Homemade Ricotta Makes about 1-1/2 cups
This is so creamy and so good.
Truth to tell, it’s not ricotta. Real ricotta is made with whey, and the best ricotta is made with the whey from sheep’s milk, the leftovers in the Pecorino process. Hence ricotta, which means twice cooked. The milk is heated for the Pecorino, and then the whey is heated for the ricotta. But are you going to be making Pecorino? I don’t think so, and this is a pretty terrific way to get to the tender curds of ricotta. Fast, too. You’ve got options for serving this. See the box.
The photo is on page 68.
1 quart whole milk 1 cup heavy cream 1 scant teaspoon coarse salt 2 tablespoons white vinegar
Line a strainer with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and set it in a bowl (deep enough so the strainer doesn’t sit on the bottom of the bowl). Rinse a large saucepan with cold water (for easier cleanup). Pour the milk and cream into the saucepan. Add the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; a skin may form on the surface. Continue to cook until you see bubbles all over the surface.
When the milk is simmering, turn off the heat and pour in the vinegar. Leave it alone for about 1 minute, then stir slowly and gently. The milk will start separating into curds and whey (the liquid); you are looking for the whey to become clearish, which will take about 1 minute of gentle stirring. Pour into the strainer. Lift the strainer out of the bowl and pour out the whey, then set the strainer back in the bowl and let the cheese drain for 15 minutes.
The ricotta is ready to serve now, and it will be soft and moist. Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and lift. Set the cheese in your other palm and unfold the cloth. Invert a bowl or plate over the cheese in your hand, flip it over, and lift off the cheesecloth. You can also refrigerate it, covered, for later; it will be denser, more like cottage cheese.
Serving Homemade Ricotta At the cocktail hour, pile the ricotta in a bowl, drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oilenough so you have a ring of oil around the cheeseand sprinkle it with coarse sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Or grains of paradise (crunchy seeds from West Africa, with a floral scent and the heat of black pepper). Set it out with slices of semolina bread.
This could also be lunch. You’ve made a big green salad or you have a platter of Roast Peppers with Capers and Anchovies (page 332). You have a great loaf of bread. You’ve got the ricotta in a bowl with the oil and salt and cracked pepper. You slather pieces of bread with the cheese and eat it with the salad.
Use this to make Ziti with Ricotta (page 162), making sure to add the goat cheese, since this ricotta is very sweet. It’s enough for 1 pound of pasta. Or use it in a lasagne.
Ricotta can also be dessert or a sweet breakfast. Sprinkle it with a tiny bit of sugar and some cinnamon or drizzle it with tupelo honey and eat it with a spoon.
Fresh Pea Soup Serves 4
If you’ve never had a soup made of fresh peas, you’re in for a treat. It doesn’t get much more refreshing than this.
The photo is on page 153.
Coarse salt 3 pounds English peas, shelled (see Note) 1/2 head tender lettuce (Boston, Bibb, leaf), chopped 3 cups water 2 tablespoons shredded fresh mint
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have ready a large bowl of ice water.
Salt the boiling water very well, so it tastes like sea water, then add the peas and lettuce. Bring back to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Taste a pea: it should be heated through. Drain the peas and lettuce in a colander and then plunge the colander into the bowl of ice water to refresh the vegetables. Drain again.
Puree the peas and lettuce in 3 batches in a blender (you’ll get a smoother soup in the blender than you will in a food processor), adding 1 cup of the water to each batch. Check for salt and stir in the mint.
You can serve this immediately, or chill it for later.
Note: This soup will be better made with English peas from the garden, but I have to tell you that frozen peas are pretty damn good here. As they always are.
You need 3 cups of frozen peas. Put them in a strainer and rinse under hot water until they are no longer cold. You will still need to blanch the lettuce for a minute. Once you’ve done that, start pureeing and finishing the recipe.
Broiled Rib-eye Steaks with Gorgonzola Butter Serves 4
Steak is one of the easiest proteins to come up with on a weeknight. It’s quick, and it’s flavorful. But steak is steak. So hearken back to the old days, when a pat of a compound butterthe classic was maître d’hôtel, with parsley and lemon juicemelted down into a hot piece of grilled meat. Gorgonzola butter adds much more in the way of flavor and texture, but you have many other options. See the box that follows.
The photo is on page 275.
FOR THE GORGONZOLA BBBBBUTTER 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1/2 pound Gorgonzola dolce, at room temperature Coarse salt and coarsely ground black pepper
FOR THE STEAKS 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence 2 (1-pound) boneless rib-eye steaks Coarsely ground black pepper Coarse salt Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
FOR THE GORGONZOLA BUTTER Beat the butter in a small bowl with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth. Add the Gorgonzola and stir to combine, but leave some lumps of cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Scrape the butter out onto a sheet of wax paper or aluminum foil and use a spatula to form it into a rough log 5 or 6 inches long. Wrap the paper around the butter, using the paper to shape the butter into a uniform log as you roll. Twist the ends closed and refrigerate until firm and well chilled, at least 2 hours.
FOR THE STEAKS Crumble the herbes de Provence and rub into both sides of the meat. Season the steaks generously with pepper. Leave them on the counter for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Heat the broiler, with the broiler pan about 5 inches from the heat source. Broil the steaks, turning them once and salting them when you turn them, to your desired doneness. Broiling steaks that are 1 inch thick for 5 minutes per side should result in meat that is medium-rare.
Top the steaks with a few pats of the Gorgonzola butter and let them rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes.
Slice the steaks and arrange the slices on a platter. Garnish with more slivers of Gorgonzola butter and a shower of parsley.
Chinois Noodles Serves 4
What’s nice about this light pasta dishaside from its being quick as a flash to makeis that it can sit for a bit, equally good warm or hot. So it’s a smart dish to make when you have something else to finish at the last minute.
If you have both spinach and egg linguine in the cupboard, use a combination. Serve this with steaks, or chops, or fish.
The photo is on page 273.
2 tablespoons peanut oil 2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste) 2 tablespoons cold water Coarse salt 10 ounces spinach linguine 3 scallions 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts (optional)
Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Combine the peanut and sesame oils, soy and oyster sauces, chili paste, and cold water in a serving bowl. Whisk.
When the water boils, salt it well and add the linguine. Cook it until al dente. While the noodles are cooking, trim the scallions and cut into fine julienne, with the pieces about 3 inches long.
Drain the noodles, dump them into the sauce, and toss. You can serve this now or leave it on the counter for a while.
Right before serving, toss again, strew with the scallions, and scatter with the peanuts, if you’re using them.
Chocolate Whipped Cream Cake Makes one 8-inch layer cake
Imagine the best Yankee Doodle possible. Imagine one of the easiest cakes possible. No creaming butter and sugar: just whip cream, add eggs and the dry ingredients, and you’ve got cake!
The photo is on page 414.
1 1/4 cups cake flour 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa 2 teaspoons baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder 2 large eggs 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons honey 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
Pour 1 cup of the cream into a mixing bowl, add the espresso powder, and beat to stiff peaks with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the sugar and honey. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined and smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Divide the batter between the baking pans, and give the pans a rap on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out with just a crumb or two.
Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes or so; they’ll fall a little (don’t worry about it).Then turn the cakes out of the pans, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely on the racks.
Whip the remaining 1 cup cream to stiff peaks. Put one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread with half the whipped cream. Top with the other layer and the rest of the whipped cream. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the cake. I think this cake is best eaten within a day.
Note: If you’ve got some cherries preserved in brandy hanging around, spoon some of the brandy over the cake before you spread on the whipped cream, and top each layer with some of the cherries.
Copyright © 2006 by Roy Finamore. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.