Tag Archives: Baked ricotta

TENERUMI (and I did not have to go to SICILY to buy it). The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market

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I get very excited about fresh produce and doubly excited about new produce.
I live very close to the Queen Victoria Market and I rarely shop anywhere else, but last Sunday morning I went to The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market. The market is open every Sunday 9am – 1pm in Federation Hall, Melbourne Showgrounds.
 ricotta
I went to meet Naomi who produces butter and buttermilk in Myrtleford, The Butter Factory. She also grows vegetables, makes soap, cooks and sells her produce at Farmers Markets. She has been experimenting with making ricotta with buttermilk. She wants to experiment with making variations of ricotta found in Sicily (ricotta salata and ricotta affumicata) and because she had found photos of ricotta and of ricotta infornata on my blog, she wondered if we could meet. In spite of her ricotta being made with buttermilk, Naomi tells me that she has had a very good response, especially from the Italian community in the area. There is even a Festival called La Fiera; it is held in May each year and it celebrates Myrtleford’s strong Italian heritage. Figs  have just come into season in Victoria and I imagine that, fresh figs poached in a sweet syrup could be good with this ricotta, which has a slightly acid taste.  I look forward to visiting the Butter Factory and trying more of Naomi’s produce.
I also bought some meat (beef) from the Koallah Farm stall. This is a family owned and operated property in South West Victoria.  I had bought beef from them once before and it really is top quality and has hardly any fat.
And then I found the Sicilians – Rita’s stall! And I bought what I have never seen in Australia, tenerumi and the zucca plant that these comes from. The tenerumi or taddi ri cucuzza are the tendrils of the plant; the long, serpent-like marrow is the cucuzza (or zucca in Italian) and this variety is called a zucca serpente because of its serpent shape. Rita had labelled her zucca as trambonelle (from trombone, the musical instrument) and this may be a regional name for the marrow. Rita comes from Messina. Rita’s stall is only at this market on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday in each month.
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I cooked both the tendrils and the marrow in the same dish (as my cousin Lidia from Augusta taught me) and made the famous, wet pasta dish, Minestra di tenerumi so enjoyed by Sicilians.  Having grown up in Trieste (northern Italy) I only ate these vegetables when I visited Sicily. The Minestra di tenerumi in the photo below was cooked by a friend Mary, when I visited her on her farm in Bosco Falconeria in Sicily.
There was one episode in My Family Feast (an Australian SBS TV program), where they showed an African family growing and cooking tendrils, but perhaps these were the shoots of a different pumpkin or marrow plant (shall have to ask Sean Connelly).
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Because it was so fresh, I also bought the large bunch of watercress. This stall only sold lettuces, basil and watercress and the produce looked like it had been picked that very morning. My father tells me that only the lavandaie (washer women who washed clothes by the riverbank) in Sicily used to eat watercress and they nibbled on it as they worked.
From a different stall, Peninsula Fresh Organics, I bought that beautiful bunch of radish. Sicilians are particularly fond of radish, but I partly bought them for their very fresh, green leaves – I do include the young leaves in salads and I love to braise them.
On the way out I met Don, the new and creative manager for the Market. I expressed my enthusiasm about the produce and he was very pleased. I would have bought more, but I had already shopped at the Queen Victoria Market on the previous day.
I will not stop shopping at my closest market, but I will make trips now and again for therapy – it is said that happiness and excitement pump up the endorphins that bring long life.

RICOTTA FRISCA‘NFURNATA – RICOTTA FRESCA INFORNATA (Baked, fresh ricotta)

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LA LATTERIA, Carlton and freshly made Italian cheeses

Sicilians are very enthusiastic about their local cow and sheep’s milk cheeses. Goat’s milk is generally drunk rather than made into cheese, and as always there are exceptions.

Each Sicilian region is proud of their local product and many of the cheeses are named after the region, for example: Madonie provola, from the Madonie Mountains (north west Sicily), Nebrodi Provola, from the Nebrodi Mountains (north eastern Sicily) and Ragusano is the caciocavallo cheese from Ragusa. Sadly, very few of the local Sicilian cheese varieties are unknown outside Sicily and never make it into Australia.

Many of the Sicilian cheeses are pecorino or provola type cheeses.

These cheeses are eaten at varying stages of maturity – dolce (sweet) when it is fresh and piccante (spicy) when mature. Some cheese is eaten very fresh and unsalted. Once the cheese is salted it is eaten progressively until the cheese crust has formed and the cheese is considered ripe (which could be as short as five months).

The most commonly recognised Sicilian cheeses made in Australia are tuma and primo sale, pecorino and provola. Ricotta, is not technically a cheese but it is eaten and used as such.

I have been fortunate to have lived in both Adelaide and Melbourne where I am able to purchase freshly made cheeses and the latest business enterprise in Melbourne is La Latteria in Carlton.

This cheese making and selling endeavour of two innovative people: Linguanti from That’s Amore Cheese (he is experienced) and Laird from a South Melbourne Restaurant (where she was head chef). The combination of skills seems a good one; I would imagine that Italians would still buy the traditional cheeses and the adventurous buyers may venture to purchase  the cheeses that have been formed into less traditional shapes and that have herbs or salame added.

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Liguanti and Laird are both passionate about their work and the fresh stretched cheeses (e.g. fior di latte, bocconcini, burrata) are made daily in small batches. And this is exactly how Italians like to eat them, made daily and if possible, warm, just like their bread (it is very common to buy warm, freshly made bread twice a day).

Latterie are found all over Italy- this is where one buys milk products and this includes fresh cheeses, so the business is appropriately named. They sell fresh yoghurt, un-homogenised milk, cow and buffalo milk cheeses. Not all the cheeses have to be made fresh on the day and there are some in the selection for example the smoked scamorza, which is slightly aged. The cheeses they make are found in various regions of Italy, for example the burrata is popular in Pugia, provola in the south of Italy from Campania to Sicilia, and crescenza is like stracchino is made in Lombardia and Piemonte.

La Latteria also make ricotta salata, very much longed-for by Sicilians not living in Sicily. It is mainly used as a grating cheese, but Sicilians find any excuse to-get-stuck-into-it and at any  time. As you can see by the photo, La Latteria’s ricotta salata is made into small shapes and sold dried ready for grating. What I used to purchase in Adelaide from La Casa del Formaggio was sold in much larger shapes and left to the buyer to dry it out; the problem with this was that it was eaten before it was dry enough to be grated. A real treat.

Other recipes/ other posts:

SICILIAN CHEESE.  A VISIT TO A MASSARO

This has a recipe Formaggio all’Argentiera (Pan fried cheese)

RICOTTA FRISCA ‘NFURNATA – RICOTTA FRESCA INFORNATA (Baked, fresh ricotta)

RICOTTA (has a recipe for Baked Ricotta)

VARIATIONS for Baked Ricotta recipe:

In a restaurant in Syracuse I ate baked ricotta presented warm and sprinkled with a coating of toasted pistachio nuts. If you would like to make this version just rub the ricotta with olive oil and a little salt. Add the nuts in the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Instead of salt I have also dribble honey over ricotta, bake it and present it with poached fruit as a dessert. I have never eaten this in Sicily, but we all experiment with ingredients and it is winter after all.

Apologies to my overseas readers, I do not know where you can buy freshly made Italian cheeses.

 

RICOTTA FRISCA‘NFURNATA – RICOTTA FRESCA INFORNATA (Baked, fresh ricotta)

I love baked ricotta, but not the bastardized versions blended with eggs and herbs I have seen for sale. I do not know where these originated – not in Italy and definitely not Sicily!

I like to make the authentic, baked ricotta – unadulterated, white and fresh tasting in the centre, with a golden-brown crust. I particularly like it as a first course accompanied by a tomato salad and presented as a light meal.

 

Purchase the solid ricotta, in Australia usually sold by weight from four kilo shapes . The creamy variety sold in plastic tubs is not suitable.
In Sicily the ricotta is drained (on a rack overnight in the fridge) and just rubbed with salt and baked slowly uncovered until it becomes a dark golden colour. Sometimes, olive oil is rubbed over the ricotta before the salt is added, but not always. I also like to add a few herbs for flavour at the bottom of the ricotta while it is cooking and sometimes pepper (or red chili flakes) but this is not strictly traditional.

 

 

INGREDIENTS

ricotta, fresh and a solid piece

extra virgin olive oil, to coat the ricotta
herbs:¼-½ cup dried oregano, enough to sprinkle as a covering and on the bottom
fresh rosemary and/or bay leaves (optional) placed under the ricotta
black pepper, ¼-½ cup or dried red chili flakes, 1 teaspoon (optional)
salt (flakes or coarse), to sprinkle on top.

 

PROCESSES

The following cooking time is for a piece of ricotta weighing about 1 kilo.
Pre heat your oven to 180 C.
Oil the bottom of a baking tray, place a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, and oregano (also the bay leaves and/or rosemary if you wish to include these).
Place the lump of ricotta (or wheel) on top of the flavourings.
Oil, the ricotta lightly – use your hands to coat it.
Sprinkle with the salt (I use flakes) and oregano – use your hands to ensure that it is well seasoned.

Cover with foil and bake in a 180 C for 15 minutes . Remove the foil and bake uncovered until the it has just begun to turn golden brown – it may take about 40 minutes or more, depending on the size.

Allow to cool before eating.

Cover with foil – this dish will keep well in the fridge for 3 days. A perfect dish to prepare well ahead of time.

VARIATION
In a restaurant in Syracuse I was presented with warm baked ricotta sprinkled with a coating of toasted pistachio nuts.
To make this version, rub the ricotta with olive oil and a little salt. Add the nuts in the last 20 minutes of cooking.

It can also double up as a dessert if dribbled with honey.

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