I spend so much time thinking about what to prepare for dinner that lunch all but falls by the wayside. During the week when it's just Fe and me, it doesn't matter so much.
On the weekends when A. is around, I should be trying harder. There is an art to making a lovely lunch, and I need to master it. Running out to the nearest taco shop becomes a sorry excuse for lunching after a while.
I think I was on the right track on Saturday. I stepped back and assessed what I had on hand -- lots of beautifully ripe tomatoes, a giant whole-grain demi-miche, a tub of ricotta, herbs growing in the garden, a handful of shallots, a small basket of garlic and a container of micro-greens from the C.S.A. Clearly the makings of something good.
I perused the summer section of David Tanis' A Platter of Figs and bumped into the perfect inspiration for what I had on hand -- Cherry Tomato Crostini with Ricotta. No, I didn't have cherry tomatoes and there was nary a loaf of ciabatta in sight, but with a little tweaking on my part a lovely summertime lunch was within reach.
I used about five medium-sized tomatoes. Halved cherry tomatoes will make for a perkier and much neater presentation. I will likely prepare this recipe again tonight with yellow pear tomatoes, as something to tear into with drinks. But if there are no tiny tomatoes on hand, I wouldn't hesitate to make this anyway.
You're basically making little toasts -- crostini or bruschetta. I'm calling them toasts, because of their complete lack of consistent shape.
I laughingly love that term. It dresses up anything that is a bit of a mess!
So as I said, no ciabatta. That shouldn't stop you. Any baguette, country boule, or substantial loaf would work fine. Use what's on hand! Just hack it into slices or wedges that are about a half inch thick. They need a little girth to support the fresh ricotta and tomatoes.
The sweetness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the ricotta are punctuated by a serious kick from the raw garlic and shallots. The bite is no joke, and will likely be with you most of the day, but it provides a pleasing contrast. Throw in the basil and these toasts taste just like summer.
Of course, macerating the shallots in red wine vinegar does take the edge off a little bit. In fact next time I make this, I will cool my heels a bit longer than my impatience allowed for this time, and let the shallots sit for about ten to fifteen minutes.
So that you can learn from my mistakes -- a bit of advice. When making crostini, bruschetta, or toasts, please use a timer. If you are at all distracted like I am, you may be making two or three batches before you are ready to eat. When the bread is turning golden, you have very few moments before it turns black!
I know you know this. So do I.
That doesn't always help! A timer does.
If you use the timer and avoid remaking the toasts, this is quick work. You make a vinaigrette, pound some garlic, fold in the tomatoes, and make toast. When the toast is golden brown, you lightly rub it with garlic, and slather on the (hopefully excellent quality) ricotta. Sprinkle a little salt and red pepper over that, and mound the tomato mixture on top. A sprinkling of basil chiffonade is all that's left to do.
Cherry Tomato Crostini with Ricotta
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt, plus another peeled garlic clove or two
2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
1 loaf Italian ciabatta
1/2 pound fresh ricotta
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
A handful of basil leaves
Macerate the shallot with a little salt in the red wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the garlic paste and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and mix. Let marinate for a few minutes.
Cut the bread into 1/2-inch slices. Toast the bread on both sides until golden under the broiler. Rub the toasts lightly with the garlic clove. Just gently, there is already plenty of garlic present.
Slather on a tablespoon of ricotta per toast, and set on a platter. Sprinkle with a little salt and red pepper. Spoon the tomatoes over. Sliver the basil and strew about the toasts.