Yesterday was my boyfriend's birthday, so I decided to try out the whole food-blogging thing. Really, I just like to entertain and cooking is, of course, a huge part of that. Well not so much cooking as food and presentation of such. I'm not a cook. I'm not a chef or an expert or a connoisseur of anything related to taste buds. I do however, have a knack for putting fresh, simple ingredients together in a way that looks pretty and tastes good. All around, most of my kitchen adventures are about as easy as chips and dip.. except that I usually require free-flowing bottle of red wine, a couple hours to play around, and a lot of really. fantastic. serving pieces.
Unfortunately all of our amazing dinnerware is in storage for the time being, so I utilized a wooden cutting board instead... which is a great plan b for anyone suffering a lack of dishware.
Onto the treats... last night, Patrick (my well-dressed man) celebrated his birthday at his parents house with a few family members. I made him coconut macaroons, as he's quite a fan... actually "attempted to make" is more appropriate. They were super tasty but a little on the chewy side instead of light and flaky. His grandmother told me I could solve my gooey problem by adding one more whipped egg white and I think she's right. They tasted awesome though. Besides my pseudo-macaroons, I decided to take care of the appetizers and chose my favorite super-simple but crowd-pleasing crostinis. The best thing anything bruschetta-esque is that you can modify it to include whatever's in season, whatever you're in the mood for... whatever tickles your fancy as you're picking up ingredients at the grocer. It also allows you to make lots of little pretty things over which people can ooh and ahh and mmmmmm, and I'm pretty sure that's the whole point of entertaining.
You will always need:
1 Loaf French Bread
For your "toppings" choose local, fresh, in-season ingredients if you can, and remember: colors and tastes often compliment each other at the same rate. But.. then again the monochromatic trend is pretty big right now, so don't be afraid to go the chicken-cipolini-goat cheese route.
Ingredients used this time:
Balsamic Dressing (Recipe Follows)
Slice your loaf of french bread into 1"-1.5" slices, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle to preference with salt and pepper. If you want your bread to be super crunchy, bake it for a few minutes before you add the other ingredients, or leave it in open air for a couple of hours. If you like it soft in the middle, bake it once the ingredients are added.
Pear, Brie, Honey & Rosemary:
Add Brie to the crostinis and bake until slightly melted. Grill pears (or saute them lightly) while the crostini and brie bake. Add pears, top with a tiny sprig of fresh rosemary an drizzle with honey. Serve!
Add Colby-Swiss and thinly sliced apples to crostini and bake until slightly melted. (Or I strongly suggest a white cheddar, or regular Swiss - don't buy dyed cheese, it's weird... although I improvised on this one and used a marbled colby-swiss from Trader Joe's that was already in the fridge and not chosen by muah. Hypocrite, I know.) Drizzle with honey and serve.
Apple, Brie, Arugula & Balsamic:
Add Brie & Apple to crostini and bake. Add arugula, drizzle with balsmaic and serve.
AND THE BIG FINALE! (Sorry I REALLY LIKE BEETS) (Apparently so much so, they require all capital letters...)
Add goat cheese and thinly sliced beets to your crostini and bake until crispy. Add arugula and drizzle with balsamic. Serve! Everyone will be amazed at how awesomely tasty these little bruschetta miracles are, and will continue to rave about your fab crostini skills, telling everyone they know how you got them to like beets. Yep. They're so good. They're soooo gooooood!
As you see, you can pretty much put whatever simple ingredients you like on a piece of toasted bread with cheese and you're going to make people happy. And because it's so simple, you can make several different types at once, which looks awesome on a tray and makes people think you spent hours and hours in preparation for the presence. Really you spent like 1 hour and it involved a bottle of free-flowing wine, but it's cool.. you can leave that part out.
And of course, I went through all of this and didn't even get a photo of the final product (and I have a crappy camera at that) until everyone had their little paws all over my bruschetta.. ahem. So here's a crappy photo of my awesome tasty treats.
OH BALSAMIC! It's really easy. Don't buy store-bought salad dressing unless you want to blow up like an inflatable raft. Balsamic Vinegar & Olive oil in equal parts will do the trick - just salt and pepper to taste and add a healthy splash of your favorite red wine (sweet, dry, whatever you like)... Plus you can impress people again by adding it to some mixed greens, fresh chopped onions and whatever fruit/nuts/cheese you like and then saying "Oh I just threw it together" every time someone compliments the dressing.
Like I said, I don't cook.. but I do really like making tasty things look pretty and then feeding them to friends. I mean not actually feeding my friends, but you know...