Wednesday, April 11, 2012

not stoned

One of the nice things about the internet is that in a matter of seconds, you can determine that you have never had an original idea in your life. This is a process that used to take months, if not years. It doesn't matter if you think you have some wildly original idea. Even if you thought it up alone, on a mountaintop, in a lead-lined underground cave, with earmuffs on, using an abacus, one minute’s tarantella on google once you come back down will establish that a minimum of 49 other people have posted step-by-step instructions, a short YouTube video and a host of tweets regarding this item in the time it took you to take off your backpack.

This is all going to work out to your advantage, dear reader.

I used some of my milk glut from our party last weekend to make a batch of ricotta, and I had these artichoke and olive calzones to tell you about today, wherein I used the ricotta. But I kind of wasn’t going to emphasize that I made the ricotta. It still feels a little like the actions of a fringe-dweller, like the mention of it might cause some eye-rolling. Even though I made a really tasty soup with the leftover whey, and I wanted you to try that, too. Still, I was going to give it a low profile, this wacky, out-there making of cheese.

Then I saw Food52’s feature on What To Do With Your Leftover Whey.

Then I saw the New York Times Dining section was featuring Melissa Clark’s easy-peasy-this-is-so-mainstream-how-have-you-not-done-it-yet?-recipe for home-made ricotta.

Then, for poops and giggles, I did a search on the interwebs for “make ricotta.” There may still be a few fringe-dwelling activities that I engage in, but cheese-making is no longer one of them.

So I am just going to wait here a moment while you get psyched up to make a batch of ricotta. A HUGE undertaking (it will take you 30 minutes)! You need lots of exotic ingredients (milk and lemon)! Fancy equipment (pot, spoon, strainer)! Rest up, carbo-load, push fluids, off you go. Use this excellent recipe, or check out the buttermilk vs. lemon juice debate here (with links to more recipes) or try this one—zounds!—that uses the microwave and makes the process even faster.

Was that not so much fun? Snip, snap—you made cheese! You’re a cheese-maker.

Now, about that pizza dough….well, there is a world of opinion out there beyond my own slightly suspect and subjective one that making your own is not a deviant or time-consuming activity. And we all know it is sold by the knob at every grocery store, too.It's entirely up to you, of course. But if you are thinking of making your own, now that you have that golden carafe of whey to play with the time is truly ripe. Just substitute it for the water, and remember that you are best off starting it the night before you want it. Then, all the next day, no matter what you are doing, you can be thinking "I am making pizza right now. Here I sit in this meeting, and yet, I am working on dinner at the same time."

As for the calzone, the ones I produced were a homely bunch, and they detonated when I baked them. Producing them ate up most of the time I had set aside, and I had some serious doubts about posting this at all. But I bailed by using the remaining filling and remaining dough to make a white pizza, which was a snap to throw together. Your call. I know which exercise I will repeat next time....

artichoke & green olive & ricotta pizza/calzone

2# of pizza dough, home-made or store-bought

1 # fresh ricotta (about 2 cups)

6 ozs fresh mozzarella, cubed (about a cup and a half)

1/2 to 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

2 T chopped fresh basil

2 T olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

a generous handful of pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

about 8 water-packed or thawed frozen artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

2-3 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon, or a pinch of fresh lemon zest, finely grated

fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees to bake the pizzas. I bake mine on a baking sheet, not a pizza stone, and the results are fine, so don't sweat the lack of a stone. I have no stone, I have no peel, and yet I produce a pizza.

Combine the cheeses and the basil in a medium bowl. (Start with the lesser amount of parmesan, and reserve the remainder).

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and toss in the minced garlic. Stir once or twice, then dump in the preserved lemon, stir, then the artichokes and olives. Sauté until nicely fragrant, about two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Mix into the cheese. Taste the mixture and adjust the flavor to your liking with more parmesan, a twist of pepper, and possibly some salt if your olives are not terribly salty. I used a mondo, slightly oily and extremely salty olive from the antipasto bar at the grocery store, and between those and the remaining salty items in the mix, needed no more salt.

Roll out the dough for two pizzas. Divide the filling between the two crusts and, if you like, sprinkle any remaining parmesan on top. Bake 15 minutes or so, until the crust is nicely golden and the topping is dotted with golden spots as well. If you bake on a sheet, you can slip the baked pizza onto the oven rack directly for a minute, to completely crisp the bottom crust--but don't tell anyone that I do it, OK? It's one of those wacky workarounds that we all use privately but wouldn't want to get out.


  1. Oh, that is just how I feel about every idea I have--every plot, character, title, and technique. Maybe I could just stay in the cave? But only if I could make ricotta cheese and calzone and white pizza there. Thank you for making it all seem hilariously fraught and yet manageable.

  2. I see you didn't spend enough time trawling the interwebs to encounter the current Major Controversy over what constitutes "true ricotta," i.e. the kind made from whey versus the Something Else made from milk and cream. Either way, these hot pockets sound good.

    1. Oh, I totally did. Just didn't want to craft a magnum opus. The debate seems a little silly to me, truthfully. True ricotta ("re-cooked") uses the whey from hard-cheese-making, and (like the versions references above) a coagulant to extract the remaining solids, which are low in volume unless you are talking about gallons of whey. Kind of impractical for most of us. Starting with whole milk means you can get a higher yield dealing with quantities that make sense for people not starting a home dairy. What results, whether it is true or faux ricotta is SO MUCH BETTER than the stuff you buy, with its stabilizers and gums, that it seems silly to quibble too much. If it tastes good, it IS good, verdad?

  3. I definitely want to make cheese! I think I'll probably go for paneer first, though (mostly because I want all the Indian food). The green olive and artichoke combination sounds great too!

    1. Resistance is futile! Don't delay! Paneer is also a super snap and once you have that under your belt, there's no turning back!

  4. I am just hungry. That is all.
    Ricotta away my dears and just let me be the taster.

    And, if in the pursuit of original ideas, we putter around a cozy cave for a time, that would be fine with me. Just today I looked at what I'd written and wondered just how redundant I the end...okayokayokay. There is only one you and only one me and ricotta by you is unlike ricotta by Laura and that is good by me too.

    This all reminds me of JNB's Grandma who would hold his little face in her hands and say
    "By me, you are okay."

    xo S


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