Beet Ricotta Bruschetta

Beet Crostini

Open-faced sandwich are unfailingly pleasing. When a sandwich is open, its filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. While the sandwiches vary, often these tasty bites creatively incorporate simple ingredients, or leftovers layered over a smear of olive oil or soft cheese on sturdy or day-old bread refreshed on the grill or in the oven. The presentation is fresh, minimal, and artful, with a few fresh leaves or sprigs for garnish.

These bruschette include fresh ricotta topped with roasted beets and a spoonful of garden pesto. I call it a garden pesto because I use handfuls of the fresh new herbs that have popped up in my garden at this time of year. When the garden isn’t ready, I simply combine the supermarket herbs I’ve collected in my refrigerator. This can include any combination of parsley, mint, chives, dill, chervil, and oregano. The idea is that there is a mix of at least 3 to 4 herbs, so that one flavor doesn’t overwhelm the others. The result is a brightly green and herbaceous coulis that is delicious served with vegetables, fish, chicken, or mixed with rice and pasta. In this case, it’s a vibrant garnish to these bruschette.

Ricotta Beet Bruschetta with Garden Pesto

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6

Garden Pesto:
3 cups (packed) fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, chives, chervil, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices ciabatta or levain bread, each about 1/2-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
6 to 8 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the pesto: Place the herbs and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Add the lemon zest, salt, and pepper and pulse once or twice to blend. Taste for seasoning.
2. Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Lightly brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill, until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center, about 2 minutes. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes.
3. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta (You will not use all of the pesto. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for another use for up to one day.)
4. Top the bruschette with the beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and lightly season the bruschette with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs and serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto

beet pesto plate tastefood
There’s something very pleasing about an open-faced sandwich a.k.a. bruschetta in Italy, tartine in France, or smørrebrød in Scandinavia. The filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. It begins with day old bread which gets a revitalizing browning on the grill. From there you can get as creative as you like. This rendition includes fresh ricotta, roasted beets and a generous smear of a garden pesto I made with parsley and mint.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto
Makes 6.

Garden Pesto:
2 cups fresh parsley
1 cup fresh mint
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices day-old ciabatta or country loaf bread, about 3/4-inch thick each
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ricotta cheese
6 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh baby oregano and thyme flowers

Make the pesto:
Place the parsley, mint, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the 1/2 cup oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta. Top with beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and season the bruschetta with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano and thyme flowers. Serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

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.

Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian

I find it impossible to resist beets. Their colors are magnificent – it’s a miracle that nature can provide something edible that is so vibrantly hued. With the vivid color, of course, comes nutrients. Beets are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and beta-carotene. I purchased these beets at the farmers’ market, without knowing how I would prepare them. I was happy to simply look at them.

Prompted by a batch of fluffy ricotta in my fridge, I decided to layer the yellow beets with the cheese as a riff on lasagna, with the beet slices replacing the lasagna sheets. Yellow beets are milder in flavor than red beets, and their nutty, buttery flavor wouldn’t overpower the cheese. I also feared the red beets would completely saturate the dish with their magenta color, which, while lovely to look at, threatened to irrevocably tint my pristine ricotta. This is a visually motivated dish.

Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Serves 4; Makes one (8-inch) tian or 4 individual ramekins

1 pound yellow beets (about 4 medium)
12 ounces whole milk fresh ricotta, drained of excess liquid
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Trim the greens and ends of the beets and peel the skin. Thinly slice the beets, preferably with a mandoline, about 1/8-inch thick.
  3. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, basil, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and the black pepper in a bowl and whisk to blend.
  4. Arrange the beets in one layer, slightly overlapping, in an 8-inch diameter gratin dish (or 4 individual ramekins). Lightly brush the beets with olive oil. Smear a layer of the ricotta over the beets. Repeat the layering process, finishing with a thin layer of ricotta on the top (some of the beets should be showing). There should be about 4 layers. Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese over the tian.
  5. Transfer to the oven and cook until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 50 minutes. If the top begins to brown before the beets are fully cooked, loosely cover with foil. Remove from the oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with fresh chopped basil.

Spring Pea and Ricotta Torte with Lemon and Mint

Spring Pea and Ricotta Torte with Lemon and Mint

I love peas.  They are nature’s superior answer to fast food, popped straight from the shell into the mouth. No plastic packaging, no coloring nor additives. I also enjoy them cooked, but in our house they rarely last long enough to make it to the cooking stage. When I do manage to put some aside, I love to purée them and  serve as an accompaniment to shellfish, or keep them whole, tossed into pastas and risottos. This torte has a little of both. Fresh peas are cooked in butter with shallots and then divided. Half remain intact and the other half are puréed with ricotta to form the base for this colorful springtime egg dish.

Spring Pea and Ricotta Torte with Lemon and Mint

The unmistakable sweetness of the peas is amplified by cooking and can overpower the eggs and ricotta, so I like to balance their sweetness with tangy lemon zest, lots of salty Italian cheese and fresh mint. This dish may be served warm or at room temperature. I find that by letting the torte cool to room temperature, the flavors mellow and smooth into each other in a very appealing way.
Serves 8.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 cups shelled peas
salt
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup finely grated young Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and wrap bottom with foil to prevent any leakage. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until softened, one minute. Add peas and 1 teaspoon salt; sauté briefly to coat. Add water or stock, and cook until peas are tender and liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer half of the peas to a bowl of a food processor; puree. Add ricotta and nutmeg; pulse to blend. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in creme fraiche, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese. Stir in remaining peas, mint, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Pour eggs into prepared springform pan. Sprinkle top with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake in oven until edges are golden brown and center is puffed and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.