Friday, June 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Homemade Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta Cheese with Fruit and Crackers

If you have never given thought to making cheese at home, it's time to start thinking.  If you can heat milk in a sauce pan, you can make cheese.  It could not be easier to do.  Really.  You will be so impressed with yourself. 

This is a great way to use up milk getting close to its expiration date.  I make this recipe with whatever milk I have in the fridge, whole, 2%, or skim, or even half and half.  I often add in a cup of heavy cream as I usually have that too, yielding a richer ricotta.  The recipe can be scaled up or down as necessary. 

4 cups whole milk or half and half
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a medium sauce pan, fitted with a thermometer, combine the milk, salt and vinegar.  Set over medium heat and cook stirring occaisionally.  As the temperature reaches 165 degrees, reduce the amount of stirring so as not to disturb the curds that are forming.  When the mixture reaches 190 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Carefully transfer the contents to a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl, to strain and separate the curds from the liquid whey.

Toss out the remaining whey left in the pan.  Let the curds continue to strain through the cheesecloth for 15-30 minutes.  Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out excess liquid.  Refrigerate ricotta until ready to use.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ChezCindy: Special Occasion Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad for all Occasions

Spring and Summer bring forward a multitude of occasions for gathering and sharing food.  Whether it be a wedding or baby shower, graduation party or just a summer picnic, this chicken salad is a delight to share with friends and family.  The recipe is a bit of a twist on classic chicken salad in that I add cooked long grain wild rice, tossing it all together with a home made salad dressing with just a touch of mayonnaise.  To make things easy, use rotisserie chicken bought from the grocer, or simply poach 2 boneless chicken breasts.  I like this served chilled or just slightly room temperature. 

Chicken Salad with Wild Rice
3 cups of cooked long grain wild rice
2 chicken breasts, cooked - skin removed
3 green onions
1/2 red bell pepper
1/3 cup of frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
salt & pepper
Lettuce leaves for serving

Add the cooked wild rice to a large mixing bowl.  Cut or shred the chicken into bite size pieces; add to the bowl with rice.  Thinly slice the green onions, using the whites and the green tops.  Dice the red pepper into 1/4 inches pieces.  Add the green onion, red pepper, green peas and chopped pecans to the chicken and rice mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss together with the dressing to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve in lettuce cups or over chopped tender lettuce leaves. 

Creamy Salad Dressing:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped parsley and chives, combined

In a small bowl, add the Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.  Whisk in the mayonnaise.  Stir in the chopped herbs.