A big hit - made in a hurry

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Improvised bruschetta dish is a hit One morning, not so long ago, we received a last-minute invitation to a dinner party to be held two days later. We knew the hosts only slightly, but had had a lively conversation with them after a lecture the previous evening. On the spur of the moment, they had decided to host a small supper and had invited us. Touched by their spontaneity and generosity, I offered to contribute appetizers to the impromptu gathering.

I wasn't worried about what I would bring, reasoning that I'd go to the grocery the day of the event and buy cheeses or smoked salmon, then whip up some savory nibbles. I completely ignored the weather forecasters' predictions of a major snow early on that day and, as luck would have it, this time the weather predictions were correct. I couldn't get out of my driveway for most of the morning, and was forced to improvise with ingredients on hand.

Pantry panic set in, but not for long. I remembered a recipe for artichoke bruschetta I had clipped from a French magazine several months earlier. I raced through my kitchen and found that I had most of what was needed. There were several jars of marinated artichokes in the cupboard, part of a baguette in the freezer, several cheeses and some fresh herbs in the refrigerator. I would be able to re-create a close facsimile of the original.

I cut slices from the bread, brushed them with olive oil and toasted them in the oven.

Next, I drained the artichokes and pureed them in the food processor, along with a generous amount of chopped parsley and grated parmesan. All of this took less than 20 minutes. An hour before the party, I mounded the artichoke puree onto the toasted baguette slices and added a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese.

Our driveway was finally clear when it was time to leave, and when we arrived at the party, I popped the baking sheet of artichoke bruschetta into the oven for five minutes, then pulled them out and served them warm. They were a big hit. There were no leftovers, and several people asked for the recipe. Sometimes necessity serves up the most delicious inventions.


Here are some more ideas for quick bruschetta toppings from celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Recipes can be found at foodnetwork.com:

Combine white beans with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh rosemary.

In a food processor, make a tapenade of pitted black nicoise olives, capers, garlic, anchovy fillets, fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

Mix diced tomatoes, chopped garlic, basil chiffonade and olive oil with salt and pepper to taste.

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Makes 18 bruschetta

18 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal about 1/4 -inch thick

olive oil

2 (6- to 6 1/2 -ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (divided use)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat broiler. Brush baguette slices on both sides with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Toast slices until just crisp. Remove and leave on baking sheet. (Bread can be toasted 3 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

Drain artichokes, reserving about 2 tablespoons of oil they were packed in, and place them in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add reserved 2 tablespoons liquid, 1/2 cup of the parsley, parmesan and several grindings of black pepper. Process, pulsing machine, until mixture is a coarse puree. (Puree can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and leave at cool room temperature.)

Spread each bread slice with a mound of artichoke puree and top with some crumbled goat cheese. (Bruschetta can be assembled 1 hour ahead; leave uncovered, at room temperature.)

When ready to eat, bake in preheated 375-degree oven until cheese is melted and bruschetta are warm, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully. Sprinkle bruschetta with black pepper and some of the remaining parsley. Serve warm on a platter.

Per serving: 228 calories, 9 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 538 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Mary Mullen.

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