Homemade Ricotta With Roasted Tomatoes

When I first started to cook, there were somethings that just seemed like total extravaganzas that I would never learn and really had no desire to learn.  So, the idea of making my own homemade ricotta cheese never, and I mean NEVER occurred to me.  Then I saw a chef demonstrate how easy it was and I was sold.  The truth is, when I serve my own homemade ricotta cheese as an appetizer, I WOW my guests whether they are family or friends.  Frankly, you can serve the most simple and unimpressive meal but if you start by saying, “I hope you enjoy this homemade ricotta cheese that I whipped up about 2 hours ago,” whoever “they” are, “they” won’t be able to stop talking about what a fabulous cook you are.  Enjoy!!!

Serves:

6-8

Total Time:

45 minutes

To Make

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp.  White wine vinegar

For the roasted tomatoes:

  • 3 cups cherry tomato medley
  • ¼ c. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • ¼ c. Basil Chiffonade

Directions:

Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line a large sieve with the cheesecloth.  Set the sieve over a deep bowl.

Pour the milk and cream into an enameled pot such as Le Creuset. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta remaining in the sieve to a bowl. Use immediately and eat warm or place in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days.

For the Roasted Tomatoes:

Preheat oven to 400°

 Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss until well coated.  Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay the tomatoes out on the parchment and then place into the oven for 10-12 minutes.

 Place the ricotta in the center of a platter and spoon the roasted tomatoes over the top and around the sides.  Sprinkle with coarse French sea salt and the basil and ENJOY!!

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Beet Salad with Whipped Roquefort, Pistachios and Beet Dust

I recently tasted this dish at one of our favorite restaurants in Laguna Beach.  I am not one for beets, but I have found in the summer they are ubiquitous on many restaurant menus in the southwest.  I bit into the salad and the layers of flavors with the beet dust, pistachios and whipped Roquefort layered with the sweetness and yet tartness of the beets just placed me in heaven.  I knew I had to duplicate this recipe even though at the time I never knew there was such a thing as beet dust!!!  (better known as beet powder)  This is a summer salad winner.  Enjoy!

Serves:

4 – 6

Total Time:

60 minutes

To Make

Ingredients
  • 3 Golden whole beets
  • 3 Red whole beets
  • 4 oz. Roquefort (room temperature)
  • 3 Tbs. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup chopped pistachio nuts
  • 1 Tbs. beet dust
  • 1 Tbs. sugar

      Directions:

      Wash the beets thoroughly and trim off the beet leaves. Before cooking, peel the beets and dice them in 1” square pieces.  Start with the golden beets and separate them in a separate bowl when finished.  Then peel and dice the red beets and place separately from the golden beets. (this is done to keep the red beets from bleeding over and staining the golden beets). 

      Keeping the staining in mind, steam the golden beets in a steamer basket for approximately 25 minutes or until tender and pierces easily with a fork. 

      If you have steamed the golden beets first, you can now add the red beets into the basket of the same steaming water without fear of staining.  Again, steam for approximately 25 minutes or until tender enough to pierce with a fork.  If desired, chill for 30 minutes or serve room temperature.

      In a food processor add the Roquefort, mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and olive oil and pulse until combined.  Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up. 

      In the meanwhile, chop the pistachios into a rough chop, and toss the arugula with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.

      Plate the arugula and then layer the beets starting with the red beets on the bottom with the golden beets on top.

      Form the whipped Roquefort with two spoons into ovals and place them onto the platter.  If plating individually, place two ovals per salad plate. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top of the plate. 

       

      Lastly, combine the beet powder and sugar together in a small bowl making the beet dust. Sprinkle the beet dust over the top of the entire salad, especially the Roquefort ovals and the plate so it glistens and shows the beet dust generously.  Enjoy!

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      Fresh Mozzarella-Strawberry Caprese Salad

      Serves:

      8 – 10

      Total Time:

      30 minutes

      To Make

      Ingredients

      HONEY-BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE:

      • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
      • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • Salt and pepper to tasteSALAD:
      • 2 bags (5 ounces each) fresh baby spinach (about 10 cups)
      • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
      • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (3 cups)
      • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
      • 2 containers (8 ounces each) Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics Fresh Mozzarella cheese – Ciliegine (cherry-sized balls), drained and each ball cut in half
      • 1 package (16 ounces) Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics Fresh Mozzarella cheese – Log
      • Fresh basil leaves

      Directions:

      Heat oven to 425°F.

      Shred 1/4 c parmesan. Finely shred remaining parmesan.

      Melt butter in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, salt and pepper; cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

      Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20-25 minutes longer or until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally.

      Gradually stir in cream. Bring just to a boil; cook and stir until cream is reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.

      Stir in shredded parmesan until melted; set aside.

      Heat oven to 425°F. Line a 15 x 10-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

      Unfold pastry on a lightly floured surface; roll out pastry to a 15 x 10-inch rectangle.

      Place pastry in prepared pan. Score a 1/2-inch border on edges of pastry with sharp knife. Prick pastry with a fork.

      Spoon reserved onion mixture to edges of scored pastry. Arrange asparagus and tomatoes on top.

      Bake for 18-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

      Sprinkle with finely shredded parmesan. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 

      Sprinkle with lemon zest just before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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      Retro Pasta Salad

      I remember this very retro recipe that was going around about the time that the Runnin’ Rebels began their streak of final fours which eventually ran to a National Championship.  This recipe brings back memories of the late 70’s and 80’s and I have kept the recipe exactly as it was then!  Packaged seasoning, dressing and all!!!  Enjoy!

      Serves:

      10

      Total Time:

      30 minutes

      To Make

      Ingredients:

      • 1 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and seeded, then chopped into ½-inch pieces
      • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
      • 4 scallions, minced white and green parts or 1 chopped red onion
      • 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), chopped in ½-inch pieces
      • ¼ C. basil, minced (reserve 1 Tbsp. for garnishing the top before serving)
      • 1 2.62 oz bottle of McCormick Salad Supreme
      • 1 16 oz bottle Newman’s Own Italian salad dressing
      • ¼ c. shaved parmesan cheese for topping
      • 1 box or 1 lb. Rotini or Fusilli pasta

      Directions:

      Prepare the Rotini pasta per directions on package but cook one minute less than package directions.

      Chop all of the necessary vegetables and then combine pasta and all ingredients in one large bowl. 

      Mix the salad dressing and poor liberally onto the salad mixture and toss.  This can be done an hour before serving or overnight and placed back into the refrigerator.  Top with the basil and shaved parmesan cheese.

      Tip: If you do place it back in the fridge before serving, when you take it out reserve a good 1/2 C. of dressing to re-toss the salad with as the pasta will absorb the dressing while resting a bit too much and it will taste slightly dry.  Once you add the other dressing it springs right back to life.

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      Pasta Salad

      I love a great pasta salad. I love it at an outdoor barbeque or at a Sunday sports party. It is so inviting. To me it feels like love in a bowl. Everyone enjoys it – kids and adults alike. Hope you think so too. Enjoy!

      Serves:

      6 – 8

      Total Time:

      1 hour

      For Pasta Salad

       

      1 Ingredients:

       

      • 1 lb. rotini (curly) pasta

      • 1 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and seeded, then chopped into ½-inch pieces

      • 1 heirloom or beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped

      • 4 scallions, minced white and green parts

      • 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), chopped in ½-inch pieces

      • ¼ C. basil, minced (reserve 1 Tbsp. for garnishing the top before serving)

      • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano

      • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

      • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

      • 1/2 tsp. celery seed 

      • 1/2 tsp. poppy seed

      • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

      • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

      • 1 tsp. kosher salt

      • 1 1/2 tsp. sesame seed

      • 1/3 C. grated romano cheese

      Directions:

      Prepare the Rotini pasta per directions on package but cook one minute less than package directions.

      Chop all of the necessary vegetables and then combine pasta and all ingredients in one large bowl.

      For Salad Dressing

      Ingredients:

       

      • ½ C. EVOO

      • ¼ C. apple cider vinegar

      • 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

      • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

      • Salt

      • Pepper

      • ¼ tsp. Herbs de Provence

      Directions:

      Mix the salad dressing and poor liberally onto the salad mixture and toss. This can be done an hour before serving and placed back into the refrigerator.

      Tip: If you do place it back in the fridge before serving, when you take it out reserve a good ¼ C. of dressing to re-toss the salad with as the pasta will absorb the dressing while resting a bit too much and it will taste slightly dry. Once you add the other dressing it springs right back.

       

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      Kale Salad

      My husband and I return every year to the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel for our anniversary. We did not get married at the Wynn, but we did get married at The Desert Inn Hotel, which was imploded to build the Wynn, so it is as close to sentimental as we can get.  At the Wynn Steak House, I tasted their Kale Salad and it was magnificent. For weeks I tried to duplicate it, and when I was done, I think they should use my recipe. It is a crowd pleaser whether you like kale or not and whether you are eight or 80. Enjoy!

      Serves:

      8

      Total Time:

      1 Hour

      Ingredients for Salad

      • 3 heads of organic curly kale (cut chiffonade style–see tip)
      • 2 C. chopped pecans
      • 3 oz. organic dark amber maple syrup
      • 1 tsp. French sea salt
      • 1 Gala apple, shredded – or 8 oz. of freeze-dried apples
      • 12-15 shavings of fresh parmesan cheese

      For Salad Dressing

       Ingredients:

       

      • 2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
      • 2 oz. organic dark amber maple syrup
      • 2 oz. apple cider vinegar to taste
      • 1 C. blood orange flavored olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company (Or good quality EVOO)
      • 3 Tbsp. good Dijon Mustard

        Directions:

        Combine the lemon juice, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. 

        Drop in the Dijon mustard and then as you are adding the olive oil, whip with a wire whisk and dressing will begin to emulsify and thicken.

        Tip: If you are serving a small group, it is easy to shred the apples right before serving and serve this salad with the fresh apples. But, if you are serving a large group, the stress of those apples turning brown is too much for me, so I have learned to substitute crunchy dehydrated or freeze-dried apples which add a fun tanginess and extra crunch!

        It also may seem tedious to roll the kale leaves together as a cigar and cut them into tiny chiffonade pieces. Just put on your favorite music and get down to it.  I promise you when you are done, (which is why you do it the day or 2 before you need them) the tiny little pieces make the kale so tender and easy to absorb the dressing and it is key to a great salad.

        For Candied Pecans

        Ingredients:

         

        • 1 ½ C. Pecans

        • ⅓  C. organic dark amber maple syrup

        • 2 tsp. French sea salt

        To Candy the pecans:

        Heat oven to 375 degrees.

        Combine the chopped pecans with 1/3 cup maple syrup on a sheet pan and toss until pecans are completely covered. 

        Sprinkle with French sea salt and roast at least 5 minutes or until you can smell the pecans roasting and they are browned. (Keep a watchful eye they burn quick after 5 minutes)

        Tip: I suggest using a Silpat (a mat made of food-grade silicone) as it is easier to roll the pecans off the surface and make into small pieces.  There is never any sticking.

        Allow to cool and allow the maple syrup to harden around the pecans.

        Tip: Do not touch until cool or you will lose the skin on your hand.

        On day of serving, combine the kale, apples, pecans and salad dressing and toss.  Dressing can be placed on salad up to 10 minutes before serving.  Shave the parmesan cheese on top as garnish.

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