This whole escapade into homemade cheese has made me dream and concoct different combinations of flavours to create the perfect cheesy bite. When you put all of this effort into making your own cheese, you certainly don't want to see an iota of it go to waste. That said, there is only so much fresh plain ricotta that one can consume. I don't mean that to sound blasphemous, if you think it does! The 4.25 litres of milk and cream that I used to make my homemade ricotta yielded approximately 1.25 litres of cheese... and that's a lot of cheese!
So, I sat down with my new dedicated cheese journal and started jotting down potential flavour combinations. Then I grabbed my trusty Flavor Bible (if you aren't familiar with this reference book, I would highly recommend it) and went into flavour combination overdrive. What did I have in the house? What herbs were ample in the garden? Since it is such a subtle and mellow cheese, what would complement the ricotta without overpowering it?
These are the two bites that I landed on...
Fresh tarragon and lemon zest.
Cracked black pepper, fresh strawberry, and honey.
I combined a heaping tablespoon of chopped tarragon with the zest from one lemon and stirred that into the cheese. For the cracked black pepper, I added about 10-15 cracks of pepper. I entertained doing a swirl of honey right into the cheese but opted to add it to the final assembled bite. I still think it would look so pretty woven through the black pepper ricotta, almost like a flavour swirl in ice cream.
We tasted it right then and the next day after the flavours had a chance to mix and mellow together. The cheese definitely adopts more nuanced flavours after having some time to hang out together. I'd definitely recommend that your cheese is room temperature or close to. If it is too cold, you don't get the full spectrum of flavour and I don't find the texture to be as lovely, light and fluffy as it could be.
The fresh tarragon and lemon zest ricotta was bright and flavourful on its own. The zest only further emphasized the lemony flavour of the cheese and the tarragon added an earthiness without screaming "tarragon"! I envision this on an antipasto platter with proscuitto, other cured meats and cheeses, citrus cured olives, and veggies.
The cracked pepper ricotta was assembled into a bit of a free-standing treat. A smear of the ricotta, a slice of super ripe and deeply red strawberry, the scantest drop of honey. "The perfect bite," was one comment. It really was. Sweet, spicy, creamy, and surprising. A great combination.