In the heat of summer, when even the evenings are warm and sticky, I try to spend as little time standing in front of the stove as possible. Instead of making the usual pastas, soups, stir-fries, or roast chickens that form the basis of our weeknight meals during the rest of the year, I turn some of my favorite ingredients into the simplest possible dinner: hearty, flavorful toasts or bruschetta.
Bruschetta is the perfect lazy summer dinner—it requires less than 30 minutes (from start to finish) and I never use more than five ingredients (not including pantry staples like butter, salt, and pepper). And the form is extremely flexible; I can top the toasted bread with any seasonal vegetables I’m craving or to use up whatever I have in my refrigerator or pantry.
Your Bruschetta Can Be Topped With More Than Just Tomatoes
Many people probably think of bruschetta as small pieces of bread topped with chopped tomato, but the form is actually far more flexible. Even in Italy, you’ll find versions made with anchovies, cured meats, or rich cheeses.
Personally, my favorite way to make savory toast is to start with a layer of fluffy, creamy ricotta, then top it with some quickly cooked seasonal vegetables. In the summer, that usually means corn.
A quick sauté with onions, and a bit of fresh mint is all it takes to turn this vegetable into the perfect topping. It’s simple, sweet, and flavorful, and only requires you to stand in front of the stove for just about 10 minutes. Since these toasts boast a mix of carbs, protein, and vegetables, they make a full meal all on their own, no accompaniments required.
Picking Bread for Your Bruschetta
If you’re making a toast hearty enough for a meal, you’ll want to start with a hearty bread. A whole grain batard or boule, cut into thick slices, is ideal. Both breads are wonderfully flavorful and sturdy enough to hold a big pile of toppings. If your loaf is relatively wide (like a big round French miche), cut the whole thing in half, then put it cut-side down on the cutting board, and slice it from the top down for good-sized slices.
If you’d prefer to make smaller versions of these toasts (to put on a snack board, for instance) you can cut the slices up into quarters of sixths, or simply start with a baguette. These smaller pieces can be toasted in a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes.
What Type of Ricotta to Use
The ricotta in this dish provides a lot of the meal’s texture and mouth feel, so you’ll want to use the best version you can find. Cheap, mass-produced ricotta will technically work just fine, but it has a relatively rough, grainy texture. Cheese made by a smaller producer, like Belfiore or the award-winning Bellwether Farms, will be creamier and fluffier and have a richer, more milky flavor. You can even make your own pretty easily, if you want to make your dish extra special.
Start With Fresh Corn on the Cob
While you could use frozen corn to make this recipe without affecting the flavor too much, I am partial to fresh corn, cut off the cob right before cooking. Different cooks have various ways of doing this (like the Bundt pan method shown here), but I take a relatively simple approach.
Hold your shucked corn cob vertically inside a medium bowl, holding the stem and letting the tip of the cob sit in the bottom of the bowl. Use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels off from top (the end you’re holding) to bottom (the tip in the bowl), in a downward motion, rotating the cob to get all the sides.
Mix and Match Bruschetta Toppings
The format of this dish—ricotta topped with sauteed vegetables—lends itself to endless variations. Some fun topping options include:
- Fava beans cooked with a bit of thinly sliced salami
- Peas cooked with garlic and mint
- Chopped asparagus flavored with lemon zest
- Swiss chard cooked with pine nuts and raisins
You could even make a twist on the corn recipe below by mixing in some fresh, chopped tomatoes and replacing the mint with basil or cilantro.
Make Ahead Components for Bruschetta
You can make this recipe even quicker and easier by cooking the corn ahead of time. (Since hot corn would melt the ricotta, you’ll need to let it cool a bit anyway before you assemble your bruschetta.)
You can refrigerate the topping for up to five days; just let it come to room temperature before assembling the toasts.
Swap Toast for Pasta for Another Simple Meal
These same ingredients make excellent pasta toppings (if you’re not too hot to have a pot of water boiling on your stove). The form is essentially the same as this pasta with ricotta and pan-fried tomato sauce, but with the corn in place of the tomato. Simply cook the pasta and toss it with a little butter, then pile some of the ricotta and corn on top of each serving.
More Corn-tastic Recipes to Try this Season!
Corn and Ricotta Bruschetta
2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 red onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 mint leaves, very thinly sliced
8 thick slices whole-grain batard or boule bread (cut about 4 inches wide, 5 inches long, and 1 inch thick)
16 ounces ricotta cheese
4 mint leaves, very thinly sliced
Cut the corn off the cob:
With a sharp knife, cut the corn off of the cobs into a medium bowl, removing as much of the kernels flesh as possible.
The method I use: hold your shucked corn cob vertically inside a medium bowl, holding the stem and letting the tip of the cob sit in the bottom of the bowl. Use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels off from top (the end you’re holding) to bottom (the tip in the bowl), in a downward motion, rotating the cob to get all the sides.
Set aside. You should have 2 1/4 cups of shucked corn.
Cook the onions:
In a medium pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes.
Cook the corn:
Add the corn and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, and cook, until the corn is softened, about 5 minutes.
Season and add mint:
Season with the salt and pepper. Add the mint, and cook, stirring, until the mint just starts to soften and becomes fragrant, about 30 second.
Let the topping cool:
Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, until the corn is warm but not hot.
Toast the bread:
While the corn is cooling, toast the bread in your toaster. (If the bread is tender and thick, you may need to toast each slice twice to get it lightly crispy on its surface. Set aside.
Spread the ricotta on the toasts:
When the corn is done cooling, spoon even portions of ricotta onto each slice of toast (about 3 1/2 tablespoons on each slice) and use the back of the spoon to spread it out almost to the edges.
Top the ricotta with corn:
Divide the corn mixture between the toasts (about 3 tablespoons per slice) and spread it out almost to the edge of the ricotta.
Garnish and serve:
Garnish with mint and serve.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||46%|
|Total Carbohydrate 18g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||16%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|