Posts Tagged Cheese

Asparagus Tart

I’m a big fan of savory tarts. The broccoli cheddar tart is a winter favorite around here, and quiches filled with spices and greens crop up quite often as well. If I have a few scraps of cheese and a couple of different vegetables in the fridge, there’s a good chance they’ll be thrown together in a tart without any real recipe or planning.

All these things are delicious. Cheese, flaky crust, eggy filling; who could say no? But they aren’t exactly healthy. And that’s a shame, because there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.


So I tried for healthier. No more all-butter crust: I went with whole wheat flour, olive oil, ricotta cheese, and loads of vegetables. It could be leaner, with low-fat ricotta and broth or low fat milk instead of cream, but I didn’t go there. Honestly I’ve never bought a low-fat cheese in my life and don’t intend to. This recipe is easy to modify. Don’t like asparagus? Try greens, mushrooms, carrot coins, squash, or whatever else strikes your fancy.


Ingredients (serves 6-8)

For the crust:


1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t white pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

3 T ice water

For the filling:


1/2 cup ricotta cheese

4 oz goat cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup cream

1 lb asparagus

about 1/2 t salt

parmesan, to taste


For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil.


Stir with a spoon until the mixture is uniform.


Add the water and knead until the dough forms a ball.


Press the dough into a buttered tart pan or pie tin. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.


Boil the asparagus for 3-5 minutes while the crust is baking.


When the crust is done, spread a layer of ricotta across the bottom of it.


Crumble the goat cheese over the ricotta. Mix the egg and cream in a small bowl.


Pour the egg and cream over the cheese, and top with the asparagus. Sprinkle the tart with salt.


Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.


Serve immediately.


This crust is different, very crumbly and complex. I didn’t expect to like it; ordinarily I don’t even keep whole wheat flour in the apartment, because the texture annoys me. The simplicity of it with the olive oil, and the soft, rich filling offset that enough to make me go back for seconds on this one.


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Spinach and Potato Quiche

The quiche is a dish that I always struggle with. Not because they’re difficult to make, but because I always want it to be something new and different and interesting. I’m happy to throw together a plain cheese quiche if I want to play with a good strong cheese, but since I have a bad habit of just snarfing down good strong cheeses with apple cider and maybe a few crackers, this is rarely an option.

Adding Indian spices and a great big heap of spinach, on the other hand, is always an option. As usual, I tailor the tart crust to the filling, so the dough is made with garam masala. Chile powder would be a nice addition as well.


For the crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 t salt

2 t garam masala

8 T (1 stick) cold butter

3 T ice water


For the filling:

1 large potato

2 cloves garlic

about 4 cups spinach leaves

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

6 oz mozzarella cheese

1 T garam masala

2 t turmeric

1 t salt

1 T dried chiles (pequins, or chopped other peppers, optional)


For the crust:

Combine the flour, salt, and garam masala in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the dry ingredients briefly to combine. Add the butter in chunks.

Process the butter and flour mixture until it looks like damp sand. Add the water bit by bit and process just until the dough comes together in a ball.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the dough and press it  into a buttered tart pan.

Bake, lined with foil and pie weights, for 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling:

Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces and boil them for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet (I love cast iron) over medium heat and cook the garlic until it is aromatic and toasty.

Add the spinach and spices and cook 5-7 minutes.

You’ll know it’s ready when it has cooked down thoroughly.

Add the potatoes and toss to coat with spices and add just a touch of crispiness to the edges. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk.

Whisk to combine, and stir in the cheese and salt.

Add the potato and spinach, and peppers if using.

Stir to combine.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I know it’s not traditional to any cuisine. It’s fun and delicious. Mr. B slathers his with Sriracha and has cold leftovers for breakfast. I can’t stand a cold quiche (or pizza or anything else meant to be served hot) but apparently this is just a guy thing that I have to get used to.

In any case, this was a fantastic experiment. I’ll be making it again soon.

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Black Bean Burgers

I love cheeseburgers.

For those of you blinking in surprise, or perhaps double checking that this is in fact a kosher blog, don’t worry. They’re vegetarian.

See, black beans make even better patties than meat. They’re flavorful and moist and not at all chewy. I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks that ground beef has a slightly unpleasant texture, can I? Surely someone else has noticed this. Black beans, though? Sublime.

This is one of those things that I just throw together in my poor, overworked food processor. I’m sure it would be possible to make without a food processor, but I have not done it any other way, so all directions are going to assume you have one.

Okay. It’s burger time.

Ingredients (makes about 6 sliders or probably 3-4 regular burgers.)

1 slider bun, either left on the counter overnight or slightly toasted

1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 egg

zest of 1 lime

cilantro (fresh or dried) to taste

1/2-1 t mustard powder

1 t chile powder

1/2 t paprika (not shown)

1-2 t salt


Tear up the bun and put it in the bowl of your food processor.

Pulse until you’ve got crumbs no larger than peas.

Add lime zest, cilantro, chile powder, paprika, mustard powder, and salt.

Pulse just to combine.

Add black beans and egg.

Pulse a few more times to break up the beans and make a paste.

Form patties with your hands and fry with a little butter or oil (except really, you’re going to use butter, right? Butter is better.) in a skillet over medium-high heat. The sliders took about 3-4 minutes a side to crisp up nicely and cook through. I did not take pictures of this step because my hands were covered in bean paste and I prefer my camera to be not-covered in bean paste.

Add cheese and buns and all your favorite burger toppings.

Serve with succotash. You may have thought fries would be more appropriate, but no. Burgers are meant to go with succotash.


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Asparagus and Artichoke Pizza

Pizza is not at all difficult to make. It requires a little planning, and a choice between a food processor and elbow grease. That’s about it. Make pizza at home, and not only will it be piping hot and crispy-crusted from the oven, but you can put any toppings you want on it, and any (or no) sauce.

I make pizza at home by necessity. While there are pizza places I can trust not to attempt tomato homicide (love ya, Urban Crust), for the most part pizza out just isn’t worth the risk or the expense. Enter pizza at home. You don’t have to have a pizza stone to make it–heck, my “pizza stone” is an old stone chess board I picked up for $3 (The chess pieces are my pie weights), and it replaces an 18″ square unfinished stone tile from Home Depot that snapped when we moved. Before the tile, I used a cookie sheet. Want a deep dish pizza? Use a cast iron skillet. Ignore people who tell you the only way to make good pizza at home is with expensive equipment. It just isn’t true, and you’ll miss out on good pizza if you trust them.

For the crust, I adapt Mark Bittman’s crust from How to Cook Everything. For the topping, I just use whatever I feel like at the time–in this case, asparagus, artichokes, and goat cheese. This recipe makes  a small pizza to serve 2-3 people. Double it to serve more.



For the crust:

1 t instant yeast

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 t kosher salt

1/2 cup warm water

2 T olive oil

For the topping:

1/2 lb grated mozzarella

4 oz goat cheese

1/2 lb cooked asparagus (steamed, roasted, however you like)

10-12 cooked artichoke hearts (sautéed in lemon butter is best; steamed, boiled, or roasted will work)

a pinch of salt

1-1 1/2 cups sauce of your choice, if desired


Pour the flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse briefly to combine.

With the blade running, drizzle in the water and olive oil. As soon as the dough comes together in a cohesive ball, turn off the food processor.

Knead the dough briefly and form it into as round a ball as you can. Place this dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for at least an hour or up to two. If you need it to rest longer, put it in the fridge.

Turn the risen dough out onto a chess board/tile/cookie sheet that you’ve lightly dusted with a bit of flour or cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 500°F. No, that is not a typo. You need a really hot oven for pizza. it will cook fast and crisp up beautifully.

Punch it into a rough circle. (Full disclosure: my pizzas are usually unholy trapezoids, shapes that fit neatly into the dreams of great Cthulhu and are best not seen by sane men. This is the real reason I’ve never written about a pizza on here before. This one looks all right, though.)

Let the crust sit another ten minutes or so, so that you can smack it back into shape if that pesky gluten tries to contract and shrink your pizza. Add your sauce, if using, then cheese and toppings. I actually like to put the toppings underneath the cheese, because the cheese glues them down and keeps them from sliding around when the pizza is cut, but they look better on top. It’s up to you.

Bake at 500°F for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt (and any other spices you like) and serve piping hot.

So good. Pizza you can eat on the couch, knowing it hasn’t been marinating in its own sweat for half an hour in the backseat of a delivery person’s car.

A note about cutting pizza: I hate pizza cutting wheels, because there is not enough room in anyone’s kitchen for a tool that’s only good for one thing. I use a sharp knife and press down with a gentle rocking motion, without sawing or sliding, until it cuts through. The pizza gets cut, all the cheese does not slide off, everyone is happy. Well, everyone except the guy who was secretly trying to steal all the cheese.


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Saag Paneer

I’m not even going to pretend this is traditional or proper or in any other sense real Indian food. You see, aside from store-bought naan, I had not tried or eaten anything even resembling Indian food before last month.

I’d considered it. Mr. Blackbird loves Indian buffets to an almost frightening extent, and asked me to join him more than a few times. But two things stopped me. First, I had a misconception that all Indian food was so agonizingly spicy that you couldn’t feel your mouth after eating it. I like mild-to-moderate spice, but I have no interest in ever consuming, for instance, the bhut jolokia that we just transplanted to the outdoor pots with the grown-up plants. Second, buffets carry an ever-present risk of accidental tomato consumption, and while I do carry a shot of epinephrine with me whenever eating out, I do not want to have to use it.

What convinced me was, as usual, the greens. Cooked greens feature in at least a dozen of my favorite recipes, and here I was being confronted with one made almost entirely of greens and cheese. Yes, please! This recipe is adapted heavily from Goat, though I didn’t use goat milk for the paneer or in the final sauce. Goat milk is delightful, light, just a touch sour, and doesn’t make me feel sick after drinking a glass. It also costs more than $4 for a quart compared to cow milk at $1.19/gallon. This makes goat milk a sometimes food.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)


1 1/2 to 2 cups (1 batch) paneer

1 1/2 to 2 lbs collards, mustard greens, or spinach

4 T butter, divided use

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup milk, cream, or yogurt

2 t garam masala (I used store bought and I can only identify some of the components [cinnamon, cumin, anise]. It’s delicious, though; I’ve been adding it to my matzoh brei all week)

1 t red pepper flakes, or cayenne or paprika if you prefer

1-2 cloves garlic

salt, to taste


Melt 2 T of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. I prefer cast iron. If you are not lazy, skim the solids off to clarify the butter. Milk solids are tasty, and I am lazy, so they stayed. Browned butter is best, but not required.

Cut the central ribs out of the greens (unless you’re using spinach) and tear them into palm-sized pieces before adding to the skillet.

Toss the greens until they are thoroughly wilted and release much of their liquid. This is very brief (<5 minutes) for spinach, 10-12 minutes for collards. Tongs are useful for flipping the greens without making a huge mess.

Add the broth and cook until the liquid reduced by about 1/2, or 5 more minutes.

Put the greens and the remaining liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pat the skillet dry.

Pulse the greens to your desired consistency. I did not want a puree, due to my distrust of liquid foods, so I left off after a few brief pulses.

Leave the greens aside for a moment while you heat the remaining 2 T of butter. Cut the paneer into cubes and add it to the skillet to fry.

Clarifying the butter this time would have been wise; this is insanely tasty but looks kind of gross.

Mix the garam masala, chili flakes, minced garlic, and milk. Add the greens back into the skillet, toss briefly, and pour the milk-and-spice mixture over them.

Salt and stir briefly before serving with naan.

Considering all the cheese and milk in there, this is surprisingly light. The spices are mild–too mild for Mr. B, who added a hefty dose of hot sauce to his plate–but incredibly flavorful. Now that our cilantro is finally thriving, I plan to add a few leaves at the end next time we make this.  On its own, it’s delicious. As a side for butter chicken, it’s a meal Mr. B asks me to make about every three days. So, though it’s likely nothing like actual Indian food, it’s still a winner around here!





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Homemade Paneer

I promise, I’m not crazy. As much as I enjoy cooking, as much time as I spend in the kitchen, There are still things I buy pre-made every time, because I do not have the time to make my own tortillas or ice cream or cheese.

But this time, I made cheese. Not because I’m some kind of food nut who has to have everything made from scratch, and I can’t stand fussy, finicky recipes unless the payoff is huge.

I’d been wanting to make saag paneer for a while, but I couldn’t find paneer anywhere. Turns out making paneer at home is easier than finding it in a store. After trying six different grocery stores, I finally looked up how to make it. With just two ingredients, and a recipe that took less than 15 minutes of actual in-kitchen time, it was hard to resist. Plus, it made some awesome cheese.

I adapted this recipe from the delightful Goat cookbook. I have since made a half batch with goat milk as the cookbook recommends, and while the difference was more subtle than I’d expected, but on balance I think I prefer the slight tang of the goat milk version.

 Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)


1/2 gallon milk (or goat milk, or a mix)

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

cheese cloth


Pour the milk into a large pot and heat over medium heat.

When the milk rises in the pan and begins to simmer, Turn off the heat and stir to ensure that the entire volume is evenly heated.

Pour in the lemon juice and stir to combine.

Walk away for 20-25 minutes. Really. During one batch I was impatient and kept checking in and stirring every couple of minutes. The curds that formed were broken up so that many of them passed right through the cheesecloth and were lost forever. It was tragic. After 20 minutes undisturbed, the curds should have separated nicely.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and liquid (whey) through. Walk away for another hour or so, to let the majority of the whey drain.

Once the cheese had drained, gather the cheesecloth and tie it off.

Set the bundle in the refrigerator on a plate or in a bowl with a weight on top of it (I used a 10-lb medicine ball atop a second plate) overnight. This will press out the remaining liquid and firm up the cheese. Pour off the liquid and wrap the cheese in parchment paper and plastic wrap until ready to serve or cook with it.

This went to a lovely batch of saag paneer two days later. This was worth the hassle, enough so that I’ve now made three batches. A combination of mild cheese and rich greens made for a perfect dish.

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Stracciatella. . .sort of

Have I mentioned that I don’t eat soup? I just have a problem with food that you drink. That’s not called food, it’s called drinks. I don’t have drinks for dinner, I have them with dinner.

And yes, everyone else thinks I’m crazy, too.

I tried to get out of this one. I called it “tortellini in brodo.” Mr. B. retaliated by eating with a spoon. I insisted it was just a different way of eating pasta. He pointed out the delicate bits of egg and kale that could only be accessed by also eating the liquid. I tried to use a fork. It was too messy. I tried blaming the painkillers, but I haven’t actually been taking them.

So I made this. . . soup. (There, I said it.) Because my teeth have been pulled out, and my mouth hurts, and solid food isn’t completely an option yet.

Because I bought a jar of applesauce when I didn’t feel well enough to make applesauce, and there was mold inside. So clearly, that wasn’t an option, either.

Because I’m tired of mashed potatoes for the first time in my life.

I, the soup-hating corvid, made soup. For dinner, not with dinner.

But I put pasta in it so I could still eat it with a fork.

The pasta kind of hurt the places my teeth aren’t anymore.

The stracciatella? Pretty darn good. Salty and savory and full of things that aren’t supposed to be in stracciatella, because a thin, watery soup isn’t worth looking at, much less drinking. And why shouldn’t a stracciatella have shreds of kale along with egg, and tortellini as well?

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup water

1 large bunch kale

8 oz tortellini or other pasta

about 1/2 cup (1 oz) of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1-2 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste


Combine broth and water in a deep pot and bring to a boil.

Remove the ribs from the kale, roll it up, and slice it into 1/4 inch chiffonade.

Grate the Parmesan.

Add the kale and Parmesan to the boiling broth.

Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring well. You don’t want giant Parmesan clumps, if only because that means somewhere in your soup there are cheese-free zones, and that’s just terrible.

Add the tortellini and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes. Fresh pasta doesn’t take long to cook.

Whisk your egg(s) in a small bowl and pour them into the stracciatella in a slow stream, whisking the soup as you pour.

It will look very cloudy briefly, but clarify after just a few seconds.

Serve hot, with crusty bread if your teeth allow it and a few slivers of grated Parmesan over the top.

The best thing about this is that the pasta absorbs a huge amount of flavor from the broth. Even I broke down and ate this with a spoon, because all that rich, eggy liquid could not be allowed to go to waste.

The kale brought its usual bitter tones to to table, making the soup more aromatic and hearty that it would have been. I loved the little shards of cooked egg that kept popping up unexpectedly, and though I only used one egg for this volume, two would have been better.

Now I just need a few more semi-solid meals to get through the next few days before my doctor clears me for people food again!

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