I ricotta, You ricotta, We all ricotta!

Homemade ricottaHello, my name is Michelle, and I am a cheese addict. One of my favorite obsessions, errr, I mean foods, is cheese. I literally cannot live without it! We all need a little ricotta!

I was feeling inspired after a tasting at Austin’s new Italian food truck, Patrizi’s. Patrizi’s serves up fresh, traditional fare and offers patrons a piece of Italy right in the heart of Austin! I especially loved the pasta pomodoro served with fresh ricotta cheese and I thought “Why not make my own ricotta?” Pasta+Wine+Cheese=Brilliance!

Ricotta cheese can make plain, drab food taste like a decadent feast. It can liven up weekday dinners, satisfy a sweet tooth, and can be used in place of a variety of cheeses such as Parmesan. Needless to say, I will never buy store bought ricotta again! It is too easy to make and tastes far better than the stuff sitting on the shelf for weeks.

I made this batch of ricotta with whole milk and heavy cream I found at the grocery store. I would recommend using organic milk and cream if you can find it. I think it would make the cheese taste richer. If not, you can use products that are most convenient to you. It still turned out wonderful.

There are many different coagulates you can use to create the “curd”. I chose lemon juice over vinegar because I thought the taste would be fresher. You can certainly use a white wine vinegar if desired.Preparing Cheese

Straining cheese

I use fresh ricotta on pasta, pizza, as a topping for toasted bread, or as breakfast topped with honey, walnuts, and raspberries. If eating with crackers or bread, I highly recommend adding fresh, cracked pepper and lemon or orange zest. Simple, but out of this world!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • Servings: 8
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Cheesecloth

Directions:

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Juice two lemons for the coagulate and set aside.

Heat milk, cream, and salt over medium-high heat until liquid hits a roaring boil. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. When liquid starts to boil, lower heat to simmer and add three tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir for two minutes until the curd starts to form. Turn off the heat and let sit for one minute.

Pour curds and whey into strainer and cheesecloth. The whey will drain into the bowl. Let sit for one hour to pull the moisture out of the cheese. Discard whey (unless you want to use in other recipes) and refrigerate cheese. Ricotta will keep 3-4 days in a covered container.

Beaches and Wine Food Styling

Wine and cheese photoA seaside retreat is a beautiful backdrop for food styling practice. I am surprised that I like playing with food as much as I do. I am still learning and trying to get the right angles down. If anyone has advice let me know! And parents, don’t discourage your children from playing with their food. It might come in handy one day!

I went with the classic wine plate for this shoot: goat cheese, Irish cheese, fruit, candied walnuts, and bread. I had to set up inside as the weather outside prevented any attempt at a picnic in the sand. I’m still holding out today will be nice to try another shoot.Cheese and fruit

The 2012 Bila-Haut Rose was a nice addition to the table and a great value. I picked it up before I left Texas for about $10. Bila-Haut exhibited a strong berry flavor with hints of orange and watermelon. Because it has so much bright acidity up front, I would describe it as that first moment you walk out on a sunny day. You have to cover your eyes for a moment, but then it feels good to lift your face and soak up the sun. It was light, crisp, and the dryness offset the sweetness of the cheese. I would buy this wine again for a day at the beach or a warm afternoon on the porch. The 2012 Bila-Haut would also pair well with grilled lobster or soft-shell crabs. Bila-Haut wine

I wish I had more time to play around at the beach, but today is my last day. Boo! Tomorrow I head back to Austin to see the hubs and fat cats. Gulf Shores restaurant recommendations are next!

Italian Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels SproutsIn the rush to get your masterpiece of a main course done, it is easy to forget the side dishes.You can’t have a holiday dinner without side dishes! In my house, I have to have at least two to make the food trifecta: meat, veggie, carb. Somehow, the universe is in order when I have all three!

The perfect accompaniment to my smoked rack of pork is Italian Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I use this basic Italian recipe on a variety of oven roasted vegetables and they all turn out great! It makes a quick, easy, and healthy side dish to any lunch or dinner. Enjoy and Winedown!

Italian Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • Servings: 6
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • 1/8 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray. Personally, I prefer Pam with canola oil. It doesn’t burn like other cooking sprays.

Wash and trim outside leaves from brussels sprouts. Place sprouts in baking dish and add olive oil, garlic, cheese, salt, and pepper. Toss well to coat. Place brussels sprouts in oven for approximately 35 minutes until roasted brown and tender.

Sprinkle extra Parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Food Markets of Paris

I was looking for some insight into food markets in Paris so I decided to hire a personal food guru for the morning. After reading great reviews, I went with Edible Paris. Stephen Mudge ended up being our guide for the day and we got along great. Stephen is a restaurant critic, correspondent for Opera News, former opera singer and occasional sheep farmer. What an interesting life! He took us to a food market and food shops in the Rue Cler area. It was a lot of fun, but next time we will try to get out of the touristy area.