Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Party Nibbles....Including Homemade Ricotta!

The Holiday season is upon us.  That means parties, dinners, Open Houses, etc.  It also means that you need to have some quick appetizer or snack ideas up your sleeve.  In a season that is filled with cocktail parties and potlucks….you need a quick appetizer idea that you can whip out at a moment’s notice.  And I know you want it to be fast and easy, but you also what it to be a show stopper.  You want people to say “Wow, you made this?”  Admit it, you want that. 

During the Holidays, sure, people love a good dip.  But I think that an appetizer that can be passed around and eaten in one or two bites is the best way to go.  Today I have three ideas for you that all have the same base, a toasted baguette slice.  Once you have the vehicle, the toppings are a snap.  My first topping is a delicious mix of mushrooms, wine, cream and cheese.  My second two toppings involve homemade ricotta cheese.  And there is your show stopper.

Yes, you can make ricotta cheese at home!  It is actually really easy, and it is really yummy.  Your friends and family will think you are amazing.  But we will get back to the amazingness in a bit.  First, let’s cover the mushrooms.

In a sauté pan, I sauté mushrooms and garlic in butter, until a little brown and softened.  Then, I add in white wine and heavy cream.  Sounds crazy delicious, yes?  I highly recommend using white wine for presentation purposes, but you could use red if that is what you have.  I let the sauce reduce until it is thick.  Then I spoon over toasted baguette slices and top with parmesan.  Fontina would be delicious here too.  You can toss these under the broiler to melt the cheese, but the warm mushrooms will also do the trick.

Now if that didn’t grab your attention, and you really just want to hear about homemade ricotta, let’s move on.  It’s almost embarrassing how easy it is. 

To make homemade ricotta, all you need is half and half, salt, pepper, white wine vinegar, lemon juice and cheese cloth.  The cheese cloth is not debatable.  It is a must.  You can usually find it any grocery store.

I make my ricotta by bringing my half and half, salt and pepper to a boil over medium heat.  I stir occasionally so that I don’t burn the bottom.  Once it comes to a full boil, I remove it from the heat and stir in my vinegar and lemon juice.  Pretty much immediately, curds will form.  Give it a minute to get all curdy, then pour the mixture into a colander lined with damp cheese cloth.  I let the ricotta drain for about a half an hour. Once it is drained, I am left with thick, rich ricotta. 

This ricotta is nothing like what you buy at the store.  You will be amazed at the difference.  It is pillow soft and absolutely perfect. 

Now that we have the ricotta down, let’s talk about the two toppings that I like to put on toasted baguette slices that have been slathered with ricotta.  The first is easiest….I use Gourmet Rooster Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Spread.  The combination of sweet roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar and garlic is to die for.  And how easy is it to open a jar?

My second topping is a typical bruschetta topping of tomatoes, red onion, garlic, olive oil and basil.  Super simple, but ten times better when you make it yourself instead of buying it.  The flavors are stronger, and you control the oil.  I also like to top my ricotta tomato bruschetta with a drizzle of pesto.


Are you picturing the three amazing toppings for toasted baguette slices?  All of them are amazing.  If you have mushroom lovers, go with that one.  If you have cheese lovers, make some ricotta!  Top the ricotta with delectable Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Spread or homemade tomato topping.  Any way you go, you can’t lose!  These appetizers will make your holiday party!

Mushroom Bruschetta

3 Tablespoons butter

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup wine

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Parmesan cheese

1 baguette, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoon salt, divided

2 teaspoons black pepper, divided

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté mushrooms and garlic in butter until brown and softened (over medium high heat), about 7 minutes.  Add wine and cook for 1 minute.  Add cream, season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook until sauce is reduced, about 5 minutes. 

Drizzle sliced baguette with oil and remaining salt and pepper..  Toast in 450 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Top with mushroom mixture and parmesan cheese.

Makes 24


Homemade Ricotta

6 cups half and half

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Bring half and half, salt and pepper to a rolling boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in vinegar and lemon juice.  Curds will start to form.  After about 1 minute, pour mixture into a colander lined with damp cheese cloth.  Let sit for about 30 minutes.  Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 3 cups.


Perfect Tomato Bruschetta

1 baguette, sliced

¼ cup olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 medium tomatoes diced and squeezed to remove liquid

¼ cup red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

2 cups ricotta

2 tablespoons pesto, jarred

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Drizzle sliced baguette evenly with 2 tablespoons oil and 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Toast in 450 degree oven for 5 minutes. 

In a bowl, gently mix together diced tomatoes, diced red onion, minced garlic, minced basil, remaining olive oil, and remaining salt and pepper.  Chill until ready to use.

Top toasted baguette slices evenly with ricotta, then tomato mixture.  Drizzle with pesto.

Makes 24

1 comment:

  1. I assume this is Courtney? I found your recipes in the RGJ today and I'm very interested in making the homemade ricotta. I'm curious why you used half and half versus heavy cream aside from the obvious fat content difference. Thank you! :)