Deconstructed Bruschetta with Honey-Roasted Tomatoes

Deconstructed Bruschetta with Honey-Roasted Tomatoes

Deconstructed bruschetta is one of my “easy to make,” yet “quick to impress guests” appetizers. I derived this recipe by adapting some elements from appetizers I had at some of my favorite restaurants. When you pull together the sum of these parts into your personally created custom bruschetta, you will find that you’ve created the perfect bite!

Your personally created custom bruschetta is the perfect bite!

Your personally created custom bruschetta is the perfect bite!

Bruschetta is an Italian antipasto (before the meal) that typically includes grilled bread topped with tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat or cheese. The most popular form contains fresh tomato, fresh basil, garlic and fresh mozzarella on top of the toasted bread.

Bruschetta is an Italian antipasto that typically includes grilled bread topped with tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat or cheese.

Bruschetta is an Italian antipasto that typically includes grilled bread topped with tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat or cheese.

A few quick tips before you begin:

  • Since the roasted tomatoes will last for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, I usually prepare them a day ahead of when I’m serving the bruschetta. Just be sure to allow the roasted tomatoes to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Also, I mix up the ricotta earlier in the day that I’m serving it to allow the flavors to blend together.

 

Honey-Roasted Tomatoes

1 quart (or 2 pints) grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise

1 ½ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. clover honey (lightly spray the measuring spoon with non-stick spray so the honey comes out easily)

1 tsp. thyme leaves (dried or fresh)

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fresh cracked sea salt

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the cut tomatoes, EVOO, honey, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Mix together so the tomatoes are coated. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the tomatoes out of the bowl (leaving behind the liquid) and lay them onto the prepared baking sheet. Be sure all the tomatoes are cut-side up, before placing into the oven.

The tomatoes are prepared and ready for slow roasting!

The tomatoes are prepared and ready for slow roasting!

Bake the tomatoes for between 1 hour and 15 to 1 hour and 30 minutes. The tomatoes are done when they are shriveled and brown. Allow cooling on the baking sheet before removing.

The tomatoes are done when they are shriveled and brown.

The tomatoes are done when they are shriveled and brown.

 

Toasting the bread:

Slice one French baguette into ¼ inch slices. Lay the on a baking sheet. Using your oven broiler, toast them under a high heat broiler for a few minutes. Keep a watch on them, as they will burn easily. Allow cooling on the baking sheet.

 

Bruschetta toppings:

I have served bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including my homemade pesto, herbed ricotta (a Barefoot Contessa recipe) or honey, sea salt ricotta.

I have served bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including homemade pesto, herbed ricotta or honey, sea salt ricotta.

I have served bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including homemade pesto, herbed ricotta or honey, sea salt ricotta.

To make the honey, sea salt ricotta, simply mix together a 16 oz. container of ricotta (you can use part-skim but not fat-free) with 1 tbsp. of clover honey and a few cracks of sea salt. Combine and taste. Add more honey and salt to your taste. Refrigerate until serving.

 

Yields 6-8 (or more) generous servings.

 

Do you like bruschetta?

How have you ever made bruschetta? If so, what’s your favorite topping?

What’s your “easy to make,” “quick to impress guests” appetizer recipe?

Oak Haven Table & Bar Restaurant, New Haven, CT

Oak Haven Table & Bar Restaurant, New Haven, CT

If you are looking for fresh American tapas with a unique twist that are sourced from local New England farms, then pull up a chair at New Haven’s trendy gastro pub Oak Haven Table & Bar Restaurant.

Oak Haven Table & Bar restaurant is located on State Street in New Haven, CT

Oak Haven Table & Bar restaurant is located on State Street in New Haven, CT

Over the past few years, the “farm-to-table” trend has grown like a weed. Several restaurants are returning to the concept of sourcing the freshest ingredients from local farms and tailoring their menu items based on what is available at peak harvest. Typically, the diner wins at these restaurants that truly embrace the farm-to-table philosophy because they are getting the highest quality and freshest ingredients directly from growers and in most instances the food tastes better.

Oak Haven Table & Bar restaurant is a true farm-to-table restaurant. The kitchen, led by Chef Meg Fama, produces a seasonal menu that supports local farms, microbreweries and distributors whenever possible. It’s a concept she’s familiar and comfortable with given her upbringing and training.

Oak Haven's kitchen is led by Chef Meg Fama

Oak Haven’s kitchen is led by Chef Meg Fama

Chef Fama explained that the restaurant’s menu changes daily since it’s driven by what’s available at the local markets. She also cited from which farms each of the menu items we sampled ingredients originated. I found that very cool since I’m a big proponent for eating local. She went on to explain that everything is made in-house, even the juices used in our cocktails.

The restaurant’s menu changes daily since it’s driven by what’s available at the local markets.

The restaurant’s menu changes daily since it’s driven by what’s available at the local markets.

The menu is divided into sections under the headings of snacks and small, medium and large-sized tapas that are perfect for sharing.

Oak Haven has a good selection of craft cocktails using local spirits.

Oak Haven has a good selection of craft cocktails using local spirits.

Oak Haven has a good selection of craft cocktails using local spirits. I chose the Market Special cocktail from the “shaken or stirred” section of the cocktail menu. This drink, which changes daily, was a fun combination of vodka and fresh fruits and herbs.

The Market Special cocktail was a fun combination of vodka and fresh fruits and herbs.

The Market Special cocktail was a fun combination of vodka and fresh fruits and herbs.

As I enjoyed my cocktail, I noticed the restaurant’s décor, which is a mix of warm wood accents, trendy eclectic furniture and rustic lighting fixtures. Together it works to create a quaint, community feel.

Oak photo 1

The restaurant’s décor is a mix of warm wood accents, trendy eclectic furniture and rustic lighting fixtures.

The restaurant’s décor is a mix of warm wood accents, trendy eclectic furniture and rustic lighting fixtures.

The parade of food began with autumn rolls from the snack section of the menu. This item is similar to what you would think of as spring rolls, but filled with autumn harvest vegetables instead. It came with a sweet plum sauce. The autumn rolls were crisp and crunchy and not at all greasy.

Autumn rolls from the snack section of the menu

Autumn rolls from the snack section of the menu

Next we sampled three items from the “small” section of the menu: blue crab, mussels and brussel sprouts.

The blue crab cakes from the "small" section of the menu were not small in size or taste!

The blue crab cakes from the “small” section of the menu were not small in size or taste!

The crab cakes had a crispy panko-crusted coating and were paired with house made remoulade sauce. Everyone commented on how heavily filled with crab the cakes were, which is not something you see at many restaurants. They were delicious and when I noticed that two remained I scoffed them up to take home!

Everyone commented on how heavily filled with crab the cakes were, which is not something you see at many restaurants.

Everyone commented on how heavily filled with crab the cakes were, which is not something you see at many restaurants.

The steamed mussels were served in a garlicky herbed beer broth, which we mopped up with the house made crusty bread.

The steamed mussels were served in a garlicky herbed beer broth.

The steamed mussels were served in a garlicky herbed beer broth.

The brussel sprouts, which were harvested from Stone Garden Farms in Shelton, CT, were cooked with garlic, shallots and a maple reduction.

The brussel sprouts were cooked with garlic, shallots and a maple reduction.

The brussel sprouts were cooked with garlic, shallots and a maple reduction.

Proceeding to the “medium” section of the menu, we sampled the cassoulet and day boat scallops. A cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that originated in Southern France. It typically includes beans, meat (pork, duck or lamb), and seasonal vegetables. Chef Fama made our version with sausage that she obtained from Blue Slope Farms in Franklin, CT, local greens and white beans, Parmesan and a wine broth. The combination of flavors was amazing!

The combination of flavors in the cassoulet was amazing!

The combination of flavors in the cassoulet was amazing!

The day-boat scallops were from Stonington Seafood in Stonington, CT. They were seared to perfection and served with tarragon cream, bacon bits and market vegetables. I am a huge fan of scallops and enjoyed this dish!

The day-boat scallops were seared to perfection and served with tarragon cream, bacon bits and market vegetables.

The day-boat scallops were seared to perfection and served with tarragon cream, bacon bits and market vegetables.

Next we sampled the house-made clams in fra diavolo sauce. The clams were freshly harvested from Rhode Island.

House-made clams in fra diavolo sauce

House-made clams in fra diavolo sauce

The spicy tomato-based sauce is an Italian-American creation that is typically served with seafood or pasta. We called Chef Fama’s fra diavolo sauce “liquid gold.” We mopped up every last drop with more of the freshly baked crusty bread.

We concluded our tasting at Oak Haven with a beautiful selection of house made desserts.

We concluded our tasting at Oak Haven with a beautiful selection of house made desserts.

We concluded our tasting at Oak Haven with a beautiful selection of house made desserts.

The assortment included warm chocolate chip and dulce de leche cookies and bread pudding squares.

The assortment included warm chocolate chip and dulce de leche cookies and bread pudding squares.

The assortment included warm chocolate chip and dulce de leche cookies and bread pudding squares.

Additionally, the pastry chef also made us strawberry shortcake squares, using fresh-made preserves from Rose’s berry farm in Glastonbury, CT

The pastry chef also made us strawberry shortcake squares, using fresh-made preserves.

The pastry chef also made us strawberry shortcake squares, using fresh-made preserves.

It was a wonderful ending to our wonderful tasting at Oak Haven.  I am anxious to head back once the warmer weather hits so we can dine outside!

Oak Haven Table & Bar Restaurant

Oak Haven Table & Bar Restaurant

 

Have you tried Oak Haven Table and Bar Restaurant in New Haven?

Have you eaten at a true farm-to-table restaurant? If so, which?

 

Disclaimer:  While the restaurant’s owners hosted this food blogger dinner at Oak Haven, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.” It’s a versatile dish that you can serve on top of nachos, alongside cornbread, or in a sandwich or slider. I tend to make it more often when the weather turns chilly and it’s football season.

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is a method of cooking pork slowly at low temperatures, allowing the meat to become tender enough so that it can be literally “pulled” apart, or easily broken up into shredded pieces. Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork’s preparation differs from region to region in the United States. In some areas, the pork is made with a tomato-based barbeque sauce in a slow cooker, as I do. While other regions in the United States use a dry spice rub to flavor the meats and a smoking method to cook it.

Best of all, slow-cooked pulled is an easy dinner to make. In my opinion, the whole point of using a slow cooker is to place all the ingredients into the cooker quickly and then walk away and let the slow cooker do all the work! This recipe follows that exact technique. It’s a great weekend or weekday meal, because it’s very hands-off preparation and looks like you’ve spent hours making dinner. It only requires use of the slow cooker, and if you line it with a plastic liner, you will save lots of cleanup time!

 

Slow-cooked Pulled Pork

2 pork tenderloins

1 large yellow onion, chopped coarsely

1, 18 oz bottle of barbeque sauce (I typically use the honey barbeque flavor, but you can use whichever flavor you prefer)

Salt & pepper to taste

(I double the ingredients for a larger batch of pulled pork.)

 

Line the slow cooker with a plastic liner. Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Cover and cook in the slow cooker (4-6 hours on high temperature, or 6-8 hours on low temperature).

At the end of the cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork tenderloins. The meat should be so tender that it pulls apart very easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

If you are pairing the pulled pork with cornbread, make the cornbread while the pork is cooking.

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw.  Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

Yields 6-8 generous servings.

 

Do you like pulled pork?

How have you ever made pulled pork?

Do you prefer your pulled pork cooked with barbeque sauce or with a dry spice rub?

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

For our fifth and final meeting for 2014, the cookbook book club focused our cooking on two books: Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams; and Indulge: Delicious Little Desserts that Keep Life Sweet by Kathy Wakile. We decided to use two cookbooks for this meeting because Buvette didn’t have many dessert recipes and Indulge is strictly a dessert cookbook.

Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

Buvette and Indulge Cookbooks

I will admit that upon first review of the Buvette cookbook, the group was slightly intimidated by the primarily French-style recipes. But Terri, our host for this dinner, reviewed the book and made suggestions of dishes that are less complicated and she even pre-tested a few.

In carrying out the evening’s theme, we began with a glass of French wine and/or Prosecco.

Dinner started with french wine and prosecco

Dinner started with french wine and prosecco

To accompany the wine, we had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

We had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

We had a beautiful selection of appetizers!

Terri made the cheeseboard with marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles. It was filled with so many yummy items. I had to try them all!

Marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles.

Marinated olives, orange zest and red chiles.

Buvette photo 8

Terri also made gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry (a light dough used to make éclairs, profiteroles and puffed pastry) mixed with cheese. They are similar in texture to a cream puff pastry but savory instead of sweet. Terri commented that they are easy to make. I thought they were heavenly.

Gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry, mixed with cheese.

Gourgeres, which are a baked, savory choux pastry, mixed with cheese.

For our final appetizer, I made apple and cheese fricos, commonly known in America as a cheese crisp. I made a few modifications to the recipe, which turned out to be just as good as the original. Instead of frying the frico, I baked them. And I used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese instead of Montasio cheese. The secret to successfully making them is to use a sil-pad or parchment paper and allow the frico to stiffen a little once out of the oven before folding them over.

Apple and cheese fricos hot from the oven!

Apple and cheese fricos hot from the oven!

The frico were delicious with the apple and sage inside. I would definitely make them again and think they would be wonderful paired with a bowl of soup, chili or stew.

Apple and cheese fricos

Apple and cheese fricos

Terri asked us to proceed into the dining room, which was set in a fall theme, to begin the entrée portion of the meal.

A fall-themed tablescape.

A fall-themed tablescape.

Instead of beginning our meal with a salad, I made the roasted heirloom apples with sausage from the Buvette cookbook.

Roasted heirloom apples with sausage

Roasted heirloom apples with sausage

The recipe was very simple to make. The house smelled amazing from the baked apples, sausage, sage and white wine. The smell reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing. Terri plated the apples singly for each person.

Singly-plated roasted heirloom apples with sausage

Singly-plated roasted heirloom apples with sausage

As one of the sides for our meal, Sharon made cauliflower gratin. She commented that the recipe was easy to prepare and allowed the dish to be partially made ahead and finished just before serving. There were big pieces of cauliflower laced with yummy Gruyere cheese. It was a perfect dish for a crisp, cool evening.

Cauliflower gratin

Cauliflower gratin

Terri plated the cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf to follow the tasting courses theme.

Cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf

Cauliflower gratin on top of a romaine lettuce leaf

For our main dinner entrée, Terri made chicken ala moutarde. The original recipe calls for the dish to be made with rabbit, but specifies that can be substituted with chicken. Terri commented that the dish was easy to make and that she would make it again. The dish’s mild flavors and tender textures go beautifully with its simple, creamy mustard sauce. I enjoyed every bite.

Chicken ala moutarde

Chicken ala moutarde

You’ll want to serve the chicken ala moutarde with plenty of good bread to sop up all the flavorful sauce – and we did! Pat made schiacciata bread, which is a focaccia-type flatbread.

Schiacciata bread

Schiacciata bread

She admitted to never before making bread from scratch with yeast. She did a great job! The bread was light, airy and flavorful.

While we were first intimidated with the Buvette cookbook, we quickly realized that it’s a wonderful collection of French country cooking that meets Italian peasant food style. I think it’s safe to say that many of the recipes we tried will be made again!

For desserts, we featured recipes from Kathy Wakile’s Indulge cookbook. Val made chocolate chili brownie bites. She paired them with vanilla ice cream. Upon first bite, you may think there isn’t enough chili spice to them, but it catches up with you in the after bite.

Chocolate chili brownie bites

Chocolate chili brownie bites

For our “take-home treat,” Susan made beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes. While she had initially decided on making just the beach baby blondies, she added the bitsy brunettes because blondes can’t have all the fun – ha! Both items were delicious and wonderful treats to share.

Beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes for take-home treats!

Beach baby blondies and bitsy brunettes for take-home treats!

Many of the desserts in the Indulge cookbook are for what I would call “finger” desserts. Perfect dessert treats suitable for a tasting party.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

In total, ten dishes were made from the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks.

We had another delicious meal and enjoyed everyone’s company before engaging in the holiday madness.

Our next gathering will be in February. We chose Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

Mario Batali’s new cookbook, “America: Farm to Table.”

 

Have you ever made a French country style dinner?

Have you tried any of the recipes from the Bravo channel Housewives?

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of the Buvette and Indulge cookbooks, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event.