This is a wonderful dish with a split personality. It tastes savory and sweet all at the same time. You must make it while beautiful tomatoes are in still in season. It tastes like summer in the best possible way.
I decided to try it because I had quite a bit of ricotta cheese left over after making spinach lasagna. “Great!”, I thought. “I’ll be very thrifty.” That was before I had to purchase the cake flour and buttermilk, and new box of baking soda. Then, of course, there were the 2 pounds of heirloom cherry tomatoes (because, pretty!), that I had to buy as well. At least they were all consumed. However, instead of having leftover ricotta cheese, I now have left over buttermilk and cake flour. Pancakes, anyone? I can make them just as soon as I buy some fresh blueberries and maple syrup. Leftover blueberries and maple syrup I can contend with.
However, it was all worth it when I tasted my first bite of the cobbler with its tender ricotta biscuit topping and the sweet and herby tomato mixture underneath. We served it as a side dish with some yummy grilled chicken, basted in Big Bob Gibson’s white Alabama style barbeque sauce. Simply heaven! Try it soon.
¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour and more for dusting
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick of unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled
1 cup buttermilk, plus two tablespoons for brushing on pastry
2 to 2 ½ pounds cherry tomatoes ( I used mixed heirlooms)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1. Prepare the ricotta: Strain the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze to remove excess water.
2. Prepare the ricotta biscuits. Put 2 ½ cups cake flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, one teaspoon salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to freezer and chill for 20 minutes. Add butter to bowl to and smear the pieces with your fingers, pinching them to make thin pieces and “smushing” them into the flour mixture until no big pieces are left. Yes, the actual word used by the recipe author is “smushing.” So, smush I did.
3. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gradually pour in 1 cup buttermilk while using a fork to to fluff the flour from the sides of the bowl until you form a “shaggy-looking” dough. Well, as I fluffed away, I could not quite determine when the dough was sufficiently shaggy. It did not resemble a sheep dog or a mop. Nor did it remind me of Scooby Doo’s owner. I just decided to stop fluffing and move on. At that point, it was time to add the ricotta cheese, and “loosely incorporate it with your fingers.” This is where things went wrong for me. I think my ricotta was still too wet. The dough was a little too sticky to handle for the next step.
4. Scape the dough into a lightly floured surface and use your hands to shape into a roughly 4 x 6 inch rectangle. Fold into thirds and flatten back to the same size with your hands. Repeat two more times, flattening the dough out until about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.
5. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Cut the one pound of the tomatoes in half leaving the other pound whole. In a 2 quart baking dish, combine all the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and thyme sprigs with the remaining ¼ cup sugar and 2 tablespoon cake flour. Season with salt and pepper and let sit while you prepare the biscuit dough.
6. Lay the biscuit dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 inch squares or circles and arrange in a single layer over the tomatoes. I did not do well at cutting my biscuits into squares or circles. Because of the sticky consistency, I more or less dumped 2 inch blobs onto the top of the tomatoes. They did not puff up into large beautiful biscuits. They spread and covered all the tomatoes. But guess what? It was absolutely delicious! So if, like me, you decide to make this recipe and wind up with wet ricotta, don’t despair. Just mush on (pun intended) to tomato cobbler bliss.
7. Okay, back to the instructions. Brush the tops of the biscuits or blobs or whatever you wind up with, with buttermilk. Bake for 45 mixture or until the tomatoes are bubbling and the biscuits are brown. If you did it right, the biscuits will be puffy and tall. If they are merely nicely browned and flat, enjoy it anyway. Just make sure no one sees the pictures and knows what it’s supposed to look like and they will be perfectly happy. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature, seasoned with a little more salt and pepper if desired.
This recipe is from the New York Times. Serves 8 to 10.