Fig-ure It Out!

By Logan Yost

Although I don’t do it as often as I should, I love to go to the store and find something to inspire me instead of walking in with a plan. Don’t get me wrong, plans are great, but I absolutely feel that when you’re inspired to make something, it really fuels your creativity. Luckily with an iPhone in my pocket, I can look up some fantastic recipe while standing in produce or if I’m feeling I can manage it myself, I can just think something up and make it happen. Either way, it’s going to work out, so why not step outside the comfort zone now and again? Just go to the store, walk through a section, and when you find something amazing, figure out what to do with it. Oh, and it’s even more fun when you’ve never used that particular ingredient before!

Yesterday I went to the store to get the basic nonsense for bruschetta when I came upon the most amazing gigantic fresh figs, so I thought, hmm… figs, ricotta, basil, mint, lemon and some amazing bread! Since ricotta was going to be such a prevalent part of what I was making, I decided it would be best if I made it fresh rather than buying it, so that’s exactly what it did, and the end result was amazing. You might not think this extra step is important, but it can not only cost less to make than to buy, it’s extremely easy, and I promise you that once you’ve had it, you’ll have a really hard time buying it pre-made ever again.

FRESH RICOTTA

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup of literally nothing else. (I told you it was really easy!)

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the milk, cream, and salt just until it reaches a full boil, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, add the vinegar, give it a stir, and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes. The vinegar will curdle the liquid. After a couple minutes, pour it into a sieve lined with either cheesecloth or a couple layers of paper towels over a bowl and allow it to sit for 30-40 minutes, emptying the bowl of liquid a couple of times during the process. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until use, serve at room temperature or use it in whatever recipe you like. That’s it! SO EASY! (By the way, I would never make it if it was going in something like lasagna where it’s not such an important part of the finished product, but using it as I did, or maybe in a ricotta cheesecake, or anytime you want to use it as a spread, you cant beat it!)

FIG & RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA

  • Good fresh French bread, cut into ¼” pieces
  • 1 batch of fresh ricotta
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons julienned for garnish
  • 12 large or 24 medium fresh figs*
  • Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300

On a half sheet pan, place the sliced bread, in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes until just toasted. Remove and set aside for plating.

In a mixing bowl, mix the ricotta, salt, pepper, lemon zest, basil, and mint. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Put a thick layer of cheese on each piece of bread, top it off with a couple pieces of fresh fig, a julienne of fresh mint, and a very light sprinkling of sea salt.

*To prepare the figs, I like to cut off the very top bit slice off the very bottom, and then if they are large, cut them into 4, if they are medium, cut them in half.  When using them on a cheese platter, I like to again cut off the top and bottom, and then cut a cross in the top, going down about half way. With your thumbs and index fingers, squeeze the bottom of the fig until it opens like a flower, serve them whole and standing upright on the platter!

Do what you can to make something this week using a key ingredient you’ve never used before. Even, better, do it by discovering said ingredient while you’re shopping. See what happens, trust yourself, and know that you can always Google the ingredient and look through a few recipes until you find something that sounds good. More importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment and fail, it can lead to learning all new things. Have fun!

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