If you follow our Asheville Bed & Breakfast on Facebook or Twitter you may have noticed something new over the past few months. Every Friday we try out an new canape or hors d’oeuvre for our evening reception and post a picture of it: #fridaynightbites. It’s a chance for us to play with some of the seasonally fresh produce both from our markets and from our garden as well as to use some inspiration garnered at meals from Asheville restaurants.
Creating little “bites” is one of my favorite things to do. I think people are much more forgiving when it comes to a canape then they may be for a meal. They are more willing to try one bite and if they don’t like it, or it doesn’t quite work, they just move on to the next platter! Every evening at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast we create five different canapes for our guests which are served in the parlor at 5:30. There are some tried and true items which will appear with some regularity but once or twice a week I will look in the fridge or pantry and say, “Hmmmm…”
Often I will find myself focusing on one or two ingredients and trying different things with them for a while. Last year it was sweet potatoes and this past winter it was Brussels Sprouts. Right now I am really into avocados with a side of ricotta.
Where do the ideas come from? Well, for example, last week our daughter, Sarah, came for a visit. Sarah loves little bites. We call her the “Canape Queen” in our family. She made bruschetta of fresh ricotta which she topped with some truffle honey and some smoked salt and it was delicious. At the same time, I had a recipe for making ricotta at home which I had been wanting to try but I hadn’t really thought about using it as a spread. So the first thing I did was make some ricotta. It turns out it takes a lot of milk to make just a little ricotta: two cups will render about 1/4 cup of cheese. It’s definitely good and because you’ve made it yourself you can decide whether you want to use salt and go savory or sugar for a sweeter cheese, but in reality it’s probably not enough better than a high quality store-bought ricotta to make it work the fuss for most home cooks. Then I started looking around for other things to top it with.
Which is where the restaurants come in. This past week, Abby and I went to a dinner given by the Montford Tailgate Market (which was held on the stage of the Montford Park Players outdoor amphitheater!). Chef William Dissen of The Market Place prepared the meal and he wisely choose to keep it simple and let the freshness of the produce do the work. His first course consisted of a crostini spread with goat cheese and a sweet pea spread along with a fresh garden salad with baby beets and radishes. The peas in our garden are just setting their flowers so I put that idea aside for a bit but I am definitely thinking along that route using ricotta instead of goat cheese.
Meanwhile I have strawberries! This is the time of year when we are buried in strawberries. James brings them home in gallon buckets from the market. A lot of them go into jams for the inn but they also make their way into many other things from salads to breakfast and beyond. And did I mention I was working a lot with avocados? Strawberries, avocado, and ricotta, throw in some balsamic and basil and how could it be bad? Here it is, #fridaynightbites on Monday!
1 ripe avocado
1/2 pint fresh strawberries
Good quality Ricotta (full fat for best flavor)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbs olive oil
1 handful fresh basil
salt and pepper
1) Dice or thinly slice the strawberries and toss together with the balsamic vinegar, the olive oil and the fresh basil which has been finely chopped. Set aside in the fridge for at least one hour.
2) Slice the baguette into 1″ slices and toast lightly on both sides under the grill.
3) Dice the avocado, then spread the bread slices with ricotta and top with strawberries and avocado. Finish with a little salt and pepper.