Lately I've been seriously digging ricotta cheese. Sweet, savory, salted, unsalted, cold, warmed - straight up outta the container, spread on toast for breakfast ... the possibilities are endless, limited only by its availability in my fridge. Enter one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Better Than Store Bought, given to me by my Mom (the OG Pioneer Woman) some twenty years ago. I took it off the shelf yesterday planning to leaf through it, but ended up reading the whole thing - cover to cover. I know, who actually reads entire cookbooks? But if you're curious, as I am, about how things are made and how those things can be recreated at home without additives, chemicals and crap, then this cookbook might be for you. The book is straight forward - no fancy photographs or illustrations - just clearly written recipes (along with a bit of kitchen science) that are easy and economical to make... and, well, better than store bought. Oh, and the cookbook also includes recipes for homemade hooch, like Tangerine Liqueur - mos' def on my to-make-list. And, yes, alcohol is a chemical, but the good kind; like hydrogen and oxygen - we need that stuff to survive. Now, I'm kicking myself for not finding this ricotta recipe 20 years ago - but since I have, there's no turning back. No more rubbery old ricotta for me - I have seen the cheese light and it is divine and pure.
|My back yard fig tree - been waiting all summer for these to ripen up!|
To set the mood, because I think getting in the kitchen with good music playing makes everything taste better, a little cheese song (Where'd the Cheese Go? Sans expletives), by Ween, an awesome alt band whose musicianship and smart, funny lyrics often include food of all kinds: Chocolate and Cheese, Pork Roll Egg and Cheese, White Pepper, Chocolate Town and Bananas and Blow, to name but a few. Truly, how could I not be a fan?! Check out Ween's website for their expansive and excellent discography. Mystery solved. The cheese is at my house.
P.S.*This is not an official video*
Make Ricotta the day before you plan to use it so it can set up
Choose soft, ripe figs. Slice in half, sprinkle with brown sugar and grill
Homemade Ricotta (Adapted from Better Than Store Bought, by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie)
2 quarts whole milk
3 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar or 1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
Sea salt, if desired
- Pour the milk into a heavy stainless-steel or enameled sauce pan and stir in the white vinegar or lemon juice.
- Set the pot over very low heat and bring the milk very slowly to a simmer (a reading of 200 degrees on a thermometer). There will be fine beads around the edge of the milk, which will look foamy but will not appear to be boiling.
- Remove the pot from the heat and set it, covered, in a spot where it can remain undisturbed and where the temperature will remain fairly uniform, keeping the temperature between 80-100 degrees. (An unheated oven, without a pilot light, works well). Let the milk stand for about 6 hours, or until a solid curd floats above the liquid (the whey). More or less time may be required, depending on the temperature or the environment and the characteristics of the milk. (Mine only took 3 hours...I used ultra pasteurized organic whole milk, and it was a very warm day).
- Line a fine sieve with doubled, dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Scoop the curds and whey into the sieve and allow the whey to drain off until the ricotta is yogurt-like. If you want firmer cheese, tie the corners of the cloth to form a bag and hang it up to drain further. If the weather is warm, let it drain in the refrigerator.
- When the texture of the cheese is to your liking, add a little salt (1/4-1/2 tsp) if you wish. Store the cheese, covered in the refrigerator. It will be at its best after it has chilled for 24 hours, and will keep well for 4-5 days.
Grilled Figs with Honey Ricotta and Candied Lemon Peel (Adapted from of About.com)
8-10 fresh figs
2-1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Candied lemon peel
8-10 mint leaves for garnish
- Pre-heat the grill.
- Tim fig stems, if any, and cut figs in half length-wise
- Lightly butter a shallow baking dish. Place the figs curved side down in the dish. Sprinkle each fig with a little brown sugar.
- Grill figs for about 4-5 minutes or until the sugar starts to bubble.
- Meanwhile, combine ricotta, vanilla and honey in a mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.
- Remove figs from the grill and gently place on serving plates.
- Top with a dollop of honey ricotta. Garnish with candied lemon peel and mint leaves.
(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved