Ricotta-Pineapple Pie

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe here on the blog for a long time. Oddly, I’d planned on making it this weekend – had all the ingredients in the fridge, waiting. But with the sad news this week, I wanted to make it so I could share it with you guys today.

This is one of the first desserts I made when learning to cook, The Sopranos Family Cookbook being one of the first cookbooks I owned. Needless to say, the show…and it’s anti-hero Tony Soprano, played by beloved James Gandolfini, hold a special place in my heart. Over the years there were so many great moments, and characters. Paulie Walnuts, Janice, Junior, Livia… I still find myself wondering what the characters would be up to today.

If anything, I know this ricotta pineapple pie would be in their lives. Carmella always made it when she wanted to “butter” someone up for a favor. The first time I made it I remember thinking that it was unlike anything I’d ever made before. The ricotta gives it such a unique texture and lightness, and not too sweet. And the pineapple topping is just the right amount of sweetness, with a hint of tart from the addition of fresh lemon juice.

I’ve modified a few things over the years. I like to use fresh pineapple instead of canned. I’ve found it has better flavor, and texture. Also, I use a blind-baked pie crust, as opposed to the graham cracker crust. It holds up better, making pretty slices possible.

Vanilla Sugar

It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been buying my vanilla beans in bulk. It’s so wonderful to have them on hand for any recipe that calls for vanilla, and to see those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean speckled throughout whatever it is I’ve made. I take pride in making my own vanilla extract, such better quality than the stuff from the store, and so much more economical. $5 for a little bottle…say whaaaa?

But, I think my favorite thing to do with them is also one of the most simple. Whenever I have used beans in which I’ve scraped the seeds from, I toss the spent pods into a Mason Jar filled with sugar. There’s still lots of great flavor in the beans, and it infuses the sugar with all the deliciousness of the vanilla. It’s absolutely wonderful stirred into a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Makes a wonderful vanilla simple syrup. On top of creme brûlée, or anything brûléed for that matter. Not to mention it looks so pretty sitting on my pantry shelf…

Don’t you just love these limited edition Ball Heritage Jars? Mason jars have always been my go-to for food storage in the kitchen – so useful and practical. But these gorgeous jars that Ball has come out with for their 100th anniversary are just simply lovely to look at! I’ve always loved the old jars with the blue tint, and enjoy seeking them out at yard sales and flea markets. But to have some that are actually usable? So cool! The good folks at Ball have offered to give a case (set of 6 pint jars with lids) away to a lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment telling us what’s your favorite use for a Ball jar? In the kitchen, or anywhere. Contest runs today through June 26th at 11:59 PM EST. 

Disclaimer: I received a case of Ball Heritage pint jars to review at no cost. As always, all opinions are my own.

Spring Rolls

I’ve mentioned before how I have a can have a hard time finding specialty ingredients here on the Eastern Shore. Like – exotic mushrooms for instance. Whenever I take a trip to Annapolis or Virginia Beach, I always make sure to get some funky fungus that I can’t find here at home – chantarelles, oyster, trumpet. I love them all!

Thankfully a local friend has started growing her own varieties of mushrooms. I visited her last week to pick up some gorgeous oyster mushrooms (her latest harvest), and was also kind enough to show me her garden, with all kinds of delicious goodies growing. She loaded me down with peas, lettuce, onions, herbs, and broccoli greens! We enjoyed them all week long in various dishes. There’s nothing like fresh picked produce – and growing on Chincoteague Island, right on the water – you can taste the salt from the air and the soil in the veggies. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for showing us your little piece of paradise, Donna!

We enjoyed some of the mushrooms and onions sauteed, served over some thinly sliced roast beef and chevre on a baguette. But, the favorite thing that I made last week by far were these delicious spring rolls. I’ve always loved spring rolls from Chinese restaurants – but often the filling is bland and boring. My filling used the gorgeous oyster mushrooms, fresh bean sprouts, garlic scapes, shredded cabbage and carrots, as well as softened rice noodles. They turned out so delicious – rivaling my famous chicken egg rolls. Already can’t wait to make them again!

Raspberry Lemonade Bars

Have you guys been having mega-deals on gorgeous berries in the grocery stores right now too? The past couple weeks I’ve been coming home with at least one clamshell package each of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Ahh, I love summertime!

I’d had these bars on my radar for quite some time now, and finally got around to making them this week. If you like sweet-tart treats, well then this one is nothing short of amazing. Truly like raspberry lemonade in bar form. The filling is stiffer than you’d find in a traditional lemon bar, but still soft and gooey. And the color – isn’t it pure gorgeousness?

This is one I’m can’t wait to take to potlucks this summer, just because it’s so fun and different. Also looking forward to trying other varieties – blackberry or strawberry immediately comes to mind. Have a great weekend everyone!