Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt | Image: Laura Messersmith

Winter has fully settled on New York and frankly it’s been a shock to my system. I’d love to go into hibernation mode and stay under the covers emerging only for BBC crime dramas on Netflix (we finished The Fall with Gillian Anderson and now I’ve moved on to Broadchurch. Slow build as we discover that many people in the small Dorset town have secrets!) and carb-based meals. Or Chipotle.

The next warmest option is to turn on the oven – a welcome blast of heat for my cold fingers – and bake something simple, comforting, and citrus based. For me that’s a batch of scones. They take enough effort so feel like I’m accomplishing something, but are so unfussy and rustic in presentation that they’re on the table in less than an hour.

I originally planned to re-create a wonderful lemon-ginger biscuit I had at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco from Biscuit Bender (amazing with blueberry jam), but got side tracked thinking about other citrus + ginger combinations. I also realized I had a container of whole-milk ricotta in the fridge left over from another recipe and once I remembered the vanilla salt I made last month the wheels totally fell off that biscuit train.

Not to worry though, because these Orange Ricotta Scones totally deliver and because the biscuit train is never off the rails long around here.

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt | Image: Laura Messersmith

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Salt (Yield: 12-16 Scones)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta, bought or homemade
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons orange zest, divided about 2 large oranges
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons orange blossom honey
4-5 teaspoons orange juice
Vanilla Sea Salt (recipe here)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Chill the baking sheets and ingredients in between steps.

In a large bowl combine the all purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Lightly toss the diced butter in the flour mixture to coat then using a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of the orange zest with the egg, ricotta, and whole milk. Make a well in center of the flour mixture and add the ricotta mixture all at once, fork the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. The dough will be a little shaggy at this point.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently fold the dough 8 to 10 times until dough pulls together. Pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and cut into squares or triangles.

Place the scones 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake about 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Slide the parchment and scones onto a cooling rack.

While the scones are cooling, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, honey, reserved orange zest and orange juice with a pinch of salt until smooth. Drizzle the icing over the cooled scones, sprinkle with a little vanilla sea salt, and serve!

Written with reference to Food + Wine’s Glazed Lemon Ginger Scones and Better Homes and Garden’s Strawberry Shortcake Scones.

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, totally. I used a large mixing bowl, pastry cutter, 2 cup-size liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, a microplane grater, paring knife, and a dinner fork. I also needed a small bowl, small spoon, two rimmed baking sheets, a bench scraper, and parchment paper.

The Verdict:
These are definitively scones, not biscuits thanks to the ricotta and sugar, but are also just very lightly sweet when un-iced. During my experiments I tasted them plain, with a bit of honey, iced only, and iced + vanilla salt – all were delicious in their own way, so choose what you like best. The ricotta keep the dough tender and its very mild flavor allows the sweet orange come through as the elegant star of the whole affair. Pair with a cup of tea and an Agatha Christie novel.

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Orange Ricotta Scones with Vanilla Sea Salt | Image: Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine, A Breakfast Sandwich

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

A few weeks ago Mike and I took the train north to Boston to celebrate his fifth business school reunion with a group of our dearest friends. It had been a few years since we were last there with time to wander and revisit some of our favorite places. Number One on Mike’s list: a trip to Mike & Patty’s.

He and several friends had breakfast there in the final days of their last semester and the memory of that tiny shop and delicious sandwiches lived on in legend ever since. I missed that inaugural meal and to be honest, I’ve always been a bit skeptical. The guys might be exaggerating, after all. How good could it really be?

Mike & Patty’s is in Bay Village, a pocket of Boston that manages to be in the middle of Back Bay, the South End, and Chinatown, but still feel like it’s off the beaten path. Cobblestone streets, old-fashioned lanterns, and the hope of discovering amazing food at the end of your journey just heighten the sense of a hidden gem. After one bite of my chosen sandwich - The Goldmine - I was convinced the early morning trek was well worth it.

On the surface The Goldmine is just a bacon, egg, and cheese made fancy, but dip below that run of the mill designation and it becomes clear that this sandwich is so much more. First of all, I assumed that the honey – a strange, but genius addition – was the gold in this mine, but actually it’s the fried egg (or egg over easy as you prefer) whose yolk permeates all the corners of this delicious sandwich.

The Goldmine inspires tales of food treasures, hunched-over eating, and plate mopping. Simple pleasures and well worth your efforts to make at home.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine (serves: 4)

Ingredients:
4 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta, bought or homemade
2 ounces (4 slices) prosciutto
4 tablespoons golden honey
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 loaf challah, brioche, or sourdough bread

Instructions:
Pre-heat the large sauté pan over medium heat and crisp the slices of prosciutto, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the medium sauté pan over medium-low heat spread a thin layer of butter over each slice of bread. Toast the bread in the medium pan until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, in batches.

Remove the crisped prosciutto from the larger pan and set aside. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter to the warm pan and melt. Once the bread is toasted, spread half of the pieces with 1-2 tablespoons of the whole milk ricotta on one side. Add a slice of crisped prosciutto, and drizzle with 2-3 teaspoons of honey. Reserve the sandwich tops until the eggs are cooked.

Crack the eggs one at a time into a small liquid measuring cup or bowl taking care not to break the yolk. Gently pour each egg into the large sauté pan allowing the white to just begin setting before adding the next egg. Once all the eggs are in the pan, cover with a lid (preferably glass, so you can monitor the situation) and cook over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes watching for an opaque white, but a soft, runny yolk.

Top each sandwich with a fried egg, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Add the second piece of bread and serve immediately!

Need more advice on frying an egg? The Kitchn and Food Network have step by step instructions to get just the cook you're looking for.

Adapted from Mike and Patty’s The Goldmine breakfast sandwich.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used one large non-stick sauté pan with a cover, one medium non-stick sauté pan, a medium cutting board, bread knife, a liquid measuring cup, rubber spatula, dinner fork, butter knife, and teaspoon. That’s all!

The Verdict:
I’m obsessed with The Goldmine. Each component is relatively mild on it’s own, but together they balance each other beautifully. Creamy ricotta, crispy prosciutto, sweet sticky honey all tucked under a blanket of egg-y goodness. Sigh. It's also a great choose-your-own-adventure dish. Like lots of prosciutto? Add an extra slice. Want it a little gooier? Let the honey drizzle a little longer over the ricotta. My last piece of advice: please make this on a lazy weekend morning when a second cup of coffee and a nap are all that’s on the docket. You’ll thank me.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Cocktails and Cookies”

The Set-up: Ina and her friends are shaking up cocktails and baking up cookies today.

The Menu: Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup, Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers, Blood Orange Cosmopolitans, Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

0:44 – We’re chilling with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca again (remember them from this episode?)

1:17 – While the guys are out on the beach walking their dog Gilly, Ina is whipping up some Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup.

2:23 – Ina prepped the ricotta ahead of time since it needs a little while to strain, but we get a re-cap of the process.

3:08 – She’s really not messing around with this breakfast, the ricotta gets a topping of maple syrup toasted almonds, fresh berries, and a slice of brioche.

4:31 – While Ina plates the ricotta she clues us in on how cool and successful Rob and John are – their movies include Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods.

5:44 – Breakfast is served while they scheme their plans for the rest of the day – one of which involves a wicker picnic hamper full of boozy cocktail ingredients. Well played, guys.

8:12 – Time for the cookie part of the show and it turns out that the “cookies” are actually special Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits for Gilly. One lucky dog to be sure.

9:25 – Aaannd, here’s why I love Ina. Her favorite descriptor for a messy plate is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ and now she jokes they’re “finally making [one].”

10:40 – Ina takes even dog biscuits seriously and these were overwhelmingly selected by dogs the clear winner in a blind taste test vs. boxed cookies. I guess I should make some for Maddie soon…?

11:37 – Uh-oh, the guys’ dough looks better than Ina’s and she’s getting competitive. Do not try to joke her down on her own show!

12:49 – A pause in the action for a moment to clean up, and I suspect they may have taken a nip of the cocktails already because this is an epic mess and they’re giggling like 14 year old girls. Yeah, I’m jealous too.

13:11 – Seriously, they’re sword-fighting with the rolling pins now. Who else thinks a food fight is about to break out?

14:06 Ina is too crafty, she’s cutting the dough out in bone shapes, egg washing them, and sprinkling the tops with oatmeal.

18:22 – Onward to cookies for human beings in the form of Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers and they actually are almost the same process as the biscuits.

19:50 – Ina explains to Rob and John that jalapeño peppers are very hot, especially if you leave in the seeds and ribs/membranes.

20:43 – John reveals an aptitude for rolling dough into logs and it’s jokingly suggested that he may have been a bread baker in an earlier career.

21:15 – A little Knife Skills 101: saw the blade back and forth to let the edge do the work, rather than just pressing straight down.

22:57 – Prepare yourself for the most adorable taste test ever as Gilly gets a first bite of her dog cookies.

23:14 – Now there are treats for the humans as the crackers come out of the oven They really do look crunchy and golden, mmmm.

26:26 – The booze hamper has been unpacked and Step 1 of Blood Orange Cosmopolitans is to “measure 2 cups of vodka, and you’re done!”

27:43 – Followed by another cup of Cointreau, and after that just 2 cups of blood orange juice and 1/2 cup lime juice. Which means someone is going to nap under a table later.

28:35 – Next Rob whips out the most massive cocktail shaker I’ve ever seen, which Ina immediately claims as the perfect size for the number of cocktails she needs. I bet that thing holds 2 liters, easily.

29:49 – The blood orange cosmos are a gorgeous color, like a Lilly Pulitzer pink went clubbing in neon. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere….

Final Thoughts:
Maddie rarely benefits from my cooking efforts, perhaps a little love of the home-baked variety is in order?

I love the idea of making a pitcher of drinks ahead of time just shake with ice and no need to measure them out one at a time. Brilliant!

Don’t try to tell me that there was no off-camera sampling of those cosmos.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made a savory version of Ina’s homemade ricotta cheese before, but I was intrigued by the idea of having a sweeter Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup version for a morning meal. I also couldn’t resist the lure of almonds candied with maple syrup, especially maple syrup crafted by Merle Maple Farms (a company that's been run by family members on my mom's side for more than a century) and so here we are.

Ricotta Cooking – This seems intimidating until you’ve done it a time or two. I’d recommend using a larger pot than you think you’ll need. The milk/cream mixture needs room to bubble up, giving it space to do so means it won’t be all over your stove. Second, milk goes from zero to sixty when it’s coming to a boil, so watch like a hawk as soon as you see the first small bubbles form. Third, after the vinegar is added the mixture does look pretty terrifying, but trust the process – it works!

Ricotta Straining – I’d highly recommend setting-up the cheese cloth, sieve, and straining bowl before you start. Again, use a larger set than you think you’ll need – it’s far better to have extra space.

Maple Syrup & Almonds – As with the boiling milk, the almonds bear watching while they’re toasting in the pan. Mine turned golden brown after about 3 minutes. Something else to note: the maple syrup bubbles up quite a bit when it hits the hot pan (I used the Grade A Medium Amber in case you're curious), not to overflowing but more than I expected!

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, especially because this recipe comes together in stages. For the ricotta I used a large sauce pan (4 quart), large fine-mesh sieve, liquid measuring cup, rubber spatula, large bowl, and cheese cloth. To make the toppings and finish seasoning the ricotta I used a small sauté pan, large bowl, measuring spoons, a small cutting board and a paring knife.

The Verdict:
For me, Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup walks that line between sweet but not too sweet perfectly. The honey and vanilla push the ricotta toward mascarpone in flavor – slightly sweet, but still a hint of mild, creamy cheese – an excellent back drop for bright berries. The true revelation though: those toasty, nutty, rich maple almonds. OMG. Borderline an ice cream topping, but in small doses they’re the perfect note of indulgence. I naturally gravitate toward anything you’d typically put syrup on, but if you’re more of an omelet person like Mike, I’d skip this one.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

These days I’m pretty much always thinking about cooking – what to make next, what are we in the mood for, what new skill should I attempt, can I make that restaurant dish at home? After a deluge of inspiration - the Heirloom Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil from Williams-Sonoma, which was preceded in my Pinterest feed by this beautiful pin of Tomatoes on Garlic Toast. Then, the current issue of Bon Appétit which features a beautiful dish by Yotam Ottolenghi, and finally my brand new copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook arrived. I’ll give you one guess on the image gracing the cover: Tomato Scallion Shortcakes with Whipped Goat Cheese (pg. 65).

I decided to take this deluge of brightly colored tomato-based photos as a sign. Perhaps I should get with the program and make something that highlights the beautiful tomatoes in season right at this very moment? Worse culinary ideas have happened and with all those experts to guide me I couldn’t make too big a mess.

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

I knew I wanted this recipe to be a light and summery tart, featuring tomatoes (and cheese). I referred to both the W-S recipe and to the crust from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook recipe for Wild Mushroom Tart (pg. 95), but then went on to make something new – partially out of necessity (like when the pantry is missing cornmeal and uncooked polenta is substituted) and partially to satisfy my own taste.

The ‘fanciness’ of the presentation is deceptive, so I hope you won’t be intimidated like I was when I first saw W-S’s tart. But, if you’re a perfectionist or feeling stressed here’s a tip: after the tomatoes are sliced practice layering on the cutting board or a piece of foil before trying to arrange them on the tart. It helped my confidence and reassured me that even if I didn’t make a precise, mathematically balanced kaleidoscope of slices it would still look lovely. And, in the end, I think it did, so there’s that.

I hope you try this soon while the tomatoes in the farmers market (or grocery store) are still amazing – I’d love to see your results!

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart (serves 6-8)

Tart Shell Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup polenta or finely ground cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced in small cubes
1 tablespoon room temperature butter
1 large egg

Filling Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 1/2 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 pint small-medium heirloom, grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and dried

Directions

In a medium bowl mix together flour, polenta or cornmeal, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork work the diced butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is in very small pieces and the mixture is just starting to come together. Add the egg and mix in with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball. The mixture will be fairly dry, resembling shortbread.

Turn the dough into an ungreased 9” tart pan with a removable bottom and using the floured, flat side of a measuring cup press into the bottom and along the sides of the pan in an even layer. Even the edges with a butter knife, or by flattening with the measuring cup.

Place the unbaked tart shell in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch. While tart shell is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the shell from freezer and place on a baking sheet. Using a brush or clean hands, spread the room temperature butter on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the tart shell with some overhang. Smooth the buttered side of the foil along the bottom of the tart shell and up the sides.

Bake the foil covered tart shell for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the foil from the shell and using a fork, prick the bottom of the shell – this will allow any air to release. Replace the uncovered tart shell in the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until it is lightly golden and crisp. Set tart shell aside on a baking rack and allow to cool completely.

While the tart shell is cooling, assemble the ricotta filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta and softened goat cheese until smooth, then stir in the finely grated parmesan, kosher salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Cut the tomatoes – a serrated knife will work best – into 1/4 to 1/8” slices.

Once the tart shell is completely cooled, spoon the ricotta mixture into the shell and smooth with a spatula or knife. Layer the sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese in any pattern or arrangement you like – this is a moment to be creative! Sprinkle with a few fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

Serve just as it is or with a spoonful of pesto sauce.

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly:

Yes, definitely. I used one medium bowl (used twice and washed between the dough and filling steps), one 9” tart pan, one baking sheet, a pastry cutter, one medium cutting board, one serrated knife, a microplane grater, a rubber spatula, and measuring cups and spoons. A butter knife and a dinner fork round out the tools.

The Verdict:

Mike and I had this on sunny, August Sunday afternoon and were really happy with the taste of these classic flavor combinations presented in a slightly different format. Mike particularly liked the flavor and texture of the polenta/cornmeal crust as a contrast to the creaminess of the cheese filling. And, since I had a little pesto in the freezer from a few weeks ago I defrosted it and we drizzled a little on top – yum. A success I’d say, since we’re already brainstorming variations with other seasonal vegetables. I foresee something involving caramelized onions in our future… 

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith