Post-vacation lunch: flatbread with pesto and ricotta

I meant to post last week, really I did. we were at my sister Jul’s in New Hampshire. It would have been lovely to cook with my family and post the results; we all love to cook, and our kids are creative in the kitchen. But it was so dang hot!

Still, we had great food. Jul made chicken-bacon mac and cheese; Mom brought lemon poppyseed bundt cake and Orange Julius cookies, which are destined for a future post. (White chocolate and orange zest combine to make one tasty cookie. Many of us never even got a taste, but that’s the risk you take with teenaged boys in the house.)

We spent a day on New Hampshire’s minuscule but gorgeous shore. First to Odiorne Point State Park, where we chased baby lobsters in the tidal pools.

Then it was on to Rye Beach for sand and surf. The water was truly that amazing shade of blue, and refreshingly cold, not the usual two degrees above ice that northern seas usually are.

The basil had grown a foot, I swear, in the week we’d been gone, so I gave it a trim and whipped up a batch of pesto. Homemade ricotta is becoming a staple in our house, now that I finally have it figured out. I’m including a recipe, but my version is nearly identical to Deb’s at Smitten Kitchen. I add just a bit more salt, a little less heavy cream, and some of my favorite Penzey’s spice blend for flavor.

For some color and crunch, I added a bit of minced red pepper and chives to the ricotta; for salt, chopped calamata olives. I spread a thin layer of pesto on some naan (Indian flatbread), then topped it with the creamy ricotta. The herbs and garlic in the pesto added just the right complexity to the mild, creamy ricotta. This combo will also be yummy on crisp toasted slices of baguette, on bagels instead of cream cheese, or stuffed into cherry tomatoes.

Ricotta (adapted only slightly from Smitten Kitchen)
makes just over 1 cup 

3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp. salt (use less if you want to use the ricotta for a sweet dish)
1/2 tsp. Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset, or other dried herb blend (leave this out for a sweeter ricotta)
3 tbs. fresh lemon juice (about the juice of 1 large lemon)

Pour the milk and cream into a small, deep saucepan. Stir in the salt and seasoning (not the lemon juice; save that for later). Clip in a candy/deep fryer thermometer if you have one; if not, use a meat thermometer and check the temperature periodically.  Put the pan on medium heat and warm the milk/cream slowly, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 190 degrees F. (It takes about 15 minutes on my stove).

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir gently once or twice, and leave it alone, without touching, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl if you want to keep the whey; otherwise just put it in the sink.

After 5 minutes, pour the mixture into your colander. Let it drain, untouched, for at least an hour and up to two hours; it’ll get thicker as it drains, and it’ll be thicker once it cools. I tend to drain it for not much more than an hour. Eat it immediately, or put it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 or 5 days.

Naan with Pesto and Ricotta
per serving, for a light lunch or substantial snack

1/4 cup ricotta
2 tbs. minced red bell pepper
2 tsp. minced chives
3 or 4 calamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 tbs. pesto
1 piece naan, about 6″ x 6″ (or use a small pita bread)

In a small bowl, mash together the ricotta with the bell pepper, chives, and olives. Spread the pesto on the naan, then thickly spread on the ricotta mixture.


About Rivertree kitchen

I am a freelance editor with a specialty in cookbook editing. I've written two small cookbooks (50 Best Sundaes and 50 Best Cookies) and have edited more than 200. Despite my immersion in recipes, my favorite way to cook is to see what's in the fridge and wing it. I live with my husband and two dogs in rural Wisconsin. Husband (Tom) and son (Luke) are talented cooks themselves. All the photographs in this blog are my own creations. I'm a neophyte in the world of food photography (as if you couldn't tell), but I still claim blushing ownership of the pix you see here. If you want to reprint them (I can't imagine why), please give credit, if for no other reason than to pass on the blame.
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