I think I have expressed my love for cheese and bread, but just in case there is any doubt this recipe should confirm my passion...specially for the cheese portion. One small confession before I go on- I don't eat a lot of meat, no particular reason, not a vegetarian- just can live without it I guess. As a result, my meals aren't really meals in a traditional sort of way, I am completely satisfied eating cheese, olives, and bread. Specially when cooking for only myself which happens more often than not these days, as Jack is perfectly happy eating mac and cheese with a stray vegetable here and there. I bought a container of organic whole-milk ricotta cheese to make ravioli, but for some reason I just haven't been in the mood to make work intensive food lately which led me to the baked ricotta. Last time I was in New York I had baked ricotta as part of an antipasto plate and I fell in love, but when I made it at home it just wasn't the same; that is, until today- it was actually better.
The first time I made the dish, I did not add enough eggs, nor did I whip them so it was a little flat and dense. As a result of that I understood I needed to make more of a souffle out of it. Second time's a charm- it was absolutely yummy, (and I say this from experience- I ate the whole thing and made quite a piglet of myself). I can already tell this is the first of many variations on this little dish- the possibilities are endless. Most any herb would complement the ricotta quite well, next time I might try sun-dried tomatoes with rosemary and possibly add non-pareil capers. As for the olives, I usually buy different varieties and mix them all together. Whole Foods has been a great source for olives since they have a wide variety in their olive bar. My current favorites are Sicilian spiced olives, which are most of what I used this time, they are just a little spicy and quite flavorful. The recipe makes 2 small 8 0z. ricotta cakes, if I was assembling an appetizer for more than four people, I would double the recipe. I don't really care for low-fat or fat-free versions of cheeses (I would rather just eat less if I was so concerned with fat content), but this is one case where low fat ricotta would work.
1 cup whole milk ricotta
2 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
grated zest of one small lemon
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
1 cup mixed olives (jalapeno stuffed, Spiced Sicilian, almond stuffed, green and black Cerignolas, and oil cured olives)
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease 2- 8oz. oven proof ramekins
1. Whip 2 egg whites to soft peaks and set aside.
2. Combine ricotta,parmesan cheese, lemon zest, 2 egg yolks, thyme, salt and pepper until blended. Add about one third of the whipped egg whites and fold gently. Add remaining whipped egg whites and fold until just incorporated.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the buttered ramekins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a little puffy. (they will deflate a bit as they cool). Baked ricotta is best eaten warm or at room temperature.
4. Combine all the marinated olive ingredients and serve alongside the cheese with sliced French baguette.