Shocking Update: I Still Hate Ricotta

So yes friends it is confirmed that ricotta still sits on my Top Ten List of Foods I Love to Hate. I came across a batch of recipes in the September issue of Martha Stewart Living in the What’s for Dinner? section that consisted of Egg-in-the-Hole Toasts with Ricotta, Celery and Cucumber Salad with Herbs, and Bacon with Citrus Glaze (there is also a Plum Tartes Tartine recipe but I was testing another dessert). Foods I hate typically stay there for one reason or another, but I do try to taste them at points in my life because you never know that one day when KAPOW you like it…cue sparkles, sunshine rays and birds chirping.

We all know I love bacon and I’ve had different variations of the glazed kind, including the ever-popular brown sugar version but one with a citrus/honey glaze? Me thinks not! This bacon was delicious but be sure to keep an eye on it. I don’t know why, but it was flimsy at one moment and on its way to overcooked land in a millisecond.

The cucumber and celery salad was simple, straightforward and refreshing – no complaints here. Now, the Egg-in-the-hole Toasts? I love eggs, as we all know, and I like eggs in a hole anyway. I thought maybe the ricotta mixed with the thyme might cut down my dislike for this particular cheese but ummm hell no. I took one bite and swallowed the grainy, bland cheese then scraped it all off and ate my eggs, toast, Parmesan (thank goodness for the Parmesan) and bacon. It was a perfect dinner after that!

Wonder what on my hate list I can try next? I couldn’t locate the recipes online so all three are posted below.

What’s for Dinner? Martha Stewart Living Recipes

All recipes from September 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living

Egg-in-the-Hole Toasts with Ricotta
Prep Time: 5 min.
Total Time: 30 min.

4 slices rustic bread (1 inch thick)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil for brushing, plus more for drizzling
8 ounces (1 cup) fresh ricotta cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 ounces (1/4 cup) shave Parmesan Cheese, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear out middle of each bread slice to form a 1 1/2-inch hole, reserving torn pieces. Arrange sliced in a baking dish. Tear bread from middles into smaller pieces. Brush slices on both sides and pieces all over with oil, and sprinkle pieces around slices. Bake until toasted and golden, about 12 minutes. Leave oven on.

2. Mix ricotta with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper, and fold in thyme. Spread mixture onto slices, avoiding the hold in each slice, and drizzle with oil.

3. Break 1 egg into each hole, and season with salt. Bake until egg whites are set, about 12 minutes. Top each slice with Parmesan, and garnish with toasted bread pieces.

Celery and Cucumber Salad with Herbs
Prep Time: 15 min.
Total Time: 15 min.

6 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced crosswise
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Toss together celery, cucumber, parsley, mint, and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Bacon with Citrus Glaze
Prep Time: 5 min.
Total Time: 40 min

8 slices of slab bacon (1/4 inch thick) or regular bacon
2 navel oranges
1 tablespoon or honey (I used honey)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay bacon on a baking sheet. Juice oranges into a small saucepan, and add cane syrup. Cook over medium heat until glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes.

2. Brush some glaze over the bacon, and bake for 10 minutes. Brush with more glaze. Continue to bake until golden about 15 minutes more (10 minutes if using regular bacon). Brush bacon with remaining glaze, and transfer to parchment-or-paper towel lined plate to drain before serving.

Pasta and Meat Sauce

I love slow cooker recipes, especially as the fall time draws near, well in Texas we consider “fall” anything below 100 degrees. Seriously though, I have to admit that I severely dislike summer for a myriad of reasons, so I love any reason to start the fall season as soon as I possibly can. Something about the smells, colors and of course the food of the autumn season just makes me feel comfy, cozy and so happy. Ok, I’ll shut-up now!

So I tried this Pasta and Meat Sauce recipe from Family Circle this evening and it was so simple and good, let’s just say it definitely was my entry meal into the fall season. Like many slow cooker recipes you just chunk everything into the slow cooker and let her rip for 5-6 hours (I did the 6 hour low setting), make some pasta and there you have it. I can’t wait to have the leftovers the next few days because I think the flavors will intensify over time.

I can’t find the recipe online so here you go:

Pasta and Meat Sauce
Family Circle, September 2009

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 medium-size onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used more than this!)
1 1/4 pounds beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
8 ounces of fettuccine
Parmesan Cheese (optional) (oh yeah I used Parmesan)

1. Put carrot, celery, onion and garlic in food processor and pulse until finely chopped; place in slow cooker bowl. Add diced tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and sugar to slow cooker. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Stir in beef and cook on HIGH for 5 hours or LOW for 6 hours.

2. Using slotted spoon, remove beef chunks from slow cooker and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred beef and stir back into slow cooker. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook another 30 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, serve with meat sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Cooking Light Magazine – Redesign!

When I realized that I didn’t have the September issue of Cooking Light in my already overflowing stack of past issues, I checked the Web site to see what was up. Well, turns out that the magazine has gone through a redesign and they have a nifty little video that explains it all.

When I read the words “redesign” I made that awful sucking noise you make through both of your cheeks when you see something gross. You see dear readers, redesigns on magazines can sometimes make my skin crawl. Imagine you’ve enjoyed being with a loved one for years and years and one day they get massive plastic surgery and just look fake and their attitude has completely changed; of course you still love them but boy do you miss the original. In fact, this happened to me with Fitness magazine years ago and I still haven’t recovered. This is also what happens when you love magazines too much!

Now, I had to come up with some reason to grab this from the stands immediately, which ended up being cat food, yes, I “needed” cat food! I ran through Randall’s on my way home to purchase overpriced cat food and found the September Cooking Light. I got home and the first thing I did was read it from stem to stern and then, I read it again.

As a devout reader of Cooking Light magazine my message to the editorial staff is…I completely approve! The magazine is now divided way better than the old version. The recipes listing is now in the front (similar to Food & Wine) and the recipes are sectioned off so they read so much easier, from 20 Minute Meals to Dinner Tonight (quick dinner options under an hour) that have a shopping list and a game plan for ensuring your meal gets done on time. Also, they have an Enlightened Cook section with tips and tricks and recipes you can use. They still have all of the nutrition and fitness tips you love, but now it has kitchen gadgets and other fun items for you to peruse. Finally, there is now a photo with every recipe, yes dear readers, every recipe. I applaud the staff for their efforts!

I have to test some recipes from this new issue – I earmarked about 14 – to see if they are back and in business on that end. Also, I’m interested to see how following issues will be, especially the ever-crucial holiday issues in November and December. I recycle past issues of the magazine but I never get rid of the holiday ones. Stay tuned lambs!

A New Goddess in My Kitchen

(Photo from Food &
And you thought there could be only one! Ha! This lovely dish graces the cover of the September issue of Food & Wine magazine and let me tell you it is worthy of such an honor. After a late work night, I came home and seriously thought of just pouring myself a bowl of cereal and mouthbreathing on the couch – I’m glad I didn’t. Now, I have made some Green Goddess Dressings in my lifetime – including this one from Molly Wizenberg that rocks – but this recipe’s dressing mixed with the kalamata olives, celery, bread, jarred piquillo peppers (who knew!) is worthy of being served to Aphrodite.
I particularly liked all the salty, crunchy parts with the creamy, herb-y dressing that coated everything perfectly. I’ve never included Piquillo Peppers in anything and it was a nice alternative to typical jarred bell peppers and packed a little more punch. This was really, really easy to put together and did not interfere with my couch potato time one bit.
I had plenty for leftovers today and it was still quite amazing. Bow down to the goddess, no, not me silly! 😉

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!

Saveur magazine has a special issue on the stands that focuses on everything burger, and while they offered up some delicious looking versions to choose from including a lamb burger, a pimento cheeseburger and a patty melt, one burger got me hook, line and barbee…I’ll stop with the Australian-themed lame lines now. :)

This Aussie Burger right here dear readers has everything I love dearly such as: eggs, beets, pineapple, tomato, cheese and well it IS a burger. There’s an article in the magazine that gives the backstory to this Australian-style burger that has found a home here in the United States at Sheep Station pub in New York City. Saveur Managing Editor Georgia Freedman sums up this burger to perfection: In addition to the usual toppings of lettuce and tomato, this sandwich was stacked high with pickled beets, grilled pineapple slices, and perfectly fried egg whose yolk was already dripping down the burger’s sides by the time it arrived. I grabbed hold and gave it my biggest bite; heavenly. The earthy, tangy beets, the syrupy-sweet pineapple, the juicy beef – all of it was bound together by the decadent egg yolk.

So, all that Georgia said plus an enthusiastic “Hallelujah for this burger!” from yours truly. This is one of the most unique and delicious burgers I have ever tested!

Corn Mayonnaise?

So Lindsay from Apron Adventures and I were sitting on a plane for Los Angeles to head to the Rising Mango Star finale cook-off – congrats to Devin Davis! – and when I saw this recipe I remember thinking “corn mayonnaise, ewwww!” I don’t know why at first glance this made me have such a negative reaction, so of course I decided to try it.

I came home and grilled the veggies and steak and made the corn mayonnaise. I took a bite of the mayonnaise and holy smokes, it was really good! I wonder what else I could grill and combine with mayonnaise to spread on a sandwich? What do you think? Bell peppers? Oooh, or jalapenos or maybe even leeks? I must investigate and test further. Maybe I’ll try this homemade version of mayonnaise from Molly Wizenberg at Bon Appetit (and Orangette) next too! Give this recipe a try, it’s quick and simple to assemble and the mayonnaise gave this a wonderful spin on a traditional steak sandwich.

(Photo from Bon Appetit Web Site)

Amazing Dish from Austin’s Own Olivia Restaurant

So, I know for certain there is some sort of God or higher power because he or she has bestowed this Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi recipe to us humans here on earth. This recipe, from Austin’s own Olivia Restaurant, is featured in Bon Appetit’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants. Go Austin! I have never been to Olivia, but if this recipe that can be made at home is any testament to what can be enjoyed at the restaurant…table for one please? (Picture from Olivia Restaurant ‘s Web site)

Just to note, this dish from start to finish takes two days – yes, a whole 48 hours – to make but I have to say even for someone who likes to take on challenging recipes, this one was long in time but not too labor intensive. In fact, a lot of it is sitting time to give the pork shoulder time to break down in the DELICIOUS milky, tomato sauce that kind of reminded me of tomato bisque soup but better. Plus, the semolina gnocchi was super easy to make. I found the semolina flour in the bulk section of Central Market so I wasn’t spending too much money for a specific flour. Thank you to Lindsay from Apron Adventures for pointing out the bulk section which I tend to pass by in the grocery store each time never knowing the gems and jewels hiding inside like spices, flours, nuts and even chocolate. Please go explore your store’s bulk section if you haven’t had a chance, I feel like such a moron for not doing so before!
I finished the semolina in the oven and warmed the pork shoulder deliciousness on the stove. As I poured the pork shoulder and sauce on the gentle semolina square I shivered with excitement from the intoxicating aromas. I took my first bite and…whimpered. Yes lambs, I whimpered and then clapped my hands with glee. This is the best dish I’ve tested so far on Cooking Inside the Lines.

When you think of a snugly blanket, a fireplace and something warm to eat to continue the snuggle factor, THIS IS IT PEOPLE. Yes, this recipe takes time and I know it has some special ingredients, but I’m ordering you to try this now. :) Heck, even just make the pork shoulder and sauce and you could be set, but I’m telling you with the tomato bisque-ish sauce with the tender, cinnamon infused pork that’s mixed with the soft, polenta-style cakes filled with Parmesan and nutmeg flavors, this is the epitome of “comfort” in a bowl.
This is a 10 out of 10 for me. Loved it and I’m going to Olivia soon!

Picture from Bon Appetit Web Site

Leftovers Time!

So last night I made the Mexican Tortas with Black Beans and Chorizo recipe and there was plenty of the black bean and chorizo mixture for a yummy breakfast this morning. I winged it and decided to warm some bottled salsa verde over medium heat and then added in the black bean/chorizo mixture until warmed through. I simply poached one egg and then assembled tortilla chips in a bowl and poured the salsa verde/chorizo/black bean mixture on top then added light sour cream and topped with the poached egg and pickled jalapenos. I have to say this was really, really good, especially when you mash it all together for a perfect bite every time!

On a very random side note, as I’m sure many of you did, I grew up with the book Where the Wild Things Are and have such fond and vivid memories of little Max, the Wild Things and the book’s beautiful illustrations. As you can imagine, I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation of the book coming out October 16. I was watching the movie trailer and then came across this blog created for the movie that I enjoyed reading for quite some time last night, Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

The Hot Dog of Guadalajara

So, as you know, I was just in Mexico and Tucson for the last week and while 99.999% of my time was work, work, work, there was one small respite before I got on a plane from Mexico to Arizona…a tortas ahogados. Known as the hot dog of Guadalajara, it’s kismet that I posted a link to this Gourmet story on the city’s food before I left, as I had read about these signature sandwiches last year and read it again before I departed just in case any opportunity arose for me to taste the local food.

After a few long days there was a little bit of time for the team to stop and eat before we got to the Guadalajara airport. Maybe because I had been talking so much about these sandwiches we stopped to shut me up. Check. It. Out.

A tortas ahogados is translated as “drowned sandwich” and drowned it was amigos. These come out in plates covered in plastic, so they can just remove the plastic and reuse the plate….ewwww but what are you going to do? I chose the pork sandwich and they served it with some pickled red onions, a tomato sauce (the drowned part) and a SPICY tomato/red onion sauce. Now I like to think I can handle spicy dishes and this proved me so wrong. Made with Chile de Arbol Peppers, my mouth was on fire but yet I kept drenching the sandwich in more spicy sauce! I’m such a glutton for spicy punishment. At the end of the day, I have to say this was a great local food experience and I really enjoyed the sandwich. It’s so different and delicious and I’m happy I got to have this brief food moment during all the craziness.

More kismetness (yes that’s a word) ensued. While I was waiting on plane after plane this week, I got to menu plan for the next few weeks and I came across Mexican Tortas with Black Beans and Chorizo recipe from the chef I grew up watching on PBS, Rick Bayless. I decided to continue my tortas kick and I’m glad I did. With the goat cheese, avocado, black beans and chorizo this was a stunning little sandwich. It was a little mushy so I did add corn chips to it for crunch.

I’m testing recipes again this week, including one that might be the new diva in my life, Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi. I’ll let you know how it goes…