Grilled Peaches with Pomegranate Agrodolce and Fresh Ricotta
At a hilltop villa just outside Rome, my culinary tour group was treated to a wonderful four-course meal. The final course, dolce, was sugar topped with rum, beneath fresh dairy-sweet ricotta cheese that was topped with cocoa powder. Accompanied by crisp almond biscotti and ripe red strawberries to lovingly scoop up the cheese mixture. This was not the ricotta cheese found in most grocery stores here in the states although there are some fresh whole milk ricotta cheeses now available at some grocers. It was a fresh whole milk cheese. I have included a recipe for fresh ricotta below. It is a very easy recipe to make but does need to be made the day before. It also requires a thermometer, cheesecloth, strainer and citric acid which can be found online. That dessert at the hilltop villa was an Italian expression of a cheese and fruit tray. Brilliant!
So, to take that hill-top moment to a higher level, why not heat the fruit and serve with an intriguing Italian sauce. Agrodolce is a sauce in Italian cuisine. “Agro” means sour and “dolce” means sweet. The twist this recipe for agrodolce takes is using pomegranate vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and honey for the sweet and sour elements. This sauce is best made a day ahead to allow the flavors to mingle and marry which is the amount of time to allow a fresh ricotta to drain. It will be well worth the wait!
¼ cup pomegranate vinegar
½ cup full-bodied red wine
1 ½ tablespoon honey
1 tablespoons Pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted
Extra olive oil for brushing on peaches
1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta (store-bought or recipe that follows)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme if possible)
1. Combine the vinegar, wine, honey, molasses, chopped thyme, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about four minutes until reduced to one-half cup. Remove from heat and cool completely at least three hours or overnight. Just before serving whisk in the olive oil and lime juice. Taste, Think, Transform with lime juice and/or honey.
2. Heat a grill or grill pan. Brush the peach halves with olive oil. Place the pit side on down. Grill until grill marks are charred. Flip over and cook the other side just until heated through.
3. Place each grilled peach half in a bowl. Top with the ricotta and drizzle with the agrodolce. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top and serve warm.
Whole Milk Ricotta
I set about learning how to create a comparable ricotta cheese from scratch and found it quite easy to make. I have learned that it also makes a better lasagna and enjoy it quite simply spread on morning toast. As for that Italian dessert, the picture must suffice until you make your first batch!
I buy my citric acid online. It may also be found at wine-making supply shops or stores that stock canning supplies. The cheesecloth must have a very fine mesh and be of high quality. To reuse the cheesecloth, wash and boil it for a minimum of three minutes in rapidly boiling water. Then wring out and hang to dry. Place it in a sealable plastic bag until ready to use again. Once tasted that may be quite often!
About 1 cup
1 quart whole milk (preferably organic, pastured, grass-fed)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream (preferably organic)
½ teaspoon + pinch citric acid (dissolved in ¼ cup filtered water)
¼ teaspoon canning or kosher salt
1. Place all ingredients in a non-reactive six-quart pan. Mix well and place over medium-low heat. Heat slowly, stirring constantly to prevent scorching on the sides and bottom of the pan.
2. At 170°F registered in the center of the pan, small bits of cheese should appear on the surface. Stop stirring.
3. Continue to cook just until 190°F temperature is achieved. Remove from the heat.
4. Let the curds and whey rest for thirty minutes undisturbed.
5. Lay clean high-quality cheesecloth in a large mesh strainer hung over a large bowl. Gently ladle the curds into the strainer. Gently scrape the bottom of the cheesecloth to allow all the whey to pass through. Let the curds rest at room temperature for thirty minutes to an hour. Discard the whey.
6. Cover the strainer over the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate twenty-four hours. Invert the strainer to unmold the cheese onto a plate.