Sunday, November 14, 2010
Baked ricotta with herbs + Cannellini bean spread with pita chips
It is so nice to finally have an apartment where I can host dinner parties. I may not have a couch yet (it is supposed to be delivered sometime in mid-December), but that doesn't stop me from cooking up an elaborate meal in my amazing kitchen (with actual counter space, gasp!).
I had guests over for dinner at the last minute and was pressed to come up with several appetizers in a short amount of time. I immediately thought of the really good fresh ricotta I had just bought. I decide to make baked ricotta with thyme and parsley based on a recipe I had mentally bookmarked from one of my dearest cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. It is a simple, fast, wonderful recipe that is perfect for entertaining. Bake the ricotta in an attractive dish and serve it direct from oven to table. The result is warm, creamy, and fluffy goodness. My guests kept heaping spoons of it onto bread and muttering sounds in between bites.
The inspiration for the next appetizer comes from some wonderful cannellini bean brushchetta I recently tasted at a restaurant. Although delicious, it was a bit challenging to eat the bruschetta because the beans kept falling off of the bread. For my dinner party I instead made a cannellini bean spread with garlic, parsley, and lemon and served it with toasted pita brushed with olive oil, sea salt, and oregano. Made with simple ingredients, the cannellini spread had good acidity and garlicky-ness with a fresh kick from the parsley.
The final appetizer is one of my usual favorites and probably one of the fastest hors d'oeuvre for entertaining- bite sized caprese salad. At numerous parties, I have sereved mini caprese skewers: a toothpick piercing bocconcini, cherry tomato, and a basil leaf drizzled with good olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper. This time we were working with some very large basil leaves so my fabulous sous chef decided to wrap the bocconcini and cherry tomato with a basil leaf and then pierce it with a toothpick. Beautiful presentation and a wonderful way to get all of the flavors into one bite!
All in all, I highly recommend keeping these fast, delicious, and interesting appetizers in mind for your next dinner party!
Baked Ricotta (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)
1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp chopped italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400.
Add ricotta to a medium bowl and stir in 1.5 tbsp of olive oil, half of the thyme, parsley, and crushed red pepper. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper. Transfer to a small, attractive au gratin dish or cazuela. Using finger tips, gently make indentations on the top of the ricotta. Sprinkle remaining thyme on top and drizzle remaining olive oil over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the top.
Serve with good bread.
Cannellini beans with Pita Chips (Giada de Laurentiis)
15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon)
1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on your preference for garlicky-ness)
1/4 cup loosely packed Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
Preheat oven to 400.
Combine beans, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley in a blender or food processor until coarsely chopped. Season well with sea salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl.
Slice the pita into half and each half into quarters. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, and oregano. On a large baking sheet, arrange pita and brush with oil mixture. Bake for 8-10 min until reach a golden color. Serve warm or at room temperature with cannellini dip.