Hello Fun Seekers

Embracing everything that makes life fun.

Author: Diane Hartford (Page 1 of 8)

Ricotta Toast with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-4

If you have become a bit tired of avocado toast, you may want to consider swapping out the avocados for ricotta. Don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to avocado toast. I love it, I eat it often, but sometimes I want something a little different. Ricotta is light and airy and perfect with so many different topping.

Ricotta toast is something that I have eaten since I was a kid. Every Italian family keeps ricotta in the fridge. You still get the rich, creamy spread you are used to from avocado toast but a whole new universe of flavors opens up for you. Ricotta can easily be used either in sweet or savory dishes, think lasagna versus cannoli.

In New York, you can find fresh ricotta at many Italian markets. Have you had fresh ricotta? It is so creamy and delicious. I die. Literally. Well, I guess figuratively but still you cannot even at how good it is. I haven’t tried making it at home although I have been told (and this video confirms) that it is really easy to make.

How to Make Fresh Ricotta

I like to use a hearty, rustic bread for the toast. For the toppings on this ricotta toast, I used morel mushrooms which were foraged from the woods near my friend Rachael’s home in Missoula, Montana. I was so excited to get a package from her with bunches of morel mushrooms. What a treat! I made this Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions using some of the mushrooms from that same haul.

If Rachael didn’t send you any morels and you couldn’t find them locally, I would swap them out for cremini or button mushrooms. Not quite the panache of morels but still a nice meaty texture to complement the ricotta. I also used some beautiful, medium-sized asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces to top the Ricotta toast.

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-1

Ricotta toast with morel mushrooms and asparagus can really be eaten for any meal. I prefer savory foods in the morning and devoured the toasts on Sunday morning for brunch with coffee. But, served with a green salad or soup, the ricotta toast would also make a perfect light lunch or dinner. Plus, it is so quick and easy to make. Basically, you a few minutes to chop the mushrooms and asparagus, a few minutes to sauté them, and the time it takes to toast the bread. Brilliant when you don’t want to fuss in the kitchen on a weeknight.

Ricotta Toast with Morels and Asparagus

 

 

Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-1

A few of my favorite signs of spring are the incredible vegetables that pop up early to remind us of the rich bounty of produce that is heading our way. This list includes asparagus (yes!), peas (nothing like ‘em), greens of all varieties, and for those fortunate to live near cool, damp forests, morel mushrooms.

For those of us who live in the high desert, the morel mushroom is a bit of unicorn, amazing to behold but rarely seen in person. But, this year, through a unicorn trick of her own, my friend Rachael, who lives in Missoula, Montana had a banner year foraging the forests and brought home sixteen pounds (!) of these woodsy gems.

That alone is amazing but she generously shared her haul with me. Isn’t that incredible? I was beside myself when she sent them to me. I have eaten morel mushrooms in restaurants before but I’d never worked with them before.  So, once I opened up the package, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work researching how to store and looking for inspiration on how to prepare them.

How Morel Mushrooms Grow

<In your best Elmer Fudd voice> ‘Be very, very quiet, I am hunting morel mushrooms…’

Typically, Friday nights are not the most productive nights in my kitchen. I am usually tired and likely to be in the mood to put my feet up and enjoy a glass of wine. But, the allure of these mushrooms was just too great. I decided that pizza would be the perfect vehicle for these meaty mushrooms. If you can’t find morels you can substitute any other mushrooms in their place.

Turns out that they are easy to work with so if you happen to spot some at your local farmers’ market, grab them. I cut the stem ends off, split them down the middle vertically and gave them a good rinse. They are pretty dirty because they were plucked from the dirt in the forest. Hey-o! Keep in mind, you don’t want to rinse or wash them until you are ready to use them.

Morel mushrooms-7

How to Make Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

I sautéed the mushrooms for a few minutes in a little butter and olive oil with pieces of green onions (red or yellow onions would work too). Then, I removed the veggies from heat and rolled out the pizza dough. Note: you can make your own dough from scratch if you are feeling inspired but I like to keep a few packages of Trader Joe’s pizza dough in the freezer at all times.

Roll out the dough into a thin circle and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Spread the oil around the dough evenly. I also like to sprinkle some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the dough. Then, top with shredded mozzarella, the sautéed morel mushrooms and green onions.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-9

Pop the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and carefully crack a raw egg into the center of the pizza. I cracked the egg into a small ramekin first to make the process easier (and in case I needed to pick out any egg shell fragments). Cook five more minutes. Take pizza out of the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil. When you cut into the pizza, the egg yolk breaks and becomes a rich, creamy sauce for the pizza.

The pizza was delicious and special thanks to Rachael for her generosity. I had a ball playing with the mushrooms.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi Cheese

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Can we agree that cooking outdoors is approximately 110% better than cooking indoors? The food always tastes better, outdoors > indoors, and your kitchen stays cool. Grilled vegetables are a summer staple at my house. Whatever ripe vegetables I can find in my garden or the farmers market typically makes onto my grill.  The addition of Halloumi takes this grilled veggie dish up a few notches.

Are you familiar with Halloumi? From Cyprus, halloumi cheese is an unripened goat and sheep’s milk cheese. Eaten before grilling, halloumi is a bit bland but once your grill it or cook it in a skillet, a golden crust forms with soft delicious interior. Halloumi can be found in many grocery stores with the fancy cheeses, Mediterranean markets, and at Trader Joe’s.

For this recipe, I made a simple, Mediterranean-inspired dressing to marinate the Halloumi and veggies prior to cooking. Both the vegetables and the cheese will soak up the flavors of the dressing so be sure to allow enough time for the marinade to do its work before you are ready to cook.

How to Grill Halloumi on the BBQ

If you can’t quite wrap your head around grilling cheese on the BBQ this video by Curtis Stone will show you how it is done and what the Halloumi should like when it is done.

If you plan to cook outside on the grill, you can either thread the cheese and veggies onto skewers or use a grill basket (I like this one). If you use a grill basket, be sure to not overfill the basket with vegetables and cheese. You are looking to get a char on the veggies and cheese. If you overcrowd the grill basket you will find that some of the veggies will steam. I would cook half the veggies and cheese first and then the other half if space is an issue.

I like to serve the grilled veggies and Halloumi cheese with warmed pita bread and Greek Tzatziki sauce. You could also add a bowl olives or perhaps some hummus and cut cucumbers to round out the meal.  My favorite way to entertain is to place all the components of this recipe on a large platter or board. Then, your dinner guests can help themselves and take exactly what they want.

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food? Check out these other recipes:

 

Brand New Day Spotify Playlist

Brand New Day Playlist

Hey party people, the days are getting so wonderfully long! One of my favorite things about June is that the sun rises very early and daylight stays well into the evening. I love to get outside for a walk before work especially when the flowers are in bloom and the grass is green. I find that it helps clear my mind. I also find that solutions to problems often pop into my mind while I am out walking. Plus, I get to check something off my to-do list before 7:00am!

The best part about walking is that all you need is comfy shoes, sunglasses, and some great tunes. My friend Courtney has put together this Brand New Day Playlist for you specifically with morning walks in mind (or evening walks if that is your jam). This playlist is filled with music that will keep you smiling at the sun, the flowers, and the dogs walking by you.

So, without further ado, I turn the time over to Courtney.

CourtZionNP

Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”

John Muir

This playlist called “New Day” is perfect for a beautiful morning walk. It’s full of hopeful, joyful songs to wake you up and make you feel optimistic about your day.

The Songs

It includes some old school classics like The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child” (I can’t help but dance when I hear this one) and Van Morrison’s “Brand New Day.” Plus some newer stuff by Bon Iver, The Lumineers, and Sara Watkins.

A couple on this list that are new to me that I can’t get enough of: “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves and “Where I’m Going” by the Wild Reeds.

Grab your morning beverage, some walking shoes and your headphones, and have a beautiful new day!


 

You can check some of Courtney’s other playlists:

Brand New Day Playlist

Dutch Baby Pancake

Dutch Baby Pancake

Who likes recipes that involve less than five ingredients, can be blitzed up in a blender, and takes under thirty minutes to bake? *raises hand*

The Dutch baby pancake meets these criteria. You simply put eggs, flour, milk, and seasonings into a blender and pour the batter into a hot skillet which contains melted butter. Let’s talk about Dutch baby pancakes. Have you ever had one?

For the uninitiated, Dutch baby pancakes come out of the oven as light, puffy, golden brown, eggy pancake. Have your cameras ready if you want to Instagram this dish because the puff of the pancake is short-lived. Within minutes, the air comes out of the Dutch baby and it flattens out to a slightly less photogenic but still absolutely delicious dish. The video uses a slightly different recipe but will show  you the process of making a Dutch baby pancake.

How-to Make Dutch Baby Pancakes

Dutch baby pancakes are typically served for breakfast or brunch. I love to eat a Dutch Baby pancake with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. But, served with mixed berries and maple syrup is also delicious. How does lemon curd and strawberries sound to you? Or, wouldn’t sauteed apples and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar be scrumptious? Let’s face it, any fruit that is in season is a perfect accompaniment to a Dutch baby pancake.

Once you make a Dutch baby pancake, you may find that your imagination runs wild thinking about the possibilities.  Please tell me that your imagination runs wild when you make a delicious recipe. I find myself thinking about what else would taste great on this light and fluffy pancake. What savory toppings can I pair with it to turn this into a savory dinner?

Dutch Baby Pancake

This recipe for a savory Dutch baby pancake from the NY Time includes fresh herbs in the batter and is sprinkled with salty, nutty Parmesan cheese while it bakes. OMG. Yum! I must try that recipe soon. I imagine pairing it with a salad and glass of crisp, white wine.

Enough daydreaming, let me encourage you to try making a Dutch baby pancake this week. You will impress yourself and your people as you take it from the oven in all its glory. I use my 10-inch cast iron skillet to bake the Dutch baby. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet then a similarly sized baking dish will do in a pinch.

Other recipes full of eggy goodness that you might be interested in:

Dutch Baby Pancake

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

If you keep pizza dough in your freezer (you do keep pizza dough in your freezer, right?), then weeknight dinners are a breeze. All you need is sauce, a few vegetables, and cheese and you are good to go.

A few years back I found a recipe on a blog for smoked mozzarella pizza with lemon.  The recipe and picture caught my eye because the lemon was sliced into paper thin rounds and used as a topping. Lemon rinds? Can you eat them? Would you want to?

Since I am always game to try new things, I made the recipe and fell in love with it! Since then I have realized that thinly sliced lemon on a salmon sushi roll is also delicious. But, this post is about pizza and over the years I have riffed variations of the original pizza based on whatever is in season or in my refrigerator.

This time around I had spinach that I needed to use and the end of a bag of pistachios. I find smoked mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, ask at your local grocery store. Smoked mozzarella can sometimes be challenging to find. You can use fresh mozzarella in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the smoked variety.

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Pizza Dough

I take the pizza dough out of the freezer the morning I plan to make pizza. The dough will be thawed by dinner time. A few tips on pizza dough. Many grocery stores stock fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated aisles. I particularly like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also hit the freezer section and get bread dough (like Rhodes) and keep that on hand. If you have some time on the weekend, you can make a delicious no-knead pizza dough and use it for this recipe or place it in the freezer for future use.

I also love making pizza on a pizza stone. You put the pizza stone in the oven as you start to preheat the oven. Once the oven comes to temperature, then set a timer for at least fifteen minutes and let the stone get nice and hot.

I roll the dough out on a parchment paper-lined pizza peel. Roll the dough out thin if you want to achieve a crispy crust. Then, drizzle the crust with olive oil and spread it around with your fingertips until there is even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the top of the dough.

Next, place slices of smoked mozzarella on top of the dough, followed by lemon slices (rind and all). My sweetie doesn’t love the lemon rind so I do cut the rind off half the lemon slices and put those pieces of lemon on his side of the pizza.

Finally, place spinach leaves over the top and sprinkle with the pistachios. Slide the pizza and parchment onto the pizza stone and let the magic begin.

I usually check the pizza halfway through cooking time and rotate the pizza 180 degrees to ensure even baking.

Let me know if you try this unusual but delicious pizza!

This recipe is inspired Alexandra Cooks recipe for Pizza with Lemon Smoked Mozzarella and Basil  

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen

Girl a Girl a Knife book cover

Book Review

I have seen several reviews of Amy Thielen’s new cheffy memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, comparing it to last year’s restaurant memoir Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I find the comparison odd. Other than both of the authors of the memoirs are women who worked in restaurants, I see few other similarities.

Don’t get me wrong, I read and enjoyed Sweetbitter.  But, this memoir described the author’s time in New York as a bar back in a fine dining restaurant which included many boozy nights with coworkers at local bars after the restaurant closed. Give a Girl a Knife describes the time when two twenty-somethings were trying to find the balance between chasing their professional dreams in the city while living a simple, unencumbered rural life.

The book is full of examples of Amy and her boyfriend-then-husband Aaron’s commitment to eschewing material pleasures in order to pursue their art (his sculpture, hers food) while living a necessarily frugal life. Their trajectory bounces them between New York City and rural Minnesota where they take ‘living off the land’ to a new level which would be unimaginable to most of us.

Amy Thielen’s writing is lovely. Let’s be clear, this not a merely memoir of a celebrity chef. I first learned about Amy Thielen was via her short-lived Food Network show Heartland Table. The show came out about the same time as Amy’s cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, which was awarded a James Beard award. Amy’s style of food and writing is down to earth with a touch of wit and charm.

Thielen did her time in some of New York’s finest kitchens. She and Aaron squatted in buildings in New York during many of those years. In the summer, they would pack up and return to rural Minnesota. Where they would plant a large garden at the small home that Aaron built in the woods.

That home initially had no power, no water, and no indoor plumbing. They subsisted primarily on what they could grow in their garden. Thielen preserved what they didn’t eat. In the fall, they packed up and went back to New York to work during the winter. They would earn enough to sustain them through the next summer in Minnesota.

I enjoyed Give a Girl a Knife very much and appreciated their determination to live their dream. It wasn’t easy, their family and friends didn’t always understand, and sometimes Thielen herself had doubts. But, in the end the story is a powerful one of relentlessly pursuing the life you want to live.

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Summer is coming! Summer is coming! I cannot believe that we are less than two weeks out from Memorial Day weekend and the official start of summer. BBQs and margaritas are two summer staples that I look forward to during the cold, gray days of winter. These grilled margarita shrimp tacos hit the mark on both counts.

Firstly, the recipe was inspired by an almost full picture of margarita that was left over after a recent party. Who ends up with leftover margaritas? Usually not me. But this time, I had so much leftover and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. So, instead I improvised.

I had shrimp in the freezer that I thawed out and then marinated the shrimp in the leftover margarita making sure that all the shrimp were submerged in the liquid. I let them marinate for an hour or two in the fridge and started making the avocado and mango salsa, as well as, the spicy slaw.

The ingredient list may seem a bit daunting but I promise that this recipe comes together pretty quickly.

Pickled Red Onion

I had the pickled red onion in the fridge and recommend that you make up a batch to keep in your fridge too. I used this recipe. In addition to being delicious on tacos, the pickled red onions also tasted great on burgers (or veggie burgers as is the case in my house). Thinly sliced red onion will do in a pinch if you don’t want to make the pickled version.

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

I actually had the rest of the ingredients on hand and drew inspiration from what was already in the refrigerator. You can improvise with this recipe too. Don’t want to make the avocado and mango salsa? Then, consider using jarred salsa and avocado slices. Lettuce or cabbage shreds can replace the spicy slaw if you want, but it is really good.

I used flour tortillas but corn works too if that is your preference. If you feel like doing some prep work on the salsa and slaw ahead of time, these margarita grilled shrimp tacos are a great dish for entertaining. Make a big batch of margaritas, use some of it on the shrimp and serve the rest to your guests while you man the grill.

How to Make Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Spring Break Playlist

Spring break playlist

Guess who is back with another incredible Spotify playlist for our listening pleasure? None other than the beautiful, talented, and overall lovely Hello Fun Seekers Contributor Courtney Droz.

Court puts together the most amazing playlists and she has another one for you today.  This playlist is especially dear to me, as Courtney put this one together with me in mind. Read on to get Courtney’s inspiration and be ready to shake your groove thing.

CourtZionNP

Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

“If you got your ticket, man, you’re allowed to come with me

Yo, for right now I’m gon chill at the beach

Check out the pretty girls layin back, you know how we do playa yo

I’m out here in the sun baby it’s all good!”

-Wyclef Jean, The Carnival

I made this playlist for Diane who was looking for a Spring Break playlist. I thought, what would the perfect Spring Break vacation with Diane be? Immediately, I decided it would be going to New Orleans and showing up at a house party hosted by Wyclef Jean and Shakira. So that’s the basis for this one.

New Orleans House Party

There is a good amount of Creole and Zydeco music throughout this playlist to keep that Louisiana party vibe going. I think of the rest of the songs as guests we run into at the party: The crazy cool Lisa, Angela, Pamela, and Renee (LL Cool J), an American teen (Khalid), the earnest guy who does not seem to be having a great time (The National), the magnetic artist (Amy Winehouse), someone who just stopped in to see what condition her condition was in (Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings), and a group asking if they can kick it (A Tribe called Quest) to name a few.

It’s quite a party, and it ends with Big Al Carson inviting us to leave in a very polite way.

What would your ideal Spring Break entail?

Cheers, and enjoy! 

Want to check out more of Courtney’s playlists? You can find her Road Trip Playlist right here.

Spring Break Playlist

Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes with Pita Chips

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Za’atar. Doesn’t it just sound exotic? Do not be put off by this unfamiliar Middle Eastern spice mixture. Za’atar is combination of dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and savory, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It is delicious and works perfectly on these za’atar roasted tomatoes!

I used za’atar to season the roasted tomatoes and on the pita chips that I baked for this post. Za’atar is available at Middle Eastern markets or on Amazon. If you are ambitious, you can make your own.

 

I love the flavors of Middle Eastern food. That love can be traced back to trip to Las Vegas many years ago.  I had a remarkable meal at Neyla, a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant that sadly is now closed. That night at Neyla, we enjoyed mezze as our meal.  Mezze is an assortment of small plates, think tapas, but with Middle Eastern flavors.

That first experience with Middle Eastern food started a life-long love affair for me. I sought out Middle Eastern restaurants to try in Salt Lake City and in other cities when I traveled. For the record, when in Salt Lake City, I recommend visiting Mazza for an incredible Lebanese feast.

In addition to trying meals at Middle Eastern restaurants, I also began trying to make Middle Eastern foods at home. Back before you could Google a recipe, cookbooks were the main source for exploring the recipes of a new cuisine.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

I was inspired to write this post after recently reading the fabulous cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood. The mezze section of the cookbook is filled with traditional Lebanese small plate recipes, including a write-up on how to peel chickpeas for super smooth hummus.

As an aside, I actually read this article from Serious Eats on making the smoothest hummus ever and I decided to try it.  The kicker is that the article said that peeling the chickpeas is the essential step that makes the hummus so smooth. So yes, I PEELED the chickpeas, all the while muttering to myself, ‘why the hell am I peeling the chickpeas’? I will be damned if that hummus wasn’t the most incredibly smooth hummus that I have ever made. That being said, peeling chickpeas is rather tedious and time-consuming.

Abood’s method seems more efficient than the one that I used which was standing their peeling them one by one. Next time I make hummus, I will try to her method and let you guys know how it goes.

How to Make Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes

If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. However, in the meantime, feel free to give these delicious za’atar roasted tomatoes and baked pita chips a try. You can add a bowl hummus and an assortment of olives and enjoy a wonderful mezze of your own.

How to Make Baked Pita Chips

3 pita breads

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon za’atar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With pita bread lying flat on a cutting board, split the bread in half horizontally so you have two thin rounds. Repeat with the two other pita breads.
  3. Place rounds on two sheet pans. Place olive oil, salt, pepper, and za’atar into a small bowl. Brush each pita round with olive oil mixture.
  4. Bake until golden. Start checking the pita rounds around 7 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle.
  6. Gently break up the rounds into pieces.

NOTE: You can also cut the pita rounds into eight wedges before you coat with oil and bake. I prefer the more rustic look of breaking the pitas up into uneven pieces.

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Page 1 of 8

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén