I never took chemistry – in high school or college. I thought it would be too hard, so I took physics instead. Which just goes to show how ridiculous are the thoughts that wander around in a teenager’s head.
So I’ve always wondered if I’d have done well in chemistry. My friends who took it tell me that, as a math major, I would probably have really enjoyed it. And I’m starting to think they are right.
My new favorite hors d’oeuvre strikes me as something of a chemistry experiment. If you think about it, of course, most cooking resembles chemistry. You combine two or more substances that are known to react in certain ways. You add or subtract heat. And then you sit back and hope that the same thing that happened last time – or that is known to have happened before – will happen again. And you hope you don’t blow up the house in the process.
So here it is – ridiculously simple, and completely delicious. And if you are thinking about skipping this because you can so easily buy ricotta at the grocery store, you should try a bit harder at talking yourself into it. Because this ricotta is so much creamier and richer feeling in your mouth that you will truly want to call me and say, “You must really be the Kitchen Goddess, because this is food for the gods.” So there.
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
Kitchen Goddess note: I have seen this recipe elsewhere using lemon juice or regular vinegar, but I’m pretty sure a good white wine vinegar is the real key to the taste of this stuff.
Pour the milk and cream into a stainless or enameled saucepan, and stir in the salt until it dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
While the milk/cream is heating up, set a large sieve over a deep bowl, and line the sieve with a couple of layers of damp cheesecloth. Make sure you use enough cheesecloth that it drapes over the edges of the sieve.
When the milk/cream reaches a boil, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 1-2 minutes while it curdles (separating into curds – the thick part – and whey – the watery stuff).
Pour the mixture carefully into the cheesecloth-lined sieve, and let it drain for half an hour. If necessary, you can occasionally discard the liquid that drains into the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta you’ll have. Scrape the drained ricotta from the cheesecloth into a bowl and refrigerate. It’ll keep 4-5 days. This recipe makes about 2 cups. And then...
Bruschetta with Herbed Ricotta
2 cups ricotta, preferably the yummy stuff you just made
3 tablespoons minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 loaf French or Italian bread
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
Combine the ricotta with the herbs plus salt and pepper, and set aside. Cut the bread into slices ½-inch thick, and brush the slices with olive oil. Grill the bread over medium-high heat or in the broiler 1-2 mins per side, or until lightly browned. Rub each piece with garlic on one side, and spread on the herbed ricotta. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre or as a first course with a green salad on the side.