This is a great first course or even a meatless entree, and both parts can be easily pre-made and stored in the fridge, and then plated in seconds.
First Part: Beets.
To roast your beets, preheat your oven to 450. Trim off the greens and tops (reserve for other uses-- like sauteing or juicing) and scrub the skins with a designated veggie sponge or brush. Tear off as many squares of aluminum foil as you have beets (each square big enough to wrap the beet.) Place each beet on its aluminum foil sheet, and drizzle with oil and a crack of salt and pepper. Wrap the beets, place on a baking pan, and roast until fork-tender (about 45-1hr depending on the size.)
Once they're cool enough to handle, unwrap the beets and scrape off the skin. Store as is, or cut up however you'd like, sealed tightly for up to a week in the fridge.
Part Two: Ricotta.
First, you have to start with good milk. Our Guernsey Whole Milk is perfect for this, but Snowville would work great, too. You'll need:
- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1/4 tsp salt
Use a large, heavy bottomed pan, like an enameled cast-iron pot. Before you even turn on the heat, take 1 big ice cube, and let it melt in the pan and leave the water in there. This cools the bottom and prevents milk from scorching it. Next add in the milk and the lemon juice, and stir once or twice to combine, but don't touch the bottom of the pan with the spoon. Turn the heat to low, and use a thermometer (cheese thermometer or candy thermometer would work fine), and heat it slowly till it reaches 175 degrees (45-60min.) Stir occasionally, but again make sure not to touch the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.
Once it hits 175, turn up the gas and watch the pot till it gets to 205 degrees. Don't stir it at all during this time, which might seem long but should take less than 5 minutes. The milk shouldn't reach boiling, but look like it's just about to. Turn off the heat, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Now, you're going to separate your curds and whey (the cloudy, protein-liquid that has separated from the curds.) Put a fine mesh strainer, lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, over a glass bowl or jar. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon onto the cheesecloth, and let it drain. Sprinkle your salt on the cheese curds (now Ricotta!), and store in the fridge for up to a week. The whey can be used in smoothies, to thicken up soup, or in baking recipes instead of milk or water.
Part Three: Making the salad.
Cut up your beets into the desired shape-- quartered like a pear looks really nice. Put a dollop of ricotta in the center of the plate, and add the beets to the top and around the side of the cheese. Use a little finishing oil, some salt and pepper, and that's it! You can add some nuts, citrus fruit, baby greens or anything else you have a taste for, but these simple, fresh ingredients taste great on their own.