Hey there! How’s your summer going so far? I hope it’s had lots of sunshine, ice cream and good company. Not to brag or nothin’, but I have to say mine’s been pretty stellar. I’ve done lots of traveling, I’ve had a few good beach days, and lots of people have been gifting me their gorgeous summer vegetables. That might sound like a strange, even unwanted gift to a lot of people, but to me, there’s nothing better!
A few weeks ago, my friend Tina dropped off some zucchini from her garden, and just last week, my friend and farmer Carey gave me a boatload of produce from B&B Farms/Sea Salt CSA. There was so much beautiful hard neck garlic in that bag, I should have enough to last me through the rest of the summer (and hopefully a few cloves leftover to plant in the fall). If you happen to come across me in the streets over the next few weeks, expect to get hit with some fierce garlic breath.
When I went to pick up my produce I was met by Carey’s mom, the one and only Mama Shark! She insisted I take home some of her homegrown yellow zucchini along with my other farm swag. They were beauties! Soft skinned and bright school-bus-yellow, I took them home and got right to work on this recipe.
Toast, even in it’s simplest buttered form, has always ranked high on my list of favorite foods. So straightforward, yet so satisfying, nostalgic and comforting. Toast is having a total moment right now! It’s popping up on trendy menus all over the place, which makes me really happy. Toast deserves it’s time in the spotlight.
Bruschetta is pretty much just a fancy Italian word for toast with cool toppings. We all know the classic tomato basil, which is obviously amazing, but there’s a whole world ingredients out there just waiting to be piled on top of toast. This version of bruschetta is inspired by a dish we ate on our honeymoon almost 5 years ago. 5. Years. Ago.(!) Isn’t that wild? I guess time flies when you’re having fun.
The name of the restaurant escapes me, but we were somewhere in Napa, in the middle of a picturesque vineyard/olive grove fit for the cover of Wine Spectator. We sat outside, next to a couple with the most lovable, ginormous Newfoundland pup. The food was farm-to-table at its finest, and one of the highlights was a wood fired zucchini topped with creamy ricotta and fresh mint. So simple. So good.
I asked the server if the ricotta was homemade. It was so light and so creamy, it was unlike any ricotta I’d ever tasted. He revealed that it was not in fact homemade, but then he leaned in and let me in on the secret: the chef folds store bought ricotta into unsweetened whipped cream.
It was one of the first recipes I had to tackle when I got home (the other one was this). I slathered that whipped ricotta onto a piece of toast with a little sea salt, and I was in heaven. I tried it with pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, and just about anything else I could think of. It’s the ricotta you know and love, but not as heavy or as dense. It’s like a fluffy cloud of creamy dreaminess, and it’s good on just about anything.
The grilled zucchini and fresh mint are especially nice paired with a dollop of this rich, fluffy cheese. I go a step further and grill the bread too, because I love the contrast of the brash charred flavor with the smooth, mellow ricotta. The warm zucchini gets perched on top of the ricotta cloud, and it starts to melt almost instantly. A little bit of lemon zest perks things up, and the fresh mint adds a bright freshness to round it all out.
Serve this easy appetizer the next time your friends come over and watch them gobble up every last bit. Or, just eat a bowl of the whipped ricotta with a spoon. This is a judgement-free-zone.
- 2 medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced 1/2 inch thick, lengthwise
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8-10 pieces good quality crusty bread, sliced about 1 inch thick, on a diagonal
- 1 cup heavy cream, ice cold
- 1 pint (2 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
- zest from 1 small lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- Flaky sea salt (like Maldon) for finishing, optional
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Toss the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil on to each side of each slice of bread. Grill the zucchini until each piece is charred on the outside, but still firm inside. Don't let them go too long, you don't want them to become mush. Grill the bread until nicely toasted on each side, letting parts get a little charred, then set aside. Allow the zucchini to cool, then cut each strip into a large dice and place them in a bowl. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- In a medium sized bowl, use a balloon whisk or electric mixer to whip the cream to barely soft peaks. Gently fold in the lemon zest, ricotta and a small pinch of salt until fully combined.
- Arrange the grilled bread slices out on a platter. Spoon a generous dollop of the whipped ricotta on to each toast, and spread it out just a bit. Top with a spoonful of the grilled zucchini, then scatter and tear the mint leaves over top. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint if desired, and serve immediately.