11 May 2013

Grilled Ricotta Cakes

I have a new favorite patty.  Ms. Mayonnaise from Doug was a long time favorite of my younger years, while adulthood has been mostly dedicated to quinoa and black bean.  But now there's a new little patty in town...my yummy little ricotta patty.  You know that delicious, creamy ricotta that typically fills lasagna?  Well that's exactly what these taste like.  All the delicious tenderness of lasagna filling, but with a crispy exterior....yum.  Plus you don't have to make an entire casserole.  Super versatile, these little patties are my new favorite side.

Last weekend, the hubs and I struck a superb bargain.  He went to the market in my stead for our weekly grocery trip, while in exchange I agreed to bake him Forgotten Cookies later that evening.  I enjoyed a late-morning glass of herbal sun tea on the couch while watching Project Runway, while the hubs enjoyed a pre-breakfast treat of meringue cookies with chocolate chips the following morning.  (Two days later, the cookies and the tea were both gone).  We both ended up happy and well fed...in other words, a perfect exchange.  Thankfully, the hubs is a terrific grocery shopper (much to the envy of my co-workers and girlfriends).  When I put ricotta down on the list, he knows I mean part-skim.  He even went above and beyond by getting the giant size...but i'm pretty sure that was his not-so-subtle hint that it was time for ricotta cakes again.

You might be asking, "Gee, what might I do with ricotta cakes?"  Welp, I'm glad you asked, because I have a plethora of options for you.  They are delicious set atop pesto pasta with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes.  They're delightful over grilled veggies with light alfredo drizzle.  And as pictured here, they're simply scrumptious over grilled kale with marinara.  That dish was one of my favorites, as the ricotta really pops with the marinara sauce.  It was the perfect side with homemade caprese pizza.

Other great serving options would be stacked between zucchini fritters or on top of baked polenta with a fried egg.  Once Meatless May is over, I'm planning on trying them on a slice of toasty bread with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

The flavor profile of the cakes is classic Italian.  Fresh basil and garlic are riddled throughout the cheese, giving them a wonderfully flavorful yet versatile taste.  The exterior is slightly toasty from the quick pan fry, which is a great compliment to the tender and meaty center.  Incredibly quick and easy to make, the prep work is a no brainer.  However, a little technique is needed when it comes to the cooking...and by technique I mean patience (which I most definitely do not have in any way, shape or form).  If you try to rush and flip the cakes before they've had a chance to properly set, you'll end up with a hot ricotta mess.  Now if that happens, no worries - just shape that hot mess back into a patty and keep on grilling.  Once they've firmed up, they will look just fine (and no one will ever know how impatient you are).  If the cakes just hold together when you try to push the spatula underneath, they're ready to flip.  If they start to fall apart, that's their way of saying "more time, please!"  But once the flip is done, the rest is smooth sailing.

Ricotta Cakes (6 patties, serves 3-4)

  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbs freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 c basil, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 c panko or bread crumbs*
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes and two tablespoons of the bread crumbs.  Mix together with a spoon until smooth.  Add the egg white and mix together until the egg is completely incorporated in the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle a cutting board with one tablespoon of the remaining bread crumbs.  With your hands, scoop up about two tablespoons of ricotta and form into a small patty, then place on the bread crumb-prepped surface.  Repeat with the rest of the ricotta, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of bread crumbs on top of the patties.

Place a large wide pan over medium heat (or medium-low if you're cooking with gas burners).  Add a tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  Once the oil is warm, use a spatula to carefully transfer the patties to the hot pan, leaving an inch and a half between each patty.  Cook for 7-8 minutes, until the patties have begun to bind together.  In a quick, smooth motion, slide the spatula under each patty and flip over.  (If the patties are too soft to flip, just remove the spatula, reshape and cook for another minute or two until they are a bit firmer.)  Cook for another 7-8 minutes on the second side until patties are firm.  If you have to cook in two batches, re-oil the pan before starting on round two.  Serve hot with marinara or pesto.  Great over pasta or grilled vegetables.

*If you have a gluten-free diet, you can substitute oat flour or other gluten-free baking mixes

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