Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quick and Easy Apps

Hi guys!  I’m sitting on my porch watching the bunnies hop by.  We have cute little cotton tail bunnies that live around here.  Not jack rabbits, but actual fluffy adorable bunnies.  I am going to enjoy it right now because rumor has it that when there are a lot of bunnies….there are soon to be a lot of coyotes.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much it will freak me out if I was to stumble across a bunny carcass.  I know I live out in the woods and all, but bunnies that have been eaten by coyotes is not my thing.  Seriously, I live in fear of coyotes.  They really freak me out.  I am glad that I finally know what they look like though…..If I had seen one where we used to live, I probably would have thought it was an ugly dog, and possibly tried to pet it.  I would be pissed if a coyote ate my face off.
Ok, back to what you came for.  This last weekend, I didn’t feel like cooking an actual meal.  I was feeling more snacky.  I decided to make a meal of easy, light appetizers.  I don’t need to talk about my love of apps again with you all…..I think you know by now.  I made an appetizer that I have made before, homemade ricotta and bruschetta….and I came up with a new one, Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread.  They were both quick and easy, and I know they would impress all of your friends and family.
Let’s start with the homemade ricotta and bruschetta.  Yes, you can make ricotta at home and it is ridiculously easy.  Ricotta is a mild and creamy cheese that is super versatile.  And this ricotta puts the store bought stuff to shame.  I don’t think I ever even knew what ricotta was supposed to taste like until I made this.  The only downside is that this recipe doesn’t make a lot.  If you wanted to use it in a lasagna, you would need a ton of milk and cream.  But for a quick app, this is perfect.
For this appetizer, I used whole milk, heavy cream, white vinegar, salt and pepper, a loaf of ciabatta, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, red onion, and basil.  The end result will be toasted slices of bread that you can top with ricotta and bruschetta topping.  Yum!
I will show you how to make the ricotta.  You will want to make this all the time….it is that good…. And easy.
I simmer together milk and cream, just until it is about to boil.  I cooked it over medium heat to avoid scorching.  I also stirred it a lot, again to avoid scorching.  It will get little bubbles around the edges when it is about to boil.
I stirred in some salt and pepper, and then I added white vinegar.  The vinegar will cause the milk/cream to curdle, which makes the cheese.  It is like a science experiment.
See how it is curdled?  Once it does this, I continued to cook it, over low heat, for about 2 more minutes.
Now the cheese has to get strained.  Do you know what would work best for this?  Cheesecloth.  Do you know what I didn’t have?  Cheesecloth.  I did it ghetto-style and used coffee filters and rubber bands. 
I had to do this slowly, as the coffee filters can’t hold too much at once.  You will be amazed at how much liquid comes out of this.  Remember, I said this doesn’t make much.  But believe me, it will be worth it.
Once the cheese is drained, you have ricotta.  How easy was that?  I never knew it was that easy to make any kind of cheese, did you?
Now is the time to make the bruschetta topping.  I diced the tomatoes, and then I pretended to dice the red onion.  I bought it diced as I am a lazy good for nothing.  I also added a few cloves of minced garlic, basil and olive oil.  I mixed it together gently and that was that.
I also sliced the ciabatta bread and brushed the slices with olive oil.  I toasted them in the oven until they were a light golden brown.
This is such a summery, light appetizer.  I could have eaten the whole thing myself, but I didn’t.  I gave everyone else a couple of bites;)
If you make your own ricotta, you will definitely impress your friends and family.  They will never have to know how easy it was to make your own cheese.  They will think it was crazy hard, and you must be a fantastic chef.  So why spoil the illusion?

My next appetizer is a Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread.  I took a lot of help from the store on this one.  I used a canned pizza dough, and other packaged and jarred ingredients.
Besides the canned pizza dough (thin crust), I also used Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach Spread, a small onion that I caramelized, prosciutto, goat cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper.  This is basically a pizza with super fancy toppings.  It is sweet and savory, which I love.  I am hoping you do too.
FYI-I caramelized the onion in a couple of tablespoons of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.  I cooked them over low heat for almost 40 minutes.  They turn into candy!  Well, sort of. 
I start by laying the pizza dough out on a baking sheet.  It won’t stick, but I lined my pan with foil anyway.  Anything I can do to shorten clean up…I do.  If you ever meet my husband and he tells you that I do all the cooking and he cleans up….don’t buy it.  Unless by “cleaning up” he means “sitting on the couch;)”
I poked the crust all over with my fingers, not all the way through, but enough to make little wells.  I brushed the top with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and baked the crust for about 10 to 12 minutes.  The olive oil will help the crust get brown and crusty.
See? Brown and crusty.
I covered the entire crust with County Fair Peach Spread.  Ok, not the entire crust…I left a little border.  The peach spread will give this flatbread a sweet and spicy flavor.  Not spicy, like hot pepper spicy, more like cinnamon spicy.
I covered the peach spread with the caramelized onion, diced prosciutto and crumbled goat cheese.  The prosciutto adds yummy saltiness, and the goat cheese gives a good tang.  I, personally, love goat cheese, but you could also use Fontina if you don’t want to marry goat cheese when it becomes legal, the way I do.
I sliced the flatbread into little pieces.  My family loved this.  It is kind of different then anything they have had before.  Like I said, the peach spread makes it sweet and spicy.  It has an unexpected flavor that I promise….you will love too.
I hope that you try one of these recipes.  Summer is the time for parties, bbqs, etc.  And don’t you always want to bring something?  An appetizer is the perfect thing to bring;)  Bring one of these and you won’t be disappointed.  Nor will your friends.
I will see you all on Thursday with Part 2 of my “Boozie Cakes” series…..
Homemade Ricotta
4 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
In a large pot, simmer milk and cream together over medium heat.  When bubbles start to form around the edge (about 10 minutes), add salt, pepper and vinegar.  Stir and continue to cook, over low heat, for another minute.
Strain in cheesecloth.  Serve warm, room temperature or cold.
12 ounces cherry tomatoes
¼ cup red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup basil, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Ciabatta bread of baguette, sliced and toasted
Combine all ingredients, gently.  Serve with toasted bread and ricotta.

Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread
1 can Pillsbury Pizza Dough, thin crust
9 ounces Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach Spread
1 small onion, caramelized (see below)
½ cup prosciutto, diced
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lay pizza dough on baking sheet.  Make little wells in the dough with your fingers.  Brush dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Once baked, cover crust with peach spread.  Then sprinkle on onion, prosciutto, and goat cheese.  Slice and serve.

How to caramelize and onion: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over low heat.  Add chopped or sliced onion.  Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar over onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, over low heat, for about 30 to 40 minutes. 


  1. I want to make both of these! Yum-o!! Just need to find the time...

  2. My husband subscribes to the same method of "clean-up" as yours does...hmmm. As always, such a funny post...you always make me laugh!