Pea Pesto

_MG_6162This is one of my go-to spring recipes, especially for entertaining. The pea and basil together are super refreshing (you can also use mint), and since everything gets thrown in the food processor, it only takes minutes to prepare. My favorite way to eat is with toasted bread, but since I spent hours (literally) rolling out these flat breads one Saturday, I thought they would make a nice accent. (The flat bread is SO good, but very time-consuming due to all of the hand-rolling, and if you are going to make these, you should definitely not go to P90X that morning or you won't be able to lift your arms.)_MG_6172  

_MG_6167I also served with this amazing whipped feta (all credit goes to my friend Arie for introducing me to this recipe). Seriously, the next time you have people over (or not, if you want it all to yourself), you must make this. It's like whipped gold.

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Pea Pesto (makes about 1 cup)

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and defrosted

1/4 cup fresh basil

1/4 grated parmesan cheese

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until creamy, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately with bread or crackers of your choice, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days.

 

Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

I think that this dish, to me, means that summer is really and truly here (as if I couldn't tell by the waves of 95 degree days). Since there are only five ingredients, be sure to use the best tomatoes you can find (or grow). My parents make this pretty much every weekend during the summer -- but since I couldn't be at home sitting on the porch, I made it for myself as a quick lunch last weekend. The recipe can be amended depending on how many people you are feeding, and also makes an excellent appetizer for an easy dinner al fresco. Just serve with a chilled rosé and imagine you are sitting on a terrace somewhere in Italy.

Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

2 lbs (about 4-5 large) tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned

Salt and pepper

1 baguette, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

Mix tomatoes and basil in a medium bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl. Lay baguette slices on a baking sheet, and with a pastry brush, brush each slice with garlic & olive oil mixture. Roast until golden brown, about 8 minutes (watch closely as they burn easily). Let cool slightly, then top each piece with a spoonful of tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Crostini with Asparagus and Ramp Pesto

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I think I might have a problem. As you may have noticed, I kind of love asparagus. Until is goes out of season, I eat it at least once a week (as you can probably tell). But how was I supposed to resist it at the farmer's market last weekend? The bright green, plump stalks were calling my name. And then you add in the fact that ramps are now in season for a few short weeks, and there was no hope. I had to get them both -- and actually, thank goodness I did because now I can share this pesto with you. The ramps give it a garlicky bite, but the brightness of the asparagus mellows it out a bit. This would also be excellent mixed with pasta, or served with a mild white fish, or with boiled potatoes for a riff on potato salad -- whatever your imagination might come up with. Crostini with Asparagus and Ramp Pesto

1 loaf ciabatta or baguette, thinly sliced

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 bunch ramps, ends cut off and roughly chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place slices of bread on a baking sheet and toast in oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place asparagus, ramps, walnuts, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped, about a minute. While processor is on, pour in oil in a slow stream and process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Slather over bread and serve immediately, garnishing with additional cheese if desired.

Homemade Ricotta

Ohh ricotta. I could eat it every day, smothered on toast or with strawberries and sugar, mixed into a simple pasta sauce or tossed with salad. The first time I ever made ricotta was a couple of years ago and believe me, it sounds impressive, but it's dead simple. You basically bring a pan of milk and cream to boil, and then let it drain for a couple of hours. That's it! As long as you have a couple of hours on your hands and some cheesecloth, you are pretty much set to go. Other ricotta recipes I have made used only whole milk, rather than a combination of milk and cream (the traditional manner), but I actually think that this recipe came out much creamier and produced a lot more curds as well. Fresh Ricotta (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3 cups whole milk

1 cup cream

Juice of 1 lemon

1 baguette, thinly sliced

Honey

Heat milk and cream in a large saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and heat to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let sit for five minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Pour in milk mixture, and let drain, 1 hour for runnier cheese and two hours for firmer cheese (what I did). Discard the whey and transfer to a container. Store, covered, for 3-4 days.

To serve: preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of ricotta on each slice, then drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

$10 Mondays: Mushroom Crostini

For today's $10 post, I will be continuing the party-themed appetizers (more this week + cake!) You may have already noticed these mushroom crostini in pictures from my earlier party posts and wondered what they were. Well, to answer your questions, these make a great winter appetizer and with a simple green salad also make a cheap dinner. Even though NYC's temperatures may reach 70(!) degrees this week, the produce selection is still decidedly wintery, so these are a good option until more exciting tomatoes and zucchini are available. Mushroom Crostini (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 lb mushrooms (I used baby bellas)

2 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

1/2 baguette, cut into very thin slices

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Clean mushrooms well and chop into very small pieces.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and reduce for 5 minutes more. Stir in cream and cook until most of the liquid has reduced 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Bake until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Top each with a tablespoon of mushrooms.