|Ricotta cheese on roasted figs, with honey and nutmeg|
Cheese cubes make fantastic dog treats - cheese slices, say 3 different types, arranged artfully on a platter with some decent crackers and/or grapes make a fantastic appetizer for humans...cheese is good.
Cheese is also really fun to make. Hard cheeses can be made at home, but soft cheese is so easy. Here's a simple cheese similar to ricotta (it isn't really ricotta, which is made from whey, its more a paneer - but it tastes and looks and cooks just like ricotta and it is SO EASY!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 1 gallon milk (use whole milk, and try to get a brand that is NOT ultra pasteurized)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
Heat the milk and cream (if using, gives a richer taste, adds calories - works really well if you intend to use the cheese in a dessert, say cannoli -- however it is quite good without it, particularly for savory dishes just use whole milk please!) in a heavy bottom pan until it almost boils - around 180 F. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, one good stir - stop stirring and let it sit, covered for a few hours (at least two). Drain in a colander lined with dampened cheese cloth. The longer you drain it, the drier the cheese. Stir in salt. Thats it. Practically instant ricotta, fabulous warm on toast (crostini) with a little olive oil drizzled over it. Use it in lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti, cook some spinach and squeeze the water out, chop it fine and add to the cheese with a little nutmeg and use it as a crepe filling, make gnocchi verdi, make cannoli, make a zuppa inglese - have fun with it!!
Serve it with figs -
you can roast the figs, or just leave them uncooked, sliced in half. Place a tbs or so of ricotta on each fig half and drizzle with a little honey. To roast the figs, slice in half lengthwise and pour a little melted butter with some fresh grated nutmeg or cinnamon on each fig, roast at 350 for 20-30 mins.