Too Hippie?

We had a gathering this past weekend of international educators who summer in our area.  It was a really fun evening meeting new friends and hearing their stories of living around the world. Our guests were from Taipei, Doha, Japan, Singapore, Tunisia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and a few spots I'm sure I missed.  We co-hosted the event with our Singapore friends down the street and decided that we wanted the food to be from Washington state, and primarily Whatcom County focused.

Given that summer has finally arrived the pressure to be too creative was lifted!

We served local beer and wine as well as local greens, berries, cheese, bread, meats, sausages, etc. I really enjoyed seeing how others interpreted the theme. I had found some local Shuksan strawberries (finally) and rhubarb, and was inspired to make some summer style bruschetta. Both featured fresh ricotta slathered on a Breadfarm baguette, one was topped with sliced strawberries, mint, cracked black pepper, and honey, and the second was topped with a rhubarb chutney and a few chives. I also found the combo of the ricotta, a twist of black pepper and honey really nice too.

I have to confess to feeling that these would be too hippie (thank you J and M for calming my fears, or are we just kindred hippie spirits) but they were tasty. If you are a fan of sweet and salty or sweet and spicy these little gems will fit the bill.

Summer Bruschetta Two Ways
Makes 40 appetizers
2 baguettes sliced into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
Fresh Ricotta (see recipe below, I made a double recipe)
Sliced strawberries
Fresh mint cut into a fine chiffonade
black pepper
honey (this works best if the honey is in a squeeze bottle)
Rhubarb chutney (see recipe below)
Chives sliced into 2 inch pieces

Preheat broiler. Layer sliced baguette onto cookie sheets and brush with a little olive oil.  Run under the broiler until golden brown, flip the bread, brush with a little more olive oil and return to the broiler. It took my oven 1 1/2 minutes per side. Watch them carefully or you will have le crise de la baguette (aka burnt offerings)!
Once the bread is cooled spread a generous 2 tablespoons of ricotta on one side, then top with a few strawberry slices, mint and honey, or rhubarb chutney and chives.  Sprinkle both with a little cracked black pepper and serve.
These make a nice appetizer or would be great served along side a salad for a light dinner.

Rich Homemade Ricotta
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes a little over one cup of ricotta 
3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan. Slowly heat the milk to 190°F, occasionally giving it a gentle stir to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Once the milk reaches the desired temperature remove the pan from heat add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of clean cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At this point, you’ll have a soft, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit more firm, almost like cream cheese. (As it cools, it will firm up so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey. Use the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. It should keep in your refrigerator for 3 days.

Rhubarb Chutney
Makes 4 cups 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb (from 1 3/4 pounds rhubarb)
4 green onions, chopped

Stir first 6 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Add rhubarb and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Cool to room temperature. Discard cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate chutney until cold, at least 1 hour. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Bring to room temperature before serving.

You will have a lot of leftover chutney.  I think this tastes great served along side a roasted chicken or grilled pork chops. It also makes a great condiment on a turkey or ham sandwich.

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