Sunday, November 05, 2006

This Is a Toast... This Is Only a Toast

Among the preparations for my upcoming pre-holiday open house is the rigorous testing of a couple of new appetizer ideas. Sure, I could stick with all old favorite recipes, with nothing new and exciting to make people sit up and take notice. But that's just not my style.

I haven't played much with bruschette as appetizers for past parties, simply because most generally require last minute preparation and I try to get almost everything made ahead of time. But this time around, I thought, why not?

Since I intend to showcase some local foods and fall flavors at the buffet table, I knew I needed a hearty bread as the base for the bruschette; hence, the pumpernickel bread I baked yesterday.

But what to serve on top?

One idea involves using a delicious dip purchased from the local deli along with one of my favorite preserves from the summer and a fresh herb. (I'll tell you more about that after the party. Yes, I know I'm a tease.)

The other, involving a little more effort on my part, takes its inspiration from one of my favorite weekend breakfast sautés, combining shallots with shredded apple, a bit of fresh sage, and some sharp cheddar cheese.

The topping goes together very quickly while the slices of bread toast in the oven, and a generous spoonful of sautéed apple, followed by the cheddar, makes its way onto the toasts before a second stint in the oven.

Sweet and savory, crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth tender, I think these bruschette end up combining the best of both worlds as well as featuring the goodness of local produce (and cheese!).

Do not adjust your set. This is only a toast.

But in case of an actual (appetizer) emergency, use the recipe below.

Savory Apple Bruschette

The idea for the apple sauté comes from a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times a year or two ago, but it is, of course, modified from the original to fit your bread. Homemade pumpernickel or rye bread is ideal, since you can shape the loaves to a smaller width for bite-size toasts, but you can cut slices of store-bought bread into smaller pieces for appetizers. The quantities here will make only four small toasts as seen above; multiply as needed for your guests.

4 slices of a small loaf of pumpernickel bread (or 2 slices of a large loaf, cut in half)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large apple, cored and shredded
2 leaves sage, finely minced OR 1/2 tsp dried (rosemary would also work)
salt and pepper to taste
1 T shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange slices of bread on cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until toasty.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Saute shallot slices until just beginning to brown. Add apple and sage, and continue to sauté until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the toasts are out of the oven, spoon the apple mixture onto them, pressing mixture down with the back of the spoon to smooth it. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake again for 12-15 minutes, until cheese begins to brown. Serve warm.

Makes 4 small toasts


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