No matter the time of year, I always appreciate an appetizer I can serve that looks awesome, tastes wonderful and can be prepared ahead of serving time.
During the summer, bruschetta is my choice. Bruschetta (bruce-KEHTA), toasted slices of baguette, serve as small crunchy, yet chewy plates that can be topped with just about whatever you can think of. Typically, the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional Italian topping of tomatoes, garlic and basil. I like to add fresh mozzarella to that topping. When fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes are available, this topping can’t be beat. I share my recipe for an almost traditional bruschetta topping in my column this week.
Sweet bell peppers are also approaching their seasonal peak in my area. I buy several green and red peppers at the farmers market, roast them and once sliced, I marinate them in an olive oil and vinegar mixture, along with some minced fresh basil and parsley. The marinating peppers can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I like to pile the marinated peppers onto bruschetta that’s been slathered with Creamy Cheese Spread, a mixture of goat cheese, cream cheese and gorgonzola or blue cheese. When I don’t have bruschetta, I like the cheese spread and marinated peppers on tortilla chips. It’s a wonderful medley of texture and flavors.
Marinated Pepper Topping makes a winning topping for grilled hamburgers, too. Try melting some fresh mozzarella on the burger before piling on the marinated peppers. It’s crazy delicious.
Bruschetta with Creamy Cheese Spread and Marinated Pepper Topping can be assembled just before guests arrive and arranged on a platter.
Or, do what I do. Put the bruschetta, the cheese spread and the marinated peppers out so guests can assemble their own appetizer. They’ll love it. And, they’ll love you for serving this amazing summer appetizer.
Marinated Roasted Pepper Topping
- 3 large red bell peppers
- 3 large green bell peppers
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 3 chubby garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Wash peppers and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Place under broiler as close to the heat source as possible. As the peppers blister and blacken, turn them often. When peppers are uniformly charred, remove from oven and immediately transfer to large glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for at least 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel the skin off the peppers and remove any seeds and membrane. Slice the peppers into 1/2-inch thick strips. Place in a glass bowl. Mix with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving. (The peppers can also be roasted on the grill over hot coals.) Makes about 2 cups.
Creamy Cheese Spread
- 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
- A little half-and-half for thinning, if needed
Combine all cheeses in a food processor or with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add a little half-and-half to the mixture to thin if it is too thick. Chill, covered, for up to 3 weeks.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 long baguette
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons olive oil with minced garlic. Slice the baguette diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Use a pastry brush to coat one side of each slice with garlic olive oil. Toast both sides of prepared bread slices on the grill over hot coals, with the olive oil side down first. Transfer from grill to serving platter. This can be done earlier in the day you plan to serve the bruschetta.
To serve: Slather toasted baguette slices (bruschetta) with Creamy Cheese Spread. Top with Marinated Roasted Pepper Topping.