Summer Cheese Board

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I know, I know, it’s September, but it is technically still summer. I’ve been wanting to do a summer cheese board for some time and also show the grapes we grew! We were so excited to see them grow this year since we only planted them two years ago. It’s a pretty productive vine and I have no idea what to do with so many green grapes other than cheese boards and snacks. They were a challenge to photograph, mostly hiding behind the leaves, and being on the northern fence, it was almost always bad lighting. When light did reach the grapes, it was like a giant spotlight, and when it didn’t, it was all so dark. And green. But hey, here they are. After 6+ years creating on this blog, this is the first blog post without a recipe! I’ll post a list of what I have here for fruit and cheese because the Humbolt Fog with peach on a slice of baguette is amazing! I had fun arranging the cheese board with the end of summer fruits. I know strawberries don’t produce much into the summer in some areas, but in my backyard they just keep going and going, it’s one of those every-bearing varieties. The plums and peaches are truly reaching the end of the season here, when I was buying them the clerk said get them while you can because this is it. So this is it. End of summer folks, Autumn begins September 23rd. Soups are on the horizon!

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Summer Cheese Board

Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tarts

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Zucchini and Herb Ricotta Tarts. I’m looking for all ways to eat zucchini lately. This is the first time we’ve grown zucchini and wow! it grows quickly, seems every 3 days or so there are a couple more to pick. It’s easy enough just to grill but I want to try some new ways to prepare it. I pickled some last week and they came out great. I’d like to get that recipe in a post soon, but you might start calling me The Zucchini Lady, ha ha. This tart dough is different than other doughs I’ve made, you make it with melted butter which is the opposite of 99% pie doughs out there as they use cold butter, but I thought I’d give it a try because with this dough you don’t have to roll it out, you simply press it in the pan. It was much easier and faster to make. You just mix it in a bowl by hand in one minute. Done. I was surprised by how much I liked it! Really nice texture, almost like a cookie type texture. I would make this again no doubt, but for savory tarts I would cut back on the sugar and add more salt, other than that it’s a winner. This Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tart is super delicious, we had it with a side of Radicchio salad, it’s good for a lunch or light dinner. Oh and pan size, you can make one 9” tart or make a few smaller ones, I used a 6” tart pan and two 4” tart pans, the math doesn’t quite work out on that but it worked for me! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Enjoy :)

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Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tarts

  • 1/2-1 whole zucchini sliced 1/8” thick

  • 1 cup ricotta

  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano 

  • Olive oil

  • Salt & Pepper

  • Tart dough (recipe below)

In a bowl combine the cheeses and fresh herbs with some salt and pepper. Spread a layer of the cheese mixture into the prepared tart pans, then arrange the zucchini slices on top. Drizzle with some olive oil to cover all the vegetable. Lightly salt. Bake at 400°F for 25-35 minutes until just browned.

Tart Dough

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter

  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or 1 1/2 tablespoons for less sweet)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar and salt, then add flour and mix with wood spoon until just combined. 

Distribute the dough on the bottom of your tart pan(s) and press the dough evenly over bottom and sides. You can use a floured cup to press it if necessary (i just used my fingers). Cover the tart shell with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once chilled, with a fork prick the shell all over and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool. Then add filling and bake as directed.

Tart dough adapted from Chowhound

Endive Salad with Blue Cheese + Dijon Vinaigrette

Endive Salad with Blue Cheese + Dijon Vinaigrette

This recipe is so easy it seems hardly worth a blog post, but deserves it still. It goes way back for me. When I was in college in New York City (a million years ago!) I waited tables at a french restaurant called Les Tournebroches.

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Mushroom Lasagna

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This Mushroom Lasagna is absolutely delicious. It’s the second time I’ve made it and even changing the types of mushrooms and cheese did not disappoint. I saw the recipe about two years ago on Adventures in Cooking and finally gave it a try. Mushroom, cheese and pasta generally are a good combination, still sometimes things sound good but are just meh. Not this time. It was wow! it’s so good! And it makes quite a bit too, even with four people we had leftover. It’s even better the second day.

I shopped at Trader Joe’s knowing they would have better prices on the cheese, but I would sacrifice mushroom selection. The last time I made this Mushroom Lasagna I had shopped at Whole Foods, and the selection for Ricotta cheese was slim, I had the choice to fork over $7 for one container (and you need two for this recipe), or get the low fat version at around $4+. They were all out of the 365 brand, and this seems to be an ongoing problem with Whole Foods lately, the shelves are bare! They started a new inventory system called order-to-shelf (OTS), which was designed and implemented a year ago (long before Amazon purchased them, so don’t blame Amazon as tempting as it is), the new system is good in that it’s cost-cutting, and will help prevent food spoilage from excess inventory going bad in the storage room, but damn, if you look at some of those photos, I haven’t seen it that bad here in Portland but I have experienced times where some fairly basic items normally in stock are just not there. Mostly in produce, like where’s the parsley? Hopefully now that it’s had some press Amazon will do something about this. 

The recipe is very forgiving in that you can add whatever mushrooms or cheese you have. The original recipe used a sharp cheddar, which I did the first time, but then I opted for Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio on the second time. Both were delicious so you can mix up whatever kind of shredded cheese you want.

When this came out of the oven yesterday it smelled so amazing, but then I thought, no way was this going on the blog, it just looked like a big heap of stuff in my old ugly-ass pyrex dish, but a day later and a few food styling tweaks, it looked presentable. There are certain foods, dishes, that really don’t lend themselves to sexy food. For example, raw mushroom, sexy! Cooked mushroom, er, um, cover me up please. I took some photos of the sliced mushrooms cooking on the stove and it looked so unappetizing I didn’t include it here. Smelled great though.

By the way, January marks my five year anniversary with Pixels + Crumbs blog. And guess what, my very first post was a mushroom post! Mushroom Soup. I remember how I labored over it, the whole thing seemed to take forever and I wondered if I’d gotten myself into something a bit crazy. It’s like hours of cooking, hours of food styling, photos and editing and writing. Well the writing gets a bit short because I’m completely burnt out at that point, ha ha. But I’ve kept this blog alive after five years. I don’t post as much as I used to, now it’s more of a monthly post, but I can’t seem to let it go. 

See you next month and thanks for stopping by.

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Mushroom Lasagna

Mushroom Layer

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ounces chantarelles, chopped (all mushrooms will work, I used only white button mushrooms and Crimini and it tasted great)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Cheese Layers

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 30 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves chopped (or dried, but tastes better with fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound (12 oz bag)  white cheddar, grated (or mixed cheeses)

Lasagna Layers

  • 9 sheets dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil on bottom of pan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch black pepper

For the mushroom layer, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sautee onion and garlic in the butter until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and olive oil and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Cook until most of the liquid is gone for an additional 5 minutes or so. Remove the mushrooms and onion, place in a small bowl and set aside to cool.

For the cheese layer, add 1/4 cup butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Add the flour, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until a roux forms. Place the roux in a large bowl and add the ricotta cheese, milk, thyme, sage, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Set aside.

Toss the quartered crimini mushrooms with the olive oil and salt in a medium bowl and set them aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place some of the lasagna noodles in the water and allow to cook until slightly bendable, about 3-4 minutes, working in batches as necessary. Remove with tongs and place three of the noodles on the bottom of a roughly 9 x 13-inch rectangular casserole dish, keeping them in a flat even layer.

Spread 1/4 of the sautéed mushroom mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheddar cheese. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the cheddar, then place 3 to 4 noodles in an even layer on top of the ricotta. Repeat until you have used all of the sautéed mushrooms, cheddar, and ricotta, but do not place noodles over the top and final layer of ricotta. Instead, evenly distribute the quartered mushrooms over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper. Place the pan on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the oven. Cook until the cheese is bubbly around the edges and the mushrooms on top have turned a deep brown and wrinkled, about 45-50 minutes. 

Adapted from Adventures in Cooking

 

Kale Slaw with Soaked Raisins + Nuts

Kale Slaw with Soaked Raisins + Nuts

Kale from the garden. This is a first for us and it is so good! We’re growing the Lacinato variety of kale, it looks just as you would expect but different than store bought in that it’s extremely tender.

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino + Walnuts

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino + Walnuts

Brussels sprouts again? I promise you will like these! I haven’t had them this way until a recent multi-state trip visiting family and friends. The “Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad” popped up in two different tapas restaurants in 2 very different places - small town, big city.

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