Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ricotta and Raspberry Compote

This is a delicious use of one of my favorite ingredients ever. I am referring of course to the fresh, creamy yet textured dairy delicacy that is ricotta cheese. Here it is undeniably the star: sweetened very conservatively and topped only by the simplest of berry compotes to add a little bright piquancy to the overall effect. As with most things in life, what you put into this dish is what you will inevitably get out of it, in terms of ingredients. Use the freshest ricotta available. In this recipe, I cut the ricotta with a few tablespoons of nonfat Greek yogurt, both for a smoother texture (the ricotta I got was particularly crumbly) and a lighter nutritional value overall. A quick warning to those chefs out there (like *ahem* myself) who may not feel that this recipe will not wow dinner guests: do not mistake the simplicity of this dish for its being boring. On the contrary, when it is served up in some fancy stemware it packs a visual and gastronomic punch equal to that of any other labor-intensive dessert. In this case, restraint equals elegance. It is, quite simply, a ricotta revelation.

Ricotta and Raspberry Compote
NB: I happened to use raspberries because they were both local and fresh, but any red berry will do. Simply adjust the amount of sugar and lemon juice according to the sweetness of the berries. I can’t wait to try this dessert in the height of summer with black cherries! Also, in the compote, I should have added a bit of rose or orange blossom water right before serving, but alas, didn’t have any on hand. I think it would make a great addition, so I’ve included it here.

2 cups fresh ricotta
½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar

For the compote:
2 cups fresh raspberries
½ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. orange blossom water

Combine the ricotta, yogurt and 4 Tbsp sugar in a large bowl, mixing well. Set aside. To make the compote, combine all ingredients except orange blossom water in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally and allow to come to a small boil, about 15 minutes, taking care that the sugar doesn’t burn or stick to the sides or bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly—it should be warm but not hot. Divide the ricotta mixture among four serving dishes (you can get fancy here if you want) and spoon over a few tablespoons of the compote. Serve immediately.

Serves four.