The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Cheesy Crostini with Tomato
 and Sweet Pepper Relish

Crostini or “little Toasts” are just about the easiest crowd pleaser to pull off. 
These versatile bites can be served alone or with just about 
any topping you desire.

I have an abundance of tomatoes in my garden this year, so as many ways that
 I can find to enjoy them, I will. Pairing them along with these colorful and adorable
 sweet baby pepper was an easy choice. However large sweet peppers
 in a variety of colors will do just as well.

I have chosen just a few simple spices to enhance or draw out the flavors
 of our fresh organic produce.  We have a bit of raw sugar, peppercorns to be
freshly ground, cardamom and a pretty pink rock?

Well it definitely is pretty and it is a rock, but it’s more accurate name is
 “Himalayan Pink Rock Salt”.

These beautiful crystal like rocks occur with the drying up of an enclosed lake
or sea known as an endorheic basin. These basins retain water with no outflow to
open water bodies such as an ocean, thus leaving behind a floor layer of salt
 crystals or rocks. These salt rocks can be purchased in either
rock formation or in various grinds.

Then of course we have our cardamom pods, and although one of the more
 pricier spices, these whole pods are far preferable in getting your monies worth
 over ground or seeds.With the whole pods you simply open the outer shell casing
 to reveal the inner seeds, these seeds can then be processes in any
manner you would a whole spice.

Topping our crostini with a bit of Raclette adds subtle sweetness and smooth texture
 that plays of nicely paired with our relish, or any slightly acidic condiment. However 
any of your milder semi soft to soft cheeses will work exceptionally well.

What you will need:
For the relish
1 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound sweet baby peppers, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom (3 pods), cracked
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1 small lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 splashed white balsamic vinegar
For the crostini
1/2 large baguette, see note
Olive oil for drizzle
2-4 cloves garlic, split
fresh ground pepper
1/4 pound Raclette, grated

Let's get cooking:
Start by prepping tomatoes, peppers, shallot and garlic, then place in
 a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss until
 well coated. Set aside at room temperature for 15-20 min, then
refrigerate until 20 min prior to use.

Slice baguette into 1/4 – 1/2 in slices and drizzle with a bit of olive oil,
 rub over the oiled bread with halves of garlic, a few grinds of
fresh pepper then top with grated cheese.

Place on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees (f).
 Bake for 7-10 min or until cheese has melted and sides are a deep
golden brown. Serve topped with relish or alone with
relish on the side.

Note: It is best to make the relish a few hours ahead of time and allow
 the ingredients to marinate for full flavor. Resist the temptation to add
additional salt to the relish until the mixture has marinated at least 2 hours.
It is best to have a finishing salt and fresh ground pepper available
 for individual servings.  * It is preferable to use day old or slightly
stale bread for the crostini.
Serves 15

This recipe was originally a featured article on Honest Cooking.

This is going over to Fusion Fridays

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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