What does it all mean? Hell if I know. All of today’s captions are brought to you by the nutjobs who found TNS via google. This one’s for you, Mr. or Ms. “Upside Down Belly Button.”

Really, what was this person looking for? “The big stomach wave makes the love”? Is it some grody thing that I’m naive for not knowing? If so, I’d like to continue on in my blissful ignorance.

A few weeks ago the New York Times Wednesday food section had a feature article on ricotta that included instructions for making it yourself, and I’ve been brooding over it ever since, wanting to make it. I could resist no longer, so I decided dinner tonight would be ricotta crostini. It’s a win-win-win: I love cheese, I love nibblies, and I love dinner. Success!

I ended up making two savory crostini – one with prosciutto and thyme, one with a sweet and spicy quick tomato compote – and one sweet, with honey, walnuts and cardamom. All were dinner worthy, and all will re-appear on my table. Quoth Brian, “It’s like crack!”

Hot ass*, or You Porn the Strawberry Siren.

Ask yourselves: Do YOU porn the strawberry siren? Why or why not?

So I’m a cheesemaker! And it was really easy and really fast.

For ricotta, the proportion is 1 part buttermilk to 4 parts whole milk; I followed the NYT recipe and used 2 quarts of milk and 2 cups of buttermilk, which gave me about 2 1/2 cups of cheese. The milks are heated slowly together in a heavy pot while you stir to ward off scorching.

Once the liquid started steaming, I clipped a thermometer onto the pot, stopped stirring and let it heat in peace (first pic). At about 160 degrees, the curds started to separate from the whey. At 170, it looked like popcorn bits floating in skim milk, at 175 like hunks of cottage cheese in lemonade and at 180 I started to wonder why I was doing this. I cut the heat and used a mesh scoop to gently transfer the curds into a waiting cheesecloth-lined strainer.

I know it’s normally bad when milk has a smell, but the cheesemaking smell is an exception. The cheese smelled gorgeously…milky. Like the essence of fresh dairy. I had to stop myself from eating the hot, wet curds with a spoon.

After letting it sit in the cheesecloth for a few minutes to drain naturally, I gave it a little squeeze to get out any excess whey and bring the curds together. I may have squoze a leetle too much, because my final product was a little crumblier than I usually think of ricotta, so if you try this don’t manhandle your curds. (I think that’s a good rule for life in general. Someone will probably Google it tomorrow.) I turned my lump of finished ricotta into some tupperware and set it in the fridge to chill while I made the tomato compote.

*From that same day: “Very hot ass.” Because ass that is merely standard-grade hot, and not superlatively hot, is UNACCEPTABLE. WE DEMAND EXCEPTIONALLY HOT ASS.

Cake baking for people with mental health, aka The Fucking Knife is Not Sharp Enough.

People with mental health don’t need special baking instructions. It’s the crazies that need the special help.* And are we just angry that the knife isn’t sharp enough, or is the knife used in fucking not sharp enough? If the latter, ew.

Last week’s smackdown, shrimp-stuffed poblanos, started with a tomato and onion saute that I thought would make a tasty jam – red onions and tomatoes cooked down with some triple sec and coriander. I still had a yellow heirloom left from that dish, so I used it here as well.

*I’m allowed to say that because I’m a crazie.

Hot as hell, she’s like every man on love.


I kept the triple sec, because I’d really enjoyed the orange coupled with the sweet but acidic tomatoes. But I had no more already-ground coriander and didn’t feel like profaning the coffee grinder for half a teaspoon of spice, so I used my chefly wizardry to come up with a substitution: pink peppercorns. I’d used them in a blood orange gastrique from a few months back (you probably don’t remember because the only people who read TNS at that point were blood relations)(my blood relations, not yours; that would have been weird) and loved the combo of citrus with the fragrantly spicy pepper. I threw a teaspoon of peppercorns into a ziploc, whacked ’em one with a wine bottle, and stirred them into the tomato mix.

I wanted to keep the tomatoes’ bright, fresh sweetness, so I cooked the mix just enough to start breaking everything down but not long enough to turn it into a fully cooked sauce.

“Rebecca Lindamood.”

I also threw some slices of baguette sprinkled with olive oil and salt under the broiler for a few minutes. When they came out, I rubbed two-thirds of them with garlic and left the others plain.

How can I make the laundry starch chunky the way it used to be?

Seriously, they don’t make anything the way they used to. Fucking cheap bastards.

The garlic-rubbed bread got two different treatments. One got a shmear of ricotta, a topping of tomato compote and a sprig of cilantro. The other got a thin slice of proscuitto San Daniele (my personal favorite), a few spoonfuls of ricotta, a sprinkle of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. The non-garlic crostini got a heap of ricotta, a generous squeeze of honey and a topping of chopped walnuts and ground cardamom.

Each was fantastic in its own way, and they made me want to have a cocktail party so I can push them on other people. The tomato compote was tart, sweet and spicy. The bright tomato and onion flavors tended toward the brash and the creamy ricotta tempered them precisely and added its own mild milky sweetness while also complementing the sweet triple sec.* It served the same function with the salty proscuitto, moderating the salt and picking up on the sweet nutty flavors of the ham. The honey heightened the cheese’s own sweetness and the walnuts picked up the nutty undertones of the dairy; the cardamom added an exotic warm spice note that was unexpected but perfect.

I have half my ricotta left and am still plotting it’s destiny – maybe partnered with the garlic scapes I just got in my CSA box? – and I’m sure that once it’s gone I’ll be making it again. The process was fun, and it feels pretty cool to say, “I made cheese.”

I made cheese.

*The fresh ricotta and tomato compote would make an outSTANDING thin-crust pizza, especially grilled.

Fresh Ricotta
makes 2 cups

2 quarts whole milk
2 cups buttermilk

Pour both milks into a large, heavy pot set over medium-low heat; clip a thermometer onto the pot. Heat, stirring, until the milk starts to steam. At this point, stop stirring and leave the milk alone until it reaches 180 degrees, at which point the curds will have separated and will be floating about the whey; you’ll see fluffy white curds floating over a yellowish-gray liquid.

When the mix hits 180, cut the heat and ladle the curds into a mesh sieve lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Set the strainer over a bowl and let the cheese drain for 5 minutes. Twist the ends of the cheesecloth and give the cheese a gentle squeeze to get out any excess liquid and bring the curds together.

Transfer the cheese into a storage container and stash in the fridge. Keeps for a week or two.

Orange-Tomato Compote

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced (use a yummy heirloom)
1 tsp. orange zest
3 tbsp. triple sec
1 tsp. pink peppercorns, crushed
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and saute until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato and zest and cook for 2-3 minutes more, then add the triple sec and peppercorns. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting the break down and the mixture starts to become jammy. Adjust the seasoning. Can be used immediately or refrigerated for a few days.