It's a personal thing, but I'm a huge fan of high-quality, fresh ricotta. Similarly, I'm also of the belief that fresh ricotta shouldn't be messed with, since it's such a true embodiment of the best flavors in great milk.
And again, it's a personal thing, but smoked cheese isn't my bag.
So I was seriously surprised-- and then some-- when I discovered the most tasty thing I've had in awhile: smoked ricotta. And made in Brooklyn, no less.
It's no surprise, really, when you consider the maker of the cheese. Salvatore makes the best ricotta ever. Truly. So if anyone could smoke ricotta successfully, it would be them. Until recently, I'd only had their plain variety. Their ricotta is thicker and a bit drier than others that border on fluffy, with wet, heavy curds-- which are great, too, just of a different style. Salvatore's is more cheese-like, which gives it an even greater sense of creaminess, with such pleasantly dense texture.
Betsy Devine, the current cheesemaker at Salvatore, uses milk from Hudson Valley Fresh, a non-profit collective of upstate farmers. This smokey version is cold smoked over cherrywood, and is a guaranteed unique find. It's more aromatic than anything, with only a subtle hit of smokey sweetness on the palate. Use it as you would any great fresh ricotta, even in sweet applications.
To enjoy it in all its glory, keep it simple: sprinkle a mound with some flakey salt and great olive oil and serve with bread. There's no better way to become a believer.
Salvatore smoked and plain ricotta is available at Saxelby Cheesemongers for $14/lb and several other New York area retail locations. Check out their website for more information on where you can find some.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: The Rooster Group)