A Pile of Love, a Punch of Flavor

by Marina Chotzinoff

A summer staple for us is often the zucchini noodle. Quickly ‘cooked’ in salt, the thin strilkes (is this even a word? I always thought it was yiddish and it clearly defines its shape…but I can’t actually find any proper mention of strill-kee anywhere) become a toothsome platform for any number of toppings and we take full advantage all season long. This time around, it was topped with homemade ricotta, super thin slices of multi-colored tomatoes and a lamb sausage similar to this¬†with torn cilantro and basil and a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil to top it off. And cracked pepper please. Always, the cracked pepper.

Satisfying, but not too filling, flavorful, but with the crunch of raw zucchini and the tang of tomato. I can just barely wait for the real sweet corn and my very own heirloom cherry tomatoes to truly call it summertime.

And if you are interested in making ricotta, it could not be simpler. Heat a gallon of milk and a quart of buttermilk in a large pot careful to not let it boil over. Stir occasionally to keep it from burning on the bottom. After 15-20 minutes or so the curds will begin to separate and the surrounding liquid will become more clear. Still milky, but a bit more clear. Gently pour this mixture into a strainer lined with a clean dish cloth/cheesecloth that you first sprayed with water. Gather the ends and tie it to a wooden spoon or similar (I hang mine from the faucet) and hang it from something- a pot, over the sink etc. After 1/2 hour to an hour you will have a typical ricotta consistency. But you can also gently squeeze out more liquid and even put it into a bowl with layers of cloth/paper towels and a weight to make a more solid cheese. Also feel free to stir in a pinch of salt and maybe lemon zest or herbs…

If you are still motivated to move on to ricotta salata, you can mix in a bit more salt, put the cheese into a strainer type situation that you can weigh down and get even more liquid out of (a day, say). Then, unmold the cheese on a plate, sprinkle a tad more salt each day during a week, pouring off any accumulated liquids. I have only half tried this so I am no pro- but I have accomplished cheese that was tasty and edible so….success!

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