One of my new years resolutions for 2014 is to spend less time watching TV. Last December, as I was watching the last episode of Homeland, I realized that each of those shows that I have been following is at least 45 minutes. Since I follow 3 shows, it is almost 3 hours that I can do something better with my time like reading, writing, or even just talking to a friend on the phone. I also need to think about the additional time I spend thinking what is going to happen next. For me, those TV shows are pure addiction.
I mean, really – tell me you are not obsessed with Homeland?!?!!
Hey, I know it is hard, but I have to do it.
So I decided that I would allow myself to watch TV, only if I am working out. You know me. I have got to watch Barefoot Contessa. Especially because, lately, they have been airing new episodes.
Luckily, the elliptical machine and the treadmill at the gym have built in TVs. So I go there everyday at 5pm, which is exactly when Ina’s show start. They air 2 episodes back to back. During the first episode I run on the treadmill and the second episode I stride on the elliptical machine. I like the fact that I do not feel like I am working out as I am watching her show.
All of a sudden, I find myself wanting to work out everyday. 🙂
Now that I am watching Ina regularly, I realize how often she uses ricotta cheese. Especially when she wants to give extra moisture to pasta sauces.
As I was watching her, I decided to make it at home and start using it more often in my daily cooking. Conveniently, she has a great recipe that turned out to be foolproof. It is creamy (or I should say “dreamy”) and delicious.
I promise you that you will not want go back to store bought ricotta cheese after you make your own.
The best part is that it is really easy to make. Here are the steps:
- Place milk, cream, and salt in a Dutch oven (or a non reactive pan). Stirring occasionally let it come to a boil.
- Slowly add the white wine vinegar. Let it sit for 3 minutes. You will see it will separate into thick parts, the curds and milky parts, the whey.
- Pour it in a colander lined with two layers of cheesecloth.
- Let it drain for up to an hour. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta will be.
I like mine on the thicker side. That is why I allowed it to sit for an hour but if you like it more moist (and cream-cheese-like creamy) 20 minutes or so should be enough.
It will firm as it cools; so do not judge its final texture with what you have in the cheesecloth.
I did not use the whey (the milky residue) but I heard a lot of people use it while making baked goods like bread and pizza dough instead of using water. I placed it in my “ingredients-to-cook/bake-with” list for the next couple of weeks.
I plan to use ricotta cheese for making pancakes, pasta sauces, topping on pizzas, etc. To make the quick bruschetta you see in the picture, I mixed 1 cup of ricotta cheese with 2 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs (dill and chives – or any fresh herbs you have at home), 1 clove of minced garlic, and 2 scallions that are chopped thinly. I toasted a couple of slices of a French baguette and spread a generous amount of ricotta mixture on each slice. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and drizzled with some really good extra virgin olive oil.
This bruschetta goes so well with a glass of Chardonnay for my 5 o’clock happy hour at home. I am also planning to serve it as an appetizer for my next dinner party.
Just like Ina would say, “How easy is that?”Print
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- Yield: 2
- 4 cups whole milk (Pasteurized not Ultra pasteurized)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Place a colander over a large pot (deeper and larger than the colander) and line it with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Set aside.
- Pour the milk, cream, and salt in a large nonreactive saucepan like a Dutch oven. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture in medium heat until it fully boils or it reaches to 185 degrees.
- Turn off the heat and slowly add the vinegar. Gently stir it once and let it sit undisturbed for 3 minutes.
- You will see it getting curdled.
- Pour the mixture into the colander lined with cheesecloth and let it drain for at least an hour (or more like 2 hours). The longer you strain the thicker it will get. I like mine after an hour.
- You can either use immediately or transfer it in an airtight container and refrigerate. As long as it is refrigerated it will be good for 4 to 5 days.
Adapted from Ina Gartens’ “Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?” cookbook, Homemade Ricotta Cheese (page-74) and Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas (page-73).