It’s the time of year where just about anything your heart desires is available fresh and local here in Ohio. Farmer’s market tables groan under the weight of melons, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches. Oh the loveliness.
Local Matters (whose mission is to transform the food system in central Ohio to be more secure, prosperous, just and delicious) hosts Local Foods Week every year. This year they have so many events from tastings to picnics to special local foods week tours. It’s kind of a party with produce all week. Which is awesome.
Cooking with local produce is my personal favorite thing to do this week.
But it’s summer, too, and if you ask me, that means cooking should be just barely above a simmer. If you’re in the house, lightly sauteed or not cooked at all are methods I can stand behind.
Homemade (yes, homemade!) ricotta, is something that takes only two ingredients and almost no heat and no effort. Thanks to my friend Kate, I now know all the silliness of my past efforts in bringing that milk to a boil was way overkill for a soft ricotta. You need only bring your milk, in this case a half gallon of beautiful and local Snowville whole milk to just a scald (about 180F), mix in the juice from a lemon, or a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, stir for a moment and marvel at how quickly the curd splits from the whey. Take it off the heat and let it cool completely in the pot, then pour into a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth set over a deep bowl. Let it drain for as little or long as you like.
And save all of that whey. It always felt wasteful to me to throw all of it out. Fortunately, you can make the most impossibly light crepes with the whey. And they are perfect for filling with raw or barely cooked zucchini, some picked thyme and the ricotta. And because you’ve made your ricotta with lemons, the crepes and the cheese impart a lovely citrus note that partners the zucchini beautifully.
Whole Milk Ricotta
1 half gallon of Snowville Creamery whole milk
Generous pinch of salt
Juice from 1 lemon
Over medium heat in a large pot add the milk and heat just until bubbles start to foam and form around the edges of the pot. Add the lemon juice and stir. The curds will immediately start to split from the whey. Remove from the heat and let cool in the pot. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth and and set it over a large bowl. Carefully pour the curds and whey into the colander. Allow to drain for about 10 minutes, longer if you’d like a drier ricotta.
Then with the whey…
Lemony Crepes, makes about 10 to 15
In a blender add in this order:
1 c all purpose flour
generous pinch of salt
2 T melted butter
1 1/2 c whey from making ricotta
Blend until smooth and send the whole pitcher into the fridge to chill for an hour. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium heat and coat with butter. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of batter and swirl the pan to coat evenly. Allow the crepe to cook for two minutes or so, shake the pan to loosen the crepe or use a spatula just along the edges then flip. The best method for this is to very confidently (and holding the pan firmly) thrust the pan away from you in a hard, quick motion. Cook for another minute, then remove to a plate to keep warm.
Quickest Zucchini Filling for Crepes
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 T butter
Heat a pan over medium high heat until hot. Add the butter and brown slightly, about a minute. Add the zucchini, thyme, salt and pepper, tossing in the brown butter to coat and cook, about one minute. Remove to a bowl.
Fill crepes with zucchini and spoon ricotta on the side. Garnish with more thyme and a twist of black pepper.
Playlist included Stay with You, by Springfield, Ohio’s homegrown crooner John Legend.
Play list included the