I have had it with the grainy, pasty tasting store bought ricotta! It is SO simple to make and the taste simply can’t compare. I will always make ricotta from scratch from now on and you should too! Spread it on crackers, use it for your lasagna, it’s simply fresh and delicious!
Fresh Lemon Ricotta Cheese
makes 2 1/2 cups
8 cups (1/2 gallon) best-quality whole milk
1 1/2 cups best-quality heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons), strained to remove pulp
zest of one lemon, optional
Combine milk, cream, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart pot, and warm mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until mixture registers 195 degrees on a candy thermometer. It should take about 15 minutes.
Add lemon juice, gently stirring until just combined. Remove pot from heat and let stand 5 minutes. The combination of the acid and the residual heat in the mixture will cause it to coagulate, or curdle — separating into a soft mass (curds) and a cloudy liquid (whey).
After lining a mesh colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and placing it inside a deeper, slightly larger bowl, gently pour curds and whey into colander. Let mixture stand, pouring off whey occasionally, until most of whey has drained from still-wet curds, 20 minutes.
Gather up ricotta in cheesecloth and turn it out into a bowl. Add the lemon zest. Serve within a few hours, or refrigerate up to 4 days. For a denser ricotta, which can be preferable for baking, hang it to drain for another hour. Repurpose whey or discard it. (You can freeze the whey in ice cube trays and then add to your smoothies for extra protein!)
Serve with crackers or sliced baguette topped with good olive oil and fresh thyme leaves or use it to make for this tasty, seasonal tart!
Fresh Lemon Ricotta Asparagus Tart
Spring has finally arrived in the form of asparagus stalks in my garden. Well… it's not really MY garden but when there is an abundance of something growing, my neighbor and gardener friend Annie shares!!!! A handful of home grown asparagus was my inspiration for this seasonal and beautiful tart.
Fresh Lemon Ricotta Asparagus Tart
1 puff pastry sheet
1/2 c ricotta, fresh if possible
1 egg, beaten
14-16 stalks of fresh, raw asparagus, trimmed
2 t grated lemon zest, omit if you added in above recipe
2 T pine nuts
1 t fresh thyme
salt & pepper
olive oil for drizzling
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out one sheet of defrosted puff pastry on a greased pan and pinch the edges a bit to make a crust. Spread ricotta over the surface. Pour the egg evenly over the top of the cheese layer. Lay the asparagus over the egg. Sprinkle with pine nuts, fresh thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with a green salad for a light lunch or add a poached egg on top for an elegant brunch dish.
...or so said Beethoven. I love soup no matter what the season. Today, it is raining and while the leeks are springtime fresh it is the right time to make this soup. You can puree for the creamy version or just simply mash for a heartier style. If the spring rain turns to sun, (spring is SO unpredictable), you can serve it chilled. Vichyssoise!
Creamy Leek & Potato Soup
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
4 cups leeks, rinsed & sliced, some green part
2 qts chicken stock, homemade preferred
4 T butter
1 T salt
1 t pepper
1/2 c cream
2 T fresh chopped chives
black truffle olive oil, to finish
Melt butter in a soup pot and add the veggies. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and cook until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Cover with stock by 2 inches and cook until tender, about an hour. Transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Add cream and more stock, if necessary, to thin to desired consistency. To serve, top with chopped chives & drizzle with the black truffle olive oil, then, get ready to die with soup pleasure.
Hopefully everyone survived last Friday, April Fools' Day! In honor of this day, for dessert, I decided to make a ‘fool’ and wanted to share! Thanks to the English for this special treat made easy with stewed seasonal fruit folded into sweetened whipped cream. Present it in a beautiful stemmed glass with a few Toasted Walnut-Black Pepper Butter Cookies and you’re nobody’s fool! Serve it all through Spring and Summer, just change up your fruit as the seasons allow.
Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Fool
1 lb fresh strawberries
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp powdered cloves
1 whole vanilla bean, split down the center lengthwise
1/2 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup heavy cream
1 T sugar
Wash and de-stem the berries. Cut them into 1/2 inch chunks and put in a saucepan with the sugar, cloves, vanilla bean, juice and zest. Cook over med-low heat for about 15 minutes until the strawberries are soft and most of the water from the fruit has cooked away. Mash with a potato masher until all the berries are smashed and somewhat uniform. Remove the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and stir into the mash. Transfer to another container, cover and refrigerate until cold. Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the chilled strawberry mixture into the cream keeping a marbled texture. Pile into stemmed glasses and serve. It will hold for a few hours in the refrigerator before serving.
Toasted Walnut-Black Pepper Butter Cookies
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (you can leave out, but the pepper goes really well with the strawberries, no foolin’!)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/3 cups flour
a bit more powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop the walnuts and bake for 7 to 10 minutes until fragrant. Let them cool, then grind them to a powder in the food processor. Cream the butter and the sugar together then add the salt, pepper, vanilla and almond extract. Mix the ground almonds with the flour and add gradually to the butter mixture forming a smooth dough. Shape into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inches across, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Slice the cookies in 1/4 inch slices and place on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake until they are lightly browned about 12-15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and dust with powdered sugar sprinkled through a sieve. If you don’t want to bake all the cookies at once, wrap the dough tightly and freeze. Makes about 3 dz.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"