Bruschetta makes a quick nibble

January 20, 2007|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

For those times when my husband and I are anxious to see friends but just can't find the energy to invite them over for dinner, I use plan B. It works like this. I telephone a few people and ask them to come for drinks and appetizers, then suggest that we pick a restaurant to dine in afterward.

This format has been a lifesaver for me on many occasions, and in January, when I am still recovering from holiday fatigue, it offers me a stress-free way to entertain.

That is exactly what I am going to do this week. We want to catch up with some of our pals who were away during Christmas break, so we are going to invite them to come for "a glass of wine and some nibbles" at our house. Afterward, we'll propose that we try a new restaurant.

The simple spread of hors d'oeuvres will include a bowl of Marcona almonds, those Spanish nuts dusted with sea salt, a plate of thin Granny Smith apple slices covered with shavings of Manchego cheese, and a tray of colorful bruschetta topped with grape tomatoes and olives. The latter is the star attraction.

To make the bruschetta, I will toast slices of ciabatta bread that I spread with a thin layer of creamy goat cheese, then mounded with a mixture of quickly sauteed tomatoes, onions and kalamata olives. The bread slices, which are brushed with olive oil and then baked, and the topping can both be prepared several hours ahead. All that is necessary at serving time is to reheat the tomato mixture and assemble the bruschetta.

For wine, I am going to uncork a couple of those nice bottles we received during the holidays, and voila! I'll be all set.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

Bruschetta With Goat Cheese, Grape Tomatoes and Olives

Makes 12 bruschetta; serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons olive oil plus extra if needed, divided use

2/3 cup chopped onion

2 cups (a 9- to 10-ounce box) grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, slivered

kosher salt

12 slices ciabatta or other crusty country- style bread, cut 1/4 inch thick (see note)

4 ounces creamy goat cheese

1 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium, nonreactive skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add halved tomatoes and garlic, and cook until tomatoes have softened slightly but are not mushy, about 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the olives. Season with salt to taste. (Tomato/olive mixture can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Leave in the skillet at room temperature. Reheat mixture over medium heat, while stirring, when ready to use.)

For the bruschetta, arrange a rack in the oven at center position and preheat it to 350 degrees. Brush bread slices on both sides with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, using extra oil if needed. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Watch carefully. Remove and cool slightly. (Bruschetta can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cool, then cover loosely with foil; leave at room temperature.)

When ready to serve, spread each bruschetta with some goat cheese. (You may not need all the cheese.) Spoon some tomato/olive mixture on each bruschetta, and sprinkle with parsley.

Note: I use a ciabatta bread that is 4 to 5 inches in diameter. If you use a larger bread, you may want to cut the slices in half.

Per serving (2 bruschetta): 277 calories, 9 grams protein, 16 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 9 milligrams cholesterol, 467 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

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