Stop whatever you're doing and head to your kitchen. If you don't see onions, ricotta, butternut squash, garlic and a good baguette, immediately head to the store to purchase these items because without them you cannot make what might easily be one of the most delicious things I have eaten in a long time. Sorry to be bossy, but now that I've tasted how wonderfully amazing these Butternut Squash, Onion and Ricotta Bruschettas are, I want everyone to else to experience their amazingness too!!
There are no fancy jaw-dropping ingredients at work here and yet the end result is stellar, once again proving that simple is best. These are meant to be appetizers and will knock the socks off your New Year's Eve revelers, but I could easily make a dinner out of them. Every single component is worthy of standing on it's own and when they come together, it's POW!! Really, I'm not exaggerating. I never thought I could rave this much about anything not chocolate and yet here I am.
You start out by roasting some butternut squash which gets added to sauteed onions that have been mixed with apple cider vinegar and maple syrup in the process. Easy-peasy! The combo is so ordinary and yet so special. Turn your back on this while you're cooking it and lots of "little" tastes are apt to be had!
The bread gets toasted with olive oil and then rubbed with a sliced garlic clove. Again, it's simple but extraordinary, with just a hint of garlic in all it's crusty goodness.
Every bite is filled with luscious ricotta, warm caramelized squash and onions and the crunch of garlic bread! Pure perfection!! I could go on and on. But these are busy days and who has the time?! Just get yourself to the store asap and make these beauties. With all the crazy ups and downs of 2016, these'll leave you with the lasting thought that maybe, just maybe, everything's going to be all right!!
Butternut Squash, Onion and Ricotta Bruschetta
Makes 6 appetizer servings
Prep Time: Less than 1 hour (mostly hands off)
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
- 5 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1-2 shakes red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (buy the best you can or make your own-recipe below- it's great either way)
For the Garlic Toasts
- 1 baguette, cut into 12 slices (or any good rustic country bread you can slice)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place the squash, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes on a lined baking sheet and toss together well. Spread squash into an even layer and roast for about 30 minutes, tossing once during the process, until the squash is very tender and starting to get brown around the edges. Turn the oven down to 400ºF.
2. While the squash is cooking, melt the butter with the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and golden brown. Pour in the vinegar and maple syrup and cook for another 4-6 minutes, until the liquid is almost gone. Add the cooked squash to the onions and mash it around with the back of a spoon.
3. Once you've removed the squash from the oven, lay the slices of baguette on a rimmed baking sheet and brush with the olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown, Turn the slices over and bake for another 5 minutes. When the slices are cool enough to handle, rub them with the cut garlic slices and set aside until ready to use.
4. When everything is ready, spread a thick layer of ricotta on each of the toasts and top with the butternut squash mixture. Serve immediately.
5. The butternut squash mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in the skillet, adding a few spoonfuls of the apple cider vinegar to keep if from being too dry. The garlic toasts can also be made up to 2 days ahead and kept covered at room temperature. If you're making your own ricotta, that can be made 4-5 days ahead and kept refrigerated as well.
Note: Recipe adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten. I tinkered around with proportions and cooking methods a bit. I often feel Ina is a bit heavy on the oil and salt so I used less of those and more squash than the recipe calls for. Feel free to experiment with this one too.
TO MAKE HOMEMADE RICOTTA
Makes about 2 cups
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a deep bowl. Slightly wet two layers of cheesecloth and line the sieve with it.
2. Pour the milk and cream into a large pot. Stir in the salt and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Stir every now and then. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Wait 1 minute for the mixture to curdle, then pour it into the lined sieve and allow it to drain for 20-25 minutes at room temperature. The longer you let it drain, the thicker the ricotta will be. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and discard the cheesecloth and whatever liquid has drained into the bowl. Use right away or store the ricotta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.