Zucchini Crostini with Fresh Ricotta

August 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

I always dedicate a large part of my garden to summer squash. I just can’t seem to help it. It doesn’t matter how many times I grow more squash than I can eat, I always think I’m going to want more.

This year, instead of repeating my standard zucchini habits, I’m trying to branch out in my squash skills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still making plenty of steamed and stir fried squash dishes, and I definitely plan to make zucchini bread, but I also want to get more creative.

In that same spirit of creativity, I also decide to make use of this incredible cheese making book that has been sitting around my house for months now. On a regular basis, I open it up and page through the many amazing recipes it offers. Every time I do this, I commit to buying a few of the (many) cheese cultures used in the book. And then I forget, and the next time I want to make cheese, I am sadly lacking ingredients.

Despite this silly cycle, I realized I could still make ricotta…it doesn’t require any cultures! And it was so yummy that I am newly invigorated to buy some cultures and expand my cheese making capacities.

If you make your own ricotta, everyone will be impressed (and you don’t have to tell them how easy it is). And even if you don’t, you will still be in for a treat with this fresh, summery appetizer.

If you make the totally acceptable decision to use store-bought ricotta, skip down a bit to the crostini recipe!

Fresh Ricotta (adapted from Artisan Cheese Making at Home)

Yields approximately 1 cup ricotta

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream*
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Set out kitchen thermometer, cheese cloth, mesh strainer, and medium bowl. Combine milk, cream, lemon juice and salt in a medium saucepan. Place the pan over medium-low heat. Heat to 185ºF to 195ºF, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to prevent scorching. You will begin to see curds forming as the milk heats, and the curds and whey should be well separated once the mixture reaches the desired temperature.

Once you reach the 185ºF to 195ºF degree range and have well formed curds, remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Place the cheese cloth over the mesh strainer, and place the strainer over the bowl. Gently pour the curds and whey into the strainer, letting the whey strain into the bowl beneath. Now make a draining satchel. Pull two adjacent corners of your cheese cloth together. Repeat with the other two adjacent corners, so that you are holding two corners in each hand. Tie these two sides of the cloth together, creating a satchel for the cheese. Slip the handle of a wooden spoon under the knot, and hang the cheese satchel over a bowl. Let the whey drain for approximately 20 minutes for a moist ricotta, or longer for a drier version. I let mine strain for 30 minutes.

Discard the whey, or use it for something else! I’ve never actually made use of whey, but I’ve read you can use it for cooking things like pasta or couscous, or as a lighter substitute for buttermilk in other recipes.

You can eat your ricotta immediately (with these crostini), or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Zucchini Crostini with Fresh Ricotta

  • 16 baguette slices, 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 medium sized summer squash, thinly sliced at a slight diagonal (if your squash are small, use 4)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing bread
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Brush bread slices lightly with olive oil, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

While your bread is in the oven, thinly slice your summer squash. If you have a mandolin, this is a perfect recipe for it. If not, I used a vegetable peeler, which worked just fine! Cut off one end of the squash. Holding the other end, use the vegetable peeler to cut thin slices at a slightly diagonal angle.

Place zucchini in a small shallow bowl. Toss with oil, lemon, and salt (and pepper if desired). Let sit for 5 minutes.

Once the bread has cooled, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on each slice (I used approximately 1 tablespoon per piece, but use as little or as much as you like). Top with 5-6 slices of squash, folding each piece over on itself to create a ribbon-like look if desired. Serve immediately.

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