Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sunday Funday In The Kitchen

What a beautiful weekend it was in the Big Apple. I couldn't believe how nice it was when we're supposed to be suffering through winter. This time last year, it seemed like it would snow every other day and it was bitter cold. I am not complaining one bit that the sun was bright and warm over the weekend, that's for sure. I filled it up with good friends and, always most importantly, good food! I'd been itching to get back in the kitchen for a full day so I dedicated Sunday afternoon to making a couple of new recipes. After a lovely brunch with Allison and Colleen, I was excited to put on good music and cook the day away.

During my trip to Sicily, I was introduced to what ricotta cheese - real ricotta cheese - should taste like and I vowed that I'd try my hand at making it when I returned. One of my favorite memories of the entire trip was spending the morning at beautiful Emanuela's summer home by the sea where she invited us over for an authentic Sicilian breakfast. One of the signature dishes was bread and homemade ricotta served in a bowl with a ladle of whey right over top:
It was one of the most delicious things I've ever had, truly. My trip was in September which means far too much time has gone by without me making good on my promise to try it homemade. That said, I decided Sunday was the day. If I'm being honest, I've gotten myself back in the kitchen more recently for a couple of reasons. I'm keeping up with my resolution to do so, but I'm also testing a few recipes for when Bryan is in town (less then 3 weeks, hooray!). Having a boyfriend in Denver obviously greatly limits time in the kitchen together, something he and I enjoy so much, so I want to have several homemade things waiting on him when he arrives. I'm pretty sure the two of us could exist on bread and cheese alone - okaaaay maybe wine, too - so what better treat than to eat said cheese that's homemade?!

I wrote previously about my new obsession with Smitten Kitchen and this is exactly where I got the ricotta recipe from. It's also where I got the fabulous oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe from as well that I made while waiting on the cheese to finish, mmm. I followed the ricotta recipe to the letter and it couldn't have been easier, really. It simply requires some extra care but it was overall a cinch. Milk, cream, salt and lemon juice - that's it. I had fun testing this out:
After you've added the lemon juice, you strain the mixture through cheese cloth for 1 - 2 hours which separates the curds and whey:
The result? An absolutely delicious, rich ricotta cheese. It has full flavor, a beautifully creamy texture and it didn't need one single thing extra:
Colleen, are you proud of me for my all natural light photo?! I was, considering how awful I usually am, haha. I was so excited it turned out well. I have several crostini ideas in mind to test out using different acids that I think will cut the richness perfectly so I'm psyched to give them a whirl.

Though I'm not a sweets person, I'm working my way through some recipes that sound terrific yet easy and I'm having fun doing so. While the cheese was straining, I baked the previously mentioned cookies and those were delectable, too:
These cookies were reminiscent of the holidays for me. They have accents of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon with the bright addition of fresh orange zest. I left the pecans out of mine and the only thing I'd do differently is add more oats. Other than that, they are perfectly chewy and delightful. Deb, you're three for three so far in my recipe book. First, the vibrant grapefruit cake I made last week and now these two. I might just be in love with you.

It was a good day to be a guest in my kitchen. Just ask Allison. :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ami, This Post Is For You!

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been so sad about the fact that I haven't written much lately. Guess what? I'm still sad about that. Even Ami reprimanded me about not writing so I officially know that it's unacceptable. That's why I dedicate this post - my attempt at getting back to the blogging grind - to Ami. It's fitting too because it's about cake and we all know what an amazing baker that girl is!

Lemme get right to the point. I love grapefruit. Everything about it. I love to eat it, smell it, wear it (mmm, Jo Malone!)... I just love the vibrant, lively, bold characteristics of it. Since I'm a pretty big citrus person all around and I adore citrus dishes in the summer, I get so excited that things like grapefruit and clementine are in season in the winter. I know I'm way late to the game on this one, but I recently came across the amazing Smitten Kitchen blog and boy, am I head over heels. The way Deb writes is so genuine and approachable. I feel as though I've known her for years and, to be honest, I should after the amount of hours of my life she's taken up with her photos, recipes and writing! I was looking through her winter recipes last week and one jumped out practically screaming my name: grapefruit-yogurt cake. Since I am by no means a baker, I read through the recipe and it seemed like something even I could do. Well, minus the panic that set in when it calls for you to 'grease and flour the pan'. People, if baking recipes aren't 'mix together and dump in a pan', I usually avoid them at all costs. However, one of my fun resolutions for 2012 is really to get more serious in the kitchen when it comes to baking. Mainly, I just don't want to be afraid to try my hand at things like pie dough just because I have to roll it out. It really is funny how I can be so good at and confident about cooking yet have no desire to bake... Getting off topic, sorry!

After I zested the grapefruit, I cut into it to juice it and I about died. I haven't seen a grapefruit this perfect in ages:
I squeezed myself a cup of juice and it was heavenly. Perfectly tangy but sweet. I literally texted the photo to six friends and my sweet boyfriend (who is ever so patient and encouraging when it comes to sharing in my food obsessions), because I was that excited about how lovely it was.

The cake overall couldn't have been easier! Since I'm a horrible photographer and do not write this blog for sole food/food photo purposes, I only took shots of the finished product (minus the glaze which I added this morning):

It really is delicious. Spongy, moist, tart and sweet, all complete with that lovely outer crust that provides just the perfect texture contrast. If this sounds good to you, check out the recipe (and entire blog!) here.

Ami, are you proud of me that I've baked AND written a post about it?! This is all for you, my friend. Now, if only you were here to try it. I can guarantee your mind would surely be changed about not liking grapefruit!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holy Moly, It's A New Year!

Even though we're hitting mid January, it's still acceptable to say happy new year, right? I personally think it's acceptable to say so the entire first month of the new year but that's just me. It boggles my mind that it's already 2012. When I was home for Christmas, we were watching 'Back to the Future' and, since it came out in 1985, it seemed that "30 years into the future" seemed so very far away. Oh Doc, I wish I could go back in time and tell you how life edging toward 2015 has changed since your first DeLorean trip...

I've been asked by several people recently when a new blog post would be up. I feel so sad that there's been such a big lapse in my posts, particularly because I still have yet to do a marathon re-cap! I honestly thought that life would calm down after the marathon but it just got busier, especially with the holidays mixed in, so I haven't had the uninterrupted time I crave to devote to writing. I really hate that. One of my lesser resolutions this year is to make more time to write even when nothing particularly significant is happening.

I hope everyone had such a beautiful holiday season. Christmas is my very favorite time of year (Thanksgiving is a close second) and I usually feel so down when it's over. I suppose that's because I always go home for Christmas and often it's the only trip I make down south all year. I have warm, sweet memories of the holidays growing up and sometimes you never lose those childlike feelings, at least you hope not to. So, for me, January is often tough and I like to fill it with as many fun, silly things as possible so it helps ease me out of that funk.

On that note, I'm off to Denver tomorrow morning and couldn't be happier! I'll get back into the swing of things with writing just as soon as possible when I return. I truly do wish each of you a happy new year. Let's make 2012 the very best, yet!