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Wednesday
Feb162011

Get Your Own! How Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese



Does anyone have a count of how many times I have mentioned how much I love ricotta cheese? I think the obsession started when I visited Anfora Wine Bar for the first time and spread some of their signature perfectly whipped, salty-sweet version on a piece of airy toast. It was a testament to the benefits of homemade: so much more flavor! And so much room for innovation.

So I decided to make my own. Because my cholesterol was getting dangerously low, and I needed to have a steady stream of cheese-related fats in order to counteract that. I looked around and found a bunch of very helpful instructions on making ricotta cheese. I was assured it would be easy.

The first time I tried it, I failed miserably. I looked away for a second and the whole mixture on the stove top boiled over and made quite a mess. Which I should be used to by now. Take away lesson: Don't boil your ricotta milk.

Anyway, I had MUCH success the second, third and fourth times. I have created a few different variations with instructions below. There is also a helpful video that shows the EXACT MOMENT of cheese formation. Are you all a-tingle? I bet you are.

Recipe 1: Ricotta Cheese whipped with Olive Oil and Truffle Salt

What You Need:
makes about 1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk (reduced fat just doesn't work as well) + 2 Tbsp
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Truffle salt to taste (you can use regular sea salt if you don't have the fancy truffle variety)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Equipment:
Small pot
Candy thermometer (something that reads at least up to 180 degrees)
Cheesecloth
Colander
Slotted spoon

What To Do:
Cut enough cheesecloth to cover the bottom of your colander. 4-ply the cheesecloth to make sure no actual cheese escapes - just water!

Pour 2 cups of the whole milk, all of the buttermilk and all of the white vinegar into a small pot outfitted with a thermometer. Heat this over medium-low heat and babysit it. The babysitting involves you watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally so it doesn't boil over.

The thermometer will start to creep toward 160 degrees. This is the action zone. Your milk/buttermilk will start to separate and curdle. This is one of those rare occasions when curdling is a good thing. Stop stirring and let the milk completely separate and curdle. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curdled portion (this is your ricotta!) and place it on the cheesecloth that is sitting in the colander. Let it drain for about 10 minutes.

After draining, I transfer it to a container (like a tupperware container, as you can keep your chemistry experiment in the fridge for up to a week). With a fork or a whisk, add in your 2 Tbsp of milk, the olive oil and the truffle salt. Give it a good whipping.

I add this last extra step as ricotta can get a little dry from the draining. Especially if you leave it in the colander and forget about and say...oh start vacuuming your apartment or something. This makes it moist and flavorful.

Recipe 2: Ricotta Cheese whipped with Milk, Honey and Sea Salt

What You Need:
makes about 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk (reduced fat just doesn't work as well) + 2 Tbsp
Juice from 1/2 a lemon, squeezed directly into the milk
Honey - a tablespoon or two
Sea Salt
Note: For this version I didn't use any buttermilk. Works just fine!

Equipment:
Small pot
Candy thermometer (something that reads at least up to 180 degrees)
Cheesecloth
Colander
Slotted spoon

What To Do:
Cut enough cheesecloth to cover the bottom of your colander. 4-ply the cheesecloth to make sure no actual cheese escapes - just water!

Pour 2 cups of the whole milk and lemon juice into a small pot outfitted with a thermometer. Heat this over medium-low heat and babysit it. The babysitting involves you watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally so it doesn't boil over.

The thermometer will start to creep toward 160 degrees. This is the action zone. Your milk will start to separate and curdle. Stop stirring and let the milk completely separate and curdle. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curdled portion and place it on the cheesecloth that is sitting in the colander. Let it drain for about 10 minutes.

After draining, I transfer it to a container. With a fork or a whisk, add in your 2 Tbsp of milk, honey and sea salt. Give it a good whipping.

Here is a video that demonstrates the heating and curdling process:

[wpvideo GDV74QTD]
Tuesday
Feb152011

Dozzino - a video tour

Pizza and Gangsta Rap - Dozzino - A video tour from John Iaciofano on Vimeo.



As Hoboken residents, Elana and I were actually tracking the opening of Dozzino quite intently.  It was a big moment for us - to have an artisinal pizzeria in our backyard - and Dozzino did not disappoint.  Sure, for an upscale pie, Grimaldi's serves its purpose every now and then (and quite well), but there is something to be said about a boutique wood fired brick oven pizzeria, where the soul of the pizzaiolos is felt throughout your entire dining experience.  Such is the case with Dozzino.

Over the last couple of months, Elana and I have gotten a chance to know the owners of Dozzino, Marc and Rob.  These guys are truly obsessed with pizza.  And as we came to find out, their obsession spills over into a zany, friendly, and self imposed obligation to spread the joys of pizza, bread, and their own interpretation of simple, quality Italian fare.

The above is proof of this.

 

Monday
Feb142011

Happy Valentine's Day!

[wpvideo QhTxzZAs]

John here.  And while those aren't my hands you see above (they're Elana's.  And yes, those are actually cookies she baked), I did select the tune to accompany it.  A power ballad of love if you ask me.  It was the only way I could simultaneously compliment and combat Elana's seemingly endless string of mushy Valentine's Day posts; with a little sprinkle of 80's power glory.

And on this unique holiday, let Robert Palmer's "addictive" message - you can't sleep, you can't eat, there's no doubt, you're in deep - apply to not just the obvious, but whatever the heck it is you want it to; your significant other, a certain food or top 40 tune, reality tv, etc.

Just go nuts and enjoy yourself today.  And keep reading our blog.

Love,

John and Elana

Sunday
Feb132011

Last Minute Valentine's Day Suggestions



For those of you who are operating under the wire, last minute, and wait....tomorrow's WHAT day? Yeah, you. Here's a recap of suggestions for you:

Stuff to Buy

Chocolate:

In Brooklyn try: Mast Brothers or Nunu Chocolates

In Soho try: Kee's Chocolates

In Chelsea try: Cocoa V

Flowers:

In Brooklyn try: Saipua

In Hoboken try: Sobsey's Produce

Coffee:

Intelligentsia Coffee (You can only find this in Chicago and Los Angeles, but you can click here to find locations)

Irving Farm Coffee

Stumptown Coffee

San’Eustachio

Stuff to Make:

Valentine Heart Cookies (also comes with Linzer and Ice Cream Sandwich variations)

French Toast Hearts with Nutella OR Heart Shaped Toasts with Honey Butter

Pizza (hey, it would work for me)
Friday
Feb112011

Dorie Greenspan's Pop-Up Cookie Bar



I was able to scamper uptown today for Dorie Greenspan's Pop-Up Cookie Bar and Food Blogger meet 'n' greet. I am extremely glad I did. The little box of cookies I have ("I'll have one of each please!") is now hiding behind one of my monitors so no one in the office spots it...

The Cookie Bar Pop up has popped down for now (the cookies all sold out), but you can check here for future engagements.

So far, I've enjoyed a Jammer, which is a combo of sablés, Sarabeth jam and streusel. It's like a cake in cookie form. I especially loved the streusel topping and the thickly cut bed of cookie on which it was perched. In the cab ride back to the office I started in on a Chocolate Chunker, which is the winner for me. SO moist. Ridiculously so (probably because of the Valrhona Chocolate – cocoa, pure unsweetened, Jivara Milk Chocolate and Extra-Bitter) with whole salted cashews and giant dried cherries. It knocked my socks off. Well, it was either the cookie or the cab driver's inventive traffic maneuvers.

Definitely head over to the Cookie Bar NYC website to stay updated on the next pop-up!

And thanks to Dorie Greenspan for the rad cookies. Yeah, I said the cookies were rad. So?