Prep time: 30 minutes
for the homemade ricotta:
1 pint heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
1 pinch kosher salt
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 stalk anise hyssop, finely chopped
Special equipment for the ricotta:
for the marinated Japanese eggplant:
3-4 large pieces Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 large purple long beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 tablespoons blended oil (70% canola; 30% extra-virgin olive oil)
6 tablespoons black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar)
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, roughly chopped into large pieces
2 pieces multi-color heirlooms carrots, sliced into rounds
1 stalk anise hyssop
1. First, make the ricotta. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the milk, cream, and salt together. Stir constantly to ensure the liquid doesn't burn on the bottom, and bring the mixture to 190° F degrees.
2. Stir the lemon juice into the mixture and remove from heat. Curds will start to form in the mixture almost immediately. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes.
3. Set up a double layer of cheesecloth or a thin, clean towel over a strainer. Carefully ladle the ricotta over the cheesecloth. Reserve the strained liquid to help control the consistency of the finished cheese later.
4. Taste the ricotta and season with more salt and lemon juice as needed. If ricotta is too thick, add a few tablespoons of the reserved strained liquid to thin it out.
5. When cool, fold in the chopped anise hyssop and refrigerate overnight to allow all flavors to meld.
6. Next, make the eggplant. Sprinkle the eggplant slices evenly with 1 teaspoon of the salt and set aside for about 30 minutes.
7. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the long beans and cook until brightly colored and just slightly tender, about 1 minute. Set beans aside and roughly chop when cool.
8. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat the tablespoon of olive oil and add the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is caramelized, 6-8 minutes. Set eggplant aside.
9. Mix the blended oil and black vinegar together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, lemongrass, long beans, carrots and eggplant. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld.
10. Pick the blossoms off the hyssop and roughly chop a few leaves. Strain the marinated eggplant mix and reserve the vegetables. Discard the lemongrass. Mix the marinated vegetables and the hyssop.
11. To serve, arrange a few tablespoons of homemade ricotta on a plate and top with marinated eggplant.