Lilikoi Ricotta Cheesecake

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Cheesecake hasn’t historically been my thing. When I look at a dessert menu, I glance over the cheesecake, think hmm, that looks kinda tasty…then I see CHOCOLATE flourless cake! or creme brulee, or whatever, and forget about cheesecake. But, I’ve just been moving in the direction of souffles and panna cotta, cheesecakes and custards; fresh, light, and airy desserts with subtle flavor and a bit of delicacy. These desserts are so good and so easy to make at home and they are beautiful.

I gathered pounds and pound of lilikoi, or passion fruit, from my friend’s place in Berkeley recently and have had so much fun with all the different uses. I’ve topped ice cream and yogurt, made passion fruit curd for tarts, made preserves, and eaten them fresh and whole. For this recipe I mixed the remaining preserves with the last bit of fresh lilikoi and spread it on the cheesecake when it was at room temperature. This dessert could be an easy addition to a holiday feast, and you can top it with powdered sugar, or candied orange, or a glaze, or whatever you have on hand. Also, this is a smaller portion that most cheesecakes recipes and is very easy to double.

Lilikoi Ricotta Cheesecake 
Inspired by Martha Stewart & Others
Prep: 15 minutes Cook 45 minutes  Serves: 5-8

Butter for pan greasing
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4  pound smooth whole milk ricotta cheese
3 farm fresh eggs, separated
1/8 cup white whole wheat flour
Zest from 1 lemon
1/8 tsp salt
4 tbsp fresh lilikoi/passion fruit

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and generously butter a 9 inch pan, 1 1/2 inches deep.
2. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of sugar, the ricotta, egg yolks, flour and zest in a small bowl.
3. Beat the egg whites on low until frothy, and then beat on high while you gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks-about 3 or so minutes.
4. Fold half of the egg white mixture into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the rest using a rubber spatula until just combined.
5. Pour the mix into the pan, and bake until golden-about 40-45 minutes.
6. Allow the cheesecake to cool for about 10 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and place on your serving dish. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, and spread the lilikoi on the top just before serving. 

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Smashed Beets with Crispy Sunchokes, Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette, Fresh Mint + Thyme

This is the time of year to experiment with alternative holiday dishes. I love the Thanksgiving spread of biscuits, stuffing, roasted vegetables, turkey, etc., but I always end up wishing I’d replaced a few of the traditional dishes with lighter, fresher, more interesting options. This dish was inspired by my recent fascination with smashing potatoes. I just like dishes better when you get mixed up in the creamy, crispy, salty, sweet, lemony bits and such. I made this dish, had a tiny sample plate, and walked away for just a moment. When I came back upstairs it was gone; devoured wholly by my boyfriend who left not even a trace of crispy goodness in the skillet.

I used baby chiogga and red beets, but if you’re making this dish for more than two people, use either more baby beets, or bigger beets, or whatever you can find. This is, so far in my life anyway, my favorite version of beets. They are crispy, while maintaining a creamy inside, and the lemon and arugula add such a freshness and lightness to the dish.

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Smashed Beets with Crispy Sunchokes, Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette, Fresh Mint + Thyme

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Prep: 15 min    Cook: 1 1/2 hours     Serves: 2

12 baby beets-8 chiogga, 4 red
8 small sunchokes, sliced thin
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Olive oil: for drizzling, baking & vinaigrette
Fresh mint & thyme
1 handful arugula
Sea salt & pepper
Maldon-flaky sea salt

1. Heat the oven to 400°F . Place the beets on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil and a grind of sea salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until they are slightly browned. Adjust roasting time depending on the beet size.
2. After the beets roast for about 20 minutes, add the sunchokes to the baking sheet, roast with the beets until everything is somewhat golden, but not too browned.
3. In the meantime, mix the vinaigrette: lemon zest, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl.
4. Remove the beets and sunchokes from the oven. Allow the beets to cool slightly, and then gently rub off the skin. It helps to use a paper towel. After removing the skin, crush the beets with the bottom of a small bowl.
5. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add a tablespoon or so of oil. Place the sunchokes and beets in the skillet. Brown the beets and sunchokes on one side for about 4 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. Put the crisped sunchokes and beets in the bowl with the vinaigrette, add a small handful of fresh mint and thyme and toss to coat.
6. Place the arugula in the still hot skillet and stir until it just begins to wilt. Add the sunchoke-beet mix back to the hot skillet, add a grind of Maldon and pepper and serve immediately.

 

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash with Persimmons, Pomegranates, Feta, and Squash Seeds

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Last night the wind kept us up and the horses were eating and active right outside our bedroom. The wind makes our ranch lively, the animals seem a little anxious, and we keep waiting for the rain to come, but it just keeps blowing and blowing, a relentless wind in our open, golden valley. This threat of real weather reminds me that my favorite holiday is coming up. Thanksgiving is such a simple holiday, celebrating my favorite things- food & family- without the business of presents and expectations. This dish is such a treat; a sampling of the rich flavors that come with cooler weather. It would also be a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving feast. We tend to just eat our acorn squash skins, it’s too much work to take them off, and they are sweet and salty and oven crisped. This is quick dish that can easily be doubled or tripled, you can substitute different squashes and cheeses as well. The key element turned out to be the squash seeds caramelized in bacon fat and maple syrup, with flaky sea salt added to balance out the flavors. I’ve never tasted a better squash seed.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash with Persimmons, Pomegranates, Feta, Squash Seeds & Rosemary

Prep: 15 min Cook: 45-55 min Serves: 2-4

1 acorn squash, halved, then sliced thinly: save the seeds!
1 tbsp butter-melted
Olive oil
Sea salt & pepper
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp/drizzle maple syrup
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, stem removed
1 persimmon, halved and sliced thinly
Pomegranate-use about 1/2 the seeds or less
Fresh feta cheese
Flaky sea salt-Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 420.
2. Place the acorn squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle the melted butter and some olive oil on the squash and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip. On the flipped side, season with more salt & pepper, red chili flakes and maple syrup. Roast for another 20 minutes, then sprinkle the squash with the rosemary and bake until the herbs and squash are crisped-about ten minutes.
3. During the last 20 minutes, prepare the acorn squash seeds. You can use butter, but bacon fat is best. Place the squash in a skillet with about a tablespoon of bacon fat or butter. Season the seeds with salt & pepper and a drizzle of maple syrup. During the last few minutes of cooking, add some fresh rosemary. Check the seeds often, they are super easy to burn. They are done when they are crisped, slightly browned and the maple syrup has caramelized.
4. To serve, place the squash on a serving plate and top with the seeds, persimmon, pomegranate, feta, a grind of fresh cracked pepper, a sprinkle of Maldon, and the rest of the crispy bits from the baking pan and skillet.

 

Smoked Chicken Salad with Maple-Cranberry Sauce

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Our friends visited from Berkeley this past weekend and helped us harvest some roosters on the ranch. We were a bit overrun after so many hatched this spring, and they tend to relentlessly harass our hens. So our hens are happier, and we put three roosters right into our new smoker for about eight hours or so seasoned with salt and pepper. They came out tender and rich so we put them in sandwiches and ate them at the top of the Sierra Buttes, followed by a dip in the Sierra Valley hot springs. It was a perfect weekend.
I made this rooster salad with more of the smoked meat, and a rooster soup is currently in process in the kitchen. The salad is loaded with fresh parsley from the garden and is very light and fresh tasting, which balances out the rich smokiness of the rooster. I love fresh cranberries this time of year, and prefer cranberry sauce over dried cranberries anytime, and this sauce is quick and easy to make.

Smoked Chicken Salad with Maple-Cranberry Sauce
Meat from about 1/2 of a whole smoked chicken
4 celery sticks, halved long ways and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small apple, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp organic mayo or vegenaise
2 tbsp whole milk yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 meyer lemon, juice + zest

Mix the chicken, celery, bell pepper, apple and almonds together in a large bowl.  Zest the entire meyer lemon, saving half for the maple-cranberry sauce, and add the other half to the salad mix. Add half of the meyer lemon juice to the mix as well.
Add the mayo/vegenaise (make sure organic/non-gmo or make your own), yogurt and olive oil. Stir, then add the parsley, salt, pepper and turmeric.
Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, then serve with extra parsley on top, an extra sprinkle of turmeric, and drizzle of olive oil.

Maple-Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 meyer lemon juice + zest
4 tbsp maple syrup

Add the cranberries, lemon juice + zest, and maple syrup to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat until the cranberries split, about 5-8 minutes, then turn the heat down to low. Cover and allow to cook, stirring every so often, for about 15 minutes. Taste for sweetness, adding more maple syrup depending on your preference.

Serving:
Serve the smoked chicken salad with the maple-cranberry sauce and toasted sprouted wheat bread drizzled in olive oil and sea salt.

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Pear Custard

 

20141004_111516My usual quick dessert is usually some kind of crumble. I can get it together in about five minutes, and have a delicious hot dessert done when dinner is over. This dessert is just as fast, if not faster, and its such a simple and pretty way to serve pears, which are just about perfect right now. In the future I’ll play with infusions and different fruits, but for now just the straight forward and simple custard. I brought this dish to one of my best friends art shows and it was gone almost immediately, so cheers to a quick, tasty dessert that looks pretty and everyone loves.

Pear Custard
(Inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe)
3 pears, ripe, but firm, cored and cut into thin slices- Barlett
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Oven 350.
Place the sliced pears in a buttered tart dish or pie tin so that they overlap.
Blend the rest of the ingredients to a smooth consistency. Pour this blend over the pears. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
To serve, allow the custard to cool slightly, or to room temperature, then dust powdered sugar on top.
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Lemongrass Vietnamese Pork Chops with Spicy Maple-Ginger Roasted Acorn Squash, Leek, Beets + Thyme

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Welcome to the quintessential fall meal. Roasted squash, beautiful beets, rich and savory pork chops, fresh rain outside, snow up high, boots and sweaters and fires and hot tea. This time of year is so special. We visited the farmers market in Nevada City yesterday and found the market full of goodies, including peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, tons of strawberries. It was so lovely, sunny and warm, and then on the way back home the temperature dropped 30 degrees and snow fell. We cleaned up the garden today too, dug up many pounds of potatoes, hung herbs to dry, gave the turkeys and chickens tomatoes and lettuce the frost ruined. It feels good to bundle up and enjoy the act of roasting falls best vegetables.

Lemongrass Vietnamese Pork Chops with Spicy Maple-Ginger Roasted Acorn Squash, Leek, Beets + Thyme

2 pork chops (or more)

Marinade:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small white onion or shallot
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 inches lemongrass stalk, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate jelly

Process all ingredients together in a food processor until sauce reaches a smooth texture. Coat the pork chops on both sides and allow to marinate for at least an hour in the fridge.

Roasted Vegetables
1 acorn squash, sliced vertical with seeds removed
1 chioga beet, cut in half, then sliced
1 red beet, cut in half, then sliced
1/2 leek, cut in half, sliced
1/2 lb green beans
1/2 white onion/shallot sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 inches ginger, peeled and chopped
1 handful fresh thyme
Arugula for serving
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate for serving

Heat oven to 425.
In a small saucepan, combine butter, olive oil, maple syrup, cayenne, salt, and ginger and mix on medium heat just until the butter is melted. Pour the mix over the acorn squash, or dip the squash in the mix, then spread on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minute, flipping once or twice until browned.
Place the beets, green beans, onion, and leeks on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven after the squash have been roasting for about 20 minutes.
During the last 8 or so minutes of browning, add half of the fresh thyme to the beet vegetable mix, and roast until everything is fragrant and caramelized.

Cook the pork chops during the last 10 minutes of vegetable roasting. Heat a skillet to high. Add 1 tbsp of butter, then add the pork chops. Cook and blacken on each side for about three minutes. When both sides are done, add the remaining marinade and reduce it with the pork chops for another 5-8 minutes.

Serve the acorn squash, roasted vegetables, and pork chops on a bed of arugula, drizzle everything with the reduced marinade, sprinkle on pomegranate seeds and add the remaining fresh thyme.