The process of making fresh ricotta is so simple and the results so creamy-delicious that it's really kind of silly not to make your own. There is a big window of time for draining the cheese, and it's really up to you how long you let it sit and thicken; I like the consistency that comes around the 20-minute mark. I also like having the cheese at room temperature, and sometimes, if I want an extra bite of spice, I'll lightly rub the warm crostini with a clove of peeled garlic before I layer on the ricotta. This recipe makes for a great hors d'oeuvre, too -- just use smaller sices of baguette instead of larger slices of bread. The process of roasting the favas is, so far, my favorite way of prepping the beans. It's a great Saturday morning project while I listen to my favorite radio shows and look forward to sinking my teeth into one of my favorite spring treats. —vvvanessa
6 to 8 large crostini
fresh, whole milk
sea salt or kosher salt
distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
Roasted Fava Beans and Crostini
fresh fava beans in their long pods (to yield 1 heaping cup of cooked, shelled beans)
Extra-virgin olive oil
finely grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Firm, sturdy bread, such as whole grain sourdough loaf, baguette, or batard cut into slices about 3/4 inch thick
To make the ricotta, pour the milk into a minimum capacity 3-quart non-reactive saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until it just begins to boil, keeping a close eye so that the pot does not boil over. Cut the heat, add in the salt and vinegar or lemon juice, and stir briefly to combine and dissolve the salt. Resist the urge to keep stirring.
You should start to see a separation of solids and whey in a minute or so. Allow the mixture to sit for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, line a fine strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place the strainer over a large bowl.
Pour the ricotta solids into the strainer. Let the cheese drain for 15 to 60 minutes; the longer the draining time, the denser and thicker the cheese. Keep from poking at or pressing or otherwise touching the cheese while it drains. Transfer the cheese to a dish when the preferred consistency is reached. Discard the whey or reserve it for soup or breadmaking.
To roast the favas, preheat oven to 425º F. Rinse and pat dry the whole fava bean pods. Put them on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to lay them in single layer. Toss them with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Roast the beans for about 10 minutes, tossing them once during cooking. You don't want too much color on them -- just a slight softening of the pods' texture. The residual heat will continue to cook the beans in their pods even after they're out of the oven.
Remove the tray from the oven and allow they beans to cool until they can handled with bare hands. Remove the beans from the pods, then remove the beans from the individual shells, and set them aside in a bowl. (I find that pinching off a tiny piece of the shell at the seam and then squeezing them out works well.)
Season the beans with lemon zest and juice, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Toast or grill the bread. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of ricotta on each toast, then divide the favas evenly over the ricotta. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Serve right away.