Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Tuesday at the Summer Table
I feel like the months keep speeding by this year and I know I say it every month but June? Already? Really? Wow. So one of the fun things going on this month is Debbie's Tuesday at the Summer Table series over at A Quilter's Table. If you like fabric and food you'll love her blog - go have a peek! So all June long she's doing special summer themes, fun right? Today is beverages/appetizers and I have two great ones for you. Personally taste tested and everything! This first one came from poking around the Southern Living blog after I saw a list of appetizers pinned on Pinterest, you know the type "30 fun fast finger foods" or something like that. This one appealed to me me because a) I love all cheeses and b) it seemed like the easiest appetizer ever. It totally delivered on the ease factor taking about 5 minutes to assemble. As far as taste goes it's one of those things where the total far outshines the sum of it's parts - surprising delicious. Creamy, tangy, salty, nutty, crunchy and sweet - can you beat that? Not in my book.
You take one log of goat cheese - I used a jumbo one from costco - rolled it in toasted, salted sunflower seeds (you'll need to press them a bit to stick on) and drizzle it with honey. Add crackers and serve. That's it! Can you believe it? And you won't believe how good it is. Seriously. So. Good. I think you could use any type of salted nut and I think salted chopped pecans would be especially tasty. You could also use a small log of goat cheese. I did end up leaving the honey out for extra drizzling to taste, as it tended to drip down onto the plate after a while.
This recipe is slightly more involved - but really not much more. And I know you won't believe me but this one is easy too! Homemade ricotta! You will feel like a ROCK STAR in the kitchen and you will end up with something so decadent and elegant that you will be amazed. I used Deb's recipe from the Smitten Kitchen and it worked fabulously. I also read the recipe in the Handmade Pantry (a wonderful cookbook) by Alana Chernila. Both recipes were similar but Deb's made a smaller amount. You can head over to Smitten Kitchen for the actual recipe but here's the gist: you combine milk, heavy cream and salt in a saucepan and heat to 190 degrees (you need a kitchen/candy thermometer). Then add lemon juice - recipe called for fresh but I used bottled (gasp) and it turned out great. You let still for a few minutes and then strain through cheesecloth. Voila! Homemade ricotta! And I was stunned at how delicious it is.
I'm going to try the recipe from the Handmade Pantry next time just to compare - and I will share one tip she gave that Deb didn't: swirl one ice cube in the bottom of your pan BEFORE you add the milk/cream mixture. Make sure the ice touches all the surfaces of the pan and as long as you don't touch the bottom of the pan with anything metal this will keep your pan from scorching. I'm obviously not an expert here but I did use this trick (and a wooden spoon) and had no problems with scorching. So on to the eating!
I tried the ricotta on some crusty toast with olive oil and pepper, one with balsamic vinegar and one with honey and sliced almonds. *Sigh* ALL so tasty. These could easily have been dinner all by themselves. The other ideas I had were crusty toasts spread with: ricotta mixed with lemon zest and topped with sliced, ripe strawberries and ricotta topped with diced or sliced fresh tomatoes then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. I think any topping that adds a little crunch, acidity and/or sweetness would complement the creaminess of the fresh ricotta nicely- the variations seem endless and delicious. Paired with a icy cold beer or glass of wine I could easily (happily) spend a lot of time and calories this way this summer!
Thanks to Debbie for the motivation to get cooking :-) I'm really looking forwards to Tuesdays this month and all the yumminess!