I have a cheese phobia.
That's right. I'll risk your scorn, your disbelief, your mocking gasps, in the hopes of connecting with the 0.002% of you out there who feel the same way I do. I won't get into why I don't like it. I just don't. And I'm OK with being a freak.
However, as I get older and wiser, I'm learning to tolerate cheese. Some of it. Particularly when we're talking about the creamy, sweet, dessert-y kinds of cheese. I can trick myself into believing that it's just yogurt, and it really helps me gain back at least a smidgeon of respect from my cheese-loving friends.
Today's recipe is inspired by my friend Beth, who fed me a ricotta and strawberry dessert with the warning that I didn't have to eat the cheese part. I did, and it was glorious, and I immediately went home, made it again, ate it for dessert, then for breakfast, and declared ricotta officially off the cheese blacklist. I've always been OK with a schmear of cream cheese or a sliver of cheesecake, so ricotta is the logical next step in my progression towards a cheese-accepting existence.
I've combined the classic fruit and ricotta combo with an easy cheesecake-stye crust made with shortbread and almonds to create these crazy easy parfaits. You can use any kind of stone fruit or berry, but today I'm working with the summer's first crush of sweet peaches. The peaches are poached in a sweet white wine (off-dry Gewurtztraminer or Riesling is perfect) with just a touch of fresh thyme. Layer the whole mess in clear cups to show off the gorgeous rainbow peach flesh.
Peach, Thyme and Ricotta Cheesecake Parfaits
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Total Time: 25 min
1 Â½ cups off-dry white wine (Gewurtztraminer or Riesling would be ideal)
1/3 cup sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
1 Â¼ cup fresh ricotta
2 Tbs honey
4 shortbread cookies
Â¼ cup sliced almonds, chopped finely
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp butter, melted
In a medium saucepan that will fit all four peach halves, bring wine, sugar and thyme to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add peaches. Loosely cover pan and simmer 10-15 minutes, until peaches are tender and can be pierced easily. Flip peaches over once during poaching so the skins can lend their gorgeous color to the wine. Remove peaches from pan and let cool, then slip skins off and discard. Discard thyme, pour the poaching liquid into a bowl and place in refrigerator to cool quickly.
Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta and honey, then refrigerate the mixture.
With a food processor, knife or heavy mug, crush shortbread cookies into medium-fine crumbles. The biggest chunks should be about the size of a peppercorn. Add chopped almonds, a pinch of salt and melted butter and stir to combine.
In 4 small bowls or glasses, press cookie mixture into the bottom to act as the crust. Dollop in ricotta. Slice each peach half into a fan, keeping one end intact, and place over ricotta. Drizzle with poaching liquid and serve immediately.
Parfaits can keep up to 1 day in the fridge but taste best right away, with cool ricotta contrasting with just barely warm peaches.