Toad's Kitchen

(mostly) healthy recipes for the family

Archive for the tag “cheese”

Easier than buying, almost…”ricotta”

The other day I was wandering around different recipe sites and came across this little gem. I buy a reasonable amount of ricotta, and was intrigued by the concept of making it at home. This recipe is not “real” ricotta, which is made from the whey left over from the manufacture of mozzarella. Perhaps it should more appropriately be called a type of farmer’s cheese…or perhaps if it was pressed into a block, a version of paneer. It could be used for anything calling for ricotta, such as lasagna, etc., but it is also delicious with fruit (fresh figs, a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a drizzle of honey!), or mixed with garlic and herbs to make a faux Boursin.

This cheese is so easy to make it is ridiculous, and the result just too good not to make it all the time. It is made of ingredients readily available to anybody, and takes very little time.

You will need some cheesecloth, although you could use a clean tea towel in a pinch…because it is more tightly woven than cheesecloth, the tea towel could increase the draining time of the cheese. Or not. Not sure. You will also need a large, heavy saucepan for heating the mixture.

Something I did, which might be considered a novice – or greedy – move, was I took the cheese after about 40 minutes and wrung most of the remaining whey out of it. The resulting consistency was fairly dry but still spreadable. To remediate this, I took some of the whey (which I had saved) and, with my trusty stick blender, whizzed some back into the cheese, a bit at a time. It is now creamy and spreadable, much like a cream cheese spread but sooooooo much tastier. The lemon juice leaves such a fresh, light taste it does not really need anything.

I actually did not mess around at all with the ingredients this recipe, and the full credit for the ingredients goes to for their post of Gourmet Magazine’s recipe. I could just post a link, but you are already here, so…there are other recipes online, but this one clicked for me. Ina Garten’s version on food also caught my eye, but looked a little rich for me with so much cream. I will try it, but will be hard pressed to be more dazzled than I am with this version, which is plenty creamy! 

I have taken the liberty of amending the original instructions to include things I did to make the job a bit easier. Also, keep the whey – you can use it for baking bread or other uses. It is full of protein!

2 litres (or quarts) whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Dampen the cheesecloth and line a large sieve or colander. Set this colander over a large bowl. 

Slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil in a heavy, large (5 litre) pot over moderate heat. Stir often to prevent scorching.

Once it reaches a boil, remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice. 

Now, stir it slowly and steadily for a couple of minutes until the curds form, about two minutes. You will see the curds separating from the whey, it’s quite magical!

Pour (or ladle, if it is easier) the entire lot into the lined sieve/colander. Allow it to drain the whey into the bowl below for one hour (if you can). 

Once it has drained, turn the ricotta into a bowl and enjoy. It will keep in the refrigerator for two days, but most likely won’t last that long 🙂




Mmmmushroom Mmmmmoussaka

Moussaka is delicious in its various forms, which almost always include meat. This version is equally wonderful, very flavourful and satisfying, and we allow the little lambs to frolic another day.
It is not difficult to make but it is a bit time consuming to make in one go. Try to make the time for it, though…it is totally worth the effort!

2 medium-sized eggplants
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
grated Parmesan (about 1/4 cup) OR about 1 cup of the pre-grated “pizza mix” cheese
4 medium potatoes, boiled and cooled, then sliced about 1/4″ thick (optional)

Mushroom/Tomato Sauce:

3 tbsp. olive oil
750g chopped mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red wine
6-7 fresh tomatoes, chopped coarsely (could use 19-ounce can of diced)
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Cheese Sauce:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cottage cheese

Cut eggplants into 1/4″ slices crossways,layer in colander over bowl or sink, sprinkling each layer with salt. Let stand for 30-60 minutes. This removes excess water, and prevents that bitter taste eggplant sometimes has.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. In a large frying pan, fry the mushrooms, onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Mix in the remaining ingredients except parsley, and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated – when you draw a spoon along the bottom of the pan, the sauce will not fill in much when it is ready to use. This will take a while. When it is done, stir in the parsley and set aside.

While the mushroom-tomato sauce is reducing, make the cheese sauce. Make a roux with the butter and flour, whisk in the milk over medium-low heat and cook until it is thickened and smooth. Stir in the cheeses, then the eggs (add eggs last so they don’t start cooking – the mixture will have cooled with the addition of the cheeses).

Turn on the broiler element in the oven.

Drain and rinse the eggplant, and pat dry. Brush with olive oil and set on baking sheet. Broil until translucent and golden, turning once – about 8-10 minutes total.

Change the oven to heat to 350 degrees.

Now to assemble: spread half the mushroom-tomato mixture in a greased deep 9×13″ pan/lasagna pan. Dab a little cheese sauce over this (about 1/4 of it), distributing evenly. Layer half the eggplant over this, overlapping if necessary. Repeat layers (adding a layer of sliced potatoes in there if using), and end with a nice deep layer of cheese sauce. You can cover and freeze it at this point if you like. Top this layer with either the grated parmesan, or the cup or so of pizza cheese, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Bake for 60-70 minutes in oven, or until browned and bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes or so, then cut into squares. Will make about 8 servings. A nice red wine, a simple green salad and crusty bread make nice accompaniments 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage, Cambazola and Pine Nuts

Again, I was drifting through my Nigella Lawson books and came across this recipe in her Nigellisima book. It is actually a variation of one of the variations given in her original recipe (I used Cambazola instead of the gorgonzola she suggested, as it was what I had), peeled the squash and I cut the sage into ribbons rather than using whole leaves as she did….still, so simple, and absolutely delicious.

1 large butternut squash, peeled and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 sprigs fresh sage, leaves only, cut into strips

3 tablespoons pine nuts

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/3 cup Cambazola cheese, cut into small pieces

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Chopped parsley to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut squash into chunks about 1″-1-1/2″ square. Toss pieces of squash in the olive oil with about 2/3 of the sage, salt and pepper, and place into a casserole dish.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until squash is golden brown and tender.

Squeeze lemon half over top, and sprinkle cheese, remaining chopped sage and pine nuts over top. Mix gently so the squash pieces stay intact but the cheese melts and distributes through the squash evenly, with the other ingredients. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Fondue Neuchâteloise

This is the *classic* cheese fondue. If any of you are guilty of using the pre-fab cheese fondue, please just stop it now. This is so superior in taste, and so easy to make, it is ridiculous. It is a great make-ahead. This recipe on its own will make enough for a fondue for 4-6 people. A good rule of thumb is to allow about 6 ounces (about 200g) of cheese per person. Serve with a simple green salad on the side, and you are done.

To enjoy fondue properly, you will need certain equipment. A fondue pot designed for cheese fondue, made of ceramic or cast iron, is a must. Ensure that you use the correct type of pot – the metal ones, unless they are heavy cast iron, are meant to hold oil or broth for meat or fish fondues, not cheese.

A stand with a burner on the bottom will be sold wherever you purchase the pot. This burner will be filled (at a SEPARATE location, not at the table) beforehand with fondue fuel. ****DO NOT put the fuel in the burner at the table where you will be eating, or attempt to re-fill it when it is hot. To do so will expose you to risk of fire.**** I fill mine in the kitchen sink, away from any flame or flammable materials. If you decide to be clever and fill it at the table, you may spill the odourless, clear fondue fuel and not be aware – and will find out that you did the hard way, when you light the burner. I repeat – do it somewhere SAFE.

Cut your bread into 1″ cubes a few hours ahead of time. I like baguettes because you can leave a piece of the crust on each cube, which makes it more likely that the cube will stay on the fork when dipping.

There are also special forks used for cheese fondue – set one at each place setting, along with a regular dinner fork. The diners may dip their bread with the long, skinny cheese fondue fork, and then transfer the dipped, cheesy bread onto their plates and eat with a regular fork. It’s rude to eat with your dipping fork 😉

Traditionally, the bread is speared onto the fork and swirled in the cheese in a figure-8 pattern. If you should happen to lose your bread, you either pour wine for everyone or kiss the person next to you – consider this when arranging seating 😉

At the end of the meal, when the cheese is gone, you will see a “crust” of cooked cheese on the bottom of the pot. Don’t throw this away! Give it to your guest of honour (if you have one, and if they want it) or give a bit of it to everybody…it’s yummy!

12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

6 ounces Emmental cheese, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

3 teaspoons cornstarch

1 to 1-1/2 cups dry white wine

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup Kirschwasser (a Swiss schnapps made from cherries – it is not sweet and is absolutely integral to the authentic taste of this fondue)

pinch each freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2-3 baguettes, which you have cut into 1″ cubes several hours ahead of serving so that they can dry out a bit

In large bowl, combine cheeses, garlic, cornstarch and seasonings. When well combined, place mixture into ceramic or heavy iron fondue pot.

In a measuring cup, measure one cup of the wine, and add the lemon juice and Kirschwasser. Keep the remaining white wine in the bottle – you can drink it if you don’t use it. 🙂

When you wish to eat, simply pour contents of measuring cup into fondue pot, stir well and heat the pot over very low heat. If, once the cheese has melted, you would like a runnier consistency, add more wine, a tablespoonful or so at a time, stirring after each addition.

If you overdo the wine and it is too runny, you can mix a bit of cornstarch with a bit of wine and stir that in – it will thicken it up.

Heat this right before you wish to serve – fondues do NOT “keep” and will separate if left for a period of time.

Transfer pot carefully to the table and set on a burner, which you have set in the middle of the table where all can reach. Set the flame to the lowest setting.

An additional treat is “le coup du milieu” – a tiny container with kirschwasser in it. You dip the bread quickly in that (don’t soak it), and then into the cheese. Mmmmm. This would be for kirschwasser aficionados, and is not necessary for this fondue to be fabulous.

Bon appétit!

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