Is it a sandwich? Is it a snack? Is it toast? This herbed ricotta and veggie toast is all that and more.
I remember reading a children's book to my toddler son called Mercy Watson. He loved that pig Mercy so much. I was a fan because she loved hot buttered toast. There are few things I like eating as much as toast.
While I do enjoy a plain piece of toasted and buttered bread, I find it is the perfect medium for a sandwich. Think of an open-faced sandwich made with your favorite ingredients. I like to take advantage of whatever is seasonal such as asparagus. But I also raid the freezer to see what I have on hand. This week it looks like some frozen edamame will be one of the toppings. Also adding some crunch increases the wow factor. Crispy fried leeks not only provide some texture but also a delicate flavor to compliment the other green veggies.
Homemade herbed ricotta
Herbed ricotta is what sets this opened faced sandwich apart and will compliment many toppings. This homemade cheese is very easy to make and will add an herbed and creamy layer on which to set your favorite ingredients. I like to drain the ricotta for a while so that it has a thicker texture. Schmear it on a cracker or a slice of fruit.
Use any combination of fresh herbs you think will complement your toppings. The milk is heated just until hot so that the herbs and lemon rind can steep.
Pulling it all together
This is the easy part. I blister the veggies in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil to give them a roasty flavor and season with salt and pepper. Deep frying the sliced leeks just until they are lightly brown and crispy doesn't take long at all. I like to use a hearty bread like a multi-grain which is toasted. Then it is time to layer. Slather on the herbed ricotta and start to mound roasted asparagus and edamame on the toast. Add a pile of deep-fried leeks. The last touch is a drizzle of hot honey and a sprinkle of lemon zest. There are so many tasting experiences going on at once - creamy, crunchy, roasted, lemony, and spicy. The herbed ricotta and veggie toast will satisfy any of those cravings!
- 4"x4" piece of cheesecloth
- stick thermometer
- fine mesh strainer
- medium-sized bowl
- medium saucepan
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed crushed
- 6-8 peppercorns crushed
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 strips lemon zest
- 2 ¾ cups whole milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup assorted fresh herbs loosely packed
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Steeping the dairy
- Place the crushed fennel seeds and peppercorns, and red pepper flakes in the cheesecloth. Fold the cheesecloth and tie with a string.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, cream, cheesecloth bundle, bay leaves, lemon zest, and fresh herbs.
- Once the milk is hot, not boiling, take the pan off the heat. Let the milk and cream sit for one hour so that it becomes infused with the aromatics, herbs, and lemon zest.
Finish the cheese
- After an hour, place the pan over medium heat. Occassionaly, slowly stir the milk and cream until the temperature reaches 190°. Once the dairy is up to temperature, take the pan off the heat. Add the lemon juice and stir 4-5 times gently to combine. Try not to disturb the curds that are forming. Let the milk sit for a while, 15-20 minutes. The milk will start to look curdled.
- Have a bowl with the strainer sitting on top ready. Add a double layer of cheesecloth to the strainer with the excess hanging over the sides of the bowl.
- Carefully pour the heated milk into the strainer. You will see the curds in the strainer with the whey (liquid) at the bottom of the bowl. The longer you let the cheese drain, the thicker it will become. You can fish the herbs out of the cheese as it drains. It helps to periodically to pour out the liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
- You can put the bowl with the strainer in the refrigerator to continue draining the whey out of the curds.
- Once the cheese is the thickness you prefer, remove the cheese from the cheesecloth.
- Season with the salt and store in the refrigerator.
- This recipe makes a generous cup of homemade ricotta cheese.