Category:Appetizers’

Tomato Bruschetta on Crostini

 - by Elizabeth

When I saw the movie Julie/Julia, I really wanted that recipe for the bruschetta Julie and her husband eat in the first scenes.  Of course, he was acting, but the way he went over the moon for the crisp slices of baguette topped with fresh tomato made it all the more appealing.

We’d had some “bruschetta pomodora” together, Dave and I, on our last trip to Italy in Montepulciano–a little town in the hills (above).

I’d also had a wonderful version earlier, while lunching in Florence (above). All of those appeared to depend on fresh tomatoes (not grocery store), good quality bread, and high-grade olive oil, and not much else.

Fast forward to today.  A perfect trio of happenings all conspired to deliver to our dinner plates the same meal.  First, some ciabatta bread from Kneaders Bakery in Orem, Utah had survived the trip home, and after a sojourn in the freezer, Dave pulled it out trying to decide what to do with it.  Second, our neighbor, Julie, had too many tomatoes and brought over two large red toms along with a handful of little yellow pears tomatoes.  Third, a version of this recipe appeared in the Sunday Magazine and I ripped it out immediately.

Ingredients:
2 large red tomatoes, handful of golden pear tomatoes, or 2 lbs. assorted heirloom/garden tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed through a press (if you do that, scrape what’s left behind, and press it through again)
1/4 to 1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced (adjust as needed–we used about 10 leaves from our garden plant)
3 Tbsp red-wine vinegar (or several splashes)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and fresh pepper

Crostini

Place the tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil and the basil into a medium bowl and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Prepare the crostini. You can either follow the directions in the linked recipe (it’s on this site), or grill it on the outside barbeque grill, or do what Dave did: lay out the thinly sliced bread (about 3/8″ thick) on a cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil, and broil under high heat until golden brown and crisp.  He took out the center crostini that were done first and redistributed the others more evenly under the heat.

Build your bruschetta: mound the tomatoes, including some of their juices, up onto the bread and eat immediately.  We made each delicious serving at the time of eating, as the bread quickly soaks up the juices and would get soggy if it sat at all.

Optional: add in about 1/2 thinly sliced red onion.  We decided that our servings in Italy didn’t have onion, so we left it out.

Another Optional: place a slice of fresh mozzerella cheese (the kind that’s sold with liquid around it–a soggy looking thing) on top of the crostini before you place the tomatoes over it.  We had that, and the meal was amazing.  And we weren’t even acting!

History of the Terms (from Wikipedia):
Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brusˈketta]) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Bruschetta is usually served as a snack or appetizer.

And this interesting note: Following a semantic shift, some Americans use the word “bruschetta” to refer to the topping instead of the dish. Many grocery store chains in the United States sell bottled “bruschetta,” which is typically tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herbs.

Definitely not as good as the one we enjoyed tonight.

Crostini

 - by Elizabeth

I knew I wanted to serve crostini (basically toasted baguette slices) with the Torta, but after cooking solidly for a week, my brain went blank.  So I opened the new Gourmet cookbook (with green titles and cover–lovely, lovely–a sad end to a fine enterprise) and looked up Ruth Reichl’s how-to’s.  Saved.

Dave cut the La Brea bread baguette on an angle to get the nice shape of these slices.  I set them out on a rack, brushed both sides with good-quality olive oil, then salt and peppered them (lightly).  I toasted them lightly under the broiler, keeping an eye on them.

They were magnificent right out of the oven, and I ate them for my lunch.  They were a little less magnificent that night, even a little soggy, after being kept (in a bowl, under plastic wrap) all day.  I think it was the constant rain we had, because the next day Dave and I popped them into the toaster for just a minute, and they were back to magnificent–especially when slathered with the leftover Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Torta.

To arrange in a bowl, first cover the bottom of the bowl with a single layer of crostini.  Then, layer the slices in a circle around the edges, building up as you go, leaving the middle hollow.  It doesn’t really show too well in this picture, but it looks very cool in real life.

Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Torta

 - by Elizabeth

I made this for the first time last December, and fought with it the whole time.  Part of the problem was that I tried a shortcut, and used pesto from Trader Joe’s.  Mistake.  If you decide to make this, consider it like investing in a plane trip abroad: once you board, there’s no getting off until the plane’s landed.  Stay with it and you’ll be rewarded with lots of compliments.

For the presentation, I garnished the top with pine nuts, set it out on my husband’s nutcracker Christmas plate up on a cake pedestal, and served it with crostini. The recipe is originally from Bon Appetit magazine, published in December 1999, and the only modification I made was to cut down on the garlic to two cloves (from the original recipe’s four cloves).  I think it was a good call as it was much better this year.

You can make this up to three days ahead; be sure to start at least one day in advance.

2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temperature (about 21 ounces)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (confession: I forgot to drain the oil; it was fine).  I used an 8 oz jar of julienned tomatoes from (where else?) Trader Joe’s.
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Fresh basil sprigs
Toasted pine nuts
Crostini

Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, oil and lemon juice. Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Using on/off turns, process just until blended. Transfer pesto to medium bowl.

Coarsely chop tomatoes in processor. Add tomato paste and process until mixture is almost smooth. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.

Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. Spread 3/4 cup cream cheese-butter mixture evenly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with half of tomato mixture, then 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, then half of pesto mixture. Repeat layering with 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture and remaining pesto. Top with remaining cream cheese-butter mixture. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Invert torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with crostini.

Makes 20 servings.

Caramelized Onion & Apple Tart

 - by Elizabeth

This was perhaps my favorite new recipe of the night, found online somewhere.  Purchase pre-made puff pastry (Pepperidge Farms is the one in our grocery store), top with crème fraîche, the onion/apple mixture and bake.  I slid them over onto a rack to cool for a minute, then sliced it up into squares.  I plan to make this one often; it’s easy and it went really quickly–both in the making of and into people’s mouths.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2  and 1/2  medium onions, sliced
2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into very small dice
salt and pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1/2 cup crème fraîche (you can substitute sour cream, but check Trader Joe’s for the crème fraîche before you do)

Heat oven to 400º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apples, some salt, a shake of pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a one-quarter inch border. Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, approximately 30 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.

Skewered Vegetables

 - by Elizabeth

I’m a party planner by accident, not by trade, and finding recipes mostly consists of opening every cookbook in my house and then looking online for whatever they may have.  If the website’s too complicated, I skip it (no time, of course).  This year for Dave’s department party, I realized we needed some vegetables but was just not up to blanching and arranging vegetables, so I went for these skewered vegetables instead.

Ingredients:

red or white-skinned baby potatoes
heirloom tomatoes (in a variety of colors)
fresh mozzerella cheese
olive oil and salt & pepper

Cook the baby potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes, then put into an ice-cube cold water bath.  Pat dry, then quarter (or half them if they are really tiny).

Twisting the skewer, ease the potato on first, skin-side up, then an heirloom tomato (they’re slightly crunchy), a cube of fresh mozzerella (the old packaged kind in your grocery store is not really good for this use–get FRESH), then a sweet grape tomato.  You can skewer more or less items, as you like.  Place on a pan, and lightly drizzle then with olive oil, then salt and pepper.  I arranged them on a platter, and nearly all were eaten.