I’m sure when I grew up in the “olden days” there was a variety of apples available, but really, all I remember was the Red Delicious Apple. Now I certainly don’t want to offend any apple growers out there who grow the Red Delicious, or insult avid fans of the Red Delicious, but it’s because of that particular fruit that I never really took a liking to apples. Unfortunately the Red Delicious is a mealy apple that’s not crisp or sweet or appealing in any way. Please don’t be mad at me for saying this, but I think it’s the truth.
Okay, fast forward to modern times. So, I walk into my local Whole Foods the other day and was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of apples they had for sale. You name it, Gala, Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia, just to name a few. I couldn’t decide which variety to go with, so I bought them all.
Now, armed with a plethora of fall apples, came the decision of what to do with them. I had been to a restaurant the day before call Gjelina in Venice, California (which was quite hip and happening, I must say) and had their apple salad. I loved it so much I decided to recreate it at home. This Apple & Cheddar Salad is the perfect beginning to an autumn dinner or a Saturday brunch. The sweet crunch of the apples goes perfectly with the saltiness of the cheese.
Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
- 2 large crisp apples, any variety
- 2 stalks of celery
- 4 ounces of good quality cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 head of mustard greens
- Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place first 6 ingredients in a small jar and shake real well. Add in the olive oil and shake vigorously again so that dressing begins to thicken. I make the dressing a day in advance so that the flavors meld together. Refrigerate for up to one week.
- Place pine nuts in a small, frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until nuts begin to brown and release their natural oils. Place in a small dish to cool and set aside.
- With a sharp knife, chop your celery stalks crosswise into thin slices, or use a mandolin. Set aside.
- Thinly chop your mustard greens (chiffonade) and toss into a bowl or your can individually plate 4 separate salads.
- With a sharp knife, thinly slice the cheddar cheese and set aside.
- You can use a mandolin to slice the apples in round slices, or use a sharp knife to slice the apples into thin wedges, removing the core and seeds. Place the apple slices into a bowl of acidulated water. When you’re ready to plate your salad, take slices out of water, and pat dry.
- Plate all ingredients onto individual plates, or combine into a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette.
Makes 4 appetizer sized salads
To stop fruit from oxidizing, place fruit in a bowl of 1 cup cold water to 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Increase the amount of water/juice depending on how much fruit you are using. When you’re ready to use the fruit, just pat dry with a paper towel.
This weekend my family will celebrate a most momentous occasion, that being my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. They were of course, the Ward and June Cleaver of Havertown, Pennsylvania. (A 1960′s cultural reference only old people will get, young people, you can google it.) I’ve always said that they make marriage look fun, in fact, they’re totally “adorbs!” (Younger generation cultural reference.) So, what does this have to do with crostini you ask? We’ll be serving these tasty hors d’ oeuvres at our upcoming gathering.
What I love about these appetizers is that they are the perfect “marriage” of different tastes and textures. Did you like the way I segued into that, huh. Anyway, you’ve got your crunch from the toasted bread and walnuts, paired with the saltiness of the prosciutto, the creaminess of the goat cheese and the sweetness of the fig and balsamic all in one perfect little bite. Actually, it’s probably two-bites, but who’s counting.
Fig & Prosciutto Crostini
- 12 fresh figs – Black Mission or Brown Turkey varieties
- 1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
- 1/2 cup baby arugula
- 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped small
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- French baguette sliced into 24, 1/2″ slices
For the Balsamic Reduction: Pour the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar into a small but heavy saucepan and bring to a steady simmer. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, allow the mixture to simmer until it begins to thicken and become syrupy. Then, pour it into a small bowl and let it cool. Set aside.
Place the walnuts that have been chopped into small pieces into a small frying pan and over medium heat stir constantly until the nuts become fragrant and their natural oils are released. Keep your eye on them as they can burn quite quickly. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Snip the stem off of the figs, and then cut them in half. Slice the prosciutto into slices that will fit the size of the crostini. Slice the baguette into 24 – 1/2″ slices and place on a baking sheet. Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients together, place the bread slices into a 400 degree F oven and toast bread until it becomes golden on the edges. Then remove.
Top each bread slice with a piece of prosciutto, a piece of the arugula, a fig slice, then a few goat cheese crumbles and walnuts. Drizzle the crostini with the balsamic reduction and serve!
Makes 24 individual crostini
Have all your ingredients prepared and in little bowls so when the bread comes out of the oven, you can make the crostini assembly-line style and serve while the bread is still warm.
In case you were wondering, figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber. I eat them by the boatloads.
I know I haven’t posted a new recipe in awhile, but Mama took a little vacation. I’m funny when it comes to leaving home, and that’s why I hardly ever leave. I find the whole traveling process very stressful, especially when there’s airline travel involved. But, little did I know that a lovely little paradise existed 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.
A group of my friends (Cindy, Roberta, Wendy and Lauren) go to Catalina for a week every summer. I’ve been invited to go in the past, but I had envisioned Catalina to be nothing special, so I always declined. But for some reason my husband, and I and son #2 decided to give it a try. Well, Mama was pleasantly surprised. Actually more than just pleasantly.
Catalina is very easy to reach, no muss, no fuss. One hour on the Catalina Express and you arrive in Avalon Harbor. There’s very few cars on the island, and most people get around by golf cart. The city center is very quaint, and filled with small restaurants, shops, bars and markets. Nothing fancy mind you, but keep in mind this is a very low-key, stress-free vacation. But what wow-ed me the most was the island’s natural beauty. Sunshine every day, bright blue skies and water clear enough to see fish, dolphins and plenty of seals. And guess what…I can’t wait to go back.
My inspiration for this week’s recipe came from the Pacific Ocean. I find the visual, as well as the sound and smell of the ocean so relaxing. How better to pay homage to the Pacific than with a shrimp recipe of course!
Grilled Shrimp Kabobs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- juice from 1/2 lime
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tail shell on)
- 1 large green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 large yellow onion cut into 1″ pieces
- fresh pineapple cut into 1″ chunks, or you can use a 15 ounce can of pineapple, with the juice drained
- Metal skewers, or wooden skewers soaked in water
- Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail shell on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water then dry with a paper towel and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the shrimp, vegetables and pineapple. Pour off 1/4 cup of the marinade, and reserve for basting the shrimp on the grill.
- Place the shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade in the bag, coating all the shrimp. Place the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Take your skewers and thread the shrimp on the skewers, piercing the shrimp through the center, with both the front and tail portion going through the skewer. Thread on a piece of pineapple, then another shrimp, then the green pepper and onion. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Place the completed skewers on a metal baking sheet.
- Spray your grill with cooking spray so the shrimp won’t stick, and heat the grill to medium high.
- Place your skewers on the grill and baste with the remaining marinade. Turn the skewers so the shrimp cook evenly on each side. All grills are different, so cook the shrimp until they are pink on the outside. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp as they will become rubbery. As soon as they are no longer opaque, they are done.
- Serve immediately from the grill.
If you’re going to use wooden skewers for these kabobs, soak them in water for an hour or two so that they won’t burn when you put them on the grill.
To devein the shrimp, run a pairing knife down the back of the shrimp. You will see the black vein. Using the tip of your knife, cut out the vein and discard.
Always spray your grill with a little cooking spray, or brush lightly with some olive oil so that the shrimp don’t stick to the grill.
There’s something to be said for fresh vegetables. Like the one’s that you get at the farmer’s market that look like they’ve just been pulled out of the ground because they still have dirt on them and all that green leafy matter attached. I love all the bright colors of vegetables, their earthiness, the smell and texture. Living in Southern California, and having a weekly farmer’s market five minutes away from my house, I’m never deprived of the best vegetables each season has to offer. On this week’s trip to the market I was presented with a bounty of juicy tomatoes, ripe California avocados and sweet bell peppers in glorious shades of red, yellow and orange.
When I returned home, I knew immediately what I was going to do with my bulging bag of veggies. Make gazpacho of course! For those of you not familiar with gazpacho, it is a cold, tomato-based soup which has it’s origins in Spain and is best served during the summer months (when tomatoes are their freshest) because it’s so darn refreshing. Gazpacho is a bowl of “earthy goodness”. It’s simple, straight forward, with nothing refined or processed…just good stuff from the ground.
Yes, there is something to be said for fresh vegetables. I don’t know what it is but I just feel smarter when I eat veggies. I notice a certain spring in my step upon consuming large quantities of vitamins and minerals. If you give this recipe a try, write back and let me know if you think your IQ just went up a couple of points. I bet it will.
Adapted From Pascal Lorange of Le Pain Quotidien
- 1 medium red bell pepper (70g)
- 2 ounces sourdough baguette, cut into small pieces (50g)
- 1 1/4 cups cold water (300ml)
- *3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced (100g)
- 3 radishes, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, cut into slices
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced (or whatever fresh herb you have in the fridge)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- avocado slices
- radish, thinly sliced into matchsticks
- cucumber, thinly sliced into matchsticks
- scallion, thinly sliced
- extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place your bell pepper in the center of a metal baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, turning the pepper every 10 minutes so that all sides will turn black and blistered. Remove from the oven and let cool. When you’re able to handle it, remove the skin from the pepper and take the seeds out. Cut the pepper into strips and set aside 1/3 (3 ounces/70g).
- Take the small baguette slices and place them in a large bowl filled with the cold water so that it may soak for an hour..
- Take the roasted pepper strips and the remaining ingredients, and add them to the large bowl containing the soaked bread. I then took the entire mixture and transferred it to my blender and mixed it on the puree setting until I had a smooth consistency. Then place the gazpacho into a covered container to sit in the refrigerator for about 4 hours to chill. As the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavors will develop.
- When you’re ready to serve the gazpacho, stir it well and pour into bowls. I like to garnish each bowl with scallion, cucumber, chunks of avocado, radish and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Then give a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.
A quick and easy way to peel your tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, slice and “X” on the bottom of your tomato. Submerge the tomato in a pot of boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. The skin will gently peel away from the area where you made the “X”.
If you can refrain from eating your gazpacho immediately upon making it, let it sit over-night in the fridge as it will get nicely chilled, and the flavors of all your fresh vegetables will meld together beautifully.
Many of you have approached me recently and said, “Mama, I’m having a holiday party and I need an idea for a tasty appetizer”. Well, I think I have just the thing for you if you want something with potatoes, bacon and cheese that will pop right into your mouth. You will be amazed at how much flavor is packed into this one bite. But actually, if you’re a bit more genteel, it will be two bites. But I digress.
When entertaining for the masses, I’m a gal who likes to do as much prep work in advance so I’m not so overwhelmed the day of the party. Mini Stuffed Potatoes are an appetizer you can prepare two days in advance. You can stuff the potatoes with the mixture, and then wrap them in plastic and place in the refrigerator. An hour or so before you’re ready to serve them, let the potatoes sit out on the counter to come to room temperature. Next, sprinkle them with the cheese and place them in a 425 degree F oven for about ten minutes until they are heated through and browned on the top. It’s quite the festive treat.
This holiday season my friends, hold your loved one’s very close. Mama wishes you all the best for the New Year.
Mini Stuffed Potatoes
From Fine Cooking
- 24 baby Yukon Gold or red potatoes, each about 2 inches across (2 to 2-1/4 lb.)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 oz. bacon (about 3 thick slices), cooked until crispy and crumbled
- 6 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the oven to 450°F. Place the potatoes in a medium sized bowl and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the thyme, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and toss again. Transfer the potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the potatoes until they feel perfectly tender when pierced with a skewer, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
- Carefully hollow out each potato: Decide which is the flatest surface of the potato to give it the most stability, then begin by slicing off the top; use a small spoon (I had a tiny mini spoon that worked great)or a melon baller to scoop out most of the flesh inside, transferring it to a medium bowl. Discard the tops. Mash the potato flesh with a masher or a fork, then combine it with the bacon, 1/4 cup of the chives, the sour cream, the remaining 1 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
- I used my fingers to fill the hollowed potatoes with this mixture; it should mound a bit. Sprinkle on the cheese.
- Return the potatoes to the 450°F oven and bake until the filling heats through, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve warm.
P.S. For another tasty holiday appetizer, click here to view the recipe for Curried Scallop Cakes.
So, I’ve told you that son #1 is a professional chef, and the guy works all the time. Being in the restaurant business he never has a weekend off, and I suppose that just goes with the territory. Lucky for him he really loves his job. He did however have off the other day and decided to invite his buddies over to watch some football. They were just going to order some pizzas and drink beer, typical guy stuff. Now me, being the hovering mother that I am, felt it necessary to offer these guys a healthy snack. They’re grown men actually, and I probably should have just minded my own business, but I just couldn’t help myself.
I decided to make these zucchini fries for them. I think they’re the perfect snack for sitting around and watching football, all crispy and crunchy. It was just kind of funny when I walked into the family room holding a tray of these and said”hey guys, how about some zucchini!”, they all just looked up at me with this look on their faces like, yay, zucchini…
However, when I returned about an hour later, the tray was empty. Mom’s always right. I’m just sayin’…
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko or plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the zucchini into french fry size sticks about 3″ long.
- Arrange 3 shallow bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. In the third bowl, combine the panko, parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Working in batches, first dip the zucchini in the flour, shaking of the excess. Transfer to the egg mixture and toss until coated. Let the excess egg run off, then coat the zucchini in the panko mixture.
- Arrange zucchini, without crowding, in a single layer on the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue baking until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7-12 minutes more.
- Serve right from the oven.
I’m in love, and yes, my husband knows all about it. It’s quite scandalous indeed. I did have this long running affair with chocolate, but recently my affections have been directed elsewhere and my husband is to blame.
He just returned from a trip to visit his cousin Gerry in Petaluma, California. While he was there they went to a farm where they could pick their own produce, and he brought me home several bags filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables. In fact, one entire bag was just filled with the most gorgeous selection of heirloom tomatoes. So, needless to say we’ve had a real “tomato fest” at the house this week. Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak of perfection in these summer months and these were sweet and full of flavor.
For dinner my husband made mahi mahi with roasted tomatoes, I made this Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart, and my son Erik made a tomato tartare. Erik is a chef at an upscale Los Angeles restaurant and my husband and I were dazzled by what he created with the tomatoes. I’m a proud mama!
The Heirloom TomatoTart is a great combination of flavors and textures. What could be bad about a crumbly pastry crust, creamy goat cheese and sweet heirloom tomatoes. If you don’t have access to heirloom tomatoes, certainly you can use any variety you have. But, if you’re looking for flavor, the heirloom is your best bet.
Heirloom Tomato Tart
Ingredients for the crust
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed
Ingredients for the filling
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4-5 heirloom tomatoes, sliced and seeded (do not slice the tomatoes thin)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre)
- 1/2 cup slivered fresh basil leaves ( plus more for garnish)
- For the pastry: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the flour and salt and mix on low for 15 seconds.
- Add the butter and continue beating until the mixture resembles pea-size crumbs. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, adding more water as needed, until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it together to form a rectangular shape. Wrap with plastic wrap for about an hour.
- Place the rack in your oven in the lower third and preheat to 400 degrees F.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness to fit a 13 3/4 by 4 1/4 inch tart pan. ( I also have made mini tarts instead of 1 large tart). Press the dough into the pan and trim the dough leaving a 1/2″ overhang around the rim. Fold in the excess dough and press it into the sides so they are thicker than the bottom. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes.
- To make the filling: warm up the 1/3 cup of olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Do not let it burn. Remove the garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes without flipping them over. Remove and transfer them to a platter.
- Remove the pan from the heat and empty the olive oil leaving behind about 1 tablespoon. Stir in the goat cheese, garlic basil and salt and pepper to taste until smooth.
- Brush the prepared pastry with olive oil and spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry.
- Top with the tomatoes and drizzle with some olive oil.
- Bake until the crust is golden and crisp, about 50 minutes-1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh slivered basil.
I suppose the thing I’m learning about life is that it’s always changing, and that things can’t always stay the same. When I became a mother I was very comfortable in that role, and I believed that my job as nurturer, caretaker, maid, cook and pain-in-the-ass, would go on forever. However, it seems that both of my sons are ready to cut the proverbial apron strings. I don’t think I’m ready to let go yet. My mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of how will they navigate the world without me telling them what to do. Will they remember to brush their teeth?
What has brought on all this unwanted anxiety, was the trip I made today with my youngest son to look at a school and an apartment in a beautiful college town about an hour from our house. I was so excited for him, and the adventure that was ahead of him. If I’ve done my job well, he will be able to venture out into the world and do just fine. I know I’m not the first middle-aged broad to go through this, I just didn’t realize it would happen this quickly. But it did.
So what, you may ask, does all this have to do with shrimp? Nothing much really. As it is now, the boys are rarely home to eat dinner, and usually never at the same time. But yesterday, they were both home for family dinner and they asked if I would make fried shrimp. Well, that’s my job, and I aim to please. So, here’s the panko crusted shrimp dish I made for them. I highly suggest you make the chive aioli. It’s cool and creamy, and a little lemon-y, and a really nice contrast to the crunchiness of the shrimp.
Panko Crusted Shrimp with Chive Aioli
From Cooking Light
- 1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons cornstrach
- 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- canola oil for frying
- 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Combine 1/2 cup panko crumbs, parsley and red pepper flakes in a mini processor; pulse to combine. Combine this mixture with the remaining panko crumbs in a shallow dish. Place the cornstarch in a shallow dish and the egg whites in a another separate shallow dish. Sprinkle the shrimp liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge the shrimp in the cornstarch, shaking off the excess; then dip into egg whites. Then dredge the shrimp in the panko mixture and press to adhere.
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat enough oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp, but do not crowd them and cook about three minutes per side insuring that they cook through. When the oil starts to get dark, I cleaned out the pan and heated fresh oil.
- Whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Serve with shrimp.
Note: I suggest buying large shrimp instead of extra large; as the extra large tend to be tougher and have a little less flavor.
My husband and I have this weird obsession with French onion soup. We order it in every restaurant we go to that has it on the menu. Although it’s a fairly simple soup, you would be surprised how differently, different restaurants prepare it. He and I took a vote, and we decided the best we’ve had so far is at a place called Cafe Cigale in Oak Park (the Agoura/Thousand Oaks area, if you’re a local).
During the winter I like to make this soup at home, it’s really a no-fail recipe. This rich and hearty soup is perfect for dinner parties, or just cold, blustery nights when you need your insides warmed-up. (It was in fact 80 degrees here today, but I made it anyway!) You might want to use a variety of onions such as yellow, red and sweet for a little more complex flavor. Either way, I just love the melt-y, crust-y, bubbly cheese on top when you first take it out of the oven. It’s so good!
French Onion Soup
Adapted From Williams Sonoma
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 1/2 lbs. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 French baguette
- 3 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
- In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until the onions are tender and a deep golden brown.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions until combined. Stir in the wine, then the stock and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.
- Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. You can use eight, 1 1/2-cup broilerproof soup crocks, (or I used smaller ramekins because I was making more servings and wanted a smaller appetizer portion). Cut the baguette into 1/2″ slices and place on a baking sheet. Place under broiler (12″ from heat) turning once so that they’re toasted on both sides.
- Ladle hot soup into the crocks (or ramekins). Place ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place 2 slices of toasted bread on top of soup, overlapping if necessary. Don’t let the bread sink down into soup. Sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cheese on top. Place under broiler until the cheese is bubbling. Serve at once. This will make 8, 1 1/2 cup crocks or even more if you’re using smaller ramekins.
Food is a fun part of my life, but having friends to share it with is what really matters. Everyone has commitments, family responsibilities and jobs, so it’s rare that we can get the girls together for a few days all at the same time. However, we managed to do that at my friend’s house up in Santa Barbara the other day.
For our first night in Santa Barbara we decided to stay in and make a home-cooked meal. Earlier in the afternoon we had walked up to the farmer’s market on State Street in downtown, and purchased fresh produce for that evenings dinner. We literally spent hours perusing the vendor’s booths, marvelling at the beautiful array of fresh vegetables, artisanal breads and home-baked fruit pies. Everyone had a job to do in preparing the meal which really made this effort a good time. My friend Joni, who had her own restaurant in Palm Springs and has run many other high-profile restaurants in the past, was serving us her Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta.
The fresh ciabatta was perfectly grilled, and the heirloom tomatoes which had probably been picked that morning were full of flavor. I loved the dish so much, I decided to share it with you.
Joni’s Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta
5-6 medium to large Heirloom tomatoes cut in large dice*
handful of fresh basil leaves chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
fine sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
fresh Ciabatta loaf
olive oil for grilling
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Dress with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Allow the tomato mixture to sit at room temperature while grilling the ciabatta.
Cut the Ciabatta into 1″ thick slices. Lightly brush each side with olive oil and grill until well toasted on both sides.
*A serrated knife works best when slicing tomatoes.