whole milk ricotta & fig balsamic reduction

a few weeks ago i made 4 gallons of 'fresh breeze' whole milk into a giant batch of homemade ricotta cheese for a very large tasting event. thank goodness for ginormous all-clad pot for my parents gifted to me years ago, because i needed every single ounce of ricotta from that single batch. it was a project that took over my whole kitchen for the good part of an afternoon, but i assure you that ricotta is a much simpler endeavor when you are making small batches and takes hardly any more effort then it does to make a pot of tea so long as you have the right tools. it's one of those things that afterwards, when you are spooning fresh warm ricotta straight from the cheesecloth you ask yourself "why don't i make this more often?" because it's not just a lasagna filling. you don't even have to make it into anything really! you can just pile some on top of fresh fruit and call it breakfast... or dessert... or a sweet mid-day snack... 

whole milk ricotta & fruit ~ serves 2 
6 fresh figs
1 ripe nectarine or peach 
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon fig balsamic reduction (see recipe below) 
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (see recipe below) 
mint leaves (optional) 

remove stems and slice figs into quarters. divide onto two plates. slice nectarine or beach into small bites and divide evenly onto the plates. top with 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta on each, and drizzle with equal amounts honey & balsamic reduction. top with torn mint leaves. 

for fig balsamic reduction
2 cup inexpensive aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons store bought fig preserves/jam

in a small sauce pan bring balsamic to a simmer, lower heat so that balsamic is hardly bubbling but steaming. simmer until volume reduces to a quarter. once reduced, add fig preserves (or 1 tablespoon honey) and stir to dissolve. remove from heat and let chill in a jar or squeeze bottle.

whole milk ricotta ~ makes about 20 oz 

1 gallon organic whole milk 
1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 

you will also need butter muslin or very fine-mesh cheese cloth. a nut milk bag would work as well! 

in large pot stir together milk with the citric acid & water solution. heat milk on stove top over medium heat to 185 degrees, keep covered to warm quicker, but stir often to prevent milk from scorching. keep the milk mixture simmering at 185-195 degrees until you start to see curds separate from the whey. the whey will become less milky and more clear - it will become distinctly curdy! at this point, remove pot from heat and let sit, undisturbed, for 10-15 minutes. 

line a colander with cheese cloth and carefully ladle the curds from the pot directly into the cheesecloth to strain. tie the ends of the cloth around the cheese and hang to drain for 20-30 minutes, or let rest suspended in a bowl in your strainer (as pictured above). mix with salt and serve immediately at room temperature or store in airtight container for 1-2 weeks. 

roasted red pepper romesco

the end of summer is gradually becoming a reality. on wednesday, david had his first day back at school teaching high school math. i regret not taking a 'first day of school' photo of him in his bike commute getup. next year! that same day, i stupidly went grocery shopping for a client during another local highschool's lunch break and was swarmed by teens on their first day of school venturing off campus to the nearby whole foods. note to self, this was terrible timing. 

the last few weeks have been quite a rush! catering celebrations of all sizes, including a beautiful garden wedding for two amazing gentlemen. contributing to their special day, observing some very sweet moments, being told it was the best wedding food a guest had ever tasted, feeling sincere gratitude from the grooms, and pulling off a farm to table dinner for 85 people... that day was the most rewarding experience for me as a chef yet! thank you nick & joe! 

today i am excited to be teaching a cooking lesson on fun little appetizers to a group of women that competed and kicked ass in macksmo's latest 6-week fitness challenge. their prize: a lesson and meal with chef aubrey. among the many recipes we will be tackling tonight is this roasted red pepper romesco sauce and peppery baked pita chips. perfect party food. 

roasted red pepper romesco dip
4 red bell peppers, quartered and seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup walnuts
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt

on a baking sheet or roasting pan, lay out peppers cut side down. use hands to evenly coat peppers with oil. broil on high for 10-15 minutes, until completely charred. place charred peppers in a chilled metal bowl and seal with plastic wrap. let the peppers steam and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. once chilled, use your fingers to gently peel off and discard the charred skin. add the finished roasted peppers into a food processor with remaining ingredients, and pulse to combine. romesco can be served chunky as a dip or smooth as a sauce. it is best tasting at room temperature. serve with homemade pita chips, a vegetable platter, or as a sauce for a pizza! so many beautiful uses! 

note: you can also add half a can of chunky tomatoes to make this into a slightly thinner sauce perfect for topping pasta! 

click here for my baked pita chip recipe! 

chilled carrot & harissa soup

i am a year older (and wiser?) i celebrated my 26th birthday last weekend with an epic day that included a 6-hour yoga workshop, a few hours of stand up paddle boarding around lake union with friends, brewery hopping around fremont and ballard, my favorite sherried mushroom toasts from ocho and spoonfuls of hot cakes. it was perfection. perfect warm weather. wonderful friends. delicious cider made with champagne yeast (!). such a wonderful way to start my 26th year of life. 

most enjoyably, i allowed myself to take the full day 'off' on my birthday... which i'm discovering is a tricky thing to do when you are self employed. there is always emails you can respond to, menus to plan, shopping lists to organize, food photos to snap and blog posts to write... and when you do take a day 'off,' the next day is just a game of catching up - or so it seems. in this case, the whole week felt like i was playing catch up. this afternoon i've finally caught up with myself and finally found time to write a new blog post here and over at 'good food life' blog! 

i can't complain. i am somewhat dumbfounded that my business has grown so rapidly. i've been presented with amazing clients and a wide range of opportunities to grow my skill set! i am thriving in my new career and best of all, helping others thrive on delicious plant-based meals! 

chilled carrot & harissa soup ~ serves 4
1 pound carrots
1 red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon harissa paste (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
fresh cracked pepper to taste
4 cups water
1/2 cup raw almonds
4 medjool dates, pitted

optional toppings:
1 small bunch parsley
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
pinch aleppo chili flakes

soak almonds and dates in water for 8 hours or overnight. drain off water and replace with 4 cups fresh water. in high speed blender, process until smooth. 

in a large sauce pan bring a couple inches of water to a boil. cut carrots into small 1/2-inch cubes and toss into boiling water. cook over medium heat until fork tender - at least 10 minutes. in the mean time, peel and roughly chop red onion. in a separate pot or pan, heat a olive oil over medium heat and saute slowly to caramelize but not too browned. 

finally, strain cooked carrots and add carrots & onions to blender with almonds milk. add all other remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. chill for at least 3 hours.

peanut butter pretzel banana ice cream

i don't know who fist started making banana vegan ice cream, but whoever it was - thank you for your brilliance. i hadn't tried making it until recently and have been experimenting with flavors and additions. i honestly love just the blended frozen bananas, with a splash of almond milk and vanilla bean. maybe topped with some chocolate covered sunflower seeds (who else is addicted to those? anyone?) i've tried adding a scoop of peanut butter. awesome. but even better was the addition of crushed peanut butter filled pretzels. oh my! this is my new favorite treat for a hot summer day... 

peanut butter pretzel banana ice cream ~ serves 2
3 spotted ripe medium bananas 
1/4 cup or more vanilla almond milk (homemade if you like!) 
20 peanut butter filled pretzels, quartered or crushed 
(or 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 2 servings regular pretzels - or gluten free pretzels - crushed inside a ziplock bag) 

peel bananas and slice into small bites. spread banana bites out on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop into your freezer for 2+ hours or overnight. 

remove from freezer and toss frozen bananas into a high speed blender. add 1/4 cup almond milk to start. start on low speed, pushing down bananas often with spatula or blender tamper tool. once combined, blend at medium to high speed until smooth. add additional milk only if necessary, as it will turn into more of a smoothie if you add too much milk. (if using regular peanut butter, add 2 tablespoons and blend in just add the end). 

scrape the blended frozen bananas into a bowl and add chopped peanut butter filled pretzels (or just crushed pretzels if using regular peanut butter). toss to the mixture into the freezer for about 30 minutes to set. scoop and serve with a few additional crushed pretzels on top or a sprinkle of sea salt. note: do not freeze too much longer than 30 minutes, as it will harden into a blob shaped popsicle. the recipe can be halved, if you want to make just a single serving.

"everything" potatoes & a string bean sauté

i had this brilliant idea the other night to smoother roasted potatoes in "everything" bagel toppings: poppy, sesame and caraway seeds along with roasted onions and garlics. it was a concept fully worth testing out. only one problem: it required turning on the oven. while slowly lugging ourselves up the hill to our home from the overly-hot bouldering gym, we debated whether or not it would be worth turning the oven on to execute our dinner plan. our west-facing apartment gets rather warm in the afternoons. adding oven heat is about the last thing i wanted to do. but there was little else we could fix for dinner in our fridge. so we did. we chopped up vegetables and sipped on cucumber dry sodas (my new addiction) and roasted heaping piles of "everything" potatoes. 

it was worth turning the oven on. they were delicious. but equally so, were the sautéed green beans we had picked up from the farmers market. smothered in feta cheese and drizzled with lemon juice. they were so simple, but so phenomenal that the recipe must be shared! 

lemon, feta & string bean sauté ~ serves 2
two large handfuls fresh green string beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup firm cow milk feta
salt, pepper & aleppo chili flakes to taste

in a large sauté pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. add beans (i left the little stem on, but you could remove them if you prefer). cook for a few minutes, uncovered, stirring often. add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and quickly cover with a lid to steam for a minute or two. toss and return lid to cover and continue to steam over low heat until they reach your desired texture - slightly crisp, yet for tender. remove cover, and crumble feta over the beans and season to taste. serve warm straight from the pan so that the feta has a chance to warm a bit. optionally, serve with a few wedges of lemon or a sprinkling of lemon zest! 

"everything" potatoes ~ serves 4
1.5 pounds fingerling potatoes
1 red onion
1 full head of garlic
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
2 tablespoon caraways seeds
2 teaspoons medium or coarse sea salt
1/8 cup olive oil
fresh cracked pepper to taste

preheat oven to 400 degrees. in a small bowl combine seeds and salt. cut potatoes in half, lengthwise. peel the full head of garlic, and cut large cloves into halves or quarters. cut onion into large chunks, maybe into twelfths. line a large baking tray with parchment paper and pile all the root vegetables together. coat evenly with olive oil, tossing with your hands. then add at least half of the seed & salt mixture, and toss to coat. make the potatoes as seedy as you like, adding more if you want. or reserve a some seeds for plating. crack fresh pepper over the potatoes and pop the baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes to start. stir just once, and return to oven to continue cooking until desired crispiness (at least another 10+ minutes). serve warm with a sprinkling of fresh seeds.

*note: this seed mixture is also amazing over roasted chicken breasts coated with just a drizzle of oil. thinly sliced, "everything" chicken is a great topper to salads!