Ricotta is such a delicious addition to sweet and savory dishes-- it has to be one of my favorite dairy products by far. I don't know why but for years I have wanted to try making it at home;
I also don't know why it took me so long to actually try it-- so I
thought Sophia and I could both make it for Twice is Nice
and see what happens. If you like following instructions there is a really thorough recipe on Saveur's website for making ricotta: How to Make Ricotta at Home
Also! We have some good recipes using ricotta in the archives if you decide to try making some too:
Emma suggested we make ricotta this week for Twice is Nice, and I loved the idea. I was a bit intimidated, because I had never made ricotta before, but it also didn’t seem like the most difficult process in the world. I chose to make goat milk ricotta, just because I am a big fan of goat milk, and rarely consume cow’s milk. I thought it would also be a good comparison to Emma’s recipe. I used a recipe that said to mix apple cider vinegar with the goat milk after it gets to 175F. I think that this is because goat milk is more homogenous than cow’s milk, and needs help to separate. Once I poured in the vinegar, the curds and whey separated like oil and water. It was like magic in my pot. I ladled the curds into a cheesecloth-lined bowl and let it drain. I was only supposed to let it sit for a few minutes, but I let it sit for a bit longer, which resulted in a dry, more rubbery consistency of ricotta. I would have let them sit for only a minute or two, to leave them creamy. The recipe also recommended adding melted butter and baking soda. I did not do that, and I was happy with my product regardless. Here the ricotta is pictured with slow roasted plums, honey, and almonds.
Stuffed ZucchiniEmma's Cooking Notes:
I have been looking at a lot of ricotta recipes to see the different approaches to making curds, finally deciding to try buttermilk for my first ricotta making venture. My
ratio ended up being about 1:3 buttermilk to regular milk. The curds were really fine, I can get a bit nervous and impatient sometimes so at first I didn't think it was working, the milk came almost to a boil and I lowered the heat and took a fine tea strainer and swept it through the pot-- I was happy to discover that it actually did work, they were just so fine that it wasn't immediately apparent- good lesson for me. They were really tasty and we ended up eating several spoonfuls before I managed to make a couple stuffed zuchhinis with the rest... we mixed fresh herbs and onions with the ricotta and baked them in the oven for a bit. This has to come with a confession... I really want there to be a reason to make ricotta at home, a reason like "it's so much tastier when I make it at home" but in all honesty-- I didn't notice that much of a difference between mine and storebought ricotta... Luckily trying to make it at home is fun, so that can be the reason.
Emma and I decided to start a weekly blog entry called “Twice is Nice”, in which we take turns choosing a recipe that we find, and both make it. Emma is in Oregon and I am in New York, so we are working in different kitchens and using different ingredients. We wanted to do this blog theme to show how the same recipe can turn out with the individuality of the different people in different environments that are putting it together. We want our viewers and blog readers to feel less intimidated by cooking- you will see how there are many ways to do the same thing, and that you can adapt what you put in, and how you present any recipe. Let your own flavor shine through. Also, it gives Emma and I a chance to try out fun recipes that we come across in magazines and websites, that we otherwise wouldn't get to post on Kitchen Caravan. Our first recipe is a Rosemary Polenta Poundcake that we found through Saveur’s website.
Rosemary Polenta PoundcakeSophia's Cooking Notes: I chose the recipe this week because I love rosemary and polenta. I have never really loved poundcake, but that part seemed unimportant because of the other ingredients involved. I bought buttermilk from Hawthorne Valley and rosemary from Keith’s farm yesterday at the market. The rosemary from Keith’s farm is the best rosemary that I have ever had, so I made sure I got it from there, since it would be really highlighted in the recipe. I tend to only use goat butter these days, so the regular butter was replaced by goat butter. I also adjusted the quantities of polenta and flour; I used 1 1/4 cups of polenta, and 3 cups of flour. I was a mess this morning and managed to smoke out my apartment in the process of making this, because I filled the cake pan to high, and it all bubbled over and burned in my oven. I had to take it out and switch ovens halfway through the process, and it still came out great. I had some leftover batter (it called for 2 8-inch hollow cake pans, but I only used one), and so I cooked the rest as cupcakes separately.
I started nibbling on the crunchy bits the second it came out of the oven, and served a slice with some labne (thick Lebanese yogurt spread).
Rosemary Polenta Poundcake by Emma
Emma's Cooking Notes: We served our cake at a pig roast this weekend, someone brought raspberries and whipped cream so a lot of people ended up eating them on top of the cake, it was a really nice combination! I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe because I ended up not having some of the right ingredients. I ran out of white flour so I used some local soft-wheat flour instead, it's a bit coarser so I ended up using another 1/4 cup of buttermilk to make the batter the right consistency. I also only had brown sugar, so I used that instead of white, but I like doing that anyway.
As some of you may already know, I've been a kimchi addict since the sixth grade. Historically my cravings have been satisfied by semi-regular visits to local korean restaurants wherever I might be (Oregon, DC, Cairo, LA, NY, etc.). This summer, as money has been a bit scarce and I haven't gone out to eat as much, I have taken to periodically buying tubs of kimchi from the asian grocery store. A week ago I decided to finally take the plunge and try making it myself at home. I don't know why I never tried before, I think I somehow thought that it was such a specific and perfect food that to do it right would take some hidden knowledge that no recipe could provide. Well that was shameful and erroneous thinking because surprisingly my kimchi tasted just as good as any other kimchi.
Inspired by my newfound skill, three days ago I decided to take it one step further and try making kimchi jigae (kimchi stew). I looked up a few recipes to get an idea of how it's done, then looked up how to make gochujang (korean red pepper paste-- surprisingly easy to do at home), and set to work, making a few additions with things I found in the garden: zucchini and young pac choi. That was lunch on Tuesday, today is Thursday. I had the leftovers for breakfast on Wednesday, made up a second batch for my boyfriend on Wednesday night (he said it was better than the one he tried from the Korean restaurant), ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning, and made another batch this afternoon. I realize I might have created a monster, but I don't get sick of it, in fact it's all I want to eat. In fact, as I write this I'm realizing for the past two days I haven't eaten anything else at all, which sounds unbalanced, but I love it and now I can make it at home.
I didn't follow an exact recipe for anything, but should anyone wish to try here are the rough steps I followed:
1/2 chinese radish cut thinly in various cube and wedge shapes
- toss these in salt, cover with water, and let sit for 4-5 hours.
- Mix together:
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tblspoon rice flour dissolved in 3/4 cup water (boil until rice flour dissolves, let cool)
2-3 tablespoons each of red chili powder (fine) and red chili flakes
5 cloves of garlic minced
2 inch cube of ginger also minced
-After the cabbage and radish have soaked in the salt water for enough time, drain and rinse, twice.
-Toss the drained cabbage with the sauce and place in a large ceramic container, cover with a plate, or bowl, making sure all surface is covered and there's not a lot of air. Then place the whole thing in a cool area of the house and leave it alone for 3 days. (This is a quick kimchi, but it tastes great)
Red Pepper Paste
I followed this recipe for gochujang sauce fairly closely I think (didn't measure anything, kept adding til it tasted right).
And finally the Kimchi Jigae... I looked at these two recipes: 1, 2 and this is what I did:
chopped 1/2 an onion
minced 5 cloves of garlic
minced an inch cube of fresh ginger
-I added these ingredients to a pot with a little bit of oil, after it had cooked a bit I added:
half a shredded zucchinni
as much kimchi as I wanted
2 cups of water
a couple spoonfuls of the gochujang sauce
-Let it all simmer, when it seems thick and tasty add some kimchi juice for tang.... and then enjoy (every day until you're sick of it, or more moderately)!
I am a self-proclaimed herb freak. I would say that I have an all around voracious appetite for anything verdant, but herbs are my favorite of all. In the Summer, there is no dish that comes out of my kitchen that does not have a tinge of fragrant green. My hummus has speckles of basil and mint throughout, my black bean salad is loaded with mint and cilantro, and pasta is always tossed with herbs and garlic in any sort of shape or form.
Throughout the season I try to keep as many herbs on hand as possible. And I am very particular about where I source each one at the market. In fact, some of my market days are dictated by what herbs I can buy. I get my anise hyssop and za’atar (wild oregano) from Norwich Meadow Farm; my thyme, rosemary, and mint from Keith’s Farm; and parsley and basil I get from Lani’s (formerly Yuno’s). All of this sourcing makes a difference. If you have ever had the rosemary from Keith’s, then you know what I am talking about. It is what rosemary is meant to be, and the herb transforms whatever it touches. For that reason, my heart aches when I don’t make it to the market on Wednesdays.
Herbs are the perfect expression of terroir, or how the geography, climate, and soil of a region affect the flavor of its products. They are also the perfect example of how variety is so important in maintaining a healthy food culture. Rosemary grown at an organic farm in Orange County, New York, will taste very differently from rosemary grown out in California, or even from the one that you grow in your backyard. You might think that mint is mint is mint, but have you tried Apple Mint? Pineapple Mint? Spearmint? Chocolate mint? Orange mint? Kentucky Colonel Mint? Now which one would you choose to make mint ice cream? Or how about a Mojito? Now a Mint Julep? Once you start exploring all of the varieties of mint, you never stop. Each variety has a slightly different flavor, which will increase the depth of flavor in what you are cooking. Think about that when you go to buy herbs at the supermarket, where they come in plastic containers and smell very stereotypical and fresh, but maybe not quite so nuanced.
Now on to recipe ideas, aka, the fun part. Cocktails: One of my favorite cocktails this Summer still does not have a name, but I will call it something sooner or later. You take a whole lot of basil and mint (I have been using the Kentucky Colonel from Keith’s), a good shot of vodka, a good drizzle of agave, and the juice of two limes. Shake it up over ice and strain. It doesn’t get more refreshing than that. I have also thrown in some nettle water, but I don’t want to scare you. If you are interested, I will post what that is.
Appetizers: I haven’t really touched many ingredients this Summer, because all I have been eating has been hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes. I can’t explain it, but that is that. But I have been adding a ton of basil and cilantro to my hummus, as well as a serrano pepper for some oomph. It is velvety and green, with a nice twist of fresh and spicy. Other herbaceous apps and sides: Corn on the Cob with Herb Oil, Shiso Salsa Cruda, and Carrots with Carrot Top Chermoula.
Entrees: I eat a lot of beans. Tuscans are known as “fagiolini”, because they eat a lot of beans, so I like to call myself a “Fagiolina”. These dishes could count as appetizers, but I eat them as mains. I love my hummus garbanzo salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and hard boiled egg tossed with olive oil, tahini, and lemon juice. I toss in some fresh oregano, thyme, and/or mint, and dried za’atar (the spice mix). Or my Latin Black Bean Salad with Peaches, cilantro, mint, basil, red onion, corn, tomatoes, scallions, and anything else that is fresh. That dish was inspired by something Autumn Stoschek made for us when we visited Eve’s Cidery, and I eat it at least once a week in the Summer. I also love to do a cannelini salad with rosemary and sage, and maybe some chopped preserved lemon. Other dishes to try: Classic Pesto Genovese; Michael Orkin’s Sage, Basil, and Rosemary Burgers; and Zucchini with Corn, Clams, and Scallops.
Desserts: It might sound strange to have herbs in desserts, but they go so well. Chocolate Rosemary Ice Cream is a delight, and so is our Oregano Muhallebi (a sublime oregano-infused milk pudding). These drier herbs have a lovely affinity for milk, and the sharper mints and basils go great with fruits.
Pretty soon, herbs will start to fade from the market, and it will become spice season again, but in the meantime we have a lot herbs to explore.