02 January, 2012

Post-Christmas Little Italy lunch & Homemade Ricotta

Left to my own devices I would probably not have eaten meatballs two days after Christmas, but I wasn't alone.  Nick and I were checking out Little Italy and it was lunchtime.  We didn't see any other choices that were calling out to us, and we couldn't get the taste of an Italian sandwich out of our heads, so we popped into Hey Meatball! to order a taste.  

We split one order (fine for me, less than enough for Nick).  I found the meat on the dry side and hard to bite into (after you got past the crusty bread. I ended up eating the sandwich open face).  The sauce was delightful and there was just the right amount of cheese.  But I have a hunch there was white sugar in the sauce... Ever since I was introduced to this tomato sauce recipe I'm hooked and it is now my favourite.  I have made variations with sautéed mushrooms and veggie ground round, or that time I added pan roasted shrimps and a dollop of ricotta to serve (an inspired combination courtesy of Jessy).

The surprise for me was the side salad, with nicely trimmed yellow and orange peppers and lightly steamed kale in place of lettuce.  A bit oily on the dressing, but it had a nice flavour of citrus and vinegar.  Next time I will try their homemade soda, as it reminds me of visiting my uncle Peter when I was a kid and he would whip up a fizzy concoction for us kids.

I kept scanning the snowy streets for a cannoli (Nick has never tried them) but I didn't spot an open bakery.  Did you know cannolis are made with ricotta?

Ricotta (makes about one cup, and is a two day process) (Food & Wine magazine)

1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Heat the dairy ingredients in a small pot until 180 degrees warm. Remove from stove.  Add the lemon juice, zest, salt and sugar and mix with a wooden spoon.  Line a strainer with cheesecloth, settle it on top of a bowl, and pour the milk mixture through the cheesecloth.  Let it strain overnight.  Next day: Gently push any remaining liquid from the mixture, remove from cheesecloth and store it in airtight container in fridge for up to three days.

Homemade Ricotta cheese in strainer

Check out this video about making fresh ricotta from the Test Kitchen at Gourmet.  

There are a few interesting tips such as using extra fine mesh cheesecloth (or three layers of regular mesh) and saving the liquid after straining to use in bread.  Also, the video doesn't seem to care about letting it strain overnight...