TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212;-I know, I know and#8212; itand#8217;s Labor Day week, where are the grilling recipes? In my defense, I do have a barbecue column scheduled for next week (Lobster. Get out your Costco card.) But, honestly, there is so much barbecue madness in the media associated with this holiday it would be like putting out a deviled egg recipe column on Easter Sunday. Enough already! Now these bruschetta and panzanella (which is like a baked, up-side down bruschetta) are amazingly delicious time fillers to serve while you are waiting for your grilled tri tip to do its thing. The tomatoes this time of year are just begging for an audience and what could be a more festive way to showcase them than sitting on top a chunk of crusty, cheesy French bread? That is a weird sentence. Sounds like I am sitting on top a crusty, cheesy French bread. I think that was a recipe from my and#8220;Betty Crockedand#8221; column days. These appetizers are easy to make ahead of time and a perfect way to pace yourself between your Labor Day barbecue offerings.
You can really have fun with bruschetta, topping them with provolone and prosciutto, chopped artichoke hearts and salami, anchovies and#8212; the possibilities are endless. To get creative, stop by the antipasto bar at your local Safeway for sweet red peppers, stuffed olives and marinated mushrooms and#8212; all great bruschetta fixens.and#8217; The common denominator for any and all good bruschettas is a French baguette, preferably Tuscan style, which is more chewy, or a Truckee Sourdough ciabatta, cut in half and then halved again. The baguette should be cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick, then brushed with olive oil mixed with salt and pepper and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 400° for about five minutes (I think they are better not too crisp) or, if using ciabatta, for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven before topping.
Basic Brushetta Topping with a Putanesca Twist
6-7 vine ripened tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. Balsamic vinegar
1/4 sliced green olives, pimento in (this gives it the and#8220;putanescaand#8221;)
3 Tbls. capers
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (for the bread rounds)
Combine all in large mixing bowl to blend flavors. Top each baked bread round with about three tablespoons of this mixture and serve at room temperature.
Baked Panzanella Caprese
Butter, for greasing baking dish
5 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into half-inch slices
2 Tbls. Balsamic vinegar
2 (8-ounce) balls fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1 / 4 inch thick slices and patted dry
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
olive oil fro drizzling
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4-8 slices country style white bread, crust cut off
Put oven rack in center of oven, preheat oven to 375°. Butter a 9 x 12-inch baking sheet, set aside. Arrange tomato slices on bottom of baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Lay the cheese slices on top in single layer. Sprinkle with the garlic and basil and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange bread slices on top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the bread is crisp and golden. Remove from pan and let cool for five minutes before serving.