Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Tomatoes and Fresh Ricotta

I went on a cooking rampage when I came back from Canada. I didn't cook at all during my visit, and I felt like experimenting. The first thing I made was Bayberry jam... More on Chinese bayberries later...but suffice to say that they were disastrous in jam. I knew they probably would be, but I wanted to try it anyway on the off chance that they would be surprisingly good. But that's for a future post...more later!

Anyway, my second experiment was homemade ricotta. You know, cheese is somewhat difficult to find in China. I mean, just normal supermarket cheeses like mozzarella and cheddar are hard to find, let alone fresh cheeses like ricotta. Somehow, though, when I was browsing through my favorite food blogs, I came across the idea of making my own homemade ricotta. After all, the only fresh milk they sell here is full cream, so I've got the only really crucial ingredient at my disposal.

It turned out surprisingly easy. Almost too easy, in fact. I found myself thinking...why did I ever buy this at the supermarket? All it took was:

2L fresh whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice

I heated the milk in a pot until it was just about to boil, then I removed it from the heat, and dumped in the lemon juice. The milk curdled immediately (it was pretty amazing actually). I stirred it a bit and then poured the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a large bowl. I let it drain for 1/2 hour, salted it, et voila! Fresh ricotta.

Using the lemon juice did give it a slightly lemony fragrance, but it was not unpleasant. Other recipes called for using buttermilk, but I don't have any here, so using lemon was a simpler option.

We had it the other day for dinner spread on toasted, garlic-rubbed, crusty bread (from Carrefour) and topped with summer-fresh tomatoes and the first leaves of basil from our windowsill herb garden. Ummm...it was so refreshing - the tomatoes were sweet, the basil fresh and aromatic - an early taste of summer.

Now, if I can only get to Metro at the same time that the lasagna sheets are in stock, there's lasagna in our future...

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