This weekend, we baked and cooked as a family for the Chicago Food Swap. With the exception of a few challah loaves, everything we made for the swap was from Jennie Perillo’s new cookbook Homemade with Love. Steve and Bella made her buttermilk donuts in lemon and decadent dark chocolate. I made slow roasted tomatoes and homemade ricotta, then selfishly held the ricotta back, unwilling to share its creamy curds.
I’d never made ricotta or any other type of cheese before, but was inspired by the gorgeous photograph in Homemade with Love. The instructions seemed too easy, and I thought I’d ruined the recipe but then the curds magically appeared as the liquid drained away in the cheesecloth. Can you blame me for keeping this miraculous cheese all to myself? Does it make me a little less guilty if I confess that I shared it with my kids? We scooped it on hot toasted Italian bread and topped it with a few leftover slow roasted tomatoes, then tried a sweeter variation by drizzling it with dark honey. The ricotta disappeared all too soon, but now that I know how easy it is, I’ll be making it regularly. Who knows, I might even bring creamy, homemade ricotta to our next food swap.
Slowly but surely, the fun of the food swaps has become a family affair for us, with Steve, Bella and I each making our own offerings to swap. Our latest Chicago Food Swap meet up was at Local Goods Chicago, a delightful little shop filled with locally made crafts, delicacies, and paintings.
The roasted tomatoes was also an incredibly easy recipe, although that wasn’t as much of a surprise as the ricotta. The flavors were concentrated by the hour of low temperature cooking, and they maintained their pretty colors. Slow roasting tomatoes is a great trick to tease extra flavor out of dull winter tomatoes until summer farmer market season rolls around again.
I’m including the recipes for the slow roasted tomatoes and the homemade ricotta here below with Jennie’s permission. We’re having a virtual potluck to celebrate her recipes this week, and I’ll be updating this post with a number of links to other blog posts about her cookbook at the end of the week. Perhaps someone else will share the buttermilk donut recipe there… if not you’ll just have to buy the book yourself to make that magic happen.
- 1 pint (280 grams) grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/4 cup (62 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees centigrade).
- Add all the ingredients to an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking dish and toss well to coat. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Bake until the tomatoes are slightly collapsed and tender, about 1 hour.
- Let cool completely, and store in a tightly covered mason jar or container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- 4 cups (1 liter) whole milk
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (187 ml) buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
- Combine the milk, cream, buttermilk, and salt in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Bring to a gentle, not rolling, boil. As the curds begin to separate from the whey, you'll see little white flecks pop to the surface and the milk will turn into a cloudy, watery-looking liquid.
- Let it cook for 1 to 2 more minutes until larger curds begin to form, then remove the pot from the heat. Place it on a back burner and let it sit for 30 minutes to help the curds develop further.
- Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and plate it over a deep bowl or pot.
- Spoon the curds into the cheesecloth lined strainer. Resist the temptation to pour it into the strainer all at once. Gently ladling the curds keeps them fluffy.
- Once all the curds have been ladled into the strainer, pull the sides of the cheesecloth up and over the ricotta to cover it so it doesn't dry out or form a skin on top. Let it sit in the cheesecloth to drain the excess liquid for 15 to 30 minutes. The length of time you drain it depends on how creamy you'd like your ricotta: the longer, the drier. If using it in a baked recipe, you'll want a drier texture. If serving it "straight up" on a cheese board or spreading it on toast you'll want it to be on the creamier side. The ricotta may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.