Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Veggie Toppings

These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.

Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.

Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.

Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

You can’t go wrong with ricotta! Keep reading for our recipe for Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Vegetables….


Twice-baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Three Cheeses

Hot potato, hot potato. Brings back memories, no? I kind-of felt like we were playing an uber round of it this week when we cooked up a batch of russets for some twice-baked potatoes that were packed with things our girls (and we!) love: butter, cheese, sour cream, and broccoli.

Food geek that I am, I was excited that we worked in some local ingredients too: broccoli from Cherry Grove Organic Farm and fresh ricotta cheese from Fulper Farms in Lambertville, NJ, that we picked up at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market. The ricotta alone would have made the dish – it is so creamy and light I could eat it right out of the tub. Which, I’ll admit, I actually did. Well, a spoonful anyway. So good.

Ricotta from Fulper Farms

Ricotta from Fulper Farms

The kids really got into this recipe too, helping scoop potato flesh out of the baked potatoes and mixing it with all the other ingredients. I actually had to mediate who got to add what as we went along, and realized the more that went into the bowl, the more they both wanted to taste the mixture we were making.

Scooping out the potatoes - perfect job for small hands

Scooping out the potatoes – perfect job for small hands

Oooo, with all this cheese these are going to be good

Oooo, with all this cheese these are going to be good

Until the scallions.

Who knew what havoc could be wrought by those unsuspecting little Alliums. I’ve always kind-of enjoyed them as a milder alternative to onions and I found myself thinking that our dinner smelled an awful lot like ranch-flavored potato chips as the potatoes baked. And I mean that in a good way.

But…apparently the scallions were the deal breaker for Daughter 1 and Daughter 2. After the happy scooping/mixing/tasting party, I was actually surprised to meet resistance at the table as the great “hunt for the scallions” began. Daughter 1 loves broccoli (yea!) and fished it out of her potato in order to eat it. And then she proceeded to eat around the scallions, if that is even possible. Daughter 2, who had happily taken a few bites when we served the potatoes, took up the torch on behalf of her sister and declared that she, too, “didn’t like scallions.”

Hot out of the oven, cheesy and broccoli-y

Hot out of the oven, cheesy and broccoli-y

So those hot potatoes…turned into “not” potatoes. However, all was not lost. My husband and I really enjoyed them. And I mean really. So much so that (don’t tell anyone) I found myself sneaking bites of the rejected potato from Daughter 2’s plate. When I asked Daughter 1 whether she thought she’d like them without the scallions, I got an enthusiastic “yes” in reply. I bet if we added bacon that would seal the deal…though I rather like that these are vegetarian-friendly just the way they are.

So next time we make these I’ll do two batches: one with scallions, and one without.

Hmmmm, I wonder how they would feel about chives….

Twice-baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Three Cheeses

2 russet potatoes
1 cup broccoli florets, washed and trimmed into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon butter. melted
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 scallion, sliced into thin rings
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Bake the russet potatoes in advance: pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes well and stab several times with a paring knife or fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Steam the broccoli in a steamer set over boiling water until just tender – no more than 5 minutes. Remove broccoli from steamer and set aside.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, split each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out as much of the flesh as possible into a medium mixing bowl, keeping the potato skin intact. Set skins aside.

Gently mash the potato flesh – no need to mash too finely as a bit of chunky texture is good. Add the butter, sour cream, ricotta cheese, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack and all but 2 teaspoons of the scallion rings and mix well to distribute all ingredients evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently fold in the broccoli. Mound the potato mixture back into the potato skins.

Place the filled potato skins back on the baking sheet and return to 375-degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until filling is hot.  Set oven to broil for two minutes to brown the tops, taking care not to burn the potatoes. Remove potatoes from oven as soon as the filling begin to turn golden.

Serve potatoes with a sprinkling of the remaining scallions — if your kids will let you!

Serves: 4 (one-half potato per person)

We're going on a scallion hunt....

We’re going on a scallion hunt….

Parent rating: five stars. Really, with butter, sour cream and three additional cheeses it’s difficult NOT to like these. But this is just the right amount of dairy – lots of flavor, but all in moderation. The potatoes are creamy and well-seasoned, but unlike other versions, aren’t dense with cheese.
Kid rating: oh, how I’d like to award five stars to this recipe, which is what I thought it would get when Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 started eating the filling right out of the mixing bowl. But that was before the scallions got folded in. Oh, those evil scallions. Somehow they tipped the kid balance from “yummy” to “don’t like it.” So maybe two stars for this particular version, though Daughter 2 told me that next time, if I keep the scallions out of her potato, she thinks she’ll enjoy it. Like, five stars worth of enjoyment. So if you have scallion-haters in your house, be warned. But if not, go for it!