Ricotta and Greens Crostada

This year we are part of a wonderful CSA from Weir River Farm in Hingham!  The produce we are getting is absolutely beautiful.  At the start of the season, a lot of what we received were greens–kale, chard, beet greens and escarole.  Any of them could be used in this recipe (and you could even substitute fresh cooked or frozen spinach to make it really quick), but for this tart I chose rainbow chard and beet greens.  Mixed with a homemade ricotta, it was absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:

1 pie crust (either homemade and chilled or 1 crust from Pillsbury)

1 small or 1/2 large onion sliced very thin

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 T. olive oil

2 bunches of greens (preferably at least one of chard)

pinch of red pepper flakes

1-2 T. balsamic or red wine vinegar

2 cups ricotta cheese (preferably homemade, but store bought will work, just make certain it is not too wet – if it is drain for a few minutes in a strainer line with cheese cloth or white paper towels)

1/2 cup grated or shredded parmigiano reggiano, plus extra for sprinkling on the top

2 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees:

2.  If using chard, cut stems from leaves, wash stems and slice into 1/4 inch half moons.  For any other greens, remove stems and discard.  For all greens cut leaves into 1/2″ ribbons and wash thoroughly.

3.  Heat oil in a large fry pan or casserole over medium heat.  Add the onion slices and the sliced chard stems, if using, and sauté until the onions are just translucent.

4.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for a few seconds until the garlic is fragrant.

5.  Add the greens to the pan and cook turning over with tongs until they are wilted and have given up most of their liquid.

6.  Add the balsamic or red wine vinegar and toss for another few seconds to evaporate some of the vinegar.

7.  Remove the greens from the pan and drain any excess liquid.  Place the greens in a large bowl and “fluff” using two forks so they are not in a clump. Set greens aside.

8.  In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup of parmigiano, eggs and salt and pepper.  Add the “fluffed” greens and mix well, making sure the greens are evenly distributed in the cheese.

9. On a floured counter, board or large piece of waxed paper, roll out the pie crust to a round 12-14 inches in diameter.

9.  Place the dough in and over the edges of a 9 inch pan (tart pan, pie plate or even a cake pan will do).  If you want you can place it freeform on a sheet pan or cookie sheet, but there is a risk of leaks.

10.  Place the cheese and greens filling in the middle of the crust and spread it out to 9 inch circle, flattening it to made a disc but not pressing down overly much.

11.  Bring the extra dough up over the edges to form a 1 to 1 1/2 inch crust all the way around.

12.  Sprinkle the filling not covered with crust with additional parmigiano.

13.  Place in the preheated oven and cook for 35-50 minutes depending on your oven, until the crust is well browned and the filling as developed golden spots.

14.  Remove and let rest of 10 minutes before serving.

Sandbread (or cornbread for the beach crowd)

This recipe not only tastes great but looks great when served with lobster or steamed clams.  If you don’t have blue corn meal (to make the “sand” effect), using all yellow cornmeal works fine–it just looks like traditional cornbread, which we also use this recipe to make.  This recipe is taken from the one printed in the original Silver Palate Cookbook, omitting the bacon.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 T unsalted butter (for greasing the pan)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup blue cornmeal

1/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt (or a little more if using kosher salt)

1 cup buttermilk (or dried buttermilk powder added with dry ingredients and 1 cup water

1 egg beaten

6 T. unsalted butter, melted

PREPARATION:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Grease a baking pan that is 7×11 or 9×9 and is either glass or light metal.

3.  Melt the 6 T. of butter in a microwavable bowl covered to prevent greasy explosions.

4.  Mix the cornmeals, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt (and buttermilk powder, if using) together until thoroughly combined.

5.  Add the melted butter, beaten egg and the buttermilk (or water).

6.  Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

7.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth a little.

8.  Bake in the center of the oven for 15 -20 minutes (depending on your oven) until the top is slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

9.  Cut into squares to serve.

Fritters – Corn or Otherwise

IMG_5757These corn fritters are lighter than most because they rely on beaten egg whites and are pan-fried in a minimal amount of oil, rather than deep fried.  They come together remarkably fast and cook very quickly. The recipe can be adjusted to use with any quick cooking vegetable, fruit or protein.  Specifically, small diced apples, small pieces of banana, or chopped shrimp will work. Anything that doesn’t cook quickly should be pre-cooked because they do not spend long on the stove top.

Fruit and corn fritters can be served with maple syrup on the side and corn or shrimp can be served with any kind of sauce or salsa that appeals from hot to sweet.

While this recipe serves two generously, it can easily be doubled or tripled for a group.  It is adapted from a recipe published  years ago in Martha Stewart Living magazine

INGREDIENTS:

2 ears of corn (about 2 cups)

3 eggs separated (you will use all the whites but only one yolk)

1 1/2 T. flour

1 t. cornstarch

1/2 t. sugar

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable or olive oil for pan frying

PREPARATION:

1.  Husk the corn and cut the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife.  Place the kernels into a bowl and, using the back of the knife, extract any extra liquid from the corn, letting it drip into the kernels.

2.  Add the egg yolk, flour, corn starch and pepper to the corn kernels and mix thoroughly.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat the three egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.

4.  Sprinkle the salt over the corn mixture then add the beaten whites and fold into the corn mixture gently until it is fully combined.

5.  Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium high heat and add 1-2 T. of oil.

6.  Using a soup spoon or similarly sized implement, drop spoonfuls of the fritter batter onto the hot griddle.  After a few minutes gently lift the corner of one fritter to see if the bottom is browned.  If so, using a spatula, quickly flip the fritter (note:  there will probably be some splattering, so try to flip the fritter as low to the pan as you can.)

7.  When both sides have fully browned, remove to a plate and serve with the syrup/topping of your choice.

Braised Pork Belly

We use this recipe in ramen, but you could use it anywhere a rich and flavorful slice of pork would raise up a dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 to 1 1/2 lb. slab of pork belly, rolled with skin side facing out and tied in two places

4 scallions, or just use the greens from ramen if making

1 small onion (red or yellow), cut into eighths

2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, cut in half

2 1/2-inch slices of fresh ginger (or 4 pieces of dried ginger from Penzey’s)

6-8 whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup low- or no-sodium chicken broth

Additional water as needed to come about halfway up the pork (this will depend on the size of the pot used).

PREPARATION:

1.  The pork belly can be cooked either in the oven (at 275 degrees F) or in a heavy lidded pot on the stovetop over low heat.

2.  Place the scallions, onion, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, mirin, soy sauce and chicken broth in a heavy pot with a lid, add the rolled pork belly to the center of the pot and heat on the stovetop over medium high heat until just boiling.  Either transfer pot to the oven or reduce heat on the stovetop to low and cook for 2 to 3 hours until the fat has rendered and the meat is very, very tender. (Begin checking at about the 1 1/2 hour mark.)

3.  Remove to a cutting board and cover with foil.  Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes (and up to half an hour) before slicing.

4.  Strain the vegetables and seasonings out of the liquid and spoon as much fat off the top as possible.  Place the pot over high heat and reduce until the liquid becomes to a medium bodied sauce.

4.  Serve as the centerpiece of ramen with just a drizzle of the sauce, or over rice with stir fried vegetables or any other way you feel with as much of the sauce as you like (but taste first as the sauce can be salty).

Ramen for Kate

I am not certain it is possible to make authentic ramen in an apartment kitchen and in a short amount of time, but our family loves this recipe (whether it is truly authentic or not) which mixes techniques from a number of cooks (David Chang, Food Lab, and others) to make a pretty wonderful weeknight meal.  If you want to make it more special–and you have a few hours to let pork belly very slowly braise–it makes a great centerpiece to the dish and raises the elegance level dramatically (braised pork belly recipe follows). This recipe serves two, but can easily be doubled or tripled.

INGREDIENTS:

32 oz. low- or no-salt chicken broth (the better the quality, the better the dish-Whole foods makes a very good stock)

1 slice of thick cut bacon or 2 thin cut slices, cut across into squares

one inch square of pacific kombu (optional-but available at Whole Foods as well as at Asian groceries)

½ inch slice or two pieces of dried ginger

one carrot, sliced into the thinnest strips (think matchsticks) that you can

handful of pea pods, trimmed of tough ends and strings

4-5 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced across the cap

2 scallions sliced into rounds using the white and very light green–save the scallion ends for the broth

2 eggs (you might want to make 3 in case one explodes during cooking)

soy sauce

mirin

vegetable oil

1/2 package of Japanese curly noodles

cooked meat of your choice (pieces of chicken, slices of cooked pork or beef, even shrimp could work)

PREPARATION:

1.  To make the eggs, place them in a pot of just boiling water (they can come straight from the fridge or can sit on the counter for a few minutes first) and cook keeping the water just gently bubbling for 6 1/2 minutes.    While the eggs are cooking, half fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes.  When the eggs are done, immediately place them in the bowl of ice water until they cool.  These can be made an hour or two ahead (or even a day, but then store them in the fridge).

2.  Place the chicken stock, bacon, kombu (if using), ginger and scallion trimmings into a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon has rendered its fat and become limp.  Strain out the bacon, kombu, ginger and scallion ends.  Add soy sauce to taste (but remember more will be added at the table).

3.  In a fry pan, heat 1 T. of vegetable oil over medium heat until hot and add the shiitake mushrooms along with a tablespoon or so of mirin.  Cook until the mushrooms are just beginning to brown and the mirin has evaporated and coated the mushroom slices.

4.  While the mushrooms are cooking place the pea pods in a container of very hot water to soften a bit, then drain.

5.  Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles.

6.  Carefully peel the eggs and set them aside.

7.  Reheat the broth, if needed.

8.  Place the 1/2 package of noodles into the boiling water and separate them using a fork or chopsticks.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes, then drain.

9.  To assemble the ramen, place the noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladel the hot broth over the noodles.  Top with the carrots, pea pods, scallions, and meat.  Hold an egg in your hand and carefully slice in half and immediately transfer to bowl.

10.  Add more soy sauce at the table.

Polenta – soft or crispy

For someone who grew up thinking mashed potatoes were the epitome of comfort food, polenta has been a real revelation–the range of textures and the depth of flavor make it one of my favorite starches to put under ragus or to serve on the side with grilled meats.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups chicken stock (no or low-salt) or water

1 cup water (to be added to stock or water for a total of 5 cups)

1 cup polenta (not instant)

salt to taste (use 2t if only liquid is water, less if main liquid is chicken stock that has salt)

¼ cup grated parmegian reggiano

1 T. unsalted butter

PREPARATION:

  1.  Bring the 5 cups of chicken stock/ water to a boil in a large pot or pan.
  2.  Slowly add the polenta, stirring all the while with a whisk or wooden spoon to prevent lumps.
  3.  Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until polenta thickens (about 5 minutes).
  4.  With heat on lowest setting, continue cooking, stirring every few minutes so the polenta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 20-30 minutes or until all the grains are cooked and soft. If it becomes too stiff and dry, add a little more water.
  5.  Add the parmegian reggiano and, once it is fully incorporated, taste for and correct salt.
  6.  Stir in the butter.

Polenta can be served as is (soft) with a topping of tomato sauce, shredded meat, sautéed vegetables, or even just more parmegian cheese.  It can also be spooned onto a foil-covered or greased flat pan (like a cookie sheet) and cooled.  It can then be cut into pieces and sautéed until browned in either olive oil or butter or (carefully) grilled.

Hash

This is one of the easiest, and one of our family’s favorite ways, to use leftover meat from a roast or the grill.  You can put anything that appeals to you in it.  Just make sure you get the potatoes nice and crusty.

Ingredients:

½ lb. of lean steak, pork, sausage or chicken  (leftovers work well for this)

2 large or 3 small potatoes (preferably waxy, such as Yukon Gold)

1 small or ½ large yellow onion

1 red pepper

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1.  Peel potatoes and cut into very small dice (1/4″ to 1/3″ cubes) and place in a bowl of water to cover the potatoes.
  2. Cut the onion into either long thin strips or medium dice.
  3. Cut as much red pepper as you like into medium dice (roughly the same size as the potatoes).
  4. Heat a frying pan until quite hot.  If you do not have leftover cooked steak, pork, etc. Add 1 to 2 t. of olive oil to the pan.  Salt and pepper the steak, pork, sausage, etc. Fry in the olive oil, turning once until the steak is medium rare or the pork, chicken or sausage are just cooked through. Remove from pan, tent with foil, and let cool on plate or cutting board.
  5. When meat is cool, cut into pieces of similar size to the potatoes.
  6. While the meat is cooling, turn the heat under the pan to medium, add 1 – 2 T. of olive oil, then the onions, and cook just until wilted.
  7. Increase the heat to medium-high and when hot drain potatoes and add to pan (stand back in case the potatoes splatter in the oil).  Stir or shake pan to evenly distribute potatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cover partially (use aluminum foil if no lid is available) for the first 5-10 minutes of cooking.
  8. When potatoes are tender, remove top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn the heat back to medium high.  Scrape the potatoes as you mix them in the pan so they brown on all sides and add the cut up mean and red pepper.  Heat through and serve.

Makes enough for two.  Any leftovers will keep for three days refrigerated.