R is for Ricotta Cheese

R is for Ricotta Cheese

We have made it to the eighteenth letter of the alphabet! Say hello to the letter R. I knew exactly what I wanted to make when I got here and am so excited to share a quick and easy recipe for ricotta cheese today!

When asked what my favorite food is my answer is cheese; not a particular cheese, ALL cheese. I love how there are so many different variations of this food and how easy it is to change it up by substituting a different milk or aging process. When a cheese shop opened down the street from my apartment (thank you Cheesemongers), I looked for any excuse to walk over and peruse the cases of cheese and listen to the experts describe each wedge, where it originated from, its ingredients and how it was made; I could literally spend all day there! While I am not ready to go into the cheese making business in my little apartment (my closet space is limited as it is), there is one cheese that can be made in even the smallest of kitchens and that is ricotta cheese.

Ricotta cheese is traditionally made by adding an acid to leftover whey from milk and heating it until small curds start to form. This quick and easy recipe brought to you by Serious Eats uses fresh milk, but produces a similar result and is so quick that it is definitely worth a try. After I made a single-serving lasagna a few months ago and had trouble finding a small container of ricotta cheese, I turned to the internet for a solution. Turns out making ricotta cheese at home is a regular practice by home cooks, but this particular recipe steps it up a notch by making it even faster and with little clean-up. How you ask? This cheese is made in the microwave! By heating the milk in the microwave, you avoid milk boiling over onto the stove (a not so fun accident to clean up) and it gets the job done in about five minutes. Cheese in five minutes! I might have stumbled onto a dangerous habit….

I must admit, it took me three tries and an extra trip to the grocery store to get this recipe right and it all had to do with impatience. Yes, even with a five-minute cook time I still jumped the gun too early twice and tried to remove the oh so too small curds. Luckily this recipe has three ingredients and I only had to buy the milk twice so at least it was a cheap lesson to learn. Some tips from my experience are as as follows:

  • When it says gently stir after you microwave the mixture, it means gentle. In my first attempt, I dove right in with my wooden spoon and gave it a good stir. Wrong move on my part! You need to very carefully move your spoon around in the liquid to see the status of the curds forming. You might not even need to stir it at all because once the curds are large enough to remove, you can see them with pretty well.
  • Heat the mixture for the appropriate time before trying to remove the curds. Since microwaves do vary, I went with the lowest time setting of two minutes first and was so amazed with the little curds that had formed I thought it was done. Wrong again! After trying to remove very small curds with my slotted spoon, I had agitated the mixture too much and no further curds would form. On the second time around I tried three minutes and while the curds were slightly larger, they were not quite there yet. The third trial proved to be a success after heating the milk mixture for five minutes.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the curds and do not pour the entire contents of the liquid measuring cup into the paper towel-lined colander. After my heating attempt had failed on my first try, in a last effort to remove the small curds, I dumped everything into the prepared colander. Turns out paper towels are quite effective in keeping the moisture in when the volume is high. The purpose of the paper towels are to remove leftover liquid slowly from the curds as they sit which did prove efficient when it was just the curds.

Of course, all of my mishaps could have been avoided if I wasn’t so eager to see the results. Following the recipe step by step will effortlessly produce about a 1/2 cup of creamy ricotta cheese, just the right amount for a single-serving. I hope you enjoy this cooking venture as much as I did and I would love to hear about your results in the comments below. Try your freshly made ricotta cheese in a lasagna or on a flatbread!

Learn about the cheese making process and how this recipe was developed here!

Get straight to cooking and view the recipe here!

 

Faux Flatbread

Faux Flatbread

This week’s recipe is brought to you by the letter F! I know what you’re thinking, that sure looks like a flatbread, why the faux? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret…I didn’t make the dough from scratch. I used naan bread in its place which is technically an Indian flatbread so maybe I need to give myself a little more credit. When I started planning this recipe I was really ambitious and looked up various flatbread recipes for the grill, looking for an alternative to my favorite pizza dough recipe. After some research I decided that I wanted a flatbread dish that was going to be quick for a light weeknight dinner or easy to whip up as an appetizer for an impromptu game night.

I gave myself the challenge of attempting to put the dish together with ingredients I already had on hand; think of it as a Quick Fire Challenge from Top Chef. As I always have naan bread in the freezer (thank you Trader Joe’s!), I decided that was going to be my base. I searched the fridge and found leftover ricotta cheese and basil, and waaaaay in the back of my pantry I found some pine nuts, score! Staying true to the “quick” part of this challenge, I popped the naan bread into my toaster oven instead of the regular oven, my stomach was telling me we did not have time to wait for it to preheat. After the naan bread had heated through, which took all of five minutes, I added a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese, sprinkled on the chopped basil, pine nuts, and finished it off with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of pepper. Viola! One thing to remember when putting together a flatbread dish is that you should err on the lighter side of ingredients. Unlike its cousin the pizza, flatbreads are not weighed down with heavy sauces and hearty toppings.

So now I challenge you to create your own faux flatbread! I would love to hear what you come up with!