Ramped Up Crostini with Ricotta and Pea Shoots

~ Crostini with Ramps, Pea Shoots, Ricotta, Mint and Lemon ~

Spring is the time of new beginnings when fresh shoots and early leaves offer a taste of the season to come. Like a teen, these less mature greens are a contrast of nice and naughty – tender yet sharp in flavors that will develop and smooth with maturity. In this simple recipe, chopped ramps add bite and attitude to fluffy ricotta which is smeared over crostini and topped with a jumble of sweet, tender pea shoots.  Little else is needed except a pinch of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon to shout spring and make these crostini pop.

Note: This recipe is a finalist this week in Food52’s recipe contest for “your best allum.”  Head over to Food52 and check out the contest and all of the other delicious goodies on their site, which just received an award from the James Beard Foundation for Publication of the Year!

Crostini with Ramps and Shoots

Ramps are wild leeks and resemble a scallion. Their long, broad green leaves and burgundy tinged bulb are edible. Green garlic is young garlic and also resembles a scallion. Green garlic may be substituted for the ramps.

Makes 8

8 one-inch thick baguette slices, sliced on the diagonal
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped ramps or green garlic, bulbs and stems only
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Generous handful pea shoots
1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly brush bagette slices with olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake in oven until golden brown on both sides, turning once, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove.
Mix ricotta, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper in a bowl until fluffy. Stir in ramps, mint and lemon zest. Spread ricotta on baguette slices.
Top crostini with a large pinch of pea shoots. Drizzle a little olive oil over crostini, followed by a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt and black pepper.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

~ Pear, Blue Cheese, Arugula, Walnuts, Levain ~

Who knew leftovers could taste so good? Day old country-style bread studded with cranberries and walnuts, a chunk of Point Reyes Blue cheese and miniature red pears were remnants of a cheese board I made over the weekend. Day old bread, as un-sexy as that may sound, is a kitchen workhorse – resurrected as toast, crostini, breadcrumbs; folded into puddings and dressings, or swathed in egg and pan-fried. I kept it simple. I topped lightly toasted bread with slices of the blue cheese and pear (culinary best friends), and freshened the pile with a few wisps of arugula and a brush of lemon. What were last weekend’s cheese board stars and today’s less-than-fresh bread made a comeback in this delicious appetizer.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

If you don’t have a fruit and nut bread, use a country style or levain bread and top the bruschetta with coarsely chopped walnuts. Makes 4.

2 – (1/4 inch thick) slices of walnut or levain bread, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 ounces blue cheese such as Point Reyes or Gorgonzola
1/2 cup arugula
2 small red pears, halved, cored, sliced thin
Lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven broiler. Lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Broil until lightly golden on both sides, 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced blue cheese over the bread. Cover the cheese with a few sprigs of arugula. Fan one half of a pear over the arugula. Brush the pear with lemon juice. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines

~ Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata, Basil, Crostini ~

Before I fully throw myself into fall, I will share this recipe that takes advantage of the bushels of heirloom tomatoes we are still lucky enough to enjoy. Our warm and sunny early autumn has kept the supply of tomatoes ample and ripe. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes, their range of colors, patterns and bulbous shapes are eternally pleasing. In this easy recipe, I dice a variety of tomatoes and serve them in a glass, or verrine, to show off their colors. A dollop of creamy burrata and drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar results in a savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Considering how fresh and minimal this recipe is, it’s key that you use high quality ingredients. Choose firm yet ripe tomatoes with a range of colors, and be sure to use a good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.

Heirloom Tomato Tartare Verrines
Makes 6 small appetizers

6 slices of baguette, cut 4 inches in length by 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed
1 1/2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 burrata rounds, approx. 4 ounces
Aged balsamic vinegar
Basil sprigs

Preheat oven broiler. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Rub with garlic clove. Arrange in one layer on a baking tray. Broil until lightly golden on both sides, turning once. Remove and set aside.
Place diced tomato in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Divide the tomatoes evenly between 6 glasses. Top with a spoonful of Burratta. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. Top with a basil sprig. Serve with baguette crostini.

Olivada

Olivada

~ Olivada ~

Got heat? Try this recipe for Olivada. When the weather is bleeping hot outside, and it’s too stifling to move, this salty, briny, more-ish concoction hits the spot.  Similar to a tapenade but much more simple, the star of this recipe is olives – 3 kinds, in fact.  I choose a variety of olives to balance their intensity and flavor and blitz them with toasted pinenuts and garlic. The flavors are sharp, inky, salty and addictive. While you may not have the energy to move in this heat, this recipe promises to get your taste buds dancing.

~
Olivada

Make a double batch to keep on hand in the refrigerator for easy use. Serve with baguette slices or crostini. Add spoonfuls to pasta dishes and salads, or sprinkle over pizza and roasted vegetables. Makes about 2 cups.

1 cup oil-cured olives, about 5 ounces, pitted
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, about 4 ounces
1 cup pitted green olives, such as Cavelstrano, about 4 ounces
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted golden
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop to desired consistency. Do not over process or the olivada will become a paste. Transfer to a glass jar or container with a lid. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to let the flavors develop. The olivada will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (The flavors will diminish over time.)

Peach and Blue Cheese Bruschetta with Honey and Thyme

Organic California peaches are now available in our market, and I am very excited. When I see peaches it means that summer is just around the corner. Hard to believe, I know, but in a few weeks school will be out, and the summer holiday will stretch ahead with unstructured time, travel, camps and sunny activities.

For now, I will focus on the peaches. This recipe combines fragrant peaches with crumbly blue cheese, a drizzle of honey and thyme. The flavors play off and elevate each other in wonderful harmony. For extra freshness and crunch, arugula may be added as a bed for the peaches. It’s all good.



Peach and Blue Cheese Bruschetta with Honey and Thyme
Makes 4

4 slices country-style bread, cut 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 ripe, but not too soft, peaches, halved and pitted
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
Runny honey
Thyme sprigs

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking pan with a rack. Brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Broil, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and transfer slices to a plate or platter.
Thinly slice peach halves. Arrange on bread, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle blue cheese over the peaches. Drizzle with honey and garnish with thyme sprigs.

Smoked Mackerel Paté with Horseradish and Dill

Smoked Mackerel Paté with Horseradish and Dill

Smoked Mackerel Paté with Horseradish and Dill

In the world of blogging I have discovered that there are certain recipes that are sure-fire winners in terms of traffic. Usually these recipes are familiar crowd pleasers, such as comfort food favorites and baked treats we remember from our childhood. Then there are other recipes which generate less traffic. These are recipes we eat in our home that are inspired by the countries in which we’ve lived and traveled. They are part of my family story and they represent this blog’s voice. Most importantly, while they may be exotic or obscure to some, they are equally delicious.

Smoked Mackerel Paté with Horseradish and Dill is a family favorite with a Scandinavian slant which will fall in the second category for some. It reminds me of the Nordic culture, which I think of as frugal, minimal and tasteful. This recipe is easy and economical to prepare, requiring a short list of readily available ingredients. It’s rich in smoky, salty flavor, smoothed with cream and brightened with lemon and dill. And it’s packed with nutrients – mackerel is an excellent source of Vitamin D, magnesium, selenium and heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. That’s a lot to say about a simple pot of smoked fish mousse. Oh, and I should mention that it’s addictively good. So, go ahead – try it, and let me know what you think.



Smoked Mackerel Paté with Horseradish and Dill

This pate tastes best smeared on country style bread or baguette. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

8 ounces smoked mackerel or trout, skin and any pin bones removed
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish

Baguette slices
Dill sprigs

Combine the mackerel, cream cheese, horseradish, lemon juice and black pepper in bowl of food processor.  Process until the consistency is light and smooth. If too thick, add additional lemon juice. (The pate may be prepared up to 6 hours in advance at this point. Cover and refrigerate.) Before serving, stir in chopped dill. Serve smeared on baguette slices. Sprinkle with fresh horseradish and garnish with extra dill.

 


Strawberry Ricotta Bruschetta with Lemon and Arugula

Strawberries are not just for dessert. They are also stunning in salads, lending sweet acidity to the peppery earthiness of greens. In this case, strawberries are jumbled with arugula as a topping for bruschetta. Creamy, lemon flecked ricotta anchors the salad to the bread, while a balsamic vinaigrette dresses the dish. Hello Spring!

Strawberry Ricotta Bruschetta with Lemon and Arugula

Be sure to use a fresh ricotta for this recipe. A creamy, mild goat cheese may be used in place of the ricotta. Makes 2.

2 large strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 slices peasant or levain bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1/4 cup fresh ricotta or mild goat cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup arugula leaves, washed and dried
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss the strawberries and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl; set aside. Preheat oven broiler. Brush bread slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Broil in the oven until golden brown, turning once.
Smear the ricotta over the bread slices. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Pile arugula on the bruschetta. Remove the strawberries from the vinegar, shaking off excess liquid, and arrange over the arugula. Whisk 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt into the remaining vinegar. Drizzle over and around the bruschetta. Garnish with black pepper.