Saturday, December 14, 2013

Whipped Ricotta and Tapenade Crostini

I'm a little obsessed with crostini topped with my homemade ricotta. I usually keep it fairly simple with honey and sea salt or olive oil and cracked pepper, but after dining out with good friends of ours in Ann Arbor, I was inspired to shake things up a bit.

You see, Branko and Lindsey know that I'm way more into food than my husband, who's content with eating at chains like Chili's. Whenever we all hang out, I'm certain they purposely choose restaurants they know I would never be able to convince Will to go to on my own.

On the visit in question, they took us to a trendy Italian restaurant that focuses on local ingredients and serves small plates intended for the table to share. I loved this because I got to feast on more exotic items like grilled octopus and buratta since Branko and Lindsey are more adventurous eaters than Will.

One of the small plates we ordered featured pickeled tomatoes that were accompanied with charred slices of toast, whipped ricotta, and tapenade. I happily munched on the last three items since tomatoes are not my friends. Funny enough, when the waiter returned to check on us, he seemed so sad that I couldn't enjoy the dish as a whole. He acted like I was suffering. I couldn't understand his apologetic demeanor. That little crostino was amazing on its own!

The delicate and extra creamy whipped ricotta provides a great counterpoint to the briny pungency of the tapenade. When reproduced at home, it was just as satisfying and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at any get-together.

Whipped Ricotta and Tapenade Crostini
Inspired by Mani Osteria

This is great for entertaining because it can all be made ahead of time and then assembled right before guests arrive. Just make sure to let the ricotta warm to room temperature for the best flavor.

Yield: about 25-30 pieces

Total Time: 10 minutes

1 baguette
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese, preferably homemade
1 cup tapenade, recipe follows
Freshly ground black pepper

Turn on your oven's broiler. Meanwhile, as it heats up, cut the baguette on the bias into slices about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Place pieces on a baking sheet and lightly brush each with olive oil. Broil for 1-2 minutes; use tongs to quickly flip each piece and then lightly brush the new side with more olive oil. Broil for another 1-2 minutes, or until lightly crisped.

Place ricotta in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the texture becomes light and fluffy. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Spread whipped ricotta thickly onto the toasts. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Dollop with tapenade. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestion: I like to serve this crostini "deconstructed" and let the guests assemble their own. This prevents the toast from getting soggy since the toppings are rather wet. To serve this way, I put the toasts and the two serving bowls of ricotta and tapenade, each with a little spreader, on the same platter so guests can easily see that they all "go" together. You could even have a few crostini already assembled on the same platter to show what the finished crostini will look like.

-Don't keep the bread in the oven too long or it will get hard and actually hurt your guests' mouths. Better to sacrifice good color for the right texture!
-I made my ricotta and then whipped it once it finished draining in the cheesecloth. The curd almost disappeared entirely making my whipped ricotta amazingly silky. I think it was so silky because the ricotta was still warm when I whipped it. I'm not sure it will become quite as silky if chilled ricotta was whipped. Just one more reason to make your own!


Olive Tapenade
Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: a little over 1 cup

Total Time: 10 minutes

1/2 pound (roughly 1 1/2 cups) mixed olives, pitted
2 anchovy fillets, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons capers
3-4 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse olives thoroughly under cool water. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Process until a course paste has formed, about 1 minute total. Transfer to a serving bowl.

-I used 2/3 Kalamata olives and 1/3 "mixed melody" of green olives that I found at my grocer's olive bar.


  1. Yay! I love tapenade. Sometimes I will throw a roasted red pepper in, too. I might have to make this over the holidays. Looking forward to dining with you guys and stretching Will's palette again soon!

    1. The roasted red pepper sounds awesome! :)