Here I am in the midst of my kitchen renovation…trying to come up with recipes that don’t require any use of an oven or cooktop. Meals that don’t dirty actual dishes have also been high on the list (we have no dishwasher or kitchen sink at the moment either). To relieve my cooking stress, my husband has graciously suggested that we up the number of times we eat out or order in during this renovation. Sure, this may seem like most people’s natural inclination, but because I’m a crazy person who is obsessed with cooking, it didn’t really occur to me to take this time as a cooking hiatus. I just figured I would, well, figure it out!
Last weekend, after Dan urged me to stop meal planning, we checked out a local place recommended to us by one of his former coworkers (who is actually a co-owner/manager of the restaurant): Zavino. It’s touted as a pizza and wine bar, which sounded like heaven to me. I, of course, was bummed about missing out on a good wine opportunity, but soothing my soul with pizza seemed like a good alternative. Plus, I wouldn’t trade in those adorable little baby kicks for anything. They make missing out on wine (and coffee and hot dogs and feta cheese) worth it.
While there, we ordered a few appetizers to share along with some pasta small plates and a pizza. Because Dan is friends with the manager, they sent out a bunch of complimentary food ON TOP of our order. It was SO MUCH food. We ended up taking home at least a third of it (which also happens to be good for a no-cook zone).
One of the dishes they sent out was a special cheese plate: whipped ricotta with some sort of pesto swirled on top that was served with warm pizza crusts. OMG. It was probably the best thing we had. Even the baby liked it. He was doing a jig on my bladder all throughout our dinner. I did my usual “I have to recreate this as soon as possible” thing, and Dan rolled his eyes. So much for keeping me out of the kitchen…or lack thereof.
The thing about this dish that was so pleasantly surprising was the pesto. It was SWEET. Like honey sweet. And it had a touch of lemon goin’ on too. It just WORKED with that over-the-top-creamy ricotta. And don’t get me started on the pizza crusts. Warm, chewy, and slightly charred. To die for.
So, this is my rendition. It worked for my no-cook kitchen in that I only had to whip out my food processor and warm up some pita on the grill (making my own pizza dough seemed completely crazypants). Grilled pita was as close as I could get to the Zavino crust without making a ton of effort…and I have to say, it worked beautifully!
This no-cook appetizer/snack is definitely going to be a repeat in our house, even after I have access to my kitchen again. I could eat that ricotta by the bucket full…with nothing but a spoon.
Dan is rolling his eyes somewhere…but I know he’s happy about it. So is the baby. He’s still jigging. My poor bladder.
Whipped Ricotta with Sweet Lemon-Basil Pesto & Grilled Pita (makes 4 servings)
For the Pesto:
½ cup fresh basil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
For the Ricotta:
1 (15-oz) container whole milk ricotta
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Grilled pita bread, for serving (I used whole-wheat pocketless pita)
For the Pesto:
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Taste for seasonings.
Note: this pesto should be sweeter and a touch more lemony than traditional pesto.
For the Ricotta:
Place the ricotta in a food processor and process until very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil and whip again for a minute or so. Season with salt and pepper. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve (unless you’re making it really in advance – keep it in the fridge and let it come to room temperature again before serving).
Serve the ricotta on a platter with a drizzle of the pesto and warm pita bread.