When it comes down to it, there are few things more beautiful than fresh food, and there’s something so heartwarming about the love of anything made by someone you know. These days everything is so processed, we’re quick to pick up mass-produced quantities without really thinking about where it comes from. Especially in the cooler months when farmer’s markets aren’t in season, and we aren’t outside tending to our gardens. (To be clear, I don’t actually have a garden, but if I did, I know for sure now wouldn’t be the time to care for it.)
Therefore, it is a true gift to learn how things are made, then take the time to create them ourselves, understanding exactly what we’re putting into our bodies.
While this fresh ricotta is perfect in its simplicity, I welcomed the opportunity to create a variety of paring options for our very special guests; my mom and dad. I filled a stunning slate board with various glass bowls, ceramic dishes and tall shooter glasses with black mission figs, chopped pistachios, local honey, fig balsamic, sweet and spicy peppadews, garlic stuffed olives, pink finishing salt and spreadable roasted garlic. I also made a batch of fluffy rolls and homemade butter. It. was. spectacular. The combinations of sweet, salty, crunchy and tangy were all heavenly playmates for the ricotta, which melted in my mouth on the light, airy bread. I teared up again. Sometimes I am in awe of how incredible food can make us feel.
Most of all, it was the company that mattered. My parents are two of the most generous, caring people I’ve ever known, and while it is my absolute pleasure to prepare food for them, it is quite the rarity. You see, especially since we’ve had MnM, their main concern is making life easier for Hubby and I, catering to our/her schedule and making sure we don’t take on too much.
Being master entertainers themselves, they fully understand the incredible time and effort it takes to put together a meal, from creating a menu, to grocery shopping (sometimes to multiple stores!), to putting everything away in the cabinets/fridge only to take it all out again, to organizing the house, to setting the table, to finding the perfect serving platters, to actually making everything from start to finish and timing it with the arrival of guests, to then being left with a sink full of dishes to wash and put away. They get it. They’ve always gotten it.
Even before Hubby and I became parents, we have always been their first priority. They will drive anywhere, any day, any time to be with us. No matter of convenience or importance, no questions asked, they are there for us. From the littlest things to the biggest things, they think of us. They’ll read an article or watch a show we’d find interesting, then share it with us. If we mention something in passing, next time we get together, they have it. They’ll see things we would like, think of us and pick them up. They care about our happiness, our well-being, our everything.
Therefore, whenever they come to visit, they treat us to a meal out, or bring in from our favorite places, insisting on paper plates, leaving us with no mess. My gratitude to them, and the genuine way they look out for our little family of four (Mo is literally the luckiest ‘grand dog’ on the planet), knows no bounds. They are unlike anyone I’ve ever known.
While Hubby and I certainly host our fair share of family occasions (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Chanukah etc.), it was an honor and a privilege to be able to cook for them one quiet weekday autumn afternoon. Just us. Hubby was able to join us on his lunch break, making the occasion even more complete. And if I was going to do this, it was going to be restaurant quality, go big or go home. So in addition to this first course, I also prepared my cream of mushroom soup, brussels sprouts salad with truffle vinaigrette, farfalle with sweet and savory roasted butternut squash, and caramel apples, banana cream pie and berries with fresh whipped cream for dessert. Words cannot adequately express the joy I felt to give to the people who deserve it most.
On another note, I felt overwhelmed with pride that I was able to execute something I had always imagined to be complicated, or simply something you don’t make from scratch in your very own kitchen. It was as though I was a child again, beaming with excitement to show my parents what I made.
That being said, I almost, almost didn’t want to share this with you because then the illusion of how incredibly talented I am would be washed away with the mere reality that this is actually quite easy to do. Now that you know my juicy secret, you’ll be separating curds and whey in no time. Little Miss Muffet would be proud.
So go ahead, make this for the favorite people in your life. The ones who give you support, show unconditional love and make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. After all, what better way to show you care, than with fresh cheese.
- Recipe from Food Network’s Ina Garten
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
- Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot such as Le Creuset. Stir in the salt.
Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.
Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
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.
The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.
Eat and enjoy with people you really love!