Farm Stand to Table is a monthly recipe that features the seasonal bounty of North Fork farm stands.
For me, zesty lemon, crunchy snap peas and licorice-y tarragon are the flavors of early spring. Throw them all together and you’ve got a herb-y little salad. But to add some oomph to the party, I add cheese and bread because that elevates just about any meal. Creamy homemade ricotta cheese is the perfect layer to put underneath the punchy snap pea mixture that all tops a crispy piece of hearty toast.
Good quality ricotta is shockingly easy to make. All you need is milk, heavy cream, lemon, cheesecloth and a heavy bottom pot. But the good quality part really comes from good milk. I picked up a half gallon of unpasteurized whole milk from Ty Llwyd Farm in Riverhead, which gives the ricotta a creamier and richer flavor. The $2.50 bottle deposit gives me a reason to go back for more (as if I need one).
Once you’ve got the good ingredients, all it takes is time. Bring everything to a boil, add the lemon juice and wait for it to curdle and then strain through a cheesecloth. That’s it. This recipe makes about three cups of ricotta, which is more than you’ll need for the toast. It should last for three days in the fridge. From there, we build the ultimate lunch toast.
It starts with a thick slice of good quality, crusty bread, toasted. Smear on a thick layer of ricotta. Slice the snap peas (local varieties should find their way to the North Fork starting later this month and next) on a bias into thirds and dress with lemon juice, lemon zest, tarragon leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Top the toast with peas, finish with flaky salt and eat away! The different textures from the creamy ricotta to the crispy toast and crunchy peas make a perfect early-spring party in your mouth.
- ½ gallon whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 slice country loaf bread
- 1 garlic clove
- Handful snap peas
- Juice and zest from half lemon
- 1 tsp. tarragon leaves, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make the ricotta: Bring the milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching. Add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Stir constantly for two minutes. You will see the mixture start to curdle and change texture. Strain over a cheesecloth lining a strainer set in a bowl. Let drain for 45 minutes. If the ricotta looks too dry, mix in some saved whey liquid. Taste the ricotta for seasoning if needed.
- Make the topping: Slice the snap peas into thirds on an extreme bias. Make a dressing of the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, tarragon, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Mix with the snap peas.
- Toast the bread and rub the garlic clove on one side. Spread a few spoonfuls of ricotta on the bread and top with the herby snap peas. Finish with flaky salt.