The combination of pistachios, oranges, phyllo and spices lends a flavor of the eastern Mediterranean to this delicious dessert. It’s worth seeking out fresh ricotta cheese from an Italian specialty store because it is creamier and sweeter than the usual supermarket variety.
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6 navel oranges
1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
Scant 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
Scant 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon minced orange zest
6 unbroken sheets of phyllo dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta (3/4 pound)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
How to Make It
Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the orange sections. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into a glass measure; add enough fresh orange juice to make 1 cup.
In a large nonreactive skillet, combine the orange juice, granulated sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the orange section in an even layer and remove from the heat. Let stand for 30 minutes or, for a spicier flavor, up to 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the orange sections to a plate. Cover and refrigerate.
Bring the juices in the skillet to a boil over high heat and cook until slightly syrupy and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Strain into a glass measure and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly butter the paper. Combine the pistachios, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar and the orange zest in a blender or food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.
Keeping the rest of the phyllo covered with a damp towel, brush 1 sheet liberally with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the pistachio mixture evenly over the entire surface. Continue layering the phyllo, melted butter and ground pistachios. Press the layers together gently. Trim 1/2-inch from all 4 sides to make a neat rectangle.
Cut the phyllo lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut the strips crosswise to form 16 small rectangles to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the phyllo for about 12 minutes, or until golden and crisp; turn the pan for even browning if necessary. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.
Press the ricotta through a fine sieve and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
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