Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Twist on Small Plates- Summer Stone Fruit Crostini

What a week. Des Moines has been experiencing a record-breaking heat wave the last several days with highs reaching into the hundreds for the first time in several years. Add the humidity and occasional thunderstorm to make the air even heavier and it's just been miserable. It's been a good week to stay inside and kind of a poor week for cooking and baking. I'll admit it, I've been lazy, going so far as to call a plate of microwaved frozen pizza rolls my dinner. After a long and stressful work week my friend Katie and I decided we need a Mini Girls Night. She planned to make up a salad recipe of mine for her family and I had a recipe I needed to prepare soon as well as a bottle of wine chilling so why not do it together? 

I packed my shopping bag of necessities, my ingredients, my utensils, a mini baking sheet, and that chilled bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling and set off the Katie's house for an evening of work gossip, antics of her two yer old, and kick back time. It was so worth it. We chopped, sliced, cubed, roasted and prepped food for her bulgur salad and my crostini. It wasn't long before we broke out the wine. Katie is what I would call a developing wine enthusiast. She has her definite favorites and while they tend to be on the sweeter side, she is not opposed to trying new styles and new drier wines. When I was a wine tasting guide several year ago I often recommended Riesling as a good next step for the new wine drinker looking to step away from the moscato for a while. Most Rieslings are the perfect next step. I always choose German, French, Washington State or Finger Lakes NY Rieslings for this step. They are sweeter than South American and New Zealand varieties which tend to be a little more acidic and minerally.

Katie definitely enjoyed the Kung Fu Girl. It was still sweet enough while not being as sweet as the many moscatos out there. It's got a great acid balance and went great with the recipe I was preparing at the same time, Roasted Stone Fruit Crostini with Ricotta and Hazelnuts. The Riesling is produced in Washington State, which is one of my favorite regions in the world for Riesling. There is just something wonderful about the climate and the soil and the way the grapes grow into something wonderful. The wine toned down the richness of the cheese, and the acidity tamed the sweetness of the honey. The crostini were toasted brushed with light olive oil and sprinkled with just a touch of salt. The crunchy sprinkle of toasted hazelnut and the crisp bread- oh so good.

This recipe has a very Italian flair, with the creamy ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and topped with roasted summer stone fruits. It is a perfect appetizer on the patio with a glass of Kung Fu Girl or any other fruity and crisp Riesling or Pinot Grigio and can easily be a delicious light lunch or even a dessert on a warm summer night. When buying fruit, choose ripe fruits that are not overly soft, as they will soften during roasting. Allow one or two whole peaches or plums per person, or a handful of cherries. I've chosen ricotta cheese but goat cheese would also make a delicious, and slightly French, version as well.

Roasted Stone Fruit Crostini with Ricotta and Hazelnuts

8 ounce container ricotta cheese
1 orange, zested and juiced
peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries in any combination
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey, divided, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 baguette
olive oil
chopped toasted hazelnuts

Stir the ricotta cheese in a small bowl with 1 heaping teaspoon orange zest and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.

Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place on sheet pans and toast in a 425 degree oven until golden brown. You can also toast under the broiler or grill the bread. Set aside to cool.

Use a GOOD quality 100% pure honey.Read the labels and
know your brands. Not all store bought honey is real.
Melt the butter and pour into a large rimmed baking sheet, spread around to coat the pan. 

The fruit will get all caramelized in the oven- so delicious.
For peaches, plums, nectarines- cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges. Place in large bowl. Pit and halve the cherries. Add to bowl. Sprinkle the fruit with the cinnamon, salt, 2 tablespoons honey, the remaining orange zest and 2 tablespoons of the juice of the orange (reserve the remaining juice for another use). Spread the fruit out in the buttered pan. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes until tender but not mushy. Remove fruit and cool.

To serve, spread a slice of toasted baguette with ricotta. Top with the roasted fruit. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately.

I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to find hazelnuts this time of year! We have some large supermarkets here that carry every food from just about every nation (ok I might be stretching the trutjust a wee bit) yet no one carries just hazelnuts? I was afraid I'd have to get them around the holiday season, when EVERY grocery store has them in the shell, and freeze them until peaches come around again! Ugh! I finally did find them- raw hazelnuts- at the Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames, Iowa, in their bulk section. I later thought I might have found them in other stores had I just asked or checked their bulk foods. Oh well. So anyway, I now have some raw hazelnuts. Raw nuts are not what we want for our recipe so we are going to have to roast them. How do you roast them? Easy. Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spread the nuts out on a baking sheet. Roast 10-15 minutes until the skins are blistered and nuts are golden and toasty. Dump them onto a clean kitchen towel, twist it up and let them steam for a couple minutes, then unwrap. You can rub the skins off with the towel if you like, but you don't have to. Let them cool, then use as you like.

I gave mine a quick buzz in the Braun processor and I got the perfect mix of crushed/pulverized nuts and bigger chunks. I had purchased about 1/2 cup, maybe a little less, of the hazelnuts and I had more than half leftover for using in other recipes. I used the crushed hazelnuts the next day- mixed into prepared waffle batter-wow! What crunch and flavor they brought! Delicious!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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