Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fresh Ricotta with Roasted Red Pepper Hearts Crostini

Greetings from wintery Pierre, South Dakota. Last week I had no idea I would be here. Like I was saying, this weekend on Valentine's Day, my sister Laurie is marrying her high school sweetheart in sunny California. Our sunglasses and bathing suits were packed and our hotel reservations were made. But then on Saturday morning, a phone call changed everything.

Grandpa. It wasn't too many months ago that we'd dashed up to visit the comeback kid in the hospital. But this time, it was the right time. If he would have known he was dying, he wouldn't have let it happen. But he drifted quietly and peacefully away in his sleep, unaware that at 92, he wasn't fighting anymore. And suddenly, it seemed very important to me that my children understand who Grandpa Bud really was. They had never seen his South Dakota farm, or heard the stories of how he had settled the land. How he was a true cowboy with hundreds of cattle to prove it. How he could fiddle and call auctions. How every tree on his property was planted by him. How he never had a fight with Grandma Boots. How he drove his children to the oneroom school house with a horse and sleigh. How he injured his hand by falling down the well during a blizzard. How he was still stronger than an all of us, one-handed. How he never complained, but was quick to share a poem, a song or a joke. How his blue eyes twinkled. And how he loved them and always had a tear in the corner of his eye when we said good bye.
Suddenly it seemed like being here, in frozen South Dakota for a Valentine's Day funeral, would help them to understand all of that. Oh the contrasts! We are not sad that he is gone, but then again, we will miss him. And I'm grateful we can be here, but then again I'm sorry to miss my sister's marriage and the celebration of Valentine's Day, too. I did pack up some Valentine party supplies and surprises for the little charges. We can still celebrate on a small hotel-ish scale. The death of a loved one is always a reminder to make every minute count, especially the time spent with family.
I really did have some lovely food planned for you, dear readers. This year I was thinking of Valentine's spaghetti and meatballs, with Lady and the Tramp and Moonstruck in the background. We'll just have to slurp the noodles together when I get back.
For today, I'll share my fresh ricotta on toasted baguette with sweet little hearts made from roasted red pepper. Making fresh ricotta is plain old easy-peasy and inexpensive, too.
While in Italy, we had loads of fresh ricotta spread on bread and it's just magical when it's plain and fresh.
Money Saving Tips:
Make fresh ricotta when milk is on sale. It takes a lot of milk to make a little ricotta. I've made ricotta with whole milk, 2 percent, and a combo of milk and cream. It's all delicious, but the fattier ingredients will make it creamier.
Easy Fresh Ricotta (1/2 cup)
1 and 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer. Add lemon juice and salt. Simmer until curds form, about 1 or 2 minutes. Line a bowl with cheesecloth. Pour ricotta over cloth; drain very very briefly. Put ricotta curds in bowl. Pour a couple of tablespoons liquid back over ricotta. Refrigerate. Stir before using and adjust salt, if needed.
For the Appetizer, cut hearts out of roasted red peppers. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar around the plate. Easy!
Up Next:
X-O-X-O Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

23 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

You and your family are in my deepest thoughts and prayers - stay strong.

Cathy said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved grandfather, Erin. He sounds like he was such a special, hardworking, fun loving person. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Andrea said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing person who will be much missed. Thinking of you and your family.

Jeannette said...

Also sending you condolences and I think it's wonderful that you took the two charges to see that part of their history. Our little one's great grandma passed away in October and we made the trek up to remote Iowa to celebrate her life. We felt it was important to take our baby son back to the farm country. Grandpa sounds like he was a wonderful man - I'm sorry for your loss.

gigi said...

Oh Erin, I am so sorry about about your loss. I was just wondering a few weeks ago that we hadn't heard anything about him lately. What a great heritage and perfect example your young ones have. Praying for peace and comfort for all your family as you spend this special time together. Safe travels and many blessings.

n.o.e said...

Prudy, what a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. 92 is a lot of very full years, and I know you are grateful for the gift that he was. And it's so important to pass on a sense of our older generation to the newest one. I know it was a tough call, Prudy, but you done good.
Nancy

taffi said...

I'm sorry for your loss - your Grandpa sounds like a fantastic man. Enjoy your time with your family. :hugs:

tamilyn said...

I'm so sorry about the loss of your grandfather. While it wasn't the Valentine's day you had planned, I'm sure your children will remember it always-the good part of learning about how he lived and what kind of person he was.

noel2momof3 said...

My grandfather died last October, he'd lived in Montana all his adult life and the day we buried him it snowed. We all miss him. Thanks so much for sharing your love for your grandfather.

JJ said...

Oh, Erin! I just got so ready eyed reading that... It reminded me of my grandpa and his cattle ranch in Wyoming! I love that we both share a love of the hard work and sacrifices of our grandpa... Even though we grew up in the city! You are all in my prayers!

jenjen said...

Oh Prudy - I'm so sorry to hear about your grandpa! It sounds like he was a wonderful man!

XOXOXOX
Jen

Gloria said...

Dear Erin Im so sorry by your lost, your grandad sound so nice, is difficult lost our parents and grandparents dear, I pray by you. Life is full of contrasts Im agree. Huggs!! Gloria

1freshstart said...

Oh Erin. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. You've been on my mind a lot these days and I just couldn't put my finger on it. I hope you have a wonderful time filled with precious memories in South Dakota.

Peace to you and your babes... and everyone else your lovely grandpap touched.

~Cat

Marjie said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your grandfather, but happy that you have the wonderful memories of him, and were able to bring your children to sample those! I'm sure Laurie is sorry that her wedding caused her to miss or cut short this journey back to South Dakota. Hugs to you and yours.

Aggie said...

Oh Erin I'm so sorry for the loss of your grandpa. What great memories of him to share with your little ones. It sounds like he lived a full and blessed life.

Michal said...

erin, i'm so sorry. i'm glad that you and your kids are going to be there for the funeral. my grandfather died on christmas even when i was a girl, and we packed up the car and left for idaho first thing christmas morning.

it is so important that our kids learn about the legacy of those who have gone before. and it will mean so much more to them if they get to see grandpa's place.

love you.

Amber said...

My husband's family is from Huron, so I know all about "Pier" SD. Those SD ranchers are a salt-of-the-earth bunch aren't they? Make memories while you're there, and I'm sure your sister will forgive you. Thanks for all the great recipes. You're the best!

Maria said...

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. What a great tribute.

Debbie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my beloved grandpa when I was 15 and how I wish I had the insight then that I do now. I would have asked a million questions about his life. He had a huge influence on me so I know what you are feeling.

Patsyk said...

Prudy - I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I'll be thinking of you and your family.

Dr. J said...

what a lovely tribute to your grandfather--thank you for sharing a slice of his life with us. my thought are with you and your family:)

Adrienne said...

I wish I could have come up with my husband. It would have been good to see you all again. Now that he's gone, the chances of getting out to SD are slim.

Matt's Kitchen said...

Losing family members for me always feels as if the past is in danger of being lost. Your decision to show your children that part of your past is so important in keeping it alive.

Present day things like crostini with roasted red pepper hearts will be among the memories that your children treasure about you!