Just in time for New Year’s Eve I got to test this recipe for the Cookbook Club at the Daily Meal. It is a brilliant combination of flavors and textures in a simple but sophisticated appetizer dish. Making the ricotta from scratch was fun and easy and, I think, makes the bruschetta extra special. Of course, you could make these with purchased ricotta and they would come together in no time, but don’t use the ricotta that comes in a tub in the supermarket. Try to find a source for the freshest, locally made cheese you can find. If you choose to make the ricotta, be aware that there will be a lot of leftover whey (in all cheese-making you get a little cheese from a lot of milk). It can be frozen for future use in baking, smoothies, cooking pasta, potatoes, oatmeal and other grains, and so on. These little treats are likely to become a appetizer staple in our house.
Bruschetta with Homemade Ricotta, Prosciutto, and Arugula
(makes 10 to 15 hors d’oeuvres)
1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1 cup fresh ricotta, homemade (recipe follows) or top-quality store bought
baby arugula leaves
1/4 pound very thinly sliced prosciutto or other salty, cured pork meat, such as coppa, lomo, or speck
Best quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Heat an outdoor or indoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Spread out the sliced breads on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Grill the bread until golden all over, 2 or 3 minutes per side. Rub one side of each piece of bread with the garlic. Arrange the bread on a platter. Spread a tablespoon or two of ricotta on each piece of bread, and then press an arugula leaf into the cheese. Drape a slice of prosciutto on top, drizzle with your best olive oil, and serve.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
(makes 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 gallon whole milk (preferably from a local source)
2 cups of buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, and secure it with 3 or 4 clothespins or plastic clips. Set the colander inside a large bowl. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, with a thermometer handy, combine the whole milk and buttermilk and heat, stirring almost constantly, until the temperature reaches 180 degrees F. When you reach 170 to 175 degrees F, you’ll start to see fine, little curds separating from the whey. At 180 degrees F, turn off the heat, skim the curds from the whey using a finely slotted spoon, dropping the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander. (Save the whey for another use, such as breadmaking). Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and tie it with a 2-foot length of string. Gently squeeze to remove a little, but not all, of the liquid from the cheese, and then hang over the sink or bowl for 20-30 minutes to drain a bit more. (Use the string to tie the bag to the faucet or a kitchen cabinet knob). Remove the ricotta from the cheesecloth, spoon into a container, and stir in the salt. Serve as soon as possible, preferably without refrigerating.
(adapted from “In My Kitchen” by Ted Allen)