Make Your Own Fresh Ricotta. It’s So Easy!

Make Your Own Fresh Ricotta. It’s So Easy!

I chose ricotta as the first recipe to make into a cooking video for 2 reasons: One, I needed something incredibly fast and easy and Two, I think people deserve to know that ricotta is just one of those things you’re better off making yourself.

I turned to a film student to make’s first official cooking video, and may ask her to follow up with ricotta ice cream w/fruit syrup and baked ravioli recipes.

My video(s) should be ready soon, but in the meantime, let me tell you how fun it was to make this basic cheese ingredient. I tried it myself at home with a friend.

We poured a half gallon of milk into a stock pot and chatted about our summers as it came to a boil. I stirred it. Then as it began to bubble, I added the buttermilk.

We stirred, then waited for 5 minutes. By then, delicious and recognizable ricotta cheese curds had formed. We took them to the sink and strained them into a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Our ricotta now “in the bag” (ha, ha!!), we held it over a cup and collected the last few drips and then transferred it to a bowl.

It was so beautiful! A perfect little blob of delicious cheese. Spoons ready, we tried it and thought that with a grate of lemon zest and chopped herbs, we could eat it right now with crudité or crackers.

But into the fridge it went, where we planned to let it set up to five hours. When it comes out, we had basil, chives and parsley waiting to fold in.

I am told the same kind of scene transpired in the Berman’s kitchen, where their prospective NYU film school student filmed a story about a whole lotta ricotta. She has sweet ingredients for a dessert-y ricotta that she will be tinkering with this week, AND a copy of my book, CANVAS & CUISINE. She and her family loved the artwork in that book, and promised to make something from its pages soon…

Anyway, I would like to officially welcome The Bermans to my culinary Adventureland and thank them for offering their home as stage set, and working with my food blog editor, Jen Russon to produce fresh homemade ricotta.

Here’s the recipe. Video out ASAP. Ciao!

Fresh Homemade Ricotta

15 minute cuisine, plus up to 5 hours to set

Yields 4 to 5 cups

1 gallon whole milk

4 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon very fine sea salt

In a large stock pot, add the milk and heat to a boil. Stir continuously, so a skin doesn’t form on the milk. Add the buttermilk and salt. Stir and wait 5 minutes for cheese curds to form.

Line a colander with cheese cloth and pour the cheese into it; drain, then tie off into a bag, holding ricotta over a cup or a bowl to collect further drainage.

Place the ricotta in an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 to 5 hours. After it cools and sets, you may add any chopped fresh herbs you like, such as rosemary, chives, basil or parsley. The ricotta may also be enhanced with sweet flavors.

The possibilities are as scrumptious as they are endless!



Fried Pickles and Comeback Sauce: Your How to Guide

Fried Pickles and Comeback Sauce: Your How to Guide

When you are hankerin’ for some Southern barbecue, are you really craving that super-sauced shredded pork sandwich, or all the fixin’s that go alongside?  Which comes first, the bite of sandwich or chunk of fried potato? For me, it’s all about the starters, and nothing gets me started like a big old basket of fried pickles with a bowlful of spicy comeback sauce, which gets its name from Jackson, Mississippi, where it was created.

There are a bunch of ways to create the batter for the pickles. I like the combination of seasoned flour and buttermilk for a tangy topping. You can use any pickles and fry them whole or cut them into slices. I like to cut whole pickles into diagonal slices giving a two-bite serving. You can use dill pickles or sweet pickles or sweet and spicy pickles. I like good old-fashioned dill pickles right from the jar. You can fry them in vegetable oil or peanut oil. I have vegetable in my pantry, so that’s the way I roll. For the sauce, you can choose your favorite combo, but I like comeback sauce which is similar (although simpler) to remoulade sauce.

Whichever way you fry your pickle, you and your pals are sure to enjoy the results!


Fried Pickles

With Comeback Sauce

serves a crowd

30 minute cuisine

For Pickles:

1 large jar whole dill pickles, drained

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup buttermilk

Vegetable (or peanut) oil for frying

For Sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chili sauce

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Cut the pickles into ¼-inch thick diagonal slices. Place the slices onto a baking sheet lined with paper toweling. Use additional paper toweling to dry the pickles slices thoroughly. Place the pickles into the fridge while you stir together the sauce.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Place the flour, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the buttermilk. The batter will be thick.

Heat vegetable oil in a fryer or deep pan over high heat. You want enough oil to only come up ⅓ of the side of the pan. Dip one pickle slice into the batter. Shake off excess and carefully place in the hot oil. Repeat with several pickle slices. Do not overcrowd the pan. Use a slotted spoon to turn the pickles slices over once they are golden on one side, about 1 to 2 minutes total frying time per slice. Remove the slices to a baking sheet lined with paper toweling. Continue until all of the pickle slices are fried. Serve the warm pickles with the sauce for dipping.


Southern Style Charcuterie with This Cocktail Pairing…

Southern Style Charcuterie with This Cocktail Pairing…

Visitors come and go in the summer – and maybe they’re too hot and bothered for a full-on meal. For those instances, where just a pit stop is needed (not a pit BBQ!), this southern style charcuterie board comes to the rescue. I’ve arranged mine with deviled eggs, spiced crackers, pimento spread, pickled okra, millionaire’s bacon, my special cilantro shrimp recipe, and assortment of turkey and ham roll-ups. To wash it down, I toast ya’ll with a prickly pear inspired tequila drink I dreamed up, strolling through last week’s farmer’s market.

But first, here’s how to put together Jorj’s Southern Style Charcuterie Board

Turkey Roll Ups:

1 pound deli roasted turkey breast medium sliced

8 ounces goat cheese

¼ cup red pepper jelly

Ham Roll Ups:

1 pound deli ham medium sliced

8 ounces cream cheese

½ cup spicy dill pickles, drained and finely chopped

Deviled Eggs:

6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in half

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoon Dijon-Style mustard

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Millionaire’s Bacon

1 pound center cut bacon

1 cup brown sugar

Seasoned Crackers:

1 sleeve soda crackers

½ cup butter, 1 stick melted

½ packet ranch dressing

Pimento Cheese:

3 ounces cream cheese

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 1 cup

4 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese, about 1 cup

½ cup homemade or prepared mayonnaise

1 (4-ounce) jar pimentos, drained

2 to 3 green onions, sliced, about 2 tablespoons

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon paprika

Cilantro Shrimp:

1 pound cooked shrimp

⅓ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon chili powder

For Turkey Roll Ups: Combine the goat cheese and jelly. Spread about 1 tablespoon over a slice of turkey. Roll up and cut into ¼-inch slices.

For Ham Roll Ups: Combine the cream cheese and chopped pickles. Spread about 1 tablespoon over a slice of ham. Roll up and cut into ¼-inch slices.

For Deviled Eggs: Place the yolks of the eggs into a bowl. Use a fork to mash. Add the mayonnaise, mustard and dill. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Place a spoonful of the filling into each of the egg whites.

For Millionaire’s Bacon: Preheat the oven to 350°. Dredge one slice of bacon through the brown sugar coating both sides. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the bacon is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet.

For Seasoned Crackers: Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the ranch dressing and butter. Place the crackers onto a baking sheet. Brush the top side of the crackers with butter. Bake until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.

For Pimento Cheese: Combine the cream cheese, cheeses, and mayonnaise in a bowl. Stir until the mixture is creamy. Add the pimentos, onions and spices and season with some of the salt and pepper. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Cilantro Shrimp: Stir together the olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder and chili powder in a large bowl. Add the shrimp. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Stir to coat.

And now to drink!!!

Here’s The Prickled Pink Cocktail – everything you need to mix one up for a friend. Isn’t it gorgeous? I honestly can’t believe that bright fuchsia color. The flavor is more subtle than you might think, and may need a bit of sweetening up. I suggest a teaspoon of honey. For garnish and extra flavor, whole cinnamon sticks make for a nice stirrer and look good in the glass.

Just do a yourself a favor and mind the outside of this cocktail fruit as you cut into it. They don’t call it a prickly pear for nothin’! Oh, and if at all possible, ask the guys at the farmer’s market to strip the cactus fruit of its serious spears before you buy it. I did and I still got pricked, but I’m glad I added it to my Saturday haul.

Cheers, everybody! It’s gonna be a long summer….


1 shot tequila
2 tablespoons grenadine
Juice of 4 prickly pears (blended to get rid of seeds)
Twist of lime
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey

Top off with pineapple juice and mix with a cinnamon stick stirrer. Sugar around the rim optional



Easy Mexican Street Corn, Skillet Style

Easy Mexican Street Corn, Skillet Style

As any visitor to might surmise, summer and its farmer’s markets are a big deal to me. I try to visit one every Saturday – not just for ingredients to use in weekend dinners, but for recipe ideas to take me and my family through the season with full bellies and empty plates. This month, inspiration struck when I passed a vendor making Mexican street corn.

I play with corn in Canvas & Cuisine – fresh, roasted ears get slathered in a savory pesto sauce. I was reminded of those flavors when I tasted corn on a stick at the farmer’s market this weekend.  I could isolate all kinds of yummy flavors – from peppers to lime juice. There was the tang of tomato and cojita cheese, and bright notes of cilantro – and like all good things, the undeniable presence of sour cream.

Determined to go home and duplicate that taste, I hit the various veggie stands and came back with everything I needed to make Mexican Street Corn – only thing is, it rains a lot in the summer, and backyard BBQs aren’t always possible. I transformed the dish into a skillet version that went over really well as a side this Father’s Day.

A popular item, there were requests for more. I’d run out of fresh corn on the cob at that point and discovered that frozen kernels work just as well. The results were super savory and the juiciness at the bottom of the bowl so good, it got my mind on corn chowder recipes for fall – just gotta get through this beastly summer first!

So, here’s my lighting fast recipe for a bright summer side dish – you can make it in the time it takes a thunderstorm to roll past your house, and the sun to start shining again!

Mexican Street Corn Skillet Style

15 minute cuisine

Serves 4

4 cups corn kernels (shucked from fresh ears of corn or frozen)

1 large red tomato, diced

1 bunch chives, washed and chopped, about ½ cup

1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped, about ½ cup

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup cojita or feta cheese

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon sour cream

Salt and pepper

Olive oil for sautéing

In a skillet set on high heat, sauté the corn, herbs, lime juice, cheese, and cayenne in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sour cream and mix with a spatula, lowering heat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Square Pizza Recipe: It Tastes Just Like My Mama Made It!

Square Pizza Recipe: It Tastes Just Like My Mama Made It!

I crave pizza. I crave it on Friday night, because we always had family pizza night on Friday night. I crave it when I go to an Italian restaurant, drizzled with those dried chili flakes and doused in extra olive oil. I crave it the morning after… a cold slice of pizza beats a fast food cheeseburger every time….. just sayin’.

I have a pizza history. My first date with hubby was over pizza at Mario’s. His half piled high with meats, mine daintily dotted with veggies (it was my vegetarian period)! My pizza obsession has roots. For those of you that remember the days before delivery, you might remember pizza made to order and “pre-baked”. Mom would order from the local shop and then pile us into the car to pick up the pizza. The ride home took so much longer than the ride to, because we had to smell that wonderful sauce without digging into a slice. The torture went on. Mom had to preheat the oven and then bake the pizza. Perhaps that’s the reason for the craving. The promise of that pizza went on and on making that first bite…. well, just sublime!

A further step towards my addiction happened when I was a vulnerable teen. (Perhaps I mean a coming into one’s own teen.) You know the one, the teen that first gets out from under the parental thumb and high tail’s it right into a group of pals that “hangs”. Well, our hangout was this cool pizza joint called Sir Pizza in Fort Lauderdale during the heyday of Spring Break! We’d meet there for lunch (seniors had the privilege of leaving the high school campus for lunch), after school (on those days when the cafeteria offered something we liked) and on weekends before and after games. It was a lot of pizza. But this is the cool thing. Sir Pizza cut their pies into small squares instead of triangular wedges. Sheer genius!

A bunch of us could scrape together enough money for a large pizza and all still manage to have a bite. To this day, I cut my homemade pizza into smaller squares. Not so that a bunch of people can have a bite, it’s more about me having lots of pieces over a twenty-four hour time period; hot out of the oven, cold for breakfast and heated up for lunch. It is an obsession!

We’ve come a long way since that pre-baked, tortuous wait. Now, I make pizza at home in just minutes using the ingredients that I keep on hand.

This Wewalka’s classic pizza crust is an awesome prepared one that goes into my recipe – but you can use whatever brand you want : ) If you are a Publix shopper, they do a great crust. You’ll find it in the bakery section. Wewalka’s is in the Public dairy aisle.

Jorj’s Old-Fashioned Square Pizza

30 minute cuisine

Serves a crowd or one person for days on end

¼ cup olive oil, divided

1 roll prepared pizza crust

Homemade or prepared pizza sauce

1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese

Any veggie you have on hand OR for meat lover’s pizza: peperoni, sausage, bacon and meatballs, slice all into very small pieces

1 large red onion, peeled and diced

Parmesan cheese

Dried oregano

Dried chili flakes

Preheat oven to 500°.  Use a giant sheet pan and drizzle it with olive oil.  Unroll or roll your crust, stretching it out to fit the pan. Place the crust into the pan to coat with olive oil and then flip it to coat the other side. This helps to get that crispy crust on the bottom.

Spread the crust with home made or prepared pizza sauce. Top this with shredded mozzarella cheese. Top the pizza with every veggie you can find, or, if you intend to share with a meat lover, top the crust with pepperoni, cooked sausage, bacon and meatballs.

Chop all of the pizza toppings into small pieces, sprinkling the meats over the cheese and sauce. This allows you to easily cut the baked pizza into squares.

Top meats with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, thin slices of red onion, dried oregano, dried chili flakes and another drizzle of olive oil.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until those cheeses melt, and the crust is golden brown. Let the pizza rest for a couple of minutes and then cut into two-inch squares. Cravings satisfied…for a couple of days anyway!!!!!

My Recipe for Hushpuppies is Too Good for Your Dog!

My Recipe for Hushpuppies is Too Good for Your Dog!

I’ve been cooking and craving Southern food from the Carolinas. Among my favorite things are those delicious cornmeal fritters known as hushpuppies. You can find hushpuppies in every diner worth its salt – the appy is served right from the fryer, into the paper-lined basket. You see them at every church fish fry, and on every barbecue buffet. No longer just a southern thing, you can find some version of hushpuppies on fast food menus across the country and around the world.

The lore behind the name has variations of the same tale. Confederate soldiers, Southern mamas and even nuns were said to use a deep-fried concoction of cornmeal, egg and seasonings to throw to the barking dogs to quiet them down. But, if we look back through America’s early written history, we can find references to fried cornbread that predates these stories.

Southerners have been eating fried cornmeal for a long time. Early writings refer to Red Horse Bread which was famously made by a well-known South Carolina fisherman. He served fried fish with all the fixins from his shack along the river; not only to locals but to prominent gentlemen and politicians from far and wide. An early newspaper columnist wrote, that Red Horse Bread was made by “simply mixing cornmeal with water, salt, and egg, and dropped by spoonful’s in the hot lard in which fish have been fried”. As it turns out Red Horse also refers to the type of fish caught and then fried.

How Red Horse Bread evolved to hushpuppies, is still a question for historians, but one theory is that these tasty cornbread fritters are used to hush the dogs howling in your your grumbling tummy.

This is my own version of that South Carolina fisherman’s special recipe. The great thing about it, is – you don’t have to follow it precisely to get a tasty result. Be as creative as you want with add-ins and sauces. I only ask one thing…. Please don’t feed them to the dogs!

Hush Puppies

With Spicy Remoulade sauce

serves a crowd

30 minute cuisine

These fritters are rich and doubly corn-full! They are really easy to prepare and a great appy for your Southern barbecue!

For Hushpuppies:

2 cups Hushpuppy Mix (like House-Autry brand)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and chopped

¾ cup prepared chunky salsa

4 green onions finely diced

1 teaspoon creole seasoning

For Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons chili sauce

Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 to 3 tablespoons

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (like Frank’s)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 green onions, finely diced, about 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat vegetable oil in a fryer or deep pot to 350°. You need only enough oil to fill about 3 inches of your pot or pan. Stir together the hushpuppy mix, eggs, corn, salsa and creole seasoning. Allow the batter to rest for 3 to 5 minutes and then stir it again. Carefully drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. (Do this in batches, so that you don’t overcrowd the pan.) Use a wire basket to gently turn the hushpuppies in the oil so that they are golden brown on all sides, about 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir the ingredients together to make the sauce. Serve warm hushpuppies with the sauce on the side!