Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mega-Recipe: Ricotta Torte

May is Bone Health Month. (Who decides these things, anyway?) So in honor of that, and in honor of mothers—who as a class definitely need strong bones—this week's recipe is for a calcium-rich cheese torte.

The torte is what I call a Mega-Recipe. What this means is that, in order to get a meaningful amount of a certain nutrient in a serving, I load the recipe up on ingredients high in that nutrient.

In the case of the torte, I went for the obvious sources of calcium: dairy products. But by choosing lower-fat versions of them I could get more calcium (too hard and boring to explain, but true). Then I also added nondairy sources of calcium, including almonds and broccoli. Broccoli has the distinction of being high in calcium and relatively low in vitamin K, which inhibits the body's ability to use the calcium in the vegetable.

Too much nutrition blah-blah, here's the recipe:

Ricotta Torte with Broccoli & Basil

My plan was to come up with a single serving that had significant calcium in it. I used skim milk to cook the rice and chose part-skim ricotta over full-fat. I used 1% cottage cheese, but since cottage cheese is not as good a source of calcium as other dairy products, I chose one of the brands that has added calcium. The other good sources in this torte are the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes (?!), eggs, almonds, scallions and basil. When it all gets added up, a single serving has just about 500mg of calcium, which is 50% of the DV.

2 cups skim milk
3/4 cup brown-wild rice blend
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted and very finely chopped
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, slivered (2.5 ounces)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, chopped
2 cups (packed) finely chopped broccoli (6 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (1-3/4 cups)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese (with calcium)
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1. In a medium saucepan (preferably nonstick), combine the milk, rice blend and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cover tightly, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. (Make sure it doesn't foam over.) Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- to 10-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the almonds and Parmesan evenly over the bottom of the springform. In a small heatproof bowl, cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water and let sit to soften while the rice cooks. Drain and coarsely chop.
3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and scallions, and cook for 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the broccoli, water, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Cover and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
4. In a food processor, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, whole eggs, egg whites, basil and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and pulse just to combine. Stir into the cooled rice mixture.
5. Spoon one-third of the cheese-rice mixture into the springform. Top with the broccoli mixture and spoon the remaining cheese-rice mixture on top, making sure the broccoli is completely covered. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a knife comes out clean. Cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6 servings