April 28, 2011

Rigatoni With Broccoli Pesto, Sausage, and Fresh Ricotta

If you put something green in a food processor with cheese, olive oil, and garlic, good things will happen. This is an important lesson that we have learned from the Italians.

We should eat more fresh ricotta. This is the lesson that we learned from Food 52's recent contest, "Your Best Recipe with Fresh Ricotta" which featured an amazing and mouth-watering variety of dishes with ricotta (if you aren't familiar with Food 52, please go check it out - lots of good things are happening over there). Like its cousins fresh mozzarella and burrata, ricotta adds such a pure, sweet cream flavor to any dish, and the texture is wonderful wrapped around big pieces of rigatoni. We especially loved the runner-up in the ricotta contest, this delicious Rigatoni with Sausage, Peas and Ricotta (and from that recipe we learned that Italian sausage is much more flavorful if you brown it in the casing and chop it, rather than removing the innards before cooking them). And we finally gave in and decided that it's worth getting the good quality ricotta, the kind that is freshly made and comes in a clear container and is priced by weight, rather than the pre-packaged big brand name kind. It takes ricotta from being just a filler to being a major flavor and texture contribution in the dish.

April 24, 2011

Passover Seder

We've been out of the action for a little while here in the blog world, because we've been out of the action in the kitchen too - we didn't cook for an entire week. We went to the East Coast to spend Passover with Michael's family in New York and Connecticut, and were completely spoiled food-wise. First, there was a lovely dinner in Brooklyn with friends of mine from college and their husbands, then there were many bagels (one for breakfast and one for lunch - what a versatile food!) and black and white cookies.

April 13, 2011

Warm Mushroom Salad with Crispy Polenta

We hope you're not tired of polenta (or other forms of cornmeal), or of mushrooms, because we've been eating (and posting) about both a lot recently, and this recipe was so good that we couldn't resist sharing it with you.

Don't you love it when you think you have a really good idea, and you try it out, and it turns out that you were right? This is one of those times. I made the first version when Michael was out of town last weekend (I think it might be a sign that I'm growing up that I no longer just cook macaroni and cheese when my husband is away). I wanted something tasty and not too heavy, and this really hit the spot. I told Michael about it when he got back and we tweaked it a little bit, and found it to be a perfect little lunch. If you're into mushrooms, and not tired of polenta, that is.

April 10, 2011

Cornmeal Berry Buckle

I mentioned last week that I teach at a French bilingual school. Once a month, we have a full faculty meeting, and to keep the masses happy, there is usually a snack of some kind. Sometimes it's some nuts and chocolates and dried fruits from the grocery store across the street from the school. And sometimes one of the teachers or staff members prepares something. This month, I decided to prepare something, since I think everyone is happier at the meeting if they have something good to eat, and I like it when good food makes people happy.

When I came home and announced, "I'm baking snacks for 70 people for the faculty meeting next week," I think what Michael heard is "I'm going to make a huge mess in the kitchen and only half clean it up." Despite that, he gamely agreed to help me out by first deciding what to make, then making a little test, then finally preparing the real thing.

April 5, 2011

Zucchini Cakes

We get inspiration for new recipes and dishes to try out from a lot of places: various other cooking blogs and food-related sites, meals out in restaurants, America's Test Kitchen, and conversations with food-minded friends, for example. This idea, though, came from one of my preschool students' lunch boxes.

It shouldn't be all that surprising, really - I have mentioned before that I teach at a French bilingual school in Berkeley, and these little kids eat pretty well. Of course there is a fair share of preschool standards like cream cheese and jelly sandwiches or spaghetti with butter, but I am often jealous (and a little surprised) when they open up their thermoses and I see what they have inside: mushroom risotto! Baby artichokes! Quinoa with avocado! And just last week one little girl had some cut up little pieces of pancakes flecked with green tucked into one compartment of her lunch box. I asked her what they were. "Zucchini cakes!" she said.