Friday, May 16, 2008

I'd Rather Eat Appetizers

I'm one of those people who enjoys the cocktail hour food more than the dinner itself. Whether you call them puu puus, antipasti, hors d'oeuvres, tapas, dim sum, or just plain old appetizers, they are, by far, my favorite part of dinner. Yes, I like them better than dessert. I won't lie and say I never take a pig-in-the-blanket off the tray, but my tastes run more to bacon wrapped shrimp or crab cakes or a good piece of sopressata and provolone.

One of my all time favorite appetizers combines 3 things that I just can't get enough of: garlic, pesto, and goat cheese. Make that 4 things: toasted baguette rounds, too. This isn't difficult to make, but it makes a wonderful presentation. More importantly, some of this spread with a good glass of Sangiovese can make me swoon.

Roasted Garlic, Pesto, and Goat Cheese on Toasted Baguette

For the roasted garlic:
1 large head of garlic
olive oil

For the pesto:
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil
1/3 tsp. salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the baguette slices:
1 large baguette
2 tbs melted butter

To make the roasted garlic:
Cut a bit less than 1/3 off the top of the head of garlic. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over the garlic. Wrap foil tightly and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.

To make the pesto:
With the motor of your food processer running, drop in garlic and chop finely. Stop the motor and add the pine nuts, basil leaves, and salt. Process until chopped. With motor running, add oil until incorporated. Chill until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

To make the baguette slices:
Slice the baguette into thin (less than 1/4 inch) slices. Place on a baking sheet and brush melted butter over one side. Bake in a 200 degree (slow) oven for 30 minutes. Check them; if not totally crisp, continue baking and checking every 15 minutes.

Purchase a log of goat cheese.

Assemble the appetizer:
Unwrap the log of goat cheese and let it come to room temperature. Gently squeeze each clove of garlic out of its skin. Arrange the goat cheese, pesto, roasted garlic in small crocks and surround with the baguette slices. Provide cheese spreaders. OR Layer each baguette slice with some goat cheese; top with a dab of pesto and a garlic clove. OR You can combine the goat cheese, garlic, and pesto and serve as a spread with the baguette slices.

Anyway you serve this, you will get raves!

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