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Adam Balic

Ricotta Salata

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Recently I was in Sicily for a week or so, on of the food products I brought back was "Ricotta Salata" (salted ricotta). Although I didn't actually see any evidence of it, it is apparently used by Sicilians as Parmesan would be used by Northerners.

Although, it seems to be aged in general, at the markets you can buy fresh to old versions. The cheese that I bought from the Syracuse market was somewhere in the middle. Tasted on its own it isn't that interesting, but on pasta it is excellent. Almost a creamy flavour develops and currently I am usin it to the exclusion of parmesan!. A good product which I would recommend trying.

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I love Sicilian food. Another great dish with ricotta salata is involtini of swordfish. SO you get thin slices of swordfish and you fill them with (IIRC) some of the ricotta, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, probably breadcrumbs, and then you roll them up and skewer them with a bay leave and a slice of onion between each roll and grill them. Really good. Did you get any of that 'strattu -- the very concentrated tomato paste with the consistency of putty? That is great stuff -- I still have some in my fridge.

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Did you get any of that 'strattu -- the very concentrated tomato paste with the consistency of putty? That is great stuff -- I still have some in my fridge.

Yes and it is exactly like red putty. It was described to me at the market as been made from sun-dried tomatos, does that sound correct?

I like the rolls and also, the cold crumbed fish/artichokes with sultanas and vinegar (I had thought that it was a Venetian thing, but I also think it could be Italian-Jewish?).

Had one interesting pasta of swordfish with green apples, mint and pinenuts also.

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Did you get any of that 'strattu -- the very concentrated tomato paste with the consistency of putty? That is great stuff -- I still have some in my fridge.

Yes and it is exactly like red putty. It was described to me at the market as been made from sun-dried tomatos, does that sound correct?

That is roughly right. But to be really pedantic, traditionally it is made from fresh tomato puree, passata, which is spread out in the sun and then dried over a few days. So it's sun-dried but not really made from sun-dried tomatoes if you follow.

I don't know if the stuff you get in the markets is made like that as they might well have some more industrial process.

I like the sound of your pasta with swordfish and green apples. Were there any capers in it?

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Ah, that sounds more correct, the chap said it was made from tomatos and sun dried, not "sun dried" tomatos.

Swordfish pasta with green apple was from Lipari and contained, fennel seeds, pinenuts, mint and chives. Sounds revolting, was delicious. A few capers only.

Also at the same restaurant we had

Baked Scorpion fish (Scofano or Rascasse) with fennel (leaves), mint, juniper berries, cloves, tomato, pasley and white wine. Was excellent, could have been terrible, but it was done very well.

One thing about these dishes it that they were very well done, the ingredients are quite strong flavours, it they had used to much of any one of these ingredients it could have been a disaster.

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There is a brilliant description of pasta con le sarde by Elizabeth David which is "discordant but exhilarating" which sums up this aspect of Sicilian cooking quite well.

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I use ricotta salata on fruit pizza. Combined with peaches the contrasting flavors are wonderful.

I order it from Ideal Chees Shop in NYC. http://www.idealcheese.com/

as there is no local source in California.

I also use it in savory cheesecakes as a substitute for farmer's cheese.

and in strata, layered with tomatoes, onions and peppers.

Crumbled it goes into salads, both vegetable and fruit, and as a topping for other savory dishes where one would use feta.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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An interesting thing to do with the aged ricotta salata is to roast a thick slice of it in the oven until golden before grating it. Adds a wonderful, nutty fragrance.

Karen

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