Ricotta

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

We recently had two very cold frosts out at Black Butte Ranch, which seems a little early, we lost our tomatoes but I was able to pick a bunch of squash and I picked all of the blossoms for stuffing. Squash blossoms have great flavor and are very easy to deal with, they can be stuffed, tempura fried, or my staffs favorite, folded in a cheese quesadilla. My favorite preparation is stuffed then tempura fried, a light tempura batter is key so you don’t mask any of the flavors, which can be very light. For this recipe, I stuffed it with two types of cheeses and some strong spices to help the filling stand out, as well as some cocoa nibs to balance and add crunch to the filling.

Squash Blossom Stuffing

Yields approximately 12 stuffed blossoms

1/4C Ricotta

1/4C Mascarpone

1/8t Mushroom Powder

1/8t Fennel Pollen

1ea Egg yolk

2t Orange Zest

1.5t Cocoa Nibs

Garbanzo Tempura

1C  Cornstarch

1/2C  Garbanzo Bean Flour

AN  Soda Water

  • Using a spray can duster or the big lungs you have blow off as much dirt as you can, you do not want to rinse in water as they will get soggy.
  • Combine all of the ingredients above and fold together with a spatula, if you use a mixer you might break the mascarpone, so it is safer to mix by hand.

  • Place the filling in a piping bag or a Ziploc bag and cut a hole in the bottom to squeeze it out of.

  • Carefully open the flowers and stuff them until they are half full.

  • Once stuffed, set aside and prepare the tempura.

Garbanzo Bean Tempura

  • I wanted to keep the dish gluten-free so I used cornstarch and garbanzo bean flour.  The cornstarch will ensure that you have a very nice and crisp coating, the garbanzo bean flour will add flavor.
  • Combine the cornstarch and garbanzo bean flour and mix.
  • Stream in the soda water until you have a thin batter, the batter should be thick enough to just coat the blossoms.
  • Set your fryer to 350° and once heated dip your blossoms then fry, you may need to weigh them down as they will float.

I used them as a garnish on our pork chop dish.

Eggplant Ravioli

I feel that eggplant is very under-utilized in the kitchen and I have grown to like it more and more every time I cook with it. I grew up not caring for it, which is why I venture into cooking items like this. Young (early spring) eggplants are not normally bitter but when you get into the fall season the bitterness increases. The bitterness comes from phenol’s which are found in numerous different types of plants and is a defense against herbivorous. There are two ways of removing this flavor; the first is by slicing the eggplant, salting the flesh, and letting it sit for an hour or so in a colander. After it has set, you will see little droplets of water that were pulled from the eggplant, just pat it dry with a towel before using it. The second approach, which I use most often, is to make a “brine” with salt and water. For eggplant you want the brine to be salted enough so you can taste it in the water.

2ea Eggplant

4T Butter

1/4 bunch Lemon Thyme

1C Mascarpone

1/2C Ricotta

1/4ea Lemon (juiced and zested)

1/2ea Orange (zested)

1ea Egg

TT S&P

  • Peel and medium dice eggplant and place in a bucket of water that has been salted. Let stand for about an hour
  • Drain the eggplant. Melt the butter and when the milky solids have separated out and begin to brown, add the eggplant and sautée for about 5 minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses, egg, lemon, orange zest, and herbs and mix by folding; too harsh of mixing could result in the mascarpone breaking.
  • Fold in the eggplant.
  • The process for filling the ravioli’s can be found here.

Eggplant ravioli, truffle chickpea salad, chestnut honey, and house made ricotta.

Ricotta

Since the day I first made ricotta, I vowed never to buy it in the store again. I have recently discovered that my specialty foods vendor carries a much better ricotta than most of the other ricotta on the market but I still like to make it myself, and let me tell you, it’s easy!

You need;

1/2 gallon Whole milk
1/2 quart Buttermilk
1 tsp Salt
AN Cheesecloth
10″ Twine
Thermometer
Rubber spatula
Stainless steel pot
Colander/pasta strainer

1/2 Gal Vit D Milk and 1/2Qt (2C) Buttermilk

•Combine whole milk and buttermilk in a stainless steel pot.

•Heat on low-med until the mixture registers 175° F.
•While this is heating, remember to use a rubber spatula to scrap the bottom of the pot, I usually just make one stroke through each time I stir.
•Cheesecloth usually comes folded, you will need to un-fold it and cut it double the size that’s needed, I usually cut a rectangle 10″x20″, fold it in half so it’s 10″x10″. Place it in the colander.

•Once the milk has reached 100°F do not stir. Once it gets to 170 it should pull away from the sides of the pot; if not, let it cook another few minutes. The whey should be yellowish and beginning to clarify. At this point turn it off and let it sit off the heat for one hour.

Curds Forming

Curds have separated from the whey and are ready to cool.

•Using a ladle, scoop the curds into the cheesecloth, half way through, sprinkle half the salt on the curds then continue to ladle the remaining curds. Pour remaining curds and whey out of the pot and into the cheesecloth, then sprinkle with the remaining salt.

Curds being placed into cheesecloth.

•Bring the corners of the cheesecloth together and tie them together with twine. Tie the other end to a large spoon or dowel and hang over a bucket to store in the refrigerator. Hang for 2-3 hours, then remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and place it into a bowl.  Wrap well and cool overnight. The longer it hangs, the stiffer the cheese will get.

Corners of cheesecloth are brought together and tied.

I use a spatula to hang the curds in a bucket.