Posts Tagged ricotta

Asparagus Tart

I’m a big fan of savory tarts. The broccoli cheddar tart is a winter favorite around here, and quiches filled with spices and greens crop up quite often as well. If I have a few scraps of cheese and a couple of different vegetables in the fridge, there’s a good chance they’ll be thrown together in a tart without any real recipe or planning.

All these things are delicious. Cheese, flaky crust, eggy filling; who could say no? But they aren’t exactly healthy. And that’s a shame, because there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.

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So I tried for healthier. No more all-butter crust: I went with whole wheat flour, olive oil, ricotta cheese, and loads of vegetables. It could be leaner, with low-fat ricotta and broth or low fat milk instead of cream, but I didn’t go there. Honestly I’ve never bought a low-fat cheese in my life and don’t intend to. This recipe is easy to modify. Don’t like asparagus? Try greens, mushrooms, carrot coins, squash, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)

For the crust:

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1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t white pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

3 T ice water

For the filling:

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1/2 cup ricotta cheese

4 oz goat cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup cream

1 lb asparagus

about 1/2 t salt

parmesan, to taste

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil.

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Stir with a spoon until the mixture is uniform.

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Add the water and knead until the dough forms a ball.

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Press the dough into a buttered tart pan or pie tin. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

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Boil the asparagus for 3-5 minutes while the crust is baking.

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When the crust is done, spread a layer of ricotta across the bottom of it.

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Crumble the goat cheese over the ricotta. Mix the egg and cream in a small bowl.

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Pour the egg and cream over the cheese, and top with the asparagus. Sprinkle the tart with salt.

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Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.

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Serve immediately.

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This crust is different, very crumbly and complex. I didn’t expect to like it; ordinarily I don’t even keep whole wheat flour in the apartment, because the texture annoys me. The simplicity of it with the olive oil, and the soft, rich filling offset that enough to make me go back for seconds on this one.

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Carrot Ravioli Nudi

Long ago, in a city far far away, I ate something called ravioli nudi. I made it at home a few times, declared it awesome and easy and perfect in all ways, and I moved on to doing other things with my greens. I have no loyalty to foods, you see; even my favorite recipes are things I make only a few times a year, simply because I have so many new recipes I want to test and tweak and re-test that to make a favorite weekly would seriously cut into my new recipe time.

Then I made an appointment to have my third molars removed. I picked up my antibiotics and pain killers, and read the instructions from the oral surgeon.

“Crunchy or particulate foods not recommended for 7-10 days.”

I panicked.

Carrots are my go-to health snack. The default addition to any plate that looks too sparse. The side dish that goes in my lunch box every single day. How could I quit carrots?

They’re soft when roasted, I reasoned. The tooth thieves can’t possibly object to soft cheese, I convinced myself.

So I made these ravioli nudi with carrots a few days before the surgery. And ate them all, a few days before the surgery. They were too good to save for later.

Thankfully, I couldn’t have cared less about food those first few days; pain killers give me nausea.

Turns out, after enough hydrocodone, lovely crunchy carrots don’t hurt the bloody places where teeth used to be, anyway.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main dish)

For the roasted carrots:

1 1/2 pounds carrots

2 T butter

1 T celery salt (or 2 t salt plus herbs to taste)

For the ravioli:

1 batch roasted carrots

1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg plus 1 yolk

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Set a large cast iron over medium heat and start 2 T of butter melting in it.

Peel and chop your carrots while the cast iron heats up.

Add the carrots and celery salt to the heat and roast, tossing occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. They should be tender but not mushy.

Let the carrots cool enough to not melt your food processor (is that a risk? I worry.), then add them to its bowl.

Pulse very briefly a few times until most of the carrot pieces are slightly smaller than peas. Do not worry about the pieces all being the same size. Do not puree. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.

Set aside the carrot mixture and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Combine the ricotta, egg, and yolk in a mixing bowl.

Stir them together well and add the grated Parmesan and salt.

Stir the Parmesan in, breaking up large clumps with your fingers if necessary.

Add the diced pan-roasted carrots if they are cool. If they are still hot to the touch, toss all your ingredients (carrots included) into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill and congratulate yourself on being a far more efficient cook than I am. You don’t want the carrots steaming hot when they touch the cheese and egg mixture; they could shock the egg bits and possible cause some curdling.

Mix the carrots into the cheese.

Form into about 30-36* spheres of about 1-1 1/2 T of mixture apiece. I made eighteen enormous 3T spheres, and had to cut them with a fork. These should be bite sized little morsels, though, not cheesy behemoths*.

Bake the ravioli at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

Serve with a light drizzle of espresso vinegar. Do not even get me started on the subject of this vinegar. It is not-quite-sweet and not-quite-savory and I want to drink it with a straw, but I bought it as a gift for Mr. Blackbird, who only seems to want to use it on “special occasions”, whatever that means, and I think it would be rude of me to use more than he does. Is there a statute of limitations on gifts, where they stop being presents and just become household items anyone can use? How long is it? If it’s more than about 3 months, I need to learn to make this stuff from scratch. It’s too good.

As for the ravioli? Well, there’s a saying about peas and carrots.

It’s not wrong.

These are, if anything, better than the spinach version. My next plan is to make a half batch of each and eat them together, maybe with a red beet version as well for the most colorful plate of pasta-less pasta known to man.

*Cheesy Behemoths would be a great name for a band. I’m not planning to start a band. You’re welcome.

 

 

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Ravioli Nudi

I’m slowly cooking my way through all the delightful things we ate in Atlanta. I won’t lie; I ordered these for the name. (Okay, for the name and because there are rarely more than three items on an Italian restaurant’s menu that are tomato free.) Naked ravioli. Ravioli without, well, the ravioli. Without the pasta. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s actually bloody brilliant.

We had these at Sotto Sotto in Atlanta, and despite a late (3PM) lunch at Flip Burger and a fairly hearty appetizer, when a plateful of about 30 of these appeared in front of me I ate them all. Slowly. Complaining of the pain in my stomach from eating so much. Then I got a bowl of chocolate soup for dessert. That is how good the food in Atlanta was.

I really need a lighting solution for late-night dinners.

The basic idea seemed pretty simple–just ricotta and spinach, well salted, rolled into balls and baked. It took a bit of experimenting to make the cheesy spinach balls not fall apart, and a bit more to bake them just right so that the center is meltingly hot before the outside burns. Once you’ve found the technique, though, these are unforgivably easy to make.  Honestly, I can’t forgive myself these last 26 years of not eating these things. It’s shameful.

Ingredients (serves 4. We had half a batch for dinner and reheated leftovers a few days later for lunch.)

1 pound spinach*

1 1/4 cups ricotta

1 egg plus 1 yolk

1 cup grated Parmesan, divided use

Kosher salt, to taste

3 T butter

basil, for garnish

*Okay, for attempt number three, which otherwise is perfect, we had to use frozen spinach because the grocery store had exactly one bunch of yellow, wilted baby spinach in all of the land of produce. As soon as I opened the frozen bag, I was suspicious because the contents smelled distinctly sweet. Nevertheless, I pressed on. The end result tasted sweet. I don’t know what was up with the sweet spinach, but the flavor of fresh spinach in the other batches was far better.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the ricotta, egg, and yolk in a mixing bowl.

Mix well and add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and kosher salt to taste.

If you’re using frozen spinach, don’t do this. Thaw it, rinse it, and press all the water out first. A potato ricer, I discovered, is perfect for the pressing part.

Not shown: The part where I pick all the frozen spinach out so I can thaw, wash, and dry it.

 

Mix the spinach into the ricotta mixture.

Form the mixture into balls. This recipe yielded 25 spheres.

Bake the ravioli nudi at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

While they’re baking, melt about 3 T of butter in a small saucepan.

Remove the butter from heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.

The cheese should melt if you leave it alone for a minute. Don’t try to stir it; that can make it clump up out of sheer rebelliousness.

This is just a nice Parmesan-butter here. Enjoy it.

Plop 6-8 ravioli on a plate and pour a bit of your magical butter over it. Add a hunk of bread, and enjoy.

The texture is surprisingly solid, yet it still tastes like it ought to be a ravioli filling. It’s almost too easy to make, yet could easily impress as a fancier dish for a dinner party. In other words, these little cheese balls may be among the world’s most perfect dishes. You should try them. They’re fantastic.

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