Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pro-Life Wheat-Free Ricotta Tart

So, I was just encouraging y'all to get wheat out of your diet, and here's a a little yummy something to help you do it. My mom has celiac sprue, which is an intolerance to wheat gluten, so I think about cooking wheat-free a lot for other reasons. As it turns out, celiac is an auto-immune disease, which seems to run in our family. Her sister also has celiac, and I'm Type 1 diabetic, which is also an auto-immune malfunction of the endocrine system. No doubt, our common flaky immune system was caused by exposure at critical times in our collective development to endocrine disrupting chemicals, which were just beginning to be sprayed liberally in Iowa at the time my mom and her sister were born, and continued to intensify all over the Midwest as was I conceived and born in North Dakota. Read more about pesticides as endocrine disruptors here: Also, see Sandra Steingraber's books: Living Downstream and Having Faith ( for an explanation of the persistence of agricultural chemicals in the environment and their effects on fetuses. You can't be pro-life and pro-agricultural chemicals, folks. Pick one or the other, cuz the effect is pretty much the same. Or worse.

I digress.

So, my last local food adventure involved cheese making, and happily this one does too! I ripped this recipe off from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest (my favorite cookbook), but I added a few twists, like making my own ricotta. I have always wanted to make this recipe, but always loathed buying the dead ricotta in its plastic coffin in the grocery store. Thanks to cheese rebel R___, I have been inspired to make my own. So the basic recipe involves making a crust with thinly sliced high-starch potatoes. The highest starch potatoes are russets, but if you're a potato nerd like me, you can also use medium starch Kennebecs or my personal favorite, German Butterballs. I used Rose-Golds (low-med starch) because that's all I had, and it turned out great. Superlative, even. The filling of the tart is a mixture of garlic, greens, eggs and ricotta cheese. This recipe is great for making now when the winter potatoes are almost done and there are lots of spring greens in the garden and at the market (er, sorry folks, there are lots of spring greens in Georgia--the rest of yas will just have to wait. Or better yet, come visit.)

I made ricotta out of a certain illegal substance, that shockingly, was still fresh and sweet smelling in my fridge in spite of being a week away from the cow and horrors, not p______. The news coverage on TV in Atlanta regarding the raw m___ seizure in Athens highlighted the deleterious side effects of drinking said substance. Their bulleted list included "spontaneous abortion," which is bogus political speech alluding to the fact that some bacteria present in ALL milk can cause an infection, which, like all bacterial infections, might be bad for a fetus's chances of survival. I am pretty sure that the right-wing boneheads who put that segment together actually meant "miscarriage" but why waste a political opportunity? I certainly don't. I wish there was a warning label on conventionally produced foods that would give y'all a politically loaded headsup about what you were consuming and the consequences of that action.

The production of this food has been proven to cause spontaneous abortions in women all over the world, and has the potential to cause serious endocrine disruption, including sterility in men, cancer and birth defects.

I think we could just stop with causing sterility in men. That might get the attention of some of the overwhelmingly male decision-makers in our food system. Maybe. They make enough money to buy all organic food, and why should they care about whether the Colombian banana picker or Mexican migrant worker can have kids or not? Surely the poison pushers at Monsanto know what this does to our bodies? They pay the EPA and FDA to look the other way, in the form of fast-tracking approval of pesticides, after all.

I digress.

So I made ricotta using whole milk and vinegar--just like when I make paneer, and sadly it turned out a little bit more like paneer than ricotta. But, it was still tasty. I think the milk, being a little less than fresh, needed less "starter" than I used, and we all know how much raw m____ likes to be cheese! So, it was a little lumpy but fresh and delicious. See this site for more information than you'll probably ever need to know about making ricotta.
Enjoy--this guy loves him some curd.

Instead of swiss chard, which Stonewall Kitchen calls for, I used spinach and arugula, cuz that's what I had. I should also mention that this took just under an hour to make, which included preparing the ricotta and picking and washing the greens while the milk heated. I also didn't have parmesan cheese, which the recipe called for but subbed some local feta instead. Cooking with what you have is sort of an important basic principle of eating locally. You can't always get russets, but that doesn't actually matter. What matters is that you didn't contribute to destroying someone's ability to have children or their ability to eat certain foods or their ability to carry a child to term. You do not have a right to eat whatever you want when that right interferes with someone else's basic human rights. In the over-privileged hemispheres of the world, we certainly do have the privilege of eating whatever we want, and we should never forget that it comes at the cost of human life everywhere, even and especially those that are yet to live.

So, do something pro-life. Make your own ricotta. Buy some local potatoes. Enjoy.

Pro-Life, Wheat-Free Ricotta Tart (makes 1 tart in a 7 X 9 inch-ish pan)

1 1/2 pounds greens (arugula, spinach, swiss chard)
1/4 + 2 T butter, melted (make your own...see earlier blog post)
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 large potatoes (high starch preferred, but will work with just about anything), unpeeled, and scrubbed
3 tsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary (I also used dried thyme...use what you have)
1 cup feta cheese (or cheddar, or mozzarella or whatever you have)
2 large eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese (start this right before the rest, it takes about 10-15 minutes)
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean, trim and chop the greens. Heat 2 T of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and half the greens. Add more garlic and greens as they cook down. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain off any excess liquid.

Slice the potatoes very thinly and of uniform thickness. Create a thin layer of potato slices on the bottom of your pan and overlap them slightly to make a crust. Slide a few up the sides to make an edge. Drizzle the remaining melted butter over the crust. Sprinkle salt, pepper, herbs of choice and cheese of choice over potatoes of choice and/or availability, as the case may be.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, add the ricotta, more herbs and cheese of choice, salt and pepper. Gently add the greens and mix well. Spread the cheese-greens mixture over the potato slices and press lightly.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes. The potato crust should be brown and crisp and the filling should be firm to the touch. Let cool about five minutes before cutting into wedges. Enjoy with a green salad or braised carrots. Add a frozen fruit-yogurt-honey dessert to finish it off!

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