Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta with herbs

Borough MarketThis summer, we had a phenomenal family trip to London and Ireland.
While we explored the British Museum, Hyde Park, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London, observed the Changing of the Horse Guard and took a spin on the London Eye, my thoughts were never too far from food. In fact, we kicked our trip off with a tour of Borough Market (I highly recommend Context Travel).

Tasting our way down the counter...
Tasting our way down the counter…

Celebrating and tasting your way through artisanal British and Irish cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy is a wonderful beginning to any day.  Meeting and sharing ideas with farmers, spice vendors, and even a tea importer helped us connect to London in a very real way. Continuing the unofficial theme of local foods, we planned our dinners at restaurants that embrace a farm to table philosophy, locally sourcing their products based on seasonal availability. We enjoyed delicious meals at St. John, The Harwood Arms, and Tom’s Kitchen. An absolute standout at Tom’s Kitchen was the “Homemade Ricotta [with] balsamic glaze, dried herbs, grilled sourdough.” Oh. My. Goodness. This ricotta was so incredibly luscious, smooth, and creamy- yet light and airy, that only the fear of public humiliation kept me from stealing the entire dish, huddling in a remote corner, and licking the bowl clean.

Homemade ricotta with bread from Tom's Kitchen.
The inspiration- Homemade Ricotta starter from Tom’s Kitchen.

Since our return home, that ricotta has been on my mind. We have a fairly wide selection of ricotta cheese at the grocery store, but it seems unfair to compare them to what I had in London. Even the best that I can get here is good, but not Tom’s Kitchen Homemade Ricotta good. What to do? The kitchen gods spoke. Challenged accepted. I learned to make my own.

It turns out, homemade ricotta is not hard to make. In 30 minutes you can be sitting down with your own bowl of lusciousness, ready to devour, spoon in hand. Even better, you control the ingredients. No fillers, thickeners, or stabilizers needed, just four simple ingredients- milk, cream, white vinegar and salt. It’s a bit like a science experiment, so if you have kids they are going to love this. But please don’t let “science experiment” intimidate you.  My nine year old is now making the ricotta on a weekly basis.

The final texture depends on how long you leave the ricotta to drain. Ten minutes yields warm, soft curds perfect for enjoying by the spoonful; twenty minutes yields still soft but slightly more spreadable ricotta, while thirty minutes or more will leave you with a firmer, drier, ricotta that holds it shape. Between 10-20 minutes of draining is my favorite for spreading on grilled bread- savory with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh herbs and a pinch of salt, or sweet with a drizzle of honey and topping of sliced berries. The ricotta that sits longer is perfect to dollop on warm pasta or pizza, either before or after it comes out of the oven.

PS- What about the whey? From 4 cups of milk/cream you will have about 1 cup of ricotta and 3 cups of whey. That is a lot of whey. Before you toss it down the drain you could…
• Replace the water with whey in pizza or bread dough recipes
• Add the whey to soups and stews
• Feed it to your chickens, pigs, etc.

Homemade ricotta with herbs

 

 

Homemade Ricotta

  • Servings: 1 cup
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*recipe inspired by several sources including Serious Eats, The Kitchn and Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
3 ½ cups whole milk (NOT Ultra High–Temperature (UHT) pasteurized)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Gently warm the milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180°. Remove from heat.

Add the white vinegar and salt, stirring gently once or twice to distribute evenly. Leave the milk mixture undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds and whey form.

After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the cheesecloth lined sieve. Once the larger curds have been placed in the sieve, carefully pour the remaining curds/whey into the sieve. Let drain for at least 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. The longer the ricotta drains, the firmer it will be.

Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Enjoy as you would any ricotta, savory or sweet… in lasagna, ziti, cannoli, atop grilled bread, or just by the spoonful from the bowl!

Milk and cream heating on the stove until it reaches 180°.
Heat the milk and cream mixture to 180°.
The milk/cream mixture is curdling.
After adding the vinegar gently stir once or twice. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds develop.
Removing the curds with a slotted spoon.
After 10 minutes the vinegar has worked its magic. You have curds and whey!
Fresh ricotta draining in a fine meshed sieve.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth lined sieve. Leave to drain for at least 10 minutes. The longer you leave the ricotta, the firmer it will be.
Fresh ricotta after 20 minutes of straining.
20 minutes later…
Fresh ricotta after a few pulses in a food processor.
*Completely optional step*  You could stop after draining the ricotta and enjoy as is, or for an extra creamy texture, give your freshly strained ricotta a very brief spin in a food processor.
Freshly whipped ricotta
Freshly whipped ricotta
Basil, oregano and thyme sprigs
Snip a few herbs to sprinkle on top of the whipped ricotta. Serve with slices of grilled bread for an easy appetizer or lunch.
Homemade whipped ricotta sprinkled with herbs and served with grilled ciabatta.
Lunch
Strawberries and Ricotta on Toast
Breakfast the next day…

Zucchini Fritters, Tzatziki Sauce, and Carpaccio

Zucchini Fritters make a great appetizer or side dish.

Zucchini Fritters make a great appetizer or side dish.

I love vegetables, especially those I can cook quickly and simply. Shopping with the seasons in mind makes it easy to enjoy their flavors in their truest form… you don’t have to do much to a perfectly ripe, in season tomato, or green beans, or [insert your favorite vegetable of choice].

a typical July pick up at the farm
A typical July pick up at the farm.

Our town is home to a small organic farm and we are fortunate enough to belong to its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); in the cold dark months of winter we pre-pay our local farm for a season’s worth of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Here in our part of the world that means I pick up our weekly share beginning in June and go through October. Each pick up day is a little like Christmas morning… what is in my share this week? How much am I going to get? Since June, this season has brought greens of all sorts, lettuces, scallions, scapes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, beets, fennel, beans, herbs, and berries. With every pick up comes the happy challenge of how to use each of these gifts before next week’s share demands my attention and refrigerator space.

Part of a weekly pick up in July
Part of a weekly pick up in July.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side. Because of the seasonality, the downside is that “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Words I’ve often said to my kids and lately, find myself repeating weekly as I pick up an every growing ration of zucchini. It’s the nature of the beast and we are in prime zucchini season. I’m sure you are seeing loads of zucchini too… in your CSA, at the farmer’s market, and at the supermarket.

Zucchini
Zucchini

Despite all my veggie love, zucchini is one that I could do without. It’s my personal kryptonite. I’m not sure why this is… I don’t recall any traumatic childhood dinner table incidents involving zucchini. Maybe it’s because it looks so much like a cucumber- and I love cucumber, so that I’m always disappointed by the false pretense, a poser. Maybe it’s the tendency to quickly turn to mush if left a minute too long on the stove, in a soup, or on the grill.  In any case, I must accept that we are at peak zucchini season. Each passing week larger and larger quantities are appearing in my share, stretching my creativity, pushing me out of my zucchini comfort zone. Rising to the challenge, I’ve found a few ways to prepare this green monster so that I actually enjoy eating it. Zucchini season won’t last forever, by the time I’m ready to wave the white flag, or dishtowel in this case, it’s time will be done, replaced by one of my favorites- tomatoes. In the meanwhile, enjoy these easy and delicious takes on zucchini.

The Zucchini Fritters make excellent appetizers, sides, and stand on their own for lunch (or breakfast- eaten straight from the fridge!).  You’ll find plenty of uses for the accompanying Tzatziki Sauce recipe. In addition to serving it with the fritters, I use it as a topping for meat- think lamb burgers and seafood, especially shrimp; use it as a dip for veggies or pita chips; spread it on naan, add the protein of your choice and some crunchy lettuce to build a delicious wrap.   The Zucchini Carpaccio recipes are incredibly versatile, and take about 5 minutes to get on the table.  I’ve given measurements, but please improvise according to your taste.  There is no right or wrong!  If you love lemon, use more lemon!  Don’t like goat cheese and thyme?  Use feta and oregano!  Play with your food.

Please feel free to share your favorite ways of preparing zucchini. I’m always on the hunt for more tasty ideas.

Zucchini Fritters
Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

  • Servings: about 18 fritters
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adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2007

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (or more) all purpose flour
½ cup crumbled feta
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup chopped green onion
1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)

Preparation:
Toss zucchini in ½ teaspoon salt in a colander, place in the sink allowing the zucchini to “sweat.” Let stand for 5 minutes. Press out excess liquid; transfer zucchini to a dry bowl.

Mix in egg, yolk, ½ cup flour, cheese and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix in parsley, onions, and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonful.

Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle* over medium high heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto skillet. Cook fritters until golden, about 5 minutes per side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce or plain greek yogurt.

*Because seasoned cast iron is non-stick I didn’t need to use oil. If you are using a regular skillet, you will have to fry the patties in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of corn oil, adding more olive and corn oil as needed.
**Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350° oven for 12 minutes.

Grated zucchini waiting to be salted.
After grating the zucchini, toss it with 1/2 tsp of salt. Set in a colander and place in the sink to let it “sweat.”
prepped and chopped dill, parsley, and green onion
Dill, parsley, and green onion prepped, chopped, and ready to go.
grated zucchini, flour, egg, egg yolk, and feta
Gently combine the grated zucchini, flour, egg, egg yolk, and feta.
adding the herbs to the zucchini mixture
Add the herbs to the zucchini mixture.
the zucchini batter is ready
After gently incorporating the herbs with the zucchini mixture, the batter is ready.
zucchini fritters cooking on the griddle
Drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto a preheated cast iron skillet or griddle.
zucchini fritters are cooking on the other side
When the fritters are golden on one side, flip them. Cooking time is about 5 minutes per side.
zucchini fritters
Serve the zucchini fritters with dollops of tzatziki or plain greek yogurt.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • Servings: approximately 1 cup
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This sauce is a delicious multitasker. Serve it as a dip for vegetables, pita chips or wedges, grilled lamb, and the zucchini fritters.

Ingredients:
8 oz full fat greek yogurt
½ a hot house cucumber, cut lengthwise, seeded, quartered, and finely diced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Serve immediately, or let it sit in the fridge to really let the flavors come together.

Yogurt, cucumber, dill, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt
Combine the yogurt, cucumber, dill, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt. It really is that easy!
Tzatziki Sauce with olives and pita wedges
Tzatziki Sauce with olives and pita wedges. Add the zucchini fritters and a glass of rosé … a perfect way to start a summer evening.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
½ zucchini, any size
1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped basil
parmesan shavings
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Using a vegetable peeler, peel zucchini vertically into thin ribbons.

Toss with lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.

Top with parmesan curls, toasted pine nuts, and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Zucchini ribbons tossed with parmesan, pine nuts, and fresh basil.
Zucchini ribbons tossed with parmesan, pine nuts, and fresh basil.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Thyme

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
½ zucchini, any size
2 Tablespoon crumbled goat cheese
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Using a vegetable peeler, peel zucchini vertically into thin ribbons.

Toss with lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.

Top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Zucchini ribbons tossed with goat cheese and fresh thyme.
Zucchini ribbons tossed with goat cheese and fresh thyme.