warm ricotta salad

autumn salad

Let me tell you about this salad that chef Casey Schanen of Nell Thorn made at the cooking school the other night. Not that everything else he made wasn’t amazing, but the salad was the real eye-opener for me. Here’s what was in it: fresh arugula, roasted squash, arugula pesto, and warm ricotta cheese. Yeah.

making ricotta

I’ve been hearing a lot about making ricotta at home, but for whatever reason I’ve never tried it. It really is astoundingly easy, and as much as I love cold ricotta, it turns out I love fresh, warm ricotta even more. In this salad it fills the same role as fried goat cheese – the warm creaminess adds to the dressing and enriches the greens – but without the crunch (and oil). And ricotta has a fantastic springy texture in the mouth that I find addictive.

making ricotta

So Casey heated milk, stirred in salt and fresh lemon juice, and scooped out the curds into cheesecloth. I tossed the arugula with good olive oil and salt, and we portioned it onto plates with a sprinkle of roasted orange squash. A scoop of ricotta went on top of that, then a drizzle of garlicky arugula pesto with pumpkin seeds. That was it. I would eat salad more often if it was like this.

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with a cheesy center

breakfast

I was so thrilled when I finally found a copy of Nancy Silverton’s pastry cookbook at Powell’s a few weeks ago. Of course, I still haven’t made the recipe I bought the book for (the incredible homemade buttermilk crackers we had at Duckfest), partly because my eye was immediately drawn to the ricotta-stuffed muffin recipe. Our favorite goat cheese vendor had fresh ricotta last week, we just had to do it. Really, could you have resisted?

ricotta filling

The muffin batter itself was a lot like my usual muffin recipe – yogurt and oil, not too sweet. The difference was the addition of ground toasted fennel seed into the batter, a fabulous idea in itself – plus a creamy center of ricotta mixed with a bit of sour cream, that spills out when you bite into the muffin. Mmmm.

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