Monday, August 24, 2015

Cheddar, Beer & Chive Cheese Puffs (Gougères)

Today I’m going to post about Gougères, a decadently cheesy, crunchy, tiny French biscuit made from Pâte à Choux, into which a soft, meltable cheese like Gruyére has been folded. As my twist on these little puffs I used beer as the liquid in the Choux pastry and cheddar in place of Gruyére. I also folded in fresh chives. The wonderful sharp cheddar flavor was enhanced by the earthy beer and spicy, grassy note of chives. These are great fresh out of the oven and the dough can be made up to 4 hours ahead. I used a Bon Apetit recipe as a guide for the savory Choux pastry.

This post is another entry in the Canapés month event on Foodies Plus.

Cheddar, Beer & Chive Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

Makes 50 tiny puffs

1 cup pale ale or similar beer
1 cup AP flour
5 1/2 ounces extra sharp Cheddar, finely grated
6 Tablespoons butter
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped chives

1. Preheat oven to 400*. In a non stick pan, combine beer, salt, mustard and butter. Cook on medium low until butter has melted.
2. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in flour. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture forms a ball and turns a bit glossy.
3. Allow to cool for about 2 minutes and fold in eggs, one by one, making sure to thoroughly incorporate them.
4. Fold in cheese, then pepper, then chives.
5. Transfer to a pastry bag with a 1/4" tip.
6. Pipe small rounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
7. Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon water and brush over tops of puffs.
8. Bake until set in the center, roughly 25 minutes.

Serve warm

*If your oven runs hot, as mine does, you can bake these at as low as 350.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cheesy Roasted Zucchini Pasta Bake with Ricotta

I have been travelling to visit family recently--from the West to the East coast--to visit family. It was a great visit, even if weather did ground us in North Carolina for the night. This will be the last time I fly before the baby is born; I'm nearly in the third trimester and air travel is ill advised at that point. Things were hectic, getting ready for that trip and have not slowed down much since our return. I've really missed having the time to update the blog, and so I'm really excited to be back!

Apart from some fantastic and much needed family time--my Mom threw us a baby shower and I got to have my busy, world travelling family all in the same place to celebrate together--and relaxing both at the beach with my grandparents and at my Dad's turn of the century upstate NY house where we were lucky enough to babysit my three year old nephew, read stories and sing songs to him, and dine al fresco in my my Dad's and Nona's magnificent backyard garden, I also found some inspiration for my next post.

The inspiration for this dish comes from my dad's lovely zucchini squash, heavy on the vine. I was excited to make this pasta bake for him, but his kitchen is currently being renovated, so we settled on nostalgia in the form of my favorite local burrito place. Probably a good thing, because for someone who grows zucchini, my dad apparently doesn't like it very much. (Likely it,was Nona's idea to plant it)

Summer’s almost over and I have yet to post a zucchini recipe, so this is a perfect time for inspiration to hit. This creamy, rich pasta bake with be a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It is rich so to cut the richness I recommend serving it alongside arugula (rocket) dressed in fresh lemon juice and pepper.

Cheesy Roasted Zucchini Pasta Bake with Ricotta

Makes 6 enormous servings

3 small to medium zucchini squash, or two extra large, cut lengthwise into 1/4" strips
3/4 pound chunky pasta (such as campanelle or radiatore; shells or orecchiette will also work fine)
~1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan


1/2 cup cream
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 small pinch nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425. Cover zucchini in olive oil, salt and pepper and lay in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake until zucchini begins to caramelize, 12 - 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Boil pasta according to package instructions; take pasta out 1 or 2 minutes before time suggested on package (it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain al dente cooked pasta and pour into baking dish.
3. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg into ricotta. Cut zucchini strips into 1/2" pieces and mix into cooked pasta. Turn oven down to 350.
4. Make the sauce: over low heat melt butter. Whisk cream and milk into melted butter. Do not allow to boil. Season with salt and pepper and add nutmeg. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Grate parmesan into sauce and whisk to combine. When cheese is melted, pour sauce over pasta.
5. Using a Tablespoon drop dollops of ricotta evenly over top of pasta.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until ricotta has started to turn golden.