Tag Archives: Parmesan cheese

THREE-CHEESE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower is a beautiful vegetable. The usual variety is snowy white and reminds me of the huge cumulus clouds that build over the New Mexico mountains during the summer and fall. Those clouds are very much a part of the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. Now there are cauliflower varieties of  electric green and purple. They are also gorgeous and beg to be eaten. A creative cook can find many ways to prepare cauliflower. You can use it raw as a crudité along with a dip, or heaven forbid, ranch dressing, or in a garden salad. You can roast it in thick slabs, and then it tastes almost like steak. The Indians use it for delicious pakoras. There are other ways to prepare it, but the fallback in most home kitchens is a steamed head of cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce. Actually, I love that combination, but in my hands the cauliflower gets soggy in the steamer and the cheese sauce slides off the cauliflower into a pool on the plate. This is my effort to correct those shortcomings by roasting the cauliflower and using a thick sauce that clings to the head  of cauliflower and  browns quickly in the oven.

RECIPE

Three-Cheese Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower, washed, trimmed of leaves and stem
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons panko
  • melted unsalted butter

Method

  1. Place the cauliflower head in a well-buttered baking dish. Bake  in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil until you are ready to add the sauce.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flavor of the flour. Add the milk, and stir until the mixture is thickened. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the sauce over the roasted cauliflower, sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, Parmesan, and panko. Drizzle melted butter over the top.
  4. Return to the oven and increase the temperature to 400°F. Roast until the topping is lightly browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately while still warm. I served it with sliced New York strip steak, but it will go with just about any protein you might like.

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SAUTÉED ASPARAGUS AND SUGAR SNAP PEAS

We just returned from a visit with family in Texas, Susan’s sister and her husband. My sister-in-law has quit cooking because of some health problems, and my brother-in-law doesn’t like or know how to cook. For a while they have been living on frozen dinners and things you can make with a can opener.

During our visit, I was assigned the responsibility of preparing meals. I chose to make old family favorites and some new comfort foods. A new dish for them was spaghetti all’Amatriciana from a cookbook by one of my blogging friends, La Tavola Italiana by Dianne Darrow and her husband, Tom Maresca. The meal was a big hit. Other favorites included shepherd’s pie and sautéed ham, Southern style. The vegetable dish that scored was asparagus sautéed with sugar snap peas. The best dessert was an apple pie whipped up by Susan, the family pie baker.

There is not much to sautéed asparagus and snap peas, but since both vegetables are in season – or almost so – throughout the USA, the dish might make a good addition to your springtime repertoire.

Sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

Sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

Susan's apple pie

Susan’s apple pie

RECIPE

Sautéed Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Trim the asparagus by cutting off the woody ends and, if the stalks are thick, peeling the root ends with a vegetable peeler
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil and butter until melted and shimmering
  3. Add the asparagus and sauté for a few minutes until the stalks are nearly cooked through but still bright green
  4. Stir in the sugar snap peas and continue to sauté until the peas are softened, about 5 minutes. A little bit of char is nice.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and then transfer the vegetables to a serving dish.
  6. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

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LAMB MEATBALLS, MINT-PARSLEY PESTO, POTATO GNOCCHI

Every Friday evening, our village market holds a wine tasting which has become a neighborhood gathering. The market owners use the event as an opportunity to introduce new products. One that caught my eye recently was a package of potato gnocchi imported from Italy and made by Del Destino Foods with the advantage that they required no refrigeration and could be stored in the pantry.

I very much like well-made gnocchi, although they are somewhat hard to find, even in good restaurants. They are often too leaden or else disintegrate rather than being the fluffy cloud like pillows that they can be. I’ve tried to make my own, but they take a bit of work and mine have really been no better than others. I was inspired to buy a package of cellophane-wrapped gnocchi for a trial at home. I could have just opted to cook them according to directions and  top them with olive oil and grated Parmesan.

Instead, I decided to combine them with lamb in the form of meatballs along with mint pesto. (What’s a better combination than lamb and mint, right?)

To make the meatballs I used a #60 scoop. I didn’t know what that meant, so when I looked up scoops, I learned that they are assigned a number according to size, the number referring to how many scoops it takes to make a quart. So a #60 scoop holds about ½ ounce, level, and more when heaping. In this recipe, you should expect about 30 meatballs.

I liked the way everything turned out, and the gnocchi were good, not great. At least they were not sinkers, they had a good taste, and they were fast. In fact, they were good enough that I will try them again. However, I’ve also made a plan to make my own soon.

RECIPES

Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • Italian seasoning to taste (optional)
  • pure olive oil

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk. Stir to mix thoroughly and set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine the ground lamb and egg. Stir in the milk-bread crumb mixture, shallots, and pepper. You may need to use your hands to get the meatball mixture well combined.
  3. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and, if desired, Italian seasoning.
  4. Form the meatballs to the size you desire. I think smaller is better.
  5. In a saucepan over a medium flame, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the meatballs in batches, turning them until they are completely browned. Continue to sauté for an additional 5 minutes until they are cooked through. Keep warm until you are ready to compose the serving bowls.

Mint-Parsley Pesto

Mint and parsley for the pesto

Mint and parsley for the pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch parsley, stems removed
  • 1 package mint, stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and stem and any green shoots removed
  • ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup English walnuts
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Place the parsley, mint, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in the beaker of a food processor.
  2. Pulse, gradually adding olive oil and stopping occasionally to push down the sides with a spatula.
  3. When the pesto has reached the desired consistency, add the walnuts, pulse briefly, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Lamb Meatballs, Mint-Parsley Pesto, Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 package gnocchi cooked according to instructions
  • 1 batch mint-parsley pesto (see above)
  • 1 batch lamb meatballs (see above)
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Boil and drain the packaged gnocchi according to instructions. Distribute among 4 pasta bowls
  2. Top with a desired amount of pesto. You may need to dilute it with a bit of the water reserved from boiling the gnocchi
  3. Arrange meatballs on top of the pesto. Serve immediately. Pass the grated Parmesan separately.

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PISTACHIO-STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Stuffed mushrooms are so retro. They were very popular in the 1960s, but you almost never see them now except at the Olive Garden. That is too bad, because they are easy to make and delicious to eat. They are perfect with cocktails and also make a good first course. The important step is to sauté the mushroom caps before you stuff them. Then you can let your imagination run wild and stuff them with whatever sounds appealing. We have a big bowl of pistachios that we have been snacking from for days, and even though pistachios are surprisingly low-cal, they are not when you eat them by the bowlful. Stuffing them into mushrooms seemed like a good dodge. That’s partly because I have no idea how many calories are in a stuffed mushroom.

RECIPE

Pistachio-Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 8 large crimini mushrooms (the largest you can find not labeled as Portobellos)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 scallions, including green ends, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Pernod
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the mushroom caps. Sauté for about 3 minutes and turn over. Sauté the other side of the mushroom caps until cooked through. Remove to a plate, draining any liquid that has accumulated in the caps.
  2. Remove any woody part of the mushroom stems and chop finely. Return them to the sauté pan along with the chopped scallions. Add more olive oil if needed. Sauté until cooked through. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the pistachios, Swiss cheese, bread crumbs, sour cream, and Pernod. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. With a small spoon, fill the mushroom caps with the pistachio mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the grated Parmesan cheese, and place under a hot broiler until the mushrooms are heated through and the tops have browned.
  4. Serve immediately.

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ZUCCHINI AND FRESH TOMATO LASAGNA

I thought I was finished with zucchini recipes, and then my neighbor brought over three more squash to add to the two in the refrigerator.

That is the origin of zucchini lasagna, which is a riff on eggplant lasagna. I also used fresh tomatoes instead of the usual marinara. With all that squash and fresh tomato, it is easy to anticipate that there is going to be a lot of water. You can deal with that if you plan ahead.

RECIPE

Zucchini and Fresh Tomato Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 5 medium-large zucchini
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces Parmesan
  • Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. With a very sharp chef’s knife, slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices. Arrange on a clean kitchen towel covered with several layers of paper towels. Salt the zucchini liberally on both sides and let rest for 45 minutes to release water from the squash. Place the sweated slices in a colander and rinse quickly with running water. Pat dry and set aside for final assembly.
  2. Core and thinly slice the tomatoes. Arrange on a clean kitchen towel to absorb excess water. Set aside for final assembly.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent. Add the ground beef, and over high heat, brown the meat while stirring frequently to break up any clumps. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to your taste. Drain and transfer to a plate. Set aside for final assembly.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir the eggs into the ricotta until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside for final assembly
  5. Assemble the lasagna in a large oven-proof lasagna pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray and then spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce that has been seasoned with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to your liking. Arrange a layer of the zucchini slices. Then arrange a layer of tomato slices. Top with half of the ground beef mixture, spreading it evenly. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with one cup of grated mozzarella. Repeat the process with zucchini, tomato, ground beef, ricotta, and mozzarella. Top with a third layer of zucchini and cover with the remaining cup of tomato sauce, the remaining one cup of mozzarella, and grated Parmesan.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. If water from the zucchini and tomatoes has accumulated in the bottom of the pan, pour it off carefully or remove it with a basting bulb.
  7. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into serving-sized squares. Serve while still warm.

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HORSERADISH MAYONNAISE AND PUFF PASTRY EMPANADAS

The other evening we were invited to a dinner party. It was a little bit of a pot luck, and we were asked to bring a light appetizer. I decided to use some puff pastry from the freezer to make empanadas, but that seemed a little bland, so I also made some mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.

Mayonnaise is so easy to make, and it tastes so much better than the bottled kind, that it seems crazy not to make your own. Especially when you have a fool-proof recipe (so far at least) from one of the world’s greatest chefs. Michel Roux of the Michelin-starred, much-honored Waterside Inn in England, has written a beautiful little book simply called “eggs” (John Wiley and Sons, 2005) filled with amazingly creative, not-so-classic and classic egg recipes including, of course, mayonnaise.

I doctored up the basic recipe using some tricks from Sarah and Evan. The additions of freshly grated horseradish and finely chopped chives or green scallion tops make a great dip that perks up the empanadas.

I filled the empanadas with hearts of palm, parsley, and grated Parmesan, but you can let your imagination run wild: tiny button mushrooms, little shrimp (is that redundant?), water chestnuts, olives (seed removed, of course), cubes of cheese, dolma filling, etc., etc., would all be good. I don’t know, but maybe a little oyster would work.

This recipe makes 20-24 appetizers depending upon how big you make the empanadas

RECIPES

Horseradish Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup peanut oil, room temperature
  • juice of ½ lemon, more if needed
  • ¼ cup freshly grated horseradish
  • ¼ cup chopped chives or green tops of scallions

Method

  1. Put the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl with handles and/or on a towel or other non-slip surface. Combine with a balloon whisk until smooth.
  2. Whisking continuously, add a few drops of oil. When the oil is completely incorporated, add more oil, repeating the process  until the mayonnaise thickens. You may then add the oil in a more continuous stream, but pause occasionally to make sure the oil is fully incorporated before adding more.
  3. When all of the oil has been incorporated, whisk for another minute or so until the mayonnaise is smooth. Then add the lemon juice. The mayonnaise will become visibly less yellow. Adjust with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper to suit your taste.
  4. Stir in the horseradish and chives or scallions. Add more of either to suit your taste.
  5. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to use. This should hold for several hours.

Puff Pastry Empanadas

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
  • 1 sheet commercial frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions
  • 1 14½ ounce can hearts of palm, drained and cut into ½ inch coins
  • 1 egg, beaten well with 2 tablespoons water

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, open the thawed sheet of puff pastry. With a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten the pastry to about 1/16 inch thick
  3. Using a 3 inch circular cookie cutter (a 2½ inch biscuit cutter will do) cut circles in the flattened pastry dough. Working quickly, place a palm coin and about ¼ teaspoon of the parsley/Parmesan mixture in the center of each circle.  Paint the edges of the circles with the egg mixture, using a small pastry brush.
  4. One by one and using your hands, stretch the dough gently to cover the palm disk. Pinch the edges of the half-moon empanada closed with your finger and then seal with the tines of a dinner fork
  5. Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  6. Paint the tops of the empanadas with the egg mixture, trying not to let it drip onto the parchment.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
  9. Serve with the dipping mayonnaise either at room temperature or gently rewarmed.

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USING THE LYTRO LIGHT FIELD CAMERA – SHRIMP, ARTICHOKE AND MUSHROOM MAC AND CHEESE

My son recently gave me an amazing new camera. It’s called a Lytro light field camera, and it operates on an entirely different principle than regular cameras. Peter is a techie who lives and works in Silicon Valley, so he is always up to date with the latest gadgets. This camera captures light in such a way that you can focus on any part of your image, and change the focus with the touch of a finger. You can also take close-up images from only a few centimeters away from the subject, so he thought that I would find it useful in making images of food. In spite of the instruction manual, using the camera is not intuitive – at least not for someone of my age.  With practice, though, I think I have caught the hang of it. Also, you need a computer with a fairly recent operating system to take advantage of the focusing feature. Unfortunately, when you publish the images you have to convert them to jpegs so that the focusing is lost.  Thus,  you won’t be able to get a full appreciation of how unique the camera is, and how much fun it is to use. Except for the images of the Lytro camera, which I made with my iPhone, the images in this post are made with the Lytro. Let me know what you think of them.

(Roll over image for legend, click to see gallery)

I know. I know. You are not supposed to mix fish and cheese. But I was looking for something to photograph with my new camera and decided to use what I was cooking, macaroni and cheese, as the test . But how can a person put plain old mac and cheese on a food blog? So I added a few twists to make me feel better. One of those twists is the use of Old Bay seasoning which adds just a little bit of pep to shellfish. Be careful, though, or you can over-do it. You can also omit the seasoning if you like. Here it is, then, shrimp, artichoke, and mushroom mac and cheese shot with a Lytro light field camera.

RECIPE

Shrimp, Artichoke and Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided + more to butter the baking dish
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 quarts of salted water
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • ½ pound (31/40) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
  • 6 medium crimini mushrooms, rinsed and broken into pieces
  • 1 cup marinated, quartered mushroom hearts, drained
  • ¾ cup panko
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
  2. add the flour and stir in the flour cooking for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
  3. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to remove any lumps and to avoid scorching until thickened.
  4. Turn the heat to low and stir in the Cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss cheeses. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add optional Old Bay seasoning. When the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. In a large pot, bring the salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook at the boil, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is al dente. Drain.
  6. In the large pot, combine the cheese sauce and cooked macaroni.
  7. Stir in the shrimp, mushrooms, and artichokes
  8. Prepare the baking dish  by heavily greasing the inside with butter. Then coat the butter layer with panko crumbs. Pour in the macaroni mixture.
  9. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the remaining panko and brown it lightly, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from the heat
  10. Combine the toasted panko and grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the macaroni mixture.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350°F. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking.

(Roll over image for legend, click to see gallery)

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