Having an herb garden is such a joy. It only requires a small patch of soil, some judicious watering, and a little sunshine. My 6-year-old granddaughter, Colette, loves exploring the herbal bounty, pinching off a leaf or two to smell and taste. She berates the mint, declaring that is tastes like toothpaste.
She is the perfect partner to make this flavorful spread, a mix of whole-milk ricotta cheese, minced shallots, green onions, plus a generous combination of fresh herbs. I mince the shallot and slice the green onions, while she collects the herbs, cuts them into tiny pieces with scissors, grates lemon zest with a microplane, and adds the juice. Then comes the final mixing, tasting, and seasoning.
It’s served with toasted slices of baguette. I like to slice them on the diagonal to increase the bread’s surface size. Arranged in the single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, they are lightly brushed on one side with olive oil. Placed oiled-side-up about 8 inches from the broiler; they brown quickly, in about 1 minute in my oven (keep an eye on them, they burn easily).
Herb Garden Ricotta Spread
Yield: Makes about 2 cups
2 cups whole-milk ricotta, drained if there’s liquid, see cook’s notes
1 large lemon, or more to taste
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2 green onions, white and light green portions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste
1/3 cup combination of 2 or 3 finely chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley, tarragon, thyme, cilantro and/or basil
Cook’s notes: If there is liquid in the ricotta container, line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Spoon ricotta atop the cheesecloth. Refrigerate and let drain at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. If you have leftovers, this spread is delicious stirred into hot pasta.
1. Place ricotta in medium bowl. Finely grate lemon zest on top. Cut lemon in half and blend in the juice from one half. Stir in shallots, green onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir in herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed, adding more lemon juice, salt or pepper. Cover and chill.
2. Serve with toasted baguette slices.
Source: Adapted from “Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, $35)
Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org
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