I’ve been on a bit of an appetizer kick lately. Normally, I’m the type of person who would just rather eat a whole sandwich than dawdle around with tiny bites of food but I kind of got into it after experimenting with a few recipes this holiday season. It turns out that appetizers can be pretty enjoyable to make (and to eat, of course). Creating food using only a few ingredients can be a challenge in itself. It’s fun to see how much flavor you can pack into a few bites. What better example of a simple ingredient that packs a lot of flavor than smoked salmon? Smoked salmon in pretty incredible – it’s smooth, salty, and smoky. It’s kind of like a lightened up version of bacon. Pair it with classic flavors like lemon and dill and you’ve got a super simple tasty treat for your party guests.
The first step is to make the crostini. Apparently the word crostini means ‘little crusts’ in Italian. Crostini are great because they’re sort of a blank canvas for flavor. You can top them with just about anything – cheese, meats, vegetables, dips, spreads, marinated goodies like olives or artichokes. The list goes on and on. They’re basically little flavor vehicles. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, cut a baguette into slices and spread the slices on a baking sheet, and then drizzle a little olive oil on each slice. Pop the pan in the oven for 6 minutes and remove.
This is one of my favorite little tricks. Cut a few pieces of garlic in half and then rub the garlic on the crostini as soon as you remove them from the oven. Rubbing the warm bread will release the oils in the garlic and give them a nice pop of garlicky flavor. Wear an oven mitt to hold the bread in place as you’re rubbing it with the garlic. This will protect your fingers from burning on that hot bread.
Now for the ricotta spread. I am a huge fan of dips, sauces, spreads, and gravies. Dry food is just no good. Ricotta is perfect for spreads – it’s another ‘blank canvas’ kind of ingredient. Ricotta itself doesn’t have much flavor but is easily manipulated by whatever you add to it. I went classic with this one – lemon and dill. Just add 1 cup of ricotta cheese to a small bowl and add the zest of 2 lemons, 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice, 3 Tbsp. of minced fresh dill, and a little salt and pepper. Mix these ingredients together and set aside.
The next step is to cut the salmon into bite size pieces. Smoked salmon is pretty easy to find this time of year. It seems like grocery stores consider this a specialty item and keep it in stock over the holidays. You can use 1-2 packages depending on how much crostini you are preparing. Just separate the pieces of salmon and cut them into small strips. Make them roughly the same size as the crostini. I have two cats and I would just like to say for the record that photographing smoked salmon with two cats running around is nearly impossible. These little beggars meowed and circled. I tried to lock them in the basement and they outsmarted me. I tried to swat them away and damn near lost a finger. Moral of the story? There is none – cats just really love smoked salmon.
All that’s left is to assemble. Spread a healthy spoonful of the lemon dill ricotta mixture onto each slice of bread and then top with a piece of the sliced salmon. You can garnish the whole thing with a dill sprig if you want to make it pretty. Feel free to squeeze more lemon juice on top if you really want to drive the lemon flavor home. That’s all there is to it. You can serve them immediately. Do it quick before your cats get to them.
- 1-2 packages smoked salmon
- 1 baguette
- 1 Tbsp . olive oil
- 2 clove garlic - cut in half
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 Tbsp . lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp . fresh dill plus more for garnishing
- Salt and pepper - to taste
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut a baguette into small slices and arrange on baking sheet.
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto each piece and place pan in oven. Bake for 6 minutes.
- Cut a clove of garlic in half.
- Remove pan from oven and rub each piece of warm bread with garlic half.
- Mix ricotta cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, minced dill, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir until combined.
- Cut salmon into bite size pieces.
- Spread a spoonful of ricotta mixture onto each slice of bread and top with salmon slice.
- Garnish with dill sprigs and extra lemon juice if desired.