Category: Cheese

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Summer brings an abundance of zucchini either from your own garden or the farmers’ market. I found piles of leeks at the farmers’ market at the same time the zucchini reached peak season. As I eyed them, it was like they were screaming at me to make a Leek and Zucchini Casserole! I went a little crazy with this recipe in terms of over-the-top richness, — butter, Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses –but once in a while it’s so nice to sit down to an ooey-gooey mound of deliciousness on your plate.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

How to Clean Leeks

First, let’s address those leeks. They’re sandy and require a thorough cleaning. Remove the dark green tops and the root portion at the bottom of the bulb and discard. Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then into thin slices. Toss into a large bowl of cold water and swish around. Take handfuls of the leeks and gently rub between your palms to separate the layers and loosen the dirt. Let sit for a few seconds so the dirt settles to the bottom of the bowl. Scoop the leeks into a colander. Drain, rinse, and refresh the bowl with cold water, and repeat the cleaning process once more. Drain.

Slicing the Zucchini

I used a mandolin to slice the zucchini into ¼-inch rounds, which is the perfect size for the time and temperature in this recipe. If you cut the zucchini by hand and make thicker slices, or just prefer thicker slices, increase the timing by a few minutes.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Herbs

Herbes de Provence is a lovely blend of Provencal herbs, which complements the delicate taste of this leek and zucchini casserole. I like Penzey’s herbes de Provence which contains rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, lavender, chervil, and marjoram. Or, substitute something earthy like thyme or rosemary, either dried (same amount) or fresh (1 tablespoon, plus 1 ½ teaspoons minced).

Key Points for Success

Zucchini has a high-water content which is expelled during cooking. The only place it has to go is into the casserole and eventually over the sides onto the oven floor. I always recommend placing this style of recipe on a lined baking sheet to catch any drippings. But you can also take a couple of steps to prevent too prevent this.

The leeks and cream also contain water, dilute flavor and increase chances of spillage. Don’t skimp on the time suggested in the recipe to saute the leeks, which releases and evaporates the water and intensifies flavor. Same for the cream, cook it down until it’s thick enough to stay in place when stirred. Following these simple instructions yields a delicious, cheesy and less runny leek and zucchini casserole.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Let’s get started. Grease a 1-quart casserole dish with a little butter – I use my slightly smaller Le Creuset 24-ounce casserole dish – and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter in the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the leeks, garlic, herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat with the fat and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the leeks begin to brown, reduce the heat a smidge.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Add the cream, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle boil, and cook until the cream is quite thick, about 6 or 7 minutes. When you run a spoon through the cream, it stays in place.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread ¼ of the cream and leeks on the bottom of the greased casserole dish.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Lay ¼ of the zucchini slices on the bottom, overlapping slightly.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Repeat layering the cream and leek mixture and the zucchini 3 more times.

Strew the shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Leek and Zucchini Casserole

Let sit for 10 minutes to settle before serving.

Tip: The casserole can be prepared a day before cooking. Cover and refrigerate. Take out of the refrigerator and place in preheated oven; increase cooking time by 10 minutes.

 

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Leek and Zucchini Casserole

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: Side Dish

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the casserole dish
4 cups thinly sliced leeks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 medium zucchini cut into ¼-inch coins
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Instructions

Let’s get started. Grease a 1-quart casserole dish with a little butter – I use my slightly smaller Le Creuset 24-ounce casserole dish – and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter in the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the leeks, garlic, herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat with the fat and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the leeks begin to brown, reduce the heat a smidge.

Add the cream, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle boil, and cook until the cream is quite thick, about 6 or 7 minutes. When you run a spoon through the cream, it stays in place.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread ¼ of the cream and leeks on the bottom of the greased casserole dish.

Lay ¼ of the zucchini slices on the bottom, overlapping slightly.

Repeat layering the cream and leek mixture and the zucchini 3 more times.

Strew the shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes to settle before serving.

Notes

The casserole can be prepared a day before cooking. Cover and refrigerate. Take out of the refrigerator and place in preheated oven; increase cooking time by 10 minutes.

Keywords: casserole, side dish, leek, zucchini, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Herbes de Provence, gluten-free

Burrata with Warm Eggplant Compote

Burrata with warm eggplant compote and crusty bread

Serve this Burrata with Warm Eggplant Compote as a quick and easy, yet elegant appetizer. It’s as eye appealing as it is delicious!

Burrata means “buttered” in Italian. This cheesy delicacy is made of a mozzarella shell and stuffed with a soft, milky curd that oozes from the center of the cheese. It’s best served at room temperature – the cheese on the outside and inside soften and flavor is maximized. Drizzle with a fine, thick balsamic vinegar, a great foil for the mild cheese.

halved burrata

Typically, mozzarella is served with sliced tomatoes as a caprese salad or other raw ingredients. However, it’s nice to change things up once in a while and this warm eggplant compote is a perfect accompaniment. Even better, the compote can be made the day before and gently reheated before serving.

Eggplant Compote

Cook the seasoned eggplant in hot oil over medium heat until the bottom side turns a golden brown. Turn and continue cooking a few minutes more until that side is golden brown. Stir and continue cooking until the eggplant is done; it offers no resistance when pierced with a fork, but retains its shape. Remove to a plate.

Sauteeing eggplant

Add a little more oil to the pan and toss in the shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes; sweat until the aromatics are soft and translucent, about 2 minutes, scraping up the eggplant tidbits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and raisins and cook over a low flame for 3 minutes. The tomatoes should yield a little, looking a little crinkly, but not mushy.

Return the eggplant to the pan, stir and reheat.

Place one burrata on a salad plate with a scoop of the eggplant compote. Drizzle a thick balsamic vinegar over both and top with the basil.

Platting Burrata with warm eggplant compote

Serve with warm crusty bread or try our Garlic Bread!

Watch the video here.

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Burrata with Warm Eggplant Compote

Burrata with warm eggplant compote and crusty bread

Serve burrata and eggplant compote as a starter to any meal – it as eye-appealing as it is scrumptious. Accompany with a warm, crusty bread.

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Appetizer

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups ½-inch cube eggplant (~1  pound)
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
¼ cup minced shallots
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup raisins
¼ -1/2  cup basil chiffonade
2  large or 4 small burrata, cut the large burrata in half

 Garnish                       

A drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar over the burrata and eggplant compote and top with sliced or whole basil leaves.

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Season the eggplant with salt and place into the hot oil in a single layer. Don’t stir again until the bottom side of the eggplant begins to turn golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Lower the heat if the eggplant is browning too quickly.

Turn and continue browning for another 2-3 minutes. Toss the eggplant in the skillet and cook until the eggplant is soft, but still retains its shape.

Remove eggplant to a plate.

Add the shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes and sweat until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes, scraping up the eggplant tidbits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and raisins, stir to combine and cook over at a gentle simmer for a few minutes or until the tomatoes begin to crinkle a little.

Stir in the eggplant to reheat.

Place one burrata on a salad plate with a scoop of the eggplant compote. Drizzle a thick balsamic vinegar over both, top with the basil.

Notes

Make the day before and gently reheat.

Keywords: burrata, eggplant, compote

Fig and Goat Cheese Spread

appetizer

Entertaining in the summer should be easy. The hot days make you a little lazy and, of course, you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen when you can be outdoors! This quick and easy Fig and Goat Cheese Spread fits the bill for laid-back outdoor living.

appetizer

The sweetness of the figs is a great foil for the tart goat cheese. Use a fork to mix the fig jam into room temperature goat cheese, but don’t combine thoroughly, leave streaks throughout.

Include the spread on a cheese or charcuterie board. It’s also great in lieu of butter on a tasty loaf of bread.

The little charcuterie plate I put together here includes some Genoa salami and sopressata, the saltiness of these meats with the sweet and tart spread go very well together. Add a little fruit and some sour cornichons and pickled onions and you’ve covered all the taste profiles on one small plate!

appetizer

See out post on how to make crostini; omit the cheese step.

Happy 4th of July!

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Fig & Goat Cheese Spread

Fig & Goat Cheese spread couldn’t be easier to make and it’s really delicious. Use it on a cheese board or use on crusty bread instead of butter.

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: generous 1/2 cup
  • Category: Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons fig spread or jam

Instructions

  1. Gently mix the goat cheese and fig spread together, but don’t completely combine. Leave streaks of both throughout.
  2. Serve on crostini or crackers or crusty bread

 

 

Crostini

Cheesy crostini

Crostini, which means little crusts in Italian, is simply toasted slices of a baguette or other crust bread. This can be done a couple of ways: baked in the oven or placed on a hot griddle or grill to get a smoky taste and aroma.

Brushing with a little oil on the surface is optional and not necessary for this recipe since we’re topping our crostini with Gruyere cheese, which we’ll melt in the oven. Use with our French Onion Soup!

Cheesy crostini

Another way to flavor the crostini is to rub a whole clove of garlic on the toasted bread as soon as it comes out of the oven, the heat of the bread softens the sharpness of the garlic.

By cutting the crostini on an angle the shape is elongated and takes three to four bites to eat.

Cheesy crostini

For a smaller size crostini, cut straight across.

Cheesy crostini

Top with sliced cheeses or meats, roasted vegetables or a wide variety of spreads. The possibilities are endless.

Cheesy crostini

Crostini go great with cocktails and are easy to prepare. Keep them in an airtight container to prevent them from getting soft. Top just before serving to keep them crispy.

Cheesy Crostini Video.
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Cheesy Crostini

Cheesy crostini

Crostini go great with cocktails and are easy to prepare. Keep them in an airtight container to prevent them from getting soft. Top them just before serving to keep them crispy.

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 30 crostini
  • Category: Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice the baguette either on an angle or straight across into slices wide enough to hold a topping and yet thin enough not to overwhelm it.
  3. Optional: lightly brush the slices with oil.
  4. Place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  5. Optional: rub the garlic clove over the top of each crostini.
  6. Cool.

 

Baked Cheddar Cheese and Ham Omelet

Back to School Dinner Recipe

Mornings are hectic and it’s unlikely that a home-cooked robust breakfast is appearing on the table. Everyone is in hurry to grab a bite and catch the bus or head off to work. This is a very good time to have breakfast for dinner with a Baked Cheddar Cheese and Ham Omelet.

Eggs are nutritious and versatile. You can prepare them simply by frying, scrambling or poaching. Serve with toast and ham or sausage on the side and some steamed vegetables. Simple, quick and easy.

Back to School Dinner Recipe

You can also make heartier preparations like baked omelets. I recommend cooking extra vegetables on the weekend, cut them up and put in a container. Buy a slice of ham and dice it up and save in a container or pre-cook some sausages, dice up and save in a container. Sauté a diced onion and save in a container. Having roasted root vegetables this weekend? Save the leftovers in a container.

Back to School Dinner Recipe

Don’t have leftovers? No worries. Take advantage of the pre-cut vegetables most grocery stores offer these days: thinly sliced bell peppers, little buds of broccoli or cauliflower. Buy a zucchini or some green beans and cut into bite-size pieces. Best of all, there is no need to precook these vegetables. Pick up a package of your favorite shredded cheese and you can prep dinner in 20 minutes or less.

Back to School Dinner Recipe

What to serve on the side: toasted English muffins, a nice crusty bread, muffins or scones; you don’t have to bake, pick them up with your morning coffee!

Warm the bread, muffins or scones in the oven after you remove the omelet, which needs to sit a good 10 minutes to set before slicing. A nice green salad or a side of steamed vegetables rounds out this meal nicely.

Back to School Dinner Recipe

While the omelet bakes you can set the table, or perhaps the kids can do that when they get home from school, check on homework status, get into some comfortable after-work clothes and maybe even have a glass of wine!

You’ve made a delicious, nutritious meal in a very short time with very little cleanup after and it’s economical. If you have any leftovers, send it the lunchbox.

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Baked Cheddar Cheese and Ham Omelet

Back to School Dinner Recipe

Mornings are hectic and it’s unlikely that a home-cooked robust breakfast is appearing on the table. Everyone is in hurry to grab a bite and catch the bus or head off to work. This is a very good time to have breakfast for dinner with a Baked Cheddar Cheese and Ham Omelet.

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Yield: 6 portions
  • Category: Eggs
  • Method: Baking

Ingredients

  • one dozen large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup small pieces broccoli florets
  • 1 cup small pieces cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup diced ham

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease an 8- by 8- by 2-inch cake/brownie pan.
  2. Beat the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper until frothy.
  3. Scatter the fillings across the bottom of the pan and cover with the scrambled eggs.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. The omelet is done when puffed, solid in the middle and a little golden on the edges. Let sit 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Send leftovers in the lunch box tomorrow.

 

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mozzarella Crostini

I’ve made this hors d’oeuvre a couple of times and it’s always a big hit. I like the presentation and when you bit into each Prosciutto-Wrapped Mozzarella Crostini, there’s a lot going on – sweet, salty, juicy, crunchy. I usually make enough for 3-4 pieces per person, less if there are other options.

This weekend I happened to have some leftover pesto, which I spread on the bottom of the crostini – a great addition to an already delicious bite.

 

Blue Cheese and Bacon Sliders

Small plates are great fun for parties. And small plates give everyone a chance to sample lots of dishes without too much guilt. These Blue Cheese and Bacon Sliders are flavorful and easy to make. I’ll serve these on mini onion rolls.

I added the cheese, bacon, chives, and sour cream, for moisture, into the hamburger meat. It seems to make sense rather than  pile these on top of such a small sandwich.

Method

Combine the beef, blue cheese, bacon, chives, sour cream, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Use your hands to knead the ingredients into the ground beef.

Form into a 1 1/2 ounce meatballs and flatten.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Cook and serve, or freeze.

Cook’s tasting sample – delicious!

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Blue Cheese and Bacon Sliders

Make these Blue Cheese and Bacon Sliders for parties. Small plates are lots of fun for you and guests – and it feels guilt-free because of the size!

 

  • Author: Trish Lobenfeld

Ingredients

1 pound ground chuck (80/20)
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
4 ounces cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions

Combine chuck, cheese, bacon, sour cream, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Measure 1 1/2 ounces for each slider, roll into a meatball, then flatten.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours and grill, panfry, or freeze for a later date.

Garnish: Slice of cherry tomato, sprig of watercress or arugula, served on a mini roll.