I love a simple salad dressing made solely of really high quality olive oil and lemon juice. I always find that it's those two simple things that dress some of my favorite salads at the restaurants I frequent the most. Good ingredients don't need much more. Unless, that is, you add some ricotta salata.Other than salt and pepper, this dressing requires only 3 things: olive oil, lemon, and ricotta salata. When whisked together, these things turn into something beautifully emulsified, milky-creamy and lemony, with a delicious olive-y backbone.
Think of how grated Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a richness to Caesar salad dressing. Ricotta salata is softer and literally more creamy, especially when grated. The dressing coats in a way similar to a mayonnaise-based or sour cream-based dressing, but without the thickness or the cloying quality. If you love creamy dressings like ranch, green goddess, and blue cheese, but avoid them because they're just a little too decadent, you'll love the light, bright character of this one.
And an added bonus: ricotta salata is cheap! I can find it at my market for $7.99/lb. Eaten plain, ricotta salata is salty and slightly gamey. In a dressing, it has the ability to transform.
What's especially great about this dressing is how well it goes with hearty greens, like raw kale and shaved raw brussels sprouts, like in the salad pictured here. I also added thinly sliced pear, for a bit of sweetness.
Ricotta Salata Citronette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
3/4 cup finely grated ricotta salata
Finely grated zest of one lemon
Juice of 1-2 lemons
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta salata, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine. In a slow, steady stream, gradually add olive oil, whisking continuously to emulsify. Taste for seasoning and add additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Dressing will keep, covered, in your refrigerator, for about 2 weeks.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Cheese That Can't Stand Alone: 10 Uses for Ricotta Salata
(Images: Nora Singley)