Lemon-Basil Ricotta Pasta

100 degree weather get you down? Don't feel like lighting the stove in this humidity? This recipe is perfect--both in those scenarios, and also as a great pasta salad at a pot lock or a quick vegetarian meal.

The basic recipe (also in my family cookbook) was originally found in Health Magazine. Tonight, I used the ricotta I made last night—the quart of whole milk made just over 1 cup of ricotta, which is exactly what I need for this recipe. I also added in some fresh tomatoes, although with fresh ricotta, basil, and lemon, I'm not sure I needed them. It's such a refreshing meal on its own.

Also..thanks Aniyia for this recipe--it's another (sweeter) way to use Ricotta: Balsamic Blackberries with Ricotta Cream


Homemade Ricotta

That's right chicas, I made cheese. Myself. In my own kitchen. And it cost less than $10*.
I first saw this recipe for Homemade Ricotta on my Google Reader, and was inspired by how easy it might be. After borrowing my friend Megan's meat thermometer and figuring out that a grocery store sells cheese cloth (Harris Teeter keeps it in the baking isle with the utensils), I was ready.

First thing I did was pour a quart of whole milk into a pot and heat on a medium-low heat. The meat thermometer rested in the liquid without touching the side or bottom of the pot.You need the milk to heat to 190 degrees, which took about 15 minutes.

While the milk is heating (with casual stirring) go ahead and squeeze your lemons. Because I quartered the recipe, I only used 1/4 cup of lemon juice--although I should have used less than that according to the Serious Eats recipe. I was okay with the excess lemon juice (which eventually became part of the ricotta's taste) because I'm planning to make a lemon-ricotta pasta with this cheese tomorrow night (tune in!)

Once your milk gets up to 190 degrees (which is almost boiling, but not quite) you want to remove from the heat and add in the lemon juice. It starts to curdle almost immediately, so give it a few stirs and let it sit for five minutes before transferring to the cheesecloth.

My mixture drained for about 30 minutes to drain, but I kept it in the colander for the full hour just in case. When the time was up, it was easy to scoop into a container and store for the night. As I said, my ricotta turned out with a lemon-tinge to it, but it was really refreshing and quite tasty.

*Really, this was pretty inexpensive. I bought 2 lemons, a quart of whole milk, and some cheesecloth, which I have extra. Try it!

Apparently you can use the excess whey to make Whey ricotta, but I think I've been adventurous for one night, don't you think?

Brie Pasta

This is a super easy pasta recipe that first discovered in Real Simple, and have since added to the Weaver Family Cookbook. You can switch up the pasta—I've used Bowtie and shell—the trick is to find one that can hide away brie in its crevices to create a really delicious, gooey bite.

This evening Harris Teeter had a 25% off specialty cheeses, so I grabbed 8 oz. of brie and it only cost me $3. You don't need the expensive stuff, but at the same time you want it to taste good, so use your judgement.

The steps are simple. First, I used frozen broccoli and blanched it in the pasta liquid after that was finished cooking. Toasting the pine nuts takes a little longer, but the taste makes up for the extra step. The nuttiness works well once it's all mixed together.

The key is to throw the brie onto the pasta/broccoli quickly after they are finished cooking. Slices of brie in pipping hot pasta will melt in about 2 minutes, so give everything a good stir and cover for another 5. When you lift the lid, the pasta will look creamy and the brie will be dissolved into the pasta. You DONT have to overdo the brie---the recipe calls for 8 oz., but I used about half of that for this round---too much brie and it's almost too rich.


What's in Store This Week...

  • I'm planning to make Whole Milk Ricotta from scratch..think it will be easy? Depends on if I can find cheesecloth somewhere before tomorrow night...Look for a Guerrilla Cooking Sequel.
  • Alicia has inspired me to try my mother's famed lamb marinade, but with a chop instead of a leg (it's incredibly less expensive and doesn't deal inviting a ton of people over) Maybe by the weekend.
  • My half-marathon training as stepped up--does anyone have helpful tips about what to eat when you're training for a big run?
  • Finally--it's the last week of the month. I still have a TON of veggies frozen over from June, so looks like I'll be doing a lot of creative cooking to use all of those up. Can't wait to see what transpires.


RIP: Goya Olive Oil

Brand: Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bought: June
Lasted: 1 month--who knew a month of vegetarian eating would quadruple my olive oil intake? A lot of this went into some hummus, baba ganoush, and various grilling experiments.
Flavor: Funky. After Becky's BBQ, the olive oil started tasting a little grassy. Not sure why---I've never heard of olive oil going bad so quickly--but what can you do? Prol won't get this brand again.


Can I have a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of Baba Ghanoush and a seltzer, please?

So my obsession with eggplant continues. While I've never tried baba ghanoush, (even though i recited the above Party Girl quote  continuously throughout college), that's never an excuse to make it and see what I think.

I used a recipe from Serious Eats, but I think you could easily get more creative with this. After my white gazpacho debacle, I decided to go for roasted garlic instead of fresh, and the result was a very sweet, savory dip. I added some feta, parsley, and feta cheese as a side and toasted some bread for a nice snack!

Shopping List

So I'm going grocery shopping this evening after work and for once I'm trying to formulate what I need before I get there. Here's what I have so far:

-Shell Pasta (I have some leftover brie and will make the brie pasta tonight..yum)
-1/2 gallon whole milk--I was to attempt to make ricotta from scratch!
-cheese cloth....where do I get this?
-eggplant (for baba ganoush...am I overreaching in my 'let's make this from scratch!' catagory?)
-olive oil. nearly out...plus what I bought wasn't that tasty. Any recommendations before tonight?

Let me know if I forgot anything....


Enough Meat for a Day and a Half

Honey Pig
Annandale, VA

Korean BBQ is a delicious thing. I've been twice, and I've nearly gotten through a meal without the waitresses laughing at me for doing something wrong. Saturday afternoon we went to Honey Pig in Annandale, where the cook the meat at your table in a fun meat-filled party.

Some rules for Korean BBQ: 
(There were surprisingly few blog posts about this, but this one was most helpful and to the point.)

1. The Banchan (side dish appetizers) are always free, and come with the meal. You will usually get Kimchi, pickled slivers of veggies (both hot and mild), raw garlic, and a chili paste. A lot of online blogs mentioned bean paste, but I haven't been served that yet when I've gone. Eat these on their own, or adding to the lettuce wraps if you want more spice.

2. The Lettuce. The first time I ate Korean, we were like 'what is the lettuce for?' but by the second time we got it down: you wrap the meat in a piece of lettuce (tearing off a bite-sized piece from the larger leaf--not using the entire thing all together), add some onion, garlic, paste, and sauce to it, then wrap it up and toss it in your mouth.

3. The Grill. There might be a language barrier when you go to these places, but trust your server not to serve you raw meat--they don't want health code violations. My second visit we ordered pork belly, which was grilled in large strips, and weren't sure if we should be eating it in entirety or not. I went to grab one, but before I knew it the server had it back in the pot, saying 'not done'...Eventually they will come by with scissors and clip the meat into smaller pieces---that is a good sign that it's ready to eat, but you can always confirm by asking them.

4. The order. Everything is served for the group, so decide beforehand what you want to eat together--because chances are each dish will be served one-by-one on the grill. Unless you have some serious carnivores in your group, I wouldn't recommend ordering one-per-person. Saturday, we were in a group of 4, and three dishes would have easily sufficed.

What to Order:
Yaki Mandu (dumplings) These can be served fried or steamed. A fantastic way to start, and something familiar that newcomers will recognize.
Bulgogi (marinated beef) The safest, most generic meat. It cooks quickly, so had this first. Served with onions and garlic.
Samgyeopsal Gui (Pork Belly) Think of it as really thick bacon. This took longer to to cook, but was really rich and delicious.

--I hear spare ribs are also a solid bet, but I haven't tried them yet, so I'll leave that for you to decide.
--For more adventurous eaters, I ordered Baby Octopus, but Squid is also an option, and I might try that next time--the octopus was extremely chewy, although I did love the heads. (The rest of my crew were less impressed).

In the end, I definitely recommend experimenting. Honey Pig was a great place for newcomers, so start there--but Annandale is full of delicious hole-in-the-wall places (my first attempt was another excellent choice) to explore. Don't be intimidated, and don't mind when you do something wrong--in the end you are eating a delicious meal, no matter how you do it. Although be warned, we went for lunch on Saturday---and I'm still not hungry 24 hours later.


Eggplant Pizza

So for all of my eggplant lovers out there, this recipe is a must. For those scared of eggplant, this is a great one to start out on. It didn't take a long to prep, and was so amazing, there were no leftovers after my roommates got a hold of it---so if that isn't a recommendation, I don't know what is.

I used my generic dough recipe, but if you want to cheap and buy a crust, that should work too.

Pizza Dough
1 c. warm water
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. oil
-mix together in the water, then add to
2 cups all-purpose flour
-let rise for 30 minutes. This dough is sticky, so you have to knead it directly onto the pizza stone. Use oil on your hands to make kneading easy, and flour on the pizza stone surface.

Eggplant Pizza
1 large eggplant
3 oz. fresh mozzarella
2 T.  olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
1/2 t. dried hot red pepper flakes

1. Slice the eggplant into discs, salt generously, and let drain in a colander for 30-40 minutes.
2. In the meantime, make the dough and prep the rest of the ingredients.
3. Saute the garlic in oil with the red pepper flakes for 2-3 minutes.
4. Drizzle with oil and broil the eggplant on high for 5-8 minutes.
5. Heat Oven on 450-500 degrees. Place pizza stone in oven to preheat.
6. Spread out the dough, drizzle with oil, and layer the mozzarella and eggplant on the pizza. Don't add too much mozzarella, giving each piece plenty of space to expand. Shave Parmesan on top. Spoon garlic mixture on top.
7. Place pizza in oven for 12-15 minutes. After time is up and cheese has started to brown, shave another Parmesan layer on top and let sit.

Brunch Pick: Spider Kelly's

So for the FINAL World Cup game I went to Spider Kelly's, newly renovated this spring, four-time larger and full of TV screens. Perfect place for me to sit down and eat, and yet still have enough distraction for my friend Ryan who was visiting and wanted to watch the game.

The Too-Many-Nachos, on the other hand, were amazing and totally worth their price. Couldn't finish them, because (of course) they were way too many. :)

I grabbed the Pork Shoulder Hash, which was really tasty, but not as filling as I expected for the price. It helped that the Bloody Marys were $3 and super delicious. I asked for an extra-spicy drink, and the waiter obliged by adding Sriracha...yum..

Makes me go Yum: food 8/10
Thrifty for Alcoholics: price 6/10 (if you're a Bloody Mary fan, that can go up to an 8 or 9)
Best For a brunch when you're not too hungry, or want to watch a sports game.


Shrimp and Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

Hello again!

So in preparation for running a half-marathon, I've decided it's generally time to get into shape. Which means eating better. Which means the so-creamy-and-rich-it-could-melt-in-your-mouth-and-then-envelop-your-entire-essence-of-being Pasta dish I'm making tonight will be the last of the good times:

This is my all-time favorite dish, my grandmother use to make it for me and I had to figure out the recipe years later, one attempt at a time, until I matched my flavors to my memory. I must go back and try some more.

Shrimp and Mushroom in Cream Sauce
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, and throw in a container of egg noodles. (This will serve 6 easily, but you can cut it down if you don't need that much)
  2. Saute 2 cloves garlic,  1 medium white onions, and 1 c. mushrooms (I used hen of the woods, on a whim, but normally use crimini) in olive oil, in that order over a medium-high heat. 
  3. Once all three are cooked (the onions should be translucent, or nearly) add in the shrimp and turn the heat down to low. Cook 1 minute, turn the shrimp over and cook a second minute--each side should start to look pink, but still seem raw. 
  4. Cover and turn the heat off---the shrimp will cook the rest of the way while you make the roux. It's really important not to overcook the shrimp, this method ensures that when you serve the dish, the shrimp will still be juicy, soft, and delicious.
Roux Sauce:
2 cups half and half, warmed
3 T butter
3 T flour
1/3 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt to taste

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for this one, but reduced the quantities. Once a skillet is heated, add the butter and once it's bubbly, slowly add in the flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly, and then slowly add in the half and half. You want to constantly stir on medium-low heat for about 8 minutes. You'll see the sauce slowly get thicker. Add in the parsley. Once the sauce is thick, add to the onion/mushroom/shrimp mixture. Once the pasta is done, combine and serve. Add minimal Parmesan, the sauce is so creamy, the cheese really isn't necessary.


BOSTON: Lobster Roll

So we ate at the Chart House this afternoon, and if there's one I could say that they do well, it would have to be butter. I had the above lobster roll. It was technically lobster salad, but still very lobster-y, and in a 'traditional' bun (aka a hot dog bun sliced from the top and toasted in a LOT of butter.) I'm totally sensitive to butter and cream now after being without, and man, was the bun overpowering. The same could be said for Steph's Herbed Crusted Samon--drenched in butter--or Megan's Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps. Tasty, but artery clogging.