Okay, I'm just so excited about this recipe that I can't contain myself. Those of you who know me know that I am very good at stalking online (and once I get excited about something, I'm somewhat one-track mind about it, case in point my Experimental Brownies which I spent a week dreaming up and procrastinating my homework, and I do need to try again. This time they might even end up milk free.) Well I've done a couple Daring Bakers recipes, and they were fun and I learned something from them (like that maybe grad students with limited equipment/space are not destined to be daring, haha), but I love baking. Now The Daring Kitchen also includes The Daring Cooks (who post the 14th of every month), which is probably better for me, since I'm not quite as comfortable with cooking as I am with baking (really, look through the recipes in this blog: mostly breads, brownies, cookies, muffins, and the few Daring Bakers recipes I've tried, and on the cooking side we have a few simple soups and sauces). Plus, it allows me to try my hand at being creative (with a whole blogroll of people who have already done it, so I can seek inspiration from them).
Well this month's challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi. After succeeding at lasagna, I was planning on eventually trying gnocchi, and hey, a recipe fell on my lap. Plus this is a cheese version, which is lighter than the traditional potato, preferable for summer. Since it's been posted, I've probably spent hours trying to figure out the perfect sauces. Then I decided to put it off because I'm currently broke, but I've been too obsessive about it, I just need to do it. Plus, it's largely stuff I already have (which means it's relatively inexpensive stuff), and I realized I don't have anything planned for dinner next week. But in terms of sauces I've decided that I can't decide, so I'm going to make small amounts at a time, and try a variety. Two that I am particularly excited about are a lemon basil sauce (I've failed at this very many times, but after learning how to properly make a roux, I think I might be able to get it right) with a tidge of lemon zest in the gnocchi, and a sweet gnocchi (replacing the parmesan cheese in the gnocchi with powdered sugar and lemon zest) with a strawberry sauce. I also intend on trying this in a few weeks, again with a roasted red pepper cream sauce with spinach (and maybe asparagus). I'll figure out another sweet one, I have many ideas (strawberries and kiwi with a maple syrup glaze, some sort of sticky honey/nutmeg and ginger? sauce, that one might be weird, I'm putting it off because I want to taste the gnocchi first). Anyway, I'm really excited about this (obviously).
So the first step of this is to make ricotta, which is the picture. I'm super excited about it. However, everyone else says it smells really good (it doesn't) and the picture, well, it looks like ricotta, but it is kind of disgusting. Oh well, I'm sure it tastes good.
So this is what I did:
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
1 quart skim milk (all recipes called for whole, but I really don't want to buy whole milk or eat the super high fat ricotta it would make and most recipes had comments that it worked with skim)
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Cheesecloth! (not really an ingredient, but you can get it at the grocery store and might not have it on hand as equipment)
1. Bring milk, cream, salt to a simmer in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally
2. Once the mixture is simmering, add lemon juice, turn down heat so it doesn't reach a hard boil.
3. After a minute stir
4. After a minute (or a little longer) it should pretty much all be curds and whey. Pour mixture into into cheesecloth lined colander in a bowl, and let it strain for an hour at room temperature.
5. Place in an airtight container overnight.
So I forgot to buy cheesecloth, but instead used one of my thin dish towels (muslin maybe? I'm not sure what muslin is, but some recipes said you could use muslin or cheesecloth and i thought it worked pretty well). I was worried the cheese would stick to it, but it didn't seem to (of course it's not done yet).
The ricotta is supposed to be really dry for the gnocchi and everyone said making it yourself is the best way to ensure that. And it might actually be cheaper, milk was on sale last week, making a quart $.75, the lemon was 33 cents but I needed the zest anyway, and the cream was $1.39 for a cup, but I would buy it for the sauce anyway and probably end up wasting half (I rarely use cream), so it's $2.47 minus whatever I would have bought and wasted anyway (lemon zest, possibly half a cup of cream), which I think is cheaper than store bought ricotta. Plus, you are supposed to use "fresh" rather than the overly processed grocery store kind if possible, which would mean a trip to the farmer's market for some more expensive fresh stuff. Plus this actually takes less time since you don't need to drain it as long (okay, it saves fridge space for less time) and don't need to go to the farmers market? But really, when DON'T I need to go to the farmers market (noting I've been in Atlanta since August and have only been there 4 times).