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Italian food has been on my mind for months. Why? Because one of the unsung heroes in my latest novel, JUST IN TIME, is Italian food. It resurges in every chapter of the book from Monica’s little Italian restaurant, Cafe Allegro. Food is a character. It’s a setting. It’s a theme. It basically has its own storyline.
Cannoli. Bolognese. Manicotti. Peppercorn fettuccine. Eggplant parmesan. Hungry yet?
One of the hazards of writing is that as my fingers race on the keyboard, stitching together storylines and plots, the creativity in the room often makes me want a snack. Or perhaps the food inspired the descriptive meals in the book. It’s a chicken and egg conundrum. Which came first?
One thing is for certain: food and books go together like cheese and crackers.
That’s why I usually end up in my kitchen after writing. I am so anxious to try out the recipes that I have played over and over in my head during the writing process.
Cooking the Books
For my latest novel, I even put together a party kit spotlighting a few of my favorite recipes inspired by the book.
Here is one of my favorites that is sure to be a hit at your next gathering! Lemony Gremolata Crostini with Ricotta pairs nicely with a vibrant, citrusy glass of sauvignon blanc, friends (old or new!), and witty banter.
Come to think of it, what doesn’t pair well with friends, wine, and witty banter?
Another plus? Lemony Gremolata Crostini with Ricotta just sounds so fancy. And so Italian.
Bright, citrusy, and fresh, Gremolata traditionally is used in the famous Italian recipe for Osso Bucco. For this recipe, I wanted it to be the main event instead of a garnish, so it gets to sit atop the crusty bread and cloud of ricotta like the royal delight that it is.
The gremolata would also be amazing on grilled fish, asparagus, or pasta! If you don’t have parsley on hand, try other herbs for other delicious variations. A minted version would be delicious with lamb or my pea soup, and a basil version would be the perfect soulmate for those heirloom tomatoes you are trying to grow.
What You’ll Need
If you don’t have a proper bread knife or microplane, it’s time to make an investment. A bread knife is absolutely essential to slicing bread easily and I think it has likely saved me from losing several fingers. Ok, that might be dramatic, but seriously it just makes life so much easier.
A microplane, or rasp, is used to zest citrus. In other words, it shaves off the peel into beautiful and aromatic shreds that add so much fresh flavor and scent to a range of dishes, from pasta to desserts.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this appetizer.
- Bread knife, like this one
- Microplane, like this one
- Sharp knife for chopping. This is my trusty one that has the same status and protection as my prized sewing scissors.
|1 T olive oil|
|1 bunch parsley|
|lemon zest from 2 lemons plus more for garnish|
|1 clove garlic, minced|
|1 C low fat ricotta|
|flakey sea salt, like Maldon|
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Using a bread knife, slice baguette on the diagonal. Why? Because it will look prettier than cutting it straight across. It also makes the surface area slightly bigger on the slices. (Disclaimer: this might be an optical illusion but just go with it).
- Brush bread slices with olive oil and pop in oven for 6 to 8 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with flakey sea salt. Let cool.
- While your bread is toasting, zest lemons with a microblade or rasp. Close your eyes and inhale the delightfully fresh citrus scent and pretend you are at a spa. Take a moment for you. Then get back to work.
- Chop parsley until finely chopped. Add lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste and mix until combined.
- Smear creamy ricotta over crunchy bread. Top each slice evenly with the aromatic gremolata. Garnish with extra lemon zest because it’s delicious and pretty.
- Serve immediately. Buon Appetito!