Friday, March 25, 2011

Is It Worth It? Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta is pretty much the easiest cheese you can make - just heat regular milk and buttermilk together.  The most difficult part is finding the cheesecloth, but I have a houseboy for that.  The second most difficult part is figuring out what to do with it.  I knew I didn't want to bury it in layers of noodles and sauce where it would go unnoticed.  Ricotta goes beautifully with all sorts of delicious spring vegetables like peas and asparagus and the zucchinis and tomatoes of summer; but despite it being 90 degrees this weekend (yes, 90, no, I'm not excited about it), the full flush of the spring harvest hasn't arrived at the market yet.

Then I found this recipe for a ricotta bruschetta with lemon zest and honey and an idea was born: weeknight tapas.  About an hour before dinner, I heated a half-gallon of the tastiest 2% milk I could find with 2 cups of buttermilk until the curds and whey separated.

Why would Miss Muffet want to eat that?
While the milk was heating, I started on the other tapas.  To keep it simple, there would be only three plates, (1) the bruschetta, (2) a roasted beet salad made with local goat cheese and walnuts, and (3) my favorite tapas ever.  Two years ago, we visited our friends Holly and Kevin and they took us and our friend Bren to an amazing tapas place.

The tapas are so good, we're hysterical

Although the sangria may have helped

My favorite little plate contained bacon wrapped dates.  I'm not usually a big fan of dates, they are too sweet for me.  But wrap them in smoky, salty bacon and I'm all over it.  Every time I have seen them on a menu in the last two years I ordered them.  So with some dates from my grandma sitting in my refrigerator and some cottage bacon (one of three types of bacon made by our friendly local charcutier) from the farmer's market, we were ready to go.

I let the curds drain 15-20 minutes which made it quite a bit drier than what you find in the tub at the grocery store.  I seasoned with salt and pepper and piled it onto the broiled bread.  Zest a lemon, drizzle on just a hint of honey, and that is one pretty appetizer.  

We ate as much as we could, but there was still quite a bit of ricotta left over.  Luckily, I had another dish up my sleeve - Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells in a Ricotta Sauce.

I added a huge bag of local spinach to the filling, doubled the ricotta, and layered a spicy marinara on the bottom of the shells.  I was really happy with the results - cheesy but still light and bright.  I took a pan of them over to Veronica and Mike's for a KU watch party.

And KU resoundingly defeated Richmond - coincidence?  I think not.  


1 comment:

  1. I'm honestly smelling this ricotta right now. Even through my morning coffee... and it's fantastic!


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