tomato salad with homemade ricotta recipe

Caprese salad with homemade ricotta.

I know what you’re thinking: Fresh tomato salad in March? Are you crazy?

Yes. (And yes.)

Rob and I recently returned from a few days in Florida, lugging not only our golf clubs home but also a stash of fresh produce scored at a local farmers’ market. Specifically, the most flavorful strawberries and yummy beefsteak tomatoes.

We make this trip south about every March, and the farmers’ market outing keeps me sane right about the time I freak out and think we’ll NEVER get summer produce here in Cincinnati again. Right about the time I desperately pick up a clamshell pack of rock-hard imported strawberries at the grocery, only to come to my senses and return it to the shelf. Right about the time I give up on hamburgers entirely, for lack of good slicing tomatoes.

Out for dinner one night during our trip, we had an honest-to-God caprese salad, with housemade fresh mozzarella and perfectly vine-ripened local heirloom tomatoes. Heaven. So with the tomatoes I hauled back in my luggage, I vowed to make a summer-dreaming caprese salad at home, using fresh homemade ricotta.

Which brings us to this recipe for easy-to-make homemade ricotta. Two ingredients + heat + time = the most delicious, creamy, luscious ricotta cheese. Keep this ricotta recipe in the bank for July, when the first local tomatoes come in (or until May, when local farms like Neltner’s that grow in high tunnels have them). Or, make it now, add some fresh herbs and a drizzle of really good olive oil, and schmear the fresh ricotta on crostini.

homemade sweet and creamy ricotta cheese recipe

3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth, and place it in a larger bowl to catch the whey. In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the milk and cream; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 190° on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the lemon juice; watch in amazement as the mixture begins to separate into soft, small curds and watery whey. Let the mixture stand—do not stir—for 5 minutes, then use a strainer to gently lift the solids into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Pour any remaining liquid into the colander and let the mixture drain for 30 minutes, max, for tender, light ricotta, or up to an hour for a firmer, schmear-able ricotta. Salt the ricotta to taste if you'd like. I prefer it unsalted, so I can add seasoning as I use it.

I've kept homemade ricotta in the refrigerator for about 10 days with no problem. Keep the whey, too—you can use it in place of water or milk to make pancakes or biscuits or oatmeal, or for boiling potatoes for mashing (whey's easily digestible proteins and amino acids are good for you).

chicken salad with pecan dressing recipe

Beautiful salad with roast chicken, apple and pecans.

Sometime forever ago, when a) we still received Williams-Sonoma catalogs practically every week, and b) said catalogs included lovely recipes, I clipped out a recipe for chicken salad with fennel, bell pepper and a spicy pecan dressing.

I’ve made some adaptations over time to suit our tastes, but this salad recipe has become one of our favorites. It uses ingredients I almost always have on hand: apple, red bell pepper, leftover roasted chicken, good blue cheese. You can swap in other ingredients, like pear or carrot or jicama. The pecan dressing has everything you want: great texture, bold flavor, a kick of spice.

Even better: You can package this salad in a 1-quart or 1-liter jar and take it off to work or a picnic. Or, simply toss all the ingredients together in a big bowl and pass servings at the table, alongside some good crusty bread and homemade butter.

roast chicken salad with pepper, fennel and spicy pecan dressing recipe

serves 2

For the dressing: In a small skillet, combine 3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste. Toast the pecans with the spices over medium heat until they're fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove to a lidded glass jar and add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons water. Shake to combine. Add another teaspoon of water to thin the dressing if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more cayenne for heat if you'd like.

For the salad: Chop into 1/2-inch dice: half a red bell pepper, half an apple (choose your favorite), half of a medium fennel bulb. Transfer to a large bowl. Slice half a head of leaf or Romaine lettuce into thin strips and add the lettuce to the bowl. Season the vegetables with a generous pinch of salt and toss gently to combine. Add a drizzle of dressing and pecans and toss gently to coat. Top the salad with about 3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese and 1 cup sliced roasted chicken.


Update: Findlay Market Cookbook now available online.

Hello, friends! I’m interrupting our usual recipe posts to share a bit of news: The Findlay Market Cookbook is now available at! The book was exclusively sold at the Market’s gift shop and vendors through February, and is now for sale through other outlets.

Of course, I’d suggest that Cincinnati folks make a visit to the Market to pick up your copy — all proceeds go to support the nonprofit organization that manages this historic gem. (To date, book sales have raised $16,000 for the Corporation for Findlay Market!)

But if you live outside the region and want a copy, or you’re a local who wants to send a book to a friend or family member, then you’re welcome to visit Amazon to make your purchase.

Want to sample some of the recipes in The Findlay Market Cookbook?

Buy the Book

butter garlic roast chicken recipe

Easy butter-roasted chicken.

‘Roast chicken.’ The words just sort of take you to Grandma’s kitchen, don’t they? And yet, why do we make roast chicken so infrequently? It’s one of the simplest, most satisfying dishes, and you hardly even need a recipe for roasted chicken. Maybe it’s because we’ve been dissatisfied with chicken that’s been baked to a dry, tasteless mess. Or we think we’ll mess it up somehow.

Trust me: You can’t mess up this super easy roast chicken recipe. Super. Easy. This is one of my all-time favorite dinner recipes, for cold nights when I just don’t feel like fussing but want something yummy and soothing. It unfailingly yields a dish that’s juicy and flavorful.

You can make this for two people, or for a dinner party. Use whatever chicken pieces you prefer, or a whole cut-up chicken. Even better, you can add to it. Toss a big handful of fingerling potatoes or carrot coins in the roasting pan. Or big chunks of butternut squash. Pour a splash of chicken stock in the pan at the end if you want an easy pan sauce. Be sure to save any leftovers for chicken salad.

Add a simple side dish — like vegetables and couscous or (as shown above) barley and vegetable pilaf — and some good crusty bread, and dinner’s on the table.

easy butter-roasted chicken with garlic

(serves 4)

4 small bone-in chicken breast halves or thighs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Splash of chicken broth (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°. Lay the chicken pieces in a shallow baking dish or rimmed baking sheet; season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the melted butter over the chicken; scatter the garlic cloves around the chicken. Roast for about 35–40 minutes, until chicken is nearly done (160° on a meat thermometer). (If you want a quick pan sauce for the chicken, add a splash of chicken broth to the pan about halfway through baking.) Drizzle honey over the chicken, return the pan to the oven and roast until the chicken is deeply golden brown, about 5–7 minutes more.

barley vegetable pilaf recipe

Barley pilaf with vegetables.

This simple pilaf is the perfect side dish for chicken done any way, or for grilled fish. You typically hear of pilaf made with rice, but I love this heartier version made with barley and studded with brightly colored vegetables.

I discovered this recipe recently in an issue of Bon Appétit magazine from 1995 that I’d pulled out of my basement library of old cooking magazines to procure another recipe. It’s so funny to read through old food magazines, to look at the photo styling and read about ingredients (like barley) that were new or fringe-y or hard to find years ago. The recipe’s headnote called barley “an ancient grain with newfound popularity”; these days, of course, you’ll find pearled barley in the bulk food section of any grocery, and its popularity is hardly newfound.

This barley pilaf recipe makes a ton (another quirk of old recipes: ginormous serving sizes!), so you’ll have plenty of leftovers. It’s great for lunch, or you could make a salad out of it by adding shredded cooked chicken. It’s also totally adaptable: I could see doing it with peas and asparagus in the springtime, or adding halved cherry tomatoes and chunks of goat cheese or Feta at the very end, and calling it a summer supper.

barley pilaf with red pepper and corn

(makes 6 generous servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 bunch green onions, sliced (include white and light green parts)
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add bell pepper and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat with oil; cook, stirring frequently, until it's toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the broth; bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook at a low simmer until the barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Uncover and stir in the corn; cook for 5 minutes. Add the green onions, basil and parsley and stir gently. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Favorite recipes for absolutely ridiculously cold days.

Turn on all the stove burners and fire up the oven, people. Gotta stay warm! Here’s a collection of my favorite comfort food recipes, perfect for this horrific cold snap we’re in. Cheers!

broccoli-rice bake recipe |

Broccoli and brown rice bake.

It’s cold, people! This is not news to you, of course. But the weather is making me want to stay indoors, fire up the oven and make something super comforting for dinner. Fortunately, comforting doesn’t have to equal calorie-laden. I recently revisited this favorite recipe for broccoli-rice bake that’s based on low-fat dairy and full of filling fiber and healthful vitamins. You could make this with whole-milk ricotta, yogurt and cheese, of course. But the lower-fat version doesn’t lose any flavor or richness at all. It’s just so, so good.

low-fat broccoli and brown rice bake

(serves 4)

2 cups total of any of the following: cooked wild, white or brown rice; farro or barley; orzo pasta
1 head of broccoli, tender stems and florets chopped into roughly 1/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use Jane's Crazy Mixed-up Salt)
1/2 cup part-skim or low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
2/3 cup shredded lower-fat cheese of your choice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350°; spray a 1.5-quart baking dish with nonstick spray. In a large lidded sauté pan, warm a generous tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onion and stir to coat with oil; reduce heat to medium and sauté until translucent and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add chopped broccoli stems and florets (if the pan seems to need a bit more oil, go ahead and add some), raise the heat to medium-high and stir-fry the broccoli for 2 to 3 minutes, until it just begins to brown slightly. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and quickly cover; steam the broccoli until it's just tender, about 2 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add seasoned salt (I like Jane's) and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, yogurt and egg until well-combined. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked rice or orzo, cooked vegetables and basil. Add ricotta mixture and 1/2 of the cheese, and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish; top with remaining cheese, then cover the pan with a piece of foil that you've spritzed with a little baking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 20 more minutes, until the cheese begins to brown in spots.

better than store-bought spicy roasted carrot hummus recipe |

Spicy roasted carrot hummus.

Recently, I picked up a package of carrot hummus with sriracha instead of my usual Sabra roasted red pepper hummus. (My preferred brand when I’m too lazy to make my own red pepper hummus.) It was really tasty — but what I really liked was that it was made with Greek yogurt, so it’s a bit lower in fat and calories than regular prepared hummus.

I thought: I bet I can create a recipe for lower-fat spicy carrot hummus. And I did.

This is really nice — it has all the full flavor of hummus, but the nonfat Greek yogurt lightens the blend and trims the fat. (There’s just 1 tablespoon of tahini in the recipe, plus just a drizzle of oil on the roasted carrots.) The carrots and honey add a pleasant sweetness. You can add the chili garlic sauce to taste — bump it up a bit to add more heat, or use sriracha if that’s what you have on hand. With the yogurt and chickpeas, there’s a nice protein punch in this hummus recipe.

I’ve been enjoying hummus and pita chips (I really like Kashi’s 7-grain with sea salt pita crisps) with a bowl of roasted tomato-fennel soup for lunch, or as a little snack before I hit the gym after work. If you make hummus at home, try swapping nonfat Greek yogurt for a bit of the tahini or olive oil, and see what you think!

spicy roasted carrot hummus

makes about 2 cups

Preheat oven to 375° and line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil. Slice 2 large carrots into coins; on the baking sheet, toss the carrots with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and a pinch of kosher salt. Roast until the carrots are very tender, about 35–45 minutes.

Transfer the carrots to a food processor with the metal blade. Add 1 can (drained) chickpeas, 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon tahini, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce, 1/4 teaspoon cumin and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Blend the mixture until it's very smooth, about 3–4 minutes.

Bryn at Jungle Jim Cooking School

Love pie? Hate making pie crust?

If you love pie (and seriously, who doesn’t?), then you should come to my upcoming class at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s in their Fairfield location.

I get it: Making homemade pie dough seems a little intimidating, what with all the butter and rolling and fancy decorations. This class is for those of you who’d rather not fuss with traditional pie dough.

I’ll be demonstrating three work-around ways with pastry — using purchased puff pastry dough, a no-roll pie crust and a super-easy free-form tart (no fuss required). Puff pastry croutons? Who knew!

On the Menu

  • Roasted Fennel with Proscuitto and Asiago Tartlets — impressive & easy to make
  • Romaine Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Puff Pastry Croutons and Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing — leftover puff pastry makes unexpectedly delicious salad toppers
  • Zucchini-Bacon-Ricotta Pie in a No-Roll Cornmeal-Olive Oil Crust — a super-flavorful pie crust mixed right in the dish!
  • Easy Free-Form Apple Tart with a Buttery Crust — top this simple galette with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream

Plus, I’ll be sharing some fun in-the-kitchen tips to make the perfect salad, enjoy tomatoes in the dead of winter, use up those puff pastry scraps, and more. It’ll be a blast! (Plus, there’s wine.) Want to come? Scope out the class calendar at The Cooking School — and sign up to join us!

Best build-your-own party snack mix |

Rock your own homemade party snack mix.

Ah, yes. It’s Super Bowl time again. Which means I just had to share my very favorite football snack recipe: DIY homemade party snack mix.

The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility. While I love the classic “nuts ‘n’ bolts” snack mix (my mom still uses the recipe from the back of the Chex cereal box in the 1980s … lots of butter). But why not add other savory, crunchy bits to the mix? Why not cheddar fish crackers, or seasoned pretzels or Fritos?

So herewith, I give you permission to improvise your own party snack mix for the game. Love you some Corn Nuts? Throw ‘em in. Fiery Cheetos? Go for it. (Hey, it’s the Super Bowl; we can all agree to throw our usual tendencies toward healthful and local eating to the wind.) Game on!

ultimate build-your-own party snack mix

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use Jane's Crazy Mixed-up Salt)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Cayenne pepper to taste

Snacks (see notes below)
6 cups base snacks
1 1/2 cups nuts
4 cups flavored snacks

Base snacks
Unsalted: Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Cheerios, oyster crackers, plain popcorn
Salted: Bugles, Fritos, sesame sticks, salted pretzels, plain bagel chips, potato sticks

Dry-roasted peanuts, salted roasted peanuts, salted roasted mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, honey nuts, pumpkin seeds, salted roasted cashews, salted roasted almonds

Flavored snacks
Wasabi peas, mini cheese crackers, cheddar goldfish, Terra Sticks, Corn Nuts, sweet potato chips, flavored bagel chips, Bar Chips, Cheetos, Combos, cheese puffs, flavored pretzels, puffed veggie stix

Preheat oven to 225°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl, stir all the seasoning ingredients to blend; add 6 cups of base snacks and 1 1/2 cups of nuts and toss everything gently to combine thoroughly. Spread mixture on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and spread 4 cups of flavored snacks on top of the base snacks. Let everything cool, then transfer back to the large bowl and toss gently to combine.

For the version you see above, I used 5 cups Cheerios, 1 cup Fritos (broken into bite-size pieces), 1 1/2 cups dry-roasted peanuts and, for the flavored snacks, 2 cups Snyder's Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Pretzel Pieces and 2 cups Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish.