Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ricotta salata

The Italian ricotta which we've come to know and love is typically made from the whey of either sheep, cow, goat and even buffalo milk. I'm still coming to terms with life in America where it is pretty much only ever made with the whey of cow's milk. The shame being that in my opinion the sheep's variety is the more interesting of the set with a nutty, slightly sweet finish, while the cow's tends to be blander and wetter, and therefore more neutral in cooking.
In the absence of fresh Italian ricotta being readily available here, I've taken a shine to the pressed, salted and dried variety of the cheese known as ricotta salata. A milky white firm cheese best used for grating or shaving, and a fine challenger to a good Pecorino Sardo.
The main reason for this urge to get passionate about all things ricotta came from a heated discussion around the kitchen table at www.przman.com earlier, and I bestowed the virtues of this much overlooked cheese to the point where todays lunch for me was inspired by it, determined by it and had an outstanding starring roll in it. The sharp salty cheese sat happily alongside some super ripe avocado, pastrami and proper wholegrain mustard on fresh warm sourdough and lunchtime for me was totally complete.

I have just enough left for a couple of plates of salad for dinner later tonight, so here's what I'm going to do with it, and the prz team can start bidding now for an invite!

Ricotta, courgette and pea shoot salad

Serves 2

A pretty, fresh salad to celebrate the late summer. Pea shoots are worth hunting down for their delicious leafy-pea flavour. Find them in whole food shops and some greengrocers, growing in punnets. Failing that, use rocket or watercress.

1 yellow courgette
1 green courgette
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tblsp freshly grated ricotta salata
Small handful of pea shoots
1 dessertspoon of fresh peas, lightly cooked (or use frozen)
1 strip of lemon zest, cut into fine threads
A few sprigs of fresh mint

For the dressing
6 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp honey
6 mint leaves, chopped

Using a potato peeler, cut the courgettes lengthways into ribbons. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the olive oil. Mix the dressing ingredients and season with salt and black pepper.

Mingle the cheese with the courgettes, pea shoots, peas and lemon zest. Drizzle dressing over it and scatter with the mint sprigs. Serve without delay.

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  1. Pea shoots are just so fabulous aren't they, summer on a plate. Just a question, is ricotta salata suitable for heating in, for example, pasta dishes. I'm thinking butternut squash, spinach & ricotta - such a perfect marriage, on occasion.

  2. Sounds delicious. Though I'm assuming that by "courgette" you mean "zucchini" :-)

  3. Did you make that sandwich? Do you want a job??!

  4. I guess the real question is are you single?
    Oh and it looks pretty good.

  5. Yes, make it on Saturday, Yes this ricotta will blend and soften if warmed, Yes I meant COURGETTES, Yes, what's the offer? And Yes

  6. A single man who can cook - how wonderful! Next you'll be telling me you are as attractive as your fellow Englishman, Chef Ramsay - he's such a hero of mine - I'm sure you must aspire to be just like him....