I realize plums aren’t in season right now, but focus on what’s underneath: a crunchy shredded phyllo-wrapped ricotta cheesecake of sorts, which like other cheesecakes can be topped with just about anything, including whatever fruit you currently have in the freezer, simmered with a bit of sugar or honey and spooned overtop.
I wasn’t sure what to call this – it’s not really pie, nor cake; I settled on torte (as have others) because it’s a sort of blanket term for a dense cake, and it is baked in a pan and served in wedges. What makes it unique is the kataifi, finely shredded phyllo pastry you can find alongside the frozen phyllo at any Middle Eastern grocery, and even in some grocery stores. It’s lovely to work with.
The pastry, which comes in long, bundled strands you can cut with scissors to make it easier to handle, is tossed with melted butter and patted into a pie plate—an easy alternative to rolled pastry—then filled with honey-sweetened ricotta, topped with more kataifi and baked until golden and crisp, with the sweet, creamy cheese enclosed inside. After being inverted onto a plate, a drizzle of cinnamon and cardamom-infused syrup, poured while it’s still warm, gives the torte a baklava-like quality, although it’s not as sticky sweet.
It’s crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, like all the very best things. Sweetened fruit adds a tart contrast; any type of berry, or brilliant red and purple plums when they’re in season, can be chopped and simmered with sugar while the torte bakes. Or dribble it with caramel sauce, or serve it perfectly plain. It’s a brilliant recipe you can do anything with, and far more interesting than your usual cheesecake.