For our inaugural post, I've decided to tackle a treat I've been dying to try to make on my own for quite some time now. I wanted to make ricotta cheese... from scratch. I've been reading about it for a couple of years now and it just seemed so simple and easy to make that it doesn't make sense to buy it. But I've never had all of the ingredients on hand (not that there are many,) and I've never created anything that required ricotta to be such an integral ingredient that it needed to be deliciously fresh. But tonight, I decided that I wanted to make a meal around the ricotta, where the ricotta was not only a feature player, but the star. What better way to highlight the creamy sweetness of ricotta than by tossing together a pizza?
This wasn't just any pizza, mind you. The pizza I created for our very first SFS had to be almost entirely made from scratch, each element being of the homemade variety, not just one of the ingredients. So, over the course of the past few days I started prepping everything - ricotta cheese, whole wheat pizza dough, another variety of pesto, plus I took a trip to the grocery store for some fancy tomatoes and dug around the fridge for a few extra toppings including fresh basil, seasoned parmesan from DiPasquales, sliced baby bella mushrooms, and thinly sliced prosciutto. Just looking at the counter full of fresh and colorful ingredients was making my mouth water, there was no way the finished pie wouldn't be scrumptious. Now, let's get down to the business of making all of these ingredients:
The other day when I was going nuts with my food processor, I decided to make a non-traditional traditional pesto. Why not traditional? I didn't have nearly enough basil in the fridge and pine nuts are crazy expensive. Being the frugal gal that I am, I just decided to use any green stuff I had in the fridge and whatever bag of nuts I could grab out of the pantry. On this occasion, the green stuff happened to be kale and the nuts, chopped walnuts. The result was a garlicky and clean pesto with a peppery flavor rather than the usual sweetness from basil. Pestos will last for awhile in the fridge so I made this earlier in the week and let it settle allowing all of the flavors to marinate together in preparation for their grand pizza debut.
kale and walnut pesto
3 c kale, rinsed and torn
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1. Blanch kale in salted hot water to soften the leaves. Drain.
2. Blend all ingredients in food processor until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
Next came the super simple pizza dough. Back in the day, when I was taking HomeEc classes in Middle and High School, I used to make pizza pretty frequently because we seemed to make dough every time there was a sub. But let's just say that it's been quite some time since I participated in a class like that and therefore, awhile since I've made my own pie. But it really is the easiest thing in the world to make, plus once it's kneaded and risen and kneaded again, it can be frozen for a few weeks until you're ready to toss it in the oven. I've almost completely stopped keeping white flour in my house and have substituted whole wheat flour for any recipes that call for it so I ended up making whole wheat pizza crust, not that I'm one to complain about making something just a little extra healthy.
whole wheat pizza dough (via Crossroads Middle School HomeEc class)
yields two small pizzas
2 1/4 oz packets yeast
4 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp course salt
1/4 c olive oil
1 1/2 c warm water (not hot)
1. In a large bowl, pour warm water over yeast and let sit until foamy, about five minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Knead together in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let sit in a dry place to rise for about one hour.
2. After an hour, dough should be doubled in size. Knead a second time. Separate into two balls and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Can be refrigerated up to three days or frozen 3-4 weeks.
Finally, just a couple of days before our pizza supper, I spent a very brief amount of time preparing ricotta cheese. It's amazing how simple and easy it is to make ricotta and how little active time it takes to prep. All of the accounts I read regarding homemade cheese clearly stated that fresh, unpasteurised milk and cream make the best tasting cheeses, but since there are no midweek farmers markets in Baltimore (that I know of, at least,) I had to deal with regular old milk and cream from the grocery store. Despite the shelf life of these dairy products, I think homemade ricotta should probably be used within five days of making it for ultimate tastiness. It really is so much creamier and richer and smoother than anything you'd find at the supermarket so, if you have the time and the ingredients, I say try it out. Especially if you don't use it very often - wouldn't you rather those few occasions have the freshest and most delicious ingredients available.
ricotta cheese (via smitten kitchen)
3 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp course salt
3 tbsp lemon
1. In a small, heavy bottom sauce pan, heat milk, cream and salt to 190 stirring constantly. When it's reached 190, remove from heat, add lemon juice gently stirring one or two times. Let sit five minutes.
2. Line a colander with cheese cloth and place over a large bowl. After five minutes, pour the curdled mix through the colander separating the curds and whey. Let drain for at least one hour. Remove cheese from colander and store, refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days.
Mmmm, with all the ingredients ready, Honey and I were set to have a super delicious supper. After a leisurely breakfast with Sunday Morning and The Sun, a long bike ride up to Druid Hill Park to catch a few glimpses of the quickly fading cherry blossoms, a few hours of backyard urban gardening, and some major preheating, we prepped our fabulously tasty pizza. On thinly rolled out dough we smeared about three heaping teaspoons of kale and walnut pesto, then some healthy dollops of ricotta, thick slices of kumato tomatoes, strips of prosciutto, sliced baby bella mushrooms, fresh basil leaves and a sprinkling of seasoned parmesan. A bit of research informed us that it's better to put your pizza on a super hot pizza stone and then in the broiler because the higher the cooking heat and the quicker the cook time, the better off your pizza will be. So we cranked up the heat and preheated the pizza stone to such a high temperature, requiring a very brief 5-7 cook time for the whole pie. I'd say it was a pretty amazing pie and when I asked Honey what he thought of it, he responded with a full mouth mumble which I can usually translate to mean delicious. Sometimes he speaks languages that I can't quite understand. :)
I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Sunday from Scratch and that you'll try out one or two of the recipes I shared. Make sure you come back next week for another tasty new kitchen adventure! Have a great week! xoxo, me