“Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” I once had this co-worker who repeated this saying anytime someone mentioned pie. It always made me laugh. One afternoon I finally tested out this combination. I took a slice of cheddar and placed it on a wedge of Granny Smith apple. And I thought, wow, this is refreshing, but sweet yet savory, and I want more.
Ever since then, I have become a fan of this age old pairing. From cheddar apple turkey panini to cheddar apple pie, this pairing works so wonderfully. Cheddar and apple taste great on their own, but when you meld them together, the sharp cheese and tart and juicy apple awake the taste buds.
Crostini, meaning “little toast” in Italian, is one of my favorite appetizers to serve at gatherings. I love little finger foods that don’t require the use of utensils. It’s a quick and portable little bite to take along as you mingle around the party.
I like appetizers that incorporate a variety of textures and flavors. It not only keeps the palette interested, but also makes the taste buds wanting more. The crunchy toasted baguette covered with soft ricotta cheese, and topped with the slightly tart, acidic cooked apples and sharp cheddar cheese is the kind of variety I’m attracted to.
This is a great appetizer to present to guests. It goes amazingly well with a chilled white wine–perhaps a buttery Chardonnay or a crisp Pinot Grigio. You’ll also score major bonus points if you mention that the ricotta cheese was homemade, you know, something you just whipped up this afternoon.
Cheddar Apple Crostini
Homemade Ricotta Cheese, makes about 8 oz:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar, or lemon juice
Cooked Apples (double this if making more):
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
homemade ricotta cheese, or store-bought soft ricotta
sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1. Homemade Ricotta: In a large heavy bottom sauce pot, combine milk, cream, salt, and vinegar. No need to stir. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once mixture has come to a boil, remove from heat. Let sit undisturbed at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. At this point the mixture should start to coagulate and thicken.
2. Meanwhile, set a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth.
3. Using a slotted spoon, scoop up the formed cheese curds. Gently transfer cheese curds to prepared cheesecloth. Do not be tempted to simply pour the mixture into the strainer. You do not want to break up the curds that have formed.
4. Once you have scooped up all the curds, tie the cheesecloth into a pouch. You can adjust the moisture of the ricotta to your liking depending on how tight you tie the pouch. Looser tie means wetter ricotta, tighter tie means dried cheese. (I prefer dry.) At this point the ricotta will be warm. You can use it immediately, or store it in the fridge to cool down and firm up. (I prefer the latter.)
5. Cooked Apples: In medium bowl, combine apple slices, sugar, and salt. Let sit for a couple minutes to get apple to expel a little juice and moisture.
6. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once butter has melted, turn down heat and add apples. Cook apples until slightly soft yet still crunchy at the core. Remove from heat and toss in lemon juice. Transfer to a clean container and let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients.
7. Assembly: Arrange baguette slices on a parchment lined sheet tray. Light coat tops of bread with olive oil. Lightly toast baguettes in broiler or 400 degrees F oven for 1-2 minutes until bread is crisp and golden brown in color.
8. Spread ricotta cheese over each slice of bread. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on top. Follow with three slices of apple and shaving of cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Serve immediately.
Homemade ricotta recipe adapted from The Mozza Cookbook