Homemade Ricotta Cheese

As part of my Christmas present last year, Jack so graciously gave to me (and him!), cheese making classes with none other than the Cheese Queen herself, Ricki Carroll. The gift involved a 6 hour class at Ricki's beautiful and eclectic home in Western Mass. We started with making a farmer's cheese, which we unfortunately did not get to taste. However, throughout the day, we sampled various types of yogurt, two types of ricotta cheese, queso blanco, and her beloved 30 minute mozzarella.

If you have never made cheese, the task itself can seem quite daunting, however, after watching Ricki work her magic, the craft of cheese making seems much easier than originally thought. After leaving class, and picking up numerous supplies, Jack and I set out to find "good" milk. Good milk is defined as milk that has been pasteurized at a temperature that is less than 180 degrees F. Believe it or not, finding milk that has been pasteurized at less than 180 degrees is extremely difficult, even at Whole Foods. We tested out a few brands, and decided that either Sky Top Farms or High Lawn Farms milk are the best available at our grocery stores. It should be noted that there are a few local dairies near Boston that will deliver to your door that more than likely have good milk, however I have yet to try them out.

I have to admit that Jack was the first of us to try to make cheese. He successfully made both mozzarella and queso blanco cheese, and they both tasted terrific! I finally took decided to try to make ricotta cheese, as it was both simple to make and easy to use in so many recipes.

The method for making ricotta cheese is fairly simple. Bring a mixture of milk and citric acid to a temperature of 190 degrees, make sure the milk starts to separate from the whey, and turn off the stove and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. After the resting period, drain the mixture into a cheesecloth lined strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and tie into a knot and let hang to drip for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight. See, it's simple!

I used the ricotta cheese in a Zucchini and Ricotta cheese galette. I have to admit, it certainly took a plain old galette to the next level. The homemade cheese really makes a difference in the taste of all of the foods that it is used in.

Here is the link to Ricki's website, which also includes the recipe for Ricotta cheese, amongst many others.


Julia Child's Potato Salad

I have always disliked potato salad. Much like the case with pasta salad, which is typically drenched in some sort of condiment, potato salad most always has loads of mayonnaise, which I despise! Recently, when reading through my new issue of Vegetarian magazine, I stumbled upon a recipe for potato salad that did not contain mayo. Seeing this led me to think that there had to be other recipes for potato salad that did not contain mayo.

Fortunately for me, a quick google search led me to a recipe by one of my favorite chefs, Julia Child. I would have never thought that the queen of butter would have a lower fat and non mayo containing version of a delicious summertime treat! After a quick review of the recipe, I realized that this particular recipe would be one that I would use time and time again.

Red potatoes are cooked for about twenty minutes, and then let to cool off until able to handle with your hands. After a little slicing and dicing, the potatoes are drizzled with some EVOO, white wine vinegar, parsley and S&P amongst other items. The end result is a refreshing, light and mayo free salad! I highly recommend making this version of potato salad, and especially recommend eating it a day after making so that all of the flavors have a chance to meld together.

French Potato Salad
from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
2 Tbs shallots or scallions, finely minced
White pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 to 3 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 to 3 Tbs light olive oil, optional

Fill a three-quart saucepan half full with cold water.
Wash the potatoes and drop into pot full of water. Cook in simmering water for about 20 minutes. Drain and set in a bowl to cool enough until able to touch. Slice the cooled potatoes, and then toss with scallions, S&P, white wine, vinegar, and olive oil. Sprinkle on parsley to garnish. Allow salad to rest 30 minutes to give the dressing time to be absorbed by the potatoes. The salad is best the next day.