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We as a cooking people can agree to disagree about many things: are or are not dried chickpeas vastly superior to canned? Cornstarch as pudding stabilizer –- acceptable or Lucifer’s work? Just how long should the coffee sit in the French press? But on this we are certainly all in accord: when you present your spouse with their dinner, they should not bust out laughing.
This happened with TasteFood’s Spring Pea and Ricotta Torte with Lemon and Mint, which should have caused me a great deal of bitterness but I was too busy popping bites of this Meatless Monday marvel into my mouth to get too worked up.
Well, I might have said something at some point along the lines of, “Remember when we were dating and you served me salad out of a pasta pot? So, how’s it going since then?” Or, maybe I didn’t. Who can recall such marital exchanges really, but shall we get to the recipe?
You read the word torte, you start thinking crust. You start thinking crust, you well might then think, not during the week. But this is sort of a misnomer. There is no crust involved here, nor is there virtue, meatless or not. But what this recipe does do is marry something lovely and green with a beloved creamy counterpart to create a layered but simple and versatile quick dish.
As you know, I do not traffic in judgment over frozen organic vegetables at the time of year when you can still see your breath on the back porch as you stand there, waiting for the puppy to do his thing. Fresh peas are a wonderful thing; if you’ve got them, use them but you should blanch them a bit first.
TasteFood (who once ate puffin, you should know) suggests that you use a 9-inch springform pan, but if you want to use a cake pan with just a removable bottom, as I did, no calamity will befall your tart.
I cooked my shallot closer to three minutes, because that’s just me. As my peas simmered (I used water, just to keep it vegetarian) I got out my fairly-new food processor, forgot how to put the top on properly, cursed a little bit, asked for help from no one in particular, then finally remembered, felt abashed, pondered reading the manual at some point, then moved on. (This part is optional.) Next, get your peas a whirlin’ as instructed, dumping in the eggs one lovely yolk at a time.
What emerged from my oven 25 minutes later was a fragrant and creamy pan of bright deliciousness, which also happened to be Technicolor green. “Really?” my husband asked, laughing, as I proudly held out my dish. Yes, really. Because in truth, my dish did not quite look like the photo our recipe scribe provided. There were no tawny-colored edges, just greener ones. This led to a feeling of some inadequacy, which vanished when I tasted the dish. Its texture is soufflé like, but its flavor has some bite, like a cheese course served in your garden.
Even after three large family servings, there was some left; I reheated it the next day as a side. In the author's photo, this dish is finished with one more green touch -- slivers of chives dotted on top. But Jenny doesn’t garnish. I just saved you three more minutes!
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
- 2 cups shelled peas
- 1/4 cup water or chicken stock
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1/4 cup finely grated young Pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and wrap bottom with foil to prevent any leakage.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, one minute. Add peas and 1 teaspoon salt; sauté briefly to coat. Add water or stock. Cook until peas are tender and liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Transfer half of the peas to a bowl of a food processor; purée. Add ricotta and nutmeg; pulse to blend. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in creme fraiche, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses. Stir in remaining peas, mint, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper.
- Pour eggs into prepared springform pan. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake in oven until edges are golden brown and center is puffed and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
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