There are certain foods and recipes that food bloggers go crazy for—donuts, cupcakes, homemade marshmallows. And while those items are tasty in their in own time and place, the food trend I can’t stop talking about is homemade ricotta.
A few weeks ago I decided to make a vegetable tart that required ricotta. Instead of heading to the store for a tub of overpriced, sub-par ricotta, I decided to test what I had been reading on so many food blogs: ricotta is both easy to make and much more delicious than store-bought. Making my own ricotta for this veggie tart might not have been the most sane decision considering (1) I had never made ricotta before and the tart recipe hinged on its success (2) I would still have to go to the store to buy buttermilk and heavy cream to make the ricotta (3) my in-laws were coming for dinner in T-3 hours. But as is usually the case with me, the lure of making everything from scratch squelched any rational thinking.
Armed with Jennifer Perillo’s recipe that my friend Bethy had blogged about, I simmered milk, buttermilk and heavy cream, let it sit so the curds could develop and finally drained the whey from the curds.
Less than an hour after beginning the ricotta, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whew! It had worked! The ricotta was warm, creamy, rich, smooth, and delicious. The tart was successful and only on the table half an hour later than planned.
The ricotta recipe yielded more than I needed for the tart, so I incorporated it into meals and snacks throughout the week: scooped alongside oven-roasted peaches for dessert, smeared on bread with marmalade for a snack, and as a layer in these roasted vegetable bruschetta for a family party.
For this version of bruschetta, rub raw garlic onto toasted bread and top with a generous scoop of ricotta. Arrange roasted vegetables on top of the ricotta, sprinkle with feta and garnish with fresh basil. I roasted the vegetables in the oven, but you could probably save yourself some work by grilling them instead. And while you’re at it, double the amount of veggies and use them in my Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes recipe.
I may have been a little late to the homemade ricotta bandwagon, but I sure am glad I hopped on.
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1” dice
2 colorful bell peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and stem removed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1” dice
4 small-medium tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
one loaf of French or Italian bread, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to brush bread
2 cups homemade ricotta
½ cup crumbled feta, to garnish
several basil leaves, to garnish
Prepare the Vegetables
Preheat oven to 450°F. For easy clean up, line a 9×13 inch pan with aluminum foil (or grease the pan well). Place the eggplant in the pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir to coat the pieces with olive oil. Roast the eggplant for about 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Add the zucchini chunks and drizzle with more olive oil if needed. Stir and return to the oven. After 15 more minutes, stir the veggies again and check to see if they are soft, blistery and browned. If not, return to the oven and check every five minutes.
While the eggplant and zucchini are roasting, place the bell pepper halves cut-side down in a small roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place them in the oven alongside the eggplant and zucchini and roast until skin blisters and begins to blacken, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove bell peppers from the oven and cover dish with aluminum foil. This helps steam the bell peppers and makes the skin easier to remove. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove foil from pan and use your hands to remove the skin from the bell peppers as best you can. Slice the bell peppers into strips and then into 1 inch chunks.
Place the tomatoes cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until tomatoes are tender and being breaking down.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the onions and bay leaves and sauté until soft and caramelized, at least 25 minutes. Stir frequently and add more oil as needed.
Alternatively, grill the vegetables until tender and slightly charred.
Assemble the Bruschetta
Toast the bread slices until golden brown either under the broiler, on a grill or in an electric toaster. Rub the raw garlic clove over the surface of the toast and brush with olive oil. Spread a generous amount of ricotta over each slice of toast and top with roasted vegetables and caramelized onions. Sprinkle a teaspoon of feta on each toast and garnish with fresh basil.