It was nearly ten years ago in his New York Times’ food column that Mark Bittman introduced us to a squash-ricotta toast combination from ABC Kitchen that had him swooning. I can’t say for sure if Jean-Georges was the OG ricotta toastmaker, but he is to me, and his original squash version is one of my favorites. Since then, I’ve riffed on it countless times. You can pair most any vegetable, whether it be pureed, roasted, or fresh, with a thick layer of creamy whey cheese and you’ll find success. As of late, I’ve been placing thin slices of the beautiful, almost sweet watermelon radish available from the Kingston YMCA Farm Project Thursday Farmer’s Market atop my toasts. Another favorite is roasted beets. Sometimes I sauté spinach, or even mash up an avocado (double fat = doubly creamy!).
Though most any vegetable will do, not all bread will. To ensure a luscious pairing, I almost always choose a sourdough variety, and mostly whole wheat. A chewy, robust crumb is a nice complement to the smooth cheese and can hold up to a crunchy vegetable if that’s the case.
The Levain loaf from Kingston Bread + Bar works really well, and Bread Alone’s Miche boule is always dependable. If you prefer a white bread, perhaps try a thick piece of Arborio bread from See and Be Kitchen in Cairo, which is the same bread the Phoenicia Diner uses for their grilled cheese sandwiches.
And for garnish, pea shoots add a bright freshness but again, most any salad-type green will work.
I don’t like to even call this a recipe, it’s more a pairing suggestion than a mandate. Play around with seasonings, toppings, and like I said above, most any vegetable will do very nicely! Enjoy.
Ricotta Beet Toast
Makes 6 to 8 pieces of toast
2 to 3 pounds beets, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 pieces of whole grain sourdough bread
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup pea shoots or other greens such as arugula or watercress
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
¼ of an orange
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the beets on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are fork tender, tossing a couple of times with a spatula as they cook.
Meanwhile, toast the pieces of bread. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Toss with the pea shoots or other greens and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. To assemble the toasts, divide the ricotta between the toasts and spread evenly on each toast. Top with a thick layer of roasted beets and gently squeeze the orange over the toasts. Top with a small handful of greens. Cut slices in half. Serve immediately.