Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese


Let me apologize by saying that you will have to turn on your oven for this recipe. So start early in the morning. Or really late at night. Because, people, it has been hot out there.

But once you do, once you fire up that oven and roast these tomatoes, once you layer them atop a thick lashing of homemade yogurt cheese mixed with fresh herbs... I promise, this is worth any hot kitchen. Especially if you roast a lot of tomatoes so that you can make this simple, light meal for dinner, and then have it again for breakfast, and if you plan it just right, for lunch again, too.




As you may know, I am a fan of David Lebovitz. He's a great chef, of course, but on top of that, he's a great writer. He's been blogging for years, long before it was trendy to be a food blogger, and his book The Sweet Life in Paris is the go-to gift for any foodie who is actually traveling to Paris or just wants to do so via arm chair. So it's no surprise that I am cracking open his lovely cookbook, My Paris Kitchen




Before we go any further, let's talk about two important things with this recipe: the cheese and the tomatoes.

Cheese:
You may ask, does this really qualify as cheese?  It's just highly strained yogurt, you claim. Oh, but it is so much more. This is labneh, a super-tangy and super-easy cheese that takes a few hours or overnight to make. Labneh preserves all of the zingy sourness of yogurt but removes the whey, resulting in a smooth, velvety cheese. You also get to control how thick it is. The longer you strain it, the thicker it is. Be sure to salt your yogurt well, which helps mellow the cheese a bit, and if you have some left over labneh, may I recommend dousing it in olive oil and a pinch of za'atar.  And then I recommend eating it with a spoon. Or pita, if you're fancy.



Tomatoes:
Roasted tomatoes are a reminder of why these are fruits. With just enough caramelization, they become these sweet, umami bombs of flavor. They're absolutely irresistible. I am going to admit, I made some changes to the original recipe here. I am not a huge garlic fan (blasphemy, I know, but it's because of a garlic tart the husband made. Another blogpost, another story), so I just eliminated them altogether. If you want to re-add them, by all means, do so. Just keep an eye on them and on your oven. Finally, give your tomatoes a stir about halfway through. And maybe even again with 10 minutes left.



So, here you go. While the recipe does require an oven, with plenty of leftover roasted tomatoes, this is a simple tartine to make any time of day, either as a light dinner (maybe with a salad?) or as an appetizer.  Or as breakfast. Or a snack.

And it's perfect for hot summer days when the cherry tomatoes are divine. Which ours are out here in California right now. (I even found some for 89 cents a pound at the Bowl, a grocery store that even has its own Wikipedia page.) 

So I am totally celebrating the cherry tomato. And even roasting them when it's hot out. I am that committed.




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Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese

Adapted from My Paris Kitchen

Yield
Serves 4

Ingredients
Herbed Fresh Cheese 
2 cups whole milk yogurt (goat or cow)
1 generous tablespoon very finely minced mixed fresh herbs (be sure to include chives, as well as an assortment that could include thyme, sage, basil, or flat-leaf parsley) 
1 teaspoon minced shallots 
¼ teaspoon minced garlic 
¾ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt (or more, if you want it a little saltier)
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper 

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes 
1½ pounds cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
Handful of fresh herbs (any combination of whatever you have on hand, including chives, rosemary, thyme, basil or sage) 
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Toasts 
4 thick slices bread, such as ciabatta or sourdough
Olive oil 
1 clove garlic, peeled 
A few leaves of fresh basil, sage, or flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Instructions
1. To make the herbed cheese: line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or muslin and set it over a bowl. Scrape the yogurt into the lined strainer and refrigerate the yogurt for 24 hours. Put the strained, thickened yogurt into a bowl and mix in the herbs, shallots, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

2. To roast the tomatoes: preheat the oven to 350ºF . Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs in a baking dish or pan that will hold them all in a snug single layer. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, and spread them out in a single layer. 

3.  Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring once or perhaps twice during baking, until they’re wilted and their juices are starting to concentrate—and perhaps brown a bit—in the bottom of the baking dish or pan. (The baking time will depend on the material of the baking dish and type of cherry tomatoes used.) Ideally, you want the tomatoes to juice, and for the juices to thicken and concentrate. 

4.  Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. They can sit up to 8 hours, and improve the longer they sit. (I have also refrigerated them and used the leftovers. Just pop 'em in the microwave for 30 seconds to get 'em nice and juicy again.)

5. To make the toasts: Evenly brush the bread with olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 350ºF oven or a toaster oven and toast for about 5 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove and when just cool enough to handle, rub the slices generously with the garlic clove. Let cool to room temperature. 

6.  To serve: thickly smear each piece of bread with the fresh herbed cheese. Set each one on a plate. Spoon the tomatoes and their juices onto the slices of bread. Coarsely chop any remaining herbs for the garnish, and scatter them over the top of each portion.

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