Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Battle: Ricotta

Battle: Ricotta turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. I had a hard time coming up with recipes that I wanted to try that weren't normal. And by normal I mean as a lasagna filling, or manicotti filling, or a stuffed shell filling. And when I searched my regular stomping grounds for recipes, I had a hard time finding recipes that featured ricotta. There were plenty that conatined ricotta, but in my opinion, when I do an Iron Chef Challenge, the featured ingredient needs to star. That was where the challenge lay. How to feature ricotta? Today the challenge began.

I started off the morning with a simple recipe from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer. Ricotta Hotcakes proved to be very interesting. To start with, the batter is very dense. You can't just pour a pancake and move on. You have to spread the batter on your griddle in order for it to resemble a pancake. It didn't take long for the cakes to finish cooking, and I served them up to Zander and myself with a dollop of butter and a drizzle of syrup. They surprised me. First of all, their texture was different. It was almost cheesecake like. Reminiscent of a custard actually, instead of the cakey texture of a traditional pancake. The flavor was subtle, but nice. It did taste a little "cheezy" but a sweet cheese that worked well with the syrup and butter. These hotcakes also tasted good cold, which would give them other possibilities. I would certainly make these again for a brunch occasion, and I would serve them up with a fruit topping- apples or blueberries immediately come to mind. Course #1 is a success. And Zander gobbled them up too, so that is a big bonus there.

On a roll, I looked ahead towards the lunch hour. A second recipe I found from Cooking Light seemed too simple and basic to be good. Once again, though, I was proven wrong. Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta proved to be light, but also full of flavor and quite good. It was extremely interesting boiling the cloves of garlic with the pasta to infuse the pasta with garlic essence, and I had my doubts as to whether it would work, but it worked great. I did find my zucchini to be well on their way to soup, so I ended up swapping in some asparagus, which worked wonderfully. I also added some red pepper flake to give the whole dish a bite of heat, but other than that I stayed true to the recipe. The ricotta gave the pasta a delightful flavor and texture, and I'm only sorry I made this for lunch for myself instead of for the family. I suspect they would all enjoy it as well. Course #2 is also a rousing success.

And for course #3... I'm not sure yet. I am still searching for the perfect recipe to cap off Battle: Ricotta. I am thinking about a ricotta cheesecake or a custard, but I'm not through looking yet. I want to check out my reliable "House Italians" Mario and Giada and see if they have any suggestions for this interesting cheese treatment. So until then, check out the pair of ricotta recipes in the recipe trove. You won't be disappointed.

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