I love asparagus just about any way I can get it: roasted and eaten straight from the pan, chopped into a hearty lunchtime salad, or even simply blanched for a quick side dish. But for a change of pace, this time I thought I'd go creamy.
Quick and easy to prepare, these two-bite bruschetta toasts make the perfect start to Easter dinner or Mother's Day brunch — or both!
I experimented with a couple of cheeses to add creaminess to the asparagus mix — cream cheese and ricotta, goat cheese and parmesan — and ultimately decided that the clean, fresh flavor of ricotta was just what I wanted in a springtime snack. Some quickly sautéed leeks and garlic with a squeeze of fresh lemon rounded everything out nicely.
Prosciutto and asparagus are also a tried-and-true match. You don't mess with perfection. On these bruschetta (or crostini), I love the chewiness and saltiness of the prosciutto with the clean flavor of the asparagus and the crunch of the toast.
Why haven't I tried an asparagus purée before?! I love anything that can be whizzed in a food processor, and I'm always looking for new dips or spreads that make quick appetizers for a party. I love that I can make this asparagus spread can be made several days ahead and assemble the crostini just before guests arrive.
Ditto what Elizabeth said in her original post with: Why haven't I tried asparagus purée before?! This spread is a fantastic addition to my reportoire of All Things Asparagus.
I added a little lemon zest when I made this recipe recently and liked the bright, zingy flavor it added. I include it in this revised recipe as an optional ingredient, and I highly recommend giving it a try.
These crostini definitely make an elegant and easy appetizer, but I found myself using the leftover spread in all sorts of ways — smeared on sandwiches, a dip for crackers, even dolloped over a salad I was eating for lunch. It's a versatile spread, so don't be shy about using it in lots of meals this spring!
- Emma, April 2014
Asparagus & Prosciutto Toasts
Makes 2 cups of spread; enough for about 20 small crostini or dozens of bite-sized appetizers
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 large leek (white and light green part only)
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound prosciutto
1 loaf of ciabatta, baguette, or other artisan loaf, sliced thinly
Melted butter or olive oil
Bring a pan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook until tender and bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the pan and place in an ice bath (or run under cold water) to stop the cooking. Pat dry.
Slice the leek in half lengthwise and set aside one of the halves for another use. Chop the remaining half. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the chopped leeks and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft but not brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Roughly chop the cooled asparagus. Combine the chopped asparagus, the leek mixture, and the ricotta cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Purée until smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
At this point, the asparagus spread can be refrigerated until ready to use, overnight or up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, spread the slices of bread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with melted butter or olive oil. Toast under the broiler for a minute or two until the tops of the toasts are golden and the edges are crunchy — watch the toasts carefully as they can burn easily.
To serve, spread a dollop of asparagus puree on each slice of bread, then top with a piece of prosciutto.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)