Truthfully, no. It's not intentional; rather, I enjoy cooking and find there’s room for improvement in almost any recipe. I seem to spend a fair chunk of reading time noodling through cookbooks, too. At lunch, over breakfast with tea, and even, very occasionally, before bed. (Though I think the latter terribly bad form and have, this year, finally put a stop to it.) I’m often found marking pages in cookbooks – naughty, dog-eared corners-turned-down marking because, ultimately, the cookbook should be a working object – and making notes of my own all over the margins.
I do, however, want to cook this simple dish again in almost – almost – the same way. The grape, olive and herb topping is very clever; a gratifying combination of sweet-salty-bitter just made for the kind of can’t-be-fussed summer cooking we’re rapidly approaching. I’ll be serving this often over summer with a loaf of good bread, a salad of snappy greens, a bottle of something cold and some stone fruit to finish. The cicadas are already trilling out there. Summer's upon us.
Baked ricotta with grapes & olives
If my habit of bookmarking is naughty, Karen Martini's liberal use of olive oil is damnation on a stick. I love it – cooking without it would be unimaginable - but don't want to drown in the stuff. If you’re feeling underweight (ha!) by all means, follow her excellent recipe. I have a hunch that it may work with fresh silken tofu, though I am yet to try the idea.
Take 250g of fresh ricotta cheese* and drain it very well. An hour in a colander over the sink should see you right. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Using a little olive oil, lightly grease a small ovenproof dish. Slice the drained ricotta thickly and push it carefully into the base. Take a handful of seedless grapes (red, green, whatever) and slice them into rounds. Pit, if you need to, and roughly chop 2 heaped tablespoons of cured olives (black, green, cracked, whole, whatever) and chop a palmful of fresh thyme and a larger palmful of fresh oregano. Scatter the grapes, olives and herbs over the ricotta, add a little salt and pepper and drizzle the top with a tablespoon, maybe two, of delicious olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the ricotta is firm and golden at its edges. Cool before devouring as per above.
*Do not attempt this with the ricotta stacked in the supermarket fridge – it’s simply the wrong texture and you will be seriously disappointed. Ask for a wedge at the deli counter instead.