Herbed Baked Ricotta

herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co

Every fall, I am overwhelmed with the desire to spruce up our little apartment. I think it's partly because the light shifts and highlights all of the dust bunnies I ignored all summer...I tackle organizational and house projects I have been putting off like re-sanding and oiling our butcher block counter, dusting behind the TV, organizing cupboards, and I try to make some sense out of my little "pantry" shelf in the kitchen.  I like to do those deep-cleaning kind of projects so theoretically the apartment can be guest ready in just a few minutes because I love to entertain in the fall and winter. Cozy cocktail hours, dinner parties, and potluck brunches are all great ways to gather with friends as the weather in NYC turns from cool and pleasant to straight-up cold and unforgiving. This year we are even contemplating hosting a little Friendsgiving, and I'm dreaming of the Ottolenghi inspired menu I am going to cook. 

herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co
herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co
herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co

I like to keep parties as stress-free as possible so I channel Ina Garten and utilize one of my favorite entertaining tips that I learned straight from the Barefoot Contessa herself: Cook one thing in the oven, one thing on the stove, and have easy to assemble things like a cheese course or salad on hand. It's simple advice, but seriously stress-saving, and who doesn't love a cheese course? Also a tip from me: hand your guests a festive drink as they walk in the door to get the party started. A glass of sparkly prosecco is always nice. 

When choosing the perfect cheese course I go for one blue cheese, one hard cheese, one soft creamy cheese, and a wildcard, like super simple herbed baked ricotta. I also try to go for an even mixture of sheep's milk, cow's milk, and goat's milk cheeses if possible. Then I garnish them (and the table) with beautiful, seasonal fruits: fall is the best time for a cheese plate because we get to use gorgeous concord grapes and figs that give me serious heart-eyes. In the winter try sliced apples and pears or even sugared cranberries. It's nice to round things out with a little dish of buttery olives and a cured meat or two, but not totally necessary . To scoop everything up, give your guests the fanciest crackers possible. I am a longtime fan of Raincoast Crisps, which are packed with herbs, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. They come in tasty flavors like Fig and Olive and Salty Date and Almond which pair so wonderfully with all sorts of cheeses. The Rosemary Raisin Pecan ones are particularly good with the herbed baked ricotta below. 


This post was created in partnership with Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps. Lesley Stowe will be attending the New York City Wine & Food Festival this weekend, October 15-18. If you are in NYC go check out her booth and eat lots of Raincoast Crisps, they are so tasty!

 

Herbed Baked Ricotta

makes about 2 cups

2 cups whole milk ricotta (use the good stuff)

3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped herbs, rosemary and thyme are perfect here

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Raincoast Crisps, to serve 

chopped herbs and olive oil, to serve

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Whisk the ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, olive oil, herbs, lemon zest, and salt and pepper together until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, and bake until the ricotta is warmed through and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Garnish the warm ricotta with the remaining parmesan, herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.


herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co
herbed baked ricotta | apt 2b baking co

Curried Cheddar Gougéres

Curried Cheddar Gougéres
Curried Cheddar Gougéres>
Curried Cheddar Gougéres

I've been trying to write this post about curried, cheesy party snacks for two days, but all I can think about is how I just became an aunt! Two times over! I've been thinking about how my brother is a father to two beautiful girls and my parents are now grandparents and my sister-in-law is a superhero for carrying around those little ladies for nine months. I keep thinking that there are two sweet new babies that I get to go to visit in Seattle to smother in kisses and cuddles as often as I can make it. I keep thinking that I should have made a mountainous birthday cake a few nights ago instead of these curried cheese puffs, but here we are, with party snacks instead of birthday cake. Things could definitely be worse. These tasty little gems are made by mixing together simple ingredients in time tested proportions, then spiced up, cheesed up, heated up, and eaten up, preferably with an icy cold beer.

Curried Cheddar Gougéres

yield about 36 gougéres

1c water

8T butter, cut into slices

1c flour

1t curry powder

1/2-1t aleppo pepper

1/8-1/4t cayenne pepper

1/2t salt

1/4t black pepper

4 large eggs

1 1/4c shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425º and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats

1. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the butter and water to a boil then lower the heat a bit.

2. Add the flour, salt and spices and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a smooth mass and smells a bit toasty. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture occasionally until it is cooled slightly, about 3min.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is thoroughly mixed in to the flour mixture. Then add 1c of the cheese and stir well to combine.

4. Using a piping bag with a large round tip or two spoons, portion the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets in to tablespoon sized mounds about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4c cheese and bake the gougéres for 5min then turn the oven down to 375º and continue to bake until they are golden brown, 20-25min. Serve warm.

Notes:

- These are great snacks that can be prepared in advance. Just pipe the goúgeres onto lined baking sheets freeze until firm enough to handle, then place them in a zipper bag and freeze. Cook as directed above, allowing a few more minutes of cook time.

- You can also bake them in advance, freeze them and warm them in a low oven when your guests arrive.