Sunday, February 25, 2018
Cooking

Everyday Entertaining: Toast inspires a simple appetizer with ricotta and prosciutto

Looking back, I have been entertaining with toast longer than I had initially remembered.

One younger cousin's favorite breakfast when staying at our house was cinnamon-sugar toast reminiscent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. I'd pop a slice of sandwich bread in the toaster oven and, after it was lightly toasted, spread butter on it and sprinkle the buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon. It was a simple, alternative breakfast for a generation of cereal eaters.

Since then, I've embraced different versions of fancified toast.

In the summer of 2010, I encountered my first tartine as a fresh college graduate and intern. It made sense to me as an open-faced sandwich, one that somehow felt fancier for lunch with just the one slice of bread. I've served up a quick round of classic bruschetta several times, including a Venetian version with roasted grapes, walnuts and goat cheese. The Los Angeles restaurant Sqirl is well known for its thickly sliced brioche with ricotta smeared past the edges of the toast, cradling an oval of red jam. And then there's avocado toast, as undeniably satisfying as it is ubiquitous — more meal than party snack.

There are endless ways to dress up toast, but one of my favorites is a recipe for Minty Pea and Ricotta Toast With Crisp Prosciutto. It's a bright, hearty appetizer. Peas, always a marker of springtime, are readily available, fresh or frozen, throughout the year. These little toasts are great to serve before a dinner party or just with drinks and a few friends. They're satisfying without being too filling.

I love this toast in part for its visual drama, with verdant peas polka-dotting a lush landscape of whipped ricotta on bread toasted in olive oil. (Bread browned in olive oil tastes much more luxurious than dry toasted bread; plus, there's no room on my counter for a dedicated toaster.)

Contrasting with the textured leaves of fresh mint are what takes this toast over the top: shards of crisp, blush-colored prosciutto. It's really pretty against all the green, and adds texture to the mix of soft ricotta and snappy peas. Honey whipped into the ricotta plays off the gentle sweetness of the peas, and flecks of lemon zest add fresh, bright flavor.

The flavor profile of this toast is more grownup, but like my old reliable cinnamon-sugar toast, it's a keeper.

Contact Ileana Morales Valentine at [email protected]

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