Tag Archives: pistachios

Homemade Ricotta for an Easy Saturday

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Saturday was boiling hot.  The “Real Feel” temperature when I left to work out was 108°.  It was not a day for baking or watching over bubbling pots on the stove.  No, something cool and pretty for dinner was in order and while dinner was being assembled one hand needed to be occupied with a cold summer cocktail.  I didn’t want anything processed…y’all know that ain’t me, babe.  I wanted something cool and easy but substantial and rich in flavor.  I had almost all the ingredients on hand and most were already prepared.  Lemons, shelled pistachios, fresh thyme, garlic and whole grain bread are always to be found in my kitchen.  There’s about a 95% chance you’ll almost always find fig preserves in my refrigerator. The only thing I had to prepare was the ricotta.  For lasagne I’ll buy store-bought but for a dish more delicate I make my own.  I want the ricotta to sing with freshness AND it’s easier than getting in the car and driving to and from the store.  Here’s my summer secret.  It’s made in the microwave.  Isn’t that great?  No hot kitchen.  I’m going to post the recipe for homemade ricotta below but before I do let me tell you how I served it.  Lightly toast your bread and let it cool to room temperature.  Run a peeled clove of fresh garlic over the top side of each piece.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over each, slather each slice with a thick coating of ricotta and cut into serving sized hunks.  This is where they became different. On some I lightly pressed in shelled, salted, roughly chopped pistachios.  Over that I sprinkled fresh thyme leaves and a bit of fresh lemon zest.  Oh, man.  They were divine.  On the others, over the ricotta,  I spread a layer of caramelized onions, (I try to always have a jar in the refrigerator),  a generous dollop of store-bought fig preserves and a light scattering of lemon zest.  These were served on a large tray with juicy slices of peaches each wrapped with a pretty ribbon of domestic prosciutto.  Oh my gosh, the sweet and salty of it all.  It doesn’t get much easier.  It’s a meal that’s light but satisfying and pleasing to the eye.  If you make your ricotta on Thursday or Friday you’re really ahead of the game.  So go ahead, pour that second drink and get back in the pool.  It’s hot!

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • Servings: 2 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half (heavy cream is fine, it’s your choice)
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (I like vinegar over lemon juice because the ph of all lemons is different.  Vinegar is more stable.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Place all the ingredients in a glass or non-reactive bowl in the microwave.
  2. Heat on high in 5 minute increments.  Do not stir.  Keep your eye on the milk to avoid boil-overs.
  3. Line a large plastic or non-reactive colander with several layers of cheesecloth, (buy it at any grocery store), and place the colander in the sink where it can drain.
  4. When the white curds have separated from the whey carefully remove the bowl from the microwave.  The whey is the watery stuff on the bottom and the ricotta is the thick, white layer on top.
  5.  Gently spoon the curds into the colander and when the bowl is cooler to handle continue by pouring all the remaining cheese and whey into the colander.
  6. The longer it sits and drains the thicker the cheese will be.  Done!

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Double Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti for my Chocolate Queen

I love those special days, Mother’s Day being one, when everyone’s nice to you and you get to do anything you want.  I got out of bed this morning when I wanted to, got dressed and left the house to work out.  What a gorgeous day!!  The sun was out and stiff breezes kept me cool.  An hour later I returned home red-faced, wet and happy knowing I won’t have to do this again until tomorrow!  I prepared my breakfast while listening to Rick Steve’s travel program on NPR.  It was a predictable Mother’s Day program but I almost lost it when he spoke of his mother who had passed away a few days after this past Christmas.  It was quite touching.  He spoke of the gifts his mother had given him and credited her with giving him the gift of travel.  Made me think of our Cookie.  She was so cool, we just didn’t know it!   She gave us the gift of language when she insisted we speak Spanish.  Keep in mind, when I was growing up, there were really no Hispanics in Fort Lauderdale.  Granted, we traveled often to Puerto Rico and would stay for long periods of time, but we also had to write our thank you notes and letters in Spanish and her frequent calls to the family meant WE had to actively participate in those conversations.  I’d always try to sneak out of the house when I heard her speaking in Spanish on the telephone.  And I’d always get caught.  Mama would pull me to the phone, hissing in my ear “YOU GET ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW AND SAY HELLO TO EVERYONE.  DO NOT EMBARRASS ME!”.  I hated it.  With a dark and sullen look on my face I would brightly say, “Hi, Madrinita!  It’s Alicia.  How are you?”.  I could feel my tongue getting thick and tangled up and self-consciousness would creep in.  Well, guess what?  At 56 years old I still speak Spanish.  Relatively well, and without an accent.  I can thank Mama for the gift of language.  That just staggers me.  She gave us ANOTHER LANGUAGE.  Mama also gave us the gift of faith.  We were all raised Catholic and we WERE at church every Sunday morning.  And we went to catechism.  Holy days of obligation were always observed and confession was said every week.  I don’t talk about it much because religion is extremely intimate to me.  Faith was not a big deal until I hit a rough patch.  Loneliness and fear struck debilitating blows at 3:00 in the morning.  Anger, pain and confusion played dominant roles in my pathetic, crumbling life.  What did I do?  More importantly, where did I turn?  My church.   Mama had given us the foundation and solace of religion.  Without it, I would not be here today.  ‘Nuff said.  On a more shallow note, she taught us to appreciate….JEWELS!!!  Pearls, gold, rubies, emeralds, it matters not which stone.  If you love it, it CAN be yours!  Anything!  A car.  That $800.00 bag you just can’t live without.  Save.  Just save.  She taught me that even 10 bucks a week will one day become seven thousand dollars and, you TOO, can be the proud owner of the fillintheblank!  She taught us no matter how little money you have, you can always save.  You girls out there need to pay attention to this.  Open your own account and keep it.  Maintain it.  You don’t have to tell anybody, either.  It’s MORE than humiliating to have to ask.  It’s contemptible to have to ask a man.  Get it yourself and you’ll enjoy whatever it is way more!  Mama taught us, in NO uncertain terms, your name is one of the few things you always have.  You represent your entire family…in my case, the Puerto Rican, the French, the English, and the more recent Greek.  Anytime we’d leave the house, especially after nightfall, she would call out to us, “Fly your banner high!”.  I have to admit, I made more wrong choices than I would have liked, but there WERE times when her words would ring in my ears and I did the right thing.  “Fly your banner high.”  I really do believe we all did.  Well, at least we tried!

My birthday, 2006

Mama loved chocolate.  One could safely say she loved chocolate as she would have a fifth child!  It mattered not if it was a Snickers bar or the finest chocolates of Europe.  She loved them all.  And you could never, EVER, have too much.  She and Daddy never really fussed much but one time, when Dad came home from a speaking trip abroad, he mentioned to her that he had been given boxes and boxes of fine Swiss and French chocolates, gifts from his clients.  He didn’t want to be weighted down or inconvenienced by carrying them on the flight home so he just left them unopened in the hotel room for the chambermaid.  Mama was furious.  She just BLEW UP.  “But, Jackson, you KNOW how I love chocolate!  How could you!! How could you!!”.  It wasn’t pretty.  So, itty bitty precious Mama, I give you CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP PISTACHIO BISCOTTI.  And Happy Mother’s Day!  You duh Mama!!!!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pistachio Biscotti

yield: 13-14 biscotti not including the end pieces, (they’re the baker’s treat!)

  • 7 tablespoons of softened butter, one is for the baking sheet
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line a standard size baking sheet with parchment paper and, using on tablespoon of butter, spread evenly on parchment, down the middle, covering approximately 13 X 5 inches.  Just eyeball it.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Using a stand-up mixer if you have one, otherwise use an electric mixer or arm power, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs and beat until well combined.
  6. Add flour mixture and stir to form a stiff dough.
  7. Add pistachios and chocolate chips.  I stir this addition in by hand.
  8. Transfer dough to prepared parchment paper and form into a 12″ X 4″ flat log.  Smooth and shape where needed.
  9. Bake until slightly firm, roughly 25 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Reduce oven temperature to 300°.
  12. Transfer log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1″ thick slices.  I always use a serrated knife.
  13. Return to baking sheet, cut side down, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8-10 minutes.
  14. Cool completely before storing.