Summer is all about simplicity. Time is meant to be spent outdoors lounging around with family and friends, relaxing and enjoying the warm rays of the sun and each others’ company. Summer definitely does not mean slaving away in the hot kitchen preparing overly complicated and elaborate meals (that’s what boring and cold winter days are for).
There are few things more satisfying and delicious as homemade foods. Ricotta is astonishingly easy to make at home and surprisingly pricey at supermarkets.
Ricotta is a soft cheese made from whey, a by-product of cheese-making. Italian ricotta is commonly made with sheep’s, buffalo’s, or goat’s milk. In the United States, ricotta made with cow’s milk is most popular and most widely available. In general, ricotta has a very mild flavor that is suitable for numerous applications– from savory lasagna and ravioli to sweet cheesecakes and waffles.
Very little is needed to make ricotta: high quality whole milk, a little heavy cream, a pinch of salt, and an acid your choice. For this recipe, I used fresh lime juice, but you can also use lemon juice or vinegar. Pour the milk, cream, salt, and lime juice in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot. No need to mix or stir the ingredients together. Simply put it on the stove over medium-high heat and wait for the mixture to boil. In the meantime, place a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl and have slotted spoon ready.
Once the mixture has come to a boil, remove the pot from heat and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. At this point, the mixture should look like the photo above. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the formed cheese curds. Gently transfer cheese curds to prepared cheesecloth.
You’ll end up with a good amount of cheese curds like the photo above. Do not be tempted to simply pour the mixture into the strainer. You do not what to break up the curds that have formed. Although it may take a little longer to strain with slotted spoon, it is well worth it.
Once you’ve scooped up all the curds, tie up the cheesecloth into a pouch. You can adjust the moisture content of the ricotta to your specifications depending on how tight you tie the pouch. Looser tie means more moisture, tighter tie means a little more dry cheese. At this point the ricotta will be rather warm. You can use it immediately or store in the fridge to cool down and firm up. I prefer the latter.
Store-bought versus homemade ricotta don’t even belong in the same category. Homemade ricotta is fluffier, richer, and obviously fresher. Of course there are exceptions. If you happen to live near a cheese shop that makes their own cheeses, then you are the lucky few. Otherwise, I say, make it homemade.
Be sure to use high quality whole milk, it makes a world of a difference. My favorite milk producers are Straus Family Creamery and Clover Organic Farms, both local California producers. Clover Farms says, “the best milk makes the best cheese,” which I wholeheartedly agree with. Your end product can only be as good as the ingredients you choose to use.
Homemade ricotta sprinkled with a little kosher salt is delicious on its own. But its amazing with summer tomatoes, especially slow roasted mini heirloom tomatoes. Tomato season is in full swing and plump, juicy, sweet tomatoes can be found everywhere. I bought a whole bunch of these mini heirlooms at my local Whole Foods Market. They are so flavorful that I could eat them like grapes; which I admittedly did.
Roasting helps to bring out the sweetness of tomatoes. The sweetness complements the richness of the ricotta cheese. I soaked some minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil and used that to coat the sliced tomatoes before baking. After an hour or so in the oven, the tomatoes will shrivel slightly and expel some juices. The juices mixed with the garlic-olive oil makes for an amazing sauce.
I served the ricotta and tomatoes over toasted baguette slices. They make for excellent appetizers for a wine and cheese party, or you could simply eat a plateful for a light summer meal.
Crostini with Homemade Ricotta and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice (or lemon juice, distilled white vinegar)
Slow Roasted Tomatoes:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 pint (about 1 pound) mini heirloom tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- additional kosher salt for seasoning
- sliced baguettes
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- homemade ricotta, makes about 8 oz
- Pour whole milk, cream, salt and lime juice in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel sauce pot. No need to stir or mix ingredients together.
- Place pot on stove over medium-high heat and wait for mixture to boil.
- Meanwhile, place a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a medium bowl and have a slotted spoon ready.
- Once mixture has come to a boil, remove pot from heat and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. At this point the mixture should start to coagulate and thicken.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the formed cheese curds. Gently transfer cheese curds to prepared cheesecloth. Do not be tempted to simply pour the mixture into the strainer. You do not want to break up the curds that have formed.
- Once you have scooped up all the curds, tie up the cheesecloth into a pouch. You can adjust the moisture of ricotta to your liking depending on how tight you tie the pouch. Looser tie means wetter ricotta, tighter tie means drier cheese. (I prefer dry) At this point the ricotta will be warm. You can use it immediately or store in the fridge to cool down and firm up. (I prefer the latter)
Slow Roasted Tomatoes:
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper, and salt. Let marinade for 15-30 minutes to allow garlic flavors to infuse into olive oil.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange tomatoes, cut side up on parchment paper. Drizzle prepared garlic-olive oil mixture over tomatoes. Season with additional kosher salt.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes until tomatoes begin to shrivel and expel juices. Allow tomatoes to cool slightly and then transfer to a bowl. Be sure to pour any juices and oils from parchment paper in the new bowl.
- Arrange baguettes slices on sheet tray. Lightly coat tops of bread with olive oil. Lightly toast baguettes in broiler or 400F degree oven for 1-2 minutes until bread is crisp and golden brown in color.
- Spread ricotta cheese over each slice of bread. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on top. Follow with a couple tomatoes and drizzle a little garlic-olive oil sauce on top. Serve immediately.