Raspberries, blueberries, ricotta…what could be more American? Italian immigrants are a huge part of America’s cheesemaking story, past and present. They brought their know-how and taste memories with them and created their own made-in-America interpretations of mozzarella, burrata, Fontina, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano. What would American cheese counters be today without the Swiss, German, Dutch, Portuguese and Mexican immigrants who arrived with little besides their work ethic and built our cheese factories and dairy farms? Let’s toast all these hyphenated Americans on the Fourth of July.
A platter of red and blue fruits with fresh ricotta would make a fitting Independence Day finale. Or churn some luscious Ricotta Ice Cream, the perfect companion to a Warm Apricot and Cherry Crisp.
Ricotta Ice Cream
For the silkiest results, make this ice cream with a top-quality whole-milk ricotta. The delicate cow’s milk ricotta from California’s Bellwether Farms and the hand-packed Calabro ricotta from Connecticut produce good results. Inferior ricotta will make a grainy ice cream.
Because there is no egg in this ice cream, the texture does not remain velvety for long. If possible, serve the ice cream the same day you make it.
½ cup roasted unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2-1/2 cups top-quality whole-milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Strega or Sambuca liqueur, optional
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
If the pistachios aren’t crisp, toast them in a preheated 350°F oven until they start to turn golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Cool completely. They will crisp as they cool.
In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, liqueur, vanilla extract and lemon zest until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl and add the cream. Pulse to combine, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse again until completely blended.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Just before transferring the ice cream to a freezer container, fold in the pistachios. Pack the ice cream in a freezer container and freeze until ready to serve.
Makes 1-1/2 quarts
Apricot and Cherry Crisp
How clever of nature to ripen apricots and cherries at the same time; the two fruits are so compatible. Toss them with a little sugar and tapioca to thicken their juices, add a crunchy oat and walnut topping, and bake until bubbly. This home-style summer dessert can stand alone, but ricotta ice cream mingling with the warm juices would make it even more luscious. Allow time for cooling. The crisp is much better warm than hot. From Wine Country Table by Janet Fletcher (Rizzoli).
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, firm but not chilled, in 12 pieces
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds apricots, halved and pitted
½ pound cherries, halved and pitted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Prepare the topping: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Mix on low speed until blended. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the walnuts and oats and mix until clumps form. You can refrigerate this mixture, covered, for up to 2 days.
Cut the apricot halves into 2 to 4 wedges, depending on their size. Combine the apricots, cherries, sugar, and tapioca in a bowl and toss well. Let stand 10 minutes to draw some juices out of the fruit. Transfer the fruit to a 9 1/2-inch pie pan. Spread the topping evenly over the surface; it should cover the fruit.
Put the pie pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned and crisp, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 45 minutes before serving.