Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

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It’s my favorite food time of year…tomato season. What is better than a super fresh, sweet, tasty heirloom tomato right from the garden? One of my favorite things ever! This awesome salad that I spotted in Food & Wine takes advantage of tomato season and matches them up with fresh ricotta seasoned with lemon zest and sunflower sprouts, and an unconventional topping — granola. It’s so simple but so delicious!

The granola incorporates pistachios and sunflower seeds and adds such a nice crunch to the salad. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty to throw on some yogurt with some berries for a nice week or so of breakfasts. And the other interesting ingredient — sunflower sprouts. They’re sweet, crunchy and fresh, and add a nice green splash to an already beautiful plate.

Make this and stat while the tomatoes are in their prime!IMG_7072IMG_7071

TW’s Tips

  • Do not skimp on the tomatoes. If you can’t get them fresh at the farmer’s market, don’t bother. Heirloom — even better.
  • Same with the fresh ricotta — must be fresh! You’ll find it at a good grocery store in the cheese section. Don’t you dare use the stuff in plastic tubs in the dairy aisle.
  • Sunflower sprouts won’t be easy to find. I nabbed them at the Union Square greenmarket.

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • Two 12-ounce heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the agave, water, 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the oats on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring twice, until the granola is light golden. Stir in the pistachios and sunflower seeds and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until golden brown and dry. Let the granola cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, toss the sunflower sprouts with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tomato wedges in shallow bowls and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the ricotta around the tomatoes. Scatter the sprouts on top and sprinkle with some of the granola; save the remaining 
granola for another use. Serve right away.

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Roasted Beets with Beet Green Salsa Verde

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This is a hearty, delicious salad (another Food and Wine favorite from Tyler Florence) that works well for the main course or as a starter/side. Beets are one of those veggies that I didn’t discover a love for until they became popular in restaurants over the past 15 years or so. Now you can find a beet salad on practically any menu, and for good reason — they’re meaty and earthy and go perfectly with cheese and a dash of acid from lemon or vinegar. This salad uses beet greens, which are for the most part overlooked and thrown out. They’re actually delicious both raw and cooked. I grew up eating them boiled and topped with butter and salt — these days I’d recommend sautéing like you would spinach. The beet green salsa verde that tops this salad is fantastic. It’s a combo of chopped beet green stems, red onion, oil, vinegar and dill, and it gives a great hit of brightness.

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TW’s Tips

  • If you don’t want to roast your own beets, you can buy them already roasted and peeled in the produce section of the grocery store — you’ll just need to buy the beet greens (or replace out with another leafy green).
  • Beets dye things really quickly, so make sure you wash your cutting board right away so it’s not stained pink.
  • FRESH ricotta is key here — if you buy it in a packaged container, this dish just isn’t worth it. My grocery store here sells their own in the cheese section.
  • Pomegranate seeds can be insanely expensive, so if you’re lucky enough to live in California, grab fresh pomegranates from the grocery or your friend’s yard and do it yourself (watch this video or you will have a miserable time).
  • You could also substitute a different fruit for the pomegranate seeds or leave them out entirely.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds small or medium beets, scrubbed
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups beet greens, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup minced beet green stems
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in foil and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, until tender when pierced. Unwrap and let cool.

Spread the ricotta on a platter. Cut the beets into chunks and arrange on the cheese. Season lightly with sea salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar. Add the beet greens and stems, the onion and chopped dill and mix well. Season the salsa verde with sea salt and pepper and spoon over the beets. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top, garnish with dill sprigs and serve.

The roasted beets can be refrigerated for 2 days. Return to room temperature before serving.

Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas with Guacamole and Black Bean Salsa

This is one of my favorite quesadillas and favorite vegetarian meals ever. It’s definitely not your traditional quesadilla. Dig it: Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas.

The recipe comes from my Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes cookbook. Check out the filling below: poblano peppers add smoky heat, zucchini dusted with coriander adds a Middle Eastern flair, and the cheese — ricotta mixed with jalapeno, scallions, lime zest and cilantro — kicks in some more zip, a nice creaminess, plus freshness from the lime, cilantro and scallions.

So, not only are these full of flavor, they’re also pretty healthy! Served with fresh guacamole (yum!) and a black bean salsa, and you can’t go wrong.

The killer guacamole (recipe below) is also from my Food Network cookbook — it’s super chunky, spicy and fresh with a hit of garlic. Absolutely delicious. I’d never had guacamole until I came to California, and these days it (or simply avocado) will sell me on a recipe in a second.

The black bean salsa is a Rachael Ray. It’s smoky, hearty and has a nice spice to it from jalapenos. Sun-dried tomatoes add an unexpected, sweet tang.

TW’s Tips

  • Peeling the skin off charred poblano peppers is easier said than done. Char them as much as you can and use a paper towel to brush off the skin (it’s easier than trying to peel it).
  • If you’re making this for company, it’s easy to make the filling ahead of time and just assemble and fry up the quesadillas that day. Just nuke the filling a little bit to warm it up.
  • For the guac, leave it chunky — just mash it up slightly. It’s awesome to get a real nice piece of avocado in a bite of your quesadilla.
  • For the black bean salsa, I cut back on the barbecue sauce (I used about 1/4 cup), but next time, I might just use a couple of tablespoons. It overpowered the flavor of the beans a bit.
You’ve got to try this one!

Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas

Ingredients

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise about 1/3 inch thick
3 poblano chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta (see tip below)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 scallions, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave in seeds for extra heat)
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
4 12-inch flour tortillas
4 lime wedges

**Ricotta tip: you can find fresh ricotta at specialty cheese shops, or buy the ricotta in the tub at the grocery store and put it in a coffee filter-lined strainer over a bowl and refrigerate at least a couple of hours or overnight to drain off the excess moisture.

Prepare an outdoor grill with a medium-hot fire (grill pan works too).

Lightly brush zucchini and poblanos with olive oil with grill, turning as needed, until tender and lightly charred, about 4-6 minutes. Season the zucchini with coriander, salt and black pepper. Cut into bite size chunks and set aside to cool slightly. Peel skin from poblanos and thinly slice. (Peeling the skin is easier if it is charred. It will start to pull away from the pepper and you can peel it with your fingers. If you can’t get all of it off, don’t worry about it.)

Mix the ricotta, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, lime zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Lay out the tortillas and spread one-quarter of the cheese mixture over half of each tortilla, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Divide the grilled vegetables among the tortillas and fold tortillas in half. Brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and grill on both sides until the cheese warms and the outside is golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Place each quesadilla on a plate, scatter with cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges and salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno or serrano chiles (with seeds for more heat, without seeds for less), stemmed and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
  • Juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions

Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put in a bowl with onion.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and score the flesh with a knife. Scoop the flesh out of their shells into the bowl with the onion.

Mix the tomatoes, cilantro, chiles, lime juice, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt with the avocados with a rubber spatula or large fork until just combined, keeping the guacamole chunky. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup smoky barbecue sauce (I use less)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a turn of EVOO to a skillet and add the onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper; sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add beans and corn to the pan. Stir in chopped tomatoes and barbecue sauce, then season salsa with salt and pepper. Transfer warm salsa to a serving dish.