Homemade ricotta cheese with honey and baguette

Sunday, April 29, 2012

After hearing a friend of mine, Gail, raved about homemade ricotta cheese using Ina Garten’s recipe, I decided to give it a try.  I have always been skeptical of homemade cheese.  Why attempt something that many companies have perfected for years!  

Gail was rather convincing.  Her eyes lit up when she described how light, delicious, and fresh her first batch of ricotta tasted.  Gail was right.  I was giddy after my first bite.  Light like a cloud.  Creamy.  Smooth.  Fresh.  Unbelievable.  My head was buzzing with ideas.  Crostini.  Ravioli.  Gnocchi.  Lasagna.  Cheesecake.  So many possibilities!  I was too impatient to make anything time consuming.   

I wanted to showcase my first batch of ricotta cheese and went with Donna Hay’s recipe for sweet honeyed ricotta with brioche from Seasons.  I used baguette in place of brioche.  You cannot go wrong with any bread or cracker available in your kitchen.  The honey elevated the ricotta to a new level.    

I ate half a cup by myself and saved some for Vu and Betsy.  They both approved.   

GONE are the days of store bought ricotta cheese!

Homemade ricotta cheese with honey and baguette (adapted from Donna Hay Seasons)

1 cup ricotta
1 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (the recipe calls for 1 vanilla bean)
Sliced and toasted baguette (or your choice of brioche, cracker, etc)
Fresh fruits to serve (optional)

1. Press ricotta into a 1-cup mold and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
2. In a small saucepan, combine water, honey, and vanilla and cook over medium heat until the mixture becomes syrupy, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Unmold the ricotta and place on a serving plate.  Pour the honey over ricotta and serve with baguette and fresh fruits.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (recipe from Ina Garten)

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp salt
3 tbsps fresh lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)

1. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water.  Set a large sieve over a deep bowl and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
2. Combine the milk and cream into a stainless-steel pot and stir in the salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat and stir occasionally.
3. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
4. Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl.
5. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and discarding any remaining whey.
6. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Roasted Romanesco Soup with Prosciutto

Friday, April 27, 2012

The first time I laid eye on a romanesco was at the Little Italy Mercato.  Captivated by its beauty, I started snapping pictures after pictures.  Then everyone started to crowd around too, mesmerized by its unusual yet beautiful form.  My curiosity peaked.  What is this vegetable?  The vendor came over and explained that a romanesco is a broccoli that resembles a cauliflower.  Eh?  Although it’s called a romanesco broccoli, it tastes similar to a cauliflower, but slightly nutty. 

What is truly unique about the romanesco is its fractal nature where each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds arranged in a logarithmic spiral.  The best explanation for its fractal nature can be found here.  I decided to buy a few and experiment with these stunning vegetables.  I threw together a soup using my recipe for cauliflower soup.  

The taste of romanesco was very subtle, but the prosciutto added a pleasant saltiness to the soup.  I loved the beautiful light pastel green that the romanesco had maintained despite being roasted and pureed.      


A simple soup yet satisfying.  Even Vu liked it and he’s not a soup fan.  Between you and me, it's probably the prosciutto that he really likes. 

Roasted Romanesco Soup with Prosciutto

2 heads of romanesco, cut into florets, washed and rinsed
1 small brown onion, chopped
3 tbsps olive oil
2 cups of chicken stock
½ cup of heavy cream
1 tbsp of sugar
4 pieces of prosciutto
Salt and pepper to taste
Romanesco florets for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Place the romanesco florets in a roasting tray, drizzle with 2 tbsps of olive oil, and roast for 30 minutes.
2. Place the prosciutto in a separate roasting pan and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy.
3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the chopped onions and saute at medium heat until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the romanesco and chicken stock and cook until tender about 15-20 minutes.
5. Place the romanesco mixture in a food processor and process until smooth.
6. Return the romanesco puree to the saucepan, stir in the cream, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
7. Add sugar and salt to taste.
8. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into bowls, add prosciutto and pepper.  Garnish with a few romanesco florets.

The Dallas World Aquarium

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Remember those field trips you took in grade school?  Vu and I felt like we were on a field trip when we visited the Dallas World Aquarium last weekend.  The animals.  The plants.  The colors.  Wow!  We were transported to a rainforest and an underwater world.  Amazed.  Excited.  Disbelief.  Those are the words that summed up our experience.  

Greek Yogurt with Granola and Blood Orange

Monday, April 9, 2012

Greek yogurt.  Granola.  Blood orange.  And honey.  All thrown together.  The perfect snack.  Refreshing and healthy.  No recipe needed.  I eat this concoction just about every day.

Greek Yogurt with Granola and Blood Orange

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup granola (I used the one from Costco with oats, raisin, and honey)
1 small-medium sized blood orange (segmented)
2 tsps honey

Just toss everything together and enjoy!

Happy Easter

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Betsy's Nose

I caught a few pictures of Betsy today. 

It is quite a challenge photographing Betsy because she never stays still.  

 I love her black nose and decided to make that the focus if most of the photos.