Herbed Mushroom Ricotta Toasts
Last year I was grilling up a steak dinner, and to make use of the heat remaining in the coals after cooking the steak and also to get a new recipe to write about on the blog, I ended up making a batch of herb-crusted mushrooms. It was kind of a last minute and simple recipe that I thought would be sort of a throw away in the end—good enough to get a post out of, but not something to keep coming back to. To my surprise, both my wife and I ended up having a strong affinity for those herbal and garlicky mushrooms that were a perfect pairing with a hearty steak, and almost immediately I saw the recipe having legs beyond that singular use. That's how I ended up getting to these herbed mushroom ricotta toasts, which I made for a Meatwave that was comprised of bite-size party foods.
One great thing about the mushroom recipe is it's somewhat tailored to use whatever you have on hand, herb-wise anyway. There isn't a specific mixture of herbs that are required, but whatever suits your taste or what's in your garden or fridge. The first time I made the mushrooms, I was making another herb-based recipe too and had rosemary, thyme, chives, and parsley already stocked, so those all went in. This time around it was the same mixture, minus the parsley, but I bet if I just had one or two of those herbs, the final recipe would have still turned out just as delicious.
I think part of the reason I ended up liking those mushrooms so much was the double application of the herbs—once before cooking, and then again afterwards. This provided two different flavors and textures that made the side dish taste a bit more complex than it looked. So I did the same thing again here, first coating the mushrooms in oil, half the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
Then I moved the mushrooms to the cool side of a two-zone fire. I crammed in as many mushrooms as possible at once. I didn't worry much about overcrowding because they cook down and shrink so quickly that within a few minutes, even if the mushrooms are all touching when starting, there will be space between them that allows the heat to travel all around.
When starting the cooking, I like to place my mushrooms with the stem opening up, mainly for the reason that it makes it easy to see the extent of their doneness. Mushrooms hold a lot of water, and as they cook, that liquid is expelled, and if the mushrooms are arranged in the this manner, the pools of water collected in caps let me know they released most of their moisture and are close to being done. I also test doneness by giving the shrooms a little squeeze with tongs, and if they feel totally tender, they're ready to be pulled.
After all the mushrooms were done and on a cutting board, I chopped them up roughly, which differs from the original recipe where I served them whole. After they were diced, I put them back into a bowl and added in the remaining fresh herbs and gave them a taste to ensure the seasoning was to my liking.
Then it was back to the grill to toast up an entire loaf of sourdough. Grill-toasting can be both great and frustrating. On one hand, you can toast a ton of bread at once with the large surface area, but on the other hand, the bread can quickly burn and also toast unevenly, so vigilance is needed to keep the bread browning right. For me, I've found using a two-zone fire and placing the bread close to, but not directly over, the coals provides an ideal experience where the bread doesn't grill so fast that it chars in seconds, but no so slowly that it takes forever to brown.
After the bread was all toasted, I cut the slices into cocktail party appropriate portions, which were about thee inch pieces. I then spread on a layer of ricotta followed by a drizzle of honey. Next the mushrooms were placed atop each slice of toast and then finished with a generous helping of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Now if I thought those mushrooms were great on the first go round, they were even better here! They certainly served their purpose well as a side for steak, but their earthy and herbal character got great contrasts in these toasts. First, the crusty bread provided a welcomed crunch to the shrooms chewy texture, then the ricotta added a creaminess and light sweetness that was amped up by the addition of a little honey. The parmesan was the topping on the cake, providing another level of saltiness and its distinct nutty bite that tasted fantastic with the mushrooms and other ingredients. This just goes to show me that any recipe, no matter how simple, has the potential to be excellent and go on to do even better things—something for me to remember when I sometimes discard ideas for being a little too basic at times.
Herbed Mushroom Ricotta Toasts
- Yield 12-14 servings as an appetizer
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Cook 13 Minutes
- Total 28 Minutes
- 2lbs cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin-olive oil
- 1/3 cup finely minced herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, chives, rosemary, and parsley), divided
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced
- 1lb whole milk ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2oz finely grated parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Place mushrooms in a large bowl. Add in oil, half of the minced herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste; toss to coat evenly.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Place mushrooms on cool side of grill and cover. Cook mushrooms until tender, reduced in size, and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to cutting board and roughly chop. Place mushrooms back in bowl, add in remaining herbs, and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Working in batches as necessary, place bread slices on grill near, but not directly over, fire. Toast bread, flipping occasionally until lightly browned and crusty., 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer bread slices to a cutting board and cut into pieces approximately 3-inches wide.
- Spread a layer of ricotta on each piece of bread and drizzle on a little bit of honey. Top each piece of bread with mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.