Fluffy, powdered peaks of snow, perched on rolling red hillsides, with the taste of pure sunshine. The simplest of recipes, with much care, can result in the profound. This is one of my favorite crostini’s (sliced toast with toppings, Italian style). While it is best served outdoors on a cloudless, warm afternoon, it is also a nice reminder of those coming better days in the middle of a polar vortex. The secret to this crostini is cooking with patience and over low heat. By slowly, and gingerly sauting the whole cherry tomatoes for a long time, it gently breaks down and naturally sweetens as it cooks. Covering the red orbs of light, is one of the most underrated cheeses, ricotta salata. It is a firm cheese, unlike its cousin ricotta, and is saltier with a more barnyard flavor. But its texture, particularly when grated, is like eating pure air and a treat.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- Loaf of Italian or Country bread, sliced 1 inch thick
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
- 1/4 pound ricotta salata
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Pop the block of ricotta salata into the freezer for at least 1 hour. This will make grating the cheese easier to grate.
Place a large saute pan over low heat. Place the whole cherry tomatoes into the pan and coat them in the olive oil. The total cooking time for these cherry tomatoes is 30 minutes. For the first 5-10 minutes, stir and gently cook the tomatoes. For the next 5-10 minutes, place a lid on top of the saute pan. This will also steam the tomatoes, and capture more of the tomato essence. During this time, add the minced garlic and some salt. For the final 5-10 minutes, remove the lid and continue to tenderly saute. The garlic will be soft and fragrant, and exuded tomato water will have mixed in with the olive oil. Set aside.
Pre-heat the broiler to high. Rub down both slices of the bread with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pop these into the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until crisp and crunchy.
To serve, spoon out the cherry tomatoes (and juices) over the crostini slices. Grate the ricotta salata over the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.