I must admit, I've never had strong feelings about cranberries one way or the other. As a kid, I remember carefully crafting my Thanksgiving plate, usually allowing for no more than a spoonful of cranberry sauce (especially if it didn't look "special"). Not because I disliked it, but because I was more interested in the cornbread dressing and didn't want the sweet-tart vibe of cranberry sauce messing up my dressing experience. I realize this makes me sound picky, but I promise I'm not! In part, I think it was about honoring the flavors of certain dishes during a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner, and not wanting sweet things with the savory part of the meal. That's what dessert is for! In fact, I'm sure there was more than one occasion where the cranberry sauce made it onto my dessert plate instead. After all, it pairs really well with pumpkin pie.
My husband on the other hand, "Fruit's Biggest Fan," is so passionate about cranberry sauce that when he became frustrated by the jellied, canned variety his family ate every year, he took it upon himself to make his own using fresh cranberries. He says he felt the cranberries deserved better. How cute is that?
So, when he came home from the gym last Saturday and tasted this cranberry compote, he immediately said, "This reminds me of the fresh cranberry sauce I made in protest all those years ago!" This was quickly followed by, "Are you still taking photos? Can I eat it now?"
And within three bites, it was almost gone.
I'm so glad I eventually came around and decided to care more about cranberries. I mean, first of all, they're beautiful, aren't they? See that gorgeous, vibrant red? That's not Photoshop! It's almost as if cooking them lights them up from the inside and they glow red. They're incredibly nutritious, too, providing a rich amount of phytonutrients, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, and more.
Cranberries are also rich in pectin, which naturally thickens the cranberry compote as it cooks. It's quite sad that we've come to associate cranberry sauce as a dish that requires gelatin (made from animals' bones and other parts). My guess is that manufacturers began adding it to their canned cranberry sauces in order to save money and skimp on using actual cranberries. But trust me, if you've never cooked with fresh cranberries before, you'll be amazed by the natural thickness of this sauce (which increases even more as it chills).
In case you're wondering why I'm using "cranberry compote" and "cranberry sauce" as if they're interchangeable, it's because they are! As written, the compote portion of this recipe is perfect for serving with your holiday meals. (Compote just sounds better for a dessert name, so we're rolling with it.)
The orange zest makes the almond ricotta taste so fresh! The flavor reminds me a bit of the orange creamsicles we ate as kids, except real, and therefore better.
The only catch to this recipe is remembering to plan ahead and soak your slivered almonds. After that, this festive and bright dessert is a cinch to throw together. I hope you give it a try, and if you do, snap a photo and share it with us by tagging @myquietkitchen on instagram.
Sweet Orange Ricotta With Cranberry Compote
For the Orange Ricotta:
- 1 1/4 cups raw slivered almonds, soaked 4 to 8 hours
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tbsp fresh orange zest (from the orange listed below)
- 1/4 cup sugar
For the Cranberry Compote:
- 1 large orange
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp sugar
Soak the almonds and make the ricotta:
- Cover the slivered almonds in water and soak a minimum of 4 hours and up to 8.
- Drain the almonds and place in a food processor with the salt and 1/4 cup of the water. Process until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and continue to process until light and fluffy but not completely smooth. If it seems too thick add a bit more water one tablespoon at a time.*If making the ricotta in advance, cover and refrigerate at this point, and complete the next step just before serving.
- Add the sugar and 2 teaspoons of the orange zest and pulse to combine. Refrigerate the ricotta while you prep the compote.
Cook the cranberry compote:
- Place a 2-inch piece of orange peel and the juice from the orange in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the cranberries, maple syrup, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Chill completely (this process can be sped up with an ice bath).
- In individual glass serving dishes, layer the ricotta and compote and garnish with the remaining orange zest.