Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta

Call it impulse shopping: I couldn’t resist the peppers at the Farmer’s Market.  It was my Thursday morning run to the market, nice and early to beat the crowd and avoid the scorching summer sun.  I was on an efficient mission to purchase ingredients needed only for dinner and not to spend too much money (my history is dismal in both areas.)  I breezed through quickly, authoritatively and with discipline, a few simple sacks of greens for a dinner salad lightly gracing my arm.  I was nearly finished, my wallet still in tact.  And then I saw the pepper table.  Sandwiched between the Asian vegetable ladies and the artisan goat cheese vendor, the pepper table stood out like a psychadelic altar to the produce gods.  Stacks and stacks of peppers were on display in a confetti of colors. Gnarly sweet red gypsies, smoky green poblanos, shiny purple bells, lantern-shaped habaneros, perky plump red cherries. It was a pepper smörgasbord.  I took some pictures, and then I filled my one remaining bag  with all kinds of peppers: Anneheim, Fresno, Hungarian, jalapeno, serrano. When the bag was full, I sheepishly asked for another, discarding any previously displayed discipline. I had no idea what I would use the peppers for – I wasn’t thinking; I just had to have them.  Luckily, this wasn’t a shoe store.

Peppers

So, several days later, after putting the peppers to satisfying decorative use in a bowl on my old Provençal farmer’s table, it’s time to eat them.  I think I will simply sauté them, because I’ve become attached to the aesthetic qualities of my peppers, and I think this will help retain their vibrant color and structure the best.  For an easy dinner tonight, I will make bruschetta topped with the sautéed peppers and melted cheese.  If I have any peppers left over, they can be used tomorrow in a pasta salad, a vegetable tian or as a pizza topping.

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

For the bruschetta:
4 – 1/2″ thick slices of peasant or sourdough bread
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the peppers:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. (800 grams) mixed summer peppers, stemmed, seeded, large peppers cut lengthwise in strips, small peppers sliced horizontally in rings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut in 4 slices
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Garnish:

Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves

Make the bruschetta:
Grill the bread on both sides on a griddle pan or in an oven until toasted golden. Smash each garlic clove with the side of a large kitchen knife.  When the bread is grilled, brush each slice with olive oil and rub the smashed garlic over the bread slices. Place on baking sheet.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add peppers and sauté until tender but not too limp, about 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Spoon peppers over bread slices.  Shred one mozzarella slice over each bruschetta. Sprinkle one tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano over bruschetta.
Grill in oven until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute.
Remove from oven and arrange on serving plates. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Garnish with basil leaves.

Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Avocado bruschetta

Avocados are plentiful here in California, and since we moved here, they are appearing with greater frequency in our kitchen.  Avocados are the pear-shaped fruit of the avocado tree, and are grown in temperate climates around the world.  California avocados were originally introduced from Mexico and can be found year round in the markets (or trees, if you should be lucky enough to have your own.)

Versatile and packed with nutrients the avocado is a healthy staple in the kitchen.  They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber and high in monounsaturated fat.  Avocados are rich in potassium, zinc, and B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, E and K.  Their smooth texture and subtle flavor make the avocado a perfect base for dips, fillings, drinks and even ice cream.

Combined with other textures the avocado adds a distinctively creamy, cool and rich component to a dish. My favorite way to eat avocado is in salads or on toast, where the cool, creaminess of the avocado compliments the crunchy, savory textures of the salad or the dryness of the bread.

Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Vinegar
1-2 servings

2 slices peasant bread (pain paysan) or sourdough
1 large garlic clove
Extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup (60 ml.) balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
One ripe but firm Hass avocado
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare bruschetta:
Preheat oven grill or griddle pan
Smash garlic clove with side of chef knife.  Rub garlic over bread.  Brush lightly with olive oil. Toast bread in oven or on griddle, turning once, until golden brown.

Prepare balsamic vinegar reduction:
In a small saucepan bring balsamic vinegar and lemon juice to a boil.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Set aside to cool.
Trim tip of avocado.  Run knife vertically around center of avocado, cutting into flesh until knife meets the pit.  Gently twist the avocado open and remove pit.  Carefully remove skin, keeping avocado intact.  Slice avocado horizontally in 1/4″ slices.
Fan avocado slices on bread. Brush with balsamic syrup.  Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.