A Tale of Two Toasts
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
Give avocado a rest and go for ricotta instead.
2017 was the year of the fancy toast, and not the rosé kind either, more on that to come.
It started with mashed avocado, then took off to include hummus toast, cheesy toast, almond butter toast and so on. But TBH, open-faced sandwiches aka "tartines" have been around for centuries. In fact, in the Middle Ages, people used stale bread as plates, kinda genius if you think about it.
I love to take a blank canvas like toasted bread, and start painting it with colorful flavors. In these recipes, I used ricotta as the "liquid white," base color (that's a Bob Ross reference in case you missed it). Ricotta is a very mild cheese, great in a raviolo by itself, and also super simple to make. IMHO, it's the pefect base for hundreds of flavors. One of my favorite ricotta applications is in cannoli cream, but this post isn't about sweets, at least not entirely. It's about toast, and toast is my jam.
With ricotta as the base, I've made two different spreads, one mostly sweet, tinted with honey and sweet basil, and the other savory, with thyme and crushed red pepper. From here, the possibilities are endless. Top the sweet base with orange supremes and crushed pistachios, top the savory with roasted peppers and olives, etc. Have fun with it. Use what you have on
For the sweet, I top the cheese with sliced strawberries and aged balsamic. For the savory, I make it rain with roasted mushrooms and butternut squash.
For both recipes: 1 loaf of French bread
2 cups ricotta 1/2 tsp Salt 1 oz extra virgin olive oil
Sweet: 2 tsp fresh basil (few leaves) 2 tsp honey 1 oz aged balsamic 10 medium strawberries
2 tsp fresh thyme (few sprigs)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash 1/2 cup roasted mushrooms Evoo for finishing
Preheat the oven to 375°F. With a bread knife, cut French bread into 1/2" slices on the bias. Brush both sides with evoo and place on a cookie sheet to toast for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, split the ricotta into equal portions in two small bowls. To one mixture, add the honey, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsp finely chopped basil leaves; and to the other bowl, add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper and 2 tsp fresh thyme.
Remove the toast from the oven and let cool before spreading on the ricotta. Slice the strawberries into rounds and set aside. Once the toast is cooled, spread half of them with the sweet ricotta and half of them with the savory.
To the sweet batch, top with sliced stawberries and drizzle with aged balsamic. Garnish with fresh torn basil. To the savory toasts, add a few pieces of cubed, roasted squash and mushrooms. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh thyme.
Serve them side by side and have your guests fight over them, like my friends did on social media!