- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

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.

Now 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 that just opened in town.

The simple spread of hors d’oeuvres will include a bowl of Marcona almonds, those special 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 bruschette topped with grape tomatoes and olives. The last is the star attraction of the evening.

To make the bruschette, toasted slices of ciabatta bread will be 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 bruschette.

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

Bruschette with goat cheese, grape tomatoes and black olives

4 tablespoons olive oil plus extra if needed, divided

2/3 cup chopped onion

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

2 teaspoons minced garlic

½ 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, only 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 bruschette, 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. (Bruschette can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cool, then cover loosely with foil; leave at room temperature.)

When ready to serve, spread each bruschette with some goat cheese. (You may not need all the cheese; save extra for another use.) Spoon some tomato-olive mixture on each bruschetta, and sprinkle with parsley. Makes 12 bruschette, enough to serve 4 to 6.

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.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide