A few months ago I made a firm and definitive statement on this blog: I don’t like yogurt. I told you how throughout my entire life I had attempted to make my peace with this sour dairy product by mixing it with granola or fruit, but to no avail. I simply hated it.
Well, today I am here to openly recant my anti-yogurt diatribe. I’d bow my head in shame except I’m so happy about my recent conversion I can’t hide it. And it’s all because last weekend I made Food & Wine’s glorious Honeyed Yogurt and Blueberry Tart. A smooth sea of honey-enhanced yogurt nestled in an electrically spicy graham cracker crust and dotted with plump, fresh berries has finally vanquished my yogurt-related negativity.
You may be asking why I would even attempt to make Food & Wine’s tart, given my professed aversion to the contents of its cool and creamy center. Honestly, I made this dessert because the recipe looked easy. All it requires is a quick whir of graham crackers, candied ginger, salt, sugar, and one egg white in the food processor. After being shaped into a tart pan, the crust is baked for a mere 20 minutes. (Actually, next time I think I will bake the crust for a few minutes less, as it was slightly overcooked and too crisp after 20 minutes.) The whole process takes less than half an hour and the crust can even be prepared the day before you plan to serve the dessert.
After mixing a few tablespoons of honey into the yogurt, spread the mixture into the cooled baked shell and top it with the blueberries. The slightly sweetened yet still tangy yogurt is perfectly complemented by the ginger-spiced crust and fresh berries. As I cautiously tasted my first bite, for once I was not overwhelmed by the sour flavors I usually associate with yogurt. It may have been the addition of honey that made the difference, or perhaps it was the powerful crust. Whatever the reason, I can’t wait to make it again when blueberries are actually in season. Try this tart. I promise, it will change everything.
Sorry I’ve been so slow about posting this week, but I think I’m in denial that summer is over. I shouldn’t be so shocked, considering that it starts and ends the same way every year: Around the 4th of July it seems like the languid months of July and August will last forever. And then, just a few weeks later, Labor Day abruptly (and rather rudely, I might add) signals the end of beach parties and backyard barbeques.
So as I think back to how I celebrated the beginning of summer, I’m surprised at how similar it was to its farewell. On our nation’s holiday I whipped up Cook’s Illustrated’s buttery, crumbly Blueberry Buckle, while I prepared Food & Wine’s slightly less buttery Spoon Cake with Peaches for summer’s closure.
There’s no need to pit these fruity confections against each other; both admirably celebrated summer and its seasonal produce. Cook’s blueberry cake was chock-full of luscious berries from one end to the other, and the few remaining leftovers were enjoyed at breakfast the next day. Likewise, my family and I devoured the sweet, juicy peaches supporting Food & Wine’s spongy spoon cake during our Labor Day get-together.
As you can see, both desserts were winners in this head-to-head comparison. But now it’s time to say good-bye to summer and start dreaming about apples, pears, and pumpkins. Actually, now that I think about it, things could be a lot worse.
For someone who used to hate ricotta cheese, I sure am making up for lost time. A few months ago I fell in love with Cook’s Illustrated’s Ricotta Gnocchi. Then last Sunday I discovered that my new favorite way to make pancakes now includes this creamy, once-loathed dairy product.
Food & Wine’s recipe for Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries reminded me how ricotta cheese imparts an airy sweetness to a variety of dishes. These pancakes were fluffy and moist, a welcome combination of breakfast and dessert. Thinner and more delicate than regular pancakes, they weren’t the most handsome ones I’ve ever made, but they certainly made up for their sorry looks in the flavor department.
“Ricotta” means recooked in Italian. According to Steven Jenkins’s Cheese Primer, ricotta isn’t even a cheese. It’s actually a by-product of cheesemaking, as it is made from leftover whey. Interestingly, whey is not disposable. If dumped into bodies of water or sewers, it can wreak havoc by increasing the growth of algae and killing the existing fish. Who knew that cheese could be so evil?
I’m glad someone thought of an appropriate use for this wily whey. Italian ricotta uses the whey from sheep or water buffalo milk, while American ricotta uses cow’s milk, creating a very different effect from the sweeter and drier Italian ricotta. I’ve definitely noticed a difference between the packaged supermarket stuff and the fresh batches I buy around the corner at my Italian specialty store. When possible, always go with the fresh, Italian ricotta.
In fact, I think I’ll buy another container this weekend. Like I said, I have a lot of ricotta to catch up on. And more pancakes to make.