Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cheese Night!

For April's cooking group, we decided to have a refresher course on cheese and how to make your own homemade ricotta cheese!  Last year (or maybe the year before??) we learned how to make ricotta using whole milk in your microwave (Recipe here) It is so easy to do and soooo delicious that I think it's safe to say that this recipe is life changing!! 

You simple cook your whole milk in the microwave until it reaches 185 degrees (F), then add in a little vinegar, stir--let cool strain and serve!

Here's our final product--pretty yummy huh?!? Here's we spread it on a fresh baguette and topped with fresh local honey and thyme sprigs but the possibilities are endless!

Here are some more recipes with Ricotta:

Ricotta Recipes

Ricotta is italian for "recooked", traditionally made by reheating the whey left over from making mozzarella.  Ricotta is a versatile cheese.  Try mixing a little ricotta into your scrambled eggs for added fluffiness or olded into an omelet for extra flavor.  Ricotta adds texture and moisture to pancakes and when mized with honey makes a refreshing topping for French toast or waffles.  Tired of prepared spaghetti sauce? Stir in a few spoonfuls of ricotta and transform the sauce into something new and different.  Spread on a toasted baguette and the topping choices are unlimited; peaches, plums or apricots at peak season, tomatoes, basil adn olive oil, caramelized onions, butternut squash, etc. Top toasts with store bought chutney, relish or tapenade for a quick appetizer.  ricotta also can be used as substitute for cream cheese and adds texture to any cheesecake recipe.

Honeyed Ricotta

15 ounces part skim ricotta
2 T honey
1/4 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t grated lemon zest

In a small bowl, use a whisk to whip all the ingredients together until light and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Store in an airtight container in the refriderator for up to 5 days

Baked Ricotta


2 cups ricotta cheese (full fat/whole milk)
2 large egg whites (lightly beaten)
1 T chopped fresh thyme (try dired oregano as well)
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix the ricotta with the beaten egg whites and add most of the chopped thyme, the lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Brush an 8 inch springform or 2 smaller ramekins with oil, and pour in the ricotta mixture then drizzle with olive oil and scatter a little more chopped thyme over the top.  Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes.  The baked ricotta will rise a little and set dry on top, but will not turna golden color like a cake.

Let the pan cool a little before springing open, and removing to a plate.  Leave to cool al ittle longer, then cut into wedges and eat while still warm.  Add a squeeze of lemon at the end before serving with the baked ricotta.  Can use 1/4 tsp dried herbs in place of fresh, try oregano or Herbs de Provence.

Sweet Variation: Omit the thyme, salt and pepper.  Add 3 T sugar and 1 T honey to mixture.  Once removed from oven, drizzle 2-3 T honey over ricotta cake.

For the rest of the evening, we enjoyed cheese tasting with good company and conversation.  If you're short on time but need to make an impressive display for guests, a cheese sampler is the way to go!  You could easily scour pinterest for ideas on how to display your cheeses, but there is no wrong way to do it.

Along with the cheese, you could add something sweet, something crunchy, something fruity and something salty.  On our cheese board, we added salami, apple slices, fresh honey drizzles, pecans, olives, fresh herbs and dried cherries and of course, we had bread and crackers to go with it.

And one more thing, don't forget to label the cheese some way so that people can see the flavors.  Enjoy!

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