Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baked Ricotta

April 2011 008

I’m tall – a blessing when you need something from a high shelf, but not so much on airplanes or in the backseats of most cars.  But on a recent trip to California, heading back to my friend Jeannette’s house in Santa Barbara from the Malibu Getty, I was happy to cede the front seat to her and my buddy Jan. Why? Because my head was buried in a book called “A Handful of Herbs” that Jeannette had purchased at the museum shop. I was mesmerized by the photos, recipes and decorating ideas using fresh and dried herbs. 

This is one of the recipes from the book and I’ve already made it on three different occasions, including Easter, where it appeared as one of the appetizers. I used fresh bay leaves from a plant I’ve nurtured indoors all winter, but fresh bay leaves may be hard to find for most people here on the East coast.

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When we lived in Italy, fresh bay leaves were plentiful, and you’d find them growing as hedges in many public places. I always knew where to snip a few leaves when I needed them for a recipe. I won’t ever have a bay leaf hedge in New Jersey, but I’m hoping that in trimming my small plant, two new side branches will emerge sometime soon.

I couldn’t bear to cut any more of my fledgling bay leaf plant, so the third time I tried it with chives. I can envision it with sage leaves too,which are easy enough to come by in New Jersey.  April 2011 158 

I deviated from the recipe slightly, placing the leaves in a decorative fashion, rather than crushing the leaves and tucking them under the ricotta. The recipe also calls for serving the cheese in the bowl as the book illustrates, rather than flipping it over as I did.

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Making the basil oil that gets drizzled on top is the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but even that doesn’t take very long.

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Then bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. You can serve it as is, or take it a step further and flip it onto a plate as I did. But don’t try to do it hot out of the oven or you’ll have a mess on your hands. Wait until it’s cooled a little, then place a plate over the bowl and flip. It’s best served at room temperature or slightly warmed.

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Sprinkle some more basil oil on top, along with bits of red pepper for color, and serve with crackers or slices of bread.

April 2011 010

Hope you all had a Happy Easter, if that’s what you celebrate. As I write this, I’m looking out my window at pale pink crabapple blossoms, cascading in the wind like a scene from Disney, all the while wafting their sweet fragrance into my home. The harsh winter gives way to the beauty of Spring and to a renewal, an object lesson in so many ways.  

April 2011 203

Baked Ricotta

Printable Recipe Here

Based on a recipe from “A Handful of Herbs” by Barbara Segall, Louise Pickford and Rose Hammick

  • 1 pound (500 g) ricotta cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 red chile, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 t. lightly crushed coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 fresh bay leaves, lightly crushed
  • 1 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • basil oil

Put the ricotta in a foil-lined baking dish. Put the garlic, chile, coriander seeds and oil in a bowl and stir. Trickle the oil mixture over the cheese and tuck the bay leaves underneath.

Sprinkle parmesan, salt and pepper over the ricotta and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, basting halfway through the cooking time.

Serve the ricotta spread onto toasted bread sprinkled with basic oil or salsa verde. Serve topped with a little grated parmesan.

Note: I found the foil was unnecessary. I laid out the bay leaves, put only half the ricotta in the dish, then sprinkled with a bit of parmesan, and drizzled with the oil, garlic and spices. Then I spread on the remainder of the ricotta and a bit more parmesan, followed by a last trickle of the oil mixture.

Basil Oil

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil

Put the olive oil and basil in the blender and give it a whir – not to pulverize but just to break up the leaves a bit. Place the mixture in a saucepan and cook for several minutes. Let it sit for a bit – maybe 15 minutes or a half hour – to absorb all the flavors, then strain and use the oil, discarding the solids.

29 comments:

Claudia said...

You know I'm going to do this, Cheese never looked so beautiful and welcoming. It's spring cheese! While I never will have a hedge of bay leaves, I take solace that herb season is almost upon us and I will ne snipping leaves from my patio in a few short weeks. I love how you are carefully tending your bay leaf branch. It will reward you.

The Food Hunter said...

I have a huge bay leaf bush growing in the back yard....I can't wait to try this.

Mister Meatball said...

Very nice. One of the best comfort foods I can think of.

Did you make the ricotta, or buy it?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That is interesting! I really have to try making baked ricotta this summer.

Cheers,

Rosa

Peter M said...

A gorgeous baked ricotta...pie? I keep a small bay plant indoors and the fresh leaves are wonderful to cook with.

Stacey Snacks said...

This is beautiful.
I have fresh ricotta, and I will try this. I will find the fresh bay.

Mike said...

Linda, this looks great and I'm going to try it. Do you know if all bay leaves are usable for cooking? We have a huge stand of bay trees along our back fence. Looks like about 10 of them about 20-25 feet high. I've often wondered if I can just walk out there and pick some for recipes.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Mister Meatball - No, I didn't make the ricotta, but one of these days I want to give it a try.
Mike - I'm not an expert, but I'd say all bays leaves are edible. Check out this website for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_leaf

Proud Italian Cook said...

This is a thing of beauty Linda, I love how the herbs enhance it, I can't find fresh bay here but I will be happy to substitute fresh basil, I might even bring this to by Bunco girls this Thursday!

Tania said...

CiaoLinda, spero che tu abbia trascorso dei bei giorni di festa! Con ritardo, tanti auguri!

Gracie said...

Buona.....I have to try this because I just love "ricotta al forno", and this is the perfect match to it, thanks for the recipe.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Baked ricotta? Why have I never heard of this before? I resent all of those years I haven't heard of this! Sorry you don't have fresh bay leaves (I never thought of growing them myself, but you have the gears in my head turning. I have yet to plant this year's herb garden) but I LOVE LOVE LOVE basil, so really this looks very delicious and beautiful.

Faith said...

This looks wonderful, Linda, can't wait to try it! I do often find fresh bay leaves in the produce section where they have packets of herbs. I check them carefully, to get the freshest possible ones. Since I don't go through them that fast, however, I often freeze or dry some of them. Even with that, they seem more fragrant than the ones already dried on the spice shelves. (And yes, enough of that harsh, cruel winter!)

Barbara said...

That looks so beautiful, Linda. What a treat. Now I will be on a hunt for a fresh bay leaf plant! Glad to hear you had a nice Easter. :)

FOODalogue said...

This is a new one on me and I love it. Great appetizer that lends itself to other herbs and seasonings as well.

Daniela said...

Ho una bellissima pianta di allro nel mio piccolo giardino, la tua ricetta mi ispira moltissimo e la voglio provare. Ciao Daniela.

Marysol said...

The title alone made my mouth water!
Surely, I must've been a mouse in a past life.

Chiara said...

bellissima ricetta, la segno subito, grazie! un abbraccio...

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a wonderful appetizer! I don't have fresh bay leaves but i do have fresh chives. This looks like a wonderful book!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

To be blunt, I suck in the appetizer department. Seriously, I can't think outside the box! I live this recipe! It's artful, and I can envision enjoying this al fresco in the coming summer months! Bookmarked!
PS: I gotta investigate this book a bit more. I have an herb garden and I love being able to cut and snip a variety of herbs for the kitchen.

Frank said...

Wow, this is on my 'must try' list! Beautiful flavors, gorgeous presentation. Fortunately, I can get fresh bay leaves at my local Whole Foods. Now, back in Rome we had a whole bay hedge that ran down one side of our property... sigh!

Grace said...

I wish I had seen this before my family's Easter celebration. My mother would have loved to bring something like this for an appetizer.(And I would have loved to eat, if I had gone). It sounds so simple, and yet so delicious. I'm all for any sort of cheese dish.

Maybe one of these days when I'm feeling adventurous I'll make some ricotta cheese to use in this dish. I've been itching to try that...

lisetta said...

What a great idea; this looks delicious. I've seen fresh bay leaves in Wegmans, in a little envelope of sorts near the fresh herbs.

YankeeSoaper said...

This is a gorgeous dish and I just made some ricotta. I can't wait to try this Linda!

emiglia said...

Wow... this is gorgeous! What a great appetizer idea...

I Sicilian said...

I make ricotta often and sometimes a also bake some of it. I like your version and the presentation, it will be on my mind next time I make ricotta.

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

This looks gorgeous! I bet it is as delcious also!

Roz from 'la bella vita' said...

What an incredible recipe for using ricotta! Love the herbs that you used! And your last photo of your flowering tree is lovely!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

I LOVE this recipe!! the only thing is that I would meke it and then hide in the kitchen to eat it ALONE!!!
Thanks!