Creamy Ricotta and Bell Pepper Crostini
Typically, crostini is grilled (or toasted) bread that is covered with a flavorful topping. I made mine with a red bell pepper purée and paired it with left-over goat ricotta cheese. The cheese brings some creaminess to the topping and I love the subtle taste of the chèvre (goat in French). I flavored the crostini with some fresh mint and Meyer lemon from the garden.
Yields: 81 1-day-old baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/3 cup olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 Meyer lemon
1 red bell pepper
1/2 eggplant, (or small eggplant)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 clove pickled garlic
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup goat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
For the caramelized onions: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Cook the onions until nicely golden (may take 5-10 minutes). Drain and reserve the oil. Set both onions and oil aside.
For the Meyer lemon: Zest the lemon and juice it. Reserve about 1 teaspoon of lemon zest for garnish.
For the grilled baguette: Lightly drizzle the baguette slices with the onion-infused oil. Place the pieces on the griddle. I use the same method when grilling veggies. Place 3 sprigs of thyme onto a hot grill pan to let it release its nice aroma while grilling the bread. Cook until you get grill marks (about 2-3 minutes on each side) over medium heat. Remove from the pan. As soon as the bread is grilled and golden, drizzle with half the amount of lemon juice and season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Set aside. Discard the thyme.
For the roasted eggplant: Trim the eggplant and slice it lengthwise. Layer a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet (to collect all the excess moisture). Place the eggplant slices on the rack. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for about 20 minutes. Pat dry using a paper towel. Brush the hot grill pan with a little olive oil. Drizzle oil on the eggplant slices as well. Place the slices on the grill. Cook until you get grill marks (about 3-4 minutes on each side) on medium heat. Remove from the pan. Cut the grilled eggplants into small chunks. Set aside.
For the roasted red bell pepper: Wash the bell pepper, pat dry, then brush with a little olive oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the bell pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the bell pepper under running water and the skin will come right off. Seed it, slice it and set aside until needed.
For the creamy ricotta and red bell pepper pesto: In a mini-food processor, combine the onions, pickled garlic, eggplant, the red bell pepper, remaining lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Add the goat ricotta cheese, lemon zest, chopped mint and parmesan. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembly time: Spread about 2 teaspoons of the creamy vegetable pesto onto each baguette slice. Garnish with some fresh mint, lemon zest and grated parmesan.
Serve at room temperature.
When throwing a fancy party with little hors d'oeuvres, always remember that all the appetizers should require no more than 2-3 bites, maximum. You want your guests to enjoy the party and mingle, which means they can't be spending all their time chewing.
I like to use crostini as a base for vegetable spreads. Slightly toasting the bread prevents the appetizer from getting soggy even when a moist topping is added.
If you have a big gathering, grill the crostini in advance. Store them in a zip-top bag and spread the topping about 30 minutes before you're ready to serve.
I used pickled garlic so that it does not overpower the crostini. If you don't mind the not-so-mild flavor, use fresh garlic.
To use a left-over baguette, if you don't want to go through the whole process of making crostini, you can always make garlic parmesan bread and pair it with soup. You can also make bread crumbs for a nice crunch for mac & cheese or croûtons for soups and salads.
Baguettes are best on the day they're made. It's best to store baguettes in a linen / cotton or paper bag. Do not store in a plastic bag, they'll lose all their crunch. Also, do not store next to a heating source because the bread will get hard.
Published By: on August 23, 2009.