Lilikoi Ricotta Cheesecake

IMG_3336IMG_3379-001IMG_3372

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. 

IMG_3359

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.

IMG_3288 IMG_3315 IMG_3323

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

P1150089 P1150088P1150071
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

IMG_3025 IMG_3035

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.

IMG_3043

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.
Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Sea Salted Apple Cider Caramels

IMG_2352 IMG_2348 IMG_2350It seems that these caramels make it officially fall. They are so good, but good in a way where you can just have one and feel satisfied. They are sweet and savory and deeply apple-y. The color is darker amber because I used coconut palm sugar. The pairing of rich and caramel flavored coconut sugar with the apple and sea salt just brought a better flavor and complexity, and somehow made these treats taste a bit more grown up.

Sea Salted Apple Cider Caramels
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
4 cups apple cider
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt flakes
8 tbsp/1 stick unsalted butter-I use Straus, chopped into pieces
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream (I used raw heavy cream)
Avocado oil

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper.
Pour the apple cider into a saucepan over high heat and boil for about 45 minutes, or until the apple cider is greatly reduced in volume to about 1/2 cup of thick, syrupy liquid. Stir occasionally as it heats.

Once the cider has reduced, remove from the heat and add the butter, sugars, and cream. Stir to combine, then place back on medium-high heat. If you have a candy thermometer, bring the temperature up to 252*, if not (and I didn’t have mine where I made these) you’ll do the cold water trick. So as you heat the caramel, the texture becomes more bubbly, every so often you drop a bit of caramel into a very cold glass of water. The caramel is done when the drops become firm and chewy. This step happens pretty fast, and the caramel is ready in about 5-8 minutes. Keep and eye on the caramel, but more importantly your nose, make sure you don’t smell any burning.

Remove the caramel from the heat, stir in the cinnamon and sea salt, then pour the mix onto parchment paper in the pan. Try for about 1 inch thick, but you can also choose what size/shape you want, so this is up to you.

Allow the caramels to cool for about 1-2 hours in the fridge. To cut them into shape, coat a sharp knife with avocado oil and recoat after each cut. Store the caramels in wax paper of on layers of parchment paper in a tupperware in the fridge or on the countertop.