MUSIC PAIRING: R.E.M., Automatic For The People
I thank the good lord above for cheese. I bet even he would amend his own words in the bible when he says ‘man shall not live on bread alone’ if that bread came with cheese. I particularly love ricotta. Did you know that by all accounts, ricotta isn’t even real cheese? It’s a by-product of cheese. Ricotta is Italian for “re-cooked” and it’s made from the whey leftover from making other cheese. Ricotta is like the underdog of cheese and maybe that’s why I love it so much.
When you taste good ricotta, it’s a game changer. You’ll never want the cheap stuff again. Actually, it’s a complete cinch to make and even provides bragging rights when you can add ‘cheesemaker’ to your resume. While I normally make my own, I cheated today because very last minute, my sister and I decided to get together for snacks and wine because that’s just what you do with a lazy Sunday afternoon.
My sister, Allison, is a certified sommelier and fabulous wine writer for Parade Magazine online. She’s so talented and knowledgeable. I have to admit, it’s so much fun to drink wine with her because she always picks awesome, unique bottles and she’s not a pretentious douche about it like so many other folks in the wine world. I’ve learned a great deal through her and maybe it’s me who’s the douche now when I’m the one to order Blaufrankisch while out with friends instead of things they know like Merlot or Cabernet. I digress. The point is that I get to have my own personal wine connoisseur to rely on when things like impromptu Sunday gatherings happen.
Allison shares my love of cheese and especially great ricotta. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand for this whipped ricotta recipe so in the time it took for Allison to walk from her place to mine and get up my ridiculous six flights of stairs (heart you, NYC!), I had snacks ready. What really made this ricotta perfect was using olive oil from Molise that Allison brought me from Italy after her recent press trip. I used some in the actual ricotta in addition to topping it. Pretty sure heaven was in that bowl.
Why R.E.M.? What Allison possesses in wine knowledge, she lacks in music knowledge. We’re complete opposites when it comes to the world of music as you’ll never see me without headphones in while I’m not even sure Allison knows what headphones are. It’s become an unending and continuously hilarious joke that when Allison and I are together and music is on, I’ll ask her who the artist is just to tease her and without fail, she always answers “R.E.M.?”. I crack up every time. So when it comes to pairing this recipe made for Allison with music, how could I not think of R.E.M.? Lucky for me, I happened to be totally in the mood for some Michael Stipe so it just felt right.
As a side note, see those yummy looking cheese straws in the background? I’ll be sharing that recipe with you so stay tuned.
Recipe barely adapted from: Joy the Baker
- 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups whole-milk ricotta (this is a time where you really want to splurge on the good stuff)
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for garnish
- Zest of one lemon, halved
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Toasted bread or crackers for serving
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (I used a regular ol' hand mixer), beat cream cheese until smooth and pliable. Add ricotta, milk, olive oil and half the lemon zest and season well with salt and pepper. Beat on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is less grainy and fluffed. Taste to be sure it's seasoned well.
- Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Top with fresh cracked black pepper, remaining lemon zest and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serve with toasted bread or crackers. Honestly, this would taste good on cardboard.
- Like the ricotta, this is where you'd splurge with your good olive oil, too. It makes a HUGE difference so treat yourself to the good stuff and keep it on hand for dishes like this where the oil really shines.