BIRTHDAY DINNER: Chicken Parmesan; Twice-Fried French Fries; Mixed Greens with Yellow Pepper and Basil Dressing; Sweet Ricotta Tart; Prosecco
Since my family is a bit scattered today, my mom’s birthday, we picked a date last week, before Kate went to Mississippi
and Jill to Miami, and we had a pre-celebration, complete with gifts and dessert. As I was planning out the meal in my head a week before that, I was focusing especially on dessert. I also happened to be sitting right next to my mom. She was driving us up I-95, on our way to Maine for Kate’s college graduation, and she had no choice but to help me decide. But I didn’t want to give too much away. So I cornered my mom in the drivers’ seat with this imperative multiple-choice question: creamy, fruity, or chocolaty? (Though normally the choice, in my book, is only between creamy and chocolaty, because her birthday falls in strawberry season, I gave my mom the fruit option too.)
Mom paused (not in the driving–just in the conversation), and I was pretty sure I knew what was running through her head: a list of birthday desserts past. For us and for my grandmother, she usually makes her famous Rich Chocolate Birthday Cake
(chocolaty), but it’s never what she chooses to have herself. In recent years I can remember making mom Coffee-Toffee Ice Cream Sandwich Squares
(creamy) and a tart that was filled with chocolate ganache and cut strawberries (fruity, chocolaty). In more ancient history, my sisters and I have made a full-size strawberry shortcake cake with toasted meringue icing (creamy, fruity), and we’ve made cheesecake (creamy). No matter what, this year’s dessert would have a lot of history to stand up to.
At last, my mom uttered her decision. Creamy. Then my mind could really get rolling.
After a second long car ride, this time towards home, Kate, Jill, and I settled on this tart, which is simple enough to showcase the creamy taste of fresh ricotta and heavy cream. Just to be sure the tart was perfect, I splurged on local Salvatore ricotta,
and just in case my mom had somehow meant to say “fruity,” we added a Maine blueberry compote to eat alongside the tart.
Now that this meal’s just a memory, my stomach’s empty enough to head to a celebration dinner tonight at Blue Hill Stone Barns–where someone else is doing the cooking and I don’t have to make dessert decisions (well, apart from ordering…).
Happy Birthday Mom!
From my kitchen, where I’m weighing creamy against fruity and chocolaty, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Sweet Ricotta Tart with Blueberry Compote
For the crust:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
For the filling:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup best-quality whole milk ricotta
Blueberry Compote (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix together all the ingredients for the crust and press the dough into a fluted pie pan with a removable bottom. Use your fingers to spread the dough evenly, and be sure to press it up the sides. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until it is beginning to firm up and there are a few golden spots. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Mix together the cream, sugar, lemon zest, salt, egg, and egg yolk. Gently stir in the ricotta until mostly combined–you don’t want to destroy the texture, so it’s better to leave a few lumps than to over mix. Pour the filling into the tart crust, smoothing the top.
Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 325°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is nearly set but has a slight jello-like jiggle when you tap the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. (The tart is also very good after a night in the fridge.) Spoon some blueberry compote on top of each slice, or place the bowl on the table for guests to serve themselves.
Makes about 1 cup
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar, or more, depending on how sweet the berries are
2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
To make the compote, combine 1 cup blueberries and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes, until the blueberries have released quite a lot of juice.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry: mix together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water until dissolved. Add this to the berries and stir to combine.
Cook for another two minutes, until the compote has thickened. Add the remaining blueberries, cook for 1 minute more, then set aside. Warm before serving.