Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blueberry-Ricotta Cheesecake

It rained during the night.  Outside my window, there is an explosion of green.  It is amazing at how many shades of green there are in nature.  Crayola could devote an entire box of 64 crayons just to the color green.

As I've traveled about the countryside this past week, I've noticed that the green blueberry bushes are starting to add the color blue(ish) to the landscape.  After a long and blustery winter, I am impatient for the bounty of summer to come to market.  We've already enjoyed the sweet and juicy local strawberries.  Every spring, I think it would be good to make strawberry jam.  It is a fleeting feeling.  Why spoil the freshness of those beautiful berries.  Hopefully a friend will show up with a jar or two of jam made in a kitchen other than mine.

Blueberries are at their best fresh off the vine and untouched in any way.  This cheesecake, made by The Baker,  is the ultimate vehicle in which to enjoy that freshness.  The berries are added after baking!  The cheesecake itself is much like the one his mother made.  The texture is not the silky smooth one we are used to.  The base of the cake, with the lemon zest is perfect with the juicy berries and the crunchy almonds.

Here is the recipe.  Give it a try.  You won't be disappointed!

Blueberry Ricotta Cheesecake

2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 ounces of amaretto cookies or graham crackers
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
1 15 oz. package of whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

1.  Butter a 9" springform pan and place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
2.  Place the cookies and cut-up butter into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine mixture.  Pat it into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3.  Bake the crust until slightly browned and crisp--about ten minutes.
4.  Clean the bowl of the food processor and add the ricotta cheese.  Process until smooth, a minute or so.
5.  With a mixer on medium and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until broken down a bit then slowly add the sugar with the mixer running.  Beat until thick and pale.  This will take 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the ricotta, flour, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until just combined.
6.  Pour the mixture over the pre-baked crust and bake until just set, about 30 minutes.  It will still be slightly moist in the center.
7.  While the cheesecake is baking, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place into the oven (with the cheesecake) and toast until golden--4 to 5 minutes.
8.  When the cheesecake comes out of the oven, top with the nuts and blueberries while still warm.  Gently press down on them.  Chill completely before unmolding.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mothering (A Working Title)

Did I mention that, while The Baker was in Poland, I enjoyed this boy?  Adam flew in to spend Memorial Day weekend with me.  I started early with menu planning.  Then I put that aside and planned what restaurants we would visit instead.

Lunch at Meditrina was a delicious success!

Adam had the tasty vegetarian sampler.

I had the house made lamb gyros.  It was excellent!

It was a beautiful day and we headed to the shore of Lake Michigan.

Too soon, he headed back to California.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Broccoli Soup for a Cold Spring Day(s)

I really find dwelling on the weather tiresome at times.  This is not one of those times!  We've had rain, rain and more rain.  Along with the rain, the wind whipped down from the north (at least that's my weather report) and chilled us to the bone.  Heeding my mother's long-time advice of not planting outside before Mother's Day, I waited,  putting out pots of newly started herbs last week only to drag them into the house and garage at night.  The porch furniture is out but not us!

Warm weather will come!  In the meantime, this mid-May bowl of broccoli soup hit the spot!  If you are still chilled, I hope you'll prepare yourself a bowl.

Broccoli Soup 

Broccoli, about 1 pound, separated into florets with stems peeled and rough chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 quart of good chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
Salt and Pepper
Half and Half, about 1/4 cup

Put all ingredients, except salt, pepper and half and half, into a large pot, bring to a slight boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft.  Salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender (or regular blender/food processor).  If you have an immersion blender (I don't know what I did without one), you can puree it right in the pot and cleanup is a breeze!  Add half and half to taste.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Post Mother's Day Post

I woke up Mother's Day morning to the sound of birds chirping out a varied melody outside my window.  The sky was blue with white, puffy clouds scudding by.  NO RAIN!  It was a perfect time for a walk, returning to enjoy a steaming mug of coffee on the porch while Andrew prepared brunch.

This lovely boxed arrived on the doorstep Saturday afternoon.

Edible art!  Had I taken the photo this morning,
the heart in the upper right and the chocolate three spaces to the
left of it would be missing.  I shared with Andrew as an after-dinner treat.
They are as delicious as they look!!

These gerbera daisies are the most beautiful red wine color.  
My camera, with the light at hand,  just couldn't quite capture that color.

I spent the rest of the day reading The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks' latest book and enjoying phone calls from the boys.  Later, we headed out for dinner at Sage.  It was a very good day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sausages, Cream and Tomato Sauce for Pasta

We have had a wet and wild spring so far.  April certainly provided plenty of showers to bring out the May flowers!!  I've pretty much followed my mother's advice not to plant anything until after Mother's Day.  Nevertheless, these pretty posies have graced our table for almost a week now.  They arrived with friends who came to lunch last week.

We are wealthy people when it comes to friends!  When we moved to our new cottage, we thought our circle of friends was complete.  It wasn't and, hopefully, isn't.  One dear couple has given us much time and patience over the last few months.  They are teaching us how to become proficient at bridge.  
Since mid-January, we've been meeting for a morning of bridge every Friday.  We follow it by lunch.
There are usually eight of us but this past Friday, we were only four.  So we invited them to come home with us for lunch.

Personally, I think it is going to take a long, long time for me to learn the game.  I plan to stretch it out as long as possible because we really look forward to their company.

The lunch recipe is from another old friend, Marcella Hazan.  It's from Marcella's Italian Kitchen, a cookbook that has been a constant source of good eating from my kitchen since 1988.  

Cartwheels With Sausages, Cream, and Tomato from Marcella Hazan with a little tweaking by me

For 4 to 6

1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp dried Italian herb blend
1 1/2 cups canned chopped plum tomatoes and their juice
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 pound pasta cartwheels, cooked al dente
Freshly grated Parmesan to pass

1.  Remove the casings and slice the sausages into 1/2 inch pieces.
2.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and add the garlic.  Stir for one minute then add the Italian herbs and stir another minute.  Add the sliced sausages and turn them frequently until they are beginning to brown on both sides.  This will take about fifteen minutes.  Add the tomatoes, stir and cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for about twenty minutes.  Add cream and turn up the heat.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently.  Add the salt and a good grinding of fresh pepper.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley.
3.  Place the pasta into heated bowls and top with the sauce.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Wild Rice Salad

Last week was one of nasty weather around here.  Several days ran the gamut from rain to sleet to snow to hail to high winds to....!  The temperatures remained well above freezing so nothing gathered to deter being out and about--well, if one wanted to be out and about.  It was a good time to snuggle under a warm blanket in my reading chair and read.  So I did.  It was a good time to dress warmly and head out to have lunch with a friend.  So I did.  It was a good time to meet friends for dinner at Roxana's in Merrillville so we did.  Oh my, that dinner was delicious.  Roxana's is an Afghani restaurant that has been around for several years now.  Enticing aromas greeted us as soon as we stepped from the car.  Saturday they offer a buffet and we all opted for that opportunity so as to sample a number of dishes.  We were unanimous in declaring each dish a success.  If you haven't been, go!  We'll be going back.

Sunday, we awoke to rain pelting the windows.  It was the day for our neighborhood Soup and Salad extravaganza so I got started on a salad to share.  This recipe has been in my salad file for years and since I am truly trying to try all those clipped recipes, I decided to make this one.  I can tell you that it will be transferred to my permanent file.  Each bite brought a delicious pop of flavor and texture.  It paired well with the soups that were lined up in crockpots.  If my count is correct, there were seven soups.  While I wanted to try each one, I settled on a delicious melange of many beans with ham soup followed by a tasty sauerkraut soup.  The rain settled into an all-day affair but we were happily warmed by delicious food and the company of good friends.

The salad got very good reviews.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Wild Rice Salad

1 cup uncooked wild rice (not long grain and wild rice)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup pecan pieces (toasted)
1 cup currants
Rind of one orange, grated
10 ounces of frozen petit peas, thawed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Rinse the rice is a strainer under cold water.  Combine the chicken stock and water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer the rice, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.  It should not be too soft but rather have a "bite".  Drain and place in a large bowl.

2.  Combine the rice with the remaining ingredients except for the pecans.  Mix well and let stand, at room temperature, for two hours.  Stir in the pecans and serve.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Post Easter Musings

Once again we shared Easter with our dear friends.  The same loving group that started gathering over two decades ago to share holiday meals.  It has been a few years since there were baskets to fill and eggs to be hidden.  All of our children live in different parts of the country now.  We enjoyed talking about them around the table--catching up on what was going on in their lives.

This year, instead of driving twenty miles over hill and dale, we simply walked down the street.  It is still hard to believe that we are neighbors with one of the couples!!  Last Easter, The Baker and I hadn't given much thought to a move and, now, here we are!!

We sat down to a beautiful table.

The centerpiece, an elegant glass swan, was filled with
fresh blossoms in pink and white.

My first helping!

The recipe for the corn pudding/corn soufflé
came from a good friend to all of us.  We miss dear Judith 
and still enjoy her recipes (this one in her own hand).

The Easter bunny dropped off boxes of chocolate.