When I told my husband I was making ricotta from scratch, he looked confused, said “why?”, and shrugged. Clearly he was not going to be impressed by my cheese-making skills. But someone was going to be. So I forced my friend Litonya to have a fake wine bar night with me, where I’d prepare appetizers and she’d bring wine, and we’d pretend we were somewhere cool besides my new house that is full of empty boxes from unpacking. And you know what? It kind of worked. I made Ricotta-Lemon-Hazelnut Crostini among other things, and the wine was great. The ricotta cheese was amazing — light and fluffy, and nowhere near anything you could buy in the store. I used a recipe from epicurious and was super surprised at how easy it was. The cheese was lemony and fresh, and somewhat sweet.
You will need:
  • 2 quarts whole milk (Note: Make sure it’s not ultra-pasteurized. If the milk could be fresh from the cow, that would be even better, but ultra pasteurized won’t curdle.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Special equipment: large colander, fine-mesh cheesecloth (Note: You can get this at most better grocery stores. Whole Foods carries these.)
1. Line a large colander with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
2. Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

3. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. (Note: You’ll see the texture in the picture above. When it looks like cottage cheese, it’s ready to come off. It’s not supposed to be thick yet.)

4. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days. This makes about 3 cups of cheese.

What to do with a bowl of fresh ricotta? I was tempted to make a dish of lasagna, but instead I picked a more sweet route. I decided to make lemon-ricotta-hazelnut crostini. They were super easy. (Side note: I tossed a spoonful of the ricotta into my pasta pomodoro the next day. Divine.)

Lemon-Ricotta-Hazelnut Crostini

What’s great about these from a balance standpoint is that it all works. The honey contrasts with the salty hazelnuts. The smooth ricotta balances with the crunchy nuts and bread, and the lemon pulls out the citrus from the cheese. It is super light (but full fat at the same time…). Drink with a light, citrusy white wine that doesn’t overpower the flavors, like an Albariño.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
  • vegetable oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lemon to zest
  • Orange-blossom honey
  • baguette

1. First you have to blanch the hazelnuts. To do this, preheat the oven to 350 and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Toast them until they are slightly brown. Using a dishtowel, rub the hazelnuts until the outer shell comes off of them, and they are smooth.

2. Crack the hazelnuts to create smaller pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle a little oil over them. Sprinkle salt over them and toss to coat.

3. Slice the bread and toast in the oven until crusty and light golden brown.

4. Assemble the crostini by placing ricotta on top of the crostini, drizzling the honey and zesting the lemon on top of it.

5. Sprinkle crostini with salted hazelnuts and serve.

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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