Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Orange Segments

I was picking out beets the other day when a woman next to me asked if I ever cooked with the beet greens. I told her that I had tried cooking beet greens once before, but ended up with a mushy green mess. She gave me some advice on how she boiled them, and I decided to take another stab at preparing the greens I usually discard.

Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Orange Segments

6 medium beets with greens attached

3 large oranges

1 small shallot, minced

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

½ cups feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim greens from beets and reserve leaves. Place beets on large sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Wrap beets in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour. Let beets cool, and then gently rub off the skins with a paper towel. Cut beets into 8 wedges and set aside.

Remove stems from beet greens and coarsely chop leaves. Cook greens in a pot of boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the greens and squeeze out any excess moisture.

Finely grate enough peel from an orange to measure ½ teaspoon and reserve for dressing. Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Use a small sharp knife to cut between membranes and release segments. Squeeze remaining membranes and save 2 tablespoons of juice.

Put vinegar, oil, shallot, honey, lemon juice, orange juice and orange zest in a small jar and shake until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange greens, beets and orange segments on plates. Sprinkle with feta and drizzle with dressing.

Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saag Paneer

Saag paneeer is one of my favorite Indian dishes. The spinach and cheese dish is rich, warm and comforting.

Making cheese may seem like a complicated task, but I encourage you to try making this paneer. This cheese recipe is great for beginners as it only requires two ingredients and basic kitchen skills. It is very similar to the ricotta recipe I featured earlier except paneer is pressed into a solid form.

My passion for cheese began when I started working for a local cheese company making goat and cow milk cheese. In addition to working in the kitchen, I sold cheese at local farmers markets on Saturday mornings during the summers. It has been my favorite job I have held so far and really sparked my interest in food.

Saag Paneer

adapted from Saveur Magazine

For Cheese:

8 cups milk

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

6 tbsp. ghee or vegetable oil

For Spinach:

1" piece ginger, peeled and chopped

3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped

4 bunches spinach, washed, trimmed and finely chopped (about 6 cups)


½ tsp. garam masala 

1-2 pinches cayenne

6 tbsp. heavy cream

For the cheese:

Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, draping it over sides, and set colander aside in sink. Put milk into a large saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent it from scorching, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add lemon juice, and very slowly and gently stir until large curds form, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour milk mixture into colander and gently rinse off under cold running water any foam and residual lemon juice from curds. Gather corners of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out liquid. Tie opposite corners of cheesecloth together to make a sack, and hang it from a large kitchen spoon suspended over a deep bowl. Set aside at room temperature until excess liquid has thoroughly drained from cheese, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer sack to a large plate, untie cheesecloth, and loosely drape corners over cheese. Place a large heavy pot on top of cheese, then set aside for 30 minutes to compress cheese. Remove pot and unwrap cheese.

Cut cheese into1/2" x 1" pieces. Heat ghee in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4–6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

For the spinach:

Put ginger, garlic, chiles, and 1/4 cup water into a blender and purée to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger–garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add spinach, season to taste with salt, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinich is very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is silky soft, about 15 minutes more. Serve with naan or over rice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Orecchiette and Chard

Chard, pasta and cheese

Yum, you are so delicious

My plate is clean. More?

The chard recipe comes from Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher. It is a helpful cookbook to have on hand if you frequent farmers markets because the produce is divided by season. When there are so few ingredients in a recipe, I like them to be the best quality possible. I made my own orecchiette for the dish using an old recipe from my mountain of clippings from Gourmet magazine.

Orecchiette and Chard

For orecchiette

½ cup warm water

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 ¼ cups semolina

For chard

2 bunches chard

olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 ounces ricotta salata, grated

Make orecchiette:

Stir together water and sea salt in a bowl until salt has dissolved. Add semolina in a stream, beating with an electric mixer at medium speed until a stiff dough forms, about two minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead with lightly floured hands (use all-purpose flour) until smooth and elastic, about six minutes. Divide dough into five pieces and let stand under an overturned bowl 30 minutes.

Line each of two trays (or a work surface) with a dry kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and dust with some semolina. Keeping remaining dough covered, roll one piece of dough into a 14-inch-long rope (about ¾ inch thick) on an unfloured surface. Cut rope into ¼ -inch pieces. Dust your thumb with some flour and press down on each piece of dough, pushing away from you and twisting your thumb slightly to form an indented curled shape (like an ear). Transfer as formed to lined trays. Make more orecchiette with remaining dough. Let stand until dry, about 30 minutes.

Make chard:

Wash chard in a sinkful of cold water. Separate chard leaves from ribs. Chop ribs and boil in a large pot until tender, about two minutes. Add leaves and cook additional two minutes until wilted. Drain and press out extra water. Coarsely chop.

Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and hot pepper fakes and sauté until garlic is lightly colored, about two minutes. Add chard, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Keep warm

Cook orecchiette:

Cook orecchiette in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (three tablespoons salt for six quarts water) until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of cooking water.

Return pasta to pot and add one tablespoon olive oil. Toss until coated, add chard and ricotta salata and toss again. Add a little of the reserved water if needed to keep the pasta moist.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

I have been stuck in a winter vegetable rut and looking for new inspirations to get me through until the spring. Sifting through my mountain of recipe clippings, I found a remedy for my culinary malaise with a roasted acorn squash and gorgonzola pizza.

Giada De Laurentiis has a way of combining unusual ingredients for a fresh take on old favorites. The acorn squash, gorgonzola, brown sugar, and pepper flakes are so flavorful and together. I love the combination of sweet and hot, with the creamy cheese and peppery arugula to balance it out.

Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 one pound acorn squash

1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound pizza dough

1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1 cup arugula

Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375 ˚F .

Slice the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide half moons and place in a medium bowl. Toss the squash with the brown sugar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Place the squash on a baking sheet and bake until tender and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Keep the temperature on the oven at 375 degrees F. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch diameter. Place the pizza on an oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and the Gorgonzola on the pizza dough. Bake in the oven until golden and cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Peel the skins off the squash. Top the cooked pizza with the cooked squash. Toss arugula with a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and place on top of pizza. Slice and serve.