“Homemade salsa? Homemade cheese? Homemade spice blends? Homemade sauces? Who has the time?”
Or so I thought.
Until I really started cooking for myself, the idea of making my own items that I could otherwise buy in jars or deli counters just didn’t make any sense to me. Why would I bother when someone else can do it for me? Of course, the reasons for making scratch-options as opposed to canned/jarred/pre-packed are vast, ranging from sodium control to food allergies to the simple fact that it just tastes better. Afterall, that is what it’s all about, right?
When I came across Nancy Silvertion’s recipe for an easy homemade Ricotta in this month’s Bon Appetit, I was hesitant at best. Many ‘easy’ homemade recipes for ricotta that I’ve come across in the past were sometimes 2-day ordeals, which I, unfortunately, don’t always have the patients for. But unlike those, presumably delicious, other recipes, this one was true to it’s word. 30 minutes, 4 ingredients, and a little cheesecloth. When I say it’s easier than a kick in the pants, I really do mean it. And failing that, it’s absolutely easier, as well as cheaper, than heading to the grocery store and buying a tub of the stuff. Just in case I haven’t sold you yet, it tastes unlike any ‘ricotta’ you might buy from your grocery store. I found it to be far creamier, fresher and lighter than I had expected.
Once I finished the totally uncomplicated process of making the cheese, I really wanted to showcase it in a manner that let it shine. Having never had Ricotta in a sweet dish, I thought I might give it a whirl and see where we went. I had purchased hazelnuts and honey, assuming I could put those to good use, as well as some mint, plums and cinnamon that I found hanging around the house. Before I knew it I was roasting, drizzling, and chopping things up for one of the lightest, most flavourful and texturally-pleasing dishes I’ve had in some time. I’m well aware I’ve asked you time and time again to take my word, but for love of all things sweet and creamy, please take it again! I beg of you. I’m at your mercy! I AM!
Homemade Ricotta with Roasted Hazelnuts, Plum and Mint
Ricotta recipe adapted from Bon Appétit via Mozza chef Nancy Silvertion
As Nancy points out, this isn’t an authentic Ricotta (which means, literally, “Recooked”) since we aren’t reheating the leftover whey from homemade Mozzarella, however, I have no doubt you will find it favourable to the supermarket variety.
makes 1-2 cups
4 cups whole milk
1 cup table cream
2 tbsp very fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
6 layers of cheesecloth
Before you begin, set up a mesh-sieve or colander set inside a large bowl. Add the layered cheese cloth inside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the lemon juice, cream and milk just to a boil. Do not stir during cooking. While it’s reaching a boil you will see curds start to appear. Try not to disturb them as you want to the curds to stay intact.
Once mixture has come to a boil, immediately remove from heat and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Carefully spoon, (using a measuring cup or ladle, not a slotted spoon), the liquid and curds into the cheesecloth. Let cheese drain for at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits the more flavourful and creamy the ricotta will be.
Note: If curds do not start developing as your mixture comes to a boil, it means your lemon is not acidic enough. Add another tablespoon and stir being very careful not to disturb curds.
Note #2: When I was ready to eat the cheese, I gave the cloth a good squeeze to remove excess moisture. I’m not sure if this is appropriate practice, but it still tasted just wonderful to me.
If you don’t have hazelnuts or plums on hand, feel free to use a stone-fruit and nut of your choice. Peaches and pecans would be lovely together. Pistachios would be wonderful as well.
2 plums, pit removes and sliced
¼ cup skinned hazelnuts
¼ cup mint leaves
honey for drizzling
cinnamon, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325.
Place whole hazelnuts in a roasting pan and cook, shaking the pan every couple of minutes, until golden brown. About 7-8 minutes. Let nuts sit until cool to the touch.
Once hazelnuts have cooled, give them a quick run through with your knife so they are in large pieces.
Chop about half of the mint leaves, leaving the other half whole for presentation.
In 3-4 serving bowls, place a large spoonful of ricotta. Top each with 4 plum slices, a sprinkle of nuts, and some whole and chopped mint. Drizzle each bowl with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon to finish.
I asked Claire, who is the always-on-point wine blogger for local food blog FoodiePrints, what she would pair with this since I couldn’t resist giving a wine option to go along with such a pretty dish. She suggested a Sauternes would really rock with dessert. More specifically, a Chateau Guiraud. I had hoped to be able to try the pairing out before I shared but was unable to find for tonight. So hopefully you will do me the honor and report back on how wonderful I’m sure it is.
Until we meet again.