November 18, 2008

cook the books: La Cucina

When Rachel first mentioned Cook the Books I had to run out and get La Cucina, A Novel of Rapture by Lily Prior. Actually, I went online and requested that it be transferred to my local library branch and then, about a week and a half later I picked it up. The idea of reading a book about food and then cooking was more than I could pass up. I love to read, love to cook and often find my cravings and food choices influenced by what I read. (My desire to cook indigenous foods came from reading about how the stampeders of the gold rush had to live off the land)

I toted La Cucina around with me for a few days while finished gluten-free girl. It is apropose, I believe, to say that I devoured this book, three days I think. Reading about the rich foods and culture of Sicily made me ache for the culture of my own Italian family, very little of which has survived to be passed down to me.

I keenly felt the story of Rosa's awakening to love through her cooking. It mirrors my own revitalization after going gluten free and finding the SCD and having the love and support of my like minded Trainer.

Every food discribed in loving detail made me pause, leaving little bookmarks to revisit sections. I really shouldn't read books like this at the gym. Pasticcio di Sostanza (I have a chicken heart and liver waiting in the fridge), 'strattu, caponata (which I've filled away for eggplant season) and the "little oranges", but the description of one treat in particular sounded like perfection.

Had I been too hasty in offering to give l'Inglese lessons? I asked myself, as I ground green almonds with my pestle. The power of my wrist uickly turned the almonds to powder. If only I could grind my worries away so easily.
I beat the ricotta, egg yolks, honey, sugar, lemon juice, and rind into the almonds...I whisked the egg whites into peaks in a matter of seconds... When the torta had baked to a golden, angels-scented crust, and after waiting impatiently for it to cool, I helped myself to a large slice with a thick dollop of cream. Ooh it was good.

And so I made a torta de ricotta. For my first batch I made five little tortas for two. The Trainer and the family loved them. This evening I made one large torta and the Trainer was on pins and needles until I told him it was cool enough to eat. Perfect with, or without lemon and topped with pomegranate molasses, raspberry preserves or cream. The Trainer's mother says I should open a bakery to sell these and some of my other recipes

Torta de Ricotta
8oz ricotta or "mock ricotta"★
5oz light honey
2 eggs seperated
Zest of 1 lemon
6 oz almond flour✲
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda✵
butter and flour for pan

Preheat oven to 325° F

Butter and flour an 8 inch round pan or five 8oz ramekins

Sift almond flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl

Beat ricotta and honey until smooth, continue beating and add yolks one at a time, add lemon zest

Mix the dry ingredients into the ricotta

Whisk the egg whites and carefully fold into the batter

Turn out into prepared pan, or pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until set and golden brown

Turn onto a wire rack to cool

★following the advice of S I made my own SCD "mock ricotta" by mixing 5oz farmer cheese with 3oz slightly strained yogurt. I have found that both 0% and 1% fat yogurt works for this

✲ for this recipe I used finely ground, blanched almond flour from Digestive Wellness

✵ if you are using real ricotta use baking powder. The combination of the baking soda and the yogurt in the "mock ricotta" acts as a substitute for the baking powder


Anonymous said...

beautiful pictures! I love this. It really looks great... and although I cannot eat it because of the eggs, it doesn't stop me from admiring it!

Anonymous said...

I read the description for La Cucina and it sounds like something I would love to read. I checked online at my library and they have it! :)

Lauren Denneson said...

Yum - this reminds me of the "soft cheesecake" Germans typically make. I will have to try it out! Looks delicious - thanks for posting it!

Vittoria said...

Heather- I'm sure it would turn out just fine if you used a mild flavored egg replacement.

Lauren- I never knew that the Germans had a "soft cheesecake". I'd love to see a recipe.

Rachel said...

Oh man, this looks great! My family loves cheesecakes, but I find them kind of heavy. This recipe looks like a nice, light version that we all could enjoy.

I'm so glad you liked La Cucina and that you felt inspired (compelled?) to join Cook the Books for our very first book pick. We've had some other mouthwatering entries from various parts of the globe so this should be a fun roundup after December 15th.

Lauren Denneson said...

So, I made mini versions, using a muffin tin (the recipe turns out to fit 12 muffin molds perfectly) and brought them to a party last night and they were a huge hit! They were less cheese-cake like than I envisioned, but still enormously delicious. I'll have to dig and see what I can find about the german cheesecake - I've only ever eaten it, never tried making one, but I vaguely remember being told it's made with "quark" which is a soft cheese/yogurt substance...

Anonymous said...

I finished reading the book. I was happy to see how it ended, I was feeling so bad for Rosa!

Mediterranean kiwi said...

ricotta style cheese in very very populatr in sweets in crete - we call it mizithra. this looks like a perfect recipe for me to try with our own version of ricotta here