Posts filed under ‘recipes’

Cubicle Foraging – Cotija Cheese – part 2

I am finally getting around to posting about the tasty things that I made with my cotija cheese.  I got nine delicious ounces of it to take home a few weeks back and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it as I had never made anything with it before.

I found two recipes that sounded good, Cauliflower Gratin with Cotija Cheese (found on and apparently taken from Sunset magazine) and Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas (found on and apparently originally from Williams Sonoma in some fashion).

I didn’t have quite enough cheese for both recipes, so I ended up doing reduced portion versions of both items (albeit on different days).  Both dinners ended up being a bit of a study in what you can do wrong and how it is wonderfully tasty anyhow.  =)

Cauliflower Gratin with Cotija Cheese

(adapted from what I found on and apparently taken from Sunset magazine)

1 large cauliflower head, trimmed of the stem and leaves (roughly 1.5 lbs)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 pound poblano chilies
6 ounces cotija cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

First, deal with your poblano peppers.  The original recipe calls for roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips.

(If you are like me, and skimmed the recipe, you may have ended up doing this bit somewhere in the middle and having to delay other parts while you do it.  I ended up doing a combination of two things, some dry pan cooking to toast them and then some time in the oven to bake them through.  Ideally, you would bake them til they got very soft and peeling would be easy.  I ran out of time, so I went ahead and seeded them, peeled what I could, and then diced them with bits of skin left on.  This seemed to work fine.)

Next, trim, rinse, and cut your cauliflower.  You want relatively small floret pieces, perhaps 1/4 inch wide.  Try for fairly uniform pieces, as it will help them have a similar consistency once they are cooked.  Prep a large pan of boiling water to put the cauliflower in.  Cook them at a boil for about 3 minutes.  Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.

Take your heavy cream and stir the cayenne into it.  Turn your oven on to 450 degrees F.

Assemble the gratin.  In a baking dish (I did mine in a round casserole dish, which I believe was 2.5 quart capacity) layer about a quarter of the cauliflower across the bottom.  Cover this with a quart of the cream.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.  Add a layer of poblano pieces and some of the crumbled cotija.  Repeat this process until you have used all the ingredients, ending with the cheese on top.

(If you accidentally forget to layer the cheese in, like I did, and you can choose to stick it all on top or to mix the whole thing and just sprinkle the top.  I would recommend mixing it all up, as the large layer of cheese on top didn’t let the dish get the proper texture through out.  It was still incredibly tasty, however.)

Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping an eye on how brown the cheese top is getting.  Let the dish rest for about 15 minutes prior to serving.


April 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

Cubicle Foraging – Poppy Seeds (Poppy Seed Lemon Cake)

Taking a deep breath….  and trying to get back into posting things.  Life has run away with tons of new things cropping up at work and things not letting up as much after the holidays as I had expected.

I finally got around to making this lovely cake, which I saw over at SmittenKitchen.  M joined me for the evening and brought his camera.  We made pizza for dinner and then made cake while trying out one of my holidays gifts, a nifty new board game.

I got an entire tupper ware container of poppy seeds from work a couple of weeks back.  I am not a huge fan of poppy seeds, but her descriptions of the cake were so intriguing that I had to try it.  It was a huge hit with people at work and I enjoyed a couple of small pieces myself.  It has made me determined to try making some lemon flavored cakes some time in the future, perhaps also trying out the gorgeous frosting recipe SmittenKitchen has been playing with.  It takes the zest from two medium to large lemons, which makes the batter very fragrant and lovely light lemony color (at least until you add the poppy seeds).

Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

(recipe found at SmittenKitchen, adapted, from Kurt Gutenbrunner via Food & Wine)

2/3 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt (edited to add this)
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
1/2 cup poppy seeds (I got this from one 3-ounce spice bottle)

Preheat the oven to 325°F Butter and flour a fluted Bundt or tube pan generously.  Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the sugar with the egg yolks and whole egg at medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy, about 8 minutes.  Beat in the lemon zest.  Sift the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the pinch of salt with a rubber spatula.  At medium speed, beat in the butter, then beat in the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  She made note that she had a ten inch pan for her cake and it was done ten minutes early.  I also only had a ten inch pan and mine was done at roughly 35 minutes, so it should be a pretty good guideline.

Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.  Invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely before serving, at least 30 minutes.

I am afraid that I was not thrifty and didn’t end up using my egg whites for anything.  As this was the second thing baked in the evening, I decided against having more clean up.  I am eyeing a crème brûlée and angel food pair up sometime in the near future, though.  Which hopefully will remove the slight feelings of guilt at having tossed the extra egg whites.  I did look at recipes to use them, I just didn’t end up doing an of them.

February 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm 4 comments

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

The holidays have run away with my schedule.  I finally got to making this on Friday, though, which has been on my list for a while.  I found the recipe over at Tartelette.  She mostly posts about sweet things (no surprise here), but occasionally has some tasty savory recipes as well.

I didn’t have any fresh thyme, so I did mine with dry.  Unfortunately I think that I overdid it.  I guess measured in my hand, and since dry also packs so much tighter than fresh, I think that the thyme was over done.  But it was still a tasty and savory soup, and the recipe is below, courtesy of Tartelette.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (seeds scooped out & saved)
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves or garlic, peeled and smashed (don’t worry about mincing)
4 cups chicken stock (I did mine with low sodium veggie stock)
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or less if desired. You can also use some sage)
salt and pepper

In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cubed squashes and sautee for a few minutes until they start to get some caramelizing color. Add the garlic and sautee one minute, stirring often to prevent it from burning (or it will become bitter). Add the soup stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. With an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. If using a food processor or blender, let the soup cool a bit before processing. Adjust the consistency to your liking with extra water. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired.

This serves four, with some bread as accompaniment (M brought over a loaf of his 5 minute a day bread).  I made my soup in the blender, rather than with an immersion mixer, which worked just fine.  She also lists some possible garnishes, toasted squash seeds, hot peppers, or (for those of a meatier persuasion than I) bacon.  I could see it being fun to play around with that, especially in a version that wasn’t over herbed.

Hope you all are enjoying some good soups with the winter weather.

December 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

Snacking Away

It has hit that part of the afternoon where one inevitably is a bit munchy.  I recently was introduced to a happy vegan snack at a friend’s house, and enjoyed it so much I went and bought all the stuff for it, though I don’t normally keep coconut or almond butter around.  You take an apple and slice it up, then put a layer of almond butter over the slice and sprinkle some dried coconut shavings over top.  It is quite tasty.  I have made the cheater’s version here at work, which consists of a pile of almond butter, a pile of coconut, slices of apple, and repeated dipping.  It turns a very light snack (an apple) into something quite substantial that I expect may manage to hold me until I finish cooking dinner tonight.

December 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

Cubicle Foraging – Spinach, part 2

Well, I got half a block from work on Thursday when I realized that I had left the spinach in the fridge at the office.  I dithered a few moments, then decided to walk back to work to get it.  I was actually excited to make something out of it and nothing else in my fridge at home was really calling to me.  I ended up making sautéed garlic spinach along side jasmine rice and a lovely french cheese.  I love the sweetness that you can get from garlic if it is sautéed but not browned.  The jasmine rice with a bit of butter and salt was aromatic.  The port salud cheese was a little reminiscent of Muenster.  It was on the softer side, rich, and salty.

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Butter

large bag of small spinach (perhaps roughly a pound)

6 – 8 medium cloves garlic

2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

salt and pepper to taste


Peel the garlic and chop it up into medium pieces.  Rinse the spinach and discard any pieces that seem excessively wilted or slimy.

Put a large saute pan, with available lid, on the stove with medium-low heat and add the olive oil.  Let the oil heat a couple minutes, then stir in the garlic and butter.  Let it saute for 3 – 5 minutes.  You want to soften the garlic, but do not want to brown it.  After letting the garlic saute in the oil and butter for several minutes, add the spinach and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir and cover.  Let the spinach cook, stirring every few minutes until all the spinach has wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste either at the stove or at the table.

Note: If you notice that your garlic is starting to darken, quickly toss in your spinach and mix, the cover.  This will help prevent the flavor from shifting farther away from the sweet end.

November 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Sourdough Boule

Sourdough Boule

Holiday Sourdough Boule, best of three

As mentioned, I had a lot of baking planned for Friday.  I took the day off and had lofty plans to bake a couple of loaves of challah as well as the three loaves of sourdough that had been growing in my kitchen in stages over the previous three or so days.  Last week was a rather long week and I was tired and decided that getting some extra rest was more important than the challah and my three loaves of sourdough would have to do.

If you like bread and you haven’t heard of Peter Reinhart, go buy one of his books.  His approach to bread making may be a bit intense (the bread recipes of his that I have tried usually involve developing the dough over several days) in terms of time commitment, but you will find yourself devouring every bite of bread you can get your hands on and having to fend off a flock of appreciative food vultures the minute anyone has a taste of your bread.  I own Crust and Crumb and looking forward to checking out his new book, Artisan Breads Every Day, which is supposed to take his techniques and give you recipes that take a less time consuming approach.

The sourdough starter that I use was actually purchased via mail from Breadtopia at their Baker’s Store.  It arrived in the mail in a little ziplock baggie with instructions for bringing it back to a healthy state.  My starter is the refrigerator sort, which means it can hibernate for months in your fridge with minimal to no tending and then be revived when you decide you want to make bread.  I take it out of the fridge two days before I want to start my bread recipe and start feeding it and storing it at room temperature.

I used Reinhart’s sourdough recipe, which calls for making a firm starter, which gets its own set of rise and retard (holding the dough at a lower temperature for an extended period which lets more complex flavors develop) steps, then the dough the next day, baking happening on the third day.  The first time I made this recipe M and I devoured an entire loaf as soon as it was cool enough to eat.  I think we took all of about ten minutes to consume it.

For now I will leave you with another bread photo (courtesy of my cell phone of all things).  The time has changed and fall is solidly here – go home and bake bread!

Sourdough Boule

November 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

Pasta Invasion – Butternut Squash Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce

On Friday, M and I headed over to his sister’s house after work to invade her kitchen in the name of pasta.  (By invitation, of course.)  She has a very nice kitchen and a large collection of Kitchen Aid mixer attachments.  The plan was to make Ravioli with Butternut Squash filling and Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce.  None of us had made fresh pasta before and we were pretty excited about trying it out.

Hand made pasta, especially ravioli, has a certain sort of mystique about it.  It sounds like it is going to be very complicated, you know it will be amazingly delicious, and somehow being able to say you made it yourself gives you tons of points with people who never have (and perhaps also with those who have made it, as they know what is involved).

The truth is, hand made pasta is both amazingly simple and complex enough that you can probably spend a lifetime perfecting it.  Take the pasta dough.  There are three very basic ingredients in the recipe we used – flour, salt, eggs.  That’s it.  Some people add a bit of water to the mix, others argue for a bit of oil for ease of working the dough, you can spice it up with a little color and flavor through adding spinach or tomatoes or a number of other ingredients, and at its most basic it might just be flour and water.  Our recipe called for 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon salt, and 3 eggs.  Getting the pasta just right, well, that is where the lifetime of practice comes in.

When I first moved to Portland I lived over in the Hawthorne district and about five minutes walk from Pasta Works, a dangerous, dangerous store with a lovely cheese counter, lots of specialty items, and fresh pasta and sauces made on site.  Now that I know how easy it is to make fresh pasta I think that an extruder pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid is in my future.

We started to get out all the ingredients and equipment and suddenly began running into a few complications.  It turns out that M’s sister has the grinder attachment, but not the pasta plates for it, nor the flat roller set.  No problem, we thought, we will just roll it by hand – on to the mixing!  The recipe we had called for everything to be done in a food processor (The New Best Recipe, again).  The food processor turned out to be non-functioning.  Still not daunted by these set backs we went to our stand mixer and decided we could just wing it all.

A side note on timing:

  1. Having a second or third person to help with everything will make things run much smoother, though I think one person could make it work with a bit of finagling.
  2. Prep the squash first, especially if your squash is larger than 2 pounds.  M had bought a gorgeous one from the Farmer’s Market that weighed in at 6.  Needless to say, it took longer to cook.
  3. Toast up your hazelnuts and chop them once the squash is in the oven.
  4. I would start your pasta dough roughly 15 minutes after you put the squash into the oven.  Your dough rest should hopefully coincide with the mixing portion of the filling and doing the brown butter.
  5. Start your water when your squash has about 10 minutes of cook time left.  You can always turn it to low and cover it, keeping it hot until you want to heat it up the rest of the way.  If you turn it down, remember to check on it when you are about to roll out pasta so it is ready to go when you ravioli is available to cook.
  6. After you have pulled the squash let the oven cool down some before you put your plates in to warm.  Not all dishes do well in the oven, so make sure you are gentle with the level of heat they are going into.

Now on to the fun part – the recipes!

Winging It Fresh Pasta

(this is for a double batch)

4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
6 eggs

Start a stock pot of water at the beginning so that when you need it, it is ready.  You will want to bring it to a gentle boil and add some salt to the water.  You can also prep a low heat oven to warm your plates, as the ravioli will come out in series, not all at once, and they will stay warm better if stored in a warm bowl.

Whisk the dry ingredients together, or just place them into your stand mixer and combine.  Add the eggs.  Mix on the second to lowest setting using your dough hook.  Your total mix time will be roughly fifteen minutes, with an added rest somewhere in the middle for about five minutes, to total a 20 minute time period in the mixer.  The dough will be pretty dry and you will probably want to check on it periodically to make sure it is appropriately mixing.  Ours would occasionally start to turn two chunks next to one another without mixing them and we would have to stop it and stuff them back together.

It is very different from bread dough, so we didn’t get it to window pane, but we did use that method to see that the gluten had been developing and that the dough had some stretch before breaking.  My guess would be that it was half way towards a window pane, if you are someone who does bread and finds the reference helpful.

At this point, you want to remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it tightly with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.  The dough should get roughly a 15 minute rest.  You need it to rest at least 10 minutes and if you go over 30 it will become too dry.  This is a good time to prep your sauce so that it is ready to go when your ravioli are done.

Take half of the pasta dough and re-cover the rest in the bowl.  Roll the dough out, trying to get it as thin as possible.  Use the sturdiest surface you have for this, as it takes a lot of rolling and fair bit of force to do by hand.  Try to get your rolling to be as long and rectangular as possible.  Our first roll out was fairly round and we ended up not being able to use a fair bit of the dough.  If you have a manual or mixer attached pasta roller, by all means, use it.  You will be able to get much thinner pasta and get a greater quantity of pasta out of your dough.

Roll fast!  Once rolled out, the dough should not sit for very long.  I believe that you have something like seven minutes before it starts to dry out too much.  If you are doing ravioli with the pasta, this is where you shift over from a straight pasta preparation.  For straight pasta, slice it up.  If you are going for ravioli, you want to slice a long 4 – 5 inch strip out, as many of them as will fit.  You will be folding over the strip and sealing it once you have your filling placed.  Take your filling (see recipe below) and put a rounded teaspoon about an inch from the side.  Leaving approximately an inch between each scoop, place them down the length of the strip of pasta.  Fold it over and use your finger tips to gently press all the pasta together around the fillings.  Use a knife to cut midway between the fillings.

Pop these ravioli into the pot of water (water should be at a gentle boil, so that it doesn’t pop them open).  If you have second person, have one of you prepping the next set of ravioli and rolling the second piece of dough while the other keeps an eye on the ravioli in the pot.  Your cook time will be fairly short.  It is very dependant on the thickness of your pasta.  If you have a pasta roller, it could be as short as 5 to 7 minutes.  If you are hand rolling and got it very thin, perhaps 7 to 10.  If it is a bit thicker, perhaps as much as 12 to 15 minutes.  Our second rolling of dough was significantly thicker and took 12 – 15 minutes.  We have a lot of ravioli missing tiny bits of their corners.  Just pop one out of the pan, slice off a tiny piece, and see how it is.

Depending on how formal you are being, either serve them in succession and give people a second portion later, or divvy up the ravioli in the warmed plates and wait for the rest to be finished.

Top with the Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce and serve.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce

(recipe taken from epicurious, listed as being originally from Gourmet magazine, January 1997)

For filling
2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
3 ounces aged goat cheese, grated (about 2/3)

For Sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (you can dry toast them in a small skillet over medium low heat for a few minutes prior to chopping)

Preheat oven to 425°F. and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Make filling:
Put squash halves, flesh sides down, a baking sheet and roast in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until flesh is very tender. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and discard skin. Mash squash with a fork until smooth.

While squash is roasting, in a skillet cook onion and sage in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes, or until onion is golden brown. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Cool onion mixture slightly and add to squash. Add goat cheese and stir to combine well.

Make sauce:
In skillet cook butter with hazelnuts over moderate heat until butter begins to brown, about 3 minutes, and immediately remove from heat (nuts will continue to cook). Season hazelnut butter with salt and pepper and keep warm, covered.

October 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

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