This ricotta cherry toast recipe is a cracking mid-week dinner, great party starter and perfect for an afternoon wine o clock snack! Cherries are so good right now here in Australia it would be such a shame not to be cooking with them. With the addition of some simple homemade ricotta or some shop bought one, salty parma ham or proscuitto and all boxes are ticked. Read on to see how I roast these delicious cherries with thyme and balsamic.
What are cherries?
Cherries are a fruit. They are small, round, dark red or black in colour and are known as a stone fruit. A stone fruit is exactly what it says - a fruit with a stone in it. Cherry season here in Australia runs from November to late February with the majority of fruit being harvested in December/January. In the UK and USA is typically May through to August with June and July being peak time. There are many varieties of cherries in fact here in Australia we have 80 different varieties including
Bing cherries are a popular, commonly available sweet variety. They are large and heart‐shaped with dark red skin and firm ruby‐red flesh. The flavour is sweet and slightly rich and they are suitable both for eating fresh and cooked. They are at their best late in the season.
Lapins are available late in the season, from mid‐December to January. They are a large heart‐shaped variety, with dark red skin and firm, golden‐red flesh.
Sweetheart is a recently developed variety that is available late in the season. They are a medium sized cherry with bright red skin and mild, sweet flesh. Ulster cherries are medium‐sized sweet cherry with deep black skin and dark red flesh. They are available mid‐season.
In the UK stella is the most popular variety along with summersun, colney and sweetheart. In the US they keep it pretty simple with just 'sweet' and 'sour' cherries which are grown mainly in Washington, California & Oregon.
Cherries are used in the making of kirsch. Kirsch is a clear colourless brandy made using the morella cherry, it is typically double distilled and is believed to originate from Germany. Maraschino, which is my favourite - widely used in cocktails like The Last Word or Aviation. The former being my cocktail of choice when I lived in NY. Or often used as decoration for sundaes, floats, roasted hams and Christmas/Thanksgiving time. Luxardo being the brand that is synonymous to these cherries.
Removing cherry pips to make ricotta cherry toast
Truthfully it's a bit of a pain. Invest in a cherry pitter. You will pick one up from $5+ and believe me when I say it will make your like WAY easier. Other "tactics" include using paper clips, the old smash and grab or using a pairing knife.
Paper Clip Method - this is where you remove the stem and using a paper clip you push into the area where you removed the stem and push past the stone and just pull it out - simples
Smash & Grab - not a method to be used if you are looking for pretty or decorative cherries but works perfectly ever time. Lay the cherry on a chopping board and using a chefs knife smash the cherry like you would garlic and it will crush the cherry and pop out the stone. Great for if you don't care how the cherries look!
Pairing knife - this method truthfully is very easy but boy is it time consuming. Using the knife cut around the cherry to cut it in half. Then using the tip of the knife just pop the cherry out. Very easy but slow enough to do.
When roasting cherries we typically use sour cherries. Sweet cherries are PERFECT for eating on the spot (pitt removed of course) where as sour cherries often require a little more work. Therefore we tend to use them in baking where we typically add a sweetener to the mix. Here in this recipe for ricotta cherry toast I added a drizzle of maple syrup as my sweetening agent along with balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is both sweet and tart, it works wonderfully with fruit and vegetables and in this recipe helps to make these cherries amazingly syrupy and unbelievably moreish. The addition of thyme brings some aroma to the fruit and pairs brilliantly with the ricotta and proscuitto/parma ham.
In this recipe I used 300g cherries, pitted them and sliced in half. Chuck em onto a roasting tray and add some maple syrup, balsamic a few thyme leaves and then into the oven for 20 - 40 minutes depending upon how soft/caramelized you want them. Let the suckers cool a bit and they will keep for about 3 days in the fridge.
Ricotta & how to make it
Probably the blandest of all cheeses. I guess you could say the chicken of the cheese family. Not particularly amazing on it's own but a cracking vessel for adding amazing flavours to it. Hence why I have used it in this ricotta cherry toast recipe. It is also probably the easiest cheese to make at home so great to impress your mates by saying during dinner that you made the cheese yourself. Making it is really very simple. You make ricotta by simply separating the curds and whey. You may remember little miss tuffet eating her curds and whey!
The method I use when making it involves heavy cream, full fat milk, salt, pepper & lemon juice. I would be lying if I said it was my own recipe so I'll post the link to it HERE. The only difference is I like to add pepper to my version and I only let it hang for about 30 minutes or so which gives me moister or runnier consistency. Best thing to do is set a timer for 30 minutes yourself and check the consistency. Just remember once refrigerated it will harden/firm up a little. Like all cheese it's best to remove it from the fridge to come up to temperature before eating. Yeah I know health regulations etc but tell me what's better? Personally I prefer a nice soft creamy brie than a cold one straight from the fridge.
Uses for whey
DON'T discard the whey. You may look at it and think what the F am I gonna do with this water/milky liquid but there are many uses for it.
Drink it - why not. It's full of vitamins and minerals.
Soup - use it in addition to stock when making soup. Adds a great milky/creamy texture and can help reduce the amount of more costly stock you have to use.
As a cooking liquid - boil pasta, potatoes, rice or grains in whey.
Chuck it in your compost - it will add more nutrients to the compost.
Smoothies - if you are a fan of a smoothie a day then add a small amount of it in instead of yoghurt or coconut milk.
Baking - as a substitute for any recipe that calls for water or milk. You can make bread, bread rolls, tortillas or pancakes with the stuff.
Soak Grains - if you are a fan of eating grains or legumes then use your leftover whey to soak them overnight.
If you are a fan of ricotta or eating other crostini style recipes then here are a few that may drag you into the kitchen asap!!
Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Shells by Alexandra Cook of 'It's Not Complicated'
Baked Ricotta Cheesecake w/ Lemon by Sylvie Gruber of 'A Baking Journey'
Steak & Brie Crostini by yours truly
Teriyaki Salmon Toast by yours truly
Ricotta Stuffed Zucchni by Marcella Cantatore of 'Marcellina in Cucina'
Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes by Elena Szeliga of 'Happy Kitchen'
Asparagus, Ricotta & Lemon Tart by Angela Allison of 'This Delicious House'
Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Sage Butter Sauce by Patty Guttly of 'Patty Saveurs'
Butternut Squash Noodles by Gina Matsoukas of 'Running To The Kitchen'
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating Friends!!
- 300 g cherries pitted
- 4 - 8 slices crusty bread
- 300 g ricotta cheese
- 4 - 8 slices proscuitto/parma ham
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- olive oil
- Place pitted cherries onto a baking tray, add maple syrup & balsamic vinegar and mix to combine
- Place in oven at 150c and roast for 20 - 40 minutes depending upon how cooked/syrupy you want the cherries. 30 minutes is about right for me
- Cool and store in the fridge until ready to use
Ricotta Cherry Toast
- Drizzle bread in olive oil and grill
- Add a heaped tablespoon of ricotta to bread, "artfully" place ham on side of bread and pour a spoon of cherries (and juices) over the top. Sprinkle with thyme and some maldon salt too
- grill pan
- roasting tray
- measuring tools
- sharp knife
- chopping board
- cherry pitter
- invest in a cherry pitter - makes life so much easier for only $5
- cherries will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge
- homemade ricotta will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge if stored in an airtight container
- allow cheese AND meat to come closer to room temperature before eating/using - trust me!