Hello fellow spoonies! Today’s post is in preparation for the pièce de résistance of vegan end-of-summer pastas coming up next. It’s the first day of fall (yay!) and I love the transition of the seasons. Just a bit of chill in the air, the golden sideways light makes it feel like magic hour all day long! My garden is at its proudest moment, offering up Parisian gherkins for pickling, heirloom tomatoes, hot chilies, and the biggest sweetest onions I’ve ever grown. Although this lemony almond ricotta is going to leave your mouth rejoicing in my next recipe, I wanted to post it first, all by itself, because it’s such a good stand in for ricotta or goat cheese in so many dishes. I love it when layered in lasagna, and have visions about using it in arancini or zucchini cakes. I also intend to experiment by sweetening it with honey and using it like mascarpone would be used in tiramisu or other creamy desserts.
This version of almond ricotta was created after a conversation with Amelia, the loveliest, warmest person I think there ever was, who owns the most adorable tiny restaurant Little Spoons cafe outside my favorite yoga studio, Karma Yoga in Denver. Her menu is filled with sandwiches, soups, and savory and sweet baked goods, lovingly made from the best simple and whole organic ingredients. She’s wonderful about adapting her menu for different dietary needs. In fact, the most valuable piece of advice I could give you, if you are looking for something vegan, is to ask her to make you a delicious sandwich, with whatever strikes her fancy. Last time I ended up with freshly baked ciabatta spread with a bit of avocado, good olive oil, salt and pepper, topped with sauteed locally grown wild mushrooms tossed in walnut pesto and fresh arugula. She added a bit of blueberries at the end–I know, blueberries?! They were the perfect bright contrast to the earthy mushrooms and creamy pesto.
Amelia and I often find ourselves geeking out about the latest freshly grown garden and farmers market food, and describing in detail how to weave together the ingredients to elevate them to the most nom-worthy status. After a conversation we had about cheese (and how I can’t eat it), and how hard it is to find legitimately good vegan versions made from whole ingredients, I knew I had to bring Amelia my version of almond ricotta. I was a little nervous–I mean, Amelia is from Italy! She worked in tourism for a long time and has the inside info about all the best wineries, restaurants and cheese makers in Tuscany.
One morning on my way into yoga class, I dropped off two little mason jars–one filled with kale-pistachio pesto, and the other with almond ricotta–for Amelia to try. When I emerged from class all happy and zenned out, she was raving about how creamy and smooth it was, and what a good substitution it was. She suggested adding a bit of lemon zest and a bit more lemon juice for a bit more of that cheesy tang. Hence was born this lemon ricotta, creamy enough to make a vegan weep with joy and non-vegans happily devour! Just perfect for a pesto pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes…More on that next time!
And P.S: If you’re in the Denver area, be sure to visit Amelia at Little Spoons cafe! In the meantime, you can check out the menu and some pictures of her lovely creations on her website or instagram @theselittlespoons.
Lemony Almond Ricotta
Makes about 2 cups
- 2 cups blanched slivered almonds, soaked overnight with water to cover by an inch
- Grated zest from one lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
- 1 cup water
Drain the soaked almonds, and place them in a blender with the lemon zest, lemon juice, nutritional yeast , salt and 1 cup water. Blend, pushing down the mixture as needed–it will take a while to get the mixture to blend smoothly. Blend until the texture is smooth with just a little bit of graininess left, like dairy ricotta. Add an additional few tablespoons of water if needed to achieve the desired texture. Season with salt to taste.