fresh ricotta cheese

Fresh Ricotta Cheese


A special post by RAFFL’s summer intern, Anna Flinchbaugh.

In a 1942 science fiction story, author Leigh Brackett observed, “Witchcraft to the ignorant… Simple science to the learned.” This pretty well sums up my relationship with making ricotta cheese over the past week. The first time I turned a simmering saucepan of Thomas milk and cream into rich, creamy cheese, I was flabbergasted – it had to be magic! However, by the third (okay, maybe fourth) rendition, I realized that making ricotta is actually a very simple, reliable process. Adding a mild acid – such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar – to heated milk causes it to separate into Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey. From there, you simply strain off the excess liquid to obtain your bowl of warm, creamy goodness.

However, the fact that ricotta is almost ludicrously easy to make should in no way detract from its wonder. In addition to coming together in just about half an hour, fresh ricotta is also delicious and versatile. The recipe below is made with whole milk and heavy cream, producing a ricotta that is infinitely richer and smoother than anything you’ll find at the grocery store. It is also very easy to adapt to whatever purpose you have in mind. For example, while letting the ricotta drain for 15 to 20 minutes produces a cheese suitable for use in things like lasagna, tortellini, and cannoli, you can also let it drain longer to produce a drier ricotta that’s perfect for pastry uses such as ricotta gnocchi. It’s also perfectly acceptable to let the ricotta drain for just a few minutes and eat it warm and fresh as a spread on crusty bread (or straight off the spoon!). I found it particularly (read: extraordinarily, addictively) delicious drizzled with a bit of honey and served with fresh blueberries.


As a caveat for all of the cheese purists out there, it should be noted that this recipe is not a true ricotta. Italian for re-cooked, ricotta is traditionally made from the whey leftover from other cheese-making ventures. In contrast, this recipe begins with milk and produces whey as a byproduct; it’s the liquid that you strain off. Because this whey hasn’t been treated with rennet or other cheese cultures, you can’t use it to produce an endless cycle of ricotta (unfortunately). However, you can use it as a protein- and flavor-rich substitute for water in bread and soup recipes.

Fresh Ricotta

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 cups


  • 4 C whole milk
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp distilled or white wine vinegar (substitute lemon juice for use in desserts)


  1. Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth (or paper towel) and line the sieve with them.
  2. Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a 3-quart saucepan.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Make sure to keep a close eye on the milk as it gets close to a simmer - it can very quickly go from looking inert to boiling over!
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow to sit until the milk curdles and begins to separate, 1-5 minutes.
  5. Pour into the lined sieve. Drain the ricotta until it reaches the desired consistency: 5 minutes works if you want to use it immediately as a spread; 15-20 is a good estimate for other purposes such as lasagna and ravioli.


The ricotta is especially delicious warm, but can also be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 4-5 days.


kale pesto

Kale Pesto

kale pesto

I diligently planted several basil plants a few weeks ago. A few days later that crazy hail storm arrived. Afterwards, my poor basil plants were diminished to nothing but stems. So I replanted. All along, I was motivated by dreams of pesto. Pesto on pizza, pesto on pasta, pesto on sandwiches and pesto on warm potatoes. Maybe even a bowl of pesto all by itself.

kale bowl

Basil is a traditional ingredient of pesto, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Translated from Italian, pesto means to crush or to pound. And if you’re an Italian grandma, you probably do your crushing and pounding with a mortar and pestle – not a food processor. But times have changed, and so should pesto.

Pesto, meet everyone’s darling green vegetable – kale. With kale absolutely everywhere these days, and at an extremely affordable price ($2 – $4 a bunch, on average) it makes good sense to transform a bunch into pesto, as long as you’re using a food processor, that is. I often find myself with more than enough kale and looking for ways to eat it that aren’t just another plate of greens, if you know what I mean.

Unlike kale, basil doesn’t have a strong, prominent flavor. It allows the other pesto ingredients – nuts/seeds, cheese, and garlic to really stand out. I like to change things up with the choice of nuts or seeds too. Pine nuts tend to be out of my price range so I opt for whatever I have on hand. Often, it’s sunflower seeds. I’ve also tried pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans and almonds. I think it’s personal preference. In the end, it all gets crushed together and hey, that means pesto, right?

While I’m advocating for kale based pesto today, you should experiment with different herbs and leafy greens.

kale in food processor

Kale Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 cups pesto


  • 1 bunch (3 cups) kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Pulse sunflower seeds in the food processor until finely ground.
  2. Add kale, garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add Parmesan and blend to combine.
  4. Taste and add more ingredients as needed to reach your desired consistency and taste.


kabobs plated

Teriyaki Beef Kebabs

kabobs plated

Nothing says summer like food on a stick. From popsicles to corndogs, eating with your hands evokes the fun and casualness of the season. And it just wouldn’t be summer without a few kebabs on the grill – whether they’re beef, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables – almost anything goes.

However, the meat kebab is the most traditional. In particular, lamb. It’s a form of cooking that’s been around for thousands of years and varies just slightly throughout the world. But you’ll find that food skewered and cooked on or over a flame is almost always known as a kebab.

Primitive though it is, there are some key tips to a good kebab. First is a marinade.  A marinade will ensure your meat is tender and full of flavor. The longer you can let your meat sit in a marinade the better. Make it at least 30 minutes, though.

This teriyaki marinade is extremely simple. It’s just a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and vegetable oil. I bet you could make it right now without having to leave home.

marinading beefCut your meat up into pieces before sticking in the marinade, that way there is more surface area to penetrate. You don’t have to place them on the skewers until you’re ready for the grill, though. It’s up to you.

As for the skewers, wood is the way to go. The metal ones are sturdier and reusable, which is great, but they heat up fast and cause the center of your meat to cook too quickly and somewhat unevenly. I don’t see why they couldn’t work for vegetables, though.

kabobs on grill

Two other notes about the wooden skewers: First, in order to prevent the skewers catching fire, you need to soak them in water. Thirty minutes to an hour will do. Second, use two. Ignore my photo. I learned that one wooden skewer is just too flimsy.

While kebabs composed of all different items are visually appealing, I don’t think they work well. Keep the food on your kebabs consistent. In other words, keep the beef on its own skewers, the shrimp on its own and the peppers on their own. Different foods cook up differently and naturally require different cooking times. You don’t want to overcook your beef because the vegetable you paired it with needs more time. Leave mixing things up until they’re on your plate.

kabobs plated

Teriyaki Beef Kebabs

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 1/2 lb beef sirloin, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 wooden skewers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


  1. Submerge the wooden skewers in water and soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar and oil until combined.
  3. Coat the meat with the marinade, reserving a portion for serving.
  4. Let the meat marinade anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
  5. Thread the pieces of meat onto double skewers, leaving a little space in between each piece.
  6. Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium high heat.
  7. Place the beef kebabs on the grill. Cook 2-3 minutes and turn. Repeat for each side, cooking a total of 10-12 minutes or until your desired temperature.
  8. Let rest for a few minutes then serve with remaining marinade.


rhubarb and onion

Rhubarb Chutney

rhubarb in cast ironFact: rhubarb is tart. Lie: In order to enjoy rhubarb we must overwhelm it with sweetness.

While the sweetness of ripe strawberries certainly pairs well with rhubarb, rhubarb can actually be a star all on its own. When I saw the first pink rhubarb stalks of the season a few weeks ago, local strawberries weren’t even ready for bubbling together in a pie. So I wondered what else I could do.

Looking back on other rhubarb recipes that I’ve previously shared, I wasn’t feeling good about the amount of sugar they contained. And I refuse to believe it is necessary. Then I remembered a rhubarb chutney recipe that Joann, our bookkeeper at RAFFL, shared a couple of years ago. Sadly, Joann will soon be leaving us and moving on, so I thought now was a good time to revisit her rhubarb chutney. Now I just need to figure out who will appreciate my sense of humor when she’s gone.

washed rhubarb

Since I didn’t get a chance to make Joann’s chutney at the time of posting (it was winter), I was excited to give it a try this spring and find that I was right – rhubarb doesn’t need to rely only on sweetness to taste good. I made a few adjustments to her recipe, like adding in orange zest and juice and replacing the sugar with honey, and I liked the results.

rhubarb and onion

In this chutney, the rhubarb is sliced into pieces and sauteed along with chopped red onion. Before long, the rhubarb starts to break down and release its juices while the onion becomes tender.

honey and rhubarb

The chutney gets a good kick of flavor from ginger and garlic, one of my favorite seasoning combos. A splash of cider vinegar and honey help round it out. I think rhubarb does need some sweetness, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. I think the mildness of honey helps solve my over sweet rhubarb frustration.

Raisins also help add some natural sweetness that I don’t feel guilty about while also not overwhelming the dish. Then, before the chutney finishes simmering, orange juice and zest are stirred in.

rhubarb chutney

The result is part sauce, part condiment that can be paired with pork, fish and poultry or simply over toasted bread with melted cheese. But if you are looking for a sweet rhubarb idea, try this frozen yogurt or this compote.

Rhubarb Chutney

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 cups

Rhubarb Chutney


  • 12 ounces rhubarb
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 orange


  1. Wash and chop the rhubarb into half inch pieces. Roughly chop the onion.
  2. Heat a pan over medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the rhubarb and onion and let cook until rhubarb has softened and released its juices and the onion is tender. About 10 minutes.
  3. While that cooks, grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Add to the pan when ready to go.
  4. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the honey, vinegar and raisins. Taste and season with salt as you see fit. After 5 more minutes of simmering, add the zest and juice of the orange. Stir. Remove from heat and let cool to thicken.

egg frittata

Anytime Frittata

mini frittata

Frittata. It’s like a omelet, but less French, more Italian and is easier to put together. If you avoid making omelets in fear of unsuccessfully flipping or folding your eggs and having it all fall apart, then the frittata is for you. I like them because you can add whatever you want – seasonal vegetables, any kind of meat and even your leftovers. You can eat them any time of day and any time of year. There’s never really a bad time for a frittata.

mini frittata

Did you know you can make a frittata in just one pan? If, like me, you don’t enjoy washing dishes, this is also good news. But, if you’re making brunch for a group, or need something for a potluck, you can make mini frittatas by using muffin tins. I made the mini version (70 of them, to be exact) when I went to speak to a group of Green Mountain Foster Grandparents a couple weeks ago. These dedicated folks spend several hours each week of the school year to help out kids in local schools. How great is that? Fortunately, they liked the frittatas I brought and were not completely bored by my talk! In fact, they had some great questions about local food and cooking.

eggs in a bowl

But I also made the regular sized version in my cast iron pan when I was a guest on What’s Cooking Rutland in April. Feel free to watch, just don’t be too harsh – I’m no television star.

Anytime Frittata

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, thinly sliced
  • 10 ounces mixed veggies and/or meat, cut into small, 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup crumbled or chopped cheese of your liking


  1. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add the milk/cream and beat until eggs are a consistent color and are slightly frothy. Stir in the parsley.
  2. Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a 8-10 inch, heavy bottomed pan that has been preheated over medium high heat. A cast iron pan is ideal. Add the onion, potato and the additional veggies and meat, if you choose to include. Cook about 15 minutes or until everything is cooked through and tender. Increase the heat if needed.
  3. For one large frittata: Preheat the broiler. Remove all but half the cooked veggie/meat combo from the pan and set aside. Melt in the remaining tablespoon of butter then pour in the eggs. Stir for a minute then let the eggs settle in an even layer in the pan. After a couple of minutes, when the eggs start to settle, add the remaining cooked ingredients on top of the eggs, along with the cheese. Place the entire pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the frittata has puffed upped and slightly browned.
  4. For mini frittatas: Preheat the oven to 375F and grease two 12 cup muffin tins. Pour the eggs 3/4 of the way in the tins and then top with your cooked filling ingredients and the cheese. It's important to put the eggs in the tins first in order to form the shell, otherwise the fillings will fall right out when you remove them from the pan. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until set and puffy.


RAFFL's 2014 - 2015 Locally Grown Guide

RAFFL’s 2014 Locally Grown Guide

RAFFL's 2014 - 2015 Locally Grown Guide

Cooking with local food is great – as long as you know how and where to find it. That’s why I’m excited to share that today is the release of our 2014 – 2015 Locally Grown Guide. The guide is a handy resource and directory of the farms, foods, and local food businesses in the Rutland, Vermont region. This year, it’s even more handy because you can easily save it to your favorite mobile devices to take it on the go!

Just click on the cover to the left or go to to access our digital edition. Or, today, May 21st, look for a physical copy inserted into the Rutland Herald.

But we also need your help getting the guide out to where you live, work and the places you visit. Please get in touch at if you can help us get copies of the guide out to your area.

I hope you enjoy the new guide!

wild leeks

Wild Leek Risotto

ramp risotto

The world of food is filled with misconceptions. And I love to do my best to clarify them.

Today’s clarification: Risotto.

Creamy, rich and delicious, risotto has a reputation of being a laborious and challenging dish to prepare. I disagree. Risotto is just Italian rice. We know how to make rice, right? If not – which is fine, many people actually do not know how to handle this household staple – you should probably start there. Here’s a good resource to help you out.

Once you have basic rice down, risotto is only slightly more complex. But certainly not out of your capabilities. Here are three things you need to know for a successful pot of risotto.

  1. You need a specific kind of rice. A high starch, short grain rice is ideal for absorbing liquid and producing a creamy, not mushy, texture. The most common risotto rice is called Arborio. Pick some up in the bulk section of your local co-op.
  2. Use a heavy bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, to prevent sticking or worst case scenario – burning.
  3. Make sure your broth is hot and ready to go.

Wild Leek Risotto

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 - 6 as a main dish, 8 as a side or starter


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bunch ramps/wild leeks or 1-2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine (optional)
  • 5 1/2 cups broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

wild leeks

Though traditionally made with onions, spring is great time to substitute wild leeks, also known as ramps. You can forage your own or find them from a local farmer. But they won’t last long. If you miss out on the short season of ramps, feel free to use traditional leeks, but omit the greens, which are not very edible.

prepping ramps

Prep your wild leeks with a good wash. Then separate the tops from the bottoms.

The bottoms are to be chopped and used now, the greens can be thinly sliced and reserved for later on.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in your heavy bottomed pot. Add in the chopped part of the ramps and the garlic. Cook 5 minutes, until softened, then add in the rice. Cook another 3 minutes, stirring the rice around the pot to prevent sticking.

adding wine to the pan

If using the wine, go ahead and add it in now and let it cook off for a couple of minutes. If not using the wine, just go ahead with the broth.

adding in hot broth

A ladle full at a time, add the broth to the pot, stirring and waiting until absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. Repeat this stirring and broth adding process until the rice is tender and no longer absorbs the broth, about 20 minutes. Stop occasionally to taste for doneness. Rice should be al dente, or with a slight bite to it. If you have a friend/partner/child, this might be a good process for them. It’s slightly time consuming, but certainly not challenging.

ramps, lemon, Parmesan and butter

Now remove the rice from the burner and add in the sliced ramp leaves, Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir everything together to combine.

You’ll want to serve the risotto relatively soon after cooking. If it sits too long it will continue to cook and solidify. If reheating, add a little broth or water to thin out again. If you find yourself with way too much risotto, consider making Arancini, Italian rice balls.

braised turnips porkchops

Braised Pork Chops and Turnips


It seems the sun is having a difficult time finding its way to Vermont this spring. And while I’d rather be cooking out on a grill, the perpetual dreariness still has me inside and largely using produce from last season. And that’s alright. But I did finally dig up my garden and plant a few seeds this week and I’m happy about that.

While I’m over the filling stew-like dishes of winter, I like the simplicity of these pork chops and turnips. They’re browned and simmered in one pan and aside from a minimal sauce, don’t need much else. It reminded me of how much I enjoy the combination of braised meat and vegetables. It’s a good technique to know. The particular kind or cut of meat can change, and any root vegetable would work here too.

Braised Porkchops and Turnips

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 servings


  • 2 3/4 - 1 inch thick, bone in pork chops
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound turnips or rutabaga, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 cup white wine, chicken stock, or cider
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Let your pork chops come to room temperature for a few minutes. This helps the meat cook evenly in the pan. Then season both sides with salt and pepper.

Pre-heat a saute pan over medium high heat for a minute or two. Preheating is important, so don’t skip it. Add your oil and let that get hot as well. Both of these steps will help the pork chop, or any piece of meat, in browning. Also, be sure to give the meat plenty of space in the pan.


Let the meat sear, without disturbing, about 3-4 minutes on each side. The meat should sizzle when it hits the pan. If oil starts flying out, cover the pan for a minute and lower the heat a little.We’re not looking to fully cook the pork in this step, just get a nice browning. IMG_0031

When both sides are browned, remove the chops from the pan, set aside, and add in the chopped turnips.

Cook the turnips, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until they’re also browned.


Then add in the liquid, 2 tablespoons of parsley, butter and brown sugar. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove anything that might have stuck during browning.Cover, let the turnips simmer for 10-15 minutes, until almost tender, then add the pork chops back in.

The chops should be sitting in the liquid, add a little more if this is not the case, and put the cover back on the pan. simmer for another 5 minutes or so, until the pork is cooked through (at about 145F) and the turnips are completely tender.

pork chops and turnips

Portion the turnips on two plates, top each with a pork chop, juice from the pan and the remaining parsley.

A Program of RAFFL