We've been almost hibernating this month. Slowing down big time. The dim days have kept us indoors mostly, while our constantly humming gas fireplace heats our living room to unreasonably high temperatures. An 85 degree apartment makes going outside even more painful, of course; like jumping from a hot tub into a cold swimming pool. And so, we've been venturing outside as little as possible already, which leaves us with the options of nap, or cribbage, or finally put the clean laundry away that I washed on Monday, or let's go to the gym; wait, nah, as our Saturday afternoon agenda.
Winter is here, my friends.
Winter is here, my friends.
Do I sound like I'm griping? I'm truly not; I love this change of pace. For now. Our once-packed calendar finally gave way to long Saturday mornings at home and cozy meals each night, which is therapeutic for a homebody like me. I'm keeping our crisper drawer full of beets and Brussels sprouts (to me, this is exciting), and it doesn't hurt that a splash of Bailey's has found its way into my cup of hot chocolate on more than one occasion. Tis the season.
But, between our hot apartment, sleepy days and layers of clothing, as comforting as those things may be, I've discovered that it's amazing how a fresh little bite can wake me up. Like a cold drink of water after a pumpkin spice latte.
Enter these little bruschetta.
Yes, these are more of a summer appetizer, but I had a craving recently and couldn't help myself - and I think you might like to do the same. A cool swipe of creamy ricotta, a bite of fresh basil, a thick slice of tomato with a drizzle of sweet balsamic: these will make you swoon.
I'm telling you, make our own ricotta, and people will look at you like you've told them you just came back from the moon. In reality, it's embarrassingly simple: heat some milk and cream to 190 degrees, stir in some lemon juice, let it sit for five minutes, and pour it into a cheese cloth. That's it. After two hours, you have this lavishly creamy, perfect ricotta to spread on your baguette, or on anything else you fancy. I use this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and it's perfect.
Try these little bruschetta for Thanksgiving, if you're willing to add something a little different to the appetizer table. Or, if you're just sitting in your 85-degree apartment one night, watching Thursday night football, give them a go. With a spicy winter ale, of course. We're hibernating, after all. Right?
Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Tomatoes and Basil
Note: You want to use excellent ingredients here. I use MN Bushel Boy tomatoes, which are somehow good all year. And choose a quality, aged balsamic.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(also need: cheesecloth and thermometer)
Line a fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth, and set over a bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk, cream and salt to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula so the bottom doesn't scorch. When the mixture reaches 190 degrees, remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, and stir gently (just a few stirs) to just incorporate the lemon juice into the milk mixture. Let sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, curds will have formed. Gently pour the mix into the cheesecloth-lined strainer - this will separate the curds from the whey (the whey is the liquid part - you'll discard this). Allow the cheese to strain for 1-2 hours; it will get thicker the longer it strains. I usually strain the cheese for the full two hours for the bruschetta recipe.
One baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices
Basil, whole leaves
Ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, then slices cut in half (as shown in picture above)
Good-quality balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1. Toast the baguette slices. Preheat the broiler of your oven, and position the oven rack to the top position. Set the baguette slices on a cookie sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil on both sides. Place the cookie sheet under the broiler until bread is lightly toasted - about 1 minute on the first side, then flip the bread over and toast about 30 seconds on the other side. You want bread that is lightly toasted but not overly hard and crunchy.
2. Spread baguette slices with a thick swab of ricotta cheese
3. Press one piece of basil onto the ricotta on each baguette slice
4. Set a tomato slice on top; season well with salt and pepper
5. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic