Cook the Book Fridays – Cherry Tomato Crostini

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Water Buffalo Cheese

I spend the hottest part of the summer negotiating with myself over when I can turn on the oven and for how long. As much as I love stone fruit pies, roasted corn, and all that heat can bring to summer’s produce, I am not built for hot weather (or cold, but at least turning on the oven in winter helps alleviate my weaknesses). I should probably take up grilling, since I’m not sure how my neighbours would feel about my visualizations of an outdoor kitchen.

Cherry tomatoes ready for roasting

One thing that can motivate me is high summer’s tomatoes. I love roasted tomatoes. I usually slow-roast them, but David Lebovitz‘ quicker method is so good, I might just start using it all the time.

Roasted cherry tomatoes

I had a meeting in the backyard while the tomatoes were in the oven, so the heat was only a factor when I was taking them out. I ended up leaving them in a little longer than the recipe calls for, inadvertently, but they came out just the way I like them – soft, jammy, and a bit browned. I roasted them with thyme and rosemary, lashings of black pepper and a little sea salt. They are sweet and savoury in perfect measure.

Making herbed water buffalo cheese

That was today’s primary activity in making this week’s Cook the Book Fridays selection, but I started preparing this dish yesterday. To make the herbed cheese, I bought some thick, Greek-style yogurt. It was supposed to be goat’s yogurt, but the only containers I could find were huge and the yogurt inside seemed runny. So, on a whim, I used water buffalo yogurt instead. It’s milder than goat, so the finished cheese is less tangy than it would have been, but I really like the results. It’s more like labneh than a soft cheese and it’s perfect for this recipe.

Herbed Water Buffalo Cheese

I’ve made chèvre before and loved it, but this recipe is much more likely to be made regularly. It’s easier and can be used in many of the same ways as soft cheeses like goat cheese. Mixed with garlic, shallots, cayenne, and herbs (I used basil, flat-leaf parsley, chives, and thyme), it made a perfect foil for the tomatoes.

The last step was the easiest, but it required a little fortitude. I’d been out in the heat, running errands, and the last thing I wanted to do was turn the oven back on to toast the bread. It was worth it – who can argue with toast that’s been slathered in olive oil before going into the oven and then rubbed with a garlic clove on its way out? But I might cheat tomorrow, if it’s as hot. Toast can be brushed with olive oil on its way out of the toaster, after all.

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Vegan Cream Cheese and Gluten Free Bread

I actually made this two ways – one version with gluten-free bread, vegan cream cheese, and the roasted tomatoes; the other with the French country bread, the herbed water buffalo cheese, and the roasted tomatoes. The second one was for me and I loved it. The first one didn’t go over as well – the vegan cream cheese wasn’t a perfect match for the roasted tomatoes.

I’ve got enough of everything to do it all over again tomorrow. And if I use my toaster cheat, I won’t have to turn the oven on at all.

If you want to try this yourself (and if you have summer tomatoes available, you should), you can find the recipe here: Cherry Tomato Crostini with Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese. But, buy the book – everything in it is stellar.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Chèvre Redux and a Review of a Classic Cookbook

I received a review copy of The Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks, Volume 3 from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Image courtesy of Robert Rose, Inc.
Image courtesy of Robert Rose, Inc.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my cheesemaking adventures, which left me with about two pounds of chèvre. I used some of it for the ice cream I made, but that took care of less than a quarter of it. Candy reminded me about the torteau de chèvre, a cheesecake unlike any other I’ve had before. My chèvre, you might remember, was a little softer than it should have been, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. This treat was as good as I’d remembered it being.

My bowl of chèvre was getting down to a manageable size, so I turned my attention to the other cookbook I’d taken for review from Robert Rose, Volume 3 in the Best of Bridge series. This is a spiral-bound edition, which lays flat when open – a handy feature when you’re bringing it into the kitchen with you. The font (what seems to be Comic Sans in all caps) cuts down on readability and the jokes throughout are dated. The recipes, though, are solid. The reputation of these books is well-deserved.

You won’t find innovative or fashionable cuisine here, but you will find a mixture of old-fashioned recipes and new millennium favourites. There’s also a good mix of dinner party and weekday meal fare across cuisines. The methods are easy enough for new cooks, but there’s still enough variety to keep the attention of more experienced ones. In some recipes, there is a reliance on canned or pre-prepared pantry staples that doesn’t mesh well with today’s focus on fresh, homemade ingredients, but it’s easy enough to make substitutions. It’s the kind of all purpose, old fashioned cookbook that I like to have on my shelves. I’ll likely never make the tuna casserole or the molded salads, but the Citrus Crisps have already made an appearance for a holiday cookie exchange this year and I can also tell that I’m going to find some more new favourites in this book.

Speaking of new favourites, I was pleased to find a recipe that would help me with my abundance of chèvre, an onion and goat cheese pizza that sounded delicious. My niece J, one of the stars of our Baking With Julia endeavours, was on hand and agreed to do the heavy lifting on this dish. She made pizza dough, using the recipe found elsewhere in this cookbook – it’s a great, simple crusty one. Then, she vetoed the pine nuts and spent the next half hour in front of the stove, on a comfortable chair with an iPad in one hand and a spatula in the other. By the time she was done, the onions were dark and jammy. She spread the chèvre on the unbaked pizza crust, added the onions, and ground some pepper on top. After a short time in the oven, it was ready.

Pizza

Even without the pine nuts, this was a complexly flavourful dish. I’d love to serve it in small squares as an appetizer, though it made a great main for dinner that night, too. It reminded me a little of Pissaladière and could easily be dressed up with olives, bacon, or even something sweet like figs.

Robert Rose, Inc. has been kind enough to let me share the recipe with you, so if you experiment with it, let me know. It’s great as is, though.

Caramelized Onion and Chèvre Pizza

1 12-inch (30 cm) pizza crust, homemade or purchased
Olive oil to brush crust

3 medium onions, thinly sliced (use all 3!)
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) butter
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) balsamic vinegar
2 cups (500 mL) crumbled chèvre (goat’s cheese)
1/2 cup (125 mL) toasted pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush crust with olive oil. In a large frying pan over low heat, combine onions, butter, and olive oil Cover and cook, stirring often, until onions are very soft, about 30 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar and continue cooking until vinegar evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Place cheese on crust, leaving 1/2-inch (1 cm) border. Sprinkle with pine nuts, top with onion mixture and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is golden.

After the tourteau and the pizza, I was left with just enough chèvre to improvise a goat cheese and mushroom quiche, inspired by a suggestion from Betsy and a fridge full of mushrooms. It was a nice way to finish off the batch of precious homemade goat cheese and the mushrooms, fresh thyme, and onions set off the tangy goat cheese nicely.

Quiche

A week of rich eating was at its end and with the help of some friends and a couple of cookbooks, we were well-satisfied.

The Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks, Volume 3 came out in Fall, 2013. You can find more details here, along with a link to purchase the book.