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Friday, August 28, 2009

Garlic Toasts and Farmers' Market Tomatoes

In southern California the end of summer means heat waves, brush fires, traffic jams near the beaches, and a bounty of produce in the farmers' markets. At the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and our neighborhood Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market, tomatoes fill the stalls. All kinds of tomatoes: conventional, heirloom, and cherry tomatoes.

Taking advantage of all those tomatoes is imperative.

I especially enjoy the sweetness of cherry tomatoes. I've skewered them. Roasted and turned them into pasta sauce. Used them in salads. Served them with fresh mozzarella. Recently I discovered a new combination that is perfect for a summer meal.

With a nod to bruschetta, the vegetable and cheese topping contrasts with the garlic toasts, but the bread should be cut thin, about 1/4" thick, the easier to break apart with a knife and fork.

Assemble the salad at the last minute so the toasts stay crunchy.

Garlic Toasts Topped with Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8 slices Italian bread, thin sliced, 1/4" thick
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1 basket cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed, quartered
1/4 cup olives cracked green or black, pitted, finely chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh mozzarella, dried, roughly chopped
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a small sauce pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half over a low flame, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped garlic and the thin slices of Italian bread. Saute until lightly browned on both sides. Add olive oil as needed but only enough so the slices brown evenly.

Place the sauteed bread on the bottom of a large bowl, add the Italian parsley, avocado, red onion, mozzarella, quartered cherry tomatoes, and slivered olives.

Drizzle with olive oil and the reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Variations

Add 1 ear corn, boiled or grilled, kernels removed

Add 5 grilled shrimp, roughly chopped

Add 1 cup grilled chicken breast, roughly chopped

Add 4 anchovies, finely chopped

Add 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped