Jesse Paul's Rustic Bread with Fresh Ricotta, Basil Syrup, and Squash & Corn Caponata

Jesse Paul serves this dish, which features squash, basil, and corn from Lucky Dog Ranch, at The Wooden Spoon restaurant in Escondido.

Photography By Chris Rov Costa | March 08, 2018

Ingredients

Ricotta
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • to taste salt
  • 1 orange, zested
Caponata
  • 1 pound mixed heirloom squash, finely chopped
  • 6 ears corn
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • to taste (a few cloves) garlic, crushed
  • pinch chili flakes
  • for infusing olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Basil Syrup
  • 8 ounces basil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 orange, zest only
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup water
For Serving
  • 1 loaf rustic bread, ideally sourdough

Instructions

Make the Ricotta

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add milk and buttermilk. Slowly warm the milk up to 170°; it should start to separate into curds and whey. Pull off the heat once it is separated, add salt, and let cool down to room temperature. (For best results, refrigerate overnight.)

Strain the milk through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. (You can reserve the whey for another use, such as making polenta.) Keep the curds in the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth to make a sack. Tie the top with butcher’s twine and hang in the refrigerator over a bowl to catch the excess liquid.

The next day, remove the curds from the cheesecloth and put into a bowl. Stir in orange zest and more salt to taste. Keep cold.

Make the Caponata

Shuck and grill the corn until lightly colored. Cool down and cut the kernels from the cobs.

Combine the squash, corn, capers, and red onion in a bowl. In a small pot, add crushed garlic and chili flakes, cover with olive oil, and slowly cook over low heat until the oil is fragrant, about . Strain the hot oil over the squash and corn mixture and let sit at room temperature overnight. The next day, add vinegar and adjust seasoning with salt.

Make the Basil Syrup 

Pick all the basil leaves from the stems; set stems aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the basil leaves to the water and stir. Once the water comes back to a boil, remove the basil and place directly into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Once chilled, remove the basil from the ice water and wring out all the water from the leaves. Chop the basil and keep cool in the refrigerator.

Combine sugar, water, basil stems, and orange peel together in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup into a nonreactive container and chill.

Once both the basil leaves and the syrup are cold, combine both in a blender and puree on high until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and keep the liquid in the refrigerator.

Bring it all Together

Slice a nice loaf of rustic bread (sourdough batard works best) into two-inch-thick pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and salt, and toast in a pan until crispy on one side.

Smear the bread with ricotta cheese, spoon some caponata over the top, and finish with a drizzle of the basil syrup.

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Ingredients

Ricotta
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • to taste salt
  • 1 orange, zested
Caponata
  • 1 pound mixed heirloom squash, finely chopped
  • 6 ears corn
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • to taste (a few cloves) garlic, crushed
  • pinch chili flakes
  • for infusing olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Basil Syrup
  • 8 ounces basil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 orange, zest only
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup water
For Serving
  • 1 loaf rustic bread, ideally sourdough
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