Recipe: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I had been looking for a good recipe for some time and I finally found a bruschetta recipe that I liked on Allrecipes.

There’re not a lot of fancy ingredients here, but what I especially like about this recipe is that it calls for a thin layer of herb-cheese spread on the bread before one adds the tomato mixture. That rather effectively keeps the bread from becoming soggy, which is great if you may be setting out the bruschetta as hors d’oeuvres that need to last through a cocktail party or the like.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar [Among supermarket brands, I quite like Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico.]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced [Apparently a Microplane can work well for this, if you have one.]
  • 7 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into ½" thick slices [I like to cut the bread on a bias to create a larger surface area for each slice. Plus it looks nice too.]
  • 1 (4 oz) package semi-soft cheese with garlic and herbs (such as Alouette)
  • (optional) Shredded deli Parmesan, to taste [This is often sold in a small circular tub of about 2" high and around 4" across.]

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the basil, and then whisk those together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl.

  2. Chop the tomatoes and stir those into the mixture with the whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll need to add salt and pepper, stir, and repeat the process a couple times—it may take three sets to get the mixture properly seasoned.)

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 20 minutes. (The plastic wrap should be right on top of the tomato mixture to prevent it from drying out.)

  4. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Spread the bread slices in a single layer on a large baking pan.

  5. Bake in the oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

  6. When the bread is cool, spread the semi-soft cheese evenly over each slice. Using a slotted spoon, spoon some of the tomato mixture over each slice. (You may as well leave the bread on the baking trays for this step; that way, if any of the tomato mixture topples over the sides, it’s not a big deal.)

  7. Optional: If desired, sprinkle some shredded deli Parmesan over each slice and, on the broiler setting, slide the bread trays back into the oven, taking them out once the cheese becomes melty.

  8. Depending how hot they are, you may need a spatula to transfer the bruschetta to a serving tray. (Sometimes a wooden cutting board can work nicely for this.) They’re ready to eat immediately.

If desired, the tomato mixture can be made a day ahead of time. In fact, a little extra marinating of the ingredients can make the final product all the more scrumptious. Just be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing it in the fridge.

Oscar Party Foods 2011

I love movies, but I’ve never been all that excited about the Oscars. I suppose that I don’t have that much interest in the pomp and circumstance of the awards and I generally prefer just to read the results the next day.

On the other hand, I do enjoy language and puns, and if you’re holding an Oscar party this evening, you’re welcome to use any of these. (I’ve grouped them by nomination category, although not every category is represented.)

I’ve listed only the names of each dish (with links to recipes), but if you hover your mouse over an item, you’ll see a tooltip revealing the nominee from which the dish was inspired.

(Some of them are more obvious than others, but if you need a hint, here’s the official list of this year’s nominees.)

Best Picture

Art Direction

Foreign Language Film

Makeup

Music (Original Song)

Short Film (Animated)

Sound Mixing

Visual Effects

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Back at my old job, my friend (and coworker at the time) Matt brought in some chocolate chip peanut butter cookies into the office a few months back. They were pretty yummy—the cookies were soft and full of peanut flavor. I recently asked Matt for the recipe and he was gracious enough to mention that I could share it as well:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sugar (set aside in a small bowl for in which to roll the cookies later)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy (or chunky) peanut butter [I used Skippy Natural creamy peanut butter when I made a batch recently and that seemed to work out pretty well. —Ashley]
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°

  2. Combine sugar (just the first cup), brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, baking soda, vanilla extract, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the flour about ½ cup at a time. This makes it easier to mix by hand, but it also helps you achieve the right dough consistency. You want the dough to be as moist as possible, while still peeling cleanly off your finger. Much dryer than that and the cookies will be cakey. Not dry enough, and they'll be too doughy.

  4. Mix in the chocolate chips.

  5. Using a small spoon, scoop out little clumps of dough and roll them in the small bowl of sugar you set aside. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet (no need to grease it).

  6. Bake each batch for 8–10 minutes. You want to take them out just before they look done and let them continue to bake outside of the oven on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes.

These are probably my favorite chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and I’ll definitely be making these again. Om nom nom.

Oh, and on a side note, while I normally go for just-peanuts peanut butter (the kind with “Peanuts, salt” as its only ingredients), I’ve learned that most recipes that call for peanut butter usually do so under the assumption that you’ll use pre-sweetened peanut butter. So, if you’re buying peanut butter that you plan to use in a baked good (such as cookies), I’d recommend buying one that includes sugar among its ingredients. (And though its name may imply otherwise, Skippy’s Natural line does include sugar.)

Eating a Klondike Bar Without Having It Melt

Preface: This tip might not be practical for picnics. Then again, you never know. [*]

So, you enjoy a succulent Klondike bar more than life itself? Or, it’s at least one of your favorite frozen confections? Either way, one of the common hazards of such treats is that, even if you wrap the keep the bar's wrapper snuggled around it as you eat it, the bars tend to melt toward glopitude by the time you get around to your last bite.

The solution? Oven mitts. Indeed, I came across this one by accident, but after grabbing a Klondike bar from the freezer and dreading its inevitable demise toward meltification, it struck me that an oven mitt—much in the same way that it insulates one’s hands when taking hot items from an oven—might also serve to insulate the Klondike bar from my own five-fingered 98.6° heat source.

I gave it a shot, and sure enough, it worked like a charm. Better than I could have imagined, even. Oven mitt on-hand and with only just enough wrapper present so as to shield the mitt from the bar’s chocolaty coating, I took a leisurely pace as I savored a (dark chocolate) Klondike bar after dinner this evening. I had an episode of Top Chef Masters rolling on the screen and it probably took me 20-25 minutes to make it all the way through. Sure enough, the ice cream was barely more melted upon the last bite as it was during the first.

Splendid. I may have just conquered the heat-borne menace that happens to attached (and inherent to) each of my opposable thumb-bearing appendages.

[*] Okay, okay—if you happen to enough oven mitts for everyone at your picnic, I suppose this could theoretically be put to use there. But, if you’re anything like me, I'm guessing you don’t exactly have a closet full of oven mitts.

Recipe: Harry and Janie’s Raspberry Pecan Feta Salad

The Dallas Camera Club occasionally has one or two potluck meetings each year and one of the dishes that I’ve always enjoyed over the years was Harry and Janie Rumberger’s Raspberry and Feta Salad which they would often bring.

A month or two back, I got around to asking them for the recipe since I had wanted to make the recipe for Thanksgiving. As it turns out, the recipe isn’t too complicated, but it comes out great every time.

Harry and Janie’s Raspberry Pecan Feta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 5-oz box of mixed greens of your choice [I found these in one of the refrigerated cases next to the produce]
  • 1 6-oz box of fresh raspberries
  • 1 4-oz package of plain feta cheese
  • About 1/4 pound of candied pecan halves, coarsely chopped [I found these with the other bagged nuts in the baking aisle]
  • 2–4 Tbsp Ken’s Non-fat Raspberry Pecan Dressing (or Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette), to taste

Directions:

  1. Toss dressing and greens.
  2. Add cheese and toss very briefly.
  3. Add raspberries and nuts last and stir just to mix, being careful not to crush the berries or get too much dressing on the nuts.