Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ricotta Rundown!

Now that summer is officially here, we can't think of a better cheese to have in your fridge than ricotta! Light, fluffy, sweet, milky, dense, creamy, whatever style you prefer, Saxelby Cheesemongers has some ricotta with your name on it. Ricotta is the perfect summer cheese, practically a meal in itself, and versatile as a chameleon when it comes to sweet and savory preparations. Check out what we've got stocked in our fridge over at the Essex Market, and be sure to come by for a taste (or two... or three!) We've also included some culinary inspirations from our own kitchen as well as those that you've shared with us to get the old imagination churning.

Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta (plain or smokey!)
pasteurized cows' milk. Brooklyn, NY


Like I even need to write about this. Salvatore Brooklyn has so many impassioned fans, we're hard pressed (no cheesy pun intended) to keep it in stock. The plain ricotta is thick, dense, and spreadable with a zesty, lemony zip that cuts through all that butterfatty goodness of Hudson Valley Fresh milk. The smokey (if you haven't tried it, shame on you!) is just like a toasted marshmallow. Something about this sweet, roasty-toasty cheese brings up nostalgia like no other. There is a rich, hearty, caramelized quality to this cheese that'll leave your heart 'round the campfire singing kumbaya.

What do I do with it?

Bathe in it. Just kidding! (though we have been tempted to do so...)
Salvatore Brooklyn is the ideal crostini topper. Schmear on top of toasted bread, then drizzle with a savory combination of olive oil and sea salt, fresh herbs, or any kind of veggies from fresh asparagus to roasted red peppers. Drop a dollop of the smokey on top of pasta for a mouth-watering treat, or use it to stuff dates sprinkled with a few crystals of sea salt for an amazing and unexpected dessert! OR, for a breakfast that would make Elvis roll over in his grave, use it to stuff french toast.

Alleva Ricotta
pasteurized cows' milk. Schenectady, NY


The oldest cheese shop in America should know a thing or two about delicious whole milk ricotta! Bob Alleva and his forebears have been supplying the city with amazing Italian dairy for over 100 years, and their ricotta is the epitome of light, sweet, milky curds. Made the old fashioned way, in big tin cans with holes punched on the sides to allow some of the whey to drain out as the cheese makes its journey down to Manhattan. This classic can find a way onto your table be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

What do I do with it?

You know the old saying 'Don't mess with perfection?' We'll have to check with Wikipedia, but it may or may not have been written in reference to this ricotta... Alleva's ricotta is the perfect blank canvas, ideal for cooking with or simply eating with a spoon. My favorite preparation for this ricotta is this: top with fresh fruit or your favorite preserves, e basta cosi! It also makes a mean lasagna, should you need a bit more sustenance!

Vermont Shepherd Ricotta Lana
pasteurized sheeps' milk. Putney, VT


Named after little Lana, cheese maker David Major's youngest daughter, who just couldn't get enough of this cheese as a baby! Sheeps' milk ricotta is closer to a true Italian ricotta, which is made from whey left over from cheese making, and has a more dry and springy texture. The milk of the flock at Vermont Shepherd is so dense and rich that the ricotta made from it is toothsome and sumptuous, ready for just about anything you gastronomes can throw its way!

What do I do with it?

Eat it plain. Trust us. It's that good. Or, drizzle with honey and a touch of sea salt, and put out a big ol' bowl for breakfast or dessert! Use it to make gnudi, those delightful little gnocchi crafted from dense ricotta cheese, or plop a dollop atop a salad of just about anything the Greenmarket has on offer. For something more exotic, try roasted beets, orange slices, toasted pistachios and a lovin' spoonful of Ricotta Lana!

And, if you want to know more about Salvatore Ricotta, tune in to the most recent episode of Cutting the Curd, where I interview cheese makers Betsy and Rachel Devine about their Italian adventures in curds and whey!


'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

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