It will continue baking after it is removed from the oven and the center will set. (I promise.) The cake will sink some and crack as it cools. This is fine.

Allow it to cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack and then carefully run a knife or off-set spatula around the edges to make sure that it does not stick anywhere. Do NOT open the springform, tempting though it may be! Allow the cake to cool completely. Then wrap it in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight. Remove the ring of the springform and voila!

Now my husband and I have been watching a LOT of British Baking Master Class with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Next time I make this, I may try to turn off the oven at 45 minutes and allow the cake to cool down in the oven as I have seen Mary do with other cheesecake. Supposedly it prevents cracking. We’ll see. Honestly, though, I don’t think the cracks really detracted from the final product. So just a thought.

Baking Note

For other possible flavorings, you could try a mix of citrus zests. Or ground spices like cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. Instead of rum or Marsala, you could use extracts: pure vanilla, coffee, almond or aniseed.

Crostata di Ricotta

Crostata di Ricotta is a prized cheesecake from the Garfagna region of Tuscany. This post was supposed to have been ready ahead of the Festival of Shavuot, which commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat dairy meals during the holiday so I thought this wold be perfect. However, I’m afraid that I was only able to actually get it made in time for us to enjoy it for the holiday. So keep this in your pocket for next year.

But who am I kidding? This delicious cheesecake, permeated with raisins soaked in Marsala and redolent of the grated zest of an orange is perfect any time. The recipe comes from Carol Field’s book The Italian Baker. She got the recipe from Joyce Goldstein who was a chef at Cafe Chez Panisse. I know – two Jewish women and not an Italian name in sight!

But when you smell this tart with its buttery melt-in-your-mouth sweet crust and bite into the airy, custardy Marsala-scented filling, you will think you are in Tuscany. I was brought up on and love a really good New York cheesecake – so dense and rich that a fork could stand up in it. This Crostata di Ricotta isn’t that. So rid yourself of any preconceptions and enjoy this ricotta tart for what it is – amazing.

Making the Crostata di Ricotta isn’t difficult and it is one of those things where you can make the pastry the day before. I really urge you not to use bought pastry dough for this recipe. Yes, it’s a little more work but the result is so worth it. And if you have a food processor, it actually comes together in no time.

There are many different pastry doughs that would work here as long as they are a rich, sweet dough. I normally like to use a Pâte Sucrée with eggs, but since I was running low on eggs, I made a Pasta Frolla from The Italian Baker that didn’t require any. That is the recipe below. It was not a recipe like any I had made before, but it did come together easily. And while rolling it out proved to be a bit problematic, I was able to pat it into place with my hands and knuckles. The finished product is beautiful and delicious.

My husband and I LOVED this. The crust is fragrant and incredibly delicate – just melting in your mouth with every bite. It is so delicate that it seems to disappear before you even have time to swallow. Oh and let’s not forget the filling. Ahhhhhhhh, the filling. It’s like eating the most flavorful, custardy cloud you can imagine. I’m really not doing justice to how delicious this is. Many things I think are too fussy and not worth the effort. This is absolutely worth the effort.

Carol Field suggests eating the Crostata when still warm or at least the day it is baked. However, if you make it ahead and refrigerate it, she says that it can be warmed in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Truthfully, I’m not sure that I would like it warm, but it was amazing eaten a few hours after it had come out of the oven. And even eating it right from the fridge was still pretty great. But your first bites should be from the fresh tart.

Recipes

Yield: One 9.5-inch cheesecake; 8 to 10 servings

For the Pasta Frolla

Ingredients

1.5 cups (200 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (100 grams) potato starch

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher or fine sea salt

1.75 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature and just malleable

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1/2 navel orange (the other half will be used for the filling)

Directions

Place the flour, potato starch, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once to mix.

Cut the butter into small chunks and scatter over the flour. Process with about 6 long pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the vanilla and grated zest. Process until the dough just starts to come together but before it forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand very briefly until it comes together in a ball that is no longer sticky. I did not have to add any flour to my surface to do this, but if you must just add a small amount. Form a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the fridge for about 10 minutes so you can work with it.

For the Crostata di Ricotta

You will need a deep-sided tart pan with a removable bottom that measures 9.5 inches across the top. Absent that, you could use a spring-form pan but it won’t be quite as pretty as if you have the fluted sides.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (80 grams) golden or other raisins

4 Tablespoons Marsala (I only had a very fine dry Marsala instead of a sweet Marsala. It worked out fine.)

1 pound (450 grams) whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream (I only had half & half so used that)

1/4 cup sour cream (I actually only had creme fraiche which has a higher fat content than sour cream. I figured it made up for not having heavy cream.)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of 1/2 navel orange

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

Soak the raisins in the Marsala for at least 15 minutes (I did overnight). Drain and reserve the Marsala.

Roll out your dough (Mine kept breaking but it actually was quite malleable and I was able to work it with my hands into the pan with the end result being beautiful!) Refrigerate the pan with the dough until you are ready to fill it. This keeps the dough from shrinking.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the ricotta, heavy cream and sour cream (or creme fraiche) in the processor and pulse until smooth. Add the flour and sugar and pulse until mixed. Now add the egg yolks, reserved Marsala and vanilla. Pulse until well combined. Add the raisins and pulse once to mix through. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whites into the ricotta mixture and then gently fold through the remaining whites. Don’t overdo this. You don’t want to deflate the whites.

Remove the tart pan with the pastry from the fridge. Place the pan on a baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch any butter drips. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture and even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling just barely wobbles. Turn off the oven and open the door part way. Leave the cake in the oven for 30 minutes to cool down slowly. This prevents too much cracking and allows the cake to fully set. After 30 minutes remove the cake to a wire rack.

Once it is cool enough to easily handle, you can remove the tart from the baking ring. The easiest way is to place the tart pan over a large can. The outer tart ring falls off and the tart remains on the bottom. Be standing by to hold onto the Crostata. Then mangia!

Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie

You don’t have to be from Kentucky to go nutty over this Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie. The Kentucky Derby is the most legendary of all American thoroughbred horse races. It takes place every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May – except for this year. Because of Covid-19, this year’s race has been rescheduled for September.

Dubbed The Run for the Roses, because of the blanket of roses draped over the winning horse, it is also known as the “The most exciting two minutes in sports.” The Kentucky Derby is the first of three races that make up the American Triple Crown Races. Traditions that have become indelibly linked to it: knockout hats for the women, much like the Ascot Races; mint juleps; betting; the singing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’; and bourbon chocolate walnut pie.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that I am a) a gambler; b) interested in horses and horse racing or c) from Kentucky. Actually, none of the above. But I do so love a good pie. And while Thanksgiving in my family just wouldn’t count without my wonderful Bourbon Pecan Pie, I was curious to see how this pie would stack up.

It’s REALLY good. I mean seriously good. Now like another Southern favorite, pecan pie, it is sweet, but the Bourbon and my use of a 70% cacao chocolate chip cut through that sweetness so it wasn’t cloying – just delicious. Tradition calls for the pie to be eaten straight, but I won’t tell if you want to add a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream when serving.

I make my own crust but if you use store-bought crust, this pie comes together in no time at all. So don’t wait until September or next May for the Kentucky Derby. Make this scrumptious Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie this week.

The recipe for the original “Derby Pie” is a secret and the name is trademarked. However, I found the recipe for this delicious Kentucky Derby Chocolate Walnut Pie here.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted). Allow the butter to cool slightly.
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 un-baked pie crust (for 9-inch pie)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place your dough in a 9-inch pie plate and ideally refrigerate it until you are ready to fill it.

Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl and then add the eggs and melted butter and mix to combine.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Pour into the unbaked pie shell and bake for 65 to 75 minutes or until the filling is set and the pastry is a lovely brown.

Allow to cool before serving. If you eat it as soon as it cools, the filling will still be ooey gooey. By the next day, the filling is totally set and will make very clean cuts. You can’t go wrong either way. This is primarily a chocolate pie with walnuts. It doesn’t beat my Bourbon Pecan Pie, in my humble opinion, but it is another great Southern pie.

Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka)

This Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka), a delicious twist on Mediterranean Shakshuka, will send your tastebuds spinning. By now, most everyone knows and has eaten some version of shakshuka. And like everyone who has tried it, I love it too. But in an effort to use up (down) my pantry, I recalled a recipe that I had come across years ago but never tried. Months into sheltering-in-place – it was time.

I had just received my grocery delivery which would last me for two weeks. Now I have a minor pet peeve. When I am watching cooking shows – not competitions – that are based in someone’s home, I am always amazed at how totally empty their refrigerator and freezer are and how clean their ovens are. Come on! No one who cooks all of the time as such an empty fridge or an oven that clean! I especially love the one who lives in the middle of nowhere North Dakota on a farm – IN WINTER – with an empty fridge and freezer. THIS is what my fridge looks like after my most recent delivery. Keep in mind that I won’t shop again for two weeks.

But I digress. While I had not ever made the recipe for Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka) before, I already saw that I wanted to adjust the recipe and I made some significant seasoning changes. I had everything I wanted on hand, including some cans of vegetarian, fat-free refried beans from – well, I don’t actually know, but since the cans were still okay, I’m using them. I did try to buy some Queso Fresco with this last order but nothing was available. So I will substitute with a shredded mozzarella. A shredded cheddar also will go well with this. This dish is vegetarian so is perfect for a Meatless Monday dinner, although it would also make a delicious Sunday brunch. It is loaded with serious attitude and yet tastes soooooooooooo comforting. My version is very well-seasoned but not crazy hot.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

15 oz. can of refried beans of choice ( I used a fat-free, vegetarian version) [Delicious but optional so don’t fret if you don’t have any.]

15 oz. can of pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO (Canola oil is fine too)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed (or diced)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 large jalapeno chili pepper, finely diced (or a hotter chili if that is how you like things)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons mild chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon paprika (preferably Spanish smoked Paprika)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

4 to 6 large eggs

Large handful of loosely packed greens, coarsely chopped ( kale, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress or a mixture)

Garnish (Optional, so take your pick or use them all)

fresh cilantro

sliced avocado

lime wedges

shredded cheese

salsa of choice

Tortillas, pita or other bread that you have around

Directions

Warm the EVOO on medium heat in a heavy (preferably cast iron) large skillet. Add the onion and jalapeno and stir frequently until the onion begins to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring. Then add the spices and tomato paste and cook for one minute, stirring until the spices release their fragrance and the tomato paste just begins to brown.

Add the tomatoes, pinto beans, apple cider vinegar and greens and stir through. [NOTE: when you add your greens depends on the greens being added. Baby spinach takes almost no time to cook so I would only add that just before adding the eggs. Kale takes longer so I would add it here.] Cover the pan and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Make 4 to 6 indentations (depending on the number of eggs you are using) in the mixture. Carefully crack each egg into an indentation, being careful not to break the yokes. Using a knife or spatula, carefully pull on the egg whites (being careful not to disturb the yolks) to mix them with some of the sauce.

Turn the heat back on to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, basting the egg whites with sauce from time to time. Now cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

In a separate pan or the microwave, heat the refried beans. For serving, place a good dollop of refried beans on the plate/shallow bowl alongside the Mexishuka. Garnish and enjoy!

Farro Salad

It’s been a long winter and a rather dismal spring. Coronavirus aside (okay, is there REALLY anything “aside” about COVID-19?), the weather here has been chilly, damp and most of all – gloomy. I definitely need something to perk me up that has bright colors, loads of flavor and is easy to make. My shopping has changed thanks to COVID-19 and I am at the end of my two weeks since my last delivery. That means that fresh vegetables are sparse. But the idea of a dinner without some great veg dish is unthinkable. Farro Salad makes the perfect side for any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish. And since farro is a grain, one dish serves a dual purpose.

This Farro Salad is perfect as I made it, but don’t get too bogged down in specifics. If you don’t have red onion, use shallot, yellow onion or scallion. If you don’t have parsley, use cilantro, basil or even chopped spinach. Need to turn this into more of a main dish? Add some crumbled feta or queso fresco and chickpeas. And if you don’t have farro – well, I can’t help you there. Actually, that’s not true. Use another hearty grain like freekeh, barley or wheat berries. If you have none of those, try this with orzo. The important thing is to cook whatever grain/pasta that you are using according to the directions given on the package until al dente (With some “bite.”)

Farro comes in three forms: pearled, semi-pearled and whole. They each cook for different amounts of time and it is suggested that you soak the whole farro overnight. Any one of the types will work here. And if you are looking to stock your pantry with something other than beans and pasta, you can’t go wrong with farro, which is also delicious hot.

So even if you are living in a sunnier clime, we can all use every bit of the brightness, color and flavor we can get. Try this soon.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked farro, cooked according to directions

2 Persian or mini-cucumbers, diced (If you don’t have these cucumbers, English cucumbers are a good replacement.) (Radishes would also work.)

About 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved and coarsely chopped

10-12 Kalamata or other flavorful black olive, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

1/2 of a small red onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher or sea salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)

Cracked black pepper, to taste (Or Aleppo pepper if you have it)

A generous 1/4 teaspoon of ground Sumac (optional)

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) good EVOO

Rounded teaspoon preserved lemon paste (Optional but delicious and great to have around!)

Directions

Cook the farro according to directions, but add the preserved lemon paste to the water if using. I added my salt to the cooking farro, but you can add it after the salad is pulled together. Drain and cool the farro.

Add the farro to all of the other ingredients and serve in a pretty bowl at room temperature. Left-overs can be covered well and left in a cool place overnight. You can refrigerate left-over salad but fresh tomatoes are never as good once they have been refrigerated.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. I didn’t even know that I wanted it until I needed to save a head that I had bought.

My Pandemic food delivery arrived two days ago and it is meant to last me for 2+ weeks. I’m still getting used to thinking about food shopping in those terms. It is particularly challenging when it comes to fresh produce. Cauliflower is so versatile that I knew I wanted to have some even if I hadn’t decided yet how I would make it. The cauliflower that came was a gorgeous, large head. (My food shopper must have been an out-of-work restaurant worker because he really made great choices, especially when it came to produce. I am so grateful to him and all of the workers who are taking risks to keep us safe during this pandemic. Please be generous with them when you can.)

Unfortunately I didn’t have room left in my fridge for it once I put everything else away, so I placed it on my windowsill and hoped for the best. This morning I noticed that it was starting to get those icky black spots and knew that I had to do something fast. Roasting it seemed the best quick option, but then what?

I have cooked cauliflower in many ways and some options can be found below, but I wanted to use this opportunity to try something different. It had to be fairly easy to make and could use ingredients that many of us have on hand or are easily accessible. My vegetarian cookbooks were my first resource, but nothing appealed to me so I turned to the source-of all- knowledge. This recipe by COOKIE + kate caught my eye and after making it, there is no looking back. Delicious, creamy and utterly satisfying! Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. Use it as a first course or as a light meal with some good crusty bread and a salad if you want (and have the ingredients!)

PS: My husband REALLY LOVED this soup.

For more great cauliflower recipes:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar)

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings (more if using as a first course)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (You can use a yellow onion if that is all you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth (Chicken broth works if keeping it vegetarian/vegan isn’t an issue)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Can substitute non-dairy buttery sticks to keep it vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more if needed (Optional)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives and/or green onions or roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of EVOO (And if you don’t have any of these, sprinkle with a little paprika)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If desired, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

On the baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly and evenly coated in oil. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake until the cauliflower is tender and caramelized on the edges, 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway. (I did not actually bother measuring the EVOO or the salt. I drizzled, sprinkled and tossed. Don’t get bogged down with measurements when cooking. This isn’t baking.)

Once the cauliflower is almost done, in a Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and turning translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the broth.

Reserve 4 of the prettiest roasted cauliflower florets for garnish. Then transfer the remaining cauliflower to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, to give the flavors time to meld.

Once the soup is done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary. (Do not fill past the maximum fill line or the soup could overflow!) OR Use an immersion blender right in the pot! My choice is always for less work and less clean-up!

Add the butter and blend until smooth. Add the lemon juice, if using, and nutmeg and blend again. Add additional black pepper and salt, to taste (I added another 3/4 teaspoon, because my broth was unsalted.) Don’t go crazy, but you do need to properly salt the soup to bring out the flavors. You can also use a little more lemon juice, if it needs more zing. I ended up using the juice of a half lemon. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it would have been delicious without any lemon so don’t stress if you don’t have it. Stir well.

Top individual bowls of soup with 1 roasted cauliflower floret and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds, chopped parsley, green onion and/or chives. Drizzle with a bit of EVOO. This soup keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for about four days, or for several months in the freezer.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries

I enjoy reading David Lebovitz’s blog and as soon as this recipe came through this morning, I knew that I had to try it. Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries (Cranzac Cookies) is the perfect Covid 19 treat. This sweet cookie which is popular in Australia and New Zealand doesn’t require any eggs or out-of-the-way ingredients. And if you don’t have cranberries or don’t like them, swap in raisins or other moist dried fruits. Don’t have Golden Syrup, use corn syrup. No dark brown sugar, use light brown sugar.

So what are Anzac Biscuits exactly? They are an oatmeal cookie that supposedly was sent by loving wives, mothers and sisters to their soldiers serving abroad during WWI. The cookies held up well to naval transportation. Some stories claim that the cookies were not sent to soldiers but instead were sold at home to raise funds for the war effort. Whatever the true story, everyone will agree that they are a lovely cookie, as we Americans would say, that are perfect for a lunchbox, afternoon tea or healthyish dessert. I love them with a glass of milk but they go equally well with tea or coffee.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries has a wonderful toasty, almost nutty flavor even though there are no actual nuts in the recipe. The cranberries lend just the slightest amount of tartness which plays off perfectly with the sweetness. Each flavor element is present with every bite. You have the coconut, the oatmeal, cranberry and that slight hint of molasses from the brown sugar. I would definitely recommend using the Golden Syrup if you can find it although Corn Syrup should work. Golden Syrup is made from pure cane sugar and has a wonderful, clean taste. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those who thinks that Corn Syrup is nothing short of devil worship. I swear by it for my Bourbon Pecan Pie. But I have also come to appreciate Golden Syrup.

Aside from the fact that these cookies are absolutely delicious and don’t require any eggs, they also can easily be put together by hand. I even ended up using my hands (immaculately clean, of course) to do the final mixing and forming. There is not a lot of binder in this recipe and so in order for the cookies to form, I found that I needed to pack them a bit by hand. Children should love helping with this part. The resulting cookie is surprisingly moist, with just the right amount of chewiness.

Make these wonderful Anzac Cookies with Cranberries as a treat for your family (or just yourself) or as a special thank you for our soldiers on the front lines of the fight against Covid 19. Bake a batch tonight.

PS: My husband said to be sure to tell you that these cookies taste way better than they even look!

NOTE: While David didn’t mention it and I didn’t try it this way, I really don’t see why the cookies couldn’t be made with a good quality non-dairy buttery product to keep them vegan.

Recipe

Yield: 26 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup (95g) old-fashioned (rolled) oats, not quick-cooking

1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

1 cup (90g) unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup (60g) dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted or salted butter, melted

1/4 cup (60ml) golden syrup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.) Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you want to bake them all off at once, you can using two baking sheets, although there will likely be enough dough left to bake more. Since I was able to fit 1 dozen cookies/pan, my last batch was only 2 cookies.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, flour, coconut, dried cranberries, baking soda, and salt. Add the water, melted butter, and golden syrup and stir until everything is well combined. (I ended up using my hands to fully combine things since there isn’t a lot of binder here. It will come together but the dough is a bit crumbly.)

Using your very clean hands, or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch (3cm) balls. Place them evenly spaced apart (about 1- inch/3cm) on the prepared baking sheet(s) and use your hand to flatten each mound of dough so they are about half as high as they originally were. (About 2- inches/5cm.) (As mentioned above, I ended up packing the dough firmly with my hands and then slightly flattening the cookies. They do not spread a great deal.)

Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheet(s) in the oven, until they are lightly browned across the top, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

Storage: The cookies will keep for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to three months.