Looking for a quick, delicious side dish that features the amazingness that is a good ball of burrata surrounded by garlic and tomato? Of course you are. Because look at this. This is amazing.  It would probably be even better if I had some homemade tomato sauce on me, but hey, this works just as well. 

And if you can get access to a local cheesemonger who does their own burrata, even better. (Seriously, there was a dish done at a local chef’s festival this summer that featured homemade burrata, heirloom tomatoes, and balsamic that I still dream of.) Hell, you could probably add a bit of balsamic drizzle to this and make it even better.

Burrata, Garlic, and Tomato Appetizer (there has to be a better name for this, help me come up with one)
Lasts 2 lunches as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 burrata ball (I bought BelGioso burrata, it came with 2 so I used both)
  • 1 c tomato sauce (I used a local marinara I really like, homemade is probably best here)
  • 6 to 12 garlic cloves, peeled (I used about 9 large ones)
  • .25 c olive oil
  • sea salt, pepper, basil (fresh if you can find it but dried if it’s the middle of winter like now) for garnish
  • optional: bread to serve with (I went with a roasted garlic loaf because of course)

Heat your olive oil in a small skillet over medium low while you peel the garlic, and then add the cloves to the oil, cooking until they become a nice golden brown. (See final pic for what this should look like.)  Pour off onto whatever you’re serving/storing it in, and separate off the garlic cloves.  Then, add your tomato sauce and warm over medium low. 

Once warmed, pour the tomato sauce over the olive oil, put the burrata on top of it, and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and dried basil, and put the cloves into the tomato sauce. Maybe a bit of balsamic, if you’re so inclined. And then enjoy the amazingness that is this side.

Risottos are always a fantastic thing. This is the first time I’ve made this one, and it has a nice breakfasty twist to it. It could probably use a bit more wine and chicken stock to absorb into the risotto, so I’ll remember that for next time. Poaching the eggs didn’t work so well this time around, but there’s always next time. But otherwise? A wonderful, cheesy risotto. 

Bacon and Poached Egg Risotto
Lasts 2 to 3 meals as a main

Ingredients

  • 3 c chicken stock
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced (original recommends shallot)
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • .5 c white wine (I used Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food wine, as is my standard for risottos)
  • .5 c freshly grated gruyere (original recommends Comte)
  • .25 c shredded parmesan
  • 4 slices thick sliced bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T butter
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Bring your chicken stock to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer in a separate pot. In a pan over medium high heat, heat your olive oil, and add your minced onion. Saute until translucent (about two minutes). Add your rice, toast until it smells nutty (about two minutes), and then add your white wine, stirring until it’s completely absorbed.  Then, drink the rest of the bottle of wine as you’re cooking the risotto.  Yes, this is absolutely necessary to the success of the recipe. Because science.

Now, take your heated chicken stock, and add a few ladlefuls at a time to the risotto, stirring constantly until it’s absorbed, and then adding a few more, until your quart of chicken stock is used up.  It’s going to take almost constant effort, but the result will be worth it, especially in how creamy it makes it, trust me.  After the chicken stock is used up, taste the risotto to see where it’s at – it should be creamy, but not at all mushy.  Keep drinking the wine.  It totally helps.  (This is the area where I think I may need to add more chicken stock next time.)

While you’re adding in the chicken stock, cook your bacon to its desired doneness and set aside. To poach your eggs, fill a small pot with water, a splash of white vinegar, and salt.  Crack your eggs into separate holders (ie ramekin, small bowl, whatever) while the water comes to a simmer.  Once simmering, stir the water with a whisk in one direction until it’s spinning around like a small whirlpool. Then, add your eggs into the center of the whirlpool one at a time, and turn off the heat.  (This method works for up to four eggs.) Let sit for five minutes, and then remove from the water with a slotted spoon.  Your eggs will be nice and soft in the center, and quite yummy besides. (I didn’t have the salt and vinegar this time, so this is likely why they did not turn out as well.)

Once the stock has been absorbed, remove from heat, add your butter, gruyere, and parmesan, and stir. Add your bacon and poached eggs on top, and then enjoy!

This is the first of many new recipes from one of my favorite new cookbooks, The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen. This is also the first recipe I’ve ever had to order cheese online for (no one around me sells caciocavallo). You may have to do that too, if you don’t have a good Italian store by you.  It’s similar to provolone, but made with a blend of cow and sheep’s milk, and has a sharp, salty taste to it.  Fried cheese on its own is wonderful, but the way this is made, it’s even better.

Fried Caciocavallo
Lasts five lunches as a side

Ingredients

  • .25 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 lb Caciocavallo cheese, sliced about .75 in thick (see pic 1)
  • red wine vinegar
  • several sprigs fresh oregano
  • black pepper

Heat your olive oil over medium heat, and add the garlic cloves to the pan, frying until golden brown on each side (about one minute per side). Discard the garlic and keep it on the side. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the cheese. Fry for about two to three minutes a side, until the edges start to gild. Once fried on both sides, splash red wine vinegar and sprinkle on the oregano sprigs and pepper.  Cook for one minute more, and remove from heat. Repeat until you’ve fried all your cheese.

This was one of the first recipes I cooked on my own after college, and man, this was a revelation, for several reasons.  One, that Jewel Staite, aka Kaylee from Firefly did a cooking blog, and was pretty awesome at it. Two, the way you could buy a bottle of wine, use part of it in a recipe, and drink the rest, and have it be socially acceptable.  😛  

A few notes on what I used for this recipe.  Usually, I’ve substituted regular parmesan for parmigiano-reggiano, but here I used SarVecchio’s Bella Vitano Gold, and I honestly think it’s a more than acceptable substitute (and plus it tastes fantastic).  As with my other risotto recipe, I use Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food white wine.  The frozen peas were bought shelled on the cheap over the summer and thrown into the freezer, and the bacon comes from a local farmer’s market vendor.  It’s definitely worth putting the money into this, because the results are one of my favorite mainstay recipes.

Jewel Staite’s Bacon and Pea Risotto
Lasts 5 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • 1 qt (32 oz, 4 c) chicken stock
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • .5 lb bacon (definitely go with farmer’s market bacon if you can, otherwise, thick cut), chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • half of a medium onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c white wine (I use Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food)
  • 1.5 c arborio rice
  • handful of cherry tomatoes (usually half a pint), halved
  • .5 c frozen peas
  • 2 T marscapone cheese
  • .5 c parmigiano-reggiano (or SarVecchio BellaVitano Gold, or plain ol’ parmesan)

On a separate burner, over medium-low heat, heat your quart of chicken stock, and keep it at that temperature until needed later in the recipe.

Take your bacon, and chop it thin. While you’re chopping your bacon, put your olive oil in a skillet and heat it over medium high.  Cook it to your desired doneness (I usually go for medium, not crispy at all), and drain off the bacon and all but 1 T of the fat.  Add your garlic and onions, and cook until the onion is translucent.  Add your cherry tomatoes, and then soon after, your rice.  Toast your rice until it smells nutty, and then add your cup of wine, stirring until it’s completely absorbed (see pic 3).  Then, drink the rest of the bottle of wine as your cooking the risotto.  Yes, this is absolutely necessary to the success of the recipe. Because science.

Now, take your heated chicken stock, and add a few ladlefuls at a time to the risotto, stirring constantly until it’s absorbed, and then adding a few more, until your quart of chicken stock is used up.  It’s going to take almost constant effort, but the result will be worth it, especially in how creamy it makes it, trust me.  After the chicken stock is used up, taste the risotto to see where it’s at – it should be creamy, but not at all mushy.  Keep drinking the wine.  It totally helps.

Once your risotto is ready, then add your peas and stir for a few minutes, before removing the risotto from the heat.  Once the heat is off, add your two cheeses, followed by your reserved bacon.

And then, enjoy your awesome meal, with whatever of the wine you haven’t already drank.

So, this is what I made while the asparagus was roasting for the maple dijon asparagus.  Another mainstay recipe, relatively cheap for the amount of stuff you need for it (seriously, the most expensive thing you will need is the wine), and good and hearty.  I also recommend a good slice of bread to go with it – I picked up a thing of roasted garlic bread at the store, because I didn’t want to bake bread tonight.  😛  (Yes, I can occasionally be lazy.  It’s fun.)

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Lasts a minimum of five meals

Ingredients

  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ¾ lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (or, 3/5 links in a typical package)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • ½ c white wine (I usually go with Cupcake Wines’ Angel Food)
  • ½ c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T marscapone (this is only if you have it on hand, you can skip it, but it is amaaaaaazing)

Combine the tomatoes and water in a separate pot and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, lower the heat to low to keep it warm.

In a separate pot, combine the olive oil, sausage, and onion over medium heat, and use your spatula to break up the sausage as it cooks (see first pic). Cook until the sausage is opaque (usually 3 to 5 mins). Then, add your rice, stirring until coated (appx 1 to 2 mins), and add the wine (and unless you’re using it for something else, drink the rest of the bottle :P).  Stir until absorbed (see pics 2 and 3 for what that usually looks like, but with the tomato mixture).

Speaking of the tomato mixture, add 2 c of the hot mixture to start to the pot, and simmer until absorbed (appx 4 to 5 mins, again, see pics 2 and 3 for what this usually looks like), and continue to add 1 c at a time, stirring and absorbing and adding the next cup until you’ve used up all the liquid (the amount I gave is usually the sweet point for not too much liquid), and the rice is creamy, but not mushy.  This usually takes at least 25 minutes to a half hour.

Once you reach that point, remove the pot from heat, and stir in your parmesan (and marscapone, if you’re using it). And then, enjoy the hell out of it.

Originally, these awesome peppers would’ve been for Wednesday gaming nights, but that got called off this week, so well just push it to next week!  Plus, now it has another week to marinate, which means they’ll be even more awesomely flavorful.  Definite summer favorite, even if it requires using a high heat oven to make it.  (See, you eat these chilled, which makes it a pretty low maintenance recipe past the cooking and peeling.)  Served with mozzarella and just a bit of olive oil, this is a perfect meal to eat on your porch.

Roasted Peppers with Mozzarella 
Lasts at least five meals on average

Ingredients

  • 6 to 12 bell peppers (I typically get red, yellow and orange, and have also used green and purple – yes, you can find the latter at a farmer’s market)
  • ¼ to ½ c red wine vinegar
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • olive oil and mozzarella (use the fresh logs for this, presliced if you wanna save time) to serve, optional – parsley and capers

Heat your oven to 400, line a baking tray with foil, and add your peppers, roasting 45 minutes to a half hour.  Skew towards the higher time, as the skins need to come off easily.  Attempt to turn ¼ way every fifteen minutes, but it’s okay if you don’t.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and put part of the foil over the peppers to help cool.  Once cool, peel the skin off, and then split the pepper along a seam, tearing a circle around the top to remove the stem and seeds.  Tear the pepper into thin strips and put in a glass bowl, layering with minced garlic and salt as you go.

Once you’ve gone through all your peppers, pour the red wine vinegar over the peppers, toss, and cover to marinate in the fridge, at minimum one hour (though, the longer you go, the more flavor you get).

When you’re ready to serve them, take your mozzarella (slice it or presliced), have olive oil on hand to drizzle, and enjoy!

So, remember the biga I started yesterday? It’s about ready to go!  And now that it is, I can throw it into the freezer until I need it next week!  (See, that’s the awesome thing about this starter.  You can freeze it in the freezer for up to three/four months, and then thaw it for three to five hours when you need to use it again so it can reactivate.)  Yay for making your own bread!

Italian Biga
Makes appx 2 c of starter

Ingredients

  • ¼ t active dry yeast
  • ¼ c warm water
  • ¾ c plus 4 T water at room temperature
  • 2 1/3 c flour

Stir the yeast into the ¼ c water and let stand ten minutes, until it looks almost creamy. While this is happening, let the other 3/4ish c water stand so that it reaches room temp. Once the ten minutes has passed, add the remaining water, and then the flour, one cup at a time, mixing with a plastic or wooden spoon for 3 to 4 mins.  (If you’re lucky enough to have a food processor or stand mixer, those instructions are at the link.)  Cover the bowl with either a towel or plastic wrap, whatever you have handy, and let stand between six to forty-eight hours, depending on how sour you want your bread.  Starter should be approximately triple the size it was (compare yesterday’s photos with the final product).

Once you’re satisfied with your starter, you can either use it right away, refrigerate it for up to five days, or double wrap it in plastic wrap like I did and store in the freezer for up to four months.  If you choose to freeze it like I am, let the starter thaw either in the fridge for up to five hours, or at room temperature up to 3 hours, so that the yeast reactivates.