What easy entertaining appetizer can you whip up in T-20 minutes that pleases just about anyone's taste? Italian toast. Bruschetta. Phonetically pronounced "broo-SKEH-ta." You hearrrrd me, not "broo-SHEH-ta," and don't let some uptight waitress try to correct you when you pronounce in the appropriate tongue. Chances are she doesn't even eat bread and Olive Garden/Macaroni Grill don't include a linguistics course in employee orientation. Broo-SKEH-ta.
Bruschetta is the ultimate nosh because just about anything works. It lends itself very well to indecisive cooks because so many ingredients work to make a stellar slice - you don't just have to make one kind. In fact, bruschetta is one of the most popular appetizers in Phoenix - about 80% of "hip" restaurants, or those striving to be, have a "choose any 4" theme on their menu. Ingredients include: brie and apple, ricotta-date-pistachio, hummus spread, roasted pepper and goat cheese, etc. After frequenting a few of these places, you get the feeling that having a bruschetta menu is almost a cop out for being creative. Luckily you can be much more creative in your own home.
With that said, this combination was uber random (it felt "creative" but sometimes random and creative are synonymous in the kitchen) but worked better than I could have hoped. I had some killer heirloom tomatoes that were sweet as can be plus someone planted a turnip bomb in my produce bag over the weekend so I had to use up some of those. Plums, you ask? I don't know. I wanted something to complement the sweet of the tomatoes but that still had a little tart factor going on. Plus they are pretty.
The "turnicotta" came from a vegan version of ricotta that usually features tofu crumbled with some garlic and spice. Instead, I used creamy turnips. As many understudies, they ended up completely upstaging tofu. With the smackin' sweet tomatoes, smarty tart plums, and a balsamic punch - these toasts were the perfect Act One. Not too much to make the main act uninteresting, but just enough to make you want to keep eating. Though you may just want to keep eating bruschetta I guess.
Tomato Plum Bruschetta with Turnicotta Spread
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes
2 c. turnips, ends trimmed and cubed
4 garlic cloves, in peel
2 T. cashews
1 T. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper
Ciabatta, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium tomato, sliced paper thin
2 small plums, sliced paper thin
Place turnips and unpeeled garlic in a medium sauce pan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and and reduce heat to medium. Cook at a low boil under turnips are tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
Remove the garlic cloves, peel and throw into a food processor with cashews. Puree into a paste and add turnips and salt. Process until mixture is completely smooth, 2-3 minutes. Last, pulse the parsley, nutmeg and white pepper into the mixture until evenly blended. Set aside and refrigerate to cool.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Slice the Ciabatta about 3/4 inch thick and coat each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toast in oven for 7-8 minutes, or until slices are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
To assemble: Spread 1/2-3/4 tablespoon of turnip spread on each slice of toast. Top with alternating slices of tomato and plum. Top each slice with a few small drops of good balsamic vinegar and a pinch of parsley.