Sunday, February 24, 2013

Asparagus Parmesan Sformato and a Bonus

I have been yearning. And I don't know for what. I wake up with a longing. It's not a bad of state of being. But it does turn you into a slightly boring person - this longing. Because you spend a lot of time turned inward. And you lose track of conversations. And it's obvious. You're caught not listening. I want the "yearning" to come out and assert itself and so I have been doing things I have been meaning to do forever - hoping these activities would coax out the little-stubborn-yearning.

I planned on making these little asparagus puddings when they were actually in season - last April. Some things take me a long time to do. Even pleasant things. I am an equal-opportunity procrastinator. I later planned on doing these over the holidays. And then I was sure these would come to the table in January. And now I am kicking myself that I hadn't made them earlier and monthly.

I have a fondness for the sformato - the transformation of cheeses and vegetables into velvet. Something dense but in a believable disguise as a light offering. (Even though the 6 eggs belie that notion.) I do try to eat seasonally and locally - but in Minnesota - you could come down with scurvy if you didn't move outside your northland circle.

Perhaps it is because I have looked at this long enough.

We are at the point in winter where the driveway has lost a lot of weight and become quite narrow. Where the December sighs of "Such a pretty snowfall - it looks like a Christmas Card!" have turned into "Oh Goody (or expletive), "It's snowing." (using the sarcastic font).

I have spent my eves with Stephen King going back in time. And while the book helped me get through a fifth arctic blast - it just intensified the yearning.

Perhaps I was tired of the recipe on the fridge nagging me every time I opened the fridge door. Perhaps it was the lure of $2.99/pound asparagus that did not look exhausted. I finally made them. And I will make them again - with broccoli, with spinach, with Swiss chard and with locally grown, seasonal asparagus. In April. Or May. And you should also.

Ingredients - 8 Servings
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs from crustless Italian bread
2 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8 3/4-1 cup ramekins. Coat the bottom with breadcrumbs.
2. Cut off asparagus tips. Cook for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Put tips aside.
3. Coarsely chop asparagus stalks. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Saute onion about 6 minutes. Add stalks and saute 5 minutes. Add reserved asparagus cooking liquid. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring often - about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer to food processor and puree.
5. Add Parmesan, ricotta and flour and process until just blended. Salt and pepper a bit.
6. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add the asparagus puree and whisk to blend. Stir in all but 8 of the asparagus tips.
7. Pour into ramekins - filling the ramekins about 3/4 of the way.
(Can be made ahead. Cover and chill.)
8. Put ramekins in water bath. (Put in roaster and large baking tray. Pour boiling water around ramekins - filling the pan about 1 inch with water.)
9. Bake "puddings" until set - about 35 minutes. Let stand ten minutes. Invert onto plates and garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Look at it. Long for it.

It bends to the will of the seasons. It's flecked. It's cheese - baked and just a little browned. It's asparagus - coaxed  into a soft winter coat. Not intense - just soothing. Sort of cloudy. Sort of earthy. Sort of reassuring.

And it's good. Really good.

So is this.

Marinated Goat Cheese with Warmed Olives

The thing is - you probably have all in your kitchen: olive oil, a fresh herb, olives, goat cheese, a lemon.

And that's it. Use a goat cheese medallions or a log or two. Heat a bit of olive oil (about 1/4 of a cup) with the zest of a lemon and some fresh herbs (I used thyme - but use what suits your fancy). Add some olives - your choice - and some freshly-ground pepper. When nice and warm (not boiling), pour all over the goat cheese and serve.

I made this ahead of time on Valentine's Day and this lovely man that I am married to - who sent me flowers - who had an actual card waiting for me on Valentine's Day morning - didn't get any. Yeah. Well... I had my fill.

So I will need to make it again. But not ahead of time.

Meanwhile, my daughter has accused me of whoring out the cats to get comments on the blog.

Heavens-to-Betsy - why would I do that?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gorgonzola Torte

Pungent, creamy, rindy, milky, sweet, smooth, hard, coarse, crumbly, soft. If chocolate and billowy clouds of confections are food of the goods, cheese is food of the earth.

I found this on Pinterest and followed the recipe to the grand Boulder Lovcavore blog which I have followed for years. I cut the recipe down because I needed to feed 5 and I thought it would never all get eaten. But I encourage you to look at the original recipe complete with the beautiful photos. Find it here. If you are feeding a crowd, I encourage you to go with the full recipe. Plus your slices will be much thicker and more welcoming.

It's sweet, earthy, creamy, spreadable and fulfills all tastebud requirements. It can be dressed down for sports and dressed up - for what? What do I say without sounding pretentious? Let's just say - it's a torte for all seasons.

Smear it on a pear, bread or crackers. I am thinking roasted figs (now sadly out of season) would make it sing.  And the next time - I'll leave off the extra sour cream. I don't need to calm the gorgonzola down. I like it assertive. I'm pleased. I have my mother's mouse gene. Blue cheeses do not scare me.

As noted, the original recipe has pecans which I lefty out because of allergies. But feel free to add them - the crunch and nutsy earth would be grand.

1-8 ounce package cream cheese
6 ounces Gorgonzola (Gorgonzola Dolce is very nice here... just saying)
1-1/4 cups sour cream (can use less if you decide not to add on the extra sour cream at end)
1/8 white pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 cup scallions or chives

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prep a 9-inch springform pan by buttering ( it or spraying it liberally).

Beat cream cheese and blue cheese until creamy. Add egg and beat. Add egg whites and beat. Mix in sour cream and lightly beat. Stir in white pepper and scallions/chives.

Pour into springform pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until knife inserted into middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes.

*Optional: I did this but didn't need to: add 3/4 cup of sour cream to top of torte. Bake for additional 5-10 minutes and cool and refrigerate for 3 hours - or preferably over night. Remove springform and slice and serve.

Writing all winter - for we do have winter. I blog and visit only 1 day per week. 2013 is different than 2012 but I endeavor to find all of you. There is writer's block as you can see.

And then they sleep on the computer and I melt.

Just as I wish the snow would melt.