Photo by StockFood/Claudia Timmann
Ricotta is a simple, forgiving tableau onto which you can easily showcase any of the herbs you have bursting in the garden. Use the suggestions below as guidelines for amounts and flavors. Consider fresh oregano, mint, or dill in addition to or in place of any below. Traditionally and technically speaking, ricotta is made from the whey byproduct of mozzarella cheesemaking, but this recipe is a quick and easy workaround that will get you nearly the same product if you choose to make the cheese yourself. Making homemade ricotta will add 2 hours to your cooking time, but it can sit in the fridge for up to 5 days, so it can be made ahead of time. While this meal is also delicious as cold leftovers, be sure to store the lentil stew and ricotta in separate containers in the fridge, lest they mix and become an unappetizing mush.
Yield: 4 servings.
For homemade ricotta (optional):
- 1 quart organic whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 cups organic whole milk ricotta (if not homemade)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped basil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked
- 8 cups water
- 2 carrots, chopped into
- 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
- Fresh thyme, roughly chopped
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt
Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto/Darwell
- For homemade ricotta: Gently heat milk in double boiler to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold there for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and add salt and white vinegar. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. You should immediately begin to see the separation of curds and whey (the yellowish liquid). Allow to sit undisturbed for 2 hours.
- Strain curds and whey through a folded cheesecloth sitting in a strainer.
- If packing the curds into jars, pour a little of the reserved liquid whey into each jar to keep curds moist. Otherwise, save whey to cook with rice for another meal. Use within 2 to 3 days.
- For stew: In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add lentils, water, and carrots all at once. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, add herbs and chives to ricotta. Mix gently, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve lentils warm with ricotta added atop individual servings. Garnish with thyme, olive oil, and salt.
Discover more delicious, seasonal recipes in Green Recipes for Late Spring.
Kate MacLean is a writer, farmer, and mother in central Vermont. She’s currently developing a children’s book with her sister about the farm on which they both live, and the silly animals that keep them working from dawn ‘til dusk.