Goat ricotta, balsamic vinegar, black pepper ... not your typical dessert ingredients but oh, what an alluring combination! This is what you make when you have a handful of ripe summer cherries and a craving for something special yet not too sweet.
Although I suspect I would have liked this as a child, it definitely falls into the grown-up dessert category. Made with goat's milk ricotta, the creamy mousse is flecked with vanilla bean and barely sweetened with honey. A little balsamic vinegar (this is the time to break out the good quality stuff) with freshly ground black pepper punches up the cherries and lends an intriguing note to this light yet decadent dessert.
A note on the ricotta: I highly recommend goat's milk ricotta for the most complex flavor; go the DIY route or look for it at farmers' markets and grocery stores like Whole Foods. However, don't let inaccessibility (or – gasp! – a dislike of goaty flavors) stop you from making it. You can also use a fresh, whole cow's milk ricotta.
Ricotta Mousse With Balsamic-Black Pepper Cherries
1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat ricotta 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped 1 1/2 cups sweet cherries 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 3 black peppercorns, crushed (about 1/16 teaspoon ground) Fresh mint leaves (optional)
Place the ricotta, honey, and vanilla bean in the small bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Meanwhile, halve and pit the cherries. Place in a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar and pepper and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve, divide the cherry mixture between two glasses or bowls and top with the ricotta mousse. Garnish with mint and a light dusting of black pepper, if desired.