Saturday, April 7, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie / The Hyades Star Cluster


Easter is over.
All that holiday work and the drowsiness from the tryptophan in the turkey distracted us from the monster in the room.
Income Tax is due this month.
Yeah, Big Brother wants his share of your money.

Worse, you have to read through a bunch of government papers, filled with tons and tons of legalese gobbledygook.
No other word for it than gobbledygook - that’s language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms.

I mean who writes this stuff? 
Why don’t they turn their talents to writing science fiction. That makes just as much sense, right?
And there’s also pages of math to do. Sheesh!

Okay… you’ve done this before and you can do it again.
You’ve got your bits of papers in a nice box… or two… or three.
Anyway, they all somewhere in the house, and that’s a start.
Take this in baby steps.
Gather the papers, then eat some cheesecake. Really.
This is no time to pretend to be a hero.

You’re still weighed down from an Easter dinner that totally wiped out all the good you did during Lent.
Not to worry. Make your cheesecake with ricotta.
Combined with eggs and cooked grains, ricotta is in La Pastiera and Pizza Rustica, which are traditional Easter dishes.
So there’s a good chance you have a tub or two leftover in the fridge.

Ricotta is low in fat and is similar in texture to cottage cheese, but lighter.
And, like cottage cheese, it is a dieter's friend.
Ricotta can be a substitute for mayonnaise in egg or tuna salad.
It can also be used as a sauce thickener.
Add cinnamon sugar or chocolate shavings, and serve it as a quickie dessert. 
Ricotta, combined with chopped pistachios and candied citron, is the filling of the Sicilian dessert cannoli.
Ricotta is also used in main dishes: pasta, calzone, manicotti, lasagne, stuffed shells, and ravioli.


Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie isn’t as sweet as a regular cheesecake.
But it will get you through the Tax Guide at the very least.


Hints:

You can use whole milk or part skim ricotta.
Use crushed ginger snaps or graham crackers, or regular pie dough, for the crust.
You can also leave the crust out.

Instead of almond extract, you can try using 1/4 Cup Amaretto liqueur.

Do not use a springform pan. The filling needs the support of the pan. Trust me.
You can also pour the filling into six 4-inch diameter individual ramekins without adding a crust. It’ll be more like having a bowl of dairy-free custard, which also feels comforting. Win-win!

If your pie plate isn’t deep, or you went heavy on the crust, you can put the excess filling in a ramekin or two and bake along with the pie.

Allow the pie to cool for at least an hour before serving. Two hours is better.

The leftover cheesecake can be stored, wrapped, in the refrigerator.


                                                Ricotta and Cream Cheese Pie

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate or a 9-inch square pan
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

Place in a bowl
1 to 2 Cups ginger snaps
Crush to medium-sized crumbs and stir in
4 to 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
Press the mixture over the bottom of the plate or pan and halfway up the sides. 
Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl place
8 ounces ricotta cheese
16 ounces cream cheese
3/4 Cup sugar
Beat until creamy. 
Beat in 
6 large eggs
Add 
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest (or 1 teaspoon of each)
Mix until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. 

Pour the filling into the prepared pan. 
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until it is lightly browned around the edges. A thermometer inserted into the centre should read about 160º F. The pie will still be soft in the centre, but will become firmer as it cools. Do not over bake.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool the cheesecake on a wire rack.
Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.


About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

This month, be sure to check out Jupiter, which starts rising about 90 minutes evening twilight, but it comes up earlier and earlier each week. As soon as it clears horizon obstructions in the east-southeast, it grabs the attention of any sky watcher. Telescopic views of Jupiter during April are best in the middle of the night, when the planet has gotten at least moderately high. April is also a good month to locate the Big Dipper, even though this month, it’s upside down!

April 8 - Last quarter Moon, 3:18 a.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon in the sky. The half-Moon will also be at apogee, its farthest to Earth in its orbit. Lunar apogee will happen less than 2 hours before the Moon reaches its last quarter phase.

April 15 - New Moon, 9:57 p.m. At this stage, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

April 16 - Right after sunset, look low toward the west-northwest for a view of a slender 2-day old crescent Moon, just 5 percent illuminated. And situated about a half-dozen degrees to its upper right is the steady, dazzling light of the planet Venus. Earth’s “sister planet” gets a little higher each week during April. It remains small and roundish in telescopes this month, but from early April until early September, Venus will be at least 10° above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset (though never very high), and during that period we will see its disk grow and enter its crescent phase.

April 18 – Look for the crescent Moon as it appears to float near the bottom of the beautiful V-shaped Hyades Star Cluster, marking the face of Taurus, the Bull. Initially, in the bright evening twilight, only the Moon will be visible, though once the sky has become completely dark soon after 9 p.m., the Hyades stars should be readily evident with the unaided eye.

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