vanilla beans—split and seeds scraped, beans reserved for another use
finely grated lemon zest
MAKE THE BAKED RICOTTA Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 2 1/2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish with baking spray and set the dish in a roasting pan.
In a colander set over a large bowl, drain the ricotta, gently pressing out any excess liquid; discard the liquid. Transfer the ricotta to a large bowl and stir in the vanilla seeds and lemon zest.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the ricotta until smooth, then fold in the flour and salt. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake the ricotta for about 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top and just set in the center. Transfer the dish to a rack and let cool to room temperature, 3 hours.
To prepare the peaches
sprigs fresh lemon verbena or 1 cup loosely packed dried leaves, plus additional fresh sprigs, for garnish (optional)
ripe but firm peaches (about 4.5 pounds), halved and pitted
MEANWHILE, PREPARE THE PEACHES In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water and bring to a simmer. If using dried lemon verbena, wrap in a large square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add the lemon verbena and peaches to the saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then simmer gently over moderately low heat, turning the peaches occasionally, until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a baking sheet. Let cool slightly, then slip off the skins.
Discard the lemon verbena and simmer the poaching liquid over moderate heat until reduced to a light syrup, about 10 minutes. Strain the syrup into a bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Cut the baked ricotta into squares and serve with the poached peaches and syrup. Garnish with lemon verbena sprigs.
Recipe Credit: Tom Colicchio
Image Credit: Michael Turek