Tag Archives: ricotta

Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta and Zucchini

There’s not much better on a Friday evening than mouth-watering, delectable dinner that’s put together with ingredients you happen to have on hand.  Having discovered some time ago goat brie at Trader Joe’s, I thought maybe I would incorporate it into some sort of puff pastry tart for dinner.  Looks like any brie but this one has a strong, goaty flavor that’s positively sublime, and, yes, now I am an addict.  If you’re not able to locate it, the combination of a small wheel of brie chopped and mixed a small amount of chevre, goat cheese, will also work quite well.   I wanted a creamy backdrop to support the brie and  one small container of ricotta was the perfect foil, rich and spreadable but not as gooey as mozzarella.  An egg to bind, some fresh basil,  zucchini ribbons, a quick drizzle of a fragrant, green olive oil and I had one gorgeous, undemanding dinner.  The only fly in the ointment was neither of my boys had gotten home yet.  Jimmy was speaking at some conference and James catching up with a co-worker he had worked with on a gubernatorial campaign.  All fine and well but, hey, dinner’s ready!  I chased away the feeling of discouragement by serving myself the prettiest part of the tart.  Cut into quarters, my portion had the most browned, runny, chewy bits of cheese.  Not exactly first prize but I’ll take second prize any day.  I had prepared a splendid salad of leaf lettuce dressed lightly with creme fraiche; the requisite glass of Malbec had been poured.  Each bite was a song of flavors. The buttery puff pastry gave a satisfying crunch as did the barely cooked zucchini.  But the goat cheese was the star of that musical.  Not too sharp and  creamy-dreamy, the brie made its presence known in every bite.  Happy Friday night to me!

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Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta, Basil and Zucchini

This tart may be made with fresh baby spinach or fresh basil leaves.  If you have a handful of some strong, flavorful cheese and you want to get rid of it, it’s most welcome in this dish.  I’ve  used the odd bits of Gruyere and even used the last quarter cup of bagged, shredded Publix brand 4-cheese Italian .  One cup of marinated artichoke hearts roughly chopped is lovely, too.

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, I use Pepperidge Farm, keep chilled until assembling tart
  • 1 wheel goat brie 4.4 ounces, or cow’s brie with 3 or 4 ounces of chevre added
  • 1 15-ounce ricotta, fat-free is great…that’s all I use in this tart
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12-15 zucchini ribbons made with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
  • fresh spinach, washed and dried, as much as you like to scatter on top, optional
  • fresh basil, cut into strips, optional
  • 1 cup marinated artichokes, drained well and roughly chopped, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to drizzle when serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. In a medium size bowl place a paper towel.  Gently dump the ricotta cheese on the paper towel, bring the corners of the towel around the cheese and softly press all excess liquid away.  Turn cheese back into the bowl and discard towel.
  3. Roughly cut the brie into 1/2 chunks and add to ricotta.
  4. Add the egg to the cheeses.
  5. If using spinach, basil or artichokes add to cheese/egg mixture and mix well.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Cover baking sheet with tin foil.
  8. Open puff pastry on floured  surface.
  9. With a rolling-pin, use a cold wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling-pin, quickly roll puff pastry out to a 12″X15″ rectangle.  Don’t fret.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want to keep the dough cold so move fast.
  10. Using your finger or a small brush and a little water paint a 1/4″ rim around the entire rectangle.
  11. Fold 1/4″ of dough from the edge each of the four sides of the rectangle onto the wet area to make a collar or dam, if you will, to keep in the cheese mixture.  Press the dough firmly to adhere to the water painted dough.
  12. Cover the puff pastry evenly with the cheese mixture just up to the folded edge and  smooth the top.
  13. Arrange the zucchini on top of the cheese, flat and on its side to resemble a lovely jumble of green ribbon.
  14. Bake 45-60 minutes until corners are browned and top is slightly browned.
  15. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

 

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Homemade Ricotta for an Easy Saturday

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Saturday was boiling hot.  The “Real Feel” temperature when I left to work out was 108°.  It was not a day for baking or watching over bubbling pots on the stove.  No, something cool and pretty for dinner was in order and while dinner was being assembled one hand needed to be occupied with a cold summer cocktail.  I didn’t want anything processed…y’all know that ain’t me, babe.  I wanted something cool and easy but substantial and rich in flavor.  I had almost all the ingredients on hand and most were already prepared.  Lemons, shelled pistachios, fresh thyme, garlic and whole grain bread are always to be found in my kitchen.  There’s about a 95% chance you’ll almost always find fig preserves in my refrigerator. The only thing I had to prepare was the ricotta.  For lasagne I’ll buy store-bought but for a dish more delicate I make my own.  I want the ricotta to sing with freshness AND it’s easier than getting in the car and driving to and from the store.  Here’s my summer secret.  It’s made in the microwave.  Isn’t that great?  No hot kitchen.  I’m going to post the recipe for homemade ricotta below but before I do let me tell you how I served it.  Lightly toast your bread and let it cool to room temperature.  Run a peeled clove of fresh garlic over the top side of each piece.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over each, slather each slice with a thick coating of ricotta and cut into serving sized hunks.  This is where they became different. On some I lightly pressed in shelled, salted, roughly chopped pistachios.  Over that I sprinkled fresh thyme leaves and a bit of fresh lemon zest.  Oh, man.  They were divine.  On the others, over the ricotta,  I spread a layer of caramelized onions, (I try to always have a jar in the refrigerator),  a generous dollop of store-bought fig preserves and a light scattering of lemon zest.  These were served on a large tray with juicy slices of peaches each wrapped with a pretty ribbon of domestic prosciutto.  Oh my gosh, the sweet and salty of it all.  It doesn’t get much easier.  It’s a meal that’s light but satisfying and pleasing to the eye.  If you make your ricotta on Thursday or Friday you’re really ahead of the game.  So go ahead, pour that second drink and get back in the pool.  It’s hot!

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • Servings: 2 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half (heavy cream is fine, it’s your choice)
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (I like vinegar over lemon juice because the ph of all lemons is different.  Vinegar is more stable.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Place all the ingredients in a glass or non-reactive bowl in the microwave.
  2. Heat on high in 5 minute increments.  Do not stir.  Keep your eye on the milk to avoid boil-overs.
  3. Line a large plastic or non-reactive colander with several layers of cheesecloth, (buy it at any grocery store), and place the colander in the sink where it can drain.
  4. When the white curds have separated from the whey carefully remove the bowl from the microwave.  The whey is the watery stuff on the bottom and the ricotta is the thick, white layer on top.
  5.  Gently spoon the curds into the colander and when the bowl is cooler to handle continue by pouring all the remaining cheese and whey into the colander.
  6. The longer it sits and drains the thicker the cheese will be.  Done!

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