Cheesecake with Feta and Myzithra (Ricotta)

This is my interpretation of the dessert made popular by Americans in  recent years. But fresh cheese desserts abound since ancient times all around the Mediterranean. Ricotta-like cheese, mixed with honey, dried fruit, and nuts was used for some of the first sweets our ancestors enjoyed on special occasions. Apicious the Roman cook and author, describes such a sweet in his book written the 1st century AD.

Both in Greece, in southern Italy, and in Sicily, ricotta-based sweets are very popular, especially around Easter time. Unfortunately, the current American version that uses packaged ‘cream cheese’ and has been adopted by bakers all around the world, is far from the delicious, if less refined-looking traditional cheesecakes from which I was inspired to make this one.

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With Succulent Fava Pods

It is fava time again, and this spring, after quite a long, wet, and cold winter, we seem to have lots of delicious, succulent pods.

Although we planted less beans last fall, the robust fava plants at the edge of our western garden are full of pods that I struggle to harvest before they grow large and stringy. We love eating them whole, much like green beans, as their velvety pods are tender and delicious. Over the years I have made the traditional braised fava with green onions and fennel, a more creative dish with preserved lemon and cilantro, and of course various kinds of fresh fava risotto, either with rice or orzo pasta. Inspired by a Spanish recipe by David Tanis I made a kind of fresh fava scrambled eggs, quite different from the traditional Greek island froutalia, the seasonal omelets with vegetables and potatoes.

Yesterday I cooked a new, apparently quite successful dish to showcase them: Inspired by the old, quick braised fava recipe with garlic, and both coriander seeds, and fresh coriander (cilantro) that I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, I created yet one more variation of the one-pot-pasta, this time with fresh fava and the two kinds of coriander/cilantro. Both Costas and I enjoyed it enormously, and we think that it is one of the best such simple pastas I made.

One-pot Pasta with Fava, Coriander Seeds, and Cilantro

Serves 3-4

1/2 cup good olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander seeds

About 1 1/2 pound tender fava pods, ends trimmed, chopped into 1/4-inch slices

350 grams bavete, ditalini or a combination (this was what I had in my cupboard)

About 4 cups boiling water or vegetable broth, Or more, as needed

Salt and Aleppo or red pepper flakes, to taste

A large bunch cilantro, chopped —stems and all

Crumbled feta for serving

Warm the olive oil and saute the garlic and coriander in a medium pot, until the garlic starts to smell. Do not let it start to color.

Add the chopped fava and sauté 2 minutes, then add the pasta, turn a few times and pour in 3 cups of boiling water or broth. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring often in high heat for about 9 minutes, adding more boiling water or broth if it gets dry. Taste and if the pasta is almost al dente, stir in the cilantro, taste, correct the seasoning, and remove from the heat, making sure it has quite a bit of broth.

Cover and let sit for 3-4 minutes, before serving in bowls, sprinkled with feta, and drizzled with fruity olive oil, if you like.

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