Recipe: Homemade Ricotta

Yes, you can make your own cheese at home!

homemade ricotta recipe
I remember the first time I ever made a fresh ricotta — it was like magic. It was a few months into culinary school, and the particular kitchen we were in had a bunch of milk and half and half that needed to be used up, lest it end up spoiled in the garbage. Chef told us to get some huge pots — the kind you’d use to make gallons of stock — and pour all the milk in it. Not but a little while later, we had beautiful, soft, fresh ricotta cheese. It was nothing like the gloppy, congealed kind I’d come to know from the grocery store. No, this cheese was light, fluffy, and as soft as a pillow. What’s more incredible is that it’s one of the easiest things to make at home (and impress your friends with).

The recipe? Curdle some milk. No really, that’s it. You boil some dairy — whole milk, and whatever other full fat cream or half and half you have on hand — then put acid in it. Use lemon juice, vinegar, or as I did this weekend, both! Strain it, and let it hang out for a few minutes, and boom, you’ve got ricotta cheese. It’s really as simple as that.

recipe for homemade ricotta

The real joy in making fresh ricotta at home is deciding what you want to put on top of it. I’m particularly fond of it spread on some toasted bread, and topped with bright flavors like a vinegary cherry tomato salad with basil. But it’s light sweetness and softness means it’s also perfectly at home with a drizzle of honey and a bit of melon, too. You’re really only limited by your imagination!

If the best part of fresh, homemade ricotta is deciding what to garnish it with, the second best part is the surprise and delight of your guests when you serve it. Most people won’t expect you to make a fresh cheese from scratch at home, and they’re doubly surprised by how different — and more luxurious! — it is than the ol’ store bought kind. Give it a try! Here’s what you do: Read the full post +

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Images: by Victoria McGinley

This month's quote: "All we can do is the best we can do."

Recipe: Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw

fish taco recipe (with cilantro lime slaw)

fish tacos with cilantro lime slaw

I’m pretty sure that tacos are the answer to all of life’s problems. They’re certainly the easiest answer to “What’s something easy we can make for dinner?” You can load ‘em up with cheese and sour cream and guacamole (or as we call ‘em in this house, “supreme style”), or go a healthier route and make them with grilled chicken, seafood, and a citrusy slaw. The latter option is one we turn to regularly when we want all the satisfaction of Mexican food at home, but none of the guilt of ordering takeout enchiladas. I’ve made lots of varieties of these fish tacos with fresh cilantro lime slaw, but I’d never written down what I did, and figured it was high time to add this one to my official recipe box.

I mention this at the end of the recipe, but I really love this particular recipe with shrimp. It’s not always Joe’s fave though, so recently for dinner, we swapped in a cod filet and it was just as good. If you’re new to cooking with fish, for something like this taco dish, you want a fish that will hold up well as you cook it — if it’s too flaky and fine, it’ll all just fall apart in the pan. A thick cut filet of cod or mahi mahi is great; if you can get a good deal on it, snapper or halibut will be delicious too!

I’m a huge fan of adding a final dollop of sour cream on these (sometimes I’ll thin sour cream out with a little milk or cream, add a bit of lime zest in it, and presto, you’ve got a “lime crema” that you can drizzle over the top). The only reason you don’t see it here is the other night, when I popped open a container of sour cream we had on hand, it had molded over. #FridgeCleanoutFail. Even without it though, these tacos are delicious and satisfying (and pretty guilt free, in my opinion!). Here’s how to make ‘em: Read the full post +

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Recipe: Shrimp and Orzo Salad

shrimp salad recipe

summer shrimp salad

Because sometimes, when you’ve been eating a lot of takeout and drinking way too much wine, your body finally taps you on the shoulder and is like, “Um, hello? Can we please have something light, fresh, and healthy today?”

That’s basically what my body said to me recently (or was it my liver?), and who I am to ignore that nagging internal voice that wants you to load up on high quality foodstuffs? So I whipped up this light but satisfying salad, and immediately felt better. What is it exactly? The perfect summer meal: shrimp sauteed in olive oil and lemon, mixed with freshly chopped raw vegetables, tons of herbs, and orzo pasta. Dress it in a light vinaigrette, and dig in. I like this dish because you can make the shrimp and orzo salad on its own and eat it as is, or pile it high on fresh greens (I love it with peppery baby arugula). The shrimp salad itself can be zhushed up with any veggies you have on hand, and you can swap out the herbs for whatever your favorites are. In my version, I used fresh tomatoes, basil, parsley, peppers, and a few other goodies, but I think this would be good with dill, sun dried tomatoes, and even summer corn. You can finish the salad with a little crumbled feta, or omit it if you’re being extra good.

We have a bunch of the shrimp and orzo salad left over, and it’s the perfect thing for a take-to-work lunch, or for a picnic with friends. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Here’s how to make it:  Read the full post +