Summer recipes for blueberry bruschetta and beyond

June 30, 2023

Last weekend, Bennett Orchards filled its signature orange tent at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market with row upon row of pint boxes of blueberries, as well as a generous selection of early peaches. The blueberries were perfectly ripe, large in size, juicy and flavorful. Instead of a traditional sweet dish like shortcake or pie, I decided to feature them in a savory recipe like the bruschetta in the photo.

One thing about this recipe is different from your usual bruschetta, in that we replaced toasted baguette slices with crispy, whole-grain fig crackers. The next step in the recipe is choosing which type of soft cheese to use, as each of the options brings slightly different flavor and texture qualities. Let’s look at some of them, starting with cream cheese versus ricotta.

Cream cheese is much richer, smoother and creamier, while ricotta is moister with a somewhat grainy texture. Cream cheese delivers a mild tanginess absent in the slightly sweeter ricotta. To substitute one for the other requires some adjustments. For example, to replace cream cheese with ricotta, it should be drained to remove as much liquid as possible, then whipped. If using cream cheese in place of ricotta, it should be softened and diluted with a splash of milk. Both cheeses are quite mild, but to help ricotta taste more like cream cheese, stir in some lemon juice.

The differences in how the two cheeses are produced help explain their characteristics. Ricotta (the name means “recooked”) is made from the whey left over from making other cheeses. The whey is heated, causing proteins to bind together and form small curds, which are strained to remove excess liquid. Cream cheese, which has a higher fat content, is made from a mixture of whole milk and cream, often with a thickening agent such as carrageenan or carob bean gum.

Although cream cheese and ricotta can be used interchangeably with a few minor tweaks, there are a few places where they can’t reliably substitute for each other. In cheesecake, the usual choice is cream cheese for its dense richness. Ricotta will work in cheesecake with the addition of a few more egg yolks and heavy cream or whipped cream to hold the filling together. Lasagna works best with ricotta because of its high moisture content; cream cheese will need to be thinned and may still result in a dry dish of noodles.

Another member of the soft-cheese family that could work in the bruschetta is the ultra-rich mascarpone. It is often called Italian cream cheese and has a much higher fat content than American cream cheese. It doesn’t have the tanginess we associate with the smear of cream cheese on a toasted bagel and is typically found in sweet dishes like tiramisu. It would need some herbal highlights to keep the bruschetta recipe savory.

Goat cheese is a somewhat crumbly soft cheese that would layer nicely with blueberries and crackers or baguette slices. You could make the combination even more interesting by using a goat cheese variety flavored with cracked pepper or herbs.

In the recipes that follow, I’ve included versions of the bruschetta using different cheeses. For each of them, you can simmer the blueberries first or use them fresh from the farm.

Roasted Blueberries

1 C fresh blueberries
2 T honey
1 T olive oil
1 t chopped thyme
1 t lemon zest
1 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine ingredients in a baking dish and bake until juices are bubbly, about 10 minutes. Use as a topping for bruschetta, roast chicken or pork tenderloin.

Ricotta & Blueberry Bruschetta

1 baguette
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 C blueberries
1 T maple syrup
3/4 C ricotta cheese
1 T lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Thinly slice the bread and brush with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. While bread is toasting, combine blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Cook over medium low until juices bubble, about 10 minutes. Spread each piece of toasted bread with ricotta, top with blueberries and garnish with lemon zest.

Mascarpone & Blueberry Bruschetta

1 baguette
1 T olive oil
1 C mascarpone cheese
1 C blueberries
1/2 t sugar 
1 T Balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
2 T thinly sliced basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 F. Thinly slice the bread and brush with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Combine blueberries, sugar and Balsamic in a nonstick skillet. Cook over low heat until a sauce forms, about 5 minutes. Spread each piece of toast with mascarpone cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and top with blueberry mixture. Garnish with fresh basil.

Cream Cheese & Blueberry Canapés

1/2 C cream cheese, softened
1 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
18 crisp fruit crackers
1/2 C blueberries

Combine cream cheese, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl. Beat until smooth. Spread the crackers with cream cheese mixture and top each with a few blueberries.

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