I should probably be embarrassed by the following admission, but I'm not: anyone who has been to my apartment for drinks or dinner multiple times in the last few years has most likely had the same hors d'oeuvre more than once. The reason I'm not embarrassed? This particular hors d'oeuvre is, quite simply, good enough to eat every night. I'll admit that the concept was not my own, but hijacked from a favorite local spot in Brooklyn -- an unassuming neighborhood place called Lunetta, where the food is simple but carefully prepared, and the ingredients are always top-notch. The signature dish is a grilled slab of country bread that's rubbed with garlic, slathered with ricotta, drizzled with honey and finished off with a fine dusting of lemon zest. It's addictive. Even my fiancé, a self-professed hater of what he calls "uncooked cheese," has been known to nibble on occasion when I order one of these for my starter.
A couple of things are key to the success of this simple recipe. First, the bread must be somewhat charred -- whether you achieve this by grilling or broiling is your choice and matters little. Second, make sure to use the best quality ricotta you can find. Here in Brooklyn, we have easy access to an incredible locally made version from Salvatore Bklyn. Wherever you are, seek out the best, creamiest (and likely the most expensive) ricotta you can get your hands on. You won't regret it. —Merrill Stubbs
8 to 10 as a pre-dinner treat
medium loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch slices on the diagonal (halve the slices if they're big)
Once your guests have been adequately plied with drinks and roasted almonds, or whatever else will buy you time, steal a few minutes for yourself in the kitchen or out by the grill, which should already be going strong. If you don't have a grill, set a grill pan over medium-high heat or turn on your broiler. Brush both sides of each slice of bread lightly with olive oil. Put the bread to the grill or griddle, and cook until slightly charred on each side, about 2 minutes per side; alternatively, broil the bread slices about 3 inches from the heating element, flipping them after about a minute and watching them like a hawk. When the bread is charred to your liking, remove it and rub the toasted sides lightly on one side with the cut side of the garlic clove.
To the side you've rubbed with garlic, add a generous smear of ricotta (best to leave it kind of messy and rustic-looking), then drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle a bit of honey over each bruschetta and use a fine microplane grater to grate a good amount of lemon zest over the top. Serve immediately. Be prepared to make another batch.