baby steps, and a recipe: orange ricotta tart

Every November, I wonder whether I’ll have the nerve to attempt NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). With the first, I’d commit to write a novel during the month of November, or, at least, commit to daily writing with word count goals. With the second, I’d commit to writing a blog post daily for the entire 30 days of November.

No. The answer is no. I don’t have the nerve, nor the stamina.

But here it is, November already, and I’m putting fingers to keyboard. Just one blog post. It’s a baby step toward what I really want to be writing, but I’m okay with that.

A couple of weekends ago, the weekend before my birthday, I attended a workshop in NYC on narrative medicine. I left my family at home and spent four nights alone in a hotel in the Upper West Side, a queen-sized bed and a bathroom all to myself. I was able to connect with some dear friends in the spare moments before the conference started, and oh, how wonderful were those moments. It felt so great to be with these women again — sharing a meal, sharing stories, feeling supported.

On day one of my workshop, when I opened my welcome folder with the weekend’s itinerary, I found a small, red Moleskine notebook, blank and ready to be filled. I smiled to myself when I saw it, and I was happy I remembered to bring my favorite pen.

As heralded by that blank notebook, writing was a big part of the workshop format, with writing prompts and other writing activities scattered throughout each day, and with small groups where we both wrote and read our writings aloud to those in our group. The focus was not on critiquing each others’ writings but instead on listening to the words and paying attention to the meaning of the words. I loved every single minute of it.

I felt selfish, being alone in New York City in October, with chilly weather and leaves in shades of orange fluttering in the breeze, in a beautiful hotel near Central Park, spending my hours reading and listening and writing, eating wonderful food with friends and sometimes alone (both of which I adore). I felt selfish and lucky and happy and inspired.

I felt so inspired.

And now let us flash forward to two weeks later, to the first day of November. Have I written much since returning from my workshop? Not much, but I’ve written. I’ve been carrying my laptop with me daily, and I’ve found some new places to write, as well as some different times of day in which to do it. Life has intervened, as it does, and there has been drama and tears and and fear and angst – but this is the nature of life, no?

I have even baked since returning, but only just once. I baked this gorgeous orange ricotta tart, and oh how wonderful it felt to blend and mix together these ingredients, so simple on their own yet so magical when combined in this way.

And here it is November already, and I have just completed my first blog post in entirely too long. Baby steps, dearest friends. Baby steps.

Yield: One 9 (or 9-1/2) inch tart

Orange Ricotta Tart

This tart recipe comes from the amazing Abigail Johnson Dodge in Fine Cooking, Issue 68. I've tweaked the recipe by making a Biscoff cookie crust, but the orange ricotta filling is all hers.


Ingredients for Crust:

1 cup finely ground Biscoff cookies (about 20 cookies)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (45 grams) melted butter

Ingredients for Tart Filling:

15-ounce (425 grams) container whole milk ricotta
3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (16 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg yolks
Zest of one orange
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)


Instructions for Crust:

Heat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in middle position.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ground cookies and sugar until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir well, until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch (or 9-1/2 inch) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your fingers, press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and partway up the sides of the tart pan. Press the crumbs firmly in place, making an even layer.

Bake the crust until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Allow the baked crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

Instructions for Tart:

If oven is not already heated, heat to 350 degrees, with rack in middle position.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended and no lumps remain, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, flour, and salt, and continue beating until well blended, about 1 minute. Add egg yolks, orange zest, and orange liqueur. Beat until just incorporated. Scrape the filling into the cooled crust, using a rubber spatula to spread the filling evenly.

Bake the tart until the filling barely jiggles when the pan is nudged, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate the tart in the pan until fully chilled and firm, 2 to 3 hours.