Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ricotta Salata on the Side

When fresh sheep’s milk cheese is salted, pressed and dried, it forms a chalk white sliceable block with a subtle creamy/salty flavor called ricotta salata.  Don’t mistake this for pressed and salted ricotta; the name in Italian refers to a process of making cheese—recooking and salting—rather than the base cheese it is made from. 

But don’t get caught up too much in the name’s true derivation.  It’s pleasant sponginess and fresh milk taste will remind you of the best fresh ricottas, if you’ve been lucky enough to have a homemade or deli-made version.  Ricotta Salata goes in many of the places feta cheese or Mexican cotija can go like the salad below.  It is also nice to crumble over pasta dishes and compliments grilled or roasted vegetables.  I recently found sliced wedges of it drizzled with a little honey and placed alongside some grilled peaches in an elegant dessert course. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
2/3 cup cubed ricotta salata
5-6 fresh mint leaves, sliced or torn
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Toss the cucumbers, cheese and mint leaves together in a small bowl.  
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and pour over salad.  Toss to just combine dressing.  
  3. Salad can be made up to an hour ahead of serving. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad is a great side for grilled steak on summer nights.  Since it can be made ahead of time, the cook in charge of side dishes can get out of the kitchen onto the patio with everyone else.