Lemon Ricotta Cookies

One of the things I wax poetic about most is that someday I want to have a house (preferably in a place like this) where I have a huge farm table (preferably one like this) and an open door where friends and family are welcome to come over any time to eat, have a glass of wine and talk or hang out. I love the idea of having a full house and, even more, I love the idea of feeding people really good food.

I’m an overachiever only child type though, so I often let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Why am I waiting for this magical house in the middle of nowhere and a farm table that will likely cost me a lot of money? I have an apartment. And a perfectly nice coffee table.

So a couple of Sundays ago I decided to make that goat cheese cheesecake, send a mass email out and invite people over. For about four solid hours I had people coming in and out of my place, eating cheesecake, drinking wine and having a generally great time. Old friends met new friends, I caught up with everyone and folks seemed to enjoy. (Added bonus: it forced me to clean my place and make sure my laundry was up and out of the way.)

Last weekend was the third or fourth installment of my Sunday Open House and I made a crap ton of cookies. Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Cranberry Cake and these lemon ricotta cookies. All three were a huge hit, but people swoon annually over these Giada cookies. Yeah. I said it. Giada. Judge me if you will, but not only are these cookies easy but they’re tasty!

I didn’t modify anything in the recipe, it’s perfectly fine as is. But if you wanted to get fancy you could substitute the lemon for any citrus fruit – orange, lime or even grapefruit if you really wanted to. Not really grapefruit, I think that sounds pretty awful actually.

Do you guys entertain much? How about you city dwellers…are you entertaining in a studio apartment with total disregard for spatial limitations? Any tips or tricks for me? I’m hoping to keep this up into the new year. It just feels so good to have people I love around…stuffing themselves silly with my food no less!

Recipe for the lemon ricotta cookies after the jump!

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Lemon Yogurt Cake with Ginger Thyme Syrup

For Easter I was invited to my friend Cecelia’s friend Lois’ house. I’ve spent holidays with Lois and her motley crew before, so I knew exactly what I was walking into.

Lois the type of lady (hi, Lois! I know you’re reading this!) that I want to be when I grow up. She knows how to cook a damn good meal, she can entertain a group of 20 and when she finally settles into a chair near you she’s lovely to talk to – smart and graceful and full of wisdom.

I had asked my friend Cecelia if I should bring anything to Easter, knowing that if I did I’d want to impress. It was just a matter of what to make. I wanted something simple (for the sake of my sanity and busy schedule) and worthy of an Easter dinner (meaning, probably not simple). I went straight to my file of bookmarked recipes in my Google Reader looking all the way back to late 2009. March 2010 delivered just the recipe I’d been looking for: a simple lemon yogurt cake, kicked up with a ginger thyme syrup.

Now. Never mind that I burnt the syrup the first time I tried making it and had to soak and boil my poor pot three times before all that hardened sugar came out. That was just me not paying attention in the kitchen (hm…what is that smokey smell coming from behind me?).

The cake itself was easy peasy and despite the nearly hour-long baking time, came together quite quickly. The syrup, the second time around of course, was equally easy but required a lot of standing, stirring and close care and watching.

Let’s talk about that syrup. It does absorb into the cake, like the recipe says, quite nicely. But I don’t know if I’m totally sold on it for my second go at this recipe. I am huge fan of a nice lemon glaze which I think would go quite nicely drizzled over this cake. Being that it already is a moist cake with a strong crumb (meaning, it makes a large crumb that doesn’t fall apart in your fingers), I don’t think you really need a syrup to make it more moist. On the other hand I don’t think a cake can ever been too lemon-y. So next time I may go for a lemon or ginger glaze. And some chopped thyme leaves sprinkled haphazardly all over the cake.

No matter what you do with this cake, it’s perfect for dinner parties, BBQs or midnight munching with a girlfriend.


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Adventures in Pappardelle (and White Wine Reductions)

Two things: I am mildly obsessed with pappardelle pasta right now, AND I really, really love white wine reduction sauces.

I was in New York City on business and met with a consultant I work with, who’s also a really fabulous person and a friend. Well. A New Yorker through and through, he took me to an Italian restaurant that made the most delicate and light pappardelle I’ve ever had in my life.

Pasta is almost always heavy, and thick and…substantial in your mouth. But this! This was a delight with every bite. And there were sautéed mushrooms. To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a sauce. In fact, when  I think about that meal all I can see in my head are the thinnest pappardelle ribbons curling around themselves on the plate.

Fast forward. I was in New York again, a couple of weeks later (I know, it’s a hard life I live) but this time for fun. I was out to dinner with my best friends in the whole world, this time at another Italian restaurant. Highly recommended, it was a delicious meal but they served the sort of pasta I mentioned earlier – heavy. I ordered a dish of thick pasta tubes mixed with asparagus and artichoke hearts doused in a knock-your-socks-off lemon white wine reduction sauce.

So combine these two trips and I was off on a hunt. Searching for pappardelle (which is unusually hard to find) and a recipe for a white wine reduction.

I’ll save you the trouble – go to Trader Joe’s. They have dry pappardelle in regular and lemon pepper (which was really nice, not an overpowering flavor at all) in substantial portions. I’d say a bag could serve four, or two really hungry people.

I experimented with both flavors – making the regular pasta with an assortment of mushrooms I got from the market. I sautéed them in equal parts butter and olive oil until they were browned then mixed them in with the pasta and the white wine reduction. For the lemon pepper pasta I sautéed fresh asparagus, leeks and artichoke hearts, and added them to the pasta and the white wine reduction. Very simple preparation, taking almost no time at all with big, flavorful and satisfying results. Need a quick week night dinner? I’d highly recommend either of these dishes.

I’m not going to give a recipe for these because you can do this! And, there’s no wrong amount of mushrooms or vegetables to put in these dishes. But! You can find the recipe for the white wine reduction after the jump.

Enjoy :)

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Ricotta Gnocchi with Lemon Brown Butter

I get these cravings.

They’re not quite pregnant lady cravings (dear lord, no!) but they are intense, can’t-get-a-dish-out-of-my-mind, give-that-to-me-right-NOW! cravings. Usually that’s when I seek out a restaurant that makes the best possible version of whatever dish I’m craving. (Side note, but related, Proof makes a really lovely chocolate hazelnut cake…another recent craving.)

So when I recently got a hankering for ricotta gnocchi? No luck, Chuck. I was fresh out of ideas for where to get that in the District.

After waiting a couple weeks to see if my craving would abate I happened to be watching The Cooking Channel (which is like, whoa, the best channel ever) when lo and behold! Chef Michael Symon, on his show Cook Like An Iron Chef, was making…RICOTTA GNOCCHI!! And oh, look at that!! I had just bought Keswick Creamery, fresh ricotta (which you can find at the Dupont Farmers Market)!! How convenient.

So there I was, on a Sunday afternoon, in something like 90 degree weather, making ricotta gnocchi. You know why all those people on Top Chef make gnocchi? Cause it’s totally easy to make and pretty fail-proof. And I’ll tell ya! If I can do it, you can do it. I promise. And there’s something kind of rhythmic and soothing about making the little fluffs – an unexpected, but added bonus when a person has something thinking to do.

I do warn – it’s a heavy dish. Maybe tuck this recipe away for another month ’till it cools down a little bit? Other than that, rock this recipe in your kitchen pleeease! You will love each. Fluffy. Pillow. Covered. In. Brown. Butter. NOM!

Enjoy! :)

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Goat Cheese Cheesecake

NOTE TO READERS: You’ll want to use this crust recipe for the cheesecake! Sorry for any confusion!

Well…without further ado…the goat cheese cheesecake! Isn’t it beautiful? It’s so light and fluffy…lemony with that goat cheese-y aftertaste. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because we candied some lemon peels, used the perfect cheesecake crust…and added a dash of love.

If you’re just catching up on the story, last week I got it in my head that goat cheese needed to be a part of my life. And it needed to be in a dessert.

As I sifted through recipes and links saved, I came across Not Derby Pie‘s goat cheese cheesecake with caramel sauce. Her recipe sounded like it would hit the spot…but as my desire for goat cheese turned a wee bit obsessive. I decided the cheesecake had to be ALL goat cheese…no cream cheese at all. After about an hour of research (which I totally did NOT do while I was at work) and many recipes read later, I settled on an old Food and Wine recipe with some minor changes.

I like this cheesecake because it doesn’t have that heavy quality that most cream cheese cheesecakes have. It doesn’t coat your mouth in an uncomfortable, “I need a glass of water after I eat this.” sorta way. Like I said, it’s light, it’s airy…you can even see the air bubble craters on the top!

As the idea came together, I decided that I HAD to have a garnish for the cheesecake. Story time: I have a photograph in my bedroom that I took in Barcelona, Spain at the Park Guell designed by Antoni Gaudi, famous for his mosaics. The picture I took happened to be a large circle on the ceiling of a massive covered area of the park. Ta da!! That’s the inspiration for the lemon peels! See the squiggles?! Okay, maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is interesting…

Back to the recipe. This is one of those painfully simple recipes to execute. Don’t worry. You won’t mess it up. I will, however, warn you that a penchant for goat cheese is going to put a dent in your wallet. 11oz of goat cheese cost me about $15. So…wait until pay-day or make sure you really want it.


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Candied Lemon Peels

How does one garnish a goat cheese cheesecake? Why…candied lemon peels! Thanks for asking!

To be perfectly honest, I’ve wanted to candy something citrusy for a while now. It wasn’t until last weekend while researching recipes that I realized how easy the process was. Done. Aaaaand done.

The process amounts to boiling the crap out of the lemon peels in water, seeping it sugar-water for a while, only to end the process in a bowl of sugar flipping the lemon peel around wildly.

I used a standard vegetable peeler and a citrus zester (like this one) to achieve the long peels and curly cues. Be careful to not peel the white pith of the lemon in the process…you don’t want that part…it’s bitter and blech.

I was nearly sure that this boiling and simmering and flipping process was going to decimate the curly cues, but boy was I wrong! On the contrary, the curly cues were the best of the candied peels! The long wide peels lost their shape and curled in on themselves in the most unattractive way. (We’ll call those slices “rustic” in an attempt to mask what they really were: ugly.)

I hope you have as much fun as I had with this process! No citrus fruit is safe now…no key lime pie will go ungarnished…


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Crinkly Lemon Cookies

When life gives you lemons…you make lemon cookies.

I saw a few iterations of this recipe and then read a great tip about how to make crinkle cookies more crinkly with the confectioners sugar…and that’s when I decided that these cookies were mine to make.

The good news about these cookies is that they are super easy to throw together, quick to bake and have great taste. I say they’re a crowd pleaser, the empty storage box on my desk when I bring them to work says they’re a crowd pleaser.


PS – Like I said…I’ll post some pics of these after the Bake Sale!

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Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

And what do you do with left over lemon curd?! Well clearly…you make lemon cream cheese frosting!

Easy. As. Pie. I whipped up a batch of cupcakes (from a box…what! whaaat!) and put on this homemade lemony frosting! It’s a special touch you can add to any of your cake-ish baked goods, I think. And if you make the mascarpone pancakes with lemon curd and blueberries you’re gonna have left overs so you might as well do something good with it!


PS – OOOOH what if you dipped fruit in the frosting!! :O Heaven!

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Mascarpone Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Blueberries

Good lord is this post late on the comin’! I made these delicious pancakes and lemon curd WEEKS ago…thenleft forAustin, TX without writing down the lemon curd recipe! Bagh! How annoying!

Anyhoot ‘n hollar. Here we go. I very much wanted to recreate these farmer’s cheese pancakes I had in St. Louis…and I got close! I have a tendency to over cook pancakes…why, I do not know! And the lemon curd wasn’t as thin as the stuff on my St. Louis pancakes…HOWEVER…it was quite yummy and I was very proud of myself.

Have you ever made something that has  you texting/phoning/tweeting everyone you know about it? Yeah…the lemon curd was that thing for me.

Aren’t they beauties?! So fresh and yellow and…lemony! You’d be surprised at how easy the lemon curd is to make. Only word of caution on this recipe: watch the pot! Don’t. Walk. Away. From. The pot! Keep stirring and pay close attention to the consistency. There’s really not such a thing as too thin, I learned. But there IS such a thing as, “Oh look! The eggs just curdled!” Yeah. So watch that.


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Roasted Chicken and Cream Biscuits

Once I got through my chicken…uh…issues…I got on with the roasting and biscuit-ing. This was my first time roasting a chicken (I know, who am I!?) and it was SO much easier than I ever thought. I gave myself a little kick in the butt after reading The Kitchn’s Home Hacks: How To Roast A Chicken post. Of course, no meal is complete without carbs so I also decided to try The Kitchn’s Home Hacks: Cream Biscuits to go with my bird.

I don’t have any edits to these delicious recipes…I do have plenty of ideas though!

When it comes to the chicken, you’re basically roasting veggies along with the bird so throw in whatever you like.  Shred the left over meat and make pot pies, enchiladas, soup or empanadas! Add in some bell peppers, pearl onions, maybe even some asparagus?

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