Summer Fruit Bruschetta & Homemade Ricotta

Most of the time, I enjoy baking and cooking alone. This can typically be attributed to two things. The first being that, well, I’m Haein and I am the clumsiest girl I know. In other words, I like sparing myself the shame, so please continue to keep me on that culinary pedestal as I continue to make a mess masterpiece in my kitchen. The second being that having the kitchen all to my lonesome gives me a deep sense of serenity and control – and who doesn’t want complete and total control?! Oh, right, and peace.
But, every once in a while, I have the unexpected pleasure of friends willing to help or learn or just eat in my kitchen (as opposed to my dining room, I guess). My most recent catering event was one such instance of true camaraderie.

One of my best friends was here this past week from California and she’s just left, leaving me feeling bereft. She spent one of her first weekends home helping me prepare for the biggest baking extravaganza of my still-developing life. Not just her, but also several more of the most kindhearted and compassionate friends I have. They volunteered their time and energy to help create a success beyond my imagination. Success for me, of course, being all-inclusive of my ability to occasionally stuff their mouths with so-called mistakes or “extras” (though there really weren’t any) in addition to shoving extra jars of homemade strawberry jam or fresh ricotta cheese into their arms.

But enough about that.
Remember when I told you that I would post some strawberry recipes from that Mother’s Day catering event? Here’s one. Peach, Strawberry, and Banana Bruschetta. Yes, a dessert (or even breakfast) bruschetta that is perfectly sweet and refreshingly light. But better yet, I’ve adapted the original recipe and swapped out plain yogurt for some rich homemade ricotta. Who needs plain ol’ yogurt when you can learn how to make your own ricotta cheese!?

And though not pictured in the very first picture, the bruschetta tastes much more complete with a little bit of mint and a large side of good friends.
Peach, Strawberry, and Banana Bruschetta
Adapted loosely from Gourmet, August 1994

Ingredients:

sixteen 1/2-inch-thick slices crusty Italian or French bread
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, or to taste
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and cut into fine dice
1/2 banana, cut into fine dice
8 large strawberries, cut into fine dice
3 to 4 tablespoons Homemade Ricotta (recipe as follows)
honey for drizzling
mint for each toast

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Arrange bread slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Brush toasts with butter on one side. Toasts may be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container.

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over buttered side of each toast. Broil toast about 5 inches from heat under preheated broiler 30 seconds, or until tops are bubbling, and cool.

In a bowl stir together fruit and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Spread about 1 teaspoon ricotta on each toast and mound about 1 tablespoon of fruit mixture on each toast. Drizzle each with a little honey and top off with mint.

Rich Homemade Ricotta
Adapted hardly from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 1 generous cup of ricotta

Ingredients:

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preparation:

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Keeps refrigerated for about 3-4 days. Use your nose to judge freshness!

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