Strawberry-Ricotta Bruschetta

Eton Mess

The most appealing aspect about Italian food is its simplicity. Just think about some of the dishes: A simple yet perfect spaghetti marinara. A mouthwatering  bistecca alla fiorentina with a final sprinkling of sea salt. A Caprese salad of sliced tomato, basil, and mozzarella with a drizzle of olive oil. Or that popular appetizer, one of my favorites—bruschetta. What could be more simple, or more delicious than this!? Just a piece of perfectly toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and topped with chopped tomatoes and a bit of fresh basil.

Originating in Rome, bruschetta (pronounced broo-sketta) has become known around the world. But I think we get a few things wrong about it in the States. Some people call the tomato topping, bruschetta, or some people think that bruschetta can only refer to this specific dish of bread topped with tomato. Both are incorrect. Bruschetta refers to the toasted bread. Traditionally, bruschetta is made using a brustolina, a grilling basket that's filled with sliced bread and then held over a flame, like one on a gas range. It's like an ancient toaster.

Every summer, I love to make different kinds of bruschette (plural) with different kinds of toppings. The ones I find most interesting are the ones I top with fruit, specifically strawberries. I love these late spring/early summer berries, but I've never liked them cooked. So, I always like to feature them raw, whether that's in a strawberry shortcake or an Eton mess. But I love them even more as a topping for bruschetta! I really like serving these strawberry-ricotta bruschette as an appetizer, but they also make a nice dessert.

It's dead simple to make this recipe. I macerate sliced strawberries in a bit of honey and white balsamic vinegar. And I add a touch of freshly ground black pepper, which is an amazing flavor combination with strawberries. Once the fruit has had a chance to release its liquids, it's ready to use. Just spread slices of toasted baguette with a good-quality, creamy, full-fat ricotta cheese. Top it with the macerated strawberries, torn fresh basil, and a drizzle of a fruity, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil.

Strawberry-Ricotta Bruschetta

1 pound strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette, sliced thinly
15-ounce (425-gram) container full-fat ricotta
basil leaves, for garnish
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Start by hulling the strawberries. Slice them up and add them to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in honey and vinegar. Add some freshly ground black pepper. Toss the strawberries to coat. Let the mixture macerate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes up to an hour.

Toast the baguette slices in a toaster, the oven, or use a brustolina, if you can find one. Spread each toasted slice of baguette with a schmear of ricotta cheese. Top each with a good amount of the macerated strawberry mixture. Garnish each bruschetta with torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


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