Risotto with Ramps, Peas, and Pickled Carrots

13 May 2014 Filed In: all the rest, carrot, cooking class, Course Type, Gluten-free, greenmarket, Ingredient, Main Dish, Recipes, risotto, Seasonal Dishes, Side Dish, Soy-free, Spring, Type of Dish, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Risotto with Ramps, Peas, and Pickled Carrotsadding clery to the risottoramps fabulous rampsbutter and olive oil for the risottostirring the risottocarrot ribbonsmaking pickled carrots

Risotto is a labor of love, a dish where you must commit to standing and stirring from the beginning all the way till the dish is done. I call it Granny food since it brings to mind the iconic Italian granny, Nonna, standing over the hot pot, stirring for the full time it takes to make risotto.

You do not have to have or be an Italian granny to make risotto, especially if you have a bunch of mini-chefs around to take turns with the stirring. It was pretty great to have a whole lineup of chefs, stirring a minute or two a turn, to get this risotto cooked off, and they were definitely into the idea of adding the ramps and checking out how they taste.

New York is alive with ramp-mania right now. All the weekly restaurant specials are featuring ramps: ramp broth, ramp pesto, ramp quiche, ramp this and lots of ramp that. It is easy to see why chefs try to get in as much ramp time as they possibly can before the short season ends. They really do have a flavor that inspires greatness.

We combined the inspiring ramps with good old peas and carrots for our risotto, but of course we had to add a twist. We did a quick pickle on the carrots. The crisp, acidic flavor of the carrot ribbons help make this a true spring-time dish.

As the bowl of pickled carrots made its rounds on our table at the end of class, there were a few students who took some to top their risotto and then dipped back in for some to put on the side or re-top their risotto after they had eaten the first serving off the top and couldn’t resist a second helping.

Risotto with Ramps, Peas, and Pickled Carrots

For the Pickled Carrots:

  • 1/2 pound of carrots, washed and peeled into carrot ribbons

  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar

  • 6 whole black peppercorns

  • 1/2 t. fennel seed

  • 1/2 t. anise seed

  • 2 T. sugar

  • 1 t. salt

  1. In a small sauce pan, whisk together the vinegar, peppercorns, fennel seed, anise seed, sugar, and salt over high heat till the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for about a minute, whisking the whole time. Remove from the heat and pour over the carrot ribbons in a glass or metal bowl.

  2. Stir the carrots gently so that they are completely submerged in the vinegar mixture and let them pickle while the risotto is cooking.

For the Risotto

  • 2 T. butter

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 1/2 bunch of ramps, root bottoms cut up and the rest roughly chopped

  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled, the root end cut off, and the rest roughly chopped

  • 2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

  • 2 c. arborio rice

  • 2 quarts of vegetable stock

  • 1/2 c. Asiago cheese, grated

  • 1 1/2 c. peas, shelled or frozen

  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped or torn

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • optional: 1 T. creme fraiche or sour cream

  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan.

  2. In your food processor fitted with the shredding attachment, shred the ramps, onion, and celery.

  3. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shredded vegetables, stirring till very soft and cooked through. Add the rice, stirring it for a full minute so that the oil and butter are completely absorbed. Begin adding the hot broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir constantly. Have as many helpers as you like take turns, but keep stirring the whole time till all of the stock is absorbed into the rice.

  4. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheese, optional creme fraiche or sour cream, peas, parsley and season with salt and pepper.

  5. Plate each serving of risotto and top with the pickled carrots.  Enjoy!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

08 May 2014 Filed In: all the rest, appetizer, bread, Breads, corn, Course Type, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Ingredient, lunchbox, Side Dish, Snacks, Soy-free, Type of Dish, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian

homemade corn tortillas

forming the tortilla dough

sculpting the tortillasusing a plastic bag to make corn tortillashomemade corn tortillas 2

This past Monday was Cinco de Mayo, and the mini-chefs celebrated by making some soft tacos, complete with homemade corn tortillas.

Since my mom grew up in New Mexico, we never really had anything but homemade tortillas growing up. Her sister, my Aunt Holly, and her husband owned a Mexican restaurant when I was a child, and there I remember being served soft, steaming flour tortillas and refritos (refried beans) and a little sprinkle of cheese, which still might be my favorite, favorite meal of all time.

Growing up, my own mother, a doctor with a hefty work schedule, never made tortillas, but in recent years she began making them herself. We have definitely reaped the rewards of her corn tortillas in Huevos Rancheros and chalupas, which my children love and beg her to make.

Making a good corn tortilla is an art form all to itself, simple but subtle. I realized that, as I prepared for Monday’s class, I had never asked my mom for her corn tortilla recipe. What I learned is that, you barely need a recipe at all. You mostly need to use your senses.  Does the dough feel and look right? Can you shape it?

The mini-chefs had varying degrees of success with the shape of their tortillas. We had no tortilla press, and because this is a group class, we used the plastic bag technique, which was what seemed the easiest technique for cranking out a bunch of tortillas with the use of many hands.

This is not so much of a proper recipe as a suggestion of how to begin and proceed with the corn tortilla making process. The youngest chefs will need a little more guidance. Genevieve poked holes in the middle of her tortillas during the shaping process. Who am I to say, though; this might become a fad like cronuts.  Whatever the journey to get there, the corn tortillas were divine.

Corn Tortillas (makes about 8 tortillas)

  • 1 c. masa harina
  • 1/2 c. warm water to begin + more to make the dough just right
  • a large pinch of salt
  • gallon-sized plastic zipper bag, cut on one side seam, from the zipper to the folded bottom edge
  • oil to grease the frying pan (grape seed or canola work well)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn flour and the salt.
  2. Pour in the 1/2 cup of water and mix it in with a wooden spoon till you need to switch to using your hands. Knead the dough into a large, smooth ball. We are going for the consistency of Play-doh, not too wet and not too dry. Add more masa harina or more water, a tablespoon at a time, till you arrive at just the right consistency. Let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, uncovered.
  3. Take a medium handful of dough and sculpt it into a smooth ball. Place that inside the middle of the zipper bag and push down on the dough ball inside to make a pancake shape. Use your hands or a small rolling pin, and turning the bag in a circle, flatten your tortilla till it is an 1/16-inch-thick circle. Carefully peel the tortillas from the plastic bag and place it directly into your pan to cook.
  4. Big Person: Heat up a couple of heavy-bottomed frying pans to medium high, pour a little oil into each pan, grease and, using a paper towel, wipe each pan so that you have a very fine layer of oil, covering the bottom of each pan.
  5. Cook each tortilla for 1-2 minutes and flip when the edges of the tortilla begin to curl up. You can use tongs to flip the tortillas,
  6. Wrap the cooked tortillas in a clean kitchen towel till the whole batch is done. Let steam in the towel for 5 minutes before serving. We also like to use a spray bottle of water to mist the kitchen towel and increase the steam on the tortillas as well as the softness of the corn tortillas.
  7. Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Cake with a Raspberry Jam Swirl

01 May 2014 Filed In: all the rest, berry, Birthday, bread, Breads, cakes, cooking class, Course Type, Desserts, Ingredient, Seasonal Dishes, Soy-free, Type of Dish, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

lemon ricotta and raspeveryy jam tea cakegrating and juicing lemonsgrating the lemon rindmaking ricotta cheseeggsstirring lemon ricotta cakemaking the jam swirl in lemon ricotta cakevanilla lemon glazelooking for the cake

During each cooking class semester, we make one dessert, and the mini-chefs let it be known that they wanted that dessert to be cake this semester.

In a rather bleak part of this year’s frigid March, we were all craving sunshine. Around the same time on Facebook, a friend was having her birthday and was treating herself to a slice of lemon ricotta poundcake for breakfast. The power of suggestion. Well, with freshly made ricotta, made by none other than the mini-chefs, in my fridge, it was clear what I must do:  A bright citrus cake made with that creamy ricotta and well, while we are at it, why not add a swirl of jam?

This cake, which we made with the ricotta but also homemade creme fraiche (make it yourself by combining 1 part buttermilk to 2 parts cream in a glass jar, stirring it a few times over the next 24 hours, and leaving it right out on your kitchen counter, uncovered, till it is thick and delicious), coconut oil, and raspberry jam, is moist, tangy and sweet. The lemons can be regular, old lemons if you like a more sour flavor, or you can dip into Meyer lemons or even try mixing one large orange with two lemons. You can use limes, too, but since there is a lime shortage, save those for your guacamole. The jam? Experiment. We used both raspberry and sour cherry, and nobody kicked either version off the table.

Even the kids who always pick chocolate over citrus or berry loved this cake. At the end of class, I let the mini-chefs have dessert before dinner because, really, why not? Spring is finally here. The sun was finally shining. They all left with a satisfaction that can only come from making their cake and eating it, too.

Lemon Ricotta Cake with a Raspberry Jam Swirl

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/3 c. flour

  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder

  • 1 t. salt

  • 4 medium lemons (or Meyer lemons or 1 large orange + 2 lemons), zested first and then juiced

  • 1 c. sugar

  • 2 eggs, room temperature and slightly beaten

  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese

  • 1/4 creme fraiche (or sour cream)

  • 1/3 c. coconut oil + some to grease the pan(s)

  • 1 heaping t. vanilla

  • 1/2 c. raspberry jam

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of one regular or three small loaf pans.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and the salt.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, 1/3 c. lemon juice, sugar, eggs, ricotta, creme fraiche, coconut oil, and vanilla till they are completely integrated. Add the dry ingredients, and stir them with a rubber spatula.

  4. Pour them into the prepared loaf pans, spoon in the jam, and swirl the batter and jam together gently with a fork. Bake for about 30-40 minutes for the mini-loaves and about 60-75 minutes for the regular loaf. They should be golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center should come out clean.

  5. After letting them cool for 5 minutes out of the oven, turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely (about an hour) on a rack before glazing.

For the Lemon-Vanilla Glaze and Candied Lemon Slices:

  • 1/4-1/2 c. lemon juice

  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar

  • 1/2 t. vanilla

  • 1/2 lemon, washed and sliced as thin as possible width-wise into circles

  • 1/4 c. water

  • 1/4 c. sugar

  1. In a small sauce pan, whisk the water and 1/4 c. sugar together for a few seconds over high heat. Add the lemon slices in one layer, and let them simmer till the rind begins to look translucent and the sugar water syrup mostly evaporates. Let cool completely on a rack.

  2. Over a large bowl, sift the confectioner’s sugar. Whisk in 1/4 c. of the lemon juice and the vanilla. Taste to make sure that it is both sweet and sour. Add more lemon juice if you want more of a sour kick or if the glaze is too thick.

  3. Place the loaf or loaves facing up on the cooling rack. Underneath the rack place a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Use a large spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top of the loaf. Place the candied lemon slices on the top of the loaf to finish.


29 April 2014 Filed In: all the rest, Uncategorized

3making tea sandwicheswaitingthe other mac and cheesefamilyalmond butter and red fruit jam sandwiches3 is the magic numbersweetnesspresents

Happy Birthday to Her Pinkness, our funny girl, clever and kind-to-the-core. Third time really is a charm.

Wedge Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

02 April 2014 Filed In: all the rest, cooking class, Course Type, Gluten-free, greens, Ingredient, lunchbox, Recipes, Salad, salads, sauce, Side Dish, Soy-free, Type of Dish, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

wedge salad with ranch dressingmaking homemade mayonnaisepouring in the oil to make homemade mayonnaise

A few weeks back, my older daughter came to me saying she would like to try salad. Trying not to show my surprise, I told her that I could probably hook her up with some salad seeing as we have one several times a week around our place. My son loves salad and eats them very adventurously: kale, fennel, mixed greens, every fruit and every dressing we’ve ever offered. Perhaps Mira was feeling left out since guests always commend Liev on his salad eating.

When I was a little girl, six years old and a bit of a fussy eater, I ate and finished a salad for the very first time ever. My family gave me a standing ovation. I will never forget being pulled up onto my mom’s lap and told how proud of me she was for eating my iceberg lettuce, cucumber, and Italian dressing salad.

What kind of salad might we make for Mira that she would actually consider eating? Iceberg lettuce, with it’s mild flavor and sweet crunch, definitely came to mind. The classic wedge salad served kid style- with a homemade creamy ranch dressing in place of the blue cheese that usually accompanies it.

In class, we set out to make our wedge salads by first making homemade mayonnaise, a very important ingredient in ranch dressing. We used raw eggs from the farmer’s market.  We discussed the fact that pregnant women, very young children,the elderly, people with immune deficiency, etc. should not eat something made with raw eggs, and this is the disclaimer: DO NOT EAT RAW EGGS IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, A YOUNG CHILD, ELDERLY, HAVE AN AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE, OR DO NOT KNOW FROM WHERE YOUR EGGS COME.

While I will not touch store bought mayonnaise, using the fresh raw eggs and making the homemade stuff puts mayonnaise in a whole other category. It is creamy and yummy and silky and good, and if you make it in the food processor, as we did, then it is also very quick to make and very economical. You will want to refrigerate the mayo and/or ranch dressing as soon as you make it or serve it immediately, and please use good sense.  If it is a scorcher outside, or inside your kitchen for that matter, keep everything cold as you make it.

Mira did try the salad, and guess what? No cigar. She has not yet joined the salad eating club. She did try it, though, and she will, I hope continue to push herself out of her comfort zone. A lot of the other kids in class woofed it down, and we have added a new (old) salad to our weekly line up at home.

This wedge salad would still make a really great starter salad for anyone who is unsure about eating green things but wants to give salad a chance. Try it with your mini-chefs, and let me know how it goes.

Wedge Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

For the Mayo (makes about 2 c.):

  • the juice of one lemon

  • a pinch of salt

  • a pinch of dried mustard

  • 2 raw eggs, taken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before using

  • 3/4 c. olive oil

  • 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

  1. Combine the lemon juice, salt, mustard and eggs in the base of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

  2. Secure the top of the food processor and turn it on. Slowly, slowly add the oils in a very fine stream. When all the oil has been added, you will have the tasty emulsion, mayonnaise.

For the Ranch Dressing:

  • 2 c. buttermilk

  • 1 1/2 c. greek yogurt

  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped into 4 pieces and woody end discarded

  • 2 T. chives, chopped

  • 1 large handful of parsley, chopped

  • 1 1/2. c. mayonnaise

  • 1/2 t.  salt

  • black pepper, to taste

  1. Place everything in the food processor and blend till smooth.

To Assemble Salad:

  • 1 large head of iceberg lettuce, washed and cut into large wedges

  • 1 -2 c. ranch dressing

  1. Place the iceberg wedge on a salad plate and spoon the dressing over the top, to taste.