By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local
Today, we’re making marinated strawberries and whipped roasted garlic ricotta toasts.
For this recipe, I wanted to highlight the weather getting warm, COVID-19 restrictions loosening, and (at least I have it) the urge to host dinner parties again. I thought it would be fun to show one of my absolute favorite canapés that can also serve as a breakfast, lunch, or even dinner snack on its own.
My favorite part about this recipe is that it is deliciously simple and once the preparations are done it takes minutes to put together. This is the perfect time of year for this recipe because strawberry season is in full swing. Try your best to get local strawberries at the farmers market or even supermarket as they have the most flavor, and more importantly sweetness. They are easily the best option for this plate, however standard berries will certainly work very well. You just may need to add a bit of sugar to the marinade.
This preparation is balanced beautifully by the earthy sweetness that comes from the roasted garlic. It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory.
Ingredients for the roasted garlic:
- 1 head of garlic, sliced clean through it on the top side about one quarter of the way down from the top so that all of the cloves are exposed
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Ingredients for the the strawberries:
- 1 quart of fresh strawberries, greens removed and sliced thinly, approximately 1/6th of an inch (if your strawberries aren’t particularly sweet, add 1 teaspoon of honey)
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon of low-sodium soy sauce (I love using soy sauce in basically anything I make — it’s free flavor)
- Salt and pepper
- Thinly sliced basil (or micro basil if you grow it yourself) for garnish
Ingredients for the ricotta toasts:
- 12 ounces of whole milk ricotta cheese (feel free to substitute skim milk; I just like the creaminess of the whole milk)
- 3/4 cloves of roasted garlic, mashed into a paste (you can use as much as you want — don’t you dare feel ashamed for using the whole head)
- 1 tablespoon of finely sliced chives
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 loaf of French baguette, sliced on the bias
- The garlic oil from roasting
Instructions for the roasted garlic:
- Preheat your toaster oven or regular oven to 350 degrees
- Place the garlic into a small, oven-proof bowl (Pyrex is ideal) cut side down so the root side is facing up. Pour the olive oil so it comes up to about halfway on the head. You may not need all of the olive oil.
- Roast at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. The garlic should be golden brown and the cloves should easily pop out of the “paper.”
- Remove the cloves and set them aside to cool. They keep well in the fridge for a week or so. The garlic oil keeps for closer to two weeks but it needs to be refrigerated.
Instructions for the rest:
- Combine the sliced strawberries, honey (if necessary), soy sauce, lime juice and zest in a bowl. Stir it to combine all of the ingredients. At this point taste it and add salt and pepper as necessary. I usually go a little heavy with the pepper because I like the way it works with strawberries.
- Let the mixture sit covered in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes while you make the ricotta mixture.
- Combine the ricotta, roasted garlic, chives and olive oil in a bowl (you are welcome to use a food processor, which takes no time at all) and mix them until combined. If you are stirring by hand it will take a few minutes to achieve that ‘whipped’ consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. You may need a decent amount of salt to bring everything together. But always remember this is going to be complimented by the strawberries, so taste them together when you are doing final seasoning.
- Let the cheese mixture sit in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes so the flavors can come together.
- Brush your bread slices with the garlic oil from earlier. Toast them until crispy
- Take a piece of toast, apply a healthy scoop of cheese mixture and top with a healthy scoop of strawberry mixture. Garnish with the sliced or micro basil. You can also sprinkle any other sort of seasoning on top at the end to add other flavors (everything but the bagel seasoning is one of my favorites with this preparation).
This will be sure to wow your guests when you have your first dinner party of the summer season. Basically any berry can be substituted for strawberries as well so let the creativity flow. Enjoy!
In ‘Recipe of the Month’ food writer Steven DeSalvo shares a recipe Montclairites might enjoy making. DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware, and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there is something you want to know how to make, or you’ve eaten a dish at a local restaurant you are dying to make at home, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.