Zucchini and Ricotta Bites

Hi all!

I don’t know about you, but, for me, sometimes a big ol’ meal with mounds of bread and meat is the last thing I feel like eating. Sometimes it’s the only thing I feel like eating. But sometimes it’s not. So for the days that its not I’m probably in the mood for something light but that has enough good calories to get me through the day.

So I’m sharing with you today one of my go-to filling and healthy snacks that takes about 5 minutes to make and is almost impossible to screw up.

Zucchini and Ricotta Bites

I came up with this recipe because I am currently growing some gorgeous looking zucchini on my roof and they are gonna be ready soon so I need to have a variety of zucchini recipes tested and at my fingertips when my bounty is finally ready to be harvested. Plus I am one of those girls who loves zucchini. Really, I do.

Now, you don’t have to smear your ricotta onto your cutting board, I just did that for creative effect.

What you’ll need:

1 zucchini

1/3 cup ricotta, homemade or store bought

1 lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for your pan

*This will make about 15 zucchini pieces, so you can adjust according to how much you want to make

What to do with it:

Start heating some olive oil in a frying pan on medium-low, not to much, just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan

Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch pieces, cutting on the diagonal…this will give you slightly elongated pieces which I think just looks nice

Place the slices in the pan and generously sprinkle with salt and peper

Allow to gently brown on both sides without getting too soggy, remember, you want your bites to maintain their firmness so you can pick them up with your hands

*If you end up overcooking them, just use a fork to eat

Once browned, place on some paper towels to drain off some of the excess oil

Then place on your serving platter or plate and top with a small spoonful of ricotta

Squeeze literally 2 drops of lemon juice on top of each bite – too much more and it will overpower the light flavors of both the zucchini and cheese

Garnish, if you want, with very thin slices of lemon rind, making sure to avoid using any of the white pith of the skin because it will give your bite a bitter taste

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

I don’t know about you guys, but when its real hot out, I’m not in the mood for a huge meal that is gonna make me feel even more sluggish than the scalding temperatures already does. I want something light, maybe crispy, certainly cold and often times utensil free.

Eating with my hands means less dish washing and its more acceptable for me to lick my fingers in the process.

I know ya’ll understand how great that is.

Summed up, summertime is a time for snacks. But chips leave little more than cheese powder on your fingertips and cellulite on the back of your thighs. No thanks.

I want a snack I can come back to throughout the day.

Wait, isn’t that quintessentially a snack is? Oh nevermind, you get the point.

So what is the best gosh darn snack? HUMMUS

Not just plain hummus (delicious as that may be), but sun dried tomato hummus.

Remember when I made RAW Hummus? Well, the basic recipe is pretty much the same.

Seriously, one of the quickest recipes out there

What you’ll need:

2 cans ckickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Liquid from 1 can of beans

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup of sun dried tomato oil OR just 1/2 cup of olive oil

1/3 cup sun dried tomato, minced (or put through a food processor)

3 cloves garlic

Salt

Pepper

What to do with it:

Here’s where it get’s real tricky

1. Put everything in a food processor or blender

2. Turn on

I know, this is a super complicated recipe, I apologize.

Paired with some toasted whole wheat pita triangles, you got yourself a most wonderful summer snack!

Rosemary Cherry Compote

Hello my sweet darlin’s!

Basically my life the last week has looked a little like this:

Study for finals, work, study more for finals, work, write final essays, work, stay up all night studying for finals, take finals, fly to LA for best friends graduation, drink a lot of liquor in celebration, SLEEP.

Yesterday was the first day I actually felt somewhat rested. It’s been great.

Now that I am at my parents house for a week I have time to try some new recipes. When I made dinner last night though, we had yet to go shopping and my folks got into town the same day as me, so ingredients for dinner were slim pickin’s.

There were a couple items that caught my eye: roasted turkey, sourdough bread, onions, and fresh cherries. I could work with that.

A roasted turkey sandwich with rosemary cherry compote and crispy onions. Yea, that sounds tasty.

Lucky for me, the turkey was already roasted, the bread was already baked, and we will get to those crispy onions a little later. Right now, I’m gonna show you how to make some seriously phenomenal cherry compote.

Recipe adapted from YumSugar

What you’ll need:

2 cups rinsed, stemmed and pitted cherries

2 1/2 Tbs. Sugar

1 tsp. Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 Tbs. Water

Salt

Pepper

What to do with it:

1. Place cherries, sugar, rosemary, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil

2. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and allow to simmer until cherries are nice and soft and the sauce has thickened. It will take 15-17 minutes. (I helped it along by taking the back of a wooden spoon and slightly mashing the cherries against the side of the pan)

3. Once they are at the consistency you prefer, take them off the heat, add the balsamic and allow to cool

4. Serve hot or cold

I would liken this compote to the summer version of cranberry sauce, its a little tart, not too sweet and goes great smothered on turkey. Which is exactly what I did.

For the sandwich:

Sourdough loaf, cut into hearty slices

Cream Cheese

Dijon Mustard

Roasted Turkey

Cherry Compote

Spiced Crispy Onions

I think sandwich assembly is pretty easy, but here’s what I did

Slather one piece of bread with cream cheese, and the other with Dijon

Layer about 3 slices of roasted turkey on one side – you can do more, but my bread was on the small side

Spoon a generous heaping of cherries on top of the turkey, take the wooden spoon and get the sauce in crevices of the turkey layers

Take a big ol’ handful of the crispy onions and place that on top and cover with the other piece of bread

This sandwich was so divine. It pretty much felt like a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich…and who says I have to wait for November to get on that?!

Nobody, that’s who.

So go ahead, indulge and enjoy in this delightful slice of heaven.

Btw, my parents have an entire hillside of rosemary growing wild in their backyard.

Any ideas for what to do with some of it?

Sea Urchins: An Aphrodisiac I’ll Stay Away From

This is an article I originally wrote for Xpress Magazine all about sea urchin, more commonly known as Uni, it’s history as an aphrodisiac, and my experiences with it.

I hope you enjoy!

Forget chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, and oysters the next time love, or lust, is in the air – there’s a new aphrodisiac in town. Well, maybe not so new, more so under represented as such.

Sea Urchin, or Uni, has been used to inspire desire for centuries. Considering the part that’s eaten is in fact the sex glands of the urchin, it’s not surprising the effects carry over.

It is certainly not hard to believe that the art of seduction has been on the brain since, well, pretty much the beginning of time. The term aphrodisiac is derived from the Greek goddess of love and sexuality, Aphrodite. Over the years various outlandish items have been proclaimed to be the best in putting love seekers in the mood. In ancient days, starfish, dried human marrow, and menstrual blood were the hottest on the market. Later it was a drink that contained gold – perhaps that’s where Goldschläger got the idea. The list goes on with Uni being introduced only a few hundred years ago.

Despite the fact that it is a popular ingredient in many Japanese and Mediterranean dishes, this spiny fellow is extremely hard to track down in the city. A cashier at one of the Asian fish markets in the Sunset scoffs when she says, “That’s a Japanese thing.” Duly noted; they are a bit more accessible in Japantown, though at a steep price – expect to pay five dollars for one urchin, which may not seem too bad until considering that one urchin only yields five “steaks” the size of a chubby pinky finger.

“Sea Urchins have been established as an Asian dish with status because it’s a little pricey,” says Kai Chen, a waiter at All Season Sushi in the Castro.

If sex is still on the brain after shelling out about twenty dollars to get enough meat for two lovers to indulge in, then cracking them open is the next step. With a sharp pair of scissors and determination, cutting the bottom off the urchin is not a big deal, unless they are still alive. As soon as the scissors pierce their shell their spines go wild, moving faster than expected and elevating the threat of getting poked. Even after severing them into two separate pieces they still move with a vengeance. Running them under hot water should do the trick in finally sending them to a watery grave.

Now take a look at the half of the urchin with the meat, this is supposed to subconsciously put one in the mood because it should be reminiscent of the female sex organ. Consciously though, it looks like a massacred shell with orange colored meat lining. It may only look like female lady parts in an extremely abstract, not literal sense – that’s for sure. And that smell; once the shell has been punctured get ready for a pungent salt-tinged liquid to come streaming out into, hopefully, the sink.

The taste is at best, acquired. Though the texture is smooth and creamy, the flavor could be compared to what the bottom of the San Francisco Bay would taste like if licked. There is an inexplicable briny flavor to it, a deep bottom of the ocean flavor that to some may be enjoyable, but to others extremely off-putting.

Here the roe has been strained out to incorporate into a cream sauce

After a memorable experience a few years ago, sushi lover Lindsay Mayott has made a point to never let Uni touch her lips again. She’s not buying the hype that has surrounded sea urchin.

“It may be a delicacy, but there is nothing delicate about the taste,” says Mayott, 26, as she wrinkles her nose. “The texture reminds me of that goo toy from the ‘90’s ‘Nickelodeon Gak,’ basically it’s like eating someone else’s boogers.”

So after all this, what makes it an ingredient associated with increased sexual ability?

“Sea urchin is a dish that someone will order again and again because it’s an aphrodisiac,” Chen, 33, elaborates. “Not only that but its exotic and nutritious.”

The fundamental problem with aphrodisiacs is that there is little proof to back it up.  However, broken down, at the very least these little guys pack quite the nutritional punch with their high levels of vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E, zinc, and antioxidants and it is these vitamins that help encourage sexual activity, especially when used in conjunction. Each vitamin serves a part to create an extra memorable sexual experience, vitamin E promotes increased blood flow throughout your body and is needed for optimum endurance and stamina; vitamin B helps turn carbohydrates into the energy essential for prosperous sexual activity; vitamin A, and E for that matter, are antioxidants which fight off the free radicals that cause sexual dysfunction in men and some women; lastly increased levels of zinc in the body boosts concentration and sex drive. All of these vitamins in just a little sea urchin steak. Plus, as mentioned before, the visual look of it should keep the brain fixated on what’s to come after the dishes have been cleared.

Chen laughs as he looks around the restaurant as he says, “I’ll have to pay attention to new lovers who try Uni and then come back for more.”

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting

Hey all!

Remember a few days ago when I posted that wonderful goat cheese pasta salad? Well, I made a promise to you guys that I would be posting the sweet yin to the savory yang of my goat cheese feast with Sohini and Kati.

This is me making good on that promise to ya’ll.

I present to you: Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting!

What? OMG? Is this real?

Yup, they happened.

I can’t take all the credit, cause that would be wrong. The recipe is one that I found on Saveur’s website, but Sohini and I tweaked the frosting a tad.

For the Cupcakes:

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

6 tbsp. cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup hot coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg

You may notice, there is no butter in these cupcakes.

What?

No butter?

But, Kristina, you love butter!

Yea, I love butter, but hey, sometimes you can do without.

For the Frosting:

5 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 oz. goat cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Andddd, you can add a whole vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and scraped if you want, but Sohini’s vanilla bean happened to be really dry and it snapped in half while we were trying to scrape it, so we scraped the idea.

Let me tell ya, the frosting still tasted FANTASTIC.

What to do for the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line cupcake trays

Whisk together all dry ingredients

Add in the coffee, oil and milk

After that is well incorporated, then you can add the vanilla extract and eggs

Bake cupcakes for 20-22 minutes

Let cool

What to do for the frosting:

Beat cream cheese and goat cheese together with an electric mixer, or a very strong arm, until light and fluffy

Add powdered sugar, 1/2 at a time

Once your cuppy cakes have cooled enough, slap that frosting on!

I didn’t have a pastry bag, so I just used a ziplock with the tip cut off

I think goat cheese frosting is my brand new favorite frosting. Its SOOOOOO much tastier than just cream cheese frosting. Don’t get me wrong, I love cream cheese frosting, but the goat cheese lightened up the frosting just enough to not be overwhelming or too sweet.

Yea, these cupcakes were devoured.