Eating Your Curds and Whey (and Tomatoes & Garlic)

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I though it would be hard to make ricotta cheese, but since “housemade ricotta” is a feature on half of the menus in town, it occurred to me to try do just that -  make ricotta cheese in my house. It turns out that it’s no big deal – it s easy as pie – actually it’s easier. Anyone can make ricotta cheese. There are four ingredients counting salt, it takes about 5 minutes, and it’s crazy delicious. I’m never buying the stuff in the grocery again. Here’s what you do: combine two cups of whole milk with one cup of cream and about ¼ tsp salt in a saucepan. Boil the milk and cream for a minute and a half while stirring. Take the mixture off heat and stir in 3 Tbsp lemon juice. After that, just let it sit there for five minutes then pour it into a cheesecloth lined colander. That’s it. After about an hour I dumped the ricotta in a plastic container. I had housemade ricotta cheese made in my house! Now of course my family is addicted to it. It’s delicious on toasted bread, add to that some berries and honey or make my favorite summer treat – bruschetta with roasted tomatoes and garlic and ricotta cheese. I dare you to try and find anything more perfect for an appetizer, a light lunch or a first course for a dinner.

The tomato part of the recipe is much easier to make when I can walk out of the door and pick tomatoes, but a quick trip to the grocery does the job when that’s not a possibility. Start by cutting tomatoes in half – or leave them whole if they are really tiny. Bake them for a few minutes and add a bit of garlic. The herbs can be whatever you like or have on hand, basil and mint are a lovely combo right now, but tarragon, thyme – whatever you can easily get will absolutely work.

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Good bread is a must; sourdough is a favorite. Just brush thick slices with a little oil and toast under the broiler or on the grill. Now the rest is up to you. If it’s kind of an event, go ahead and create individual plates by spreading the cheese on the toasts and topping with the roasted tomatoes . For an informal appetizer you could just put everything out and let guests assemble their own . My favorite way to serve this is to present a whole tray of pre-assembled toasts. 

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They are just as pretty as can be – but we all know that pretty is as pretty does. The real beauty is how marvelous these little treats taste, and the fun is telling everyone you made your own ricotta cheese. Here are the real directions. Enjoy!

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“Housemade” Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

¼ tsp salt

3 Tbsp lemon juice

Equipment: cheesecloth (can buy at grocery store with paper and container products)

Directions

Combine milk, cream, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.

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Boil about a minute and a half stirring constantly.

Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice.

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Let mixture sit for 5 minutes.


Pour into a cheesecloth lined colander set in a bowl to catch liquid.

After an hour, lightly squeeze cheesecloth to remove extra liquid and pack cheese in a sealable container.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tomato topping

Ingredients

2 cups cherry and/or grape tomatoes (mix of colors is fun)

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2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

2 Tbsp minced fresh herbs – use one or two (basil, mint, tarragon, thyme)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice larger tomatoes, leaving tiny ones whole and add to an 8x8 casserole dish (or similar size) and stir in olive oil and salt.

Bake for 20 minutes and stir in garlic.

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Bake for 10 minutes more, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Add fresh herbs.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature on toasted bread (sourdough, French) spread with ricotta cheese.

© Deer One Publishing 2017