Monday, July 8, 2013

a foray into cheesedom

Forgive me, but this post has nothing to do with gardening. In fact it has nothing to do with fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers. It has to do with cheese. And while it may not fit exactly into the theme of this blog, I have to tell you about it.

I have recently found myself engaged in the craft of making cheese at home. Nothing fancy, I've simply made a couple batches of ricotta so far. But a new book I have on making cheese has got me fascinated and, so far, reeling from the deliciousness of it. I cannot get over how simple it is. For ricotta, you simply boil some pasture fed, organic whole milk; add a couple spoonfuls of vinegar, let it sit a while and voila! Pure, milky, creamy delicious ricotta. You have not tasted ricotta till you have tasted it fresh. That rubbery stuff in the grocery store tubs...I'm sorry, I just don't think I can buy it anymore.

So, I made my first batch and used it in one of my staple summer recipes, a zucchini galette. The base of this galette is normally a temptingly rich mixture of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. To get the full effect of my fresh ricotta, I skipped the other two cheeses and let the ricotta rule the day. The fresh, grassy, creamy, ricotta seductively melded with the bright, fruity zucchini more perfectly than I have ever tasted. (Hey, I just mentioned a vegetable! There, now this post is legit.) Enrobed in a crisp olive oil pastry, each bite was nothing short of heavenly. I thought, 'this is ricotta at its best'.


This evening while a chicken and vegetable curry simmered on the stove, I thought 'I must do something with the leftovers of my latest batch of ricotta'. A quick web search for 'chocolate ricotta dessert recipes' (yes, the chocolate part was essential) yielded an array of cheesecakes, puddings and cannoli. Pudding...that sounds perfect. The few recipes I scanned were overly fussy, so I had to improvise. In went my fresh ricotta to the mini food processor. A drizzle of agave nectar (I don't know why, I've just had a bottle of it around and it seemed like a good use for it), a couple spoonfuls of cocoa and a dash of cinnamon. Oh and a splash of vanilla. Whir-whir-whir, and then...

The most delicious thing I think I have ever tasted. Seriously. And I've made a LOT of desserts. Some rather spectacular ones I might confess. But this was different. Unpretentious, pure, clean, unadulterated chocolate with the freshness of a crisp spring morning on a rustic Italian farm. I'm telling you, this is better than any mousse, panna cotta, creme anglaise, or flan that you might labor over for hours. The density makes it taste incredibly decadent, while the freshness lends it lightness. Total contrasts that result in something utterly sublime. And it took all of about 5 minutes to put together.

I can't give you an exact recipe because this was a mere tossing together of ingredients. It depends on your taste, and I think a little bit of 'non so che'...add a little more cocoa, a little less sweetener for a bittersweet treat. Add a little milk if you like. Use sugar, honey, whatever you fancy. Maybe add a touch of chili for a little kick. Whatever you do, get out there and make yourself some ricotta. You will never be the same.

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