August 24, 2016

End of Summer Farmers Market & Ricotta Pie Recipes

Join popular Arkansas food blogger Heather Disarro of Heather’s Dish as she strolls Arkansas Farmer’s Markets for end of summer goodies and shares her Ricotta Pie recipes.

Every time I get a chance to go to an Arkansas Grown farmers market, I have a routine. I get out of the car and take in the competition. Is that man in the fedora going to snatch up the best bunch of peaches? What about that lady – she looks like she’s on the hunt for some peppers – I hope she doesn’t get those glossy, brilliant red ones that I love. Don’t get me started on the zucchini and eggplant and those precious older women in front of me – I pray they don’t get that basket in the middle I’m eyeing!

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The flowers welcome me warmly, even on the rainiest of Saturdays – sunflowers, zinnias, lilies are a decadence to the eyes as much as the fresh chocolate croissants are to the tongue. Just as sweet are the exchanges between the flower growers and their regular customers; the warm, cheerful gestures and discussion of how to care for the flowers reminds me of what a true farmer’s market should be. Markets are not retail, they are relationships, carefully cultivated over time with a common appreciation for where our products come from.

I make my way through the initial flower crowd and start taking in the rest of the products that have been brought to market that morning. On my right are local food trucks, tempting me to divert my attention from the Arkansas growers with delicious smells and the promise of a fabulous, albeit extended, breakfast. Forging on (and making a mental note to stop on the way back) I slowly walk by the stands selling local eggs, chicken, beef and handmade cheeses, dreaming up dinner ideas for the week. There are so many options, and there’s something about seeing the people who make those ingredients that sparks a deep-seeded creativity for meals to come.

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Studded in between the produce stalls are local bakeries, coffee shops, artisan sauces and spice mixes, all just begging to be sampled. You never have to ask me twice to try food, so I sample my way down the line, inserting the new-found creations into the mental menu. I talk myself down from counting a container of hummus and a spoon as a meal, but decide it would fit into the snack category just fine.

Finally, I start looking at the fruits and vegetables spread so gorgeous out in front of me. The colors are vibrant and inviting, making it hard to stick with just the items I’ll actually need and use. The only way to talk myself out of buying out the entire place is the realization that my home is not a restaurant, and therefore anything more than needed would be waste. And wouldn’t it be a shame to waste such beautiful food?

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This week, I’m on the hunt for those end-of-summer staples: zucchini, sweet peppers and peaches. I sadly refuse the shiny eggplant, knowing that it just won’t fit into the menu this time around. Grapes, okra, yellow squash and sweet potatoes are all shouting to me to buy! eat! enjoy! I make a note on my iPhone about meals I want to make the next week so that I can snatch up some of the other food next time.

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Since cooking seasonally and locally is ripe with inspiration, I decide that sharing these late-summer treats is an even better way to spend my time and money. Ricotta pies are simple and versatile, and they make a fantastic canvas to showcase beautiful produce. It starts with a simple store-bought puff pastry, whole milk ricotta cheese, and two eggs. From there you simply mix and match flavors as needed: a little local honey and cinnamon pair perfectly with peaches, but freshly chopped herbs and Parmesan go so delightfully well with vegetables. You could take these ricotta pies on a Southwest adventure by adding chili powder and cumin, or even put an Indian twist with curry powder. There’s really no wrong answer, and the magic of the market will lead you in the direction you should go.

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PEACH HONEY RICOTTA PIES

Makes 9 individual pies

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup local honey, divided
  • 2 ripe freestone peaches, skin removed and sliced into 12 slices

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  3. Gently unfold the puff pastry and cut down the folding creases to make 3 long rectangles.
  4. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal squares.
  5. Place the squares about 2 inches apart on the parchment paper.
  6. Gently score a smaller square inside of each puff pastry square, being careful not to cut all the way through. This will insure a puffy edge and keep the ricotta and fruit in the center.
  7. Gently pierce the middle of each square with the tines of a fork.
  8. In a bowl whisk together the ricotta cheese, egg and half of the honey until smooth.
  9. Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture into the center of each puff pastry square.
  10. Arrange the sliced peaches as desired on top of the ricotta mixture.
  11. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown
  12. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving, then drizzle with the remaining honey.

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PARMESAN HERB RICOTTA PIES WITH ZUCCHINI OR RED PEPPERS

Makes 9 individual pies

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil, parsley or thyme (or combination of the three)
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced zucchini OR 1 cup seeded and very thinly sliced sweet red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • flaked sea salt (optional garnish)

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  3. Gently unfold the puff pastry and cut down the folding creases to make 3 long rectangles.
  4. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal squares.
  5. Place the squares about 2 inches apart on the parchment paper.
  6. Gently score a smaller square inside of each puff pastry square, being careful not to cut all the way through. This will insure a puffy edge and keep the ricotta and fruit in the center.
  7. Gently pierce the middle of each square with the tines of a fork.
  8. In a bowl whisk together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese and chopped herbs.
  9. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture into the center of each puff pastry square.
  10. Arrange the sliced vegetables on top of the ricotta mixture as desired.
  11. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with olive oil.
  13. Finish with flaked sea salt as desired.
  14. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Arkansas Women Bloggers member Heather Disarro is a food-centric lifestyle blogger who is passionate about embracing the beauty that surrounds us in our everyday lives. She is a Texan living the expat life in central Arkansas with her husband, son and two massive dogs. Heather writes her blog, Heather’s Dish, from an office filled with dust, dog fur, toys and plenty of love, grace and music. She revels in the opportunity to bring the love of cooking to the world as a way to love others well!

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