Pot of Gold

1.16.2017


You know when you find something super unique and special and it just brings a smile to your face? That was pretty much the entire weekend. I had set out with the goal of checking out a few new spots for a project that I'm working - and completely struck gold. Or at least my version of gold.

It feels like a win of a weekend when you slow braise some short ribs, find a channel marker on the beach, come across a skating pond in the middle of the woods, and ride a swing over the marsh. I've lived here a long time and so far I've only braised meat more than once.

Channel Marker
I had seen a few mentions of this on a community Facebook page and immediately wanted to find it. We've had some real high tides recently so I was a bit concerned it would have drifted away... but apparently the Coast Guard came by to tie the sucker down. The chain didn't seem nearly heavy enough to stop this giant can from moving around but I'll leave it to the professionals to determine that. If it wasn't so windy and frigid, I would have climbed up on it for some sort of conquering yoga pose.
Skating Pond
After seeing the channel marker, I picked myself up a blueberry donut and headed to a new trail in Cohasset. There is a great network of trails called Wheelright Park that has been built out (and maybe maintained?) by the Boy Scout troop in that town.

The park itself is really awesome. While the trails aren't incredibly well marked - they are in general pretty wide and the map is accurate. There was a side trail called the "Lemon Squeezer" that takes you off the main trail by a picturesque stream, old stone walls, and big holly trees. There was some historic fireplaces that I passed to - like literally a fire place outside... not a fire pit. 

The skating pond was built in the 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and restored in 2002 by an Eagle Scout project. It is even listed in The Historical Index Survey of Architectural and Historical Assets of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So, I've lived in a 10 mile radius of this park for essentially 30+ years and had never heard of it. I've always been afraid of skating on ponds but I will absolutely be coming back here - even without a blueberry donut.
Couch Cemetery
This was actually my second visit to Couch - but the first was a failure. I couldn't find the entrance. That might sound crazy but it was the truth. You have to notice that there is a parking lot concealed by a half broken fence. At this point, I didn't know how amazing Couch was going to be. The main trail out to the point is wide enough for a truck and feels more like it's used for trucks than people... but at a certain point it switches.

This sounds a little dramatic but it's kind of breathtaking when you get to the end. The trees are crazy tall with essentially clean ground underneath (e.g. no bushes). So, you come to this clearing with majestic tall trees and through them you can see just endless marsh and water. The swing is tucked on the side and not super obvious. It is however really amazing and inviting. I can't wait to come back and bring Ruby May.

Rosemary and Garlic braised short ribs

Oh wow. Things that will NEVER disappoint you? Slow braising meat. I remember when I made this short rib dish for Valentine's Day last year, I was really pleased... and I feel the same for this gem. It's seriously heavenly - especially on a frigid winter day.

I was feeling a bit under the weather after my day of exploring - and almost didn't make this. I had spent much of the day checking out different sites around the South Shore for a project that I'm working on. But, I had already defrosted the meat from the freezer... and there is no turning back once that happens. I'm in the midst of two initiatives: reducing my food waste and eating out of my freezer. This meal satisfied both challenges. Plus, I was able to let this sucker cook in the oven while I took in a really beautiful sunset walk.
There were a few interesting notes about this recipe that are worth calling out - including how I lied and said this was short ribs even though it was not.
  • meat // Truth be told, I've been trying to buy short ribs for weeks but it is pretty much impossible in the burbs. Every time I ask, they tell me they are out. I've been to three grocery stores and left empty-handed each time. So, this meat here is actually "tender chuck beef" - not short ribs - but it is the closest I could get ... and I also wanted to see if this cut would be a potential substitute. It worked totally fine.
  • red wine // I've always felt like red wine was necessary whenever a recipe called for it - but I didn't feel like opening a bottle of wine. While I'm sure that it would have made a difference, this recipe was still super flavorful without it. Lesson learned!
  • onions & rosemary // I can't even describe how amazing the onions turn out. The next time I make this, I will plan to make like 25-30% more. They are just so good after braising for a few hours. Hint? I sliced them rather thin before cooking so they almost like melted away.
  • parsnip // this recipe didn't make me a fan of parsnips but I'm willing to give them a shot. It was good to try something new but next time I'll add more flavor to them. Other vegetables can kind of stand on their own a bit better - parsnips seem to need a little extra love (e.g. garlic, spices, parmesan cheese?)

Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium/high heat in a ceramic coated cast iron pot.
  3. Sprinkle the meat in coarse salt and pepper and place in the pan.
  4. Cook until browned and then turn the meat to the other side. After you've done both sides, remove the meat from the pan to a plate.
  5. Add the onion to the hot pan and saute until onion is translucent, 4-5 minutes. You might need to add just a touch of olive oil to get the process going. Then add in the garlic and saute for a minute.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 30 seconds, coating the onion.
  7. Add the beef broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Then arrange the meat back in the pan and toss in a few rosemary sprigs. 
  8. Cover the pod with a lid and put in the oven.
  9. Bake for about 2 hours. Start checking in on it at about 90 minutes to make sure you have just enough liquid left behind for a sauce.
  10. Pull from the oven and then serve over some veggies. I went with pureed polenta. 
Pureed Parsnip
  1. Dice the polenta small to help it cook faster.
  2. Add polenta to boiling water and cook until tender. Depending on how small you dice, it might be 10-45 minutes. I was really hungry so my small shape helped the process be very fast.
  3. Drain and add the polenta to the food processor and add in softened butter. Puree the mixture and add in the milk until you get the consistency you are happy with.
Shopping List (for 2 servings) adapted from this recipe
1+ pound boneless Beef Short Ribs
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 Onion, Sliced thin
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbl tomato paste
2 1/2 Cups Beef Broth
4 Rosemary Sprigs
2 cups parsnip, diced
3 T butter
approx 1/2 cup milk / cream

One Year

1.13.2017

I guess technically it has been 13 months - not a sharp 12; but, I’ve been mentally writing this post for several months. The main way I’ve been reflecting about this is when two things happen. One? I put seaglass is the jar on my shelf. Two? Pretty much any time I go to Lowe’s.

While I am afraid to really look at my credit card statements, I can tell you that a very high percentage of my expenditures these days would be irrelevant if I still lived in the North End. I don’t really get takeout on my way home from work anymore. Instead, I do things like buy extension cords. To be clear, I’m still eating on my “commute” - but it’s more like pretzel nuggets from Auntie Anne’s or Combos from the CVS in South Station. My diet is clearly something to be admired.

I thought it would be relatively entertaining to make a short list of things I’ve bought:

  • 4 deck chairs and 1 table
  • 2 solar timers
  • 100+ ft of extension cord
  • 200+ ft of decorative pre-lit garland
  • 1 rake and 1 shovel
  • 50 lb bag of pet safe rock salt
  • 25 sets of 100 white light strings (they pretty much die annually)
  • Anything for the garden...

So, this list is not inclusive of course but I can say with relative certainly I never would have bought a 50 lb bag of anything in the North End. I have pretty much exactly the same amount of friends that I had when I lived in Boston. But I certainly date a lot less. I was on a date recently that came to a screeching halt when I said I lived in Scituate. You know that feeling when you accidentally offend someone and then you scramble a bit to make up ground with them? That’s how it felt - except I had done nothing wrong. Thankfully, this memory was soon erased when another gentleman graciously snowplowed my driveway during the last storm … just to be nice.

But not all of suburban life is harvesting tomatoes, decorating for Christmas, and scavenging for sea glass. I commute for about 3 hours a day. I often go to bed before 10 pm. I have been to one spin class in the last year. All that being said, the suburbs are pretty great. I personally know the name of my mail lady and UPS guy. I see the sunrise every day that it isn’t overcast. I’ll repeat that. Every day. No change is permanent and who knows where I’ll live in 5 or 10 years but I’m doing pretty great right now.

BTW - I’m pretty proud of that jar of sea glass. I nearly filled that sucker to the top. Back in November, I opened up the jar to put in some finds and realized that it literally smells like the ocean. THE OCEAN. So now whenever I open it up, I get a little sniff and then shut it quickly for fear that the scent will be worn out and disappear. I also spent a good two weeks looking on eBay for my 2017 jar.  Can’t wait for Regina the mail lady to deliver it.

45 minute cinnamon buns

1.08.2017

Today was a flipping home run. There was snow, there were cinnamon buns, there were good deeds and there was a grilled cheese for lunch. The long and the short of it is that I had friends coming over for breakfast and it had just snowed like a foot. The only solution was clearly to make some cinnamon buns that would bake while I was shoveling the driveway. If the driveway was filled with snow, where would my guests park? Who would eat all the cinnamon buns?

This cinnamon bun recipe comes together real quick. I'm not just saying that. It is the truth. You can start mixing ingredients and then be eating 45 minutes later. I think this is completely feasible even if you haven't just organized your spice cabinet. A few other quick notes:
  • Flavor // I'm a pretty big fan of this recipe and love the subtle chocolate flavor. It still tastes like breakfast but the hint of cocoa powder makes it great - and kind of conceals any flavor that might be missing from it only taking 45 minutes. I also added cocoa powder to the glaze because I was feeling pretty wild. It was another good decision.
  • Nuts // In hindsight, I wish I had added some chopped nuts in there. 
  • Roll Tight // I rolled the dough up nicely - but it could have been better. Your dough will not break in half if you get a little aggressive with it. 
  • Muffin Tin // I highly recommend using a muffin tin to bake your buns. It makes individual presentation real strong. That being said, if you were bringing them to a party or brunch or something then putting them in a tin would be better. I ran out of muffin tins so a few sad ones ended up in a pan.
While these babes were cooking in the oven, I was giving it a go shoveling the driveway. Like many suburban activities, I grossly underestimated the time this would require. Thankfully, after 15 minutes of shoveling... a very nice guy pulled up and randomly offered to help out. I really try to say hi and wave to everyone when I'm out walking... and I think it is paying off. Also, people might think I'm crazy but whatever. 
Also the rest of the day was great. While I will always love Summer the most, nature does look pretty amazing with a fresh coat of snow. I am working on a little project compiling all the nearby trails. Double crossies that we get another batch of snow so I can head more into the woods. Either way, here's how the recipe goes:
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly mixed. 
  2. In a microwavable bowl, heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted. 
  3. Add the butter mixture into the flour mixture. And give it a bit of a mixture just to distribute the hot liquids, then add the egg and knead with the stand mixer. It'll take about 3 minutes for the dough to not be sticky anymore. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rest for about 5 minutes. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and turn off after 10 minutes or just before placing rolls in oven.
  5. While the dough is resting, you can make the filling. Blend the softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder. After the dough has rested for 5 minutes, roll it out into a large rectangle (like 15x9). Spread the softened butter mixture on top. 
  6. Roll up the dough tightly and cut into pieces. If you go with about 2 inches a slice, you'll get some good sizes rolls in the end. 
  7. Arrange the cut rolls into lightly greased muffin tins or a square pan. 
  8. Lightly cover the rolls with tin foil and TURN OFF the oven. Place the cinnamon buns in the oven to rise for 20 minutes. 
  9. Remove the tin foil, set the oven to 375F and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 
  10. While the buns are baking, you can make the glaze. Mix the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and 2 Tablespoons milk together until smooth and lump free. Drizzle over warm rolls.
Shopping List
2¾ cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 package instant yeast (1 packet = 2 and ¼ teaspoons)
½ cup water
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large egg

Filling:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

the most tender meatballs ever

1.07.2017

Today was a weekend snow day. The town is allegedly expected to get about 14 inches of snow which makes me feel a million times better about my level of activity. I've been sitting in nearly the same spot on the couch for about 5 hours at this point. But to be fair, I did go to the gym, two grocery stores, a thrift shop and Dunkin Donuts all before Noon.

When I realized it was going to snow all day, I immediately started to think about what meal would be the best fit. My first thought was of course a big ole batch of chili - but when I couldn't decide on a recipe... I ended up making these meatballs.... and I'm not the least bit upset. These meatballs are so tender that it is insane.

I almost ate these meatballs the way I normally do - by themselves in a bowl. But instead, I made a real meal out of it with bucatini pasta and the Ina Garten homemade sauce from last weekend. It was not disappointing. Here are a few other things of note:

  • Food Processor // I used the food processor this time to mix the onion, garlic, parsley, and ricotta. It was so much easier and I feel like it really helped all the ingredients become much more well combined.
  • Bucatini Pasta // The last time I bought bucatini was about a million years ago - or more specifically 2007. At that time it was kind of a disappointment, but this time was great. The noodles were much smaller and more flexible. Pasta can be flexible right?
  • Parmesan + Sauce // I don't know if other people do this but I mixed the parmesan into the sauce before adding in the pasta. I will now do this all the time. It feels genius.
Here's how it goes.


  1. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and mix in the milk.
  2. Put the onions, garlic and herbs in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add in the ricotta and egg. Pulse until combined again. 
  3. Add the ricotta and meat to the breadcrumb bowl. Gently combine until evenly incorporated. Use might have to use your hands. 
  4. Pinch off small amounts of the mixture and roll into meatballs, placing them on a plate or platter. I used an ice cream scoop but didn't fill it the whole way. I'd say the balls were about 2 inches in diameter.
  5. Bake the meatballs on a foil lined sheet at 400 F for about 25 minutes. 
Shopping List
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cups milk
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup loosely-packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup fresh ricotta
2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork

three types of calzone!


Ugh. My baby brother is an unbelievable 18 years old now - and I just can't handle it.

I have no idea how this happened. All I know is that just recently he was tucked into a carseat in the back of the jeep eating butternut crunch donuts. For the life of me, I can't seem to find a picture of this but there must be one somewhere. In the last 5 years I have really tried to scan all of our family pictures. Every time that I feel as though I'm making progress,  I find another pile of albums. I hope that 2017 will be the year I finish scanning big albums.

I've cooked Jake's birthday dinner the past couple of years - and each year he always wants the same thing. Calzone. I first made calzone for him in 2012 and it ends up being an annual thing. There is go reason I only make it in December but that ends up being the truth.

This year, I asked him what he was hoping for and he only had one request. Goldfinger chicken. We first learned about "goldfinger" sauce at this local bar (TK O'Malleys). Jake and I have lunch dates where we get bar pizza or chicken fingers. It feels like we end up being the first people there when they open on Sundays. But Goldfinger sauce is pretty intriguing. It's a fine balance of honey mustard and hot sauce... with a bit of butter in there too.

Given we were expecting about 10 for dinner, I needed to make about 3 calzones. I googled for some inspiration on options but honestly came up largely empty. The calzone apparently doesn't garner as much creativity as I was hoping. Here is what I ended up going with:

  1. prosciutto, goat cheese, and mozzarella
  2. chicken sausage, spinach, and ricotta
  3. goldfinger chicken

When I asked for votes at the end of the night, there was honestly an even split across all three. The combination of options really seemed to cover all the bases. So I'm calling this a win - even though I took like zero pictures of this whole thing.
Here's how it goes. Writing this up isn't exactly straightforward because it is 3 different recipes but hopefully you can understand this.

Goldfinger Sauce
Combine the honey mustard, hot sauce and butter in a pot on the stove. Heat on medium-low until the butter has melted. Stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional sauces or salt and pepper.

Goldfinger Chicken Prep
  1. As a little bit of prep work, I cut up the chicken into smaller bite size pieces and marinated it for a few hours in goldfinger sauce.
  2. After marinating, saute up the chicken in a pan like you'd normally cook chicken. No big deal.
Calzone
  1. Prepare your cooking sheet with cooking spray and tinfoil. Stretch out your pizza dough like you'd do if you were making normal pizza.... since calzone is essentially pizza folded in half. Don't get stressy pants about shape. It's calzone not brain surgery.
  2. Layer your ingredients on one half of the dough.
  3. After you've filled the calzones, just bring the other half over and pinch the edges to seal. 
  4. Cook in a 400 F oven for about 25 minutes.
Shopping List
5 oz prosciutto
2 cups of mozzarella
2-3 oz of goat cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 chicken sausages, sliced thin and cooked
2ish cups of spinach, cooked
3/4 cup of ricotta
2 cups of mozzarella
1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 lb chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 cup hot sauce
3/4 cup honey mustard
2 T butter
2 cups of mozzarella 

peppermint white chocolate scones

1.02.2017

It wouldn't be a holiday if I didn't make scones. I only wish I could tell you that I made these scones with discounted candy canes - but I can't. I bought the candy canes full price from CVS about 3 weeks before Christmas and then they proceeded to sit on my stairs until yesterday. 

Honestly part of the delay is that grating the butter seems really arduous these days. Grated frozen butter is the key to good scones - but it's also a lot of work. However, in hindsight I would rather grate butter than unwrap a box of candy canes and then try to smash them into little bits. I'm pretty sure that the kitchen is covered in a fine layer of candy cane sugar dust - and then some flour because I also get that everywhere.

This scone recipe is pretty good - so here are a few things about it:
  • DESSERT V BREAKFAST // this recipe skews more towards a dessert than a breakfast. Yes, I did still eat it for breakfast but the extra white chocolate flavor just kind of pushes it out of the morning meal realm. 
  • PEPPERMINT FLAVOR // The peppermint flavor is not heavy here - so I might recommend adding in some peppermint extract if you have it. I actually like the flavor profile that exists currently but it is more of a "candy cane scone" than a "peppermint scone"
  • SMALL BITS // I gave up breaking down the candy cane into smaller bits - but it is absolutely worth the effort. The smaller bits would have enabled me to put more candy cane in the recipe - and the smaller bits would melt down more while baking. 

Here's how it goes.
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Add the butter and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and egg and then mix into the flour bowl. 
  4. Dump the dough onto a generously floured surface. Knead it until you get a bit of a dough ball. As a friendly note, the dough will not feel as solid as pizza, bread or pie dough... it always feels a bit loose. You can feel the little grated bits of butter pretty clearly.
  5. Once you have your dough baby, roll it out into a 12x12 -ish square. I'm never precise. Then, fold it up like a business letter. Put it in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  6. Roll out your dough once last time into a larger rectangle kind of like before. Then spread the candy cane and white chocolate chips on the dough and kind of gently press them into the dough. Note: I would normally spread the filling all over the dough but given how sharp and large some of the pieces were I focused on the middle.
  7. Now roll your decorated dough up like a cinnamon roll. Once you have the roll, then using the palms of your hands kind of gently flatten it down a bit. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into squares... then triangles. Lay those baby triangles on a parchment covered cookie sheet
  8. Brush the tops of each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with extra candy cane bits. Since the dough is still very cold from the freezer, the butter will actually harden on top of the scones.
  9. Bake in preheated 375F oven until they rise and turn a light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
Shopping List (adapted from this original recipe)
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup frozen butter, grated or cut into tiny cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup candy canes, crushed
1 cup white chocolate chips

Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola

1.01.2017


So funny story. I found this recipe for a pasta sauce over the weekend - and was instantly drawn to it for two reasons. One? Ina Garten was called out in the title. Two? I thought it took 11 hours to make. I literally was planning my day around making this 11 hour sauce. I told several people that it was going to take 11 hours. Turns out... it takes about 20% of that time. A two-hour sauce is nothing to shake a fist at - but it is a far cry from the extravaganza that I was planning.

It wasn't until I got to the end that I realized this sauce is pretty much like my own roasted tomato sauce. There are a few differences of course - I'm no Ina Garten. But the minute I pulled the lid from pot, I could smell the insane caramelized flavor of the tomatoes. There is nothing like it in the world.

Other gems that came from this recipe? Having to buy vodka. Vodka isn't something that comes up on my grocery list all that often - or my cocktail menu for that matter. I tried to avoid a trip the store by checking my parents cabinet. No vodka but 3 types of tequila and a bunch of Baileys. I'm 100% sure that the guy at the liquor store was not entertained when I told him I didn't care what type of vodka and that I only needed a cup. He clearly doesn't cook - ever - because he suggested buying nips.


So here's how it goes. 
 

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) ovenproof sauté pan—the pan should have a tight-fitting lid (if you don't have one, use a Dutch oven)—over medium heat, uncovered. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vodka and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half.
  3. Add the cans of tomatoes (including juice) to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to break them up a bit - but don't try to be perfect about it. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
  5. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
  6. Reheat the sauce, add 1 tablespoon fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sauce to the pasta, reserving any excess, and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate. Save any extra sauce for more pasta or vodka pizza with fresh mozzarella.
Shopping List
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, plus extra for serving
1 cup heavy cream (or less, to taste)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

baked ricotta with mushroom asparagus confit and balsamic brown butter


While I had this for dinner, I might call this my new favorite appetizer. I will absolutely be making this again - and in literally as many seasons as I can. It's kind of the appetizer opportunity for getting rid of the "extra leftover veggies" in your fridge. Except for the fact that I just never got around to cooking with these aspirational veggies. Aspirational veggies are the ones that you see in the store, aren't on your list, you buy them ... and then you eat Kraft Mac and Cheese.

But for New Years Eve, it seems appropriate to cook something and I do love to cook. I was originally going to make something that took hours to cook because it also felt appropriate - but time slipped away collecting sea glass and watching Hallmark movies. I found this gem on Food52 early in the day and knew that I'd love it. I still have no idea what a "confit" is but it almost sounds like confetti and that is really appropriate for New Years Eve.

A few things about this recipe:

  • FAST // You can be done with this in less than 25 minutes - and people will be really impressed. People are always impressed when you say "brown butter"
  • CARBS // this has to be eaten with some toast or crackers - and preferably something with minimal seasoning. Just cut up some sourdough bread or use like basic sea salt crackers. 
  • BUTTER // So, I'm probably never going to say this again but you don't need a lot of brown butter for this - in fact I think I added too much to my little dish.

Here's how it goes.
  1. To make the vegetable park: combine the oil, red pepper, and garlic in a medium heat skillet until the garlic is lightly toasted. Add the mushrooms, asparagus and wine and cover. Adjust the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Let cook until the mushrooms have softened (approx 5 minutes). 
  2. Uncover and let the pan cook until the wine has evaporated. Pull from the heat but keep warm until ready to serve.
  3. To make the balsamic brown butter sauce, in a small pot, melt the butter over low heat and cook, stirring, until deep brown. I always think it starts to smell a bit nutty. Remove from the heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic and a touch of pepper.
  4. To make the ricotta: Set the broiler to high heat. Either put the ricotta into individual ramekins or 1 larger dish - up to you. Broil until browned across the top (5 - 20 minutes depending on what size dish you use). 
  5. To plate, just put you veggies on your ricotta and then drizzle with the brown butter. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.
Shopping List (for 4 servings)
For the mushroom confit:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound button mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the balsamic brown butter sauce
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
16 ounces ricotta
sea salt
Grilled bread or sliced baguette, for serving
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