shrimp ricotta ravioli

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The day I made these was a Saturday with weather too unpleasant to spend time outside, so it was the perfect time to blast chick music and hang out in the kitchen. My dinner plans were fairly ambitious – crab cakes, roasted asparagus, goat cheese scallion muffins, and for dessert, pizzelles with ricotta filling. While I was already in the kitchen, I went ahead and prepared some things for later in the week, like bagel pre-doughs, burger patties, and hard-boiled eggs. And I thought, if I have extra energy and time, I’ll make shrimp ravioli.

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The problem is that the shrimp ravioli would be our first course of the night, so I’d have to make it before dinner – before I stood the chance of running out of energy and time. And making ricotta, pasta, seafood broth, shrimp filling, seafood cream sauce, and ravioli is exactly the sort of ambitious project with the potential for wearing me out.

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In the end, I did manage to get everything made, and what’s even more impressive is that I managed to have fun the entire time. But, all told, I spent about six hours in the kitchen that day. It was glorious. And exhausting.

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Everything I made turned out really well, but if I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be these ravioli. Even more than the muffins and the crab cakes and the pizzelle, although that’s a tough choice. (Asparagus is not my favorite vegetable; it never stood a chance.) The crab cakes and muffins are probably a better value for your time, but who cares about time when you’re stuck inside on a Saturday?

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One year ago: Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill
Two years ago: Cheddar Shortbread
Three years ago: Tiramisu Cake
Four years ago: Peanut Butter Torte

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Shrimp Ravioli in Shellfish Cream Sauce

6-8 first-course servings

I really liked the seafood sauce I made, but I only used a bare amount of it, because I didn’t want to overpower the filling.

1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
8 ounces shrimp, shells on
8 ounces ricot
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons minced parsley
½ cup heavy cream
1 recipe of fresh pasta, rolled to the second-to-last setting

1. For the seafood broth: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter just until the foaming subsides. Add the carrot and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots start to brown around the edges. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the white wine, clam juice, and the shrimp with their shells. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Remove the shrimp when they curl and turn pink, after about 3 minutes. Peel the shrimp and return the shells to the broth. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

2. For the filling: Transfer the cooked shrimp to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until minced. Combine the shrimp with the ricotta, egg, parmesan, and parsley.

3. For the ravioli: Place one rounded teaspoon of filling every 3 inches along the length of a pasta sheet. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, wet the pasta along the edges and in between the rounds of filling. If the pasta sheet is at least 4 inches wide, fold it lengthwise over the filling. If the pasta sheet is too thin to fold lengthwise, lay a second pasta sheet over the filling. Press around each ball of filling to seal the two layers of pasta together. Use a pizza roller to cut between the filling to form squares of ravioli. Transfer the formed ravioli to a dry dish towel until ready to cook (there’s no need to cover it). Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt and lower the heat until the water is at a lively simmer. Cook the ravioli in small batches until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes, using a skimmer or large slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the boiling water.

5. For the sauce: Combine the heavy cream and strained seafood broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, 6-10 minutes. Gently toss the sauce with the drained ravioli; serve immediately.

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goat cheese scallion muffins

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Goat cheese scallion muffins don’t sound very similar to garlic cheddar biscuits, and yet when Dave said these reminded him of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits, I agreed. They have some things in common – there’s cheese and aromatics in both, but goat cheese and cheddar are very different beasts. Besides, who would think that a muffin and a biscuit would have such similar textures?

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It’s probably because I mixed the batter like I would a biscuit, by cutting the goat cheese into the dry ingredients before stirring in the liquids. The original recipe might have been more muffin-like, with a layer of goat cheese baked between dollops of dough, but I wanted bits of goat cheese spread evenly throughout the muffin. I also used buttermilk instead of milk, counting on the former’s sour tang to add the “zing” that many reviewers complained was missing from muffins made with the original recipe.

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I must have done something right, because these had plenty of flavor; the goat cheese stood out nicely. It’s hard to say if they live up to the legacy of Red Lobster’s deservedly popular biscuits, but as irresistible as those are, they have one thing those don’t – goat cheese. And plenty of zing.

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One year ago: Double/Triple Chocolate Cookies
Two years ago: Orange Oatmeal Currant Cookies
Three years ago: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
Four years ago: Strawberry Cheesecake

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Goat Cheese Scallion Muffins (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Makes 12 muffins

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
4 scallions, minced
1 egg
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces goat cheese

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottoms of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda, and scallions. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter, and buttermilk.

2. Using a pastry blender, cut the goat cheese into the flour mixture until the largest cheese pieces are about pea-sized. Add the liquid ingredients; use a rubber spatula to stir until just combined.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan. Serve warm.

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pizza with lamb meatballs, caramelized onions, and parsley

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The disadvantage of only working every other Friday is that the longer 5-day weeks seem like an eternity. When will it end? How can it be only Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday? I have to wake up to an alarm again? Torture! It’s not that I don’t like my job, it’s just that I like the weekends so much more.

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I get by by keeping my eye on the prize, and by “prize”, I mean when I come home from work on Friday afternoon, grab my book and a beer, and go sit in the backyard. I plan the rest of my week so that Friday after work is a No Chore Zone. The groceries should be shopped for, the dishwasher should be emptied, the house should not be a pigsty. I don’t want any detours between putting down my work bag and heading out to the backyard to read in the sun.

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An hour or two later, refreshed, I’ll come in to make dinner. These long weeks always call for pizza on Friday. If I lived somewhere with a good takeout option, I would welcome that, but instead, I make my own, which has the added advantage of whole wheat crust and skim milk cheese (I think it melts better anyway). Not to mention – when was the last time you saw lamb meatballs on a pizza menu?

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This pizza, one of the best I’ve made recently, is a perfect example of my pizza formula, with savory lamb, sweet onions, bitter parsley, and the traditional acidic tomato sauce and salty cheese. It’s more work than your average pizza, what with the onions needing to be cooked and, most tediously, the tiny meatballs, but it’s worth the extra effort, even on a Friday night after a long workweek – provided that I get my beer and book in the backyard first.

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One year ago: Marbled Loaf Cake
Two years ago: Corned Beef Hash
Three years ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Four years ago: Rice and Beans

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Pizza with Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onions, and Parsley (inspired by Bon Appétit)

Serves 6

I tried this with both fresh mozzarella and the firmer type, and while they were equally tasty, the firmer cheese did a better job of gluing the meatballs to the pizza. Lamb meatballs that roll onto the floor to get coated in cat hair are sad.

12 ounces ground lamb
1 egg
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 pounds pizza dough (⅔ of this recipe), fully risen
1 (14-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes packed in juice (not puree), drained
8 ounces (2 cup) shredded mozzarella
1 ounce (½ cup) grated parmesan
¼ cup minced parsley

1. Use your hands to evenly combine the lamb, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Form the mixture into balls about ½-inch in diameter. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and cook until well browned on a couple sides, about 4 minutes, turning about once a minute with a spatula. Wipe out the skillet.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering; stir in the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and are medium golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough in half; shape each portion into a ball. Let the balls of dough relax for 10 to 30 minutes.

4. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor 10-12 times, until they’re pureed. Transfer them to a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl and let them drain, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes. Discard the liquid in the bowl, transfer the tomatoes from the strainer to the now-empty bowl, and stir in a pinch of pepper and ⅛ teaspoon of salt.

5. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

6. Line a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) with parchment paper and transfer the round of dough to the peel, rearranging it to something reasonably circular. Spread half of the sauce over the dough, then top with half of the mozzarella, meatballs, onions, and parmesan. Transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the crust is spotty brown. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle half of the parsley over it, and let it cool on cooling rack for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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gougeres

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My list of 2012 goals isn’t going too well. I’m keeping up, for the most part (although it has not escaped my attention that the date on this April entry is May 1st), but I haven’t had great successes with all of the recipes. January started off strong, with the lettuce wraps and black bean brownies – which I even made far enough before the deadline that I could try them again with some changes. I was also happy with the ranch dressing.

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But then things started going downhill. The fancy rice krispy treats fell victim to my refusal to go back to the store for a missing ingredient; the mozzarella got skipped entirely while I search for the right type of milk; the dolmades tasted good but mostly fell apart; and the gougères? I suppose they had the opposite problem. They look just fine – puffy and golden – but they were sadly lacking in cheese flavor.

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And so, I’m writing this down so I don’t forget: Stop buying the Gruyere sold in this little town. I did this once before and didn’t learn my lesson then. It has the fancy label, but it tastes like wax.

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So maybe this wasn’t my greatest cooking success, although at least it wasn’t a huge fail – they look nice, after all. And as an added bonus, I realized that I’ve already made a recipe that, while it didn’t hold the title of gougères, is nearly the same thing made with cheddar and green onions. I guess I could have checked this one off the list of goals years ago! Maybe this list isn’t going so badly after all.

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One year ago: Fig-Glazed Burgers with Onion Jam
Two years ago: Home Corned Beef
Three years ago: Chocolate Cream Tart
Four years ago: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

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Gougères (reworded slightly from David Lebovitz)

Makes 24-30

I was paranoid about my eggs cooking in the hot saucepan before they could be incorporated into the dough, so I transferred the flour mixture to another bowl before adding the eggs.

½ cup water
3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper
½ cup (2.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) grated gruyere, or another hard cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Heat the water, butter, salt, and chile or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking constantly. The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. Add most of the grated cheese, reserving some for topping; stir until well-mixed.

4. Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato. (You can also divide the dough into mounds using two spoons.) Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees; bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the gougeres are golden brown. Serve warm.

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tiramisu

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I got confused when my coworker told me, while studiously avoiding eye contact, that the only thing they needed to figure out for another coworker’s rehearsal dinner was the dessert. I started trying to evaluate our previous history of eye contact. Was the lack of eye contact normal between us, or was that a hint? I was willing to help her out, but I was going to feel awfully silly if I jumped in to bake for thirty people I’d never met if it wasn’t necessary.

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Well, I did volunteer, of course, because it was an opportunity to make desserts without eating them all myself! The dinner had an Italian theme, with big pans of lasagna, loaves of garlic bread, and pots of Italian wedding soup, so tiramisu was a natural choice. It didn’t hurt that I’d made this recipe once, years ago, and had wanted a reason to make it again ever since.

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It’s the perfect balance of sweet and bitter and tinged with alcohol. The ladyfingers soak up just enough of the coffee and rum to turn soft and cakey, but not enough to get mushy. The creamy mascarpone layer is like a rich custard filling between layers of cake. The cocoa and grated chocolate (optional, but I added it) provide a welcome hint of chocolate, but it doesn’t dominate.

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I made a double batch for the party (and was lucky enough to have a friend come over to dip and arrange nearly a hundred ladyfingers in the pan) and kept a tiny taster serving for myself. It was a smart move, because there wasn’t one bit leftover from the rehearsal dinner. Savoring my tiramisu at home that night, I didn’t regret volunteering to bake this dessert one bit.

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One year ago: Lemon Ricotta Strawberry Muffins
Two years ago: Slaw Tartare
Three years ago: Chocolate Amaretti Torte
Four years ago: Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Monterey Jack

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Tiramisù (from Cook’s Illustrated)

Cook’s Illustrated’s notes: Brandy and even whiskey can stand in for the dark rum. Cook’s Illustrated prefers a tiramisù with a pronounced rum flavor; for a less potent rum flavor, halve the amount of rum added to the coffee mixture in step 1. Do not allow the mascarpone to warm to room temperature before using it; it has a tendency to break if allowed to do so. Be certain to use hard, not soft ladyfingers.

2½ cups strong black coffee, room temperature
1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
9 tablespoons dark rum
6 large egg yolks
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1½ pounds mascarpone cheese
¾ cup heavy cream (cold)
14 ounces ladyfingers (42 to 60, depending on size)
3½ tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated (optional)

1. Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons of the rum in a wide bowl or baking dish until the espresso dissolves; set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks at low speed until just combined. Add the sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1½ to 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons rum and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape the bowl. Add the mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

3. In the now-empty mixer bowl (there’s no need to clean the bowl), beat the cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1½ minutes. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set the mascarpone mixture aside.

4. Working with one at a time, drop half of the ladyfingers into the coffee mixture, roll, remove, and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture; the entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange the soaked cookies in a single layer in the baking dish, breaking or trimming the ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into the dish.

5. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers; use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture to the sides and into the corners of the dish and smooth the surface. Place 2 tablespoons of the cocoa in a fine-mesh strainer and dust the cocoa over the mascarpone.

6. Repeat the dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread the remaining mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers and dust with the remaining 1½ tablespoons cocoa. Wipe the edges of the dish with a dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours. Sprinkle with the grated chocolate, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.

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ultimate seven-layer dip

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Seven layer dip has become a holiday tradition in my family, and most of the work is usually assigned to a son-in-law. The rest of us have long-since fallen into a routine; my mom makes the turkey, my sister makes mashed potatoes, my brother makes stuffing, my dad is coerced into making the green bean casserole. For a long time, my mom asked my sister’s husband to make seven layer dip, but recently, that job has often gone to Dave.

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With a can of refried beans, sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese, and guacamole, it’s an irresistible treat best saved for holidays. When I saw Cook’s Illustrated’s version, I thought I might be able to lighten it up. This recipe uses canned black beans, pureed with seasonings, for the bean layer. The sour cream could easily be replaced with lower fat Greek yogurt. Chopped salsa-like vegetables added freshness.

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It creates a number of extra steps that result in this recipe being considerably more effort than Dave would be willing to exert – I think. Because it also resulted in a dip that Dave and I both raved about as we ate. Dave, vegetable lover that he is, loves the lighter, fresher taste. For me, the biggest difference was that every bite wasn’t full of guilt. That’s worth some extra effort.

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One year ago: Strawberry Daiquiri Ice Cream
Two years ago: Chicken Fajitas
Three years ago: Black Bean Squash Burritos
Four years ago: Lemon Cream Tart

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Ultimate Seven-Layer Dip (from America’s Test Kitchen Feed)

Serves 8 to 10

CI note: This recipe is usually served in a clear dish so you can see the layers. For a crowd, double the recipe and serve in a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. If you don’t have time to make fresh guacamole as called for, simply mash 3 avocados with 3 tablespoons lime juice and ½ teaspoon salt.

This is exactly the original recipe. I made just a few small changes: Greek yogurt for the sour cream, cheddar for the pepper Jack, and I made a simple guacamole as described in Cook’s Illustrated’s note, above.

4 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped fine
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
6 scallions, 2 minced and 4 with green parts sliced thin (white parts discarded)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus 2 teaspoons, from 2 limes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 can black beans (16-ounces), drained but not rinsed
2 cloves minced garlic
¾ teaspoon chili powder
1½ cups sour cream
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded pepper Jack cheese
3 cups chunky guacamole
Tortilla chips for serving

1. Combine the tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, minced scallions, and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a medium bowl. Stir in ⅛ teaspoon salt and let stand until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Strain the mixture into a bowl and discard the liquid.

2. Pulse the black beans, garlic, remaining lime juice, chili powder, and remaining salt in the food processor until it resembles a chunky paste. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the food processor. Pulse the sour cream and 2½ cups (10 ounces) of the cheese until smooth. Transfer to a separate bowl.

3. Spread the bean mixture evenly over the bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish or 1-quart glass bowl. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly over the bean layer, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese. Spread the guacamole over the cheese and top with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with the sliced scallions and serve with tortilla chips. (The dip can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let the dip stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.)

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pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, and roasted tomatoes

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I wrote out a formula for pizza. And I realize that for some people, that takes the fun out of developing recipes, but I’m a scientist, so what do you expect from me? And here’s what I decided:

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Many of my favorite foods have a balance of the five basic flavors – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami, and then I’m going to add heat or spice to this as well. A traditional pizza incorporates most of these; tomato sauce is acidic and rich in umani, the crust is often just a bit sweet, the cheese is salty, and a sprinkling of red chile flakes adds heat. Beyond the flavors, I like pizza best when there’s some sort of sauce (like tomato sauce, obviously), a glue (this would be the mozzarella in a traditional pizza), and toppings.

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For this pizza, I started with goat cheese, because I hadn’t had it in a while and I love it. Goat cheese is tart, or sour, so that takes care of that flavor, but unlike many other cheeses, it doesn’t make a very good glue, so it would be incorporated as either the sauce or a topping. I wanted something sweet, and caramelized onions would be great, but slow-roasted tomatoes could work as well. Tomatoes have umami, but I thought meaty prosciutto would also go particularly well with the goat cheese. And I liked prosciutto better with tomatoes than onions. Prosciutto is salty, as was the dusting of parmesan I couldn’t resist sprinkling on top.

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That gave me a bunch of toppings, and I could make the goat cheese into a sauce, but I still needed glue. I decided to stick to good ol’ mozzarella. You can never go wrong with putting mozzarella on pizza. And I still felt like the pizza might be missing something, especially something with light, fresh flavors, so I mixed pesto into the goat cheese, which also made it into a more spreadable sauce-like consistency. Red pepper flakes, common on pizza, added spicy heat.

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And then after all my pizza math, I realized that I had hardly varied from traditional pizza, with tomatoes, mozzarella, and cured meat. All I did was change the order of layering – that, and develop an infallible formula for an infinite number of future pizza recipes. I’ll call that a success on all counts.

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One year ago: Protein Waffles
Two years ago: Cherry Tomato Salad
Three years ago: Coconut Butter Thins
Four years ago: Perfect Party Cake

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Pizza with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Tomatoes

Makes one 12-inch pizza, serving about 3 people

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
salt
cooking spray
1 pound pizza dough (⅓ of this recipe)
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons pesto
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated parmesan
2 ounces prosciutto, sliced

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Adjust another rack to the middle oven position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spray with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, until shriveled.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven, set aside, and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees.

2. Shape the dough into a ball. Set it aside for 10 to 30 minutes, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax. In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, pesto, and red pepper flakes.

3. Working on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth, flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

4. Spread the goat cheese mixture over the dough, then evenly disperse the mozzarella, tomatoes, and parmesan over the goat cheese. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Top with the prosciutto. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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raspberry ricotta scones

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I’ve largely gotten out of my scone phase from a few years ago. Back then, I was making a new scone recipe almost once a month. One batch of scones, frozen before baking, would last a couple weekends, which made for some wonderfully relaxed weekend mornings, with nothing to do but turn the oven on, transfer the frozen scones to a baking sheet, and boil water for the French press. Twenty minutes later, I’d sit down with a scone, a mug, and a food magazine.

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The problem with this scenario is that there’s very little nutrition in a scone. I’m not against a little butter for breakfast, but as we’ve become more active lately, we require breakfasts that fill us up and provide energy. I don’t want to imagine Dave on one of his weekly racquetball marathons with nothing but butter, flour, and sugar for fuel.

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On quiet mornings when we don’t have a busy day ahead though, scones hit the spot. And this one is even better, because it does have some extra health benefits from protein-rich ricotta and fiber-rich whole grains. Moreover, this is one of the best scones I’ve ever made.

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I’ve admittedly become more and more enamored with whole grains and the nutty depth of flavor they add to baked goods, and this was a perfect example of how a portion of whole wheat flour isn’t a sacrifice to be made for health reasons, but an improvement in flavor. I think this recipe has me headed toward another scone phase.

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One year ago: Corniest Corn Muffins
Two years ago: How to adapt any bread to be whole wheat
Three years ago: Lemon Cup Custard
Four years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Raspberry Ricotta Scones (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 9

Baked scones are best fresh out the oven. If you want to make these in advance, form and cut the scones, then transfer the unbaked scones to a ziploc bag to freeze. There’s no need to defrost before baking, but you will need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour, which I prefer in quick breads. But if you only have regular whole wheat flour, I’m sure it will be fine.

¾ cup (6.5 ounces) whole milk ricotta
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup (4.8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup (4.75 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and heavy cream.

2. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the raspberries and pulse a few times to break them down. Add the ricotta mixture; pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened but still looks crumbly.

3. Transfer the dough to a work surface and pat into a ball. Knead the dough a few times, then pat it out into a 7-inch square that is about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 9 squares.

4. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown around the bottom edges, 16-20 minutes. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool about 10 minutes before serving.

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parmesan bacon shortbread

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There’s a fine art to choosing a dish to bring to a potluck. If people are milling around, there’s a definite advantage to a handheld, plate-optional snack. On the other hand, if it’s mostly sit-down, dips and spreads don’t work well because people have to guess at the right ratio of dip to dipper to scoop onto their plate, not to mention the issue of whether to put the dip next to the dippers, taking up valuable plate space, or on top, risking getting dip on your fingers while you try to eat the dippers.

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Last year, I brought goat cheese, sundried tomato, pesto terrine with a thinly sliced baguette to the company potluck. It did not go over well. For one thing, it’s a dip and the potluck turned out to be a sit-down kind of deal. For another, a few of my coworkers were unfamiliar with and unwilling to try goat cheese. (Their loss!)

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This year I went to the other end of the spectrum and chose easily grabbable finger food. I included bacon to guarantee there would be no complaints about scary new ingredients. It seems to have worked; these got a lot more love than last year’s goat cheese spread. And no wonder, with so many salty rich ingredients encased in a tender cookie. I can’t think of many situations in which these little treats wouldn’t work perfectly.

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One year ago: Roasted Tomato Soup
Two years ago: Orange Berry Muffins
Three years ago: Thumbprints for Us Big Guys
Four years ago: Cooks Illustrated’s Classic Pound Cake

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bacon Parmesan Shortbread (adapted from The New York Times via Use Real Butter)

Makes about 18 cookies (more if you cut them thinner)

I used pancetta instead of bacon, which complimented the parmesan nicely.

The original recipe titles these crackers and shows a picture of thin and flaky squares. These must have been rolled paper thin before baking. However, the recipe instructs the dough to be rolled out (or cut, the way I did it) ½-inch thick. I compromised and went with ¼-inch thick, which gave a texture more like shortbread than crackers. I’m sure they’re good both ways, but if you do roll them thinner, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
4 ounces (about 4 slices) bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Put the flour, salt, cheese and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the flour and butter are combined. Add about ¼ cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture holds together but is not sticky. Add the bacon and pulse a few times to incorporate.

2. Transfer the dough to a large square of parchment or wax paper. Shape the dough into a long rectangle with a 1-inch square cross-section. Wrap tightly in the paper and freeze for at least 3 hours.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

4. Slice the dough ¼-inch thick, arranging the cookies ½-inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.

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tomato and four cheese lasagne

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Lasagna recipes are like chocolate chip cookie recipes for me – I already have several that I love, but I can’t resist a new one. I have no loyalties about béchamel versus ricotta, meaty versus vegetarian, seafood or chicken. I love them all, and I’m a sucker for a new version.

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A recent article in Fine Cooking, which prompted me to subscribe to the magazine, showcased three recipes – the braised beef and porcini one Josie posted, a butternut squash and goat cheese lasagna I can’t wait to make, and this classic tomato and cheese lasagna. Boring, maybe, but I can never get enough of the basic combination of pasta, cheese, and tomatoes.

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I always like to make my own lasagna noodles, because I’m all about creating more work for myself. (Also it’s fun.) But this time I went a step further and made my own ricotta. Combined with a lightly spiced tomato sauce and three other favorite Italian cheeses, this lasagna is in the running for my favorite – if I could ever choose a favorite lasagna.

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One year ago: Shrimp Canapes a la Suede
Two years ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Three years ago: Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Four years ago: Banana Walnut Pancakes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Four Cheese and Tomato Lasagne (slightly adapted from Fine Cooking)

8 servings

To chop the tomatoes, just stick kitchen shears in the can and snip away. Canned tomatoes that are already diced won’t break down into the sauce like whole tomatoes will.

If you make your own ricotta, you’ll need to start with 8 cups of milk (and/or cream).

To boil and rinse the pasta, follow the instructions in this recipe through step 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped (see note)
kosher salt
6 large basil leaves, torn by hand into ½-inch pieces
2 cups (15 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
2½ cups (10 ounces) grated fresh mozzarella
2 cups (8 ounces) grated fontina
1¾ cups (3.5 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1½ recipes fresh pasta, boiled and rinsed (see note)

1.Heat the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Discard the garlic. Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons salt; simmer gently, uncovered, adjusting the heat as needed, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 45 minutes. Stir in the basil; season to taste with salt if necessary.

2.Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Set aside 1¼ cups of the sauce and mix the remaining sauce with the ricotta in a medium bowl. Mix the mozzarella, fontina, and 1 cup (2 ounces) of the Parmigiano in another medium bowl.

3. Spread ½ cup of the reserved tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of cooked noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Evenly spread 1½ cups of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1 rounded cup of the grated cheese evenly over the ricotta. Add another layer of noodles, and repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 4 ricotta-and-cheese layers and 5 pasta layers. Spread the remaining ¾ cup plain sauce evenly over the top noodle layer. Sprinkle with the remaining ¾ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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